12/19/2006

All Movie Talk, Episode 12

Posted in Episodes at 5:00 am by Sam

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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Show Notes:

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

See our separate Top 6 entry for more information about our picks.

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.

 
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21 Comments »

  1. Rifty (64) said,

    December 19, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    At one point during the Die Hard segment, Stephen referred to it as a “Quadrilogy.”

    Is that actually the proper word? I’ve always heard the word “Tetrology,” when used to describe movies or books of a four part series.

    Or is it one of those “Use whichever one you want” words?

    -Rifty

  2. Sam (405) said,

    December 19, 2006 at 2:42 pm

    “Tetralogy” is the normal word, yes. “Quadrilogy,” however, was used by 20th Century Fox in marketing their DVD set of the four Alien movies. It’s a neologism, but not Stephen’s. I always liked the sound of “quadrilogy” better, but a little research turns up that it’s not quite consistent, as it uses the Latin root word for “four,” whereas “trilogy” is derived from Greek.

    In reading up on this, I ran across the word “heptalogy,” which is a series of seven, e.g., Narnia, Harry Potter, and The Dark Tower. My inclination would have been “septalogy” or “septualogy,” but that’s switching to Latin again.

  3. Aaron (35) said,

    December 19, 2006 at 6:59 pm

    -In the Biblical Epics segment, it sounded like Sam’s voice was a lot more hushed and quiet than in any other segment so far. Stephen’s voice was just fine. Did anyone else feel that way, and if so was it a technical thing?

    -About One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I had that in high school English class, and we read the book and then afterwards watched the movie. I have to say the movie pales in comparison to the book. The book is much more effective at showing how Nurse Ratched was pretty much the mad, cruel dictator of the entire mental hospital. With that feeling, the battle of wills between McMurphy and Ratched feels much more epic, with McMurphy battling impossible odds.

    -I love how Sam can’t even keep a straight face when Stephen puts up the IMDb message boards as a paragon of authority. Given the things you have kept a straight face about, how bad does that reflect on the boards? (Definitely well deserved, however.)

    -Wonderful Life isn’t just overexposed due to it being showing so often, but also that every television series and their mother has done their own version of it as well. It’s pretty much inescapable.

  4. Stephen (221) said,

    December 19, 2006 at 10:57 pm

    I use quadrilogy mainly to make fun of Fox for the “Alien Quadrilogy” box I have. It’s the dumbest word ever.

  5. Dave (130) said,

    December 20, 2006 at 9:54 pm

    Man, this is kind of a weird series of coincidences regarding the movie “A Christmas Story”.

    They’ve been running ads featuring characters from this movie for awhile now, in which the kid says he wants a Motorolo cell phone with blah blah blah whatever instead of the Red Ryder BB gun. And the universal response is “You’ll run the bill up!”

    I don’t even know how I’ve seen these commercials, as I hardly watch any TV, and when I do watch TV, it’s almost always recorded on my TiVo so I skip the commercials. And I don’t know why they stuck in my head, since I’d never seen the movie before.

    Then on the way to Hawaii after waiting in Phoenix airport for 10 hours a week ago, the in-flight movie was “A Christmas Story”. I immediately recognized the kid from the Motorola commercials, so I stayed up and watched the movie despite the fact that it looked like something I’d totally hate. Of course, I ended up loving it. It’s a great movie, even if you see it on a tiny screen 20 feet away with distorted colors and listen to it through a pair of headphones in which the left ear continually buzzes and crackles.

    Then I get back, and less than a week later Sam does a bit about the movie on AMT. I’m given to understand, after listening to said bit, that this is a pretty popular Christmas movie these days, so the fact that I’ve been exposed to it a bunch over the last few weeks is apparently much less remarkable than the fact that I’d never even heard about the movie before now.

    Anywhere, there you have it.

  6. Ferrick (140) said,

    December 21, 2006 at 1:18 am

    Dave, had you never really heard of or paid attention to A Christmas Story before this? Being you and I are (about) the same age, it is hard to imagine that you wouldn’t notice this movie.

