Saturday, 3 December 2016

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

Silver for Germany



+ 4

Perhaps the most fundamental chart in all of science officially has four extra elements listed. The new elements have now been given official names and will be included in the grid.
The four new elements include nihonium, the first ever to be found by Japanese scientists.
That element – which until recently was referred to to as 113 – got its proper name from the word for Japan in Japanese – 'nihon', literally 'the land of the rising sun'.
More at TInd

Well Said

She had a pretty gift for quotation, which is a serviceable substitute for wit.
W Somerset Maugham
English dramatist & novelist (1874 - 1965)

FAO Tommy

He's a real Jackson fan (no further comment needed...) so just for him:

With the Thanksgiving leftovers long gone and holiday cards starting to roll in, now is the perfect time to pop some popcorn, pour some eggnog, and park yourself in front of the tube for … a nearly 14-minute music video starring dancing zombies and a teen werewolf? Believe it or not, Michael Jackson’s landmark "Thriller" video premiered on December 2, 1983—weeks after the holiday it’s now synonymous with.
How could Jackson not have unleashed "Thriller" on Halloween? The explanation for this apparent monster of a marketing fail seems to lie in the project’s timeline. The idea for the video wasn’t spawned until the summer of 1983. By this time MJ’s Thriller album—out since the previous November—had already sold roughly 10 million copies and sat atop the Billboard 200 album chart for 17 straight weeks (February 26 to June 18, 1983). Any normal pop star would’ve been cool with seeing it slip to No. 2, but as Jackson would say in the "Thriller" video, he was "not like other guys."
He wanted badly to reclaim the No. 1 spot, and his bosses at Epic Records knew that neither of Thriller’s final two scheduled singles, "Human Nature" or "P.Y.T.," would get him there. They also knew his previous hits "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" had gotten nice little boosts from their memorable music videos. (Shout-out to light-up sidewalks and dancing gangsters.) Epic’s head of promotions, Frank DiLeo, suggested Jackson shoot another promo clip—this time for the album’s title track. "It’s simple," DiLeo recalled telling Jackson in a Vanity Fair interview. "All you’ve got to do is dance, sing, and make it scary."
Fair use, via Wikimedia Commons
But it wasn’t quite so simple. In August of 1983, Jackson phoned up John Landis, the director behind 1978’s Animal House, 1980’s The Blues Brothers, and 1983’s Trading Places. Landis had also helmed An American Werewolf in London, a 1981 horror-comedy Jackson had seen, loved, and recognized as a good template for "Thriller." Approached with the idea of shooting the video, Landis suggested they do something more ambitious and make a short film worthy of theatrical release. They’d get Hollywood makeup and costumes and shoot on 35mm—the whole bit. Jackson was thrilled.
The trouble was, someone had to pay for it. Landis's original budget was $900,000—far more than Epic was willing to shell out for the seventh single on an album that was nearing its one-year anniversary. Landis and his team next approached MTV, but execs there balked, fearing it would set a dangerous precedent to pay for something they’d always gotten for free.
Jackson nearly put the money up himself, but then his lawyer, John Branca, and Landis’s production partner, George Folsey Jr., came up with a brilliant idea: If they shot both a "Thriller" video and a making-of documentary, they’d have an hour’s worth of fresh content featuring one of the world’s hottest entertainers. Surely, networks would be willing to pay for that, right?
Indeed they would. MTV dropped $250,000 to air the vid and doc exclusively for a week, and Showtime coughed up $300,000. It was now nearly September, and Landis and Jackson had their financing. The next step was figuring out what, exactly, they were going to shoot.

