The Sammy Awards 2011 – Episode III: Revenge of the Phantom Fellowship

Welcome back to the exciting conclusion of the 2011 Sammy Awards. Thanks for reading and please don’t hesitate to leave comments on who you would have nominated, your thoughts on the winners & losers, and ideas you’d like to see incorporated into next year’s show.

 

To present our next award please welcome the 99th most followed celebrity on Twitter, Academy award winning actor Tom Hanks. And the nominees are:

The Twitter Award for Best Water Cooler Topic

Tablet Computers & iPhone4GS

First we had desktops. Then laptops became ubiquitous. Now it seems we are heading toward a society where everyone surfs The Net, listens to music, and watches movies on an iPad, Kindle Fire, or any of the other similar devices that flooded the market in 2011. The other big techie toy this year was the new iPhone, which doesn’t seem like that much of an upgrade from the previous model. No worries though…they’ll come out with something else in a few months.

 

The Return of Beavis & Butt-Head

When I was in college in the early 90’s one of our favorite shows was MTV’s animated ode to slackers, created by Mike Judge before he wrote the cult classic film Office Space. This year, after a 14 year absence, the boys returned to television and it’s as if they never left, only now instead of making fun of music videos (which MTV doesn’t even show anymore), our two favorite idiots critique drivel like Jersey Shore, 16 & Pregnant, and Teen Mom. And you know what?? It’s still really funny.

 

Death of Amy Winehouse

On July 23rd this lush keeled over & croaked due to alcohol poisoning. Shocker. I couldn’t identify one of her songs if my life depended on it because I have taste & class. But apparently she did have her following and they were sad for about 5 minutes until something else grabbed their short attention spans.

 

Jerry Lewis & MDA Part Ways

Jerry Lewis hadn’t been relevant as an entertainer since The Nixon Administration, but until 2011 he still continued to be welcomed into our living rooms every Labor Day as host for the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. Toward the end of 2010 MDA announced that the normally 21.5 hour show would be scaled back to just a 6 hour broadcast on Sunday night. Then in May of this year it was proclaimed by the organization that 2011 would be Jerry’s last as host but that he would remain as their national chairman and would continue to close each telethon with his signature tearjerker tune You’ll Never Walk Alone. But in August, just a few weeks before Labor Day, MDA announced that Lewis was finished as both host & chairman, effective immediately. It is still a mystery whether he was fired or quit for some reason. The local station in my hometown that had always carried the event in its entirety decided not to do so at all this year, so I didn’t even get to see the stripped down version. Oh sure I could have tuned in online, but that’s just not the same. And neither will future Labor Day Weekends be without Jerry Lewis. It’s a shame that a treasured piece of Americana had to end with such a whimper.

 

The End of Oprah

On May 25, 2011 Satan’s Minion ended her talk show of 25 years, leaving millions of bored housewives, gays & lesbians, and unemployed, unfulfilled losers of all shapes & sizes curled up in the fetal position wondering what they were going to do with their lives. Hey now…don’t cry…you’ve still got Dr. Phil!!

 

The “New” Facebook

A few months ago Facebook users by the millions flipped the hell out when the site implemented a number of pretty radical changes like a “ticker” and a revamped news feed. I’m a big fan of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, and Zuckerberg & his crew just seemed to be tinkering with something that didn’t need changed. However, eventually everyone got over their displeasure and continued to enjoy the site. Now Facebook is rolling out another new deal called Timeline. I took the opportunity to switch over to Timeline a couple of months ago and, unlike the previous changes, I rather like it and will be surprised if it incites much rage.

 

Hanks Williams Jr. Booted From Monday Night Football

A version of Hank Williams Jr.’s song All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight had been used as the theme song for Monday Night Football since 1991. That all changed after an October 3rd interview the singer gave on Fox News in which he likened President Obama playing golf with Speaker of the House John Boehner to Hitler playing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The liberal drive by media…including the pantywaists at ESPN…predictably got their knickers in a twist because NO ONE is allowed to criticize their boy Barack Hussein Obama. ESPN made the decision to stop utilizing the tune altogether, and Bocephus called them out on their BS in his own inimitable way.

