35+ Days of Christmas on WSAM

Some years back I spoke my peace about Christmas Creep, and since then it’s just gotten worse. The holiday season pretty much starts in October now, which means that television networks like Hallmark and Freeform have already been airing Christmas movies for awhile. However, as much as I adore this time of year and love watching such films, I’ve always had an issue with the way AMC, TCM, and other such channels do their programming. Other than starting way too early I believe they make three key mistakes.

First of all, their definition of a Christmas movie is decidedly…avant-garde. Frozen?? Harry Potter?? Toy Story?? No…just…no. Just because a film is animated and/or produced by Disney doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. Hallmark obviously produces their own holiday flicks, but for the channels that show old big screen classics there are plenty of legit choices that fit the criteria.

Secondly, when the month of December hits I want wall-to-wall Christmas movies. I understand counter-programming. I get it. Some folks aren’t particularly into Christmas and they want some entertainment too. But for a television station…particularly one that is primarily dedicated to movies…I feel like it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. Are you in or out?? Don’t air a great old Christmas movie then follow-it up with a tepid rom-com or a western. You’re creating a vibe…ambiance… a certain kind of mood. Even amongst the Christmas sub-genre there can be synergy. I am not familiar with all the ins & outs of television programming, but I think the powers-that-be can do better.

And finally, I realize that Christmas movies are a relatively finite category. There are only a handful of really good ones, and they mostly fall into one of three groups: wacky family hijinks, Santa Claus stories, & adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Having said that, I still believe that any TV channel dedicating itself to holiday programming can do better than showing the same few movies over & over & over again until even the most ardent fans become a little bit tired of them. In the recent past Freeform has aired Elf, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, & The Polar Express about two dozen times…each. That’s ridiculous.

Citizens of The Manoverse may recall that a few years ago I came up with a weekend movie marathon for Christmastime. So I began to ponder the idea of expanding that concept. What if I owned a TV channel akin to AMC, TCM, Hallmark, or Freeform?? How would I program an entire month+ of holiday classics?? The first thing I had to do was establish some rules:

  • My holiday programming begins the day before Thanksgiving and ends a couple of days after Christmas. It runs on weekdays from 4pm-Midnight(ish), with expanded weekend hours.
  • Movies would air unedited. I am not advocating rampant profanity or other adult content, but is that really an issue with most Christmas movies anyway?? It has always driven me nuts when Freeform edits references to Jack Daniels & Wild Turkey in Christmas Vacation. There are more objectionable scenes in random commercials for pete’s sake. I’m also not a fan of cutting the infamous “blackface” scene in Holiday Inn. Societal norms evolve…oftentimes for the better…but I don’t believe in censoring a movie made darn near a century ago just because our collective belief systems are a bit different nowadays. If you are so overly sensitive that a two minute scene in a movie offends you that is your problem.
  • And lastly…the big one. After compiling a list of movies & television specials for this exercise I gave myself a limit of five airings. No matter how awesome a film might be I think seeing it five times in the space of a month is quite enough. I grew up in an era when It’s A Wonderful Life was on literally every day…multiple times per day…the whole month of December. I have spent the past two decades enjoying TBS/TNT’s 24 hour A Christmas Story marathon Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. I have no issue with any of that…I am simply taking a different approach.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday        11/21

4pm            Free Birds

6pm            Dutch

8pm            Home for the Holidays

10pm                   Scent of a Woman

 

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. – Henry David Thoreau

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Day       11/22

3:30pm      WKRP in Cincinnati S1E7 “Turkeys Away”

4pm            Holiday Inn

6pm            Grumpy Old Men

8pm            A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving     

8:30pm      Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

10:30pm    The Nightmare Before Christmas

 

We eased into our merry month of holiday goodness with some Thanksgiving gems. Free Birds is a 2013 animated tale about turkeys traveling back in time to prevent their brethren from ever becoming the holiday’s main course. Dutch is an early 90’s dramedy starring Ed O’Neill (Married with Children’s Al Bundy) as a guy who offers to pick his girlfriend’s son up at his private school in Georgia and drive him back to Chicago for Thanksgiving. Home for the Holidays is a mid-90’s ensemble dramedy about a family getting together for Thanksgiving, notably starring Robert Downey Jr., Holly Hunter, Claire Danes, Dylan McDermott, Charles Durning, & Ann Bancroft. Scent of A Woman paints outside the lines a little bit, but does take place at Thanksgiving. Ditto for Grumpy Old Men, which has scenes set at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Planes, Trains, & Automobiles is a beloved Thanksgiving tradition in my house, as is Turkeys Away, probably one of the greatest sitcom episodes of all time. I’m never quite sure where The Nightmare Before Christmas fits in, but I suppose it’s worth a couple of viewings.

 

 

 

Friday        11/23

4pm            Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

6pm            Trading Places

8pm            Holiday Inn        

10pm                   Miracle on 34th St. (1947)

 

Christmas is not just a time for festivity and merry making. It is more than that. It is a time for the contemplation of eternal things. The Christmas spirit is a spirit of giving and forgiving. – J. C. Penney

 

 

 

 

Saturday    11/24

Noon          The Year Without a Santa Claus

1pm            Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

2pm            Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

3pm            The Lemon Drop Kid

5pm                   Miracle on 34th Street (1994)       

7pm            Scrooge (1951)

9pm            Christmas with the Kranks

 

Trading Places stars Dan Aykroyd as a wealthy businessman & Eddie Murphy as a fast talking con artist who are both manipulated by two rich old geezers into switching societal roles as part of a bet they view as a sociological experiment. It was Murphy’s follow-up to 48 Hrs. and preceded Beverly Hills Cop. Is it a Christmas movie?? Ehhh…close enough for me.  Holiday Inn has scenes set at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and every other major holiday on the calendar, and it introduced the world to White Christmas, which has gone on to become the best-selling Christmas song of all time. The Lemon Drop Kid is a criminally underappreciated Bob Hope offering from 1951 in which he stars as a loquacious hustler who crosses the wrong gangster and must come up with the $10k he screwed him out of by Christmas Eve. When his department store Santa con doesn’t work out The Kid launches a scheme to raise money for a fake retirement home. Hilarity ensues. It is pretty much impossible to find The Lemon Drop Kid on television or elsewhere, but I would absolutely change that because it is a fun movie that deserves some attention, plus it introduced the world to the classic carol Silver Bells. Blackadder’s Christmas Carol is a holiday episode of the British television show Blackadder, starring Rowan Atkinson. In this special episode Blackadder is the kindest & most generous man in England, but everyone takes advantage of him, his business isn’t doing well, and he’s miserable & lonely. On Christmas Eve a single spirit essentially shows him what life would be like if he were mean & uncaring like some of his ancestors, and he becomes convinced that everything would be awesome. It is a clever interpretation that turns Dickens’ A Christmas Carol upside down. Speaking of A Christmas Carol, the 1951 version starring Alistair Sim is generally regarded as the best by many, and so it’s a big part of our special month.

 

 

Sunday      11/25

Noon          The Star Wars Holiday Special

12:30pm    A Charlie Brown Christmas

1pm            All I Want for Christmas

3pm            Christmas Every Day

5pm            Four Christmases

7pm            Fred Claus

9pm            Frosty the Snowman

9:30pm      Scrooge (1951)

 

The Star Wars Holiday Special aired only once…on November 17, 1978, which was about a year after the first film but a couple of years before The Empire Strikes Back. It received such negative reviews that it has never been on TV again and is a rare find, but since Star Wars is a much bigger deal now than it was then I think it’s time to bring the Christmas special out of the moth balls. It can’t be any worse than the prequels & sequels, right?? Vince Vaughn is a guy that many people either love or hate, and I happen to like the guy. Not all of his movies are winners, but both Fred Claus and Four Christmases are worth an airing or two during the holiday season. All I Want for Christmas and Christmas Every Day are made-for-TV movies that originally aired on ABC Family (now Freeform) back in the early to mid-90’s. They’re cute & entertaining enough that I’ve retained a certain level of fondness for them over the years, and I believe others might enjoy them as well. Christmas with the Kranks is based on John Grisham’s 2001 novel Skipping Christmas and stars Tim Allen & Jamie Lee Curtis as a couple whose plan to ditch the annual holiday hullabaloo in favor of a tropical cruise doesn’t quite work out. It isn’t the greatest Christmas movie, and at first I kind of hated it…but it has begun to grown on me.

 

 

Monday     11/26

4pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

6pm            Scrooge (1951)

8pm            Trapped in Paradise

10pm                   Santa Claus: The Movie

 

Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel, & reindeers, but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas. – Ronald Reagan

 

 

Tuesday    11/27

4pm            Deck the Halls

6pm            The Santa Clause

8pm            The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause

10pm                   The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

 

Trapped in Paradise stars Nicolas Cage, Dana Carvey, & Jon Lovitz as three dimwitted brothers who rob a bank in a small Pennsylvania town on Christmas Eve then are unable to leave. They are befriended by the super friendly & naive citizens who don’t realize that they’re the bank robbers. Deck the Halls stars Danny DeVito as a guy determined to make the Christmas lights display at his house so dazzling that it can be seen from space, and Matthew Broderick as the tightly wound neighbor hellbent on stopping him. Neither are considered good movies by critics or the viewing public, but I don’t mind watching them once or twice this time of year. For some strange reason only 2/3 of Tim Allen’s Santa Clause trilogy…the original & the third one…currently get a lot of play on television. I seem to recall reading somewhere that feminazis & other social justice warriors have an issue with the second film, but I rather enjoy it. I mean…it’s a trilogy, right?? I readily admit that the first Santa Clause is far & away the best, but I also think it’s pretty obvious that The Mrs. Clause is much more entertaining than The Escape Clause. Not even Martin Short & Alan Arkin could save that one. Still though, all three need to be a part of our celebration.

 

 

Wednesday 11/28

4pm            Scrooge (1970)                                                 

6pm            Frosty the Snowman  

6:30pm      Disney’s A Christmas Carol

8:30pm      A Charlie Brown Christmas

9pm            Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

9:30pm      The Lemon Drop Kid

 

Once again, we come to the holiday season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.  –  Dave Barry

 

 

 

Thursday 11/29

4pm            Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

5pm            The Star Wars Holiday Special    

6:30pm      The Lemon Drop Kid

8:30pm      A Christmas Carol (1938)

10:30pm    A Christmas Carol (1984)    

 

I wrote about my favorite adaptations of A Christmas Carol four years ago, so I won’t go into full rehash mode here, but a little clarification couldn’t hurt. The 1938 version is a sanitized, family friendly movie starring Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge. The 1984 version was a made-for-TV movie starring George C. Scott as Scrooge that didn’t start airing annually again until 2007 per an agreement with Scott’s estate. The 1970 version is a musical starring Albert Finney as Scrooge. Patrick Stewart starred as Scrooge in a made-for-TV movie originally aired on TNT in 1999. Disney’s screen capture animated version was released in 2009 and stars Jim Carrey as Scrooge as well as other roles.

 

 

Friday 11/30

4pm            Mixed Nuts

6pm            Lethal Weapon

8pm            Die Hard

10pm                   Bad Santa

 

Wow…talk about a weird Friday night!! Mixed Nuts has an all-star cast, including Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Garry Shandling, Juliette Lewis, Adam Sandler, Robert Klein, Rita Wilson, Rob Reiner, Parker Posey, Jon Stewart, & Liev Schreiber. That’s quite an eclectic lineup. It is an alleged comedy about a suicide hotline that has been evicted from its office space on Christmas Eve. There are a lot of subplots & hijinks, but I’ll spare you the details. Mixed Nuts has been mentioned as the worst Christmas film of all time, but I’ve seen worse and believe the impressive lineup of performers alone merits a viewing or two, even though all of that talent adds up to shockingly little  entertainment. Bad Santa is a bit too vulgar for my tastes, but it has a 78% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is considered by some to be a modern classic. Few seem to engage in the same good-natured debate about whether or not Lethal Weapon is a Christmas movie in comparison to the annual arguments for & against the worthiness of Die Hard to be considered thusly, but for our purposes both are included as an action packed & mildly violent break from the typical sentimentality of the holiday season.

 

Saturday 12/1

Noon          Mickey’s Christmas Carol   

12:30pm    The Star Wars Holiday Special

2pm            Disney’s A Christmas Carol

4pm            It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

6pm            The Muppet Christmas Carol       

8pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

10pm                   Scrooge (1970) 

 

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. – Calvin Coolidge

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 12/2

Noon          The Muppet Christmas Carol

2pm            Jingle All the Way

4pm            Scrooge (1970)

5pm            The Lemon Drop Kid

7pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

9pm            The Ref    

 

I fondly remember watching Mickey’s Christmas Carol when I was a kid. It’s only a half hour long, and let’s face it…Ebenezer Scrooge is a role tailor made for Scrooge McDuck. It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie is a Muppet homage to It’s A Wonderful Life in which Kermit is on the verge of losing his theater and a guardian angel shows him what life for his friends would be like if he’d never been born. There are a lot of human performers, including Whoopi Goldberg, David Arquette, Joan Cusack, & William H. Macy. I assume that movie was made based on the success a decade earlier of The Muppet Christmas Carol, starring Michael Caine as Scrooge. I am generally not a fan of remakes, and nothing can touch the greatness of the original Miracle on 34th Street, but the 1994 version is decent enough. My love for The Ref goes all the way back to its initial foray onto home video in the 90’s. Denis Leary stars as a burglar forced to hold a bickering couple and their dysfunctional family hostage on Christmas Eve. You won’t see it on television all that much, but I always seize every opportunity to spread the word & encourage folks to seek it out during the holiday season.

 

 

 

Monday 12/3

4pm            Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

4:30pm      The Polar Express

6:30pm      Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

7:30pm      How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

8pm            Frosty the Snowman

8:30pm      Mickey’s Christmas Carol   

9pm            The Muppet Christmas Carol       

 

Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.  – Helen Steiner Rice

 

 

 

Tuesday 12/4

4pm            Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

4:30pm      Rise of the Guardians

6:30pm      A Charlie Brown Christmas

7pm            The Santa Clause

9pm            Scrooged

 

Mr. Krueger’s Christmas is a half hour special produced by the Mormon Church that initially aired on NBC in 1980. Unfortunately you’ll have a difficult time running across it these days, but if it were up to me it’d become an annual tradition. Jimmy Stewart stars as an elderly janitor living in the bottom floor of the building that he takes care of, and he is a very lonely man desperate for human interaction. The story depicts Willie Krueger having Walter Mitty-esque dreams on Christmas Eve, including singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and being part of the manger scene on the night of Christ’s birth. It is a well-written & very poignant story with a fantastic message. Rise of the Guardians is an animated tale about Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, & The Sandman recruiting Jack Frost to help them wage battle against The Boogeyman. I saw it when it hit theaters a few years ago and my biggest takeaway was wondering why Alec Baldwin decided to give Santa a German accent. It hasn’t really made much of a holiday pop culture impact, but that could change.

