Wednesday, December 12, 2012

List: Top Christmas Films

Who doesn't like Christmas? Oh, right, quite a few people.

I am one of the world's most secular individuals. It is now family lore that when I was on Double Dare (I know! So awesome!) in 1992 I answered "A band" in response to the question: "What is Genesis?" But I still love the birth of baby Jesus, nonetheless.

If you know of another holiday which begins a full two months before the actual date of said holiday and expects, nay demands, that you drink egg nog (alcoholic heavy cream!), open gifts, and then pass out on the sofa after ingesting a year's worth of carbohydrates then you may protest. Otherwise, maybe you should just get down with the 'nog and zip your pie hole.

A friggen egg nog fountain! I want to go to there.

Things that are awesome about Christmas:
- Advent calendars.
- The fact that the Manimal, JoSi and I try to go to Rolf's and eat an entire suckling pig every year.
- Going on a Lohan holiday
- Plum pudding with BRANDY BUTTER. It's butter that gets you twisted. I will personally submit anyone who opposes plum pudding.
- People that go overboard with their christmas lights. Also, the person below who is my decorating hero.

The best thing about Christmas, though, is the movies. Now that I live in the Northern Hemisphere, I finally "get" holiday movies. What else are you going to do to convince yourself that staying inside because it's negative 29 degrees outside is fun? Growing up in Australia, I would have to spray fake snow in the windows and turn up the AC so I could enjoy my fillums. That's for the birds, yo!

But I'm not talking abut holiday themed garbage like Jingle All The Way (excepting, of course, the always welcomed inclusion of Sinbad) or the terrifying Michael Keaton abomination that is Jack Frost (complete with Hanson tie in video). No, I'm talking about the movies that make you glad to be alive during Noel. Without further preamble, allow me to regale you with my list of top Christmas movies for your viewing pleasure this holiday season:

1: Home Alone 1 and 2

Dedicated readers will know of my obsession with Home Alone. One Christmas, I wrote an ode to cultural touchstone and all around BAMF Roberts Blossom aka Old Man Marley (RIP).

What's not to like about the Home Alone franchise? It has holiday cheer, a house in the Chicago suburbs which dictated how I thought all American suburbs looked, and people getting hurt frequently. Plus, it's made by the auteur of all auteurs John Hughes and even has a cameo by my spirit animal, John Candy.

My hero: Fuller!

2. The Ref
Let's be honest here, I have been in a near-constant love affair with the 90s since I was in the 90s. This film, about a burglary gone wrong and the resultant insanity is vintage 90s gold. Its title refers to the job unfortunate cat burglar Denis Leary (at the height of his "look at me! I'm an angry guy! I like to scream and smoke cigarettes! Arrghhhdgdhdhhfh!!") has to play when he takes a family hostage on Christmas Eve. Of course, because it's set during the holidays, the family whose house he hides in is made up of the most annoying people known to man. Hilarity, naturally, ensues.
Bonus: The Ref also stars Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis (swoon!).

This Scandinavian feast and accompanying speech always reminds me of something my mum would do. She's always trying to make something "interesting" for special occasions rather than sticking with the classics. Inevitably we have to hear a sweet, but long winded, explanation about Tibetan Yak dip when we are all really just waiting for my stepdad to uncork his homemade honey mead from the shed. After that, we eat party pies until halfway through the bottle when we all spontaneously go blind and pass out.

Here you go - enjoy!

3. Die Hard 1 and 2:
My favorite thing about Die Hard 2 is the scene where we are introduced to Colonel Stuart because it is a literal representation of Manimal's morning routine:

*Sadly, I'm not joking.

But Die Hard 1 is king. Nothing says Christmas like watching Bruce Willis stomp all over Hans Gruber in a soiled wife beater. Nothing. It's also got Carl frickin' Winslow as the sidekick cop. This is what the baby Jesus watches on the couch when he's full of roast potatoes and brandy butter. Yipeekiyay motherfucker!

4. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Oh, man. This is the ultimate holiday (OK, I know it's technically about Thanksgiving but whatever) movie because it's sappy and funny at the same time. It also has Steve Martin basically playing me, and John Candy (again!) as the Manimal-esque shower curtain ring salesman with the proverbial heart of gold, Del Griffith. The scene below is an uncannily accurate depiction of what happens to me if I don't get first shower.

*Disturbingly, this clip resides in an area of YouTube that is frequented by people searching for "hairy daddies". Steve Martin? Really?

Watching this movie was also when I first learned one of my all time favorite phrases, "My dogs are barking",  when Del takes his shoes off in a crowded plane. Shortly after, I also realized why those shoes are called Hush Puppies. Genius! Me and my brother, Dr. Poobelle, also say this absurdly often:

"I'm the real article."

The resolution of Trains, Planes and Automobiles is also on my list of embarrassing things that make me cry. I won't spoil it, but Del Griffith is a complicated fellow. I'd rather play Pick Up Sticks with my butt cheeks than not watch this movie at Yuletide.

So there you have it. I suppose you could spend your time watching Garfield: The Movie or  It's a Wonderful Life but really aren't the holidays about not flagellating yourself for being savagely submitted by another year of disappointment, and rather about living vicariously through a man beating seven types of snot out of a German villain? I think that's WJWD.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Travel Tips: Blighty! Part 1

Happy New Year, y'all!

