And now for something completely different…

Apologies to the Monty Python troop for plagiarizing the title, but rather than talk about the Astros, today’s post will be Christmas themed. So without further adieu and whether you are interested or not, here are Dan P’s Top 10 Christmas movies of all time with a bonus of 10 more honorable mentions.

#1 It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). It is a wonderful story with a wonderful twist to it. But what makes the movie is a Tour de Force performance by my favorite all-time actor, Jimmy Stewart. Rarely will you ever see an actor cover the whole spectrum of emotions in a role from happiness to anger, from total despair through cynicism to total joy? Frederick March won the Oscar for a top turn in The Best Years of Our Lives, but Jimmy Stewart was robbed.

#2 Christmas Vacation (1989). Sure it can be a little heavy-handed with over the top slapstick humor, but this is the first movie we slap on the DVD player every Christmas season and then proceed to recite our favorite lines before they pop up in the movie. Great ensemble cast with Chevy Chase, cute as a button Beverly D’Angelo, goofy Randy Quaid and the grandparents – E.G. Marshall, Diane Ladd, John Randolph and Doris Roberts. Do you recognize Chevy’s son Johnny Galecki, who played Leonard on Big Bang Theory? This one’s for every dad who struggled to have a top-notch Christmas for his dysfunctional family.

#3 A Christmas Story (1983). Though we did not all grow up in 1940 Indiana, most of us had a Christmas where we wanted something special and suffered the angst of possibly not getting it. Filled with memorable, nostalgic scenes, the standout players are Darren McGavin as the dad who can string quasi-obscenities that don’t have to be bleeped out and the narration by Jean Shepherd, who wrote the stories on which the movie is based. If Shepherd’s voice sounds familiar, perhaps you have heard him as the main narrator and character at Disney World’s Carousel of Progress.

#4 A Christmas Carol (1951). There are many versions of the Christmas Carol, but one of the most definitive was this English version starring Alastair Sim. Known mostly for his comedic roles in the UK, he brings all facets of Ebenezer Scrooge to life from nasty to joyfully goofy. The cast is filled with terrific English character actors and the story though well known to most is well told here.

#5 Home Alone (1990). One of the greatest times I’ve had in my life was going to see this movie in the theater with 20 family members. We were rolling in the aisles and perhaps it is a statement on us humans that we were rolling in the aisles over the pain and suffering of other human beings. McCauley Caulkin is perfectly cast as the brat who grows up a bit and who could make better “Wet Bandits” than Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern? Like #2 above, the script was by the late, great John Hughes.

#6 Miracle on 34th St. (1947). A very clever and modern tale for the 1940’s that deals with a single mom and driven career woman (Maureen O’Hara) who has become cynical and has passed that cynicism on to her precocious child (Natalie Wood). This is all challenged when Edmund Gwynn enters the story as the real Santa Claus or someone who at least believes he is the real Santa Claus. A classic movie to the very end.

#7 Elf (2007). Will Ferrell can be what we might call an acquired taste, but the story of the orphaned boy raised as an elf, who goes in search of his real father (the curmudgeonly James Caan) is a lot of fun. With good turns from Bob Newhart as his surrogate father elf, Ed Asner as Santa and Mary Steenburgen as his step-mom along with a young Zooey Deschanel as the love interest.

#8 The House Without a Christmas Tree (1972). OK, this is a TV movie, but it is an excellent one starring Lisa Lucas as an only child who wants to bring Christmas back into the house. Jason Robards is spot-on as her melancholy father, who has not recovered from the loss of his wife. Mildred Natwick as the grandmother we all wished we had and Kathryn Walker as the teacher we wished our kids and grandkids had are both excellent in this teleplay. Note: This was the first in a series of four movies starring the same folks, followed by The Thanksgiving Treasure, The Easter Promise and Addie and the King of Hearts.