 

Wednesday 12/5

4pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

6pm            A Christmas Carol (1984)

8pm            The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause

10pm                   The Ref

 

Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection. – Sir Winston Churchill

 

 

 

 

Thursday 12/6

4pm            White Christmas

6pm            The Lemon Drop Kid

8pm            The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

10pm                   Scrooged 

 

We are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime. – Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

 

 

 

Friday 12/7

4pm            Arthur Christmas

6pm            Trapped in Paradise

8pm            The Ref

10pm                   Silent Night, Deadly Night

 

I’m not a horror movie fan by any stretch, but 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night is cheesy fun for fans of the genre. It tells the story of a boy who witnesses his parents being murdered by The Jolly Old Elf, then grows up to become a psychotic Santa himself. There were four sequels produced. We’re not including them here, but you’re welcome to check them out if that’s the sort of thing that you’re into. Arthur Christmas is an animated tale about Santa’s inept son Arthur and his Christmas Eve mission to deliver one present that was inadvertently left behind at The North Pole. It has a really unique vision of what The North Pole & Santa’s toy enterprise might look like, and depicts the role of Santa Claus as a generational title passed down from father to son.

 

Saturday 12/8

Noon          The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

1pm            It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

3pm            White Christmas

5pm            Santa Claus: The Movie

7pm            The Bishop’s Wife

9pm            Jingle All the Way

 

Jingle All the Way is another not-so-great movie that has grown on me just a bit. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a negligent Dad trying to track down the hottest Christmas gift of the year for his son, and Sinbad (whatever happened to him??) as the wacky mailman who keeps getting in the way. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is an 80’s Rankin-Bass production of a children’s book written by L. Frank Baum (author of The Wizard of Oz). It is essentially another Santa origin story. The Bishop’s Wife stars Cary Grant as guardian angel sent to provide some guidance to a clergyman & his flock, but things get weird when the angel is smitten with the minister’s wife. A remake called The Preacher’s Wife starring Denzel Washington & Whitney Houston was made in the mid-90’s, but no one knows why.

 

Sunday 12/9

Noon          Holiday Inn

2pm            White Christmas

4pm            Elf    

6pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

8pm            A Christmas Story

10pm                   Scrooged

 

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality. – Washington Irving

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 12/10

4pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

6pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

8pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

10pm                   Home Alone

 

I don’t think Christmas is necessarily about things. It’s about being good to one another. – Carrie Fisher

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 12/11

4pm            Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

5pm            The Ref

7pm            Elf

9pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

 

 

My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. – Bob Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 12/12

4pm            The Polar Express     

6pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

8pm            A Christmas Story

10pm                   Home Alone

 

The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin. – Jay Leno

 

 

 

 

Thursday 12/13

4pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

6pm            A Christmas Story

8pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

10pm                   Elf    

 

The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live. –  George Carlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 12/14

4pm            The Family Stone

6pm            Trading Places

8pm            Die Hard   

10pm                   Lethal Weapon

 

Christmas waves a magic wand over the world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. – Norman Vincent Peale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 12/15

Noon          A Christmas Carol (1938)

2pm            Frosty the Snowman  

2:30pm      All I Want for Christmas

4:30pm      Christmas Every Day 

6:30pm      A Charlie Brown Christmas 

7pm            The Family Stone

9pm            Die Hard

 

I bought my brother some gift wrap for Christmas. I took it to the gift wrap department and told them to wrap it, but in a different print so he would know when to stop unwrapping.  –  Steven Wright

 

 

 

Sunday 12/16

Noon          A Christmas Carol (1999)

2pm            Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

3pm            A Christmas Carol (1938)

5pm            A Christmas Carol (1984)

7pm            Mickey’s Christmas Carol

7:30pm      Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

8pm            Scrooge (1951)

10pm                   Scrooge (1970)

 

Ever wonder what people got Jesus for Christmas? It’s like, “Oh great, socks. You know I’m dying for your sins right? Yeah, but thanks for the socks! They’ll go great with my sandals. What am I, German?” – Jim Gaffigan

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 12/17

4pm            A Christmas Carol (1999)

6pm            Trapped in Paradise

8pm            Fred Claus

10pm                   Four Christmases

 

The very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was that he might offer up his life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas. – Rev. Billy Graham

 

Tuesday 12/18

4pm            Christmas Every Day 

6pm            A Christmas Carol (1999)

8pm            Frosty the Snowman

8:30pm      How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

9pm            Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

9:30pm      Scrooge (1951)

 

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together. – Garrison Keillor

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 12/19

4pm            The Polar Express

6pm            Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

7pm            Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

8pm            A Christmas Carol (1999)

10pm                   The Family Stone

 

The only real blind person at Christmastime is he who has not Christmas in his heart. – Helen Keller

 

 

 

 

Thursday 12/20

4pm            White Christmas

6pm            The Polar Express

8pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation       

10pm                   The Ref

 

The Magi, as you know, were wise men…wonderfully wise men who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. – O. Henry

 

 

 

Friday 12/21

4pm            The Muppet Christmas Carol       

6pm            Trading Places

8pm            Scrooged

10pm                   Santa Claus: The Movie

 

Christmas is a day of meaning and traditions, a special day spent in the warm circle of family and friends. – Margaret Thatcher

 

 

 

 

Saturday 12/22

Noon          Fred Claus

2pm            Santa Claus: The Movie

4pm            All I Want for Christmas

6pm            Disney’s A Christmas Carol

8pm            Home Alone

10pm                   Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

 

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! – Charles Dickens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 12/23

Noon          Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

1pm            The Year Without a Santa Claus

2pm            Home Alone      

4pm            Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

6pm            The Santa Clause

8pm            The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause

10pm                   The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

 

T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. – Clement Clarke Moore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Eve

Noon          Elf    

2pm            The Santa Clause

4pm                   Scrooged

5pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

7pm            A Christmas Story

9pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

 

 

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play

And wild & sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

Christmas Day

11am                   How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

11:30am    A Charlie Brown Christmas

Noon           Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

12:30pm    Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

2:30pm      A Christmas Carol (1938)

4:30pm      The Polar Express

6:30pm      White Christmas

8:30pm      Disney’s A Christmas Carol

 

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly. – Andy Rooney

 

Wednesday 12/26

Noon          Home Alone

2pm            Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

4pm            A Christmas Carol (1984)

6pm            Elf

8pm            A Christmas Story

 

Perhaps it is because I don’t have children or work in retail and therefore don’t suffer some of the burnout & fatigue that others do as the holiday season draws to its conclusion, but I usually feel a general sense of melancholy when the clock strikes midnight on Christmas night. All the sudden all of the hoopla is over. Radio & TV stations resume regular programming. Some folks take down their decorations immediately. Well that’s not how we roll here ladies & gentlemen. We’re going to wean ourselves off of the holiday high we’ve been on for the past month and have one more day of Santa Claus, Ebenezer Scrooge, & general Christmas merriment.

 

Thursday, 12/27

Noon          Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July

1:30pm      Rudolph’s Shiny New Year

2:30pm      New Year’s Eve

4:30pm      When Harry Met Sally

6:30pm      Holiday Inn

8:30pm      Sleepless in Seattle

 

Christmas may be over but technically it’s still the holiday season. In the old days people used to celebrate The Twelve Days of Christmas (you may have heard a song about it). Those don’t even begin until what we know as Christmas Day and conclude on January 5. Don’t worry…I’m not going to take things that far. However, even in modern times most of us reserve a bit of the ol’ festive mojo for one more round of frivolity, and so we will conclude our holiday celebration with a day of entertainment revolving around New Year’s Eve/Day or atleast having scenes centered on it. I am certain that most are familiar with the offerings suggested here, but I will dive into 2011’s New Year’s Eve just a bit. It’s one of those rom-coms with a large ensemble cast and interweaving stories, all taking place on…well, I’m sure you can figure it out. It’s not a great film, as evidenced by an atrocious 7% Rotten Tomatoes score. Newsday called it “a perfect example of why the adjective Hollywood is so often used as a pejorative”. The New York Post said that it is “a soul-sucking monument to Hollywood greed and saccharine holiday culture”. Our old pal Ebert wondered “How is it possible to assemble more than two dozen stars in a movie and find nothing interesting for any of them to do?”. But it is that all-star cast (including Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Robert DeNiro, Josh Duhamel, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Hilary Swank, Zac Efron, Katherine Heigl, Michelle Pfeiffer, & Jon Bon Jovi) that is the draw, and I feel alright throwing it in amongst a few other movies that are certified classics, kind of like how a single horn player who isn’t really that talented can just kind of blend in & disappear amongst a large orchestra.

 

 

 

This concept could certainly be modified annually. Most of the movies & specials we’ve chose wouldn’t change all that much from year to year, but there would be nothing wrong with the occasional addition or subtraction. I’d put this lineup against any station out there and am confident that it would be considered by most to be superior to any alternatives. Having said that, I’d love to hear from The Manoverse. What has been included here that you don’t enjoy all that much?? Did I miss something that should be given some love?? As opposed to my viewpoint, do you like watching some holiday classics almost daily each December?? Which adaptation of A Christmas Carol do you prefer?? What is your stance on Die Hard as a Christmas movie?? Leave me some comments and let’s have some back & forth.

Merry Movie Mayhem: Candy Cane (Round 2)

I happen to have a job that is oftentimes quietly tedious, and during the long late night hours I occasionally have an opportunity to watch a little television. There isn’t a whole lot on at 3am, but now & then I run across an old movie or two during the night that’s worth my time. Streaming is great. Setting the DVR is a very nice & simple option. Planning ahead is a smart way to go thru life on many levels. However, there is something to be said for spontaneity and small yet pleasant surprises, one of which is channel surfing and stumbling upon an awesome movie, especially if it’s just starting. Awhile back I was at work on a typically slow night and just happened to run across the 1989 rom-com When Harry Met Sally, which I hadn’t seen in ages. Because I am easily entertained I was absolutely giddy with delight, and that kind of pleasure is what I seek in a good Christmas movie this time of year. Jim Carrey’s The Grinch doesn’t make me feel like that. Neither does The Nightmare Before Christmas, Gremlins, Christmas in Connecticut, or Ernest Saves Christmas, which is why none of them are included in this competition. At any rate, when you see the decisions I make here that is a significant part of the criteria. What kind of film makes me instantly stop flipping thru the channels and watch?? What movies are so soothing, inspirational, funny, engaging, or enchanting that one is as excited to see it now as we were last year or five years ago?? Regrettably Hollywood doesn’t seem to produce very many stories like that anymore, but great Christmas movies belong to an extraordinary & exclusive club, and once they’re in they are in it for life, which is why we watch many of them year after year after year, over & over for decades. Today we conclude Round 2 of Merry Movie Mayhem with the Candy Cane Division. If you need to get caught up with previous second round action that is easily done here, here, & here. Happy Holidays y’all!!

 

 

 

 

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Quotes

For the past 50 years or so I’ve been getting more and more worried about Christmas. Seems we’re all so busy trying to beat the other fellow in making things go faster and look shinier and cost less that Christmas and I are sort of getting lost in the shuffle. – Kris Kringle

Faith is believing in something when common sense tells you not to. – Fred Gailey

Maybe he’s only a little crazy like painters or composers or some of those men in Washington. – Mr. Shellhammer

There’s a lot of bad ‘ism floatin’ around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism. – Alfred the Janitor

Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind…and that’s what’s been changing. – Kris Kringle

 

Factoids

Unbeknownst to most parade watchers, Edmund Gwenn played Santa Claus in the actual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade held November 28, 1946. He fulfilled the duties of most parade Santas, including addressing the crowd from the marquee of Macy’s after the parade was over.

The movie received a ‘B’ rating for being “morally objectionable” from the Legion of Decency because Maureen O’Hara played a divorcée.

According to the number of toothpicks on the table next to the telephone, Mrs. Shellhammer has apparently drank 9 martinis by the time she’s on the phone with Mrs. Walker.

Despite the fact that the film is set during Christmas the studio insisted that it be released in May because more people went to the movies during the summer. It was promoted while keeping the fact that it was a Christmas movie a secret.

The rivalry between department stores Macy’s and Gimbels depicted in the film was very real. The two stores were just blocks from each other in New York and major competitors for the same business.

The Post Office Department was a Cabinet-level department of the executive branch of the U.S. federal government from 1829 until 1971.

In the 1970s Natalie Wood & Robert Wagner were approached about doing a TV remake of the film with Natalie’s daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner as Susan. Wood turned it down because she’d been a child star herself and didn’t want her very young daughter to start acting at such an early age.

Macy’s and Gimbel’s department stores were approached by the producers for permission to have them depicted in the film. Both stores wanted to see the finished film first before they gave approval. If either store had refused, the film would have had to been extensively edited and reshot to eliminate the references. Fortunately at the test viewing, both businesses were pleased with the film and gave their permission.

 

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Scrooge (1970)

Quotes

There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. – The Ghost of Christmas Present

Comfort comes from other sources, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is given by other ministers than I to other kinds of men than you. – Marley’s Ghost

You don’t understand. He had the power to make us happy or unhappy, to make our work a pleasure or a burden. It’s nothing to do with money! – Ebenezer Scrooge

If I can wish a Merry Christmas to him, who is beyond dispute the most obnoxious and parsimonious of all living creatures, then I know in my heart that I am truly a man of goodwill. – Fred

How shall I ever understand this world? There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty, and yet, there is nothing it condemns with such severity as the pursuit of wealth. – Ebenezer Scrooge

Your activities in life were so pleasing to Lucifer that he has appointed you to be his personal clerk. A singular honor. You will be to him, so to speak, what Bob Cratchit was to you. – Marley’s Ghost

 

Factoids

While shooting the movie Sir Alec Guinness suffered a double-hernia that required surgery to repair.

It took more than three hours each day to apply the old-age Scrooge makeup to Albert Finney, who was only 33 years old at the time.

In the film, after he falls into his future grave, there’s a scene where Scrooge goes to Hell. He speaks with Marley again, and then receives his chain. The giant chain is wrapped around him and starts choking him, and then he awakens in his own bedroom. The chain has been replaced by his bedclothes. This whole Hell sequence is often omitted when the movie is shown on TV. The cut takes Scrooge from when he falls into the grave to when he awakens in his room. The chain isn’t there, but the bedclothes are wrapped around him and he’s having trouble breathing, just like when he was in Hell.

This version differs from the book in that Scrooge’s fiancée, Isabel, is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig. In the book, she is not related to them, and is named Belle.

Scrooge tells the Ghost of Christmas Present that it is 1860, but the book that the movie is based on was actually set in the year 1843.

 

The Verdict:       Miracle on 34th Street. A Santa Claus story versus an adaptation of A Christmas Carol pretty much sums up the Christmas movie season, right?? This version of Carol is rather unique as a live action musical. My friend The Owl really likes this movie and sold me on it several years ago. I can be a little…rigid…in my preconceived notions of the way things ought to be, but sometimes one has to expand horizons and open up to new ideas. Carol is a story that lends itself well to being a musical, and the performance by Albert Finney as the titular miser is remarkable. How can one not dig a song like I Hate People?? However, Miracle not only spans the entire Thanksgiving to Christmas season, but it’s a Santa story that was decades ahead of its time, with themes like single parenthood, commercialism, frivolous lawsuits, the wonder of childhood, and belief in dreams. That’s a lot of stuff packed into one movie!!