    I was one of the few people to actually see this movie in the theatre. My uncle, dad and brother took me and my cousins to see it on Christmas day. I was about 10 and we all loved it. Ever since then, it has been my absolute favorite Christmas movie.

    I loved listening to Sam talk about it and I think it was summarized very well. You could also have mentioned that it has a great Smash/Match cut in the transition from the Ovaltine scene.

    And it is utterly quotable, as is Die Hard. And I agree with Stephen that Die Hard is definitely a great Christmas movie. It ends with Christmas in Hollis playing so it fits the bill.

    “You should see what it looks like from out here.”

  7. Darien (88) said,

    December 21, 2006 at 4:19 am

    Stephen: You of all people should know that epics are ALWAYS in vogue. NEED MOR PURPLZ PLZ!!!

  8. ThePhan (128) said,

    December 22, 2006 at 10:46 am

    -I have actually never seen A Christmas Story. It keeps being on my list to get when I go to the movie store but never quite makes it home. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen Die Hard either.

    -Re: dares and such other memories of childhood… I never had that much respect for those conventions. When I was eleven, I had a neighbor whose favorite game was Truth or Dare, and she, being a very forceful personality, made me play it with her ALL the time. I always chose Truth and always lied. The seriousness with which she approached that game (as did all my peers) always makes me chuckle, especially given the fact that I just completely blew it off. Pffft. I wasn’t about to tell her the name of the boy I thought was the cutest! That was stupid! But anyway, enough rambling about my childhood…

    -Hmm. The Prince of Egypt was fairly epic for being an animated flick and, as far as I recall (I was a young’un at the time), was fairly big budget. Passion of the Christ was clearly bigger and more hyped up and all, but is it the fact that PoE was animated that keeps it from being mentioned here?

    -JAWS AND STAR WARS RUINED THE WOOOOORLD! That’s what I learned in my film class.

    -Let me get my list ready to mention my favorites from the 70s. The list will be quite short because I haven’t seen very many 70s flicks yet. In 1970, I have only seen films I don’t like, so I refuse to pick.
    1971… I don’t know. I really like Fiddler on the Roof, but more so on stage. Harold and Maude is the one dark movie that actually depressed me. (Usually I just get depressed by happy movies.)
    1972. I don’t like The Godfather because I am a movie heathen. I’m going to choose 1776 (musicals again… but it’s quite a good movie anyway) although I like Sleuth. (After hearing the answer: YES! I WIN!) I didn’t like Cabaret either, actually. I thought it did very strange things with the story and made it much less interesting than it should’ve been.
    1973. If I were determined to just keep choosing musicals, I would choose Godspell. However, I will choose The Sting.
    1974. I’m going to have to go with Young Frankenstein. Fun stuff. Chinatown’s close, though.
    1975. I’ve only seen three flicks of this year, and like all three of them quite a bit. Monty Python might get my pick, because I’d watch it again but not so much Jaws or Cuckoo’s Nest.
    1976. All the President’s Men, no doubt. I have never actually seen Rocky.
    1977. Annie Hall. Although I love Star Wars, I love Annie Hall more.
    1978. I have only seen three weird movies from this year, and two of them are TV movies. So I have to cheat and choose a TV movie, because the filmed version of Amahl and the Night Visitors is simply beautiful, as well as being a CHRISTMAS MOVIE and so it fits.
    1979. Since I’ve only seen Kramer vs. Kramer and The Jerk, it so definitely goes to Kramer.
    I feel so woefully out of the movie scene. I will have to make this all up and watch these movies I’ve never seen.

    -I read a review with Stallone where he basically said something like, “Yeah, I know people are laughing at it. I didn’t like the last one. But the series isn’t really about boxing anyway.”

  9. Sam (405) said,

    December 22, 2006 at 11:34 am

    ThePhan: Wow, nice call on Prince of Egypt. Being animated does put it in sort of a different class as far as the movie-making machine goes. But it is technically a Biblical epic, and its budget was $60 million, twice that of Passion. It made good money — $100 million in the U.S. — but was perceived as a flop, and in Hollywood, perception is everything.