#9 The Family Stone (2005). This one will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m a sucker for movies about family dysfunction having been a veteran of many wars. A terrific cast fills out the family and significant others with Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson, Dylan McDermott, Sara Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Clare Danes. There is humor, drama, sadness and some very uncomfortable conversations especially for the outsider, Parker, but as Beverly D’Angleo said in movie #2 “…it’s Christmas and we are all in misery.”

#10 Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962). An animated TV show, that fits the movie genre for me due to its length (almost an hour) and makes the top 10 list due to the music. Jim Backus does a good reading as Mr. Magoo playing Scrooge and you may recognize Jack Cassidy (Bob Cratchit), who was most famous as the father of David and Shaun Cassidy, but the music makes this special…special. The score is by Broadway veterans Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, who also collaborated on Funny Girl, and really drives the story. Styne also did the music for other plays such as Gypsy, while Merrill is best known for writing hits in the 50’s, like “How Much is that Doggie in the Window” and “Honeycomb”.

The following in no particular order are 10 Honorable Mentions:

Jingle All the Way (1996). I know it is pretty lowly rated, but some of the humor, especially from Sinbad as the going postal postman and Phil Hartman as the smarmy divorced dad/neighbor are pretty enjoyable.

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944). It is not a true “Christmas” movie as it follows the Smith family through the year leading up to the 1904 World’s Fair, but any film with Judy Garland comforting her little sister, Margaret O’Brien by singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas gets my Honorable Mention vote. Besides it is nice to see a functional family after all the “dys” above.

Home Alone 2 (1992). This was not as good as the original (this is not Godfather II), but it still had plenty of good laughs with even more severe human destruction. With the same cast as before, plus a pitch-perfect snobby concierge role by Tim Curry.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). This is a unique animated film. Is it a Christmas movie? Is it a Halloween movie? It is a bit of both and a feast for the eyes. It stars the voice talents of Chris Sarandon and Catherine O’Hara (from the movie right above this one). Jack Skellington’s singing voice is by Danny Elfman, who also composed the music for the movie as he has done for most of Tim Burton’s movies and famously, for The Simpsons.

The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992). Michael Caine was an inspired choice for playing Scrooge and then you add in all your favorite Muppet characters and this is a fun ride of a movie. Coming two years after Jim Henson’s untimely death, this movie was directed by his son, Brian.

The Santa Clause (1994). Be careful in life. If you accidentally kill off Santa you get to take his place. That is the basis for this silly movie starring Tim Allen and Judge Reinhold.

A Christmas Wish (2011). Yes, it is one of those “Hallmark” Christmas movies, but it is one with a lot of heart and a better story to it. Think “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” with a little less grit and no Kris Kristofferson. It stars Kristy Swanson and Edward Hermann and is a lot less sweet and more real than the normal Hallmark movies.

Love Actually (2003). This is not quite my cup of tea, but it is on the list because folks I know love it. It is from the folks who made Notting Hill, which is one of my favorites and carries a top-notch cast featuring Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy and Colin Firth.

Die Hard (1988). This is my son, Adam’s favorite Christmas movie and we manage to watch it each Christmas season. Hard to say whether Bruce Willis as the hero or Alan Rickman as the villain steals this show, but it is a heckuva ride. Rickman had worked in the English theater in his early career and he earned the role of terrorist Hans Gruber two days after moving to Hollywood.

Bad Santa (2003). Can a low life conman Santa find some better purpose in life? When you are as far down as Billy Bob Thornton is, that is a great question. With help from John Ritter, Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham and Tony Cox this is the other side to Christmas…

So, anyway, that is the blog’s non-Astro feature for the holidays. Here is hoping all of you have a wonderful Christmas and a better New Year than 2020. How could it be worse?

 

49 comments on “And now for something completely different…

  1. And I should have added – that I’d love to hear from all of you what your favorite movies are, especially any that are not on this list…..

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  2. Miracle on 34th Street. It’s the one I watch every year.
    There was another made for TV movie that I liked a lot. James Garner and Julie Andrews. I think the title was A Night Ti Remember.