 

 

 

Home Alone

Quotes

I hope that I never see any of you jerks again! – Kevin McCallister

I wouldn’t let you sleep in my room if you were growing on my ass. – Buzz McCallister

All kids. No parents. Probably a fancy orphanage. – Wet Bandit Harry

You can be too old for a lot of things, but you’re never too old to be afraid. – Old Man Marley

This house is so full of people it makes me sick. When I grow up and get married, I’m living alone. – Kevin McCallister

I did leave one at a funeral parlor once. It was awful. The wife was distraught and we left the little tyke there in the funeral parlor all day. All day. You know, we went back at night and apparently he had been alone all day with the corpse. He was okay though. After two…three…weeks he came around and started talking again – Gus Polinski

He’s a kid. Kids are stupid. – Wet Bandit Marv

 

Factoids

The picture Kevin finds of Buzz’s girlfriend was a picture of a boy made up to look like a girl because Director Chris Columbus thought it would be too cruel to make fun of a girl like that. The boy that was used in the photo was the Art Director’s son.

During rehearsal for the scene where Harry attempts to bite off Kevin’s finger, Joe Pesci actually bit Macaulay Culkin, leaving a small scar.

Chris Columbus had originally been hired by John Hughes to direct National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but after meeting with Chevy Chase it became clear to Columbus that the two of them would not get along so he asked Hughes if there were any other projects he could work on instead. Home Alone was one of the options presented to him.

The concept for Home Alone originated during filming of a scene in Uncle Buck in which Macaulay Culkin plays a character who interrogates a would-be sitter through the letter opening in the front door.

Robert De Niro turned down the role of Harry.

There is an urban legend that Elvis Presley makes a cameo in Home Alone. Many of those who believe that Elvis is still alive maintain that the heavily bearded man standing in the background of the scene where Mrs. McCallister is shouting at the desk clerk is Elvis.

Angels With Filthy Souls, the movie that Kevin watches on video tape is not a real film. It is a play on an actual 1938 movie called Angels with Dirty Faces starring James Cagney.

 

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The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause

 

Quotes

Don’t mess with me, Santa. I’m pre-El Nino. – Mother Nature

Seeing isn’t believing…believing is seeing, – Charlie Calvin

Santa was always there for you. And I will be, as long as you continue to believe in me. I know I’m asking you to leave everything at home, but I can guarantee you that this is worth it. This place is all about magic and love and wonder. And occasionally a thin-crust pizza and a movie and a long winter night. – Scott Calvin

 

Factoids

Carol Newman is very similar to Jessica from Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. Like Jessica, she works at a school, is given a doll by Santa, and even shares the same hairstyle and blue eyes.

Lucy was played by Liliana Mumy, the daughter of Bill Mumy from the 1960s TV show Lost In Space.

Peter Boyle portrays Father Time in this film and previously played Scott Calvin’s boss in the original Santa Clause.

 

The Verdict:       Home Alone. Both of these movies are part of trilogies (kind of). The difference is that Home Alone is an original, while The Mrs. Clause is a sequel, which is not only rare with Christmas movies but, as we all know, doesn’t usually work out in general. I like The Mrs. Clause…seemingly more than many others. I hate the misguided politically correctness that apparently dissuades television from airing it with the other two Santa Clause movies. However, it probably did get made a few years too late, and really…the competition is just so formidable. It has been said that the plot of Home Alone doesn’t really have much to do with Christmas, and that case may have justification, but I am thankful that it’s been a holiday tradition for nearly three decades. Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without it.

 

 

 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Quotes

Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did not. The Grinch hated Christmas…the whole Christmas season. Don’t ask why…no one quite knows the reason. – Narrator

He puzzled & puzzed till his puzzler was sore, then The Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. “Maybe Christmas”, he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” – Narrator

 

Factoids

Chuck Jones, a lifelong lover of Rudyard Kipling, was inspired to cast Boris Karloff as The Grinch after hearing a recording of Karloff reading Kipling’s Jungle Book stories. Dr. Seuss was unsure about casting Boris Karloff for fear that he would make The Grinch too scary.

Thurl Ravenscroft received no screen credit for his singing, an oversight Dr. Seuss attempted to rectify by sending letters to every major columnist in America identifying Ravenscroft as the singer on You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.

 

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Scrooged

Quotes

I’m not crazy. It’s Christmas Eve! It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, smile a little easier, cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be! It’s a miracle because it happens every Christmas Eve. And if you waste that miracle, you’re gonna burn for it. I know what I’m talking about. You have to do something. You have to take a chance. You do have to get involved. There are people that are having trouble making their miracle happen. There are people that don’t have enough to eat, and there are people that are cold. You can go out and say ‘hello’ to these people. You can take an old blanket out of the closet and say, ‘here.’ You can make them a sandwich, and say ‘Oh, by the way, here!’ I get it now! And if you give then it can happen…the miracle can happen to you. It’s not just the poor and the hungry, it’s everybody that’s gotta have this miracle! And it can happen tonight for all of you! If you believe in this pure thing the miracle will happen and then you’ll want it to happen again tomorrow! You won’t be one of these bastards who says, ‘Christmas is once a year and it’s a fraud.’ It’s not! It can happen every day! You’ve just got to want that feeling! And if you like it and you want it, you’ll get greedy for it. You’ll want it every day of your life, and it can happen to you! I believe in it now. I believe it’s gonna happen to me now. I’m ready for it! And it’s great. It’s a good feeling, better than I’ve felt in a long time. I’m ready. Have a Merry Christmas everybody. – Frank Cross

 

Factoids

All of Bill Murray’s brothers…John, Joel, & Brian Doyle-Murray…make appearances.

The leader of the street musicians insulted by Bill Murray is Paul Shaffer. The others are Miles Davis, David Sanborn and Larry Carlton.

The Ghost of Christmas Past’s cab belongs to the Belle Cab Company. Belle is the name of Scrooge’s first love in the Charles Dickens novella.

Preston tells Frank that in America there are 27 million cats & 48 million dogs and says that IBC needs to start gearing programming towards them. 25 years later there are several dog and cat specific channels on Roku that supply dedicated pet programming based on scientific studies of what interests them.

This was Bill Murray’s first starring role since Ghostbusters. He had been living in Paris and had seriously considered giving up acting altogether.

Movie critic Roger Ebert called Scrooged the worst film adaptation of A Christmas Carol he had ever seen.

 

The Verdict:       The Grinch. It’s pretty simple for me. I didn’t catch on to Scrooged until many years after it was released in 1988. It’s really only become a traditional part of my holiday viewing in the past few years. I was late to the party and that’s my fault. Conversely, like millions of others I’ve been watching The Grinch my entire life. The “true reason for the season” is sadly missing from most Christmas movies, but I decided long ago that I could deal with that because I know who I am and what I believe…I don’t need validation from Hollywood. Therefore, when the more spiritual elements of Christmas are actually alluded to in a film it stands out. The Grinch doesn’t address the topic directly, but it’s there if you pay attention and I appreciate that.

 

 

 

The Ref

Quotes

“How can we both be in the marriage and I’m miserable and you’re content?”…”Luck?” – Caroline & Lloyd Chasseur

You and my wife have a lot in common. You both think you have some right to life working out the way you want it to, and when it doesn’t, you get to act the way you want. The only trouble with that is someone has to be responsible. I’d love to run around and take classes and play with my inner-self! I’d love the freedom to be some pissed-off criminal with no responsibilities, except I don’t have the time! But you don’t see me with a gun. And you don’t see me sleeping with someone else. You think my life turned out the way I wanted because I live in this house? You think every morning I wake up, look in the mirror and say ‘Gee, I’m glad I’m me and not some 19-year-old billionaire rockstar with the body of an athlete and a 24-hour erection! No I don’t! – Lloyd Chasseur

You know what I’m going to get you for Christmas, Mom? A big wooden cross, so that every time you feel unappreciated for your sacrifices you can climb on up and nail yourself to it. – Lloyd Chasseur

What is the matter with you? I thought Mothers were sweet and nice a-a-and Patient. I know loan sharks who are more forgiving than you. Your husband ain’t dead, lady. He’s hiding. – Gus

 

Factoids

Gus only fires his gun once in the entire film, at the smoke detector to stop it from beeping.

The original ending had Gus being caught by the cops to show the son that a life of crime leads nowhere. However, after screening the movie to a test audience and receiving negative comments about the ending, director Ted Demme changed it. He now admits he regrets changing it.

 

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A Christmas Carol (1938)

Quotes

I like Christmas! I LOVE Christmas! – Ebenezer Scrooge

It’s me! Your Uncle Scrooge! Smile makes a difference, doesn’t it? – Ebenezer Scrooge

 

Factoids

Lionel Barrymore was originally set to play Scrooge, but had to back out due to illness.

Although Marley’s Ghost did appear, the phantoms wailing outside Scrooge’s window were not shown. Scrooge’s fiancée, who eventually leaves him because of his miserly ways, was completely dropped from the film, as were the two starving children “Want” and “Ignorance”, who hid within the folds of the Ghost of Christmas Present’s robe. Also gone were the thieves who ransack Scrooge’s belongings after he “dies” in the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come segment.

The film was shown on local television stations in the United States throughout the 1960s & 70s, and was a staple of Chicago’s WGN. It ran in syndication throughout the United States from the 1960s thru 1990s on local stations.

 

The Verdict:       The Ref. This might be the toughest decision yet. I am tempted to declare another tie, but won’t do that again. What it boils down to for me is distinctiveness. I love almost every adaptation of A Christmas Carol and they all bring something special to the table. This version is a jovial, family friendly movie, with many of the ghoulish parts of Dickens’ story skipped over altogether. On one hand I’m not a fan of such alterations, but on the other hand there are so many Carol movies that I am more than happy to make room on the spectrum for such a whimsical interpretation. It really does exude Christmas spirit. The Ref is definitely not as…merry…but it is hilarious in a more contemporary way. It holds a special place in my heart for reasons I have written about before, and I just cannot push that aside. It doesn’t get nearly enough play on television, but with streaming it is readily available, which makes me very happy.

Merry Movie Mayhem: An Introduction

A big chunk of 2016 here at The Manofesto was dedicated to 80’s Movie Mania, a competition honoring the best in 1980’s cinema that was ultimately won by The Blues Brothers. In the process of completing that project an idea came to me that it might be fun to do the same kind of tournament with Christmas films, and so we shall.

 

Merry Movie Mayhem will differ from its predecessor in that it will move much faster. The goal is to complete the project by Christmas Eve. That gives us less than a month to discuss & appreciate 64 films & TV specials. Yes, that’s right…I am making this an all-inclusive battle royale comprised of Christmas movies, animated television specials, & even a few nods to Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. It just feels like the right thing to do.

 

Each film or show has been placed into one of four divisions: Candy Cane, Eggnog, Mistletoe, & North Pole. Choosing the entrants for this tournament was a tougher task than I’d imagined. Probably ¾ of the choices were obvious, but others…not so much. However I don’t think the final pool leaves considerable room for debate. That being said, if I have left out one of your favorites please let me know. I always enjoy feedback from The Manoverse.

 

In the first round I have included, when possible, the film’s ranking on Rotten Tomatoes. Unless otherwise noted this is a cumulative score received from critics, with 60-100% being “fresh”, and 59% or below being “rotten”. In some cases, particularly with animated television specials, no Rotten Tomatoes score is available, and in a few instances there are no critical reviews but an audience score is given. I don’t pay too much attention to these scores because oftentimes critics can be somewhat highbrow and not at all in touch with what most folks enjoy, but they are a useful tool in some situations. Also, I have included the name of the director, but what I find interesting is that not a lot of bigtime film raconteurs have helmed holiday themed films. These movies that so many of us love don’t seem to be all that respected by the Hollywood literati. Perhaps it is indicative of a general Godlessness, or maybe, because of preconceived notions of what a Christmas movie should be, creative “geniuses” find the parameters stifling. Whatever the case may be, with few exceptions the general achievements…or lack thereof…of the director outside of the film being discussed has very little bearing on the outcome.

 

Before we dive in I will give you a sneak peek at the contenders. Merry Movie Mayhem includes:

*16 takes on the Santa Claus mythos

*11 different adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

*13 entrants that were made in the 80’s, 13 produced in the 90’s, 15 made before I was even a gleam in my Daddy’s eye, & a surprising 20 that have come out in the 21st century (which, to be fair, now encompasses nearly two decades)

*19 films or specials that utilize animation

 

I adore Christmas movies, and since you’re here reading this I assume you do as well. So, let us spend this holiday season on a journey together…a quest to pay respect to and express admiration for films & specials that have stood the test of time, with the ultimate goal of narrowing the field and crowning one winner as the merriest movie of them all. Adeste Fideles. Feliz Navidad. Buon Natale. And God bless us…everyone.

 

The Sammy Claus Wish List 2014

Former President Calvin Coolidge once said that “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” It goes without saying that we should be merciful and exhibit goodwill all year round, but hey…if you can only muster such geniality & compassion a few weeks per year then atleast that’s a start and now is the moment. At any rate, it’s time to present the 6th annual Sammy Claus Wish List. Let me remind you that, in my limited role as tree02Sammy Claus, I wield no genuine authority to bequeath these gifts. My job is to make suggestions and hope that the Jolly Old Elf up at the North Pole is a citizen of The Manoverse and deems it appropriate to fill folks’ stockings as I have proposed. In the previous five years we have actually had quite a bit of success. The original list in 2009 hoped that John & Kate and Heidi & Spencer would go away. The fact that many of you are now asking “Who are they??” is evidence of our achievement. In 2010 we requested a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. That new stadium is now under construction and set to open in 2016. That same year we asked for a college football playoff and for Time-Warner Cable to offer the NFL Network. Done and done. In 2012 we wished for the return of Twinkies, Ho-Ho’s, & other delicious snacks that went away when Hostess imploded. Those treats are indeed back on the shelves at your local supermarket. We also hoped for the extinguishing of The Big East in 2012, and not long after that the football conference shut down. Now only a revised and still pretty decent basketball conference (the original idea anyway) remains. Last year we yearned for a new NASCAR champion and we got one. Jimmie Johnson made The Chase but was eliminated. Bob Hope once stated that ““when we recall Christmas past we usually find that the simplest things…not the great occasions…give off the greatest glow of happiness.” Seeing the gifts on this list bestowed in real life makes me happy. Cheerful reading, and may this Christmas season find you blessed & healthy.

 

 

 

The White House
extra sprinklers & fire extinguishers while the current President continues to set fire to the U.S. Constitutioncon1

 

iTunes Users
another free U2 album…whether you want it or not

 

Officer Darren Wilson
peace, safety, & a new job in a better town

 

Star Wars Fansswars
a new hope as The Force awakens

 

Former U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
A happy retirement. Good riddance you old out-of-touch carpetbagger.