    By the way, I loved that. To date, I still think it’s DreamWorks’s best animated film.

    As for Rocky, although we made fun of it, I admit to being intrigued. Pretty sure Stephen just can’t stop laughing at the trailer, and I don’t blame him, but it does rather feel like a return to form, bizarrely enough.

    What would REALLY be crazy is if Rambo IV didn’t completely reek.

  10. Ferrick (140) said,

    December 22, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    My bro-in-law saw Rocky Balboa last night and liked it. He said it is pretty much an homage to all the other films and wondered how it would come across to someone who has not seen the earlier entries.

    He also said your description of the film was good, but not quite right. But he was laughing because some of it was on target.

    I have seen mixed reviews so far. I probably won’t see it in the theatre.

    Has Stallone written any of the other films besides I and VI?

  11. Sam (405) said,

    December 22, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    Stallone wrote all six of the Rocky movies. This is the fourth he directed; the first and fifth were directed by John G. Avildsen. It’s a mindbender of a thought to contemplate, but I kind of wish Stallone had directed the first movie. Because if he had, maybe he’d have gotten Avildsen’s Best Director Oscar that year…over Martin Scorsese for Taxi Driver, which would just be so awful and hilarious.

  12. Dave (130) said,

    December 22, 2006 at 1:40 pm

    Ferrick: Truly, I had never even heard about A Christmas Story before this year. I was amazed to find out it’s apparently such a popular movie, because although I’m pretty sure I’ve been exposed to some of the elements of the movie (the kid wanting the BB gun and the “you’ll shoot your eye out” thing, and the chinese dudes at the end singing) I never knew where they came from until this year. It’s a great movie, though.

    And I am totally all about Rocky Balboa. I can’t stop watching the trailer. I’ve seen them both like five times now. The whole thing is just completely ludicrous, and yet… I totally want to see it. I can’t explain it, but I think it’s got to be partly a nostalgia thing. And partly, it’s a realization that I’m getting older–Rocky is too old to fight? Well, that means *I* must be too old as well! And that *can’t* be, so GO ROCKY!! BEAT UP THAT YOUNG CHAMP! I’m only in my 30s, and I was only 2 when the original Rocky was released, but in my formative years I watched Rocky beat up on Hulk Hogan and Mr T. and then end the Cold War. I don’t care how bad you think Rocky IV is (and truly, it’s pretty bad) if you were the age I was when I saw it you thought it was great and you still probably don’t hate it as much as everybody else does. And Rocky V doesn’t exist.

    I chuckled listening to the Unseen Movie Review of Rocky Balboa, and I’m sure it’s not exactly going to be high brow fare. But I get to see Rocky kick some ass one last time? I’m down with that. And come on. How can you not love the trainer’s line in the trailer? “To beat this guy, you need speed, but you aint got it. Most of your joints are covered in calcium deposits, so sparring is out. So what we’ll be calling on is blunt force trauma. Let’s start building some HURTING POUNDS.” That’s totally classic stuff there! Plus, it doesn’t matter what you’re showing on the screen, as soon as you start playing the Rocky theme on the soundtrack, I’m hooked.

    The other thing about the Rocky Balboa segment on the show that stuck in my head was Sam’s quip about how it may come as a shock to us to find this out, but Rocky actually *loses* his first fight in the movie, only to win in the end. I laughed at that, but then started thinking about it. It sure sounds like a Rocky cliche, but it actually only happened in one of the five Rocky movies. This is all from my admitedly spotty memory, but here’s how I recall the “big fights” going down in the Rocky movies (spoilers in case you actually haven’t seen the Rocky movies by now–and if you haven’t it’s probably because you don’t even want to, so you probably don’t care):

    Rocky: Rocky vs Apollo Creed: It’s the only fight in the movie, and Rocky loses after going the distance.

