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Everydave’s Christmas Classics Collection

My friend Max over at Power Pop Blog‘s been running reviews of some of his favorite Christmas films lately, most are classics indeed. To me, sitting around with the family, watching Christmas specials was one of the most happy of memories of my childhood winters, not far behind getting to the stocking Christmas morning. Of course, decades have passed, but those moments are still special to me, so I give you a list of my Top 10 Christmas movies or TV specials, in no particular order. To me, Christmas isn’t quite Christmas without catching these…

The Oldies:

A Christmas Carol – the 1951 B&W version if you please, with Alistair Sim playing Scrooge. The kiddo in the house likes the more recent animated one, which is actually quite good, but nothing beats Sim’s acting, Cratchitt’s cheerful optimism and the charm of the story. Plus it was the one my Mom and I watched many a Christmas Eve together.

It’s A Wonderful Life – now a classic, surprisingly it wasn’t considered much of a movie for a few decades after its 1946 release despite starring the then-hot Jimmy Stewart. Is there a better reminder of how the “butterfly effect” means our lives have impacts far and wide, or to have hope that good will prevail over greed and spite?

The Cartoons:

How The Grinch Stole Christmas – the original, the Dr. Seuss-approved version in all its animated glory. Sure the cartoons look primitive compared to the current CGI efforts but nothing beats the simplicity of the story and the innocence of little Cindy Lou Who, who was no more than two, or the empathy little Max the dog provokes trying to haul that sled up the mountain.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer – Rankin/Bass’s claymation giant, another of those childhood traditions. Burl Ives as the snowman and the Island of Misfit Toys are as wonderful as any Christmas characters. Maybe one more people need to see to this day to be reminded being different can be quite OK

Charlie Brown Christmas – the acme for that great comic strip, a 1965 cartoon that defied convention (and apparently killed off the aluminum tree business in the doing!). There was a whole lot of psychology in that kids’ comic and animated spinoff, and how many of us relate to Charlie, feeling overwhelmed by it all and searching for meaning. Linus’ reading is still pretty much my favorite little telling of the Christmas story. And of course, a crazily-good jazz soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi recently picked by Billboard as the best Christmas album of all-time.

The Romances:

Love Actually – it was a hot, stormy afternoon when I first saw the 2003 modern classic. No matter, I loved it and found it enthralling. A fun and feel good movie, which at the time seemed revolutionary with the way it tied together so many interwoven stories dealing with love, requited and not, at Christmas time. It took me about four viewings to finally see how all the stories tied together (I think…maybe I’ll still find more this year.)

The Holiday – a 2006 film that my sweetie introduced me to a few years back; one of her Christmas traditions which I now share with her. Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet are romantically doomed, it seemed in their homes this Christmas, so they trade homes (one in California, the other rural Britain) and find love with men from the others’ lives, Winslet’s brother and a musician contracted to Diaz. Eli Wallach gives a tour de force performance near the end of his life, as an aging screenwriter brought back to “life” through Winslet’s friendship.

The New Fun Ones:

Polar Express – I still can’t get over how realistic the motion-capture animation of this one is…but since it teams movie-maker Robert Zemeckis and star Tom Hanks up again (they of course collaborated on the ’90s great Forrest Gump) why should I be surprised? A great reminder of the power of belief.

Elf – probably if I was ranking them, this one would be the one to squeak in at #10; I like it but find most people I know head-over-heels love it. Part of that stems from how generally, I’ve never been a fan of Will Farrell. But it’s impossible not to like Buddy the Elf and his over-the-top enthusiasm for everything…including of course Zooey Deschanel…he was human after all (to his surprise.) Some of the best laughs of the Christmas season…”call me an elf one more time…! – You’re an elf! He’s an angry elf!”

Christmas Story – poor Ralphie, he’ll shoot his eye out! Who can’t relate to the childhood of his, wanting just one thing that seemed out of reach at Christmas, being inundated with pink bunny suit pyjamas instead? Like the previous one, few things get me laughing harder every December than that bunny suit, the store Santa and his big boot, and of course…the leg lamp! It’s a major award after all!

Maybe a new one will be added to the list this year, who knows. But even if not, I feel like it’s a good Christmas-time if I’ve checked these ten off the list.

Anyone else have their own list?

Boffo Beer Blog, Week 5: A Christmas Story In Your Glass

December 25th may have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to keep the Christmas spirit going. And in this week’s Boffo Beer Blog, we’ll have a Christmas “spirit”… Karbach Brewery’s Yule Shoot Your Eye Out Seasonal ale.

The Houston brewery offers up a few year-round favorites and a variety of seasonal offerings, available throughout Texas and the south-central States. “It’s all about the beer,” they say, suggesting “we don’t take ourselves seriously but you can be damn sure we take our beer seriously.” They use “classic German techniques to make beer for everyone to enjoy.”

Among their regular brews are Hopadillo, with its colorful armadillo-adorned can, and Crawford Bock, whose cans have the now questionable distinction of being dressed up like a Houston Astros jersey. (Tap your can once for fastball, twice for curve…)  You can try them out in the city at their brewery and restaurant, which offers a variety of dishes that pair well with beers of every stripe, including fish and chips, king-sized pretzels and of course, Texas chili. They periodically have special events, including a “Galentines day” later this week with a “market and movie night” showing ’90s cult fave The Craft.

Among their seasonal varieties are a chocolate stout and the one I tried, Yule Shoot Your Eye Out, for winter offerings. Of the Yule beer and its 5.6 % alcohol rating, they say it’s a “red ale brewed with orange peel (and) loaded with smooth caramel malt and a citrus twist. We triple dog dare you to find a better holiday ale.”

Cracking open the 12-ounce, leg-lamp adorned can is nearly as exciting as opening a wooden box to reveal a “major award.” Pouring it reveals it does indeed live upto its billing as a rather festive clear, reddish drink which produced a thick, bubbly head. The beer itself seemed a little more fizzy than some and had a decent aroma.

Now, this one is a bit different than the past three beers I sampled here in two ways. One is that it’s a yuletide offering, and I’m sampling it in February. This is about the end of the run for it this winter, as according to Karbach, “oh fuuddge! It’s only here for a limited time.” And I found I actually was consuming the first one on the very “best before” date printed on the bottom. So, while certainly not stale nor flat, it’s entirely possible “Yule” get a better feel for the drink if consumed closer to the production date, around the time Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick is bringing pink bunny pyjamas to good little boys far and wide. Secondly, this one I actually purchased a six-pack of rather than just one individual bottle or can.

I mention that because I actually cracked open the first at night, having it after dinner while watching some TV. I had another the following afternoon with a light dinner of some left-over roast ham in a kaiser and a jalapeno or two. I found the environment seemed to make a difference and it seemed slightly different between the two sittings.

Drinking it on its own, I found it a little unusual and not what I’d expected. Not a lump of coal in the stocking, but not a Red Rider winner either. It seemed a little watery and while it left a slight, not too unpleasant bitter aftertaste, I could really detect the caramel of the malts. It almost made me think of the effect one would have if downing a typical mainstream lager a few minutes after sucking on a Werthers candy.

Paired with the lunch, it fared a bit better, The sweetness was cut and the flavor seemed to hold its own nicely against the sandwich and cut the heat of the hot peppers a little. Perhaps that’s why Karbach recommend having it with stews or “game”. What it didn’t seem was a typical strong ale.

All in all, it won’t make you cuss like a faulty, smoking furnace would but it might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you have to write about what you want for Christmas! I give Yule Shoot Your Eye Out a 6 out of 10 for flavor, 7 out of 10 for strength and

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three leg-lamps out of five!