In the six weeks leading up to October 11, when filming began in Los Angeles, Jackson’s team scurried to complete pre-production on the most ambitious music video the world had ever seen. Landis co-wrote the story with Jackson and hired his costume designer wife, Deborah Nadoolman Landis (who’d dressed Harrison Ford for Raiders of the Lost Ark and made John Belushi's "College" sweatshirt happen) to handle costumes. He also re-enlisted "Beat It" choreographer Michael Peters, who began dreaming up dances the undead might do.
Principal photography took place throughout October, and given the scope of what they were creating, a Halloween premiere probably never would have been possible. It certainly would’ve suited the material, though. As just about everyone on the planet knows, "Thriller" features Jackson transforming into two creatures: a werewolf (or, technically, a "werecat") in the film-within-a-film opening segment, then a surprisingly nimble zombie in the oft-reenacted second half. Joining Jackson in both sequences is actress Ola Ray, a former Playboy playmate (who has admitted to some on-set smooching with her co-star).
But while Jackson was game to share the screen with a Playboy model, the video’s supernatural themes didn’t square with his Jehovah’s Witness beliefs. At one point, weeks before the premiere date, Jackson called Branca and asked him to destroy the negatives. The church had learned of the video and threatened to excommunicate him. Branca saved the day by suggesting they slap on the now-famous disclaimer: "Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult."

MJ’s warning gave the video an extra level of intrigue—like the images to follow were really going to mess you up. Final frame notwithstanding, "Thriller" is actually pretty tame, but it sank its fangs into the world’s imagination. Aided by constant MTV airplay, the video transformed Jackson into a new kind of celebrity and, yes, shocked Thriller back to life. The album reclaimed the No. 1 position on December 24 and stayed there through April of 1984 for a total of 37 weeks at the top. By the end of that year, it had sold 33 million copies.
Over the years, "Thriller" has sold more than 9 million home video copies (a Guinness World Record) and topped numerous lists of the greatest and most influential music videos. In 2009, it was selected for the National Film Registry, and this past Halloween, Barack and Michelle Obama did the zombie dance at the White House.
Simply put: "Thriller" devoured pop culture. But just think of how much bigger it would’ve been had it dropped on Halloween.


A Classic

A charming spoof, Mel Brooks's Robin Hood: Men in Tights introduced the world to Dave Chappelle and extolled the virtues of form-fitting legwear. Here’s everything you need to know about the arrow-slinging 1993 comedy.


In 1974, Mel Brooks’ smash-hit genre parodies Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein became two of the highest grossing movies of the year—with Blazing Saddles beating out The Towering Inferno and The Godfather: Part II for the top spot. Having secured a lasting career for himself in Hollywood, Brooks took a break from cinema so he could pursue a new TV project. The comic joined forces with Norman Stiles and John Boni to co-create ABC’s When Things Were Rotten, a fast-paced, gag-driven sitcom that put a satirical spin on Robin Hood. Starring Get Smart alum Dick Gautier in the lead role, the show relied heavily on anachronistic pop culture references; in one episode, for example, a character named Lord McDonald of the Golden Archers dons a T-shirt reading “Over 1,000,000 Dispatched.”
When Things Were Rotten premiered on September 10, 1975. After three months of lackluster ratings and mixed reviews, the show was canceled just 13 episodes into its run. Brooks would, of course, take another stab at the legendary hero of Sherwood Forest when Robin Hood: Men in Tights was released 18 years later. Incidentally, that 1993 comedy starred a familiar face: Dick Van Patten, who plays an abbot in the film, had portrayed Friar Tuck in When Things Were Rotten.


Despite its impressive showing at the box office, Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves(1991) didn’t win universal praise. Many took issue with the movie’s inconsistent tone and Costner’s half-baked attempt at an English accent. When 11-year-old Jordi Chandler saw it, he told his father, Evan, that the flick deserved to be parodied. As it happened, Evan Chandler was a Beverly Hills dentist whose clientele included Hollywood screenwriter J. David Shapiro. During an appointment, the DDS pitched the idea of a Robin Hood spoof movie to Shapiro, who loved the concept. Together, they put together a screenplay that was later sold to—and heavily revised by—Brooks.


Madeline Kahn made a name for herself by starring in several of Brooks's comedies, includingBlazing SaddlesYoung FrankensteinHigh Anxiety, and History of the World, Part 1. Kahn’s family has stated that she was offered the part of Latrine—Prince John’s manic soothsayer—in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, but turned the role down over salary concerns. On the other hand, Brooks himself says he didn’t cast Kahn because the character wouldn’t receive much screen time. Regardless, Tracey Ullman ended up landing the part.


Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves had an all-star cast that boasted Costner, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Rickman. Sean Connery also made a brief appearance as King Richard, a part he reportedly wanted to reprise in Men in Tights. According to James Robert Parish's It's Good to Be the King: The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks, Connery told the director “that he would repeat his role of the monarch—but this time in drag. However, intriguing as this comic prospect was, he wanted a $1 million salary, which he planned to donate to Scottish charities.” Unable to afford this king’s ransom, Brooks cast Patrick Stewart instead. For better or for worse, the cross-dressing angle was scrapped entirely.


From The Producers's “Springtime for Hitler” to a Sinatra-esque lounge number in High Anxiety, Brooks’s comedies are loaded with songs that the filmmaker either wrote or co-wrote himself. Robin Hood: Men in Tights continued this musical tradition. The legendary director penned the lyrics for Maid Marian’s song, the titular “Men in Tights” number, and both versions of the "Sherwood Forest Rap." Meanwhile, their melodies were provided by composer Hummie Mann. However, neither man can take any credit for “The Night is Young and You’re So Beautiful,” which Robin (Cary Elwes) belts out during a romantic scene with Marian (Amy Yasbeck). Famously covered by Dean Martin, that amorous ballad was written way back in 1937 by Dana Suesse, Billy Rose, and Irving Kahal.


Early on in the Men in Tights casting process, Brooks called Elwes at his home to discuss the project. "He actually called me at home and I thought someone was pulling my leg so I hung up on him," Elwes told Den of Geek in 2014. "He called back and he said 'don’t hang up, it’s really me!' I apologized, but I couldn’t believe he was calling me." In short order, Elwes was cast as the film’s hero. Once he came aboard, Elwes helped Brooks choose an actor to play Ahchoo, Robin’s sidekick. In the end, the part went to an unknown 19-year-old comedian named Dave Chappelle. “We actually cast [him] together,” Elwes recalled. “We saw a lot of actors and when Dave came in, he was just so amazing and we knew right then and there [that] this guy was a star.”


A body of water in Southern California’s Santa Monica mountains that was formerly known as Lake Canterbury was renamed Lake Sherwood in 1921, when a Robin Hood movie starring Douglas Fairbanks shot a few scenes on its shores. Subsequently, this same lake was utilized as a backdrop for certain outdoor sequences in 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights did some filming there as well.


“If you put the name Robin Hood on a marquee, then it’s incumbent upon you—nay, it behooves you—to have horses and sword fighting,” Brooks declared in the HBO making-of documentary Robin Hood: Men in Tights: The Legend Had it Coming“The actors came in every weekend and they worked Saturdays and Sundays just on their sword fights,” Brooks said. These sessions were overseen by fencing coordinator Victor Paul, who also did stunt work on big-budget action films like Die Hard and Armageddon. The bladed weapon specialist found that Elwes was particularly easy to train because The Princess Bride star already had plenty of fencing experience under his belt. “All I had to do was teach him the routines, he knew how to fence,” Paul said in the documentary.
However, Elwes wasn’t quite as adept at archery. Right before the training montage, we see Robin hit a bull's-eye from a few yards away while his merry men look on. At the 2013 Motor City Comic Con, Elwes shed some light on the scene—which turned out to be a rather triumphant moment for him. “I was quite proud of the fact that I got a bull's-eye shooting the bow and arrow because there was a lot of pressure from Mel to get that in a few takes. He said ‘Okay, you’ve got three takes. Get a bull's-eye, let’s go!,'" Elwes shared during a Q&A session. “And I’m like ‘Really, Mel? I’ve only got three? Really?’ And I got it on the third one, thank god.”


Richard Lewis, who played the neurotic Prince John, opened up about his experiences on the set in a 2013 PBS documentary titled Mel Brooks: Make a Noise. Apparently, as production came to a close, Lewis’s health took a sharp turn for the worse. “I was almost done with the film, I had one scene left, [and then] I got Hepatitis A,” the actor recalled. Stricken with a 106-degree fever, Lewis was hospitalized. Amazingly though, this development didn’t stop Brooks from trying to complete his villain’s final scene on schedule.
Completely undeterred, the director called Lewis’s hospital room and announced an elaborate plan to lay Lewis in a stretcher, drive him to the set, and prop the immobilized performer up against some wood so that he could deliver a pair of lines. “You’ll do your two lines, we’ll carry you right back into the stretch, you’ll be back [at the hospital] in 20 minutes,” Brooks told him. “Mel,” a weary Lewis responded, “I’m dying. I think I’m dying. I have a 106 fever. I’m jaundiced.” He then hung up on Brooks, who proceeded to call him back “about 15 times with the same riff” in Lewis’s estimation.