 

Fans of Frozen
the wherewithal to let it go

 

Janay Palmer Rice
self-respect, strength, & the courage to eventually walk awayjp

 

Jimmy Fallon
the ability to focus on his guests instead of indulging his own narcissism

 

College Football
a fair, logical, & transparent playoff system

 

The White House
an extra powerful vacuum to clean up as the current President shreds the U.S. Constitutioncon3

 

Former UAB Football Players & Staff
a new home & success in whatever is next

 

Bill Cosby & His Alleged Victims
the truth…one way or another

 

Donald Sterling
tickets to a rap concertsterling2

 

American Schoolchildren
a return to fulfilling & appetizing meals for lunch

 

Kim Kardashian
a pair of pants (size XL)

 

ESPN
more sports, less sociopolitical commentary & obvious bias

 

David Letterman
A happy retirement. You were brilliant for two decades. I’m so sorry you became a weary & bitter old man.letterman

 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
to be trapped in an elevator with Ray Rice

 

John Travolta
reading glasses

 

The White House
extra toilet paper & air freshener while the current President continues to take a huge crap all over the U.S. Constitutioncon2

 

California
lower taxes & rain

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers
a new defensive backfield

 

Business Owners in Ferguson, MO
economic recoveryferguson-looting-4

 

Fans of Honey Boo Boo
books…lots of books…..

 

The View
continued irrelevance & eventual cancellation

 

Florida St. QB Jameis Winston
A short, miserable, unproductive, non-lucrative NFL career. Stupidity shouldn’t be rewarded.

 

Craig Ferguson
Happiness & success in future endeavors. I regret not discovering the hilarity of your Late Late Show until it was almost over.craigferguson_big

 

 

 

As has become tradition I shall end with a quote from the Rankin-Bass animated classic Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town:

Santa-and-Jesus“Lots of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give…of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.”

A Weekend Christmas Movie Marathon

It’s winter. It’s cold. There is snow on the ground. Sure you have stuff to do, but going outside and dealing with the real world justChristmas doesn’t sound all that appealing at the moment. Fortunately it is the holiday season…the happiest, jolliest, most heartwarming time of the year. Okay okay okay…I am probably wearing my rose colored glasses, but that is exactly what this is all about. We work hard all week to bring home the bacon and provide the necessities for ourselves and our families, so I think we deserve the best of what Christmastime has to offer instead of beating ourselves into oblivion, which means that instead of facing the hellish experience that is the local retail scene this time of year (trust me…online shopping is the way to go) you & I are going to have ourselves a good old-fashioned movie marathon. Nothing but commercial free Christmas movies & shows for an entire weekend. Heaven on Earth.

hottoddyNow in reality one would have to plan this activity well in advance with a rather large purchase of DVDs, a trip to Redbox, downloads from Netflix or Amazon Prime, or recording stuff on DVR/TiVo. For our purposes I will just imagine that this has already been taken care of and everything is readily available. The schedule is based on what I perceive as the average “real” life and there are a few rules. We will begin Friday evening after work by first getting comfie cozy & fixing some snacks. My definition of comfortable is a well-worn t-shirt that I’d never wear in public & an old pair of sweatpants. Sexy, huh?? Cozy means that Rocco & I are snuggled underneath a big ol’ comforter in front of the TV even though the heat in The Bachelor Palace is turned to an acceptable level. I sincerely wish I had a fireplace, but life isn’t perfect. The lights are out except for that which emanates from the television. What can I say?? I’m all about ambiance. The snack menu would ideally include hot chocolate (or eggnog) and other assorted junk food (chocolate chip cookies are my favorite). No adult goodiesbeverages for this humble Potentate of Profundity, although I am sure Dr. Seuss, Ralphie, Clark Griswold, & Hermie the Elf would all be hilarious in a whole new way if I was snockered on hooch. The marathon does end at an acceptable time each night because I am not 19 years old anymore and pulling an all-nighter no longer seems like all that much fun. I have learned to embrace the value of a good night’s sleep. And finally I will attend church on Sunday morning and get to bed at a decent hour that night, therefore Sunday isn’t as long of a day as Saturday. I still think we end up doing pretty well, with over 37 viewing hours and watching about two dozen movies & specials. I can’t think of a much better way to spend a weekend this time of year.

 

wreath

 

 

 

Friday

5:30pm      Miracle on 34th Street
We commence with this 1947 classic (in black & white!!) about a Macy’s Santa Claus who believes he is the real deal. The movie opens with the Macy’s 600full-miracle-on-34th-street-screenshotThanksgiving Day Parade, which of course has become the unofficial kickoff of the holiday season. For the love of God and all that is holy avoid the horrendous colorized version like MSNBC shuns truth & logic. There was a remake in 1994 and it’s…okay…but for our purposes we’ll stick with the original.

7:15pm      All I Want for Christmas
I guess this movie was in theaters in 1991, but I’m not sure anyone noticed. I first became aware of it several years later when it allchristmasbegan popping up on TV here & there. The story has nothing to do with the overplayed Mariah Carey song (nor the superb Vince Vance & the Valiants tune), but instead is a charming story about two kids trying to get their divorced parents back together on Christmas Eve.

8:45pm      Lethal Weapon
10:45pm    Die Hard
lethalweaponHey, Christmas movies don’t all have to be about Santa Claus, family hijinks, or anything heartwarming. I enthusiastically endorse Mel diehardGibson & Bruce Willis as two of the best Christmas gifts cinema has ever given the masses. And unlike most other insipid action flicks these films offer a good story, some humor, and yes…even uplifting family values. Plus gunfire, explosions, & car chases. I suppose we can’t leave those out completely.

1am        Mr. Krueger’s Christmas
I had to find a way to shoehorn this little gem in somehow. Jimmy Stewart may be well known for a certainmr-kruegers-christmas-1980b other Christmas film, but in 1980 he also starred as Willie Krueger, the type of lonely old man that society has a tendency to toss aside in their “golden years”. Willie works as a custodian in an apartment building and lives in the basement unit with his cat. He is somewhat of a Walter Mitty-esque character, imagining himself in various situations like conducting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and kneeling at the manger of the baby Jesus on that first Christmas night. Willie obviously craves human interaction & companionship but doesn’t seem to have much of it. This is only a half hour program but it packs a punch in those 30 minutes. You won’t find it on TV but it is easy enough to track down online and well worth the effort.

1:30am      Elf
We end our Friday night on a jovial, fun, and dare I say jolly note with this 2003 offering starring Will Ferrell as an orphan who grows up at The North ElfPole believing he is one of Santa’s elves. He learns the truth and sets out for NY City (passing through the seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest, the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, & then the Lincoln Tunnel) to find his curmudgeonly father, who just happens to be on The Naughty List. Hilarity ensues. A great way to wrap up the evening.

 

 

Saturday

8am          Frosty the Snowman
8:30am    Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
9am          Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
10am        A Charlie Brown Christmas
10:30am Mickey’s Christmas Carol
11am       Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
rudolph3Okay so I lied…we didn’t get much sleep last night. No worries. Buck up little trooper…we’ve got movies to watch!! At any rate, when I cbchristmaswas a kid Saturday mornings meant cartoons. So we will spend this morning watching a half dozen of the most beloved animated Christmas specials of all time. All of these programs have been repeated annually for several decades. A few stretch back to the 1960’s…before I was even born. The Whos down in Whoville, Yukon Cornelius, The Island of Misfit Toys, Burgermeister Meisterburger, evil magician Professor Hinkle…what awesome characters. I am so glad I grew up in grinchsantacominthe era that I did, and even happier that I can still enjoy these delightful stories. There are new specials for kids to enjoy nowadays…Prep & Landing, Shrek the Halls, Merry Madagascar, etc…but I firmly believe that a hundred years from now few of those will still be around while the classics that I love so much will remain.

12pm      Home Alone
1:45pm   Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
The older I get the more questions I have about these films. If the phones are out why is little Kevin able to order pizza?? Why is there a wheelchair in homealonethe McCallister basement?? After going thru all she has for three days why is milk the first thing Mrs. McCallister worries about when she gets home?? You mean everyone on the whole block went out of town for Christmas?? How long was Kevin working those mannequins & the cardboard Michael Jordan (because he had no idea when the crooks were coming back that night)?? Why can’t anyone but Kevin see what a jerk Buzz is?? Why doesn’t Kevin call the police before the Wet Bandits rob Duncan’s Toy Chest, since he knows what time they will be there?? Who thought it was a good idea to give Rob Schneider a job?? Nevertheless I still find both movies quite charming and required viewing during the holiday season. I acknowledge that the sequel isn’t as good as the original, but it is still good enough for these movies to be thought of as a package deal and to be viewed back-to-back in the course of this special weekend.

3:45pm   Holiday Inn
5:30pm   White Christmas
HInnI have to give a shoutout to my brother The Owl for introducing me to these delightful movies many years ago. They just don’t make ‘em like this White-Christmas-1954-christmas-movies-3176714-960-536anymore and that’s a crying shame. Bing Crosby was a multitalented guy that could sing, dance, & act. He does all three in these movies with a little help from Fred Astaire, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, & others. Holiday Inn was made in 1942 and isn’t only a Christmas film but celebrates all of our American holidays. There is an infamous scene set during Lincoln’s Birthday (President’s Day used to be two separate holidays…Lincoln’s Birthday & Washington’s Birthday…until the mid-1980’s) in which Crosby and his lovely lady friend sing in black face. Even I…someone who views people that are perpetually offended & politically correct as silly and annoying…understand how that scene can be considered offensive. However, I disagree wholeheartedly with the modern propensity for television censorship. The movie was made during a different era and represents part of our history that shouldn’t be edited to protect peoples’ sensitive feelings. But I digress. Holiday Inn introduced the beloved song White Christmas, the popularity of which led to the second movie a dozen years later. These are both wonderful films, tributes to a bygone age when true talent & skill were recognized and appreciated.

7:30pm    Scrooged
I must confess that I didn’t see this film…made in 1988…until a few years ago. It just didn’t seem like my cup o’ tea and I’ve never found Bill Murray scroogedto be all that entertaining. Unlike some Saturday Night Live alumni who have carved out semi-successful & enjoyable movie careers I have always felt that Murray’s shtick was best when confined to brief comedy sketches and that when stretched out over an entire movie the act grows tiresome. However, though I can’t honestly say that Scrooged would be near the top of my list of favorite Christmas flicks, I do think it deserves a spot in our movie marathon. Murray receives a lot of support from a huge and rather eclectic cast…Bobcat Goldthwait, John Forsythe, John Houseman, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, Buddy Hackett, Jamie Farr, Lee Majors, Robert Goulet, Miles Davis, Buster Poindexter (just to name a few). Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton is in this movie…as Tiny Tim!! Wrap your head around that!! The final scene, featuring the 60’s hit song Put a Little Love in Your Heart, is classic. There are dozens of adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but this is probably the goofiest and most unique. It is so out-of-the box that it actually works…much to my surprise.

9:15pm   National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Do any kind of substantial random survey these days asking folks about their favorite Christmas movie and I’ll bet you this third installment in the christmas-vacation-moose-mug-shot-glass-5adventures of the wacky Griswold clan (following 1983’s Vacation and 1985’s European Vacation) would get a good many votes. It gets a lot of play on TV each December, which I hope doesn’t lead to any kind of backlash. Chevy Chase’s post-SNL career pretty much boils down to Fletch and the Vacation series, with this being the best of the latter.

11pm      Viewer’s Choice – A Christmas Carol
It is at this point that I give the power to you…citizens of The Manoverse. There is no shortage of movie carolversions of Dickens’ tale. Some are old black & white films. Some are more recent. Some are animated. Some set the tale in modern times while others are more faithful to the source material. I have my preferences, which I plan on writing about soon. But for the purposes of this project I will leave it up to each individual to pick their favorite. No matter which one you choose it is a great way to end a long but enjoyable day. And maybe when you lay your head down and slip into a sweet & restful slumber you’ll be visited by spirits who will assist in transforming your life for the better.

 

 

Sunday

1pm        A Christmas Story
I trust that church was as awesome as it should be not only during this festive season but each & every week throughout the year. Now we are home acsand have changed back into our lazy clothes. We’re going to skip Sunday dinner today and do some more veggin’ out with festive beverages and snacks. I am well aware that TBS does a 24 hour marathon of this 1983 classic every Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. Most folks probably get their fill of it then. I am not most folks.

2:45pm  Trapped in Paradise
This would seem to be an odd inclusion in our little parade of epic Christmas goodness. You’ve probably never trappedheard of it and even I admit it’s not a very good movie. I have my own reasons for considering it special, but I honestly believe that if y’all give it a whirl you’ll like it too. It has shades of It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, & maybe a little Andy Griffith Show. Originally released in 1994, the story involves three not-so-bright brothers (Nicholas Cage, Dana Carvey, & Jon Lovitz) who rob a bank in a sleepy little Pennsylvania hamlet on Christmas Eve and then, for various reasons, are unable to get out of town. Trapped in Paradise has a brutal 10% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes along with some rather harsh reviews, but I don’t care. I like it and that’s what counts.

4:45pm   The Ref
Not only did the 1994 holiday season bring us Trapped in Paradise, but just a few months earlier we got this gem starring Denis Leary as a thief forced refto hold a bickering couple (and their wacky family) hostage on Christmas Eve. I don’t know why a Christmas film was released in March. It is very strange and maybe one reason why it is a vastly underappreciated movie even two decades later. Unlike many holiday classics it is rarely on TV in December, which is unfortunate. Trust me…if you haven’t seen The Ref you must correct that void in your life right now. Leary is hilarious and Kevin Spacey…in a comedic precursor to his Oscar winning role as a husband & father drowning in domestic misery in 1999’s American Beauty…takes the experience to a sublime higher strata. In contrast to Trapped in Paradise this film received a lot of good reviews and has a 70% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I concur.

6:30pm   The Santa Clause
I’m a sucker for Santa Claus origin stories, and though this movie doesn’t go back to St. Nick’s beginning it does postulate that Santa is a role that is clauseplayed by a never-ending parade of ordinary guys who just happen to be in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time…a fascinating concept. At the time of the film’s release Tim Allen was amongst the biggest television stars in the world due to his show Home Improvement. I like this movie much better than I ever liked that TV show. Two sequels were made in 2002 & 2006 (they probably waited a little too long) and both are alright I suppose. Feel free to watch the entire trilogy when time permits. However, for the purposes of this project I am including only the original. It is fun and has that magical glow that makes Christmas films special.

8:15pm   The Polar Express
I don’t know what else I can say about this movie that I haven’t previously said on multiple occasions. It is enchanting. Not long ago I was speaking with a former co-worker who has two small children and she told me that their family “doesn’t do Santa Claus” because she & her husband want their children to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. I admire the intent but disagree with the method and The Polar Express illustrates exactly why. I understand that there are many devout Christians who hate the idea that Santa, on some level, seems to have replaced Jesus as the center of the polarexpressholiday. However, let’s paint outside the lines just a bit. Those that do allow Santa Claus to be part of the Christmas celebration oftentimes concede to their kids that the guy at the mall or atop the fire truck in the parade isn’t the “real” Santa, that he works for the real Santa Claus who is busy up at The North Pole preparing for the big day. So, why can’t we…using similar logic…say that Santa is a friend of Jesus who is helping to spread His message and shining His light in the world?? The Polar Express has wonderful themes like friendship, faith, generosity, loyalty, innocence, & hope…ideals that Jesus would certainly approve of. In Matthew 14:19 Jesus says ““let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” In Matthew 18:3 Jesus says that “unless you become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven.” Santa Claus is a symbol of childhood that helps people of all ages regain a measure of purity & wonder, if only for a brief moment each December. I see nothing wrong with that. Your mileage may vary.