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  3. We watch at least one Christmas movie a day. I guess I am kind of numb about it.
    I do know that Elf and Christmas Vacation are two of my least favorite movies EVER! They are right up there with Nacho Libre. I cringe at the thought of having to sit through either one. It’s not a Chevy Chase thing either, because I liked The Three Amigos. I watch a plethora of Christmas movies.
    Blue shadows on the trail.

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    • Dr. Bill – I always liked the Grinch cartoon, which at 24 minutes long I did not put on this movie list. I read poor reviews of the Jim Carrey movie and have never watched it.

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  4. I did not see half the movies above, but some of my favorites: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), Trading Places (1983) and The Polar Express (2004).

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    • Well it could be argued against, but it is on Christmas Eve with an attack against a Christmas party and of course you have the famous sign that John McClain attaches to the dead terrorist “Ho ho ho – now I have a machine gun”

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  5. You could sit around and watch a bunch of Hallmark movies with a Christmas theme but they all have the same plot and end the same way. No Thank you. Other than that some are worth watching while others I’ll pass on.

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    • That’s why I liked Christmas Wish – it’s a little different Hallmark movie.
      Typical Hallmark movie plot…
      Successful (man/woman) goes home for Christmas and has to (save the family business/ run the family business while mom/dad recovers). Has romantic entanglements with (woman/man) that (they hated in high school / works for the company trying to run mom/dad’s company out of business).
      Movie ends with family business saved, man/woman in romance with woman/man and moving home permanently and if possible some other minor romance complication resolved usually with older characters.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey there Dan,

    It’s a good list, but I got to reading just a couple of your early choices, I was wondering if you would have Die Hard on it.

    Yep, you did. Good for you, as well as your son.

    I need to drop you a line sometime soon. Stay safe, and have a great Merry Christmas.

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    • Thanks OTF

      I took a year off from writing about the Texans. The NFL turned me off this year – they were way too political. Baseball almost did it to me too but overall was less in my face.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Feinsand reporting Astros in serious talks with Op’s favorite, Jason Castro. For the life of me, if he signs more than a year, that will be a surprise regarding G Stubbs and Korey Lee on the fast track. I can see Jason as more of a filler, like Garneau.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When they talked about it a couple of weeks ago I just shook my head. Realmuto or Castro. I can’t decide. Look at the K rate last season. This is a nightmare.
      Santa, was I really this awful?
      I’d rather have charcoal.
      Pleeeease?

      Liked by 1 person

    • If they are willing to sign Castro (and of course it’s all conjecture at this point) they must not be very confident that Stubbs can get the job done. I’m not at all enthusiastic about Castro behind the plate. I was happy to see him go and I still do not like his demeanor.

      Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Burl Ives. A 60’s family classic.

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  8. So I investigated Jose Siri and his minor league deal has some promise.
    He has plus speed and a plus arm. He has above average power but has shown below average discipline at the plate.
    In his one and a half years off from baseball because of the pandemic he has shortened his swing and has shown good results in the Dominican Winter league this off season, where he has very similar stats to Jeremy Pena.
    He is listed on the Astros AAA roster.

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    • Thanks for the info on Siri, OP. I’m surprised she has time to play baseball and answer questions on every iPhone in the world.
      The one positive about Castro in 2020 was he was better than Garneau (which ain’t saying much).

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, I’m resigned to it if it happens and realize that a L/R platoon at catcher might actually help us at that position without a huge drop off in defense.
        Castro’s pitch blocking has suffered with age, though.
        We saw him quite a bit this year with the Angels.
        We’ll wait and see if he rejoins the Astros.

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  9. I’ve got this! When Greinke is pitching, you put him in the batting order and let the DH bat instead of Castro.
    That also encourages the manager to resist pulling Greinke from the game, because we already know how that works out, right?

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  10. Speaking about Garneau, I saw he signed a minor league deal with the Tigers.

    I don’t think we would spend the $$ it would take to sign Realmuto. I would rather have Wilson Ramos or Alex Avila than Castro, but they would likely cost a bit more.

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    • Astros have had a shot at both Ramos and Avila for a few years, so they disagree. I would’ve been & was on board in 2018 on Ramos, but looking back since then, he’s made $18m (as you alluded to). We got a huge price break on Maldonado twice, and a reasonable Chirinos before his decline last yr. After drafting Stubbs, and then paying big bucks for Korey Lee in ’19, Astros haven’t planned on another long-term guy since.

      Castro is still well-liked in HOU, and if you’re going to bring in an outsider into the inner sactum of your team,
      a.) why not someone who has league and division experience
      b.) smart & benefits from new tech
      c.) platoons well
      d.) like Maldonado, stayed in touch with former players, coaches & kept the converation going..
      e.) steals unaccounted for WAR by pitch framing
      f.) of Jason “compartmentalizes” poor offense

      Concerns are him calling a good game, and passed balls. With the availability of seeing spin axis horizontal and vertical spins rates on all pitchers, he can guage how each guy he handles curve/slider with react in the dirt. Maldonado has been masterful at blocking, too, so I can foresee some symbiotic stuff rubbing off on Stubbs. Veteran presence we sort of lacked with Garneau, I think it’s a good move and anticipate 1-yr at $2.8m tops. Anything more is a kind of slap in face of Maldy’s 3.5 imo.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow, GS1. I admit at my advanced age I remember there was once a Jason Castro that played in Houston. Is this Castro you are talking about a different Castro? Surely not that the guy I remember. The one that was here before had a negative WAR last year. His catching style was to let the ball bounce back from the screen and pick it up. (A style made famous by Bob Uecker.) Stubbs matched that negative WAR for a lot less money.

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      • Well, apparently two contending teams; Twins Padres (and Angels) have a different opinion than just looking at his WAR. We are still talking about the 26th man here, though, not a frontline player. His presence should be in support alone. It would seem as outlined for years now, all the reasons Realmuto has never been a serious contender for this job. For example, MIA and the player narrowed it down to five teams and we weren’t even on that list. It ends up amounting to a mental exercise, or something. Let’s just forget the Castro conversation then if nobody has a positive thing to say about him. Seems a bit of a nit pick to me when there are so many wonderful things about this team. Perhaps Click or others are the ones to blame for choosing him, “we’ll see.”

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      • Other ways to skin this cat?

        Dec 23
        Where Jason Castro ranks among catchers with at least 300 plate appearances since 2019 in terms of

        Average exit velocity: 1st out of 43
        Barrels/BBE: 1st
        HardHit%: 2nd
        BB%: 2nd

        Max Goldstein

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      • GoStros – I have no problem with Castro as the veteran backup for a year. And I don’t have a problem if they want to give Stubbs a shot as the backup for a season either.

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      • GS1, I was just offering a personal observation and not meant as an attack. You have the right to your opinions and they are probably more rooted in reality than mine. And I must admit, my “opinion” of Castro while an Astro was polluted a little by him being a # 1 pick of the team.

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      • AC45 you’re the best, and I know what you mean dave maybe we could’ve done better as a backup..
        I think it’s interesting all these fringe older guys are going to Korea, where I’m guessing they can get more of a guaranteed salary (they only allow 3 Americans per team), but how MLB teams are looking inward mostly for cheaper options. Castro just brings too much to the table for $3m as it relates to what you’re really asking of the position.
        Garneau hit well in Spring, said all the right things but trying to put something together he was never asked to start twice in a row. Tough assignment in a really crazy year. Anyway it was a gamble to bring someone in from outside but he proved to be loyal. Jason has that carrying card too obviously if we are talking to him. A trusted ally. If he makes $4m that will be even more showing that they want him to platoon across the board, imo. Makes sense if there are more RHSP on our schedule that Castro could actually be told he will take half the starts. That would mean one full year in Sugar Land for Stubbs to learn Torres Ivey Whitely Solomon Solis and Conine. If Hunter Brown makes it to AAA by end of the year — we got us something special.
        I wasn’t being critical just thinking through Astros rationale on Castro. Merry Christmas!

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  11. And a couple things related to Christmas movies:
    – Two guilty pleasures that we will watch even though they are not that good are Christmas with the Kranks with Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Aykroyd and Deck the Halls with Matthew Broderick and Danny Devito. Neither is great but they both have some decent chuckles.
    – In the non-movie category – we always watch Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer along with Mr Magoo

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  12. Merry Christmas my friends!!
    A little more joy in the world today as our nephew’s wife delivered a baby girl last night one hour short of a Christmas baby – River Claire Pierson!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Being of a different faith, yet loving you all, I will go a slightly different route. If one of our past or present Houston Astro personnel [on field or front office] was to be cast as the main character in a Christmas movie, who should play:

    From ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ :
    1. George Bailey;
    2. Clarence Odbody;
    3. Mr. Potter;
    4. Uncle Billy;

    Or from ‘Home Alone (in Houston):
    1. Kevin McAllister;
    2. Buzz McAllister;
    3. Fuller;
    4. Uncle Frank;
    5. Harry;
    6. Marv;
    7. The Scary Neighbor, Marley?

    Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well Mr. Bill with a Jewish sister-in-law and a Buddhist daughter-in-law I am not discerning on faith here. Hope and yours have a great day and weekend.

      Let’s see – this is tough – let me fill in those I can address…

      It’s a Wonderful Life
      Mr. Potter – some might think Drayton McLane – but I think this is Bud Selig and Drayton is the guy who silently pushes him around in his wheel chair and never speaks up about the bad things Bud was doing.

      George Bailey – I don’t know – maybe Larry Dierker, the guys who sticks around through thick and thin and through adversity and never does leave that town?

      Clarence Odbody – Hmmm – a kind of simple minded guy who works hard at earning his wings. Steve Sparks?

      Uncle Billy – Somebody given responsibility far beyond his abilities, who crashes at the crucial time? Changing sports – Bill O’Brien

      Back in a bit with Home Alone

      Liked by 1 person

    • Home Alone ….let’s see…
      Or from ‘Home Alone (in Houston):
      1. Kevin McAllister – Bratty – learns a lesson and matures over time – Hopefully Alex Bregman?
      2. Buzz McAllister – Big brother who Kevin love/hates – Carlos Beltran??
      3. Fuller – I don’t know why I am typing Craig Biggio
      4. Uncle Frank – Cheapskate in-law and freeloader – No idea – Russ Ortiz?
      5. Harry – Let’s see – built like a catcher – into stealing money – J.T. Realmuto? No – he earns it – J.R. Towles?
      6. Marv – he kind of has a Jeff Bagwell beard
      7. The Scary Neighbor, Marley – Shawn Chacon? Wait a minute the neighbor was scary looking but turned out a hero – Randy Johnson?

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  14. Either Click knows something we don’t about Castro or the Astros are in bigger financial straits than we know. I’m sorry for Stubbs…just the time we think he might get a chance they say “nah we’re going to sign a Houston retread”. … ((sigh)) maybe they can trade him to a team that will value him.
    I thought we talked about him getting a real chance this year…at least I THOUGHT we did.
    Christmas was awesome for my family, my kids were here we ate too much and THEY washed all the dishes! My youngest son has a wicked sense of humor, he gave me one of those horns that honks for my walker so he can here me coming! Evidently I’m pretty quiet when I come I the kitchen and he almost fell over me at Thanksgiving! Even if I’m not still using it when I go back to my orthopedic surgeon they want me to use it and honk when I see my doctor! Everyone got a good laugh about it, so when I came out of the bedroom this morning I honked my horn to warn my husband I was up, it scared my cat to death!! Fun Christmas🎄
    Merry Christmas to everyone of you and may 2021 bring ALL of us better health❤

    Liked by 3 people

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