BRONX, NY – Before I start today’s column, let’s get some housekeeping items out of the way. Tomorrow kicks off Hanukkah (sending latkes of love to all of our Jewish friends!) and there’s only 16 more days until Christmas! In short, the holidays are ON like Donkey Kong! For me, it’s a time to watch as many of my favorite seasonal movies as possible because, come December 25th, they all seem stale. Here’s a quick rundown of what I’ll be watching, how it might apply to sports teams or figures, and a final quick thought on the movie itself. Roll ’em!
It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947). Going to start with this (mostly) obscure title, because I watched it on Turner Classic Movies the other night. Basically, it’s about a bunch of squatters (none of them Short Matt) who take over a rich Irishman’s mansion on Fifth Avenue while he winters in Virginia. Friendships are made, lesson’s are learned, etc. Knicks fans would love it if James Dolan would abandon his team and the Garden for warmer climes so that they could take over the whole shooting match, even though the Knicks can’t shoot. (Ha!) As for the movie, it’s a solid if unspectacular flick, but I’m a sucker for New York stories.
Home Alone (1990). This movie is now 30 years old! Jeez! You don’t need any plot points here. You know it well. The Jets’ Adam Gase and recently sh!tcanned Gregg Williams are the hapless cat burglars and Kevin McCallister is the rest of the NFL, beating the holy sh!t out of these fools. It’s good torturous holiday fun. The most underrated scene in this movie is John Candy’s polka musician character commiserating with Kevin’s Mom about mistakenly leaving a kid behind.
The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942). Perhaps the most underrated Christmas movie of them all, The Man Who Came to Dinner might be my personal favorite. A famously difficult New York radio personality slips and falls while visiting a small town in Ohio and ends up spending Christmas with an unwitting and over-matched family. Monty Woolley plays Sheridan Whiteside, a man who will stop at nothing to bend people to his wants, use others to accomplish his goals, and not worry at all about anyone outside of himself. Sounds like Bill Belichick to me but, trust me, way funnier. If you haven’t seen this film it’s currently on HBO Max and will most likely turn up on TCM soon.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Seeing a pattern here? Clearly the best Christmas movies were made in the 1940s. We don’t need to recap this one either, do we? It’s wayyyyy too early to paint Steve Cohen as George Bailey, but I think it’s fair to say the Mets, under Wilpon ownership, were residing in Pottersville. I find it hard to watch this one beginning-to-end anymore, but I’m always down for the final 45 minutes or so. My kid gets a kick out of seeing me get choked up.
The Ref (1994). Even with the since-disgraced Kevin Spacey in the cast, this is one of those dark holiday films that really holds up. Among insufferably entitled Gold Coast white families, inept cops, and the “family from hell,” you actually get to root for the crook in this one. Denis Leary plays it like former Baltimore Orioles manager, Earl Weaver: chain-smoking, dropping expletives, just looking for a way to turn this situation into a win. If you’re tired of Die Hard, this is a good substitute—characters dying by a million paper cuts, rather than bullets and explosives.
Love Actually (2003). Had to mention this one. Here are the stories in this film. 1. Old Rocker stages a lame comeback and ends up being hot sh!t again, groupies, etc. 2. British Prime Minister ends up with his curvy, much-younger staffer. 3. Middle-aged Dad cheats on wife with young assistant and gets welcomed back at the end. 4. Guy’s wife cheats on him with his brother, he ends up asking his housekeeper to marry him, she says “yes.” 5. Guy meets girl as stand-ins on an adult film set and end up dating. (*Note: this is the sweetest of the storylines.) 6. Woman loves a guy in her office but can’t close the deal because her mentally-disturbed brother won’t stop calling her. 7. Guy pines for the new wife of his best friend and eventually tells her how he feels in a shameless attempt to impress her. 8. Little boy learns to play the drums so he can win the love of a girl who will soon be moving away, meanwhile his widower stepdad ends up with Claudia Schiffer. 9. Dorky young English guy who has no luck with British ladies, takes off for the United States and ends up having a “moresome” with a gaggle of not-so-bright hot chicks in Wisconsin. I can’t even think of a sports equivalent here! Maybe Tiger Woods before he got caught? Amazing how many women love this movie.
OK, I ran way long on this. Sorry. A whole bunch more I wanted to mention. Maybe next week?
Come back tomorrow for Buddy Diaz, whose favorite holiday movie is Caillou’s Christmas.