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Issue #8 -- Brian's 5 favorite Christmas Movies -- Richard's Oscar Preview Preview -- What's New in Streaming? -- Monthly Recommends
 
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December is here and the angels aren't the only ones singing Hallelujah! It's officially Oscar season and Winter blockbuster time! It's the time of year where you coastal elites enjoy cinema at its finest and then 2 months for those films to get to Dallas so you can your favorite podcasters wax poetic about them! What a time! This is our favorite time of year, we have some fun stuff planned and we can't wait to share it with you!

Brian's 5 Favorite Christmas Movies

One of the many traditions associated with the holiday season is the viewing of Christmas movies. Who doesn't love a good Christmas movie, right? I've got a group of friends who get together every Monday leading up to the big day to watch a few of the classics. I, however, find that while most people enjoy my favorite Christmas movies, I don't always love the legendary holiday films. "It's a Wonderful Life" for example, has been THE Christmas movie for 60 years and maybe that's why I generally find it to be less than enticing. "White Christmas" is one of my wife's favorites but that's a lot of singing for a guy who hates musicals. And "A Christmas Story" has just never done much for me. Fight me if you must. With that in mind, I present to you my top five Christmas movies of all time.
 
A word about Die Hard. Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. This is not to say that Die Hard doesn’t deserve its place in history. It’s fantastic, lackluster sequels aside. Best action movie of all-time as voted on by me. But it merely takes place during Christmas; it is not truly a Christmas movie. Call it “Christmas Adjacent” if you will. Plenty of other films fall into this category either because of setting within the movie or because their original release dates dropped them in the holiday season and we associate that feeling with the movie. The Harry Potter franchise, every Shane Black movie, perhaps the Lord of the Rings films, all have a Christmas Adjacent feeling for me. But that doesn’t make them Christmas movies any more than Die Hard is a Christmas movie. I’m sorry, this is my ruling. I’m tough but fair. Now, on with the countdown.

5. Love Actually (2003) - An excellent romantic-comedy with a Christmas background, Love Actually also qualifies as one of my favorite chick-flicks of all time. The interweaving of the lives of the ensemble cast is excellent and the realistic good feeling of the movie allows you to look past any far-fetched connections. We get some stellar performances as well, particularly from perpetually overlooked Liam Neeson. And there's always something awesome about an almost all British cast.
 
4. Christmas Vacation (1989) - For me this is the very best of the Vacation franchise. It has some of the best elements of the other films in the series added in with the stress of the holidays and the tension that comes with a big family. Clark Griswold's continual failure leads to a magnificent break from reality and one of the best "yeah, he should be in jail now but we'll let it slide this time" moments you'll ever see. Plus, the cat getting fried cracks me up every time.
3. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) - Am I correct in assuming that no one doesn't like the Muppets? There's no one out there with a secret vendetta against Kermit or Fozzy, right? Because no matter how old I get, the Muppets still hold some awesomeness for me. While all the Muppet movies are good, The Muppet Christmas Carol is, in my opinion, the crowning achievement of the franchise. It's a wonderful blend of music, classic literature, and general silliness capped off by a surprisingly strong performance by Michael Caine. Caine, who's been known to take a paycheck and mail in a performance a few times, plays Ebenezer Scrooge like he's in a big time stage adaptation of Dickens' novel. Just absolutely goes all in for a kid's movie starring a puppet and you gotta love that.
2. Elf (2003) - Here's how great Elf is: I know lots of older adults (some family members included) who hate Will Ferrell. HATE him. To a man, those haters will happily sit and watch Elf any time it comes on TV. Likewise, lifelong Ferrell that I am, I would call Elf my second favorite Ferrell movie behind only Anchorman. Just like Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol, Ferrell absolutely goes ALL OUT for his role in a children's movie and that performance makes the film. The movie is just straight up hilarious. I very, very rarely watch even part of a movie that I own on DVD/Blu-Ray. If I want to watch it, I'll pop it in. But I'll almost always watch a few minutes of Elf if given the chance.
 
1. Home Alone (1989) - Absolutely no question in my mind that this is the best holiday movie of all time. If I see a Christmas movie list like this and it doesn't contain Home Alone I scoff in anger and immediately disregard its validity. That's like making a best sci-fi list and not including Star Wars. Please. Whether watching alone or with a group, there are numerous moments that make me laugh out loud despite the fact that I've seen this movie upwards of 50 times. I LOVE it. "Home Alone" is INSANELY quotable, too, with a litany of lines that I can and do quote in everyday life. As I've gotten older my viewing of Home Alone has changed some. For instance, I've realized that Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci could never have lived through the beating Macaulay Culkin delivers them. These days the Wet Bandits would probably sue the McCallister's if they ever came out of the coma that a paint can to the face could inflict. But one thing that still holds up to me is the absolute plausibility of how Kevin McAllister comes to be home alone in the first place. With no cell phones or Internet, this setup could totally happen and I love that fact. And if nothing else, it's always great to see John Candy in his element.
 
Richard's Oscar Preview Preview
 

Next month both on the podcast and here in the newsletter we'll put together a more formal preview for the upcoming Academy Awards. But, now that we have a host--Jimmy Kimmel, a fabulous choice, pending the Oscar producers (I'm looking at you Bruce Vilanch--also, that t-shirt is NOT funny) don't ruin him--I thought it might be time for 5 storylines to look at as we take Santa's sleigh into Oscar season.