 

Kim Kardashian Marriage/Divorce

Do I really have to go into this?? I hate wasting even one iota of effort writing about this mind numbingly idiotic twit. We already know that she is a useless waste of space whose only redeeming quality is a fine caboose & a great rack and that her entire family is just as maddeningly unnecessary to humanity as she is. After years of toying with poor Dolphins RB Reggie Bush and leading Cowboys receiver Miles Austin on for about 5 minutes she moved on in 2011 to another semi-famous, quasi-rich athlete, New Jersey Nets bench warmer Kris Humphries. Within 6 months they were engaged and by August had a multimillion dollar wedding that, if my information is correct, she & her family were paid handsomely for so it could be broadcast on television. Unfortunately wedded bliss wasn’t in the cards and 72 days later Ms. Kardashian filed for divorce. And sadly, the tabloids, the entertainment TV shows, and the empty headed masses ate it up. Here’s an idea…go read a book, play with your kids (in the family sense, not in the Penn St. way), and get right with God. Quit paying any attention to this slut.

 

PA Teacher Writes Scathing Blog

30 year old  Natalie Munroe, a Doylestown, Pennsylvania (about 30 miles north of Philly) English teacher was suspended back in February after some parents discovered her blog. The issue stemmed from Ms. Munroe’s blatantly honest comments about what she’d really like to write on her students’ report cards for their parents’ perusal…things like “I hear the trash company is hiring”, “I called out sick a couple of days just to avoid your son”, “rude, belligerent, argumentative fuck”, “Just as bad as his sibling. Don’t you know how to raise kids?”, “Shy isn’t cute in 11th grade; it’s annoying. Must learn to advocate for himself instead of having Mommy do it.”, and “Am concerned that your kid is going to come in one day and open fire on the school. (Wish I was kidding.)”. Now I’m not a teacher, and maybe her opinions aren’t necessarily socially acceptable, but I’d be willing to be she was spot on in her observations. Munroe eventually got her job back, and I assume she’s just keeping her opinions to herself nowadays, helping the system to mass produce worker drones willing to work for minimum wage to supplement their Welfare.

 

Angry Birds

Apparently it’s some sort of game. I’ve heard it’s rather addictive. I’ve never played it and most likely never will.

 

 

The Homeless Guy with the Golden Voice

Right after New Year’s a newspaper reporter recorded an interview with a homeless man wandering the mean streets of Columbus, OH. That man, 54 year old Ted Williams, just so happened to have a deep, booming voice made for radio, which was in fact his career of choice before drug & alcohol abuse and legal problems derailed his life in the late 1980’s. A video of that interview was posted on YouTube and went viral, making Williams an overnight sensation. He appeared on talk shows and received a plethora of job offers, most notably from MSNBC, Kraft Foods, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Unfortunately the sudden fame caused Williams to fall off the wagon. Dr. Phil got involved and sent him to rehab, but he pulled a Lohan & left after less than 2 weeks. The job offers began to disappear. Fortunately though, Ted Williams eventually went back in to rehab and to my knowledge is now gainfully employed and off the streets. God speed to him in all his future endeavors.

 

The End of Harry Potter

After 7 books and 8 films the Harry Potter phenomenon came to a close in 2011 with the release of the final movie. The great thing about books & movies though is that we can continue to enjoy them for many years to come, and new generations have the opportunity to do the same if they so choose. All great things must come to an end, but what a ride it was.

 

Cancellation of All My Children & One Life to Live

When I was a young lad in elementary school my sister & I had a babysitter that got us hooked on soap operas…specifically Days of Our Lives & General Hospital. As I grew older I got interested in other soaps like Guiding Light, Another World, & As the World Turns. Then a few years back I added One Life to Live to the rotation. AW was cancelled in 1999. GL got the axe in 2009 and ATWT ended in 2010. In 2011 ABC announced that it was cancelling 2 out of its 3 soaps…All My Children & One Life to Live. I never really got into AMC, but I realize it was extremely popular, mainly due to star Susan Lucci. That show left the air on September 23, 2011, with OLTL scheduled to end on January 13, 2012. Millions of fans have expressed outrage, but it’s just a different world nowadays. Women, the original target audience for soaps, are in the workforce and not home during the day to watch TV. The Internet draws peoples’ attention away from television as well. And unfortunately suits & bean counters have discovered that producing talk shows is cheaper than soap operas. Ah well…atleast I still have DOOL & GH…for now.