10pm      It’s A Wonderful Life
There is only one perfect way to wrap up this awesome weekend movie marathon…with the best Christmas film ever made (B&W!! Stay away from the colorized version!!). I have talked about IAWL here before so there’s not much left to say. It is such an oddity in so many ways. The idea originated as a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern, a Pennsylvania man who had authored several books about The Civil War. In 1943 Stern self-published The Greatest Gift and gave it to a couple hundred friends as a Christmas present. Who knew that it would evolve into a tradition that millions still enjoy each Christmas?? One of those who received the story was a Hollywood producer and the rest is history. IAWL was released in December 1946 but was IAWL_2marketed as a romantic comedy…not a Christmas film. It had good but not great reviews and though it was profitable it certainly wasn’t a blockbuster. It wasn’t until a few decades later when local TV stations began showing IAWL countless times…often very late at night…during the holiday season that it became a beloved classic. On the surface a story about a guy contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve seems like the unlikeliest of uplifting family movies, but there is something about it that just seems to speak to the masses. Maybe there is a part of all of us…at one time or another…that feels dissatisfied, unfulfilled, & overwhelmed. Maybe there is a part of many of us that has contemplated escape in some form, whether it be thru something as drastic as suicide or a less messy approach like divorce, relocation, or simply quitting our job. Maybe there is a part of most of us that has seen the dreams of our youth fall by the wayside to be replaced by a life that doesn’t seem to measure up to those big plans we once had. And hopefully the majority of us receive the message, whether it be thru a kindhearted guardian angel or some other outlet, that as long as we have a friend or two, a roof over our head & food to eat, and take advantage of the opportunity that God provides each day to do good and make a difference then life is mostly pretty darn great.

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Okay, so…that’s it. Have fun. Relax. It’s Christmas…delight in it!! And please let me know in the comments what changes you would make for you own custom Christmas Movie Marathon. How would you change the timing?? What films would you choose differently than me?? What kind of snacks would you munch on?? As Charles Dickens once said, “Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveler, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home.” I wish you peace & joy during this wonderful season and in all the days of your life.

The 2013 Sammy Claus Wish List

Boys & girls, first a healthy dose of the truth. Sammy Claus has really struggled to find the Christmas spirit in 2013. There are a variety of reasons for that…..a hundred mostly insignificant things that I won’t bore the masses with. Suffice to say that I haven’t always felt the presence of God in my life lately. Now let me be clear… I have never and will never doubt the existence of God. He is real. I have just had alot of questions recently about His role in my life. As usual though it was my friend The Owl who set me on the right path by reminding me that God is in control only if we allow Him to be, and that of course is the issue…..I have not truly let God be in control of my life. That needs to change…..and it will. Maybe we’ll dive deeper into that topic some other time. Now though it is time for the 5th annual Wish List. As always I must remind you that I have no particular power to make these wishes come true and can only hope that The Jolly One himself up in The North Pole is a citizen of The Manoverse and will see fit to help things along. Enjoy…and God bless us…everyone.

_____

Obamacare ocare

repeal

_____

Jimmy Fallon fallon

much success as he takes over The Tonight Show

_____

People who “axe” a question instead of “ask” one dunce

the strength & perseverance to put away those x’s and find their s’s and k’s – I know you can do it

_____

Speaker of the House John Boehner bn

a box of tissues and some testosterone

_____

Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin Tomlin

a spot in the next cast of Dancing with the Stars

_____

Paula Deen deen

the last laugh

_____

Twitter & Facebook twfb

an “Are you sure you want to post this??” button and maybe a 10 minute waiting period

_____

NASCAR smoke

a new champion – Jimmie Johnson bores me

_____

Black Friday thanksgiving-turkey-dinner

a return to normalcy (whatever that means in regards to Black Friday) – let us have Thanksgiving back

_____

San Diego Chargers LB Manti Teo teo

a real live girlfriend

_____

Ben Affleck AffleckBatman

best of luck as the new Batman…seriously

_____

President Barack Hussein Obama & First Lady MeeShell “My Belle” Obama obama

an ounce of class

_____

Autocorrect texting

Extinction. It’s an unnecessary & faulty technology. If you don’t know how to spell you don’t need to own a smartphone.

_____

Alec Baldwin alec

anger management classes

_____

Dennis Rodman rodman

South Korean citizenship. Y’all can have him… he serves no useful purpose here.

_____

George Zimmerman zim

better decision making skills

_____

The Star Trek Franchise trek

an awesome new director now that JJ Abrams is moving on to revive Star Wars

*******************

As has become tradition I shall end with a quote from the Rankin-Bass animated classic Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town:

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p class=”MsoNormal”>“Lots of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on SantaJesus764a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give…of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.”

The Sammy Awards 2012 – Part 4: The Final Crusade of the Temple of the Lost Skull

Resin-Trophies-1348257350204After a brief delay we are pleased to welcome you to the thrilling conclusion of the 2012 Sammy Awards. If you have not yet done so please check out Part1, Part 2, and Part 3 before proceeding.

 

 

To present our next award The Manofesto is happy to bring together the cast of The Hangover The-Hangover_Justin-Bartha_tux.bmp1_Trilogy (The Hangover Part III will be coming to your local Cineplex this May). Please welcome Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifinakis, Ed Helms, & Justin Bartha. And the nominees are:

 

 

Best Movie

 

Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln…the 16th President of the United States for those of you in the southern reaches of Appalachia who’ve never been out of the holler but do inexplicably read The Manofesto…is generally considered by both Democrats & Republicans as one of our greatest leaders. It’s one of the few things both sides of the aisle can agree on these days. He was martyred, ended slavery, had that whole Civil War thing…what’s not to love?? This particular offering from Steven Spielberg is a modest, solicitous look at the last few months of President Lincoln’s life when his steadfast focus was on passage of the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery. I have more than a passing interest in politics (although I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as a political junkie) so I didn’t have any issues following the tale, but it is unlikely that this is a film that will appeal to everyone. So be it. Daniel Day-Lewis is remarkable in the titular role and should have another Oscar nomination coming his way soon. Sally Field & Tommy Lee Jones are as solid as we’ve come to expect them to be in whatever they are in, and I have to give kudos to known leftist Spielberg for not inserting any kind of offensive bias into the proceedings. Lincoln is what I describe as a quiet film, meaning that it isn’t abounding in special effects, gunfire, explosions, & violence. There is a story, there is dialogue, and there is good acting. It is simplicity at its best. Most chefs will tell you that a fine cut of meat is usually flavorful enough to be enjoyed on its own, without being bathed in sauces or marinades. The same goes for movies. I have a robust predilection for quiet movies. Your mileage may vary.

 

Rise of the Guardians

I used to think that animated films were for strictly for children and the parents that felt obliged to take their crumb crunchers to see them. However, in the past several years, with movies like the Toy Story trilogy, The Polar Express, and the Shrek series my opinion has evolved, and so I was excited to see this story about Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Sandman, and The Tooth Fairy recruiting Jack Frost to help them save the world from The Boogeyman. I’m not sure why Alec Baldwin uses an eastern European accent for Santa, but strangely enough it works. Santa also has tattoos, which is weird. Anyway, the story basically takes some of our beloved childhood fairy tale characters and turns them into ass kickin’ superheroes, a premise that I’d normally crap all over. However, like Santa’s strange accent, I mysteriously didn’t hate the idea. There is some subtle commentary about childhood, dreams, fear, and feeling invisible, but that is something that is probably only noticeable to geeks like me. For the target audience this is just a rollicking good time and there isn’t a thing wrong with that.

 

Joyful Noise

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer to sing hymns in church rather than Michael Jackson or Wings cover tunes. That unfashionable attitude initially made me resistant to this story about a small town church choir trying to win a big time “gospel” music competition. You see, all of my life I have attended the same country church that I grew up just down the road from, and that has understandably framed my outlook on what a church should be. But eventually I decided to give this one a whirl, and I was satisfied with the outcome. Dolly Parton has starred in a few solidly entertaining films over the years, from Best Little Whorehouse in Texas to Steel Magnolias to 9 to 5, and she does her thing here acceptably well. Queen Latifah has never really frosted my cupcake, but I suppose she’s alright. The body count is a little too high for a romantic dramedy, which weirded me out just a bit. I really liked the other two leads…a luminescent Keke Palmer as Latifah’s daughter & newcomer Jeremy Jordan as Parton’s grandson. The music is cool even if it’s not really church music. Joyful Noise isn’t going to win any awards, but even a flawed film can be entertaining.

 

The Dark Knight Rises

I have not been a big fan of director Christopher Nolan’s vision for Batman. It’s too gritty & lifelike for my entertainment palate. Batman is a comic book creation so I prefer a film that reflects that. Tim Burton’s Batman movies, in my humble opinion, struck the right balance between the dark tone of the comics and the expectations we have of a superhero movie. The first movie in this trilogy was a decent enough origin story while the second was dominated by Heath Ledger’s manic portrayal of The Joker and the effusive praise that performance received in the wake of the young actor’s untimely demise. In this case though the third time is the charm, and I have to give Nolan & company credit for getting it done right and in style. This is the very definition of epic, with a complex storyline, interesting characters, intriguing plot twists, and just enough action to keep things moving. Michael Caine is exquisite as Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred, and Gary Oldman is a strong, resolute Commissioner Gordon. Michael Keaton & Adam West are still my favorite Caped Crusaders and Christian Bale does nothing to alter that perspective here, but like a pedestrian quarterback on a team with a great defense Bale doesn’t have to singlehandedly win the game…his duty is simply to not screw it up. Bane is far from the most memorable villain in Gotham City’s rogue’s gallery, but I understand why he was chosen for this particular story. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts here, and it all comes together in a thrilling conclusion that crescendos nicely. I assume someone else will come along down the road, reboot the whole thing, and take it in a completely different direction, but Nolan lays the groundwork for what could be a captivating continuation or a slight detour with Nightwing as the central figure.

 

The Hunger Games

I really liked the Hunger Games trilogy of books, but I mentioned in my review of them that “I am looking forward to the movies because I believe they were the intended end game all along. I have a feeling that the Hunger Games movies will surpass the books’ achievements.” After seeing the first movie I am ready to backtrack on that statement ever so slightly. As most citizens of The Manoverse know, it is my belief that the book is almost always better than the movie, and in hindsight I think I was shortchanging these books. That being said this is still a fine movie. The powers-that-be nailed it when they chose Jennifer Lawrence to portray heroine Katniss Everdeen, and I really liked Woody Harrelson as deeper-than-you think drunkard Haymitch Abernathy. The movie follows the book pretty closely and there are very few significant alterations or omissions. Some of the choices the director made were interesting. This could have been a typical balls-to-the-wall action flick, but the filmmakers show an incredible amount of restraint, choosing gritty minimalism over CGI excess, which is admirable. I didn’t love some of the shaky, documentary style camera work, but that annoyance seems to dissipate as the story picks up steam. Overall the movie leaves a good impression. Whether or not it is a lasting one remains to be seen.

 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I absolutely love JRR Tolkien’s classic book The Hobbit, a prequel to the more acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is one of my favorites, which is why I was simultaneously thrilled & apprehensive about it getting the big screen treatment. My concern increased when the auteur of the Rings trilogy of movies, Peter Jackson, decided that he’d direct The Hobbit as well and make another trilogy. You see, whereas Lord of the Rings really is three books therefore making three movies a logical choice, taking one book like The Hobbit and making it into three films seems more than excessive. In addition, tonally The Hobbit is vastly different than Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit is lighthearted, whimsical, and…accessible. Lord of the Rings is darker & quite the marathon. This is a movie that would have benefitted tremendously from a different perspective. However, there’s no use crying over spilt milk and at the end of the day what we ended up with is pretty darn good. Martin Freeman is the perfect choice to portray Bilbo Baggins, and anyone who liked the Rings movies should like The Hobbit.

 

Dark Shadows

Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows aired in the late 60’s before I was even a gleam in my father’s eye, so I came into this experience with no expectations and no preconceived notions. I’m a sucker for funny “fish out of water” stories, so I appreciated the humorous idea of an 18th century vampire being revived in the 1970’s. Johnny Depp is clearly having fun playing the role and it is all quite campy. I suppose this would be classified as a dark comedy, although my own personal preference would have been for the comedic aspect to be ramped up just a bit.

 

 

Trouble with the Curve

It’s been quite the year for Clint Eastwood. Everyone was talking about his appearance…one way or the other…at the Republican National Convention. He was in a Super Bowl commercial that stirred the pot a bit. He’s hosting the 2012 Sammy Awards. And he also found the time to star in a movie since that is primarily what he is known for. Curve is an inconspicuous little baseball flick about an aging scout who eschews modern technology & that new fandangled sabermetrics stuff in favor of good old-fashioned instinct & legwork. The suits in charge of the ball club are starting to question whether or not Gus (the name given to most old codgers in movies) still has the knack, and his job is on the line in evaluating a power hitting outfielder who might be the next big thing. There is some family melodrama too in the form of Gus’s daughter, a hotshot attorney whose relationship with her father is strained for no particular reason. When she discovers that Gus’s job is in jeopardy and that he is suffering from macular degeneration she puts her own career on hold to go on the road with the old man. Oh yeah…there is some romance thrown into the mix too when a young scout played by Justin Timberlake pursues the daughter. Eastwood is the go-to guy for crusty curmudgeon roles and there is a good reason for that…he’s great at doing them. Timberlake has become one of my favorite supporting actors and Amy Adams as the daughter is tough yet vulnerable, sweet but also benignly sexy. Is Trouble with the Curve a great movie?? Ehhh…probably not. But it’s not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

 

Friends With Kids

You might have missed this one. If so it’s worth a rental. The story centers around two single 30-somethings who have witnessed their other friends get married, have children, and become absolutely miserable. Their solution?? Make a baby without all the relationship drama. They do just that, and even though all their married pals predict utter disaster the twosome defies the odds and their lives move along smoothly & happily…for awhile. Of course we see where this is headed because we’ve seen it before. But even though there is never any doubt about how the story ends the journey in getting there is fun & interesting. There are no big stars here, just good writing and an unblinking confrontation with the realities of marriage, kids, and the inherent despair those things oftentimes seem to create in modern America.