    Rocky II: Rocky vs Apollo Creed II: Again, it’s the only fight in the movie, and Rocky wins.

    Rocky III: Rocky vs Clubber Lang: Rocky loses. Rocky vs Clubber Lang II: Rocky wins. This is the one movie where the “cliche” happens.

    Rocky IV: Apollo Creed vs Ivan Drago: Drago wins, and literally kills Creed. Rocky vs Ivan Drago: Rocky wins and ends the Cold War. This one has two fights, but Rocky isn’t involved in the first one except as a corner man.

    Rocky V: Doesn’t exist. But if it DID exist, I’m pretty sure the only fight Rocky is actually involved in is the street fight at the end, which he wins.

    So although it sure *seems* like a cliche, even to me, it only actually happened once that I can tell.

  13. Sam (405) said,

    December 22, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    Dave: Excellent analysis of the Rocky cliche. Yeah, when I made that joke, I was very consciously drawing on more of the impression people have of the Rocky movies, rather than the reality. That said, however, if you look at the movies as single story arc, the formula fits with Apollo Creed, too, it’s just that the two fights are spread out over two movies.

    Neat thought, about the appeal of the new Rocky movie tying into your own feelings about getting older. I can’t say that explains my own inexplicable interest, but I get where you’re coming from. I’m nearly 33 years old, and, seriously, that’s not old. I know it’s old for the Rinkie crowd, but it’s still quite young. And yet, it’s been years now that I’ve been aware of aging in a regressive way. I’m not as in-shape as I was, although certainly that could be remedied if I weren’t so lazy. And while I was never much of an active part of contemporary pop culture, now it’s evolving underneath me instead of next to me.

    Maybe that’s it. Maybe after years of seeing things like Lizzie McGuire and Rugrats and Eragon in the theaters, it’s nice to see Rocky back there again.

  14. Ferrick (140) said,

    December 22, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    Rocky fans will probably enjoy this review.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/061220

  15. Ferrick (140) said,

    December 22, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    I forgot to add, ‘Especially Dave.’

  16. Dave (130) said,

    December 22, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    Yeah, I read Simmons semi-regularly, so I’ve already seen that. And I’d already decided Rocky V didn’t exist before I read his review or his ranking of the Rocky movies that is linked to on the sidebar of that article.

    Simmons is a nut, for reasons other than that he likes Rocky IV the best. But I love that ESPN lets the guy have space on their website to talk about random movies (often only vaugely sports related), tell stories about him and his buddies in Vegas, and basically be the biggest Red Sox and Patriots cheerleader on the internet. Plus, he picks football games, then complains because he gets them wrong even though he has the most ludicrous superstitions and nutty theories that he bases his picks on. It’s good stuff.

  17. Sam (405) said,

    December 22, 2006 at 4:59 pm

    He stole our al Qaeda/Rocky VII joke, the scoundrel.

  18. Ferrick (140) said,

    December 27, 2006 at 6:49 pm

    Simmons is hilarious and a bit crazy, too. There are certain topics of his that I’ll always read and others that I will almost always skip. But since he is in his mid/late 30s, his references often hit home for me. He definitely writes like a fan and he loves TV and the movies.

  19. Dave (130) said,

    December 27, 2006 at 7:11 pm

    He’s a little too into the NBA for my tastes. Although I appreciate his defense of NBA players against the claims that they’re “thugs”, I just don’t like basketball nearly as well as he does and wish he’d talk about sports that don’t actually suck more often.

  20. L3 (3) said,

    January 7, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    I think when talking of the Biblical Epics you got one thing wrong. Though I agree that people overreact much to much and I do not really care either way about the movies, it is unfair to compare it to Shakespear, as no one’s believes are based on Shakespear and no one believes Shakespear to be the word of God……I hope.

  21. Stephen (221) said,

    January 7, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    L3, that was my whole point — it’s a dicier proposition to adapt the Bible than Shakespeare, because the Bible is such a central part of the beliefs of many. I wasn’t saying that it’s right or wrong for people to get upset over biblical adaptations, only that they do.

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