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[Comments] (1) November Film Roundup: Howdy, pardner. Time to round up some cinematic cows! Them's good eating.

Not a lot of films last month, and there wasn't even going to be a Television Spotlight, but it turns out the show we were watching, "The Good Place", doesn't have as many episodes as I'd assumed. We generally only start watching a show once the hype builds to a certain point, which usually gives us two or three seasons to catch up on, but "The Good Place" is so great (and the episodes are only 22 minutes) that the hype started early, we blew through it and we're stuck in the season two mid-season break with everyone else. So now I'm going to use my soapbox to add to the hype. It's really good—the characters change over time, individual episodes burn huge chunks of plot, and every episode ends with a cliffhanger. It's like a Greg Egan novel turned into a sitcom.

For comparison I'm going to bring in a show we watched and loved in the pre-Film Roundup days, "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin". In a sitcom every episode presents the same basic scenario, but "Perrin", along with "The Good Place" and "Arrested Development", create plot arcs by breaking the sitcom reset button and forcing the characters to deal with the consequences of previous revisions of the same basic joke. This also allows the writers to approach the premise of a given sitcom from all different angles. Sumana sums up these three shows as: "What if your karass were also your crab bucket?", which is the subtext of most sitcoms made explicit.

Christmas Movie Counterprogramming: There are Christmas movies, movies that aspire to fill viewers with the Christmas spirit. And then there are movies that are set during Christmas but would rather do something else with your time. The canonical example of the first type of movie is It's A Wonderful Life (1946); the canonical example of the second is Die Hard (1988).

If you're sick of watching It's A Wonderful Life every year, then mixing it up with Die Hard might be nice, but once you open that door you've got a lot of additional possibilities, and watching Die Hard every year just to stick it to Capra fans is silly. As a public service, I've used IMDB data to find the top-rated 'Christmas' movies for use in your holiday counterprogramming.

I used an IMDB data dump (see postscript) to find every movie tagged with the christmas keyword, excluding documentaries, movies with 'Christmas' or 'Holiday' in the title, and movies in Wikipedia's "American Christmas Films" category. I went through what remained and picked out films that were set as a whole over the Christmas holidays or otherwise had a pervasive Christmas element—a lot of top movies like Goodfellas and Full Metal Jacket and Citizen Kane seem to only have one memorable Christmas scene. Here are all the matching films with an IMDB rating of 8.0 or higher.

  1. The Godfather (1972)
  2. The Apartment (1960)
  3. Pelísky (1999)
  4. Plácido (1961)
  5. Jagten (2012)
  6. The Thin Man (1934)
  7. The Lion in Winter (1968)
  8. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
  9. The King's Speech (2010)
  10. Ma nuit chez Maud (1969)
  11. In Bruges (2008)
  12. C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)
  13. Brazil (1985)

I've seen seven of these movies and I'm pretty happy with these results. If I wanted to watch a movie that fits this niche it would definitely be The Apartment, and The Godfather is kind of a marginal case.

Postscript: unfortunately, IMDB changed their data format recently to a format that is a lot easier to parse than what they had before, but which is missing important pieces of information like movie ratings and keywords, which makes a project like this impossible and renders the dataset as a whole nearly devoid of interest. It's been a fun ride, IMDB data dumps. From Ghostbusters Past to Worst Best Picture to The MST3K-IMDB Effect to You Can't Be Serious to I Should Be In That Spoof to Where's that Golden Age? to Worst Episode Ever, the old, hacky, IMDB dumps from an FTP site have provided me with quality data and my readers with much entertainment.

But we all knew it was only a matter of time until someone at Amazon said "Wait a minute..." and had a meeting with someone at IMDB. So from this point on, all of my IMDB projects will use the last full IMDB dump I got, for Ghostbusters Past in early 2015.

[Comments] (2) It Was Twenty Years Ago Today: Way back in the nineties, after it was clear that News You Can Bruise was an ongoing concern, I had the idea that on December 20, 2017, twenty years after the first "notebook entry" that could be called a blog post, I would write an entry with a Sgt. Pepper's reference in the title. This idea thrilled me, more for the glimpse it gave me of the future than anything else. But I was never so thrilled that I, say, set a reminder to make this post, or figured out anything to put in here besides the title and "wow, twenty years, huh?"

So, I missed the deadline by a week and I still don't really have anything to put in here apart from that title joke, which I now find corny, but I'm doing this anyway as a promise kept to my earlier self. This is the 7905th post to News You Can Bruise, and it's not even the least interesting one!

[No comments] December Film Roundup: Happy new year! I feel like my reviews for this month are kind of cranky. Anyway, back to wrestling with this giant whale. From hell's heart I stab at thee!

This will have to suffice for a Television Spotlight: today I went to the museum and watched the solstice episode of "Fraggle Rock". I'd never seen "Fraggle Rock" before and I understand it's kinda didactic but I was not prepared for the sheer heaviness of the humanist message here. They're 'ringing' the Great Bell by using their own little bells to make a resonance chamber out of a bell-shaped empty space. Right? That seems like the correct read here. Unbelievable that they got away with that, but I'm all for it.


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