Category: Movies

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Strange Things You Never Noticed About Christmas Movies

I wait all year long to watch classic Christmas movies. And I mean classic. None of that bullshit inside Hallmark jargon. Sorry, I was way forcing that quote and I didn’t pull it off very well. I just can’t help myself, I am THAT in love with real classic Christmas movies that teach us morals about love and togetherness and what really matters. Over and over I watch them to feel the spirit of glorious trees with dazzling lights and turkey and puzzles and wine and family and shopping and wrappings. Something funny happens, though, when you’ve watched them over and over and over, year after year for decades. Weird patterns emerge. And you notice things. Little things that a casual viewer would never catch. Have you noticed any of these before?

Christmas Movies Do Not Include Christmas Day

I’ve come to discover that this is mostly due to an American obsession with the lead-up to Christmas. Most of us get so amped up through December, that by the time December 26 rolls around, we’re spent and ready to hibernate for the winter. A lot of European countries, on the other hand, don’t understand this. Yes, there’s a build-up to Christmas, but Eve and Day are merely a kick-off to Twelve Days of Christmas, which include various festivals and traditions.

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The Shawshank Redemption: Andy Dufresne’s Questionable Tax Advice

The Shawshank Redemption is one of the most peculiarly loved films of all-time. Something about a clever man dreaming behind bars speaks to more people than I would’ve ever thought possible. But Rita Hayworth and I have one little question about a pivotal plot point: Was Andy Dufresne’s tax advice to the Captain Hadley bullshit?

Here’s how it goes: It is 1949, and atop a roof at the Shawshank Prison, Captain Hadley loudly groans that he has inherited $35,000 from his brother, but he is livid that the government is going to “take a big wet bite out of [his] ass” in taxes.

Prisoner Andy Dufresne dangerously interjects himself into the conversation insisting that the Warden need not suffer any tax burden at all, suggesting:

“If you want to keep that money, all of it, just give it to your wife. See, the IRS allows you a one-time-only gift to your spouse. It’s good up to $60,000…Tax-free. IRS can’t touch one cent.”

But is that true? Or was it at least true in 1949? Or was Andy just bullshitting for some beers and the fun of it. Let’s take a look at the tax law to understand.

One reason this plot line may have crept into the deliciously warped mind of Stephen King (and therefore, that of character Andy Dufresne) is because there was a major reform of the United States Tax Code in 1948, specifically impacting estate and gift taxes–including marital exemptions. But did it provide a tax shelter for Captain Hadley’s inheritance?

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Mr. Boogedy is Totally Misunderstood

If you were a child of the 80s, then you likely know the tale of the silly and harassed Davis family who bought a haunted house in Lucifer Falls and then battled an evil ghost with a magic cloak. You watched Kristy Swanson (the worst actress ever) pout on a picnic blanket with cheese curls, and a robe-clad Bud Bundy get pulled kicking into the air by an inflated fireplace shovel. The kid from ALF even bickered with a little kid ghost over a snot-soaked teddy bear, and all the spirits glowed in neon. It was the spooky and mesmerizing children’s tale called Mr. Boogedy, which originally aired as a Disney made-for-TV movie in 1986.

Animated GIF

I’ve been watching and rewatching this movie every October for many years now, and it has come to my attention that there is, in fact, something very haunting about this tale. But it isn’t the house or how the Davis family was plagued by ghosts. It was the treatment of a misunderstood man named William Hanover that lasted for hundreds of years. You see a hamburger-faced demon zapping lightning at a wisecracking family, whereas I see a trod-upon and anguished soul.

To see my point, let us all go back to the beginning. Boogedy’s beginning.

The Origin Story

Here is the story of Mr. Boogedy–as he is known pejoratively known–in the words of crackpot historian, Neil Witherspoon:

300 years ago, long before any of us were alive, a small group of pilgrims lived on this very spot. They were a hard-working, decent group of people. Once in a while of course, they would enjoy a good laugh. Most of them, that is.

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If You Were Stranded On a Desert Island, and You Could Only Have…

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only play one favorite workplace lunchroom game…it would have to be the ol’ desert island scenario.

There you are, you poor bastard. You’re stranded on a very tiny desert island for what you can only assume is an indefinite amount of time. A few concessions are made by the universe toward your predicament: Apparently, you have at least a meager source of fresh water and food–enough to survive, even if you get the “coconut runs” daily. Sadly, though, it is presumed in most scenarios that you have no companionship.

Curiously enough, whatever crisis led to your surprise crash or abandonment on the little island, you are given some options–maybe by the grace of generous pirates? Well-connected mer-people? So, now is the time to choose. Your benevolent porpoise or pirate wench has given you but moments to decide the small comfort you may be afforded for your eternal, sandy sabbatical. I hope you have your answers ready to go. Wish-granting squids are notoriously impatient.

If you were stranded on a desert island, and you could only have…

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Best Thanksgiving Movies & TV Episodes to Feast On

Thanksgiving is a pretty ugly time of year. Lots of turkey carnage. And the whole guilt over what was done to the Indians. It’s a slaughtering holiday. The weather is hideous–all brown and cold, with no excuses to get some fresh air and go for a walk. There’s some kind of ludicrous law that most people have to watch football or they’ll die. And I’m supposed to get up early the next day and go shopping?

Plus there’s the annual scene of my dad hacking away at a turkey carcass in the kitchen yelling at everyone not to eat any appetizers–the ones I was asked to bring, mind you–while I am horribly drunk on boxed wine because my empty stomach always thinks dinner will come sooner than it does. Hey, Dad gets what he gets when he tells me to stay away from my own plate of cheese and crackers! Well, after I slur my way through dinner conversations about tired family memories, and I’ve crammed plenty of stuffing and potatoes in my face, the whole time trying not to embarrass my mom or make her cry (as has happened multiple years in the past), it’s time for my dad to pass out in a turkey coma in the recliner.

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Avonlea Showdown: Which Anne of Green Gables is Better?

Three different versions of our Anne-girl.

L.M. Montgomery’s classic, Anne of Green Gables has inspired dozens and dozens of Annes on film and television since the book’s original publication in 1908. But, to my mind, there are only three worth real consideration: First, the famous and extremely popular 1985 adaptation that starred Megan Follows, long considered the modern gold standard of Montgomery’s vision. And then there have been two new versions causing quite a flutter recently, with fresh takes on Carrots and her fellow Prince Edward Island adventurers. The first came out late 2016 and aired in the U.S. chiefly on PBS stations (though the first installment is currently available to Amazon Prime streaming subscribers). The second debuted on Netflix in 2017.

So how do they stack up? Are any of these new Annes worthy of the Lake of Shining Waters or puff sleeves? I’m spitting out my lime once more, setting down my glass of gin, and cracking my knuckles in anticipation of another great showdown between rival cinematic loves. Just as with the Longbourn Showdown (Ahem, Pride and Prejudice fans), this will be much like Thunderdome, but with ipecac and red currant wine! So scoop the mouse out of the plumb pudding sauce and get ready!

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Longbourn Showdown: Which Pride and Prejudice Version is Better?

My good opinion once lost is lost forever.

Today in my Jane Austen confessional, I admit that I love both recent modern adaptations of Pride and Prejudice–that is to say, both the 1995 BBC version, and the 2005 Keira Knightley version. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, particularly when it comes to casting. I was recently mulling over a glass of gin, watching the lime wedge twirl around inside of it and muttering about what would make the perfect adaptation if only I could breed the two versions and add my own bits. There was a lot of wild gesturing, especially when I got to the bits about the Darcy performances. And since that seemed to keep me distracted for a couple hours, I figure it’s probably time that I put fingers to keyboard and organized my thoughts on the matter, sans gin.

Just to make this fun, let us do this in true showdown fashion. Like Thunderdome, but with more ribbons and carriages.

Elizabeth Bennet

Lizzie Bennets

Jennifer Ehle vs. Keira Knightley

Neither are the perfect Lizzie whom I pictured while reading the book. Ehle’s take on Lizzie is a little too sweet and coy. What is supposed to be a slightly cutting and wry wit is softened maybe just a tad too much. Whereas, Knightley goes too far in the opposite direction, making Lizzie a bit too moody and angry, and worst of all, not terribly clever. Appearance-wise, Knightley is almost entirely wrong. I do love her wardrobe immensely, but she is far, far too skinny for this role and would have been considered sickly looking for the time. In contrast, Ehle is much more fitting. It is only a shame that they did not allow her looks to be a little less formal. I wanted my Lizzie to have a just slightly feral look to her–not quite as buttoned up and pinned as her peers. Still, though I loved Knightley’s chemistry with her Darcy, this one hands down goes to Ehle!

Winner: Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet

Best Elizabeth Bennet


Jane Bennet

The Better Jane Bennet

Susannah Harker vs. Rosamund Pike

Sweet, shy Jane. This is not a terribly challenging role, I imagine, but it is nevertheless important to pull off the perfect tone. Lean the wrong way, and Jane acts like a simple fool, or worse, a simpering lump of clay. And this is where Harker treads ever so slightly. Both Janes are all sweetness and humility, but Harker fails to demonstrate even the mildest passion, even when Jane is hushed away in a bedchamber with her little sister. Too sedate. Pike, on the other hand, was able to achieve the coyness and gentleness of spirit, while still seeming ensnared by the idea of romance. That extra breath of life gives Pike the edge. Plus…you know. Come on, let’s just out with it: There were some beauty issues with Harker. Allow me to declare firmly that Susannah Harker is a true beauty. But the 1995 styling did her no favors–especially in the hair department–and her pregnancy during filming altered her delicate facial features into a more mannish appearance. Trust me, she has my utmost sympathies on this count. While I dislike neither Jane, I must choose but one, so here it is.

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The Greatest Movies of All Time According to The Haunted Coconut

I guess I am a list maker. Ranking, rating, reviewing. Love it. And conceding that this is the case, and that my love of entertainment and fun has left me swirling in a vortex of lists, I had better include the most ubiquitous one there is: The Greatest Movies of All-Time! [echo, echo, echo!]

So here it is, my highly subjective list that is based on criteria including:

  • Star Power
  • Quality Performances
  • Re-watchability
  • Quotable Lines
  • Music
  • Clever Writing
  • Insight into the Human Spirit
  • General Enjoyment

Notice what isn’t on this list: Award and box office numbers. Toss out academic ideas about what was most influential on other filmmakers, which movies defined certain eras, or which roles were the high watermark for a certain performer’s career. I care little about benchmarks or importance, and more about the personal experience–specifically, my personal experience. In fact, the last criterium on my list–“General Enjoyment” is probably the most heavily weighted. Even if a movie is considered a cinematic pile of shit, if it is ceaselessly entertaining, then it matters. A lot. (This is something the Academy Awards will never understand.)

So without further drudgery, I submit to you my list of the greatest movies ever made, according to my own completely subjective, yet excruciatingly perfect opinion:

1. The Godfather & The Godfather Part II

Godfather

Fredo’s banana daiquiris, Sonny’s bridesmaid, the cannoli, Kate’s willful ignorance, Moe Green’s eyeball, the priest renouncing satan, Michael reaching behind the chain toilet, a young Clemenza helping himself to a rug.

2. The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski

The caucasian cocktails, Jesus bowling over the line, the lingonberry pancake-eating nihilists, the porno sketch on the notepad, Dude dancing to a Willie Nelson song, the ferret in the bathtub, and the fucking rug that tied the room together.

3. Spirited Away

spirited away

The soot sprites collapsing under their coal, the alarmist frog being eaten and spat out, the valuable railway ticket, the giant baby hidden in the pillows, the soak tokens for the big tub, the paper birds hitching a ride, a young girl who loves a river spirit, and our beautiful No Face who needs to stay with Granny for his own good.

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Remaking Groundhog Day

I cannot explain it. I have been obsessed lately with the idea that the movie Groundhog Day needs to be remade. With Bill Murray.

There, let’s get that first detail out of the way right now before too many of you roll your eyes about 80s and 90s classics being remade with peppy new soundtracks and overloaded jokes about texting a Twitter to make it au courant. I in no way advocate for a remake starring Mark Wahlberg or Melissa McCarthy. No, we need the man back. The funniest goddamn man on this planet: Bill Murray.

With that in mind, just consider all the ways in which we could elevate a cute, schlocky early-90s comedy into one of the greatest films of all time. The plot is already there–it’s a classic tale of magic, human nature, and redemption. We just need to strip away some of the varnish, the bouncy 90s soundtrack, and all of Andie MacDowell’s vests. And Andie MacDowell, who seriously is just a terrible actress.

People, I have a vision. A grand vision about how this could be brilliant. But there are rules. And none of these rules can be broken, or my adolescence will be retroactively ruined (more than it already was).

Rule #1: It Must Star Bill Murray

The excellent news is that the plot is not reliant at all on him being middle age. As of this posting, he is 66 years old, and the story will still work just perfectly. No reason he can’t have late-in-life new love, right?

bill-murraycurrent

He is still pitch-perfect, devilishly handsome, and the only man who can pull of this role properly. I don’t even know why I need to lay out this argument.