Monday, March 25, 2013

17 Reasons Why You Need To See Lawrence of Arabia


REPOST FROM A FEW YEARS AGO, IN HONOR OF SIR DAVID LEAN'S BIRTHDAY

Greatest movie of all time, and here's a bunch of reasons why. Most of this has been taken from either IMDb or Wiki:

1) Almost all movement in the film goes from left to right. David Lean said he did this to emphasize that the film was a journey. (See Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and you will notice that the "good guys" at the end of the film are moving from right to left when attacking the Separatist army. This was done purposely.)

2) They named a lens after David Lean because they figured out a way to film a close-up of a mirage for this movie. To film Omar Sharif's entrance through a mirage, Freddie Young used a special 482mm lens from Panavision. Panavision still has this lens, and it is known among cinematographers as the "David Lean lens." Check out the scene HERE.

3) During an appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (1962) in the 1970s, Peter O'Toole was describing just how long the movie took to make by referring to the scene when Lawrence and Gen. Allenby, after their meeting, continue talking while walking down a staircase. According to O'Toole, part of the scene had to be reshot much later, "so in the final print, when I get to the bottom of the stairs, I'm a year older than I was when I started walking down them."

4) The rescue of Gasim from the Nefu Desert, followed shortly by the greatest line of all time: "Nothing is written."

5) Shooting began on 15 May, 1961 and ended on 20 October, 1962.

6) The use of the locations in AlmerĂ­a, Spain for the train sequences and others made that region popular with international film makers. Most famously, it became the setting of virtually all of the Spaghetti Westerns of the '60s and '70s, specifically those of Sergio Leone. (Watch The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for the scene where Tuco forces Blondie to walk through the desert.)

7) Steven Spielberg considers this his favorite movie of all time, and the one which convinced him to become a film maker.

8) Screenwriter William Monahan, who scripted Kingdom of Heaven and The Departed is a fan of Robert Bolt and has stated on numerous occasions that viewing Lawrence is what inspired him to be a screenwriter. When he was awarded the Oscar for his work on The Departed, he remarked how great it was to win with Peter O'Toole in the audience, because Lawrence of Arabia was the greatest screenplay he'd ever read.

9) Perhaps the second most famous (I myself prefer it to the one from 2001) match cut comes from Lawrence of Arabia where an edit cuts together Lawrence blowing out a match with the desert sun rising from the horizon. Director David Lean credits inspiration for the edit to the experimental French New Wave. The edit was later praised by Steven Spielberg as inspiration for his own work. Watch it HERE.

10) "Who are you?"

11) Back to Spielberg: David Lean once screened Lawrence of Arabia with Steven Spielberg. Lean gave Spielberg a "live director's commentary." Spielberg said it was one of the best moments of his life, learning from a true master. Consequently, Spielberg stated that it helped him make better pictures and that commentary directly influenced every movie he has made since.

12) It's an epic that ends on a downbeat.

13) TE Lawrence is considered by many historians to be a somewhat enigmatic figure. Instead of doing the typical Hollywood thing, the creators of the film did not give us an explanation so much as a riddle to puzzle over. Producer Sam Spiegel once explained that the purpose behind the movie was not to solve the mystery of who Lawrence of Arabia was, but rather to perpetuate it.

14) The score. RIP Maurice Jarre.

15) The raid on Aqaba.

16) "No prisoners!"

17) Though it deals with philosophy, politics, religion, World War I, and foreign policy - and deals with all these things wonderfully - the film essentially boils down to one thing: the question of personal identity.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas or Saturnalia?

Repost from a few years ago. Can't believe I've been on blogger this long.

Don't you love hypothetical questions?

If you could choose, which holiday would you celebrate this year--Christmas or Saturnalia? And no, Festivus isn't an option.

I've done a little bit of research on both, so I could make an informed decision. As in, I spent five minutes on Wikipedia. Not surprisingly, Christmas and Saturnalia have more than a few commonalities. (Gee, wonder why.)

After much thought, Saturnalia gets my vote.

What's that? Are you laughing? Well, sir, just hear me out. Before you scoff at the idea, at least pause to consider what Saturnalia has to offer:

-A week-long holiday
-Tomfoolery
-Conventional sacrifices
-School holiday
-Small presents (But I'm not sure if Guitar Hero counts as a small present)
-Special market
-Gambling for everybody!
-Reversal of social roles (You can tell your boss what you really think of him/her)

Doesn't sound half bad. And, you're not required to wear a toga for Saturnalia. That's right. Instead, you'd wear the synthesis, which I hear is much more comfortable AND flattering.