 

Hope Springs

If I am a Hollywood suit and someone pitches me an idea that’ll star Tommy Lee Jones & Meryl Streep there is a good chance I’d give the green light based solely on the casting. The legendary duo play Kay & Arnold, an aging married couple who have settled into a boring routine that makes my life look like an episode of 24. They even sleep in separate rooms. Kay enrolls them in a weeklong intensive marriage counseling course in Maine. Arnold thinks their life is just dandy and does not want to go, but eventually he acquiesces, proving that there is an old softy who does actually love his wife buried deep inside all those layers of stolid granite. Playing the couple’s therapist is funnyman Steve Carell, who employs a soft monotone straight out of that old SNL NPR parody The Delicious Dish. That works great here because it leaves Streep & Jones in the spotlight to do that thing they do. The doctor’s prescribed solution to their problem is for them to have sex, which seems a bit simplistic to me, but what do I know?? Needless to say the couple eventually works thru whatever the issues are and reconnect so that we get our happy ending. This is one of those stories that might have been a complete snoozefest without the right cast, but in the hands of craftsmen like Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones it becomes a thought-provoking look into the tedium of marriage. I am probably not the target audience for this film, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

 

This Is Forty

You may recall the 2007 rom-com Knocked Up in which slovenly funnyman Seth Rogen hooks up with the beautiful (and she knows it) Katherine Heigl. In that film Leslie Mann & Paul Rudd play Debbie & Pete, the sister & brother-in-law of Heigl’s character. This is a spinoff in which Debbie & Pete take center stage as a constantly bickering couple dealing with job pressures, financial problems, bratty kids, and latent Daddy issues. I love Paul Rudd. He steals just about every movie he is in and I am glad to see him given the opportunity to carry a film (although admittedly that didn’t work out so well in 2009’s I Love You, Man). I also dig writer/director/producer Judd Apatow, who is curiously morphing into this generation’s John Hughes right before our very eyes. I am not married nor do I have children but, even though I am sure most couples don’t fight constantly like this pair, I am just as sure that there are some truths in the story that lots of folks will recognize and smile knowingly. Kudos must be given to Albert Brooks, an underrated comic gem whose presence here as Rudd’s father adds a much needed respite from the bickering. This film is superior to its predecessor, although it is an unfair comparison on many levels.

 

 

People Like Us

Chris Pine has the potential to become one of my favorite actors. He achieved the impossible in 2009…took over the role of Captain James Tiberius Kirk from William Shatner in a Star Trek reboot that not even noted Trekkie & cantankerous critic of pop culture The Owl could bring himself to dislike. I’ve seen him in a few other TV shows & movies, but he is just now becoming a star. In this interesting character study Pine plays a down-on-his-luck corporate barterer (whatever that is) named Sam whose estranged father dies. Upon going home for the funeral Sam is given a wad of cash ($150K) to deliver to a person he’s never heard of. Since he really really really needs the money and his father left him absolutely nothing he is tempted to just skip town and not find the mysterious person to whom dear old Dad bequeathed such an inheritance, but curiosity gets the better of him. I don’t think it’s a major spoiler to reveal that the person in question ends up being Sam’s sister, a single mother who is struggling even worse than he is. He doesn’t come straight out & tell her who he is for various reasons, but they form a bond and he also gets to know his nephew. There’s no action, no gun battles, no car chases. This is another quiet movie…a story about people, relationships, motivation, secrets, and lies. It is well written and the performances by Pine, Elizabeth Banks, and Michelle Pfeiffer (who is apparently eligible to play hot grandmas now) are understatedly pleasant. It’s not going to win any critical acclaim, but I liked it and in The Manoverse that’s all that matters.

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

 

The Dark Knight Rises. I may not have cared for the first two films in Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but the final installment is too good to overlook. To compare this movie to your typical 21st century action flick (Transformers, Fast & Furious, anything starring Tom Cruise or Will Smith) is like comparing foie gras to Vienna sausages. Batman here is akin to the shark in Jaws in that we really don’t see all that much of him (we see much more of Bruce Wayne), but that minimalist approach is utilized to great effect. The story starts out a little slow before building to a stirring climax, which I dark_knight_logorealize may not be cool with a lot of modern viewers. So many movies offer balls-to-the-wall action from the opening credits to the final scene that it has become what people are used to and what they expect. This is a movie that takes time to tell a story, to offer a plot with layers and intricate context, to develop characters and relationships…all things that I wholeheartedly embrace. The fight scene between Batman & Bane that so many fans of the comics have been salivating about in anticipation plays out differently than what one might expect. It is raw & physical, not some elaborate effects laden dance sequence. Three plot twists at the end…Bruce Wayne’s fate, the identity of the real villain behind all the mayhem, and the reveal of the possible future of the franchise…are well done and probably clinched this award. The ending of a movie is always important, and the last 15 minutes or so of this one is sensational.

 

 

To present the final award of the evening it is truly a privilege to bring to The Manoverse the 43rd6a00d8341c630a53ef0133ed0512cc970b-600wi (111x237) President of the United States and his lovely First Lady. Please give a rousing ovation to George W. & Laura Bush. And the nominees are:

 

 

 

Biggest News Story

 

Presidential Election

On November 6, 2012 we elected a President of the United States. You may have heard a thing or two about it. From the hotly contested yet kind of boring Republican primary season thru the national conventions in the summer to the general election process this was a story that dominated headlines pretty much on a daily basis.

 

Trayvon Martin Shooting

Back in February 17 year old Martin was shot & killed while visiting a gated community near Orlando, FL. The gunman was a young man named George Zimmerman who was part of the community’s neighborhood watch program. Zimmerman claims that Martin looked suspicious and that after he had contacted law enforcement the teenager attacked him which is why he shot him in self-defense. The fact that Martin was a young black man stirred the pot and took the story from just another shooting to a national firestorm. Was Martin an innocent teenager in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was he a juvenile delinquent who was out to cause trouble?? Is Mr. Zimmerman a dirty racist murderer or just an overzealous cop wannabe who became cornered by a thug and did what he had to do to protect himself?? We might not ever know the real story, but we’ll hear about all this again when Martin goes on trial this coming summer.

 

Unemployment

The unemployment rate was right around 7.5% when President Obama took office four years ago. At the beginning of 2012 it was up over 8%. This is in comparison to the 4.5-5% rate for the majority of the George W. Bush years. And we don’t even know if the number is accurate because there are so many people that have just completely given up looking for a job. One must also take into consideration how many people are employed but making a paltry wage in the $7-9/hr. range, which is certainly not enough to properly take care of a family or achieve any goals other than the next meal. It doesn’t seem to matter to a lot of folks these days though because Big Government will take care of them, which of course makes a lot of the politicians happy because it’ll keep them in power. Oh what a tangled web we weave.

 

The Death of Whitney Houston

On February 11 the world was saddened (although not shocked) to learn of the untimely passing of pop superstar Whitney Houston, who was found dead in a bathtub at a Beverly Hills hotel. I loved Whitney Houston when I was 14 years old. She was one of my first celebrity crushes. She was gorgeous & had a set of pipes that would melt even the iciest of hearts. Unfortunately she got hooked up with that jackass Bobby Brown and the two of them became just another clichéd Hollywood joke. Like so many people in modern America Houston became addicted to drugs, and apparently despite public proclamations to the contrary she never completely defeated those demons. How very tragic.

 

Supreme Court’s Mixed Ruling on Arizona Immigration Law

Controversy has been brewing in Arizona for a couple of years due to the passage there of a law designed to limit illegal immigration. Without delving into boring details let’s just say that the law imposed tough restrictions, requirements, & penalties on illegal immigrants. Almost immediately there were accusations from liberals that the law was nothing more than racial profiling and that it was unconstitutional. Queue The Supreme Court, who ruled this past June that the part of the law in which law enforcement can check on the immigration status of a detainee if they deem it necessary is okay, but struck down a large chunk of the law related to requiring individuals having to have documentation of their immigration status with them at all times and allowing police officers to randomly ask people to show such paperwork.

 

Facebook IPO Epic Fail

You have a Facebook page. I have a Facebook page. Most everyone not going to dinner at 4pm and telling troublesome neighborhood youths to get off their damn lawn probably has a Facebook page. That’s why the company going public seemed like such a slam dunk. I actually pondered the idea of pooling some cash with some friends and buying a few shares just for fun. In hindsight I am glad we didn’t go thru with the idea. Back in November Facebook began trading publicly on NASDAQ with much anticipation. The first day was disappointing but still successful. But over the next few weeks the price of the stock fell and Facebook became the stock market equivalent of the movie Gigli or the NFL career of Ryan Leaf. Somehow though I think Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, with his bank account of $9 billion, will weather the storm and not lose any sleep over the debacle.

 

Benghazi

On September 11 the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked. Four people were killed, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Ten others were injured. The Obama Administration tried to blame the attack on an anti-Muslim film that had been posted on YouTube and had been seen by less people than I rode with on an elevator today. Conservatives quickly labeled the Obama response as pure poppycock, and questions began to arise about what really happened, why it happened, what the administration really knew, and why they were so hellbent on lying about it. I believe there are still some Congressional committees looking into the matter, but at this stage it is likely a moot point.

 

The End of Twinkies & Ho-Ho’s

I make no secret of the fact that I am a chocoholic. You want to take pop away from me?? Okay, I can deal. Tell me that alcohol can never touch my lips again and I won’t even bat an eye because I don’t drink anyway. Tell me I have to be celibate for the rest of my life and never again enjoy the touch of a beautiful woman and I might cringe a bit but I’ll be just fine. But threaten to take away my sweets and we’ve got a problem. I love it all…candy, cake, ice cream, cookies. So in November when Hostess announced that it was going out of business and that snacks like Twinkies, Ho Ho’s, Zingers, Ding Dongs, and those little cupcakes with the swirly icing on top…not to mention Wonder Bread…would be disappearing forever from grocery store shelves I kind of felt like I did when I was 9 years old and my pet frog jumped out of his bowl never to be seen again. Thankfully there is a likely reprieve from this death sentence in the works, as various companies are in a bidding war to buy the rights to these products from Hostess. When fair & festival season rolls around next summer we just might still be able to pay $6 for a deep fried Twinkie. God Bless America.

 

Superstorm Sandy

There is almost always one or two big natural disasters to talk about when reflecting upon a just passed year, and in 2012 it was Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Sandy (I’ve seen it called both) which inflicted mayhem on the eastern seaboard of the country, especially New York & New Jersey, in late October. It is said to be the largest Atlantic hurricane (meaning it formed in the North Atlantic Ocean) on record and the 2nd costliest, doing about $65 billion worth of damage. It also played a key role in the Presidential election, as there were actually idiots out there who made a last minute decision to overlook the past 4 years of misery and vote for Obama because he “looked Presidential” for a day or two in the wake of the disaster, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie practically made sweet love to the President because he answered a few phone calls and dropped by for a visit for an hour or two. It is my understanding that there are still people in Jersey dealing with the problems caused by the storm, which is a damning indictment of how we use tragedies as political pawns in 21st century America but don’t really do what needs to be done to truly help people over the long haul.

 

Shootings in Aurora, CO & Newtown, CT

We’ve become almost numb to gun violence in America. It’s just something that happens occasionally and we aren’t all that shocked anymore when it does. However, two incidents in 2012 seemed to awaken the masses and spur debates about gun control, mental health issues, and a whole host of ancillary topics. On Friday July 20 a gunman opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during a midnight showing of the newest Batman film The Dark Knight Rises. Twelve people were killed and 58 others injured. I go to the movies often myself, and I am a huge Batman fan. As a matter of fact I had seriously pondered the idea of attending the midnight showing at my local theater but ultimately decided against that idea. It is awful to think that something as fun & innocuous…something so American…as going to a movie isn’t even immune from real life violence anymore. Then on December 14…less than two weeks before Christmas…a 20 year old lunatic busted into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and killed 26 people, 20 of them children ages 6 & 7. We might have become nonchalant about violence in this country, but when innocent kids are senselessly murdered we stop & pay attention. Unfortunately, as tends to happen with these types of tragedies, it was quickly turned into a political football, with leftists and Hollywood hypocrites with no shortage of armed bodyguards resuming their incessant cries for gun control. I understand the logic…I really do. Regrettably however we seem to have lost the ability in this country to have an intelligent & thoughtful debate about important issues. We are a nation of reactionaries on both sides of the political spectrum and at the end of the day everyone loses. I cannot imagine the pain & sorrow the parents of those children have been suffering thru, and I am sure it was the worst Christmas of their entire lives. To me that is what must not get lost in the shuffle here. I pray that God wraps his loving arms around these families and helps them somehow resume their lives and find a way to move forward, although I cannot wrap my head around any scenario in which that’d even be possible.

 

Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare

I am a huge fan of pro wrestling, and in wrestling one of the fun things that happens occasionally is a heel turn. That is when a good guy turns bad by screwing over his tag team partner or suddenly telling the fans that have cheered him that he thinks they are losers and he doesn’t need their support anymore. Chief Justice John Roberts did a heel turn last June when he became the deciding vote in upholding the crime against freedom & economic sanity that is nationalized health care, better known as Obamacare. Roberts was thought to be a conservative, but instead proved himself to be just another political whore when he ruled that it was perfectly okay for the U.S. government to coerce free citizens into purchasing healthcare coverage or else go to prison. Roberts ruled that Obamacare is a tax, even though President Obama himself had spent years saying that it wasn’t. If it is a tax…which I guess it has to be or else it’d be unconstitutional…Obamacare is the largest tax increase in the history of the United States. Good job Roberts…you jackass.

 

The Fiscal Cliff

The last few weeks of 2012 were dominated by incessant discussion of this fiscal cliff. In a nutshell the dawning of a new year was scheduled to bring about spending cuts & tax hikes that would have cut the budget deficit but also would have led to another recession (that is if you believe that we aren’t still in one now anyway) and would have wreaked havoc on the finances of nearly all Americans. There was the typical struggle between Democrats & Republicans…one side with a fervent desire to raise taxes, punish achievement & success, & keep on spending money like drunken sailors on social programs that will keep their handout loving voter base happy, and the other side pledging to not raise taxes & desiring to slash spending like Freddy Krueger on a crack high. Of course this deal couldn’t get done way ahead of time. Where would the drama be in that?? As a matter of fact the deal wasn’t technically done on time but a few hours late. From what I understand the Republicans caved like the Buffalo Bills in a Super Bowl, and the Democrats are proud as peacocks. That’s what happens after an election…to the victor go the spoils. It’s just too bad that you & I will be literally paying for this debacle out of our own paychecks.

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

The Election. I certainly didn’t like the results, but there is no denying the fact that for the vast majority of 2012 it was the lead story on a daily basis. I will refrain from going off on one of my infamous political rants. The fact is that my side lost this time and I have to deal with it. I cannot resist the urge though to point out that it is less than a week into the new year and my paycheck has already been affected in a negative way. But of course most of the 51% responsible for the debacle that occurred on that fateful Tuesday in November wouldn’t know anything about that since they are unemployed and/or sitting around smoking their cigarettes, drinking their cheap beer, watching those idiotic Kardashian twits whore it up on TV.