When it came to the film critics, "most of them reamed it,” according to Lewis. “It was disappointing.” Leading the chorus of derision was Gene Siskel, who counted Robin Hood: Men in Tights among his worst films of 1993. “Movie comedy, I think, is threatening to pass Mel Brooks by,” the late critic opined. “When comedies don’t work and everybody in the audience knows it, that is about as low as it gets ... [Brooks] has clearly lost his way.”
Still, like many of Brooks’s later pictures, Robin Hood: Men in Tights has slowly developed a cult following over the years. It has even received some faint praise from a more contemporary Robin Hood: In 2016, Russell Crowe called Men in Tights “the most entertaining version” of the heroic character’s timeless story.


Along with Bruce Springsteen, Dave Brubeck, Robert De Niro, and opera singer Grace Bumby, Brooks was named one of the 2009 Kennedy Center honorees. When asked to comment on this development, Brooks told The Washington Post, “I hope you never find my award on eBay, because you never know ... You run out of cash and wherewithal.” Seated near President Barack Obama and the First Lady, Brooks was presented with a medley of his unforgettable songs. Among other acts, this star-studded revue featured Martin Short’s take on the Blazing Saddlestheme while Richard Kind led a jazzy rendition of the Spanish Inquisition number from History of The World, Part 1. Jack Black also took the stage in full Robin Hood regalia to lead a chorus in singing “Men in Tights.” All the while, a gleeful Brooks could be seen mouthing the lyrics to every song from the audience.


The authors of the United Kingdom’s plan to leave the European Union have been revealed as an infinite amount of monkeys with an infinite amount of typewriters.
The monkeys have been typing away for just over 3 months now, after Theresa May decided a new strategy was needed.
However, the monkeys have so far only been able to write four words; ‘the’, ‘do’, ‘let’ and ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’.
A Conservative party spokesman said, “Hopefully, the monkeys should be able to write up a decent plan within the next few months.
“After having people sift through the tonnes of monkey crap covered paper, we might be able to string a few sentences together which lead to a high-quality, strategically-sound foolproof plan.
Despite the monkeys making very little progress to date, the party is confident that the plan will work.
The spokesman added, “We have a few members of the government working alongside them.
“Boris Johnson volunteered to work at a typewriter for a while, but all he produced was a page full of reasons to stay in the EU.
“He said it was just a thought-experiment, but he did seem awfully chuffed with it.
“The monkeys weren’t too impressed, however. One would imagine you’ve never seen a Foreign Secretary covered in an infinite amount of monkey shit?
“It’s really quite the sight.”

Bad Toon

That's going to cost them.

Newcastle lose to Forest 2 - 1 (as well as losing two of their players for the second half) but ended up saving two penalties.  They stay top but have played an extra game, so Brighton could go above them later today.


To our old pal Andy, who slipped on wet leaves and broke several ribs.  He's off work and can't move into his new flat, so he must be getting well fed up.  Speedy recovery mate, and hopefully all will be sorted out before Christmas.

Xmas Tip- 11

11. Grab some tape and nail polish for a Christmas manicure



DNS, ISP and gateway settings.