With Saturnalia, you still get all the benefits of Christmas (gifts, school holiday) with some added bonuses, like tomfoolery and sacrifices. Seriously, can one ever get enough tomfoolery? And I think this world could do with more sacrifices. Perhaps regularly-scheduled sacrifices would satiate the blood-lust inherent in man so there would be no more war.

Then there's the fact that you're not required to risk your life hanging lights on the roof all of which, may I remind you, have to come down in less than a month.

Saturnalia doesn't require the creation of scores of Christmas cards to send out to family members you see, if you're lucky (take that how you want), once a year.

Given the choice between a one-day, or at best, a one-and-a-half day if you count Christmas Eve, celebration and a week-long celebration, well, I think you know where I'm headed with this...

Saturnalia.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gene Roddenberry Called It

The science community has been buzzing of late about the Voyager probes' impending (did it already happen?) departure from the heliosphere. Launched 35 years ago, Voyager's primary mission was to visit the outer planets. The two craft performed flybys of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune and for the last 23 years have continued along their trajectories toward the edge of the solar system. It looks like V'GER will become the first ship to leave our solar system and enter interstellar space.

If you're asking me what V-GER is, you're not a Trekkie. V'GER was the fictional Voyager 6 craft that appeared in Star Trek: The (Slow) Motion Picture (I'm still yawning) and wreaked all kinds of sci-fi havoc on the Klingons and the Federation. According to Kirk, its purpose was to transmit data back to Earth but eventually it disappeared into a black hole. The real Voyager crafts aren't headed for any black holes that we know of but they'll one day both leave the solar system. Who knows what they'll find. Preliminary data received from Voyager 1 as it navigates the heliosheath is already forcing astrophysicists to reevaluate some of their long-standing assumptions about the edge of the solar system and interstellar space.

BTW, I dig the poster for the upcoming Star Trek movie even though the Dark Knight influence is obvious.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

David Stern Doesn't Understand Basic Exercise Science

In a controversial, dunder-headed move, NBA Commissioner David Stern imposed a $250,000 fine on the San Antonio Spurs for resting four of its five starters against the Miami Heat last week. Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich, one of basketball's sharpest minds (I'll take him over Phil Jackson), made the decision to give his better players the night off because it was their fourth game in five nights.

Stern claimed the sanctions were imposed because the team had not informed the league ahead of time of the "one-day vacation" the players were going to take, although no such onus is placed on Coach Pop or the Spurs by NBA rules. In truth, the move rankled Stern because it was a marquee match-up between two high-caliber teams who might be meeting in the NBA finals this season, so obviously the game was nationally televised.

There are many layers to this which I won't go into here, but Pop's decision was sound. You see this in other sports frequently, especially in baseball, and basketball should be no different. In fact, the wear and tear athletes face on a basketball court is just as bad, and probably worse, than that endured on a baseball diamond, even though the MLB season is 162 games compared to the NBA's 82. Factor in that the Spurs are an old team compared to most of the other title contenders, and Pop's decision is all the smarter.

Many are clamoring that Pop should have just rested his guys during the last two weeks leading up to the playoffs, presumably when they had their playoff berth locked. And Stern's choice of words in his sanction, referring to the fact that this was an early-season game, reflects this myopic thinking.

I'm no physiologist but I've run two marathons and another middle distance race so I've paid attention to what the sports scientists are saying. You rest before you're tired. You hydrate before you're thirsty. With such a long, grueling season, the NBA athlete's body will break down, it's only a question of when. If you rest your guys early, you stave off that breakdown. Waiting till the last two weeks of the season to do it is useless. Most athletes will be beyond the point of no return by then and missing four or five games won't be a difference-maker. Ignore the principle of rest-early and you increase the risk of injury. It's that simple and any high school trainer will tell you this and yet Stern, the man in charge of a multi-million (billion?) sports business, does not.

Stern is peeved because it was a nationally-televised game and Pop's move probably hurt viewership. But Stern's thinking and punishment were short-sided--the healthier the Spurs are, the better they will be in the playoffs. And that will maximize ratings for Stern.

Never mind the fact that the Spurs almost won the game against the Heat anyway, or that Pop wanted his best guys hale for their upcoming match-up with their Western conference challengers, the Memphis Grizzlies, a much more important outcome for the Spurs come playoff-time.