 

 

 

hd-302-tombstoneprop

astronauts Neil Armstrong & Sally Ride…entertainment icon Dick Clark… Pulitzer, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Golden Globe, and Tony award winning composer & conductor Marvin Hamlisch…authors Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles), Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are), Gore Vidal, and Stephen Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)…singers Whitney Houston, Andy Williams, Etta James, Levon Helm, Donna Summer, Kitty Wells, and Robin Gibb (The Bee Gees)… General Norman Schwarzkopf…comedienne Phyllis Diller…baseball Hall of Famer Gary Carter…actresses Kathryn Joosten (The West Wing, Desperate Housewives), Deborah Raffin (7th Heaven), and Celeste Holm (Gentleman’s Agreement, All About Eve)…retired NFL stars Junior Seau, Freddie Solomon, Blair Kiel, Alex Karras, and Ben Davidson…Atari & Commodore CEO Jack Tramiel…Soul Train impresario Don Cornelius…disgraced football coach Joe Paterno…hairstylist Vidal Sassoon…infamous police punching bag Rodney King…Boston Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky…automobile designer Carroll Shelby…amplification specialist Jim Marshall…political pundits Tony Blankley and Andrew Breitbart…legendary collegiate coaches Gene Bartow (basketball), Darrell Royal (football), and Rick Majerus (basketball)…game show hosts Richard Dawson (Family Feud) and Bill Raftery (Card Sharks)…director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Crimson Tide, Days of Thunder)…sports commentators Jim Huber and Beano Cook…former U.S. Senators Arlen Specter & Warren Rudman, former Governor George McGovern, and Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye…former WV Mountaineer football coach Bill Stewart…Unification Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon…screenwriter/director Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally)…motivational speaker Zig Ziglar…songwriter Hal David (Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, What the World Needs Now Is Love, I Say a Little Prayer)…former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell…journalists Mike Wallace (60 Minutes) and Helen Gurley Brown (Cosmopolitan)…artists Leroy Neiman and ”Painter of Light” Thomas Kinkade…pro wrestling legend Chief Jay Strongbow…baseball executive Lee McPhail…fashion designer Nolan Miller…former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork…musicians Earl Scruggs, Ronnie Montrose, Davy Jones, Dave Brubeck, and Donald “Duck” Dunn…boxing historian Bert Sugar…former Patriots/Giants/Jets coach Ron Erhardt…impressionist Steve Bridges…former MLB union leader Marvin Miller…infamous mobster Henry Hill (the inspiration for Goodfellas)…retired pro wrestlers Doug Furnas, Mike Graham, Bobby Jaggers, Buddy Roberts, & Brad Armstrong…NFL Films guru Steve Sabol…former White House counsel Charles Colson…retired boxer Hector “Macho” Camacho”…actors Andy Griffith, Larry Hagman (Dallas, I Dream of Jeannie), Jack Klugman (Quincy, The Odd Couple), Ernest Borgnine (McHale’s Navy, The Poseidon Adventure), Ben Gazzara, Ron Palillo (Welcome Back Kotter), William Windom (To Kill A Mockingbird, Planes, Trains, & Automobiles), George Lindsey (Goober from The Andy Griffith Show), James Farentino (Dynasty), Sherman Hemsley (The Jeffersons), Chad Everett, Herbert Lom (The Pink Panther series), Sage Stallone (Rocky V), Robert Hegyes (Welcome Back Kotter), John Ingle (General Hospital), Charles Durning (The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Scarface, Dog Day Afternoon), and Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile, Daredevil, The Whole Nine Yards)

The Sammy Claus Wish List 2011

Yes West Virginia, there is a Sammy Claus. I exist as surely as chocolate, fast food, Facebook, & soap operas exist, and I know that they abound and give my life its joy & meaning. Alas! How would The Manofesto exist if there were no Sammy Claus?? It would be really dreary, like being married to a Kardashian or cheering for the 2011 Indianapolis Colts. There would be no Internet then, no high definition television, no cute puppies to make tolerable this existence. We would have no enjoyment, except in sleep & dreams. The eternal light with which bachelorhood fills the Manoverse would be extinguished. Not believe in Sammy Claus?? You might as well not believe in lower taxes & self-reliance!! Nobody sees Sammy Claus, but that doesn’t mean there is no Sammy Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither Stevie Wonder nor The Who’s Tommy can see. No Sammy Claus?? Thank God I live, and will live forever…or atleast hopefully for another several decades. A thousand years from now, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, my legacy shall continue to make glad the hearts of bored & lonely web surfers everywhere.

For now though, you’ll just have to settle for the 2011 edition of the Wish List. As always, I yield no authority in making these dreams a reality and just have to hope that The Jolly Old Elf himself checks it out and may see fit to provide folks with the gifts which I am suggesting for them. Enjoy…and God bless us…everyone.

 

 

Detroit Lions DT Ndamukong Suh……….self control

 

 

Regis Philbin……………a very happy retirement

 

 

 

 

 

 

President Barack Hussein Obama………..crushing defeat in November & utter rejection by the American people of radical & destructive leftist philosophy

 

 

The Southeastern United States…….a mild 2012 hurricane & tornado season

 

 

Former Penn St. Assistant Coach

Jerry Sandusky……………….very slippery soap

 

 “Golden Voiced” Ted Williams……..continued sobriety, success, & happiness

 

Fans of The Kardashians………….better role models

 

Iraq………………….peace

 

The Cast of Harry Potter……..continuing relevance & achievement without being typecast or having to resort to desperate moves like hosting a game show or doing softcore porn on Cinemax

 

 

America…………………..more Jesus, less PC Godless liberalism

 

 

Heisman Winner Robert Griffin III…….a pro career more like Vinny Testaverde & Charles Woodson than Danny Wuerffel & Chris Weinke

 

 

My Family & Friends……………health, serenity, & dreams that come true

 

 

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day……………..a balmy 40 degrees with lots of sunshine. White Christmas can remain just a song & a movie.

 

 

My Alter Ego………………..the genuine Christian experience I have been seeking

 

 

New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick……………………a hoodie

 

 

Amazon.com……………………inspiration for an improved Kindle Fire 2

 

 

Vegas………..my presence in 2012!! You hear that Greg, The Owl, Sealey, & Slack??

 

 

 

 

 

 

I shall wrap up with a quote from the Rankin-Bass animated classic Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town:

“Lot’s of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give –  of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.”

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Essentials with Your Humble Potentate of Profundity

It goes without saying that Christmas is…or atleast should be…all about the birth of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. It should also be christmas-lightsabout family, an attitude of giving, and a time of reflection & contemplation of life. However, I am not here to hop up on my soapbox (not today anyway) or proselytize (not that there is anything wrong with that). There are a lot of cool things about the holiday season, and since I do not have a spouse or children I tend to enjoy a lot of other peripheral traditions besides opening presents on Christmas morning. So these, in a nutshell, are the things that entertain me, make me a bit wistful, and help me fondly recall the idyllic childhood of my selective memory.

 

 

 

 

Santa Claus on the Biography Channel

I’ve railed against the stupefying mediocrity of television elsewhere here at The Manofesto, but I have to admit that amongst the plethora of nothingness that passes as “entertainment” on The Idiot Box there are occasionally some hidden gems. Whenever I am not watching a ballgame on TV I tend to gravitate toward more informational fare on Discovery, History, or The Science Channel. If only I’d have had that sort of intellectual curiosity 30 years ago. Ah well…c’est la vie. At any rate, A&E used to run this terrific show called Biography, which is exactly what it sounds like. A few years ago the show somehow got its own channel, which is probably overkill but what’re you gonna do?? At Christmas time they inevitably run a show about the jolly old elf himself…Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, etc. They explore the origins, the myths, and how our modern interpretation came to fruition. It’s educational, it’s fun, and it’s not a bad way to spend an hour or two.

 

 

Reading A Visit From St. Nicholas

Unfortunately I do not have children of my own and have begun to have very serious doubts about whether I ever will. If I did I would like to think that one of the final things I would do as they lay their little heads down to sleep on Christmas Eve is read this most beloved poem. As it is I still like to find it online and read it to myself. What a beautifully written story it is, with the power to make even middle-aged men feel like children once again.

 

 

Die Hard

Coming in at #9 on my list of Favorite Movies is the best action movie of all time and the world’s most unlikely Christmas film. It’s a terrific change of pace from the sentimentality and mawkish preachiness of typical holiday fare. Obviously I don’t shy away from all that sweetness & light…not at all. But sometimes it’s fun just to sit back and watch smartass Bruce Willis (at his very best) shoot things and blow stuff up.

 

 

Crazy Christmas Lights

lightsI am physically unable to put up a huge decorative display, and even if I could The Bachelor Palace is not really conducive to that sort of thing anyway. So I can get my fix a couple of ways. If the weather cooperates I can hop in the ol’ gasoline powered extended cab sleigh and traverse local neighborhoods where folks with that funky Christmas spirit have decorated the outside of their own homesteads. The swankier sections of town where the pretty people live are usually the mother lode of ornamental holiday nirvana. It’s not a bad way to spend a chilly December evening. The other, far lazier option is to just hang out on the couch and find The Travel Channel on your television. They frequently replay a couple of specials about people who go all out with their Christmas light presentations. Either way the soft glowing lights (I am partial to white lights) are an essential part of the holiday season.

 

 

Thanksgiving with The Macy’s Parade, Planes, Trains, & Automobiles, and NFL Football

This list is obviously more about Christmas, but sometimes I feel like Thanksgiving gets the short end of the holiday stick. In 21st Century America it is treated as nothing more than the kickoff to the commercialized Christmas season. I am not excessively offended by that, but I also think Thanksgiving deserves some love. It isn’t quite as special these days since my mother and grandparents are gone and I usually go out to eat alone instead of having the old fashioned family feast at home, but I do have my own little checklist for the big day. I still love to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, even if it does strike me as being a lot hokier now than when I was a kid. Being a huge football fan I appreciate the fact that there are always a couple of NFL games with the Dallas Cowboys & Detroit Lions facing off against various opponents and sometimes there is even a college game or two. And to top everything off I like to watch the 1987 Steve Martin/John Candy classic Planes, Trains, & Automobiles, which is the world’s best…and maybe only…Thanksgiving movie.

 

 

A Holiday Inn & White Christmas Double Feature

I’m an old-fashioned guy, and no time of the year lends itself to kickin’ it old school better than Christmas. One of the things I could never do but would love to have the talent for is singing and dancing. I envy people who can entertain a crowd with song & dance, and that is what these two films are all about. The plots themselves are secondary to watching Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Rosemary Clooney, & Danny Kaye display their inimitable talents. It’s such a shame that films like these are not made or barely appreciated anymore. I have two teenage nephews and I’d be surprised if they’d watch either of these for longer than 10 minutes before wanting to play some inane video game or watch “reality” television. That’s fine…to each their own. As for me, I will anxiously await AMC’s showing of these two films, during which I will dim the lights, snuggle with Rocco under a warm blanket, and drink a mug of piping hot cocoa overflowing with marshmallows.

 

 

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

Rudolph & Frosty get all the love, but among the plethora of classic, Rankin-Bass produced, stop motion animated holiday specials this one deserves some props as well. Starring the voices of Mickey Rooney, Fred Astaire, & Keenan Wynn, it’s a unique Santa Claus origin story with one of the most memorably named villains ever, Mayor Burgermeister Meisterburger. It’s usually on ABC Family a few times.

 

 

 

Christmas on The Food Network

I am addicted to The Food Network. I can’t actually cook all that well myself, but I sure do get a kick out of watching pros who know their way around a kitchen whip up a plethora of edible delights that look quite tasty on TV. The holiday season provides folks like Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray, Giada De Laurentiis, and Emeril Lagasse several weeks to wow the viewers with all kinds of festive ideas & recipes. Yummo!!

 

 

 

 

Made-for-Television Holiday Movies

We are all familiar with the big screen classics that debuted in the theaters decades ago and now grace our television screens each & Christmas season. However, there are a lot of other lesser known holiday films available for our viewing pleasure every year. Channels like Hallmark, ABC Family, and Lifetime (Television for Women) produce new made-for-TV flicks all the time and replay several that have evidently gotten good ratings. You won’t see many big stars, great production values, or even very good stories, but you’ll be entertained, maybe have a laugh or two, and possibly get your heart tugged on a bit.

 

 

Miracle on 34th St.

This is a fantastic way to kick off the holiday season!! The beginning of the film incorporates the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade into the story, so it is usually amongst the first Christmas movies I watch. It used to be on NBC immediately following the parade every year, but then they started showing a dog show instead. However, if my sources are correct then NBC is showing it on Thanksgiving this year again!! I know that most of us (unless there are young crumb crunchers out there with an odd addiction to The Manofesto) understand the truth about Santa Claus, but I also think that most of us retain…dare I say…an inner child that we love to bring out during the holidays. Even if we know the real deal with Santa there is something charming about the idea that he may actually exist.

 

 

 

Mannheim Steamroller & Trans-Siberian Orchestra

I love all sorts of music and I really enjoy Christmas carols. I have to give a shout out to my friend Greg and The Godfather of Conservatism Rush Limbaugh for introducing me to these two groups, both of which put a distinctive spin on traditional holiday tunes. They are each a unique mix of orchestral & progressive synthesized music, with TSO having more of a rock edge. Once one is familiar with their singular styles it becomes instantly recognizable when heard on the radio or the sound system at your local shopping center. Both groups have done tunes other than Christmas songs, but it is the latter for which they are best known & loved and that has become an integral part of my yuletide merriment.

 

 

Elf

The new kid on the block in the pantheon of beloved Christmas films is 2003’s Elf, starring Will Ferrell as an orphan who accidentally ends up in Santa’s bag on Christmas Eve and grows up at the North Pole think he is…you guessed it…an elf. He learns the truth and sets out to New York City to find his real father, who just happens to be a grumpy book publisher who is on Santa’s Naughty List. Ferrell is hysterically funny and nails the childlike vibe one may assume would mark an elven personality, and James Caan is the curmudgeonly Dad. This is one of Ferrell’s best roles, and it is amazing just how quickly Elf has taken its place amongst the annual holiday classics. I do have a concern about possible overexposure, because USA Network shows the film a lot starting even before Thanksgiving.

 

 

Christmas Unwrapped on The History Channel

Okay, so I am kind of a nerd. I love history, and I love Christmas, so this is a perfect marriage of the two. It explores the origins of the holiday, various symbols like the Christmas tree, and how the celebration has evolved over the centuries from a strictly holy day to 18th century rabble rousing to the modern bent toward consumerism. There is a lot of interesting input from a variety of experts in history, religion, and folklore, and it is all narrated by the soothing voice of newsman Harry Smith. I don’t mind being educated at the same time as I am being entertained. Your mileage may vary.

 

 

Home Alone & Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

MacCaulay Caulkin seems to have followed the same path as a lot of child stars…overnight fame at a very young age, followed by years of personal & legal issues that were tabloid fodder for the jaded, voyeuristic masses, and eventually relative obscurity. However, for just a little while each holiday season he is simply that precocious and insufferably cute little boy that was inadvertently ditched by his family (twice) and left to fend for himself at Christmas time. The original came in at #12 on my Favorite Movies list, while the sequel ranked #37. I fondly recall watching the original when it first started airing on television in the early 90’s with my oldest nephew (who is now in college). We laughed so hard at the cartoon violence when little Kevin is “defending his house” against bumbling burglars Harry & Marv that tears were streaming down our faces. I don’t laugh quite as much now, but these two films are still virtual comfort food. The second isn’t quite as good as the first, but the two still need to be connected and viewed, preferably together.

 

 

The Ref

If one checks The Vault and peruses my Top 100 Favorite Movies series it becomes obvious that I adore Christmas films. I believe somewhere around a dozen made the cut. Checking in at #28 is The Ref, an overlooked 1994 offering starring Kevin Spacey and Denis Leary. The story revolves around a thief who takes a bickering couple hostage on Christmas Eve and regrets it tremendously since they and their crazy family drive him nuts. For some reason The Ref has never quite entered the well-known pantheon of traditional holiday movies, but I have adored it since the first time I rented the video over 15 years ago. It’s rather difficult to find on TV but well worth the rental.