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

Ted Williams. I must admit that this choice is slanted in favor of my own personal interests. I refuse to honor that horrible piece of garbage Kim Kardashian, and neither will I bestow an award on Hell’s favorite talk show hostess. Williams’ story both touched me and brought out my usual cynicism. Oh sure he must shoulder the blame for his own failures like drug & alcohol abuse and his various arrests. However, I’m all for second chances. I think we all knew that the overnight notoriety & media attention was likely to cause a backslide, which it did. But it seems as if, once the spotlight dimmed a bit, Mr. Williams started making the right decisions to get his life back on the right path. Hopefully the turnaround will continue and 2012 will hold good things for him & his family.

 

 

 

Unlike Charles Barkley, the titular “honoree” for which this award is named will not be presenting it, because there is no way on God’s green Earth your humble Potentate of Profundity would let that disgusting cow sully these proceedings. Instead, we go in the opposite direction by welcoming three of the world’s most beautiful women: Jessica Alba, Eva Longoria, & Mandy Moore. And the nominees are:

The Rosie O’Donnell Memorial Just Go Away Award

The Entire Kardashian Family

These people disgust me. I truly believe it has gotten to the point that they are an actively negative force in American culture. My heart weeps for the millions of teenage girls who watch this hogwash and are in any way influenced by these evil, repulsive harlots. Even poor Bruce Jenner…a former Olympic hero for God’s sake…has been sucked into the void and just mindlessly does whatever his control freak of a wife commands. It’s sickening and needs to be stopped.

Lindsay Lohan

Okay, so she finally got naked for Playboy. But she even managed to screw that up by not showing us anything we hadn’t already seen. I just cannot stand even the mere mention of her name at this point. Only in Hollywood would a crack whore still receive endless opportunities to make millions of dollars and remain famous. It’s sort of disheartening for the masses in flyover country who rarely get a second chance if they make even one tiny mistake.

 

Michael Moore

What a revolting slob!! And he’s a liberal wackjob to boot. I don’t think he actually did anything noteworthy this year except make an appearance at the stupid Occupy Wall Street protest, which is ironic since he is a multimillionaire himself. At any rate, occasionally he’ll ruin a perfectly good late night show by showing up, spewing his uninformed hate, and making me want to vomit.

 

Lady Gaga

Here’s the sad thing about this chic…she’s actually quite lovely and can really sing. But I guess one has to have a gimmick these days, do wacky stuff to grab attention, and sing songs filled with lewd & suggestive lyrics. Whatever happened to class??

 

Skip Bayless

I really dig my ESPN sports talk shows, but this pompous know-it-all has absolutely ruined First Take for me to the point where it’s not even watchable anymore. For some reason the powers-that-be retooled the show so that it pretty much revolves around Bayless arguing the stories du jour with a revolving cast of “opponents”. The folks in Bristol have totally beaten the formula to death, but atleast other shows like Mike & Mike, Around the Horn, & Pardon the Interruption pull it off in such a way that I am not immediately tempted to hurl an object at my TV screen. Not only is Bayless arrogant & self-absorbed, but he’s usually so wrong about his opinions that it’s laughable. And he is the absolute #1 offender in regard to shoving Tim Tebow down America’s throat. I would love to see the statistics, but I would bet anything that Bayless and his posse have talked about Tebow on every single show for the past 6 months. Give it a rest already!!

 

The “Ladies” of The View

Without a doubt one of the more torturous exercises in futility is watching these twits sit around a table and attempt to intelligently discuss the “hot topics” of the day. Whoopi, Joy, Barbara, & the short fat chic who is so superfluous that I don‘t even remember her name are clueless, spiteful, and arrogant. Honestly watching Full House reruns seems like Shakespeare in comparison. And as much as I dig token conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck she is just so overmatched against the 4 other big mouthed morons that the poor gal hasn’t got a chance. I beg of ABC…PLEASE cancel this drivel, or atleast sell it to Oprah’s “network”…same difference.

 

Justin Beiber

I couldn’t name one of his songs if I had two guns pointed at my head, but every soccer mom and 12 year old girl in America seems to love him. I’m sick & tired of hearing his name and seeing him on my TV. Plus he needs a haircut.

 

Reality TV

The ironic thing about reality television is that there is hardly anything real about it. Anyone who watches The Bachelor/Bachelorette and thinks it is an accurate representation of dating & falling in love needs to just hurl themselves off the nearest tall building immediately. The same criticism can be made of craptastic stupidity like The Real Housewives, Jersey Shore, Wife Swap, Teen Mom, and just about every reality show on TV. I know these shows are cheaper to produce, which is why they have grown exponentially in the past decade, but I miss the days when some talented writers would get together with some talented actors and make a fictional show that allowed people to e-s-c-a-p-e reality and be entertained for 30-60 minutes.