Always in Front

When it comes to global education rankings it always seems to be the same story. Asian educational superpowers take all the top places and everyone else goes in for bouts of doubt and recrimination.
For education ministers across most of the world this must be a gloomy time, trying to come up with an upbeat explanation for another round of mid-table mediocrity.
This week Singapore was rated as the best in the world for maths and science - and next week the OECD will publish its PISA test international rankings.
So what does it take to get into the international education winners' enclosure?
1. Move to east Asia: There is no escaping the relentless geography of education rankings. Singapore is now in first place, followed by the likes of South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan. Shanghai has been a previous high flyer - but next week's PISA tests will incorporate the city with other parts of China. Add Taiwan, Macau and Vietnam to this list.
2. I'm only going to say this once... To put it diplomatically, many of the most successful countries have an expectation that people will do what they're told. A focused, conformist culture, a sense of collective purpose, or even an old-fashioned one-party state are often features of the highest achievers. But there are exceptions - the Finns are high achievers with a strong sense of liberal independence.
3. Make sure you don't have natural resources. There's a phenomenon in education called "the resources curse", which shows that economies built on natural wealth - such as sitting on vast oil reserves - tend to underperform in education. Much of the Middle East is given as an example. How do you motivate someone who expects to be wealthy regardless of how well they achieve in exams? In contrast, small countries with few resources have had to learn quickly how to live on their wits. Sixty years ago South Korea had one of the worst levels of illiteracy in the world - now we're all watching their TVs.
4. Bet your house on the teachers. The OECD's education guru Andreas Schleicher has a catchphrase: "No education system can be better than the quality of its teachers". And this week's TIMSS rankings have the same message - success is inseparably linked to the supply of good quality teachers. Whatever headline-grabbing wheezes might be deployed by education ministers, it all comes down to investing in teachers.
5. Be a young-ish nation. These might be ancient cultures, but a curious feature of high education achievers is how many are relative newcomers as nation states or have newly-reconstituted boundaries. Finland will only celebrate its centenary next year. Singapore and South Korea, in their currently political form, are products of the 20th Century. Vietnam, emerging from war in the 1970s, has been one of the most-rapid improvers, racing past the United States and crusty old European dinosaurs. Does it make them more light-footed about changing and adapting?
6. Get a big, overshadowing neighbour. Another surprisingly consistent feature of top countries at education is how many have to compete for daylight with a much bigger neighbour. The European success stories of recent years - Finland, Poland and Estonia - have all had to emerge from the shadow of the old Soviet bloc. South Korea and Hong Kong are up against mainland China. Singapore is a tiny city state surrounded by bigger, more populous neighbours. Education is their way to punch above their weight.
7. It's not a knockout competition. Education league tables are based on the proportion of young people reaching some benchmark of ability. The winners will be those who assume that everyone should cross that finishing line, including the poorest - and that is a distinguishing feature of the top Asian systems. They put the best teachers with the weakest pupils to make sure everyone gets to a basic standard. In contrast, much of the western approach to education is more like the Grand National, with the expectation that very few of the horses starting the race will still be there at the finish. And the rankings reflect this fundamental difference.
8. Classroom jackdaws. Education systems are hard to disentangle from the politics and the culture in which they've grown. As much as everyone likes to talk about "innovation", there are plenty of pressures against change. But many of the high achieving countries have been ruthless in cherry-picking ideas from other countries and trying them in their own schools.
9. Long-term planning in a short-term world. It might take 10 years before changes in an education system make any positive difference in global rankings. That's not much of an incentive for the fleeting life-span of ministerial office. A recent reforming education minister in Argentina's capital Buenos Aires entered office as the third minister in 12 days. But the big message from global rankings is that what is needed is consistency and continuity.
10. Blame everyone else. Education is a super-tanker that takes many years to turn around. So ministers can take the credit for anything that succeeds and blame everything else on the previous administration. The weathervane of blame always points away from whoever is in charge.


First Beer

Since last weekend when we had the in-laws with us.  We have been right off the booze since then and quite honestly, I haven't missed it at all.  However, as it's Khun Alix's birthday today, we will be out and about to wish him all the best on his special day.

Then we'll be off the Chang until wifey's birthday next week.

Bank Fee

It always catches us out but we have to pay for our Thai ATM card every year.  It's not a huge annual fee (THB 200/~£4) but they take it without forewarning and I always forget, so when I check our balances, it gives me quite a start to see an unknown balance.

Still, that's that for another twelve months.

At Last

It has taken three letters sent from Bangkok to Germany but finally I am able to report that my new ATM card and PIN have arrived at Frankfurt, care of my cousins.

