The Fourth Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 2

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Door 2 of The Fourth Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films brings us Martin Scorsese’s 1990 masterpiece GoodFellas.

It would be foolish for a hack like me to try and offer any critical insight into a film as universally acclaimed as this one, but it truly is extraordinary.

Although probably one to avoid if you’re at all squeamish. Most of the violence is implicit rather than explicit but the few on-screen scenes depicting violence quite literally don’t pull any punches.

The cast is phenomenal and all appear to be on their A-game, but Joe Pesci manages to stand out from the crowd as the positively unhinged Tommy DeVito. Indeed, so good is