Some have argued that Pop should have rested two guys one night, then two guys the next. But that's statistically nonsensical. Why increase your chances of losing two games as opposed to just one?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

If a window breaks, but nobody's there to hear it, does Falling Glass make a sound?

To answer this new variant on the old, ponderous, essentially pointless question that has baffled Philosophy 101 students for decades, Falling Glass doesn't just make a sound. It begins with a thunderous roar and never lets up.

Falling Glass is not Adrian McKinty's latest crime thriller, but it is his most recent to be released in the US as of tomorrow. If, like me, you worship at the darkly comic and violently poetic altar of McKinty and wear your fanboyness unabashedly on your sleeve, then you probably already purchased your copy through international channels. If this is the first you're hearing of the book, or of McKinty himself, then I'm really jealous of you.

This book represents a return of sorts to McKinty's Dead Trilogy, which I blogged about before. A minor character from that universe plays the lead here: Killian, a Pavee or Traveller, is forced by the economic downturn and burst housing bubble in Ireland to return to the Life. On the payroll of an Irish millionaire businessman, Killian takes on a wandering wife and kiddies job, but of course nothing is at it ever seems in the world of the thriller and before you know it Killian's own life is in danger as he must outwit a Russian ex-mercenary and ...

Okay, gotta stop myself there before I give away the entire plot. If you love crime fiction, if you love nuanced characters, if you love dark humor, if you love language itself, buy this book and you won't be disappointed.

As an aside, McKinty maintains a great blog and takes the time to respond to comments from readers. Most authors don't do this but McKinty makes himself accessible to all, always one to enjoy the craic so to speak.

By the way, the answer to that dumb old question, does a tree that falls in the woods make a sound if no one's there to hear it, is yes, of course it makes a sound. As my good buddy Mark, a pragmatic engineer who cuts through BS sophistry with a chain saw on a regular basis, once explained to a roomful of drunk undergrads many, many moons ago: sound is a wave. There are plenty of sound waves that man cannot hear but we still consider them sounds. A tree that collides with a forest floor will produce some kind of sound wave, doesn't matter if it's loud enough to hear or if there's anybody there to hear it.

Or something like that. I don't remember. I might have been drunk.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Kipper Jumped The Shark

One of Fiona's favorite shows is Kipper the Dog, which is part of Sprout's Good Night Show line-up. Or, at least this WAS one of Fee's favorite shows until we watched the episode where the UFO showed up.

In an eerily mature voice, my two-and-a-half-year-old turned to me with sad, disappointed eyes and said, "Kipper-shar ... Kipper-shar," which translates into Adultese as, "Kipper Jumped the Effing Shark."

It took a moment for me to realize she was right. It's not that I have anything against a good alien invasion / first contact story. In fact, my favorite Spielberg flick is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. What bothered me most was that the show had, heretofore, strove for a measure of verisimilitude. You know, Kipper loses his balloon, or Arnold has a birthday party, or the gang goes on a lovely picnic. Things like that. I respect that kind of gritty realism in a show. It takes bottle to find drama in the quotidian, but when it's done well, it makes for compelling TV. You know, like on The Wire. On a show where reality is king and the writers typically respect the audience, suddenly throwing a UFO into one of the storylines is like ... suddenly throwing an alien into one of the story lines.

It bothered Fiona that the extraterrestrial visitor was not a malevolent, would-be conqueror. Excitedly, she said, "Steve Hawk! Steve Hawk!" Of course, she was referring to Stephen Hawking's recent warning about first contact with aliens. As Mr. Hawking posits, "the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans." We all know that if aliens visit, they'll have vastly superior technology, which will leave us at their mercy.

But I'll take it a step further. The chances that we will ever make contact with intelligent life from another planet are close to zero. Yes, I know there are billions of stars and billions more worlds out there and all that math means there is probably life out there. But the chances of that life evolving into something intelligent enough to traverse the vast universe and come to our planet, while we are still around ... that's a sucker's bet that the house in Vegas could turn a tidy profit on.

But back to Fiona's criticism of the show, I didn't know whether to be proud of her for calling out the sloppy writing or embarrassed at not having caught it myself. But Sweet Fee was right: Kipper had jumped the shark. And we faced a difficult decision: overlook the artistic gaffe so we could enjoy future episodes or take a hard line and tune instead to more intelligent programming. The jury is still out ...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The deadliest trap is the one you set for yourself, copy editor.