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

You saw this coming didn’t you?? Yes, I’m sure you did. For the 2nd straight year we have a tie!! This year it is an 8 way tie. ALL of these wastes-of-space need to stop taking up valuable oxygen & other resources immediately. I can think of no better way to immediately improve this great nation.

 

 

 

To present our final award of the evening, please welcome the melodious & soothing voice of TV new personality Harry Smith. And the nominees are:

Biggest U.S. News Story

Shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

On January 8 an assassination attempt on 3 term Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords captured the attention of the entire nation. Giffords was speaking to constituents outside a Safeway grocery store when some nutjob opened fire, injuring more than a dozen people and killing 6, including a nine year old little girl. Predictably liberals in Washington DC seized the opportunity to begin furthering their gun control agenda, but that poppycock fell on deaf ears and the tragedy became bigger than politics. Giffords continues to recover, but still has some communication issues and has lost some of her eyesight.

 

Race for the Republican Nomination

Incumbent President Obama is, unsurprisingly, going to be unopposed for his own party’s nomination in 2012. However, the fight for the right to face Obama in the general election got in to full swing in 2011, with nearly a dozen Republicans battling it out as we head into primary season early next year. No single candidate has really taken control of the contest, with several of the contestants having their turn in the spotlight, and a few have already fallen by the wayside. Unfortunately I don’t think the conservative base will be all that enamored with whoever ends up with the nomination because none of them seem to really be what we were hoping for.

 

Unemployment

Nearly ¾ of the way thru President Obama’s first (and hopefully only) term the unemployment rate still hovers around 9%. In comparison unemployment under George W. Bush was below 8%, Reagan, Clinton, & Bush ‘41 just above 7%, and even Jimmy Carter…usually considered one of the 20th Centuries worst Presidents…only 7.5%. Obama can no longer realistically blame W. for the poor economy, and the American people know it.

 

End of the Space Shuttle Program

The three decades old space shuttle program came to a close with the final mission of Atlantis in July. Now if an American wants to go to space they have to catch a ride with the Russians. Somewhere JFK is rolling over in his grave (if he is really dead that is). I guess NASA has some new ideas in the hopper, which is fine. Until those plans materialize though the lack of an active space exploration program further diminishes the concept of American exceptionalism, which I’m sure puts a smile on the faces of the current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

 

Fast & Furious

A 2001 film starring Vin Diesel & Paul Walker. No…wait…that’s not it. Apparently this was some sort of gun running operation by the U.S. ATF. I don’t know. The movie never interested me so when this story was dubbed with that name I pretty much decided not to pay attention right from the very beginning.

 

NY Legalizes Gay Marriage

On July 24 New York passed legislation allowing same sex marriage. My Bible tells me that this behavior is vile, against nature, and an abomination. Your mileage may vary, and we will just have to agree to disagree.

 

Death of Steve Jobs

Nerds nationwide mourned the untimely passing of the founder of Apple Computers on October 5th (my birthday) due to pancreatic cancer. I am not all that technologically savvy, but I know enough to realize that Jobs belongs on the Mount Rushmore of the modern computer age.

 

Hurricane Irene

Near the end of August Irene made landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Its path of destruction, mostly from flooding, extended clear up into the New York/New Jersey area, causing 56 deaths and $7 billion in damage.

 

10th Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks

America marked the decade anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks with modest ceremonies in New York, DC, and Shanksville, PA, as well as the requisite reflective coverage on television. So much has been said & written about that horrible day 10 years ago that I cannot add anything new. Just know that, for the victims & their families, we will n-e-v-e-r forget.

 

Deadly Tornado Hits Joplin, MO

On May 22 the small town of Joplin, about 70 miles west of Springfield, was hit with an F5 tornado that killed 160 people, injured nearly 1000, and did nearly $3 billion in damage. It was the costliest tornado in the history of the United States.

 

Occupy Wall St. Movement

Class warfare has been an effective tool for liberals in this country for centuries. Some people hate anyone who has more than them. That hatred reached a new peak in the fall of 2011 when a group of protesters decided to stage a massive sit-in at a park near New York City’s Wall Street, the financial epicenter of the nation. To my knowledge the protests…which have spawned numerous similar demonstrations nationwide…continue to this day. This kind of crap is the direct result of media & pop culture romanticization of the 1960’s. Instead of trying to learn from the wealthy and duplicate their success there is a whole new generation of dirty hippies that just want to sit around whining, bitching, and moaning about “big business” while they ignore the real problem, which is “big government”.

 

End of the War in Iraq

The nearly decade long Iraq conflict that began on the heels of 9/11 and the War on Terrorism came to an official close on December 5, 2011. I happen to believe that at one time there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that Saddam Hussein had some connection to Al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks. However, I also would have preferred a much shorter American involvement. The objectives seemed unclear at times and the lack of an effective exit strategy was troubling. The Middle East will always be a hot spot for strife, and I do not believe any amount of military involvement or attempts to spread democracy will ever bring total peace.

 

Casey Anthony Trial

Caylee Anthony, the 2 year old daughter of Casey, went missing in the summer of 2008 and was found dead a few months later. This past summer the mother went on trial for killing her child. Casey appears to be a mentally unstable woman who got knocked up before she was ready and, as the theory goes, murdered her daughter so she’d have the freedom to go back to being a drunken party girl ho. Unfortunately for the millions who became emotionally invested in the trial like it was OJ Part 2, the prosecutors were inept and Anthony’s defense team used annoying little techniques like lack of evidence, burden of proof, and reasonable doubt to get her acquitted. Soccer Moms everywhere were so outraged that they…they…they put their porch lights on!! As if that was going to help anything.

 

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

The Republicans. I choose this story because, unlike other stories that have come & gone, this one has been a constant for most of the year and has been woven into the fabric of our daily lives. It is also significant because all the ups & downs, missteps, debates, and speechifying that has occurred over all these months will…eventually…lead to someone being nominated to run for President in 2012. That election may be one of the most important turning points in our nation’s history. 2011 has seen folks like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Mitt Romey, Ron Paul, & Rick Perry become household names, even if each has had their weaknesses & foibles exposed for the entire world to pass judgment on. That’s American politics. It’s not perfect, but it’s still the best system in the world.

 

 

 

 

actresses Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Russell, Betty Garrett (Laverne & Shirley), Anne Francis (Forbidden Planet), Peggy Rea (The Dukes of Hazzard, Grace Under Fire)…former Secretary of State Warren Christopher…Apple Computers founder Steve Jobs…director Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network)…George Ballas (inventor of the Weed Eater)…“Dr. Death” Jack Kevorkian…Frank Buckles (the last surviving WW1 veteran)…fitness guru Jack Lalanne…Indy 500 Champion Dan Wheldon…golf legend Seve Ballesteros…saxophonist Clarence Clemons…boxer Joe Frazier…former Pittsburgh Pirates manager Chuck Tanner…former Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro…blues musician Pinetop Perkins…alleged singer Amy Winehouse…producers Sherwood Schwartz (The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island) & Gil Cates (Academy Awards Show)…former First Lady Betty Ford…retired MLB pitcher Mike Flanagan…Jimmy Kimmel’s Uncle Frank Potenza…baseball broadcaster Ernie Johnson…former NY Governor Hugh Carey…Dolores Hope (widow of Bob Hope)…Big East Conference founder Dave Gavitt…singer Dobie Gray (Drift Away)…Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis…pollster George Gallup…cartoonist Bil Keane (The Family Circus)…journalists Andy Rooney & Christopher Hitchins…retired football players Orlando Brown, Bubba Smith, Mike Heimerdinger, Kent Hull, and Chester McGlockton…actors Michael Gough (Batman), Jeff Conaway (Taxi), Edward Hardwicke (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), Jackie Cooper (Our Gang, Superman), Peter Falk (Columbo), James Arness (Gunsmoke), GD Spradlin (The Godfather Part II, One on One, North Dallas Forty, Apocalypse Now), Roberts Blossom (Home Alone, Doc Hollywood), Cliff Robertson (PT109, Spider-Man), Charles Napier (The Blues Brothers), and Harry Morgan (M*A*S*H, The Glenn Miller Story)…wrestling legends Sir Oliver Humperdink & “Macho Man” Randy Savage…baseball Hall of Famers Duke Snider, Ron Santo, and Harmon Killebrew…retired NBA players Robert “Tractor” Traylor, Lorenzo Charles, and Walt Hazzard…NFL Hall of Famers Andy Robustelli, John Henry Johnson, John Mackey, and Lee Roy Selmon

100 Favorite Movies…..11-15

Okay…so I know it’s only August, but today you get two holiday films, with both Christmas and Thanksgiving being represented. It is also another tribute to the genius of John Hughes, as three of his movies show up. I want to take this opportunity to thank my loyal readers who have stuck with this series in the year since it began. When I originally envisioned it I had no idea it would take over a year. I suppose I did not realize I would have so many other things to write about, but I believe that to be a good thing. Enjoy.

 


15 Office Space

I have to give a shout out to a former co-worker of mine, Brad, who brought Office Space into my consciousness somewhere around 2002-ish. Somehow I had missed it when it was originally in theaters in 1999 but I wasn’t alone. Office Space has become a cult classic thanks to home video and television, not because anyone went to their local cineplex and paid $7 to see it. They didn’t. Anyhow, for me the timing of my introduction to this movie was perfect. Brad and I were both supervisors at a despicable telemarketing company at the time, and the plight of Peter, Samir, Milton, Michael Bolton, and the rest of the gang resonated on a myriad of levels. I had never…and still haven’t…read the Milton cartoons, but I was intrigued by the fact that the film’s director is Mike Judge, the creator of Beavis & Butt-head. I was a huge fan of Beavis & Butt-head in college. Needless to say, Office Space does not resemble Beavis & Butt-head in the least, but it is somewhat surprising that Judge has not had wider success on the big screen. Office Space is a look at the day-to-day grind at a software engineering company and focuses on Peter, a miserable white-collar worker bee who realizes that “Ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that’s on the worst day of my life.” Now tell me…who among us hasn’t had a similar thought pattern at one time or another?? I would feel safe in betting that the vast majority of the working population aren’t spending 9-5 at their dream job and that in many ways a lot of people are somewhere along the scale of unfulfilled, unhappy, or downright miserable. And that’s just in their professional life. But this is a movie, so unlike real folks Peter stumbles onto an escape. During some sort of wacky couples therapy he is hypnotized to basically quit giving a damn, but the therapist keels over dead before Peter is completely brought out of his trance. The next day Peter feels happy and relaxed, without a care in the world. Hilarity ensues. The ensemble cast is superb. Peter’s best work buds are Samir, a man of Indian descent who is frustrated by people who cannot pronounce his name, and Michael Bolton, a guy who liked his name until he was 12 when “that no-talent assclown became famous and started winning Grammys.” They work with an eclectic group of oddballs, including muttering milquetoast Milton, who has an odd attachment to his stapler and who was actually laid off years ago but no one ever told him and a glitch in accounting keeps the paychecks coming, Tom, who invents a Jump to Conclusions board game that he hopes will be the next Pet Rock, and Lumbergh, the annoying, clueless, oblivious, hilarious boss that we all have had in one form or another. Along the way Peter gets a new gal pal, a waitress at a chain restaurant who hates her job as much as Peter hates his, interacts with a nosy neighbor whose biggest desire is to have a threesome, gets promoted by The Bobs, efficiency experts who love his frank directness & blunt honesty, and hatches a plan to slowly embezzle money from the company in a way that won’t be noticed. It’s all very absurd yet vaguely familiar, and if you’ve ever had a job you’ll appreciate Office Space as I do.


14 Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

The world’s best Thanksgiving movie, hands down. I suppose there isn’t much competition, but nevertheless Planes, Trains, & Automobiles is a great film. With the combined talents of Steve Martin and John Candy, not to mention uber writer/director/producer John Hughes, how could it not be?? Martin is Neal Page, an uptight advertising executive trying to get from NY City to Chicago in time to have turkey with the family. Candy is Del Griffith, an unkempt salesman who’s a wee bit too extroverted. He is also making the trek from The Big Apple to The Windy City. Unfortunately for both men the journey is far from smooth, with snowstorms, flight cancellations, train derailments, and a plethora of other humorous mishaps turning a short 3 hour trip into a 3 day adventure from Hell, atleast for Neal who just wants to be left alone but can’t seem to shake gregarious Del. As with most Hughes films, the fun is underlined with a slight hint of pathos, but not so much that it becomes mawkish, atleast until the last 5 minutes. But I am willing to overlook the last 5 minutes because of all the goodness that precedes them. Edie McClurg, known to audiences as the secretary in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and an ever present nosy neighbor in the short lived 80’s sitcom The Hogan Family, has a very memorable cameo role in this movie that singlehandedly takes the rating from PG to R. I am not advocating foul language, but this scene is undeniably funny and belongs in the pantheon of great moments in film. Other than that the supporting cast is inconsequential because the two stars carry the well written story all by themselves. What might have been a typical, formulaic, clichéd “buddy flick” or “road trip movie” is taken to a whole new level in the capable hands of Hughes, Martin, and Candy. It is a shame that the two actors never did anything else together because they make a great duo. In his review of Planes, Trains, & Automobiles critic Roger Ebert said “The movies that last, the ones we return to, don’t always have lofty themes or Byzantine complexities. Sometimes they last because they are arrows straight to the heart”. This is so true, as we are able to see much of ourselves in the foibles of both Del and Neal, as well as the predicaments they share. But above all else we laugh, and as anyone who has read this list thus far knows that is what I like to do and what I prefer in the movies I watch. Planes, Trains, & Automobiles has become as much a part of my Thanksgiving tradition as turkey, football, and the Macy’s Parade, and I would happily counsel anyone to follow suit.

 

13 National Lampoon’s Vacation

Thus far there have been 4 Vacation flicks (and no…I’m not counting that God awful made-for-TV deal they did a few years ago). The second, European Vacation, was forgettable. The fourth, Vegas Vacation, was lazy, ill-conceived, and disappointing. The third, Christmas Vacation, will be discussed at a later time. But nearly 30 years after it first hit theaters the original Vacation is a bona fide classic that has aged surprisingly well. My family was never the vacationing type. The funds just weren’t there, so we took what my Dad calls “The Old Italian Vacation”…a week on the front porch and a week on the back porch. Those of you that have had the opportunity to take a lot of family trips may identify more closely with Vacation than I do, but that doesn’t mean us homebodies can’t appreciate the uproarious misadventures of the Griswold clan. Chevy Chase stars as patriarch Clark, a food additives manufacturer in suburban Chicago. Clark loves his family and wants to take the wife, Ellen, and his two young teenagers, Rusty and Audrey, on a summer vacation. The destination?? California’s Walley World, an obvious nod to Disneyland. But instead of hopping on an airplane Clark decides that he wants to “drive the tribe cross-country” because “getting there is half the fun”. Thankfully the viewers are the ones having all the fun, as the trip is one calamity after another. It begins before the family even makes it out of town, with a shady car salesman tricking the obtuse Clark into buying The Queen Family Truckster, a horrific pea green wagon with way too much imitation wood paneling, 8 headlights, and an air bag that looks like it came out of the kitchen trash can. The Truckster looks like The Exorcist threw up on The Brady Bunch, and the dealer hysterically says “You may think you hate it now, but wait ’til you drive it” . Along the trek westward the family gets lost in the ‘hood of St. Louis, getting their car spray painted and their hubcaps stolen…barely survives Clark falling asleep at the wheel…rouses the entire sleeping population of a small motel when Clark goes skinny dipping with a Ferrari driving babe played by model Christie Brinkley…and makes the mistake of visiting Ellen’s redneck cousin in Kansas. That cousin is married to an even bigger buffoon than Clark. Eddie is a great caricature of lowbrow Welfare culture, and his kids are a chip off the old block. One of them has a box full of pot under her bed and tells Audrey that she French kisses and that “Daddy says I’m the best at it”. The older son, in response to Rusty’s indignation that there are no video games or other modern forms of entertainment, shows his cousin a large porn collection and explains the joy of…self pleasure. Then there is Aunt Edna, who hates Clark for some unknown reason and is in need of a ride to Arizona to go live with her son. Throwing Aunt Edna…and her vicious dog…into the mix just adds to the merriment, and her ultimate fate may be the highlight of the film. Needless to say The Griswolds eventually make it to Walley World, but that too has a fantastic comedic twist. I would probably not be going too far out on a limb to assume that few who saw Vacation when it hit theaters realized what a gem they were seeing and that we’d still be watching all these years later. Part of the credit once again has to go to John Hughes, who wrote the screenplay based on his vacation adventures as a child. I am hearing rumors that a franchise rebirth is in the works, with a grown up Rusty taking his own family on a wacky vacation. One can only hope that it is a properly funny offspring of its predecessor and that we may be discussing it wistfully in three decades.

 

12 Home Alone

The final part of today’s John Hughes three-peat is also another Christmas movie. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I cannot believe it has been 20 years since little Kevin McCallister was ditched by his family and had to fend off bumbling burglars with hilarious cartoon violence. 1990 was the year I graduated high school and entered college, so it is a very special moment in my life. Viewers had gotten a small dose of MaCaulay Caulkin the year before in Uncle Buck, but in Home Alone he takes center stage as an 8 year old boy inadvertently left sleeping while his family jets off to Paris for Christmas vacation. Now I have to admit, the setup is a bit improbable if only because Kevin’s family includes parents, siblings, cousins, and an aunt & uncle. One can realistically conceive of one or two people forgetting a small child…but upwards of 8-10 people?? One has to suspend disbelief a lot to buy into it, but I will give due credit…the writing is just clever enough that we do buy it. Kevin is doing just fine taking care of himself despite being afraid of an old neighbor fella who, local legend has it, is a serial killer and also getting a little freaked out by the furnace in the basement. Meanwhile, Kevin’s Mom is frantically trying to get back to Chicago to save her poor little crumb cruncher, with little help from local law enforcement or the airline industry. While all this is happening the McCallister’s neighborhood is being cased by Harry & Marv, two inept thieves calling themselves The Wet Bandits. Kevin fools them for awhile, but soon enough they figure out that he is…yes…you guessed it…home alone. Kevin overhears them plotting their pillage of his homestead and decides to fight back. Of course in the real world would a little kid stand a chance against two grown men?? Obviously not. But this is a movie, and Kevin takes care of business quite nicely. There are Hughes’ trademark moments of poignancy and sentimentality, but for the most part the story is ever so slightly edgy. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern acquit themselves just fine as the clueless crooks, and the family does their part in driving the plot. But make no mistake…Home Alone is all about MacCaulay Culkin. I don’t know how or where John Hughes found him, but I’m glad he did. Hindsight tells us that Culkin was like a brand new car being driven off the lot and immediately beginning to lose value…his star would never quite shine so brightly again. But to millions of viewers every Christmas season, for a brief moment in time, he is and will continue to be that cute, innocent, funny 8 year old boy. Home Alone is required viewing in my household every November & December, and I would encourage anyone to make it part of their holiday tradition as well.

 

11 The Passion of the Christ

I really struggled in deciding where this movie would fall in the countdown. On the one hand, it is not entertainment and was never meant to be. One does not sit down with a cold beverage and a bowl of popcorn on a lonely Saturday night and decide to pop in The Passion of the Christ. However, I do feel like it is an important movie that everyone, especially those purporting themselves to be Christians, need to watch occasionally. The story should be familiar to almost everyone. It is the story of Jesus Christ, His earthly ministry in the company of 12 apostles, His pursuit, capture, crucifixion, and resurrection. The plot and most of the dialogue is taken directly out of the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Director Mel Gibson makes some interesting choices, especially having all the dialogue in Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew. I am not usually a fan of films with subtitles, but using the original languages for this film was a brilliant decision and makes the story that much more beautiful. The movie generated a lot of controversy when it was released in 2004, but that is par for the course in modern day America. Everything Muslim is cool, along with wacky Hollywood “religions” like Kabbalah and Scientology, but we dare not promote anything positive about Christianity. People complained about possible anti-Semitism because of the inference that Jews killed Jesus. Well guess what?? They did. But folks forget that Jesus Himself was a Jew and the fact that He was put to death by other Jews does not mean that we are to hate the Jewish people or that The Bible teaches that. It was all much ado about nothing. As a matter of fact, as a Christian I know that Jesus died for all of our sins including mine, so when I watch The Passion I am haunted by the thought that I did that…I am responsible for the violent flogging and crucifixion of Christ, and it convicts me tremendously. Bleeding hearts also whined about the violent nature of the film, as if they believe that Jesus was lightly spanked with a feather. The violence is what makes the film work, and I give kudos to Gibson for not holding back. The Passion of the Christ is not easy to watch. The first time I saw it I sat in the theater for about 20 minutes after the credits rolled, unable to move. Nothing I have ever seen outside the death of my own mother has ever rocked my world so deeply. I have seen it a few more times in the ensuing years, but as I said, it isn’t light entertainment that one watches for fun. I do implore every single person who has never seen it to watch atleast once though. It is an experience you will never forget.