Happy Holidays-ish: The Top Six Best Christmas-Adjacent Movies

First, a confession, which may not seem immediately related to the subject at hand: until December 3rd, I had never seen a Batman movie in full. Not a Nolan, not a Keaton, only dim memories of Val Kilmer clips interrupting Seal in the “Kiss From a Rose” video. But that night I gathered with some fellow SportsAlcohol-ics to watch Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, in a thinly-veiled attempt on Jesse’s part to (a) get me to finally watch one of these things and (b) put forth the argument that Returns is part of one of my favorite genres: not unequivocally holiday-themed films like A Christmas Story or Elf, but what I’ll call the Christmas-Adjacent. These are films whose plots do not revolve around, say, getting the family together for a big dinner, taking over for Santa after accidentally killing him, or having your marital infidelities exposed with poorly hidden gifts intended for your mistress. Rather, they use the holiday, or holiday season, as a motif or backdrop for other stories, variously invoking the warmth, loneliness, and occasional homicidal rage the season brings. You can also watch them any time of year and it doesn’t feel too weird. Having now seen Batman Returns myself (Ed. note), I absolutely agree that it fits the genre, and is fun to contemplate as one of the strangest studio tentpoles to exist. But the following, in my opinion, are the best, and the ones that most often end up in my holiday-watching rotation.
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THE SPORTSALCOHOL.COM PODCAST: Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok, and The Comic Movies of 2017

So, 2017 begins to wind down. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, buddy. But, as the year comes to a close, we launch—with apologies to Liz Lemon—out year end wrap-wrap-wrap-up. And, as with all things, we begin with an examination of facial hair, fever dreams, and superheroes. How do Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok and Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon’s Justice League fit into the pantheon of the gods: the MCU and DCEU? More importantly, how do they stack up against this year’s other comics output, namely Logan, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man: Homecoming? We discuss:

  • Which 2017 comic movie has the best villain?
  • “Immigrant Song” needle-drop: perfectly cheesy, or cheesily perfect?
  • Would You Rather: The Dark Lord Dormammu or Malekith the Dark Elf?
  • How long should Ben Affleck continue to play Batman: forever or infinity?
  • And, because you rely on us to go there, we do spend an awful lot of time talking about what’s going on with Henry Cavill’s face.

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach

Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach have collaborated on three movies, and this fall they’re both back with their own solo movies: Gerwig’s Lady Bird, which is expanding into more theaters this Thanksgiving weekend, and Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), which is available to all Netflix subscribers. Marisa, Sara, Nathaniel, and Jesse watched both movies (as well as plenty of past work from both filmmakers) and then got together to discuss how they function together, how they function apart, and what we think of their new projects. Learn all about our thoughts on Gerwig behind the camera in various capacities, who loved and who hated Baumbach’s semi-lost movie Highball, the age dynamics of While We’re Young, what we thought of Nights and Weekends, the Gerwig/Joe Swanberg movie Jesse made everyone watch before recording, how Baumbach fits with Adam Sandler (who stars in Meyerowitz), and whether what used to be written off as a bad summer could now potentially turn into a bad life.

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The SportsAlcohol.com MiniPodcast: Other People’s Money and Dark City

In a follow-up to our smash hit episode unexpectedly pairing Pretty Woman with Dark City, Ben and Jesse return with another trade-off, going one year into the future of both sci-fi and business movies: Ben had never seen 1998’s Dark City. Jesse had never seen Other People’s Money. So we watched ’em both and talked about both, up to and including why each of these lesser-known works might (or might not) be superior to some similar but more popular movies like Wall Street and The Matrix.

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McDormand and Rockwell face off in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

There are certain actor-on-actor match-ups and team-ups and face-offs that gain a kind of mythic grandeur from the sheer fact of the performers not having intersected earlier. I’m thinking of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro facing off, if only for a few minutes, in Heat; Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie supposedly smoldering in Mr. and Mrs. Smith; Eddie Murphy riffing opposite Steve Martin in Bowfinger; John Travolta and Nicolas Cage in, well, you know. Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell don’t immediately come to mind as a similarly titanic pair. They’re both terrific actors, their filmographies packed with memorable performances, but Rockwell works so often, and McDormand with such relative choosiness, that at first their pairing primarily elicits a vague familiarity – wait, was Rockwell ever in a Coens movie with McDormand? Was McDormand ever in a Marvel movie with Rockwell? Is Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri really their first one together?
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The SportsAlcohol.com Surprise MiniPodcast: Pretty Woman and Starship Troopers

They may seem like an odd pairing for a double feature, but that’s part of the design: Jesse had never seen Pretty Woman, Ben had never seen Starship Troopers (which turns 20 in just a few weeks!), and everyone was appalled, so we sat down to fix it. Ben and Jesse watched both movies back to back, then had a quick chat about each other’s reactions to both movies as both first-timers and veterans. All in all, a splendid use of a Wednesday night and we hope you enjoy our talk. I’m taking suggestions for future incongruous double-feature conversation-starters in the comments!

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Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Goodwill”: Everyone’s Terrible

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch. Read her reaction to the previous episode, “Who Needs a Guy?” here

In the very first season of Halt and Catch Fire, we learn that Joe took notice of Gordon because of something he’d written in Byte magazine: “Computers aren’t the thing. They’re the thing that gets us to the thing.” (Now, having spent four seasons with Gordon, I can picture his exact tone as he wrote that.) The series mirrors Gordon’s quote, in that it’s also not necessarily interested in The Thing. As I said before, it’s more likely to skip over The Thing entirely in favor of what emotional work has to be done after The Thing in order to get through it and go onto the next Thing.

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Romantic Comedies

The most recent episode of our podcast actually went up last weekend, and then the various events of this week happened and suddenly it didn’t seem like such a great time to talk about lovey-dovey stuff that comprises our discussion of what makes a good romantic comedy. But now that we’ve had a few days, maybe you need a break from the news, and would like to hear our majority-female panel talk about what makes us swoon-laugh-smile-whatever when watching rom-coms, as a companion piece of sorts to our discussions of what makes us cry and what makes us scared. Join Marisa, Jesse, Nathaniel, and two different Saras as we sort out various eras of romantic comedy, key ingredients, which classics of the genre we love (and/or hate), and try to figure out why the genre is going through such a drought lately.

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Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Who Needs a Guy?”: Dry Your Eyes

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch. Read her reaction to the previous episode, “A Connection Is Made,” here

Halt and Catch Fire isn’t really a show that depends on being spoiler-free, but if you haven’t seen “Who Needs a Guy?” and plan on catching up, you probably shouldn’t read behind the cut.

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Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “A Connection Is Made”: Stronger at the Broken Places

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch. Read her reaction to the previous episode, “Nowhere Man,” here

For most of us, our lives orbit around two loci: The place where we show our public selves, and the place where we get to be who we really are . Most often, those two places are work and home—but that’s not always the case, especially on Halt and Catch Fire. Cameron is unable to separate her work from who she is, for example, so her code follows her wherever she goes. Her public place is in Joe’s apartment, where she’s performing the part of Good Girlfriend; her Airstream is where, mostly alone, she gets to be the real Cameron and admit to herself that she’s not really as “sick of tech” as she claims.

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