It means we can now transfer money directly to our German account from New Zealand and have enough to cover our stay next year in Germany and Slovenia.

Now all we have to do is start saving for said trip...

THB 54

That was our water bill for the month of November (we were in Cambodia for ten days, mind) which comes to a remarkable £1.20 at today's rates.


Friday, 2 December 2016

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes


The start of December means that England will only have two more managers before Christmas day.
Even Manchester United fans are excited by the news, as two is a low enough number for most of them to count to and join in the excitement with everyone else.
Traditionally the festive season begins with a sharp frost, the first window being opened on an advent calendar, and a 4×4 with blacked-out windows carrying England’s second-to-last manager of the year arriving at FA headquarters to tell a press conference he’s in for the ‘long haul’.
“You know it’s about halfway through the year when England have had five managers,” FA chairman Simon Williams told us.
“And then you can really start the countdown.
“If you haven’t started your Christmas shopping by the time the seventh person has been named the new great hope of English football, you’ve really left it too late,” he laughed.
“Don’t forget that Santa wears a red and white strip, just like England. And he travels almost as fast as our last manager heading out of the door.”
The FA have confirmed that they’ve made a list of potential future managers and counted it twice, and they’re really hoping they don’t get another naughty one this time.

12 Days of Christmas

Whether you’re a Griswold fan or prefer the retro allure of Bedford Falls, there are certain movies that just make the holidays complete—but not all of them were always so popular. Here’s what the critics originally thought of 10 classic Christmas movies.


It seems that the Jimmy Stewart-Donna Reed classic was beloved from the start. Variety was positively ebullient when it reviewed the film on December 18, 1946, saying"
"It’s a Wonderful Life will enjoy just that at the b.o., and eminently deserves to do so. In the wake of the billowing ballyhoo which has preceded the first entry from Liberty Films, will come resurging word-o’-mouth to accelerate the whirring of theatres’ wickets. After a somewhat clammy cycle of psychological pix and a tortured trend of panting propaganda vehicles, the April-air wholesomeness and humanism of this natural bring back vividly the reminder that, essentially, the screen best offers unselfconscious, forthright entertainment."
In fact, Variety’s critic had kind words for everyone. Frank Capra “again proves he can fashion what ordinarily would be homilizing hokum into gleaming, engaging entertainment for all brows—high, low or beetle,” Jimmy Stewart “hasn’t lost a whit of his erstwhile boyish personality (when called to turn it on) and further shows a maturity and depth he seems recently to have acquired,” and Donna Reed “will reach full-fledged stardom with this effort.” He was even impressed with the new simulated snow technology.


It’s no miracle that this film has endured the decades: Like It’s a Wonderful Life, moviegoers and critics alike have loved the plight of Kris Kringle since its 1947 debut. It was even nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Though it didn’t win that category, Edmund Gwenn won for Best Actor; Valentine Davies won for Best Writing, Original Story; and George Seaton won for Best Writing, Screenplay. It seems the only people who didn’t like the movie were those in the Catholic League of Decency, who downgraded the film to a “B” rating due to the “morally objectionable” fact that the mother was divorced.


Since the smash song “White Christmas” came from Holiday Inn, a 1942 Bing Crosby movie scored by Irving Berlin, everyone had big hopes for White Christmas, a similarly-themed movie that came out 12 years later. Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin were both on board as before, but “Oddly enough,” The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote, “the confection is not so tasty as one might suppose. The flavoring is largely in the line-up and not in the output of the cooks. Everyone works hard at the business of singing, dancing, and cracking jokes, but the stuff that they work with is minor. It doesn't have the old inspiration and spark.” He concedes that the film looks great, in part thanks to “VistaVision,” a then-new process of projecting onto a large screen. “It is too bad that it doesn't hit the eardrums and the funnybone with equal force,” Crowther concluded.


Snoopy and his pals overcame a lot of troubles to make it to the small screen in 1965. Executives didn’t like the slow pace of the show. They didn’t want Linus to recite Bible verses. They hated that there was no laugh track. And they thought having the children be voiced by real children instead of adult voice actors was the worst idea in broadcast history.
Turns out they were wrong about all of it. It’s been estimated that nearly 50 percent of households with televisions tuned in to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas that November, and they’ve been coming back ever since.