I've been on a Raymond Chandler kick recently, and the hard-boiled, hard-living, hard-to-like alkie might just have become my favorite writer of all time. Anyway, here's a glimpse of the personality behind some of the greatest American noir--and fiction--writing of all time. In this angry missive, Chandler is calling out some pesky editor who wants to unsplit some of his infinitives and expurgate some of his more colorful language. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Interview With Local Author Donna Galanti


I had the pleasure of meeting author Donna Galanti a little more than a year ago. We first crossed paths at the Writers Coffeehouse, a monthly meeting for writers, aspiring writers, and other artists run by The Liars Club, and then were classmates in Jonathan Maberry and Marie Lamba's YA in 9 Months fiction workshop. Donna's a great writer, and I'm stoked to report that her novel, A Human Element is now available! Donna's book has been getting a ton of positive buzz on the interwebs, and she was kind enough to "sit down" for an interview with yours truly.

Without further ado, and now that I've gotten my obnoxious name-dropping out of the way in the first paragraph, here's the Q&A:

Q: A reviewer in the blogosphere read A Human Element and compared you to Dean Koontz. Do you see the similarities between this story and some of his stories? Are you a fan of Koontz's work?

Donna: I am thrilled that readers are comparing me to Dean Koontz. I can only aspire to write like such a master. I am a huge fan of Koontz, especially of his earlier work. My book has a mix of elements in it as his novels do. It can’t be put in a box. I write with a similar mix to Koontz as well: sci-fi, horror, paranormal, and suspense. I don’t focus on what genre my book is when I write it though. I just write the story that comes naturally to me.

Q: How did the idea for A Human Element come to you?

Donna: I always want to say some deep insightful thing to say here ... but the story just came to me in a flash one day as I was driving. I wrote the entire synopsis down, the first two chapters, and then shelved it for more than a decade.

Q: I read that the heroine of the novel, Laura Armstrong, is adopted, like you were. How much did your personal experiences inform the character?

Donna: Being adopted did tie into Laura and the other characters. When you’re adopted you can feel like you don’t have blood roots. You can roam around trying to find where you belong. I did this throughout my life. Some of my characters do the same thing. I connect with the nomad, the outsider, the alone one. Feeling abandoned is also an issue adopted children can have and it can be hard for them to commit to a relationship and fully trust. Three characters are abandoned in the novel and deal with it in extremely different ways. It colors their lives – good and bad.

Q: Is this book a standalone or can we expect a sequel?

Donna: I am in the middle of the sequel right now called A Hidden Element. There will be another fun villain in it that shatters the life of one family. When a son is taken, the family discovers it’s by the same unearthly evil that brutalized them fifteen years ago. In a race to stop a mad man, they unravel his frightening mission that binds them all together. But the killer’s desire to destroy them leads to a survival showdown that puts their son’s future to the test. They must sacrifice all again to defeat a new terrifying enemy – an enemy that wants to rule the world, with their son as his heir.

Q: You signed a deal with Echelon Press for A Human Element. Could you explain how that relationship developed?

Donna: I met my publisher, Karen Syed with Echelon Press, at the first writer’s conference I went to in March, 2011. It was wonderful how A Human Element released in March, 2012, a year later, while I was at the same conference. There is a full circle satisfaction in that for me. Karen worked with me on developmental edits before I even signed so I knew she was invested. I signed a contract with Echelon in September, 2011.

Q: Where can readers purchase a copy of A Human Element?

Donna: Right now it’s available online in paperback on Amazon and ebook at most outlets. It’s also in my local bookstore, The Doylestown Bookshop.

Paperback:
Createspace
Amazon

Ebook:
Smashwords
Omnilit
Barnes and Noble
Amazon

Q: What other proverbial irons do you have in the fire? I've heard something about this kick-ass YA novel ...

Donna: Brian, love your description there! LOL. Yes, I am finalizing a YA book I wrote in our Write a YA Novel in 9 Months Class. I wrote it for my son and fell in love with it along the way. It’s called Joshua and The Lightning Road, and has the potential for a series. Watch for this in the next year or so! Here’s a summary of it.

Lightning never strikes by chance. Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns this the hard way when a bolt strikes his house, grabs his friend, and whisks him away—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world that steals children. New friends come to Joshua's aid. While battling monsters and fending off the child collector, Joshua discovers powers he never knew he possessed and that his earthly family is linked to this world. Reeling from the implication he may be the half-breed foretold to save this realm, Joshua’s mission becomes more than a search for his friend – it becomes the battle of his life.


Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?

Donna: Being a writer is constant learning and improving your craft. You may write a good book but you still need other elements like professional editing skills, a good cover, marketing savvy, and involved with social media. That being said, at times you need to turn off the Internet and just write. Also, writers cannot go it alone. You may write alone but you can’t learn alone, improve alone, or become known alone. Join a writer’s organization, go to workshops and conferences, network with other writers. There is a wonderful camaraderie amongst writers. We want to help each other and we have wisdom and advice to share collectively. Most importantly, when getting a first draft down do not go back and edit. The first draft is brain spew. Get it down and then go back and polish, otherwise you’ll never finish. This is the obstacle I overcame to write my first book.

Q: How do you feel about the e-book revolution?

Donna: I love it! Most of my sales are ebooks. It truly makes books accessible, and affordable, for people across demographics. I do admit I prefer to hold a print book in my hand, but having my Kindle allows me to purchase and read a book of choice anywhere.

Thanks for having me on Brian!

About A HUMAN ELEMENT:
One by one, Laura Armstrong’s friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. The savage killer haunts her dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next.

Determined to find the killer, she follows her visions to the site of a crashed meteorite–her hometown. There, she meets Ben Fieldstone, who seeks answers about his parents’ death the night the meteorite struck. In a race to stop a mad man, they unravel a frightening secret that binds them together. But the killer’s desire to destroy Laura face-to-face leads to a showdown that puts Laura and Ben’s emotional relationship and Laura’s pure spirit to the test.

With the killer closing in, Laura discovers her destiny is linked to his and she has two choices–redeem him or kill him.

Readers who devour paranormal books with a smidge of sci-fi and steam will enjoy A HUMAN ELEMENT, the new novel about loss, redemption, and love.

Reviewers are saying…
“A HUMAN ELEMENT is an elegant and haunting first novel. Unrelenting, devious but full of heart. Highly recommended.” –Jonathan Maberry, New York Times best-selling author of ASSASSIN’S CODE and DEAD OF NIGHT

“A HUMAN ELEMENT is a haunting look at what it means to be human. It’s a suspenseful ride through life and love…and death, with a killer so evil you can’t help but be afraid. An excellent read.” –Janice Gable Bashman, author of WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.

BIO:
Donna Galanti is the author of the dark novel A Human Element (Echelon Press). Donna has a B.A. in English and a background in marketing. She is a member of International Thriller Writers, The Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, and Pennwriters. She lives with her family in an old farmhouse in PA with lots of nooks, fireplaces, and stinkbugs. Visit her at: www.donnagalanti.com

LIKE Donna’s Author Facebook page for news and updates!

Connect with Donna here:
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Donna Galanti

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patty's

Title says it all. Now everybody go have a pint of the black stuff.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Why Can't There Be A Fifth Wiggle?


Earlier this year, Yellow Wiggle Sam Moran got sacked because the original Yellow Wiggle, Greg Page, had recovered from his condition enough to work and tour with the commercial powerhouse children's group again.

Of course, the corporate spin began immediately following the press release about the termination. It wasn't about money, or personality, they said; it was about getting the original team back together.

The kiddies might not be old enough to cut through the corporate BS yet (it's an important skill they should master, though!), but the press did pretty quickly.

Sam did a wonderful job as the Yellow Wiggle and was, more than the others, the front man of the band.

The Wiggles hauled in a cool $28.5 mill last year, so there's more than enough money to go around. And, even though Sam was the de facto front man, his pay was an incredibly depressing 1% of the group's total revenue. So his axing is clearly not about money.

So my question is this: Why can't there be five Wiggles? Sam is every bit as good a performer as the others (maybe more so), and I don't see why the kids would object to having a Green Wiggle or a Brown Wiggle or a Fuschia Wiggle.

Unfortunately, the only answer can be there was a major personality conflict among Sam and somebody in the band. There's just no other rational explanation for the move.

This post is an exercise in futility of course. The Wiggles have made their decision and Sam probably doesn't want to go back now that he's been treated so shabbily. So the least I can say is, Good luck, Sam, and thank you for entertaining my daughter so much!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

All I Can Say Is: Oui!

