A lot of material to get through, so strap yourselves in.
The Holiday Shit
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A
A Christmas Story, A
Die Hard, A+
A Charlie Brown Christmas, B
South Park: Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo, A
The Office, see here
Holiday Baking Championship
Lorenzo and Juliana were the most impressive competitors all season. Lorenzo is crazy talented for his age, and always taking his baking interesting angles. Juliana matched him, possesing amazing skills and creativity for a home baker. She was a worthy champion.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Tons of references/influences, but somehow it all works. Not strictly a Christmas movie, but rather one that takes place at Christmas. But as a movie the entire family can watch together, it ends up being an ideal show for the season.
The Holiday Movies That Made Us: Elf
There is some good trivia in here about the holiday classic. But the way the information is presented made the show hard to watch. The producers tried to be way too clever in how they cut up the interviews and voiceovers.
Shorts, Shows, and Movies
Dua Lipa: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert
Over the past couple years I’ve given over the car radio to the girls, with some caveats. I’ve put in a few “hits” stations as favorites and we listen to those on rides to and from school. So I’ve heard 8 million Post Malone, Lizzo, and Ariana plays over that span. A lot of the artists kind of run together. I knew Dua Lipa’s name, but not sure I can always connect her name with her songs. I saw her on a lot of Best Of lists for both songs and albums for 2020, so when her Tiny Desk (Home) Concert popped up, I decided to give it a try. What a delightful performance! What a dynamic presence she has. Yes, she’s tall and gorgeous with a fine voice. But what struck me most was how she carries herself with a glorious, bubbly confidence that more women in this world need.
I’m ashamed to admit I had not watched this until last month. It was a first class mind fuck and I loved it.
Bruce Springsteen’s Letter To You
A documentary companion to Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You album, it showed the Boss and the E. Street Band in the studio last year banging the songs out. He still plays with a remarkable energy, but the man is 71, and it shows. The songs are still pretty great, but the sections when Bruce speaks suffer. He’s always been long-winded. Thank goodness Bob Dylan told him back in the early ‘70s that he used too many words in his songs.
A- for the music/B- for the spoken parts
How Tag Became a Professional Sport
This is the good shit right here.
The Vast of Night
A quirky, low-budget thriller set in late 1950s New Mexico and presented as if from a Twilight Zone knock-off of the same era. Some parts of it, especially the end, are fabulous. And the camera work is excellent, with several exceptionally long takes. But other parts of it are very slow and keep this from being a great movie.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Based on one of the greatest spy novels ever written, this was extremely difficult to follow for the first hour as it constantly jumps around. Sometimes a scene would include just a single spoken sentence before it leapt to a completely different shot. But it all comes together nicely as Gary Oldman finds a mole in the 1970s British intelligence service. Ironically I watched this just hours before John le Carré’s death was announced.
A really interesting documentary about the Griffins, a family who spent most of the 1960s and early 1970s at sea. It is told from the perspective of the mother, Nancy, in interviews done in the final year of her life and almost entirely through the film they shot on their trips. I used to be fascinated by people who sailed around the world. It’s pretty sobering to see how difficult life on a sailboat actually was.
The Barkley Marathons
The Barkley Marathons is an annual race in the woods and hills of eastern Tennessee. When this movie was shot, only ten people had ever completed its full 130 mile course within the 60 hour window. The filmmakers caught a break and saw three people finish this insane race, the winner breaking the previous record by over an hour. Even back when I ran a lot and had way more energy, I don’t think I could have even completed even a single loop of this race.
So you have Gal Gadot, the woman for whom the term “Galacticly Hot” may have been invented. You have Kristen Wiig, one of the funniest people on the planet. And somehow you still make a movie that is plodding, bloated, and has you hoping for the finish not to see how it ends but so you can stop watching. Pedro Pascal was very good, but it’s like he was acting in a completely different movie than everyone else. He was cartoonish and over-the-top where everything else was reserved and somber. A disappointment.
Bee Gee’s: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart
I heard raves about this and since we have HBOMax for a month – we got it so L could watch WW84 – I figured I would check it out. I knew much of the Bee Gee’s story already from a podcast I listened to a year or so back. But it was interesting to see interviews with the brothers rather than a narrator telling their story. I don’t know that it breaks much new ground, and I’m betting they had more struggles than just not getting along for a year or so in the early ‘70s. But the music, man… You can argue they are one of the most unfairly judged bands ever, given how they took the brunt of the backlash against disco. What they did from 1975–1979 was as good as any band outside the Beatles has ever done.
A+ for the music, B for the content
Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo
I watched this about a year ago with L, when we were watching a bunch of space shows together. I was pushed to watch it again by the podcast listed below.
Spies in Disguise
Third time L and I have watched this in the last 12 months.
Our New Year’s Eve movies. Not great but not terrible either, and L enjoyed both, which was the point.
Casino Royale , A
Quantum of Solace, B
I went on a mini-Bond run right after Christmas, re-watching the Daniel Craig movies and capping it with a trip back to one of Sean Connery’s best. That was a mistake; if you want to watch old Bonds you need to watch them on their own, not after watching a bunch of new ones. They look awfully dated and cheesy in comparison. I debated whether to watch From Russia With Love, my favorite Connery edition, but decided not to ruin it. And somehow I don’t think I had ever watched Spectre. It was kind of a mess. Here’s to No Time To Die being more like Casino Royale and Skyfall, my two favorite Bond films, and ending the Craig era properly.
13 Minutes to the Moon
A BBC podcast that aired a year ago for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 flight to the moon. I meant to listen to it then but never got around to it. Picked it back up after I saw a recent recommendation for it. It focuses on the final 13 minutes of the LEM’s trip to the moon’s surface. Over 10 episodes they set up everything that led to that sequence and break down little moments in the sequence. Then, the final two episodes are a guided trip through the 13 minutes, then an episode where they play all the NASA audio from the 13 minutes without any commentary. It’s a brilliant way of setting things up so, by episode 11, you can listen into the tapes from 1969 and have an idea what is going on. And it is just another reminder of how freaking amazing the Apollo program was.
Two Broke Watch Snobs
I’ve been dabbling in the horological information space a bit over the past couple months. I still love my Apple Watch but I also love regular watches, and have been debating whether I should be rewarded with a nice mechanical watch of some variety when I mark 50 years on this earth later this year. TBWS is the most irreverent watch podcast out there and highly entertaining whether you care about watches or not.
American Top 40 Year End Countdowns
For much of December 29–31 and listened to the AT40 station on iHeart Radio as they worked through the Top 100 Songs shows of the late 1970s. My constant complaint of this station is that they don’t play enough late ‘70s shows. Listening to these scratched that itch rather nicely.
For grins I tracked how deep I could go into each countdown before I came across a song I could not immediately recognize. Here’s how it broke down:
I think I need some more weekly countdowns from 1978 because that year clearly resonated with me.