What's damp, grey and perpetually drunk? No, not my gran - it's England!

The Manimal and I were fortunate enough to celebrate the nuevo ano across the pond and found it to be delightful. We laid waste to this fine land (attached to a finer land) and, of course, are back with a bevvy of travel tips for all of you Anglophiles.

First up: a quick tangent.
To get to England I had the pleasure of traveling with what some people bafflingly consider to be the scourge of the skies: Delta "airlines". What I imagined to be a quick hop, skip and jump from NYC to Detroit (?) to Paris ended up being somewhat of a Kafkaesque adventure filled with rage, anarchy, and a Best Western.

It all began as I was ensconced in the plane's cabin. Thank goodness I had requested to be seated behind a drunk lady and across from a man clad in triple stripes who had stripped down to bare feet already. "Good for you, sir!" I thought to myself, "Why not treat this sealed metal flying machine as your own personal rumpus room?" Just because I have strict rules about what is acceptable in the air doesn't mean that everyone else should hold themselves to the same rigid standards. I mean, if you want to put your hands down your sweat pants and rummage around like the guy in seat 4G, by all means go ahead. And, actually, I had never thought of putting my feet all the way on top of the seat in front of me, annoying "leggings 'n Uggs girl" in 5C - brava! You've made me rethink my ideas on comfort on a few different levels. And why not watch a movie on your laptop without headphones, guy behind me? I hadn't yet seen the latest Michael Bay offering, so thank you for being the one to make that happen. Do you mind turning it up a little?

*Arrghhhghhh!! I'm getting there!

The captain announced that we were simply "changing a wheel" and would be on our merry way in approximately ten minutes. Three hours, 2 wheels and a passenger rebellion later, we were on our way to Detroit. Of course, because of the delay, we had all missed our connections and would be fortunate enough to spend the whole night there! Yessss!

*Yay! Motor City!

At the airport, the delightful lady at the counter gave me two meal vouchers valued at the princely sum of 6 dollars for breakfast and dinner and directions to a bus terminal where I could board conveyance to the evening's lodgings. I made friends with the other Delta refugees in that quick and intense way that one does when in an uncertain, potentially dangerous situation like those hostages of Somalian pirates, or shoppers at the Brooklyn Target.

To this day (and for eternity) I would probably kill for Ginny, the she-mulleted midwestern lady who was carrying a large loaf of homemade bread and a "genuine New York cheesecake" in the seat next to me. I won't go into detail, but that night Ginny taught me about life, love, true elegance, and myself, dammit. She also managed to categorically disprove BBD's assertion that one should "never trust a big butt and a smile."

*They clearly haven't been to the Midwest

Anyway,  Ginny, I and the others piled into the bus and after a few short minutes on a ring road, pulled in to the Detroit Best Western.

* It looked just like the Sun Motel from Trains, Planes and Automobiles...

Now, many people know about my fascination with staying at murder motels. I just love them. I love the way the doors are on the outside, a mere credit card jimmy separating you and your would be rapist. I love the neon, beckoning like some sort of white trash Star of Bethlehem. I love making up stories about the miscellaneous holes in the walls and breathing in the lingering stale cigarette smells. But, readers, this was an actual scary, murder motel on an isolated strip of highway in freaking Romulus, Michigan. No charm, all menace. I started fervently hoping that I would not be forced to suckle from a she-wolf in order to survive like the town's namesake.

Everyone on the bus started tittering nervously when we pulled in.
Upon check in, some lady took the piece of crumpled paper I thrust at her and gave me a room key without asking for any identification or making eye contact. "Huzzah!" I thought to myself,  "Maybe this will be the day I get to kill a man just to watch him die in my seedy motel room!" It is one of the things on my bucket list after all. However, it seemed all of the available drifters had already checked in, so I proceeded directly to my room. On the way I was pleased to note that in lieu of sanitary accommodations, the Romulus Best Western had at least shelled out for a partially carpeted indoor swimming pool:

And a free tanning salon. Great! Maybe I could work on my cancer as a diversion. 

As Delta had helpfully transported my luggage to unknown parts, I fashioned a makeshift barricade with the only thing available to me, and settled in.

As I lay shivering in bed in all of my clothes and holding my purse, I entertained myself by reading the reviews of the Best Western on Some highlights:

"Hands down, this is the worst American hotel I've ever stayed at. Last night, as we were going to bed in room 1053, we noticed several insects crawling around the sheets. Several were already gorged with blood" 
[At least they got something to eat. My $6 meal vouchers were not enough to get anything at the restaurant.]

"The floor (although carpeted) was so sticky that my socks made a noise when I walked."
[An accurate description. Unfortunately, I did not have socks.]

"The most awful thing about this motel is that they broadcast adult programs to every room. My kids were trying to find Cartoon network on the TV but saw a lady doing a BJ for a guy."
[I rarely say this but LOL!]

My night's repose was intermittently disturbed by the sounds of what appeared to be a rape and murder in an adjacent room. It's not often that one gets to hear two felonies at once! As dawn broke over the car rental lot, I stared out the cracked window and realized that it was a white christmas, and that I had made it out alive.

* It was a Christmas miracle!

So I boarded the shuttle bus, spent my vouchers on one large "coffee" at the airport and vowed never to fly on Delta again. 

On to England!