No, seriously. That's about as much French as I can speak anymore.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Brendan Gleeson For Your Consideration

It seems like the favorite to take home the Academy Award for Best Actor this year is Gary Oldman for his turn in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I'm a big fan of Oldman's work in general, and his take on George Smiley, the soft-in-the-middle, morose, cerebral, anti-James Bond spy is great. He was fantastic in State of Grace as a low-level, scene-stealing thug, he's been great as Gordon in Nolan's Batman series, and he was just plain wicked in Leon. Oldman's long overdue for an Oscar nomination, let alone an Oscar, and in any other year I'd say, "Yeah, let the chap have it."

But there's just one problem: Brendan Gleeson turned in the performance of his career in The Guard, written and directed by John Michael McDonagh.

(MINOR SPOILERS ALERT)

Gleeson's cop is sardonic, funny, curmudgeonly, brazen, and a bit racist. He returns lost weapons to the IRA rather than impound them. He hires call girls to entertain him on his day off. He wants everyone to think he's just another roob from the country, but this just might be a clever Columbo-like ruse to mask his intelligence. He uses drugs. He manages to stop a shipment of $500,000,000 (street value) worth of cocaine. And, to top it all off, he just might have been an Olympic swimmer.

I don't think The Guard will receive any nominations this year, and that's a shame. Not too many people saw it, and nobody's talking about it right now during the crucial time around awards season. It's a fast, fun movie with intelligent humor and smart dialogue, and the characters are all interesting. Don Cheadle's FBI agent is a little underwritten, but that's okay because it's really Gleeson's show here.

***

John Michael McDonagh is the brother of Martin McDonagh, who wrote and directed another awesome crime film, In Bruges. The Brothers McDonagh have a great ear for dialogue and create cliche-challenging characters, but they don't rely on these devices as crutches when telling a story. They both care just as much about plot, resulting in lean, but layered, stories.

Monday, December 19, 2011

World's Greatest Golfer Dies

Rest in peace, Kim Jong-il. I'm pretty certain your incredible record eleven holes in one during one round of golf will never be surpassed. Not even Tiger Woods has set out to surpass you, opting instead to set his sights much lower, like breaking Jack Nicklaus's total major victory record.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My 5 Favorite Christmas Movies of All Time


You asked for it (no, you didn't), so here it is. Brian O'Rourke's five favorite Christmas movies of all time:

5) Lethal Weapon. Richard Donner, Shane Black, Danny Glover, and Mel Gibson make buddy-cop movie history in this tightly-plotted actioner that combines all the cliches in the book and rises above the trappings of the genre. And, uh, it's set around Christmas.

4) Trading Places. Old school Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, er, trade places in this comedy set in Philly during the holiday season. Murphy's a homeless grifter/self-proclaimed "karate man," while Aykroyd's a yuppie stock guru who's next in line to run the big firm and marry the buttoned-up, but not exactly prudish, blue-blood. Aykroyd's bosses orchestrate a switch for both men, elevating Murphy out of the slum and tossing Aykroyd into the gutter, and hilarity ensues.

3)Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It's no coincidence that Shane Black shows up on this list more than once, given his penchant for setting action flicks around Christmas. This one's part deconstruction, part glorious homage, to action movies and private eye stories of old. Eat your heart out Raymond Chandler. My favorite line from the film is delivered by Val Kilmer, who plays a gay PI named, uh, Gay Perry: "Merry Christmas. Sorry I f--ked you."

2) Ernest Saves Christmas. The inexplicable juggernaut that was Jim Varney reached its cinematic peak with this film. Okay, that's not saying much, but still I fell in love with this movie growing up and tuned in faithfully each week to Ernest's Saturday morning show. Sometimes nostalgia trumps quality, and this is one of them times.

1) Die Hard. A total anomaly: an action movie set during Christmas not penned by Shane Black. And a total triumph. The 80s were all about heavily-muscled supermen, like Arnie and Sly, who were able to mow down hundreds of faceless enemy soldiers (not that there's anything wrong with that) and take a few bullets while hardly breaking a sweat, till Bruce Willis showed up on the scene. Officer John McClane is very real, very in over his head, and very much a resourceful, everyman wise-ass who just might save the day. Directed by John McTiernan, this flick went on to become the quintessential action movie, much imitated and never matched. Alan Rickman nearly steals the show as one of the greatest villains of all time. And always remember, it's Gary Cooper that rides off into the sunset with Grace Kelly.

Honorable Mention: Scrooged, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation,