Show contents, with start times:
- Film Spotlight: A Christmas Story (1:59)
- Trivia Question: I Present Myself an Oscar (11:41)
- Industry Trend: Biblical Epics (12:29)
- Best of the Year: 1970-1979 (24:25)
- Unseen Movie Review: Rocky Balboa (37:36)
- Trivia Answer: I Present Myself an Oscar (43:39)
- Top 6: Naughty and Nice Christmas Movies (45:07)
- Film Spotlight: Die Hard (58:56)
- Closing: Preview of Next Week (66:44)
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Film Spotlight: A Christmas Story
You’ll shoot your eye out! We begin this extra special Christmas episode with a look at a beloved Christmas movie that took a while to become a huge hit, only really picking up traction after repeated annual showings on TV. No, we’re not talking about It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) but rather A Christmas Story (1983), a film that’s funny and sweet without ever being too sappy.
It’s probably the film that best captures the spirit of being a kid during the holidays. The film’s unlikely director is Bob Clark, whose prior resume includes Christmas horror story Black Christmas (1974) and teen sex comedies Porky’s (1982) and Porky’s 2: The Next Day (1983).
The movie is based on the writings of Jean Shepherd, who also wrote the screenplay. The film’s star is Peter Billingsley, who gives one of the rarest performances in the movies: a believable job by a child actor.
If you’ve seen the movie, you love it. If you haven’t seen it, it airs on cable constantly during the holidays, so you have no excuse.
Trivia Question: I Present Myself an Oscar
We don’t know why the Academy allowed a presenter to present the award for a category in which he was a nominee, but they did, and the identity of our mystery person makes for a good bit of trivia that’s about both the Oscars and Christmas.
Industry Trend: Biblical Epics
Bible stories have inspired a great number of different films, notably grand, expensive epics. Interestingly, though, they were made in clumps during relatively brief phases of popularity, first in the 1920s and again in the 1950s and early 1960s. With The Passion of the Christ becoming a smash hit in 2004, we’re starting to see a third wave of biblically-inspired films, although not with the same huge budgets.
Some of the noteworthy Bible epics of the past include:
- The 1910s-1920s
- Intolerance (1916), by director D. W. Griffith, is the first big budget movie. It interweaves four separate thematically-related stories. One of these, admittedly the shortest of the four, is about the life of Christ, culminating in his crucifixion and resurrection.
- The Ten Commandments (1923), by director Cecil B. DeMille, is one of the first blockbusters. The first half tells the story of Moses and used innovative and visually spectacular special effects to part the Red Sea. The second half is a parable that takes place in the modern day.
- Ben-Hur (1925), directed by Fred Niblo, became the highest grossing film of the silent era, raking in $4.5 million and earning money despite its then-astronomical $3.9 million budget. It was an astonishing spectacle in its day, and the imagery still has the power to impress, particularly the sea battle sequence, which was filmed with a record 48 cameras, and the chariot race scene, which landed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most edited scene: 267 feet of footage was shot for every one foot that made it into the finished film.
- The King of Kings (1927), directed by Cecil B. DeMille, tells the story of the life of Christ.
- The 1950s-1960s
- The Ten Commandments (1956), Cecil B. DeMille’s remake of the first half of his own 1923 film, was at least as spectacular in its day as the original was in its. Adjusted for inflation, the film is one of the highest grossing films of all time, and it gave Charlton Heston his most famous role.
- Ben-Hur (1959) was made by the great director William Wyler, who was one of 40 assistant directors on the original 1925 film. It was filmed in Ultra Panavision 70, an ultra-wide widescreen format with a 2.76:1 aspect ratio, much wider than films made since, which are mostly either 1.85:1 or 2.35:1. The chariot race sequence, almost a shot-for-shot reproduction of the chariot race in the 1925 film, is one of the most spectacular action scenes in history.
- King of Kings (1961), directed by Nicholas Ray, remade DeMille’s 1927 film.
- The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), by director George Stevens, also tells the story of the life of Jesus. Despite a massive cast of big names in small roles, in the vein of Around the World In 80 Days (1956) and The Longest Day (1962), it was a box office failure and signaled the end of the second wave of biblical epics.
- The 2000s
- The Passion of the Christ (2004), directed by Mel Gibson, depicts the brutal torture inflicted upon Jesus during his scourging and subsequent crucifixion. It became the highest grossing R-rated film and the highest grossing religious film of all time. In the U.S., it became the highest grossing foreign language film, the languages being Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew.
- The Nativity Story (2006), directed by Catherine Hardwicke, tells the story of the birth of Jesus. For more information, see Sam’s review.
Best of the Year: 1970-1979
Unseen Movie Review: Rocky Balboa
It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of getting up several times in the night to use the bathroom. Rocky’s back and pushing 60, but that doesn’t mean he can’t stand up against the current boxing heavyweight world champion! Heartwarming fluff about defying the odds overcomes all reason and logic in Rocky Balboa (2006). Isn’t that what the Hollywood version of Christmas is all about?
To be fair, we haven’t actually seen the movie. But that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it like we have. We have at least as much authority as the IMDb message boards for the movie.
Top 6: Naughty and Nice Christmas Movies
Film Spotlight: Die Hard
The best Christmas movie ever made (according to Stephen) is just like Die Hard (1988) but in an office building. Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman star in the heartwarming tale of a lone cop who must kill a building full of European terrorists in order to save his wife on Christmas Eve. Ho, ho, ho, now I have a machine gun.