5) What movie from earlier in the year will regain momentum? 
In recent years, it has become common place for a film released outside of the traditional Oscar season (normally round about Thanksgiving - New Years Day) to make a late push for Oscar contention. We saw The Martian (released in early-October) make a run last year, we've seen The Grand Budapest Hotel (released in March), and various others make their status known at the Oscars. This year has been such a fantastic year for animation, but something great like Zootopia couldn't get a nomination if released on Christmas, much less in the Spring/Summer. Because Meryl Streep is contractually obligated to be nominated, I could see her snagging something for Florence Foster Jenkins released earlier this year, but I think the best Best Picture chances for a non-winter film sit with either Sully or Arrival. The Lobster could also contend in Original Screenplay.

4) What supporting performances should we be on the lookout for?
The supporting performances (especially Supporting Actor) are usually the most competitive categories at the Academy Awards. Scenery chewers and subtle wizards of nuance alike can often walk away with these trophies. I unabashedly love Hugh Grant and would love to see him nominated for the aforementioned FFJ, but I think the real stars of the categories this year will be Mahershala Ali for Moonlight and Viola Davis for Fences. Both are completely deserving and are truly incredible performances. I also think there will be a lot of momentum for African American nominees after last year's debacle of #OscarsSoWhite

3) Any surprise winners coming our way?
Though Scorsese is the front-runner for his long-in-gestation 'Silence,' keep an eye out for our man Denzel contending for Best Director with Fences.

2) Will the Oscars make a star this year?
If Kimmel performs well (and I cannot stress how difficult it is to host the Oscars, as the producers meddling is legendary) he may assert himself as the current alpha in the Late Night wars. I think, with a win, Mahershala Ali can catapult into leading man status pretty easily. 

1) This year has been, in a word, meh--will the Oscars redeem it? 
Probably not, but we're in for a heck of a In Memoriam segment.


 
New to Home Viewing in December
Each month in this space, we take a look at what movies and TV shows you’ll be able to (legally) watch in the comfort of your own home in the coming weeks. I recommend a couple of properties I enjoy, highlight one I haven’t seen but I’m looking forward to checking out, and something I desperately want you to avoid. I’m just doing my part to help you make smart decisions with your precious free time. Am I a hero? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
 
WHAT I’VE SEEN AND YOU SHOULD, TOO: The Lobster – Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly (Available on Amazon Prime December 1st)
The Lobster made an appearance in this space a few months back in regards to a movie I was looking forward to seeing. Well, I did see it and it more than exceeded my expectations. This remains one of my top five movies of the year and the offbeat, touchingly dark humor makes it an experience that is not to be missed.
 
MAY I ALSO RECOMMEND: Secret Life of Pets – Louis CK, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate (Available on Blu-Ray and DVD December 6th)
In a year that has been dominated by quality animation, I fear Secret Life of Pets will be forgotten. While not up to the standard of Moana and Zootopia from a quality standpoint, Pets is without question the funniest animated film this year and one that I won’t mind seeing over and over when my kiddo inevitably secures a copy for Christmas and demands a daily viewing.
 
WHAT I HAVEN’T SEEN BUT INTEND TO: The Man in the High Castle (Season 2) – Luke Kleintank, Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans (Available on Amazon Prime December 14th)
For some reason I’d forgotten that season two was headed our way this year and thus, I gave a bit of a (manly) squeal when I noticed its presence on the Amazon list. The Man in the High Castle is brilliant in both idea and execution and season one ended on a, “Wait, whaaaaatttt?” note that’s left most of us chomping at the bit for the next entry.
 
WHAT I’VE SEEN SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO: Zoolander 2 – Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell (Avaialble on Amazon Prime December 1st)
Hey remember Zoolander 2? It’s okay if you don’t. I don’t so much remember the movie as I do the feeling of wanting to vomit for 90 minutes followed by the total silence my wife and I shared on the way home from our date night wasted on this cinematic abortion. Sometimes on the show we talk about a terrible movie and encourage you, the listener, to get out and see it so you can share in our experience. This is not one of those cases. Just stay home, hug your loved ones, and be thankful that you never had to see Zoolander 2.
 
ALSO AVAILABLE:
BLU-RAY/DVD
December 6thJason Bourne, Don’t Think Twice, The Hollars, The Beatles 8 Days a Week
December 13thSuicide Squad, Miss Peregrine’s Home Peculiar Children, Bridget Jones’s Baby, Ben-Hur, Morgan, Fear the Walking Dead Season 2, Florence Foster Jenkins, Southside With You
December 20thThe Magnificent Seven, Sully, Storks
December 27thWhen the Bough Breaks, Dog Eat Dog, Snowden, Ray Donovan Season 4, American Honey
NETFLIX – Beverly Hills Cop, Black Snake Moan, Captain America: Civil War, Colony Season 1, D2: The Mighty Ducks, Fuller House Season 2, Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce Season 2, Harry and the Hendersons, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, House of Wax, Hannibal, Lucky Number Slevin, National Lampoon’s Animal House, Picture Perfect, Reggie Watts: Spatial, The Angry Birds Movie, The Crucible, The Legend of Bagger Vance (COME AT ME BRO!!!), The Little Rascals, The Rock, Toys, Versailles Season 1, Way of the Dragon, We’re Back! A Dinosaur Story
AMAZON – 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Anomalisa, Blood Diamond, Caddyshack, Café Society, Cobra, Daddy’s Home, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Expanse: Season 1, The Fighter, Gangs of New York, Lars and the Real Girl, Lost in Oz Season 1, The Man in the High Castle Season 2, Mozart in the Jungle Season 3, Mr. Church, Rob Roy, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
 
Monthly Recommends
Brian Gill
The Office Christmas Episodes
No holiday season is complete without the Dunder Mifflin gang
Kent Garrison
Star Wars Holiday Special
...you're welcome.
Richard Bardon
Gilmore Girls - A Year in the Life - Winter
I know, I ride for Gilmore Girls. Grab some hot chocolate and enjoy. 
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