The original TV special got mixed (if apathetic) reviews. One critic shrugged that it was “probably as good as most of the other holiday cartoons. I can’t see why anybody would dislike it.” The Jim Carrey remake wishes the reviews were that kind.

The reason Dr. Seuss' original "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" is a slender classic of antimaterialism comes down to one line: "'Maybe Christmas,' he thought, 'doesn't come from a store.'" The season, Ted Geisel was saying, is not about stuff. Ron Howard's "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is all about stuff. From the bric-a-brac Styrofoam sets to the ugly "Twilight Zone" faces of the Whos to Jim Carrey's hairy man-breasts, the movie substitutes audiovisual megakill for emotion. And that's just on screen; act now, and you can buy the "Grinch" video-and-plush-doll pack, or the Collector's Edition DVD with fold-out sets and Faith Hill video, or the Grinch Shower Radio! ... But listen, go ahead and let the kids watch it eight times a week. Just turn up the volume so you can't hear Ted spinning.


Siskel and Ebert both loved everything about this Jean Shepherd adaptation. “It’s the kind of movie that everyone can identify with,” Ebert said, and judging by the annual 24-hour marathonon TBS, he was right.

7. SCROOGED (1988)

You know who’s immune to the charms of Bill Murray? Critics. The Los Angeles Times said the modern day adaptation of A Christmas Carol was “as over-inflated as its own Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and as funny as a mugging.” All of the fine actors in the movie, critic Sheila Benson mused, were “Wasted, all wasted, some of them under circumstances that make you squirm for them.” And she’s not alone in her opinion. Ebert called it “disquieting, unsettling” and “forced and depressing,” with scenes that are “desperate” and “embarrassing.”


Suffice it to say that The New York Times movie critic Janet Maslin isn’t among the millions of us who gather around the TV every year to giggle at Clark Griswold and his 25,000 twinkle lights:
The screenplay for "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," by John Hughes, makes no pretense at being anything other than a disjointed collection of running gags; if it weren't for a calendar that marks the approach of Christmas Day, the film would have no forward momentum at all. The film also looks tacky, what with flimsy props and occasionally blurry cinematography, and the direction by Jeremiah S. Chechik displays comic timing that is uncertain at best.
She did see one bright spot, though: “The best thing the new film does is to bring back Cousin Eddie, the wily, scene-stealing slob whose disgusting habits are a source of considerable amusement.”

9. HOME ALONE (1990)

Ebert was definitely not a fan Home Alone—though he did like Macaulay Culkin. He wrote:
The plot is so implausible that it makes it hard for us to really care about the plight of the kid. What works in the other direction, however, and almost carries the day, is the gifted performance by young Macaulay Culkin, as Kevin. He's such a confident and gifted little actor that I'd like to see him in a story I could care more about.
"Home Alone" isn't that story. When the burglars invade Kevin's home, they find themselves running a gamut of booby traps so elaborate they could have been concocted by Rube Goldberg—or by the berserk father in "Last House on the Left." Because all plausibility is gone, we sit back, detached, to watch stunt men and special effects guys take over a movie that promised to be the kind of story audiences could identify with.

10. ELF (2003)

Unexpectedly, Ebert really enjoyed Elf—and no one was more surprised by that turn of events than Ebert himself:
If I were to tell you "Elf" stars Will Ferrell as a human named Buddy who thinks he is an elf and Ed Asner as Santa Claus, would you feel an urgent desire to see this film? Neither did I. I thought it would be clunky, stupid and obvious, like "The Santa Clause 2" or "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." It would have grotesque special effects and lumber about in the wreckage of holiday cheer, foisting upon us a chaste romance involving the only girl in America who doesn't know that a man who thinks he is an elf is by definition a pervert.
That's what I thought it would be. It took me about 10 seconds of seeing Will Ferrell in the elf costume to realize how very wrong I was. This is one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor, and it charms the socks right off the mantelpiece.
He ends the review with, “... Let's hope Buddy persuades enough people to believe. It should be easy. He convinced me that this was a good movie, and that's a miracle on 34th street right there.”