 

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies, Peanut Butter Balls, Peanut Butter Fudge, Hot Chocolate, Wassail, Eggnog, & Pita Piata

Let’s face it…food is an important part of the Christmas season. Even the most steadfast of dieters throw their weight loss goals aside for the holidays. And depending on cultural influences and what our families prepared when we were kids, we all have our particular favorites. Chocolate chip cookies are great any time of year, but when I was young both my mother and her mother always made a huge batch right after Thanksgiving, enough to last until New Year’s, so chocolate chip cookies always remind me of Christmas. My grandmother also always made a big ol’ turn of fudge and peanut butter balls as well. On my Dad’s side of the family I was introduced to pita piata, and Italian dessert that is basically a nut roll containing brandy soaked raisins amongst a host of other tasty ingredients. Pita piata is native to the small village of San Giovanni i Fiore in Calabria, Italy, where my great grandparents immigrated from at the turn of the 20th century. As far as beverages go, who doesn’t like hot chocolate?? And what drink is as identified with Christmas as eggnog?? You may have also heard the old Christmas carol Here We Come A Wassailing. There is actually a beverage called wassail, and the best way I can describe it is that it tastes like liquid apple pie. We usually enjoy some wassail after the folks from church trek through my small hometown caroling.

 

 

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Firmly entrenched as one of America’s favorite holiday classics is 1989’s third offering in the adventures of the wacky Griswold clan, led by the bumbling stumbling Chevy Chase himself. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two decades since this one originally hit theaters. As I said when I rated Christmas Vacation #6 on my Favorite Movies list, this isn’t high art. It’s mindless entertainment & harmless fun, and it’s something I look forward to every year.

 

 

 

Reading Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

There is no shortage of movie adaptations of Dickens’ tale about mean old Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve and shown the error of his ways. There are a few classic B&W films from the mid-20th century, a “motion capture” animated feature starring Jim Carrey made just a couple years ago, loose interpretations like Bill Murray’s Scrooged or the popular cartoon Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and a particularly well done 90’s TV movie starring Star Trek:TNG’s Patrick Stewart. All of these are perfectly delightful. However, might I suggest the following: On some chilly December evening, take Dickens’ novella off the bookshelf, settle down into a comfortable chair or couch, and read the book!! Last year I discovered a wonderful trick to enhance the experience. The Bachelor Palace doesn’t have a fireplace, but somewhere on the television there is a wonderful channel that is nothing but an endless loop of a roaring, crackling, very peaceful fire. So now I dim the lights (except for what I am going to use to read by), grab a warm beverage, burrow myself under a blanket, and read A Christmas Carol in front of a 40 inch high definition fireplace.

 

 

The Polar Express

While Home Alone has fond memories that I associate with my oldest nephew, The Polar Express hearkens a memory connected to my younger nephew. He was about 7 years old when the movie hit theaters and I decided to take him to see it. I think I was much more enthralled than he was to be honest. 7 year olds have a bit of an issue sitting still for almost two hours. At any rate, I fell in love with this film and my fondness has only grown in the ensuing years. The Polar Express was really the first movie that brought motion capture technology to the forefront, and it is so unique and so different that one is left with an indelible imprint on the brain. It also allows for things like Tom Hanks portraying half dozen different characters, which is pretty cool. When ranking The Polar Express #16 on my Favorite Movies list I referred to it as “whimsical, magical, and hauntingly beautiful” and said that it embodied the indefinable Christmas spirit.  A few years ago I was spending some post-surgery time in my 2nd “skilled” nursing facility in less than 2 years. It was in late November/early December, and after a kind soul hooked me up with a very small television one of the first things I was able to watch was The Polar Express. This particular period of time was amongst the saddest, most depressing of my entire life, and I will always be forever grateful that this fantastic movie helped pull me from the abyss.

 

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Not too long ago I read a really interesting biography of Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip. I was never really a comic book fan, but I always enjoyed the comics in the Sunday paper, and felt a certain kinship with loveable loser Charlie Brown. It wasn’t until I read the Schultz book that I realized all the ups & downs and insecurities in his life and how much they influenced his work, and really began to understand why I always liked Charlie Brown. Several classic animated TV specials were made based on Peanuts, including A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, but at Christmas time there isn’t anything much cooler than A Charlie Brown Christmas. The story has Charlie Brown having a problem finding the Christmas spirit, the main issue being one that isn’t uncommon in Christmas stories…the overt commercialization of the holiday. Eventually he finds what he is looking for with the help of his blanket toting pal Linus, whose simple rendition of the biblical Christmas story found in Luke 2:8-14 is awesome since we live in such a PC world where every effort is made to appease Islam while spitting all over Christianity. Even back in the 60’s when the special was made corporate TV types wanted Schultz to remove the Bible passage, but he absolutely refused. After reading the aforementioned biography and knowing how devout Schultz was I understand why he took such a strong stance, and I have the utmost respect for the man because of it. As with other classic specials that have aired annually for decades, A Charlie Brown Christmas obviously resonates with the viewing public, and it is certainly an important part of my Christmas season.

 

 

The 24/7 Christmas Carol Radio Station

I love Christmas carols. I never ever get tired of them during the holiday season. In the archives here at The Manofesto you can find a two part ditty where I rank my all-time favorite carols. I think there are basically about two dozen carols, but they’ve all been covered by so many artists in every imaginable music genre that it seems like there are hundreds of them. At any rate, the day after Thanksgiving one of the local rock stations on my radio dial begins playing nothing but Christmas music 24 hours/day, and I think it is marvelous. I am sure stations nationwide do something similar. I really only listen to the radio when I am in my truck, and since I don’t travel all that much and have a short commute to work maybe that explains why I don’t tire of the endless caroling. It always kind of makes me sad when the station goes back to playing crappy pop music immediately after midnight on Christmas night.

 

 

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer & Frosty the Snowman

When something is shown annually on television for nearly 50 years then it has obviously made a significant impression on a whole heck of a lot of people. I am secure enough in my masculinity to proudly proclaim that I look forward to watching these two animated specials each Christmas season. Rudolph is based on the song of the same name, written in 1949 by Johnny Marks, who was inspired by his brother-in-law Robert May’s creation of Rudolph for a Montgomery Ward advertising campaign in 1939. The stop motion animated special began airing in 1964, and I’d venture to guess that the vast majority of the population has watched it hundreds of times. Cowboy Gene Autry recorded Frosty the Snowman in 1950, and after the success of the Rudolph animated special Rankin-Bass took Autry’s song and made it into another stop motion classic in 1969. I’m not quite as fond of Frosty as I am Rudolph because let’s face it…little Karen and Professor Hinkle can’t quite compete with Herbie the Elf, Yukon Cornelius, and my favorites, The Island of Misfit Toys. However, both of these shows are absolute must-see-TV for me during the holidays.

 

 

 

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The Grinch utilizes more traditional animation than Rudolph, Frosty, and The Polar Express, but that’s okay. Simplicity can be good too. I’ve always sort of wondered what kind of substances Dr. Seuss may have been imbibing, because I’ve never seen an amalgamation of prose & poetry quite like the turns of phrase that made him famous. The Grinch was first published in 1957, and this holiday classic first started airing in 1966. The Grinch is a character whose disdain for Christmas seems very similar to Charles Dickens’ creation Ebenezer Scrooge, and who is similarly redeemed by a sudden change of heart. I don’t know if Dr. Seuss was inspired by Dickens and just decided to simplify the story for children, but it’s an intriguing theory. There is a powerful moment near the end of the story when, despite The Grinch having stolen all their Christmas trees, presents, and even their food, The Whos down in Whoville arise on Christmas morning and still sing, or make a joyful noise, if you will. It’s such a simple yet potent reminder of what Christmas isn’t. I think we forget that sometimes and need to watch this little cartoon to be reminded.

 

 

24 Hours of A Christmas Story

The older I get the more I embrace the nostalgic impact of Christmas, because really, all of us enjoy feeling like a child again sometimes even if there is a tinge of sadness involved. Nothing embodies this wistfulness quite as well as 1983’s A Christmas Story. It is my #5 Favorite Movie and for most folks under a certain age maybe the most popular holiday movie of all time. In the late 90’s TBS/TNT (it goes back & forth) started running a 24 hour marathon from 8pm on Christmas Eve until 8pm Christmas night. What an awesome idea!! I usually catch parts of the first showing at my aunt’s house after eating our annual family fish fest, then maybe a little more after I get home from church before getting some zzz’s. On Christmas Day I catch glimpses here & there depending on where I am. And I always atleast try to watch the entire last showing, as it kind of puts a melancholy period at the end of what has been a wonderful, month long sentence.

 

 

It’s A Wonderful Life

As mentioned, for most people under a certain age…maybe 30 or 35…A Christmas Story is likely the most beloved holiday film. However, my generation grew up with various television stations showing It’s A Wonderful Life dozens of times during the yuletide season. This created one of two reactions. There was the inevitable backlash, with people beginning to hate the movie because of the endless airings (something that I see happening with atleast 2 or 3 other Christmas classics these days). Or there were people like me that came to love IAWL more & more each year. Unfortunately for us Lifers NBC “rescued” the movie from public domain back in 1993 so now we only get to see it twice a year…usually once in early December and then always on Christmas Eve. It is odd that a movie about suicide would become such a perennial Christmas favorite, but I think the central themes…friendship, family, and realizing that what you have and what your life is ain’t all that bad…really hits home with a lot of people. I know that this is a story that has always resonated deeply for me, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world this and every year.

 

 

 

 

Understanding Ebenezer

As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the LORD thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and drove them back as far as below Beth Car. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued, and they did not come anymore into the territory of Israel. And the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.” (1 Samuel 7:10-13)


Ebenezer thus means “stone of help”, which isn’t necessarily vital or even helpful information, just an interesting note to begin a discussion of the holiday season and the undeniable emotional dichotomy it presents.


I had always heard folks say that Christmas is both the happiest and saddest time of the year. I am sure somewhere in the annals of time a well known sage or scribe uttered a memorable quote denoting this, but I cannot tell you that for sure. At any rate, it is something I’ve heard but never really paid much attention to…until now.


I have always loved the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s holiday corridor. Christmas especially…with its singular music, delicious food, classic movies & TV specials, lovely lights & decorations, and unique vibe has always been my favorite holiday. As a child one is obviously drawn toward the idea of Santa Claus and presents, while adulthood hopefully brings about a deeper appreciation of Christmas as a celebration of the birth of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. At least that was my experience anyway. Many of us also have a plethora of traditions, usually family related, that we take for granted as kids then develop a wistful nostalgia for as we grow older. Most people mature & evolve, developing new traditions as life’s many transitions…birth, death, marriage, relocation…occur. But it is in these inevitable transitions that the aforementioned duality develops.


Let me go back to Ebenezer for a moment. That, of course, is the first name of the protagonist Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I feel confident in assuming most will have read the book or watched the movies and be familiar with the story. Scrooge is a mean, uncaring, greedy miser who hates everything and everyone. But why?? I am not Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew, Dr. Oz, or Dr. Ruth, but I have read the book and know that The Ghost of Christmas Past showed that there were reasons why Scrooge ended up the way he did. It is suggested that his childhood wasn’t the best, that his Dad treated him badly. He did have a sister, Fan, that he loved dearly, but she died as a young woman during childbirth. That probably was the exclamation point that sealed Scrooge’s bitterness. In between these two events we see Scrooge become a businessman obsessed with money, an obsession that cost him the only other person he ever seemed to have loved, a fiancee named Belle.


Now I know that Ebenezer Scrooge is a fictional character. I can separate fantasy from reality. But it seems likely that Dickens based his story and his characters, to a degree, on his real life experiences. And let’s face it…we all know people in our own lives that share atleast a shadow of a trait or two or three with ol’ Scrooge.


As I move steadily along my 30’s on the brink of “middle age” I have struggled mightily to retain my childish enthusiasm for Christmas. I still love the sights and sounds and smells of the season. But I have also developed a deeper understanding of how and why it can also be a very sad time for some, and why there are those that are more like Ebenezer Scrooge than Bob Cratchit.


Those inevitable transitions of life are much kinder to some than others. The most important night of the holiday season when I was a kid was Christmas Eve when we would gather at my grandparents’ home to celebrate what I call The Mano Fish Fest. It is a hybrid version of the Italian-Catholic Feast of the Seven Fishes, modified because for some strange reason my particular branch of the family is not Catholic, I am not sure we’ve ever had 7 types of fish, and there is a lot of other food as well. As my grandparents grew older the celebration moved to my aunt’s house, but for the most part nothing else changed. However, over time things have been transformed significantly. A photo of the big night from 20 years ago versus one from last year will show that several people…my grandfather, my Mom, my maternal grandmother (who was always included even though she was not a Mano), a couple of cousins, and an uncle…have died. My Grandma Mano is now 96 and in poor health. My aunt isn’t all that well herself, and I can foresee the day when the big Fish Fest is a thing of the past, and I have nothing better to do on Christmas Eve than stay at home watching the TBS A Christmas Story marathon. Christmas Day has changed dramatically too. My life, as well as the lives of my father and sister, was forever altered by the death of my mother ten years ago. We decided that we just couldn’t celebrate Christmas at my parents’ house with Mom gone, so we transitioned to my sisters’ home. At the time her two boys were just little tikes and she’d do her best to fix a meal, although it could never live up to the feast Mom always prepared. Now my nephews are teenagers, and they have to spend part of the day with their father and his 2nd wife and family anyway. All my grandparents’ came to our house on Christmas Day when I was a child, so that of course is gone now too. Add to all these changes the fact that I am single and have no children. My friend The Owl and I have had many discussions about how society is dictated by and for married people with children and how single, childless individuals are marginalized and often get lost in the shuffle. It is no one’s fault, and it is not my intention to lay blame at anyone’s feet or expect the world to cry me a river. We all have our issues. My purpose here is simply to point out my increased understanding of the two-sided, happy/sad Christmas coin. And I won’t even go into what a nightmare it is to go shopping this time of year. I haven’t decided if the fact that I used to love that hustle & bustle but now dread going within a mile of the mall in December is more a reflection of my own personality changing or just the growing debasement of society as a whole.


Please do not misunderstand. I am not becoming an acrimonious old misanthrope. I still love Christmas. But I do realize how and why so many find this time of year to be nothing but lonely and sad. I am very fortunate to have what family remains, a roof over my head, a job that enables me to buy a few gifts for my Dad, sister, and nephews, and a church with which I am involved that engages in a lot of Christmas activities (even if half of them get cancelled almost annually when the powers-that-be are repeatedly surprised that it is cold in December). There are so many people who aren’t as fortunate, and that realization helps me overcome my own tendency to gravitate toward melancholy.


I wish I had some sagacious words of wisdom for those whose spirits are pierced with the sharp sword of sorrow this time of year, but unfortunately I am not quite there yet. All I can say is that I can, on some level, understand and empathize, just like I can dislike the type of ill tempered curmudgeon that personifies the Scrooge mentality but can also say with a smidgen of sagacity that I get it, that I see where they are coming from and will keep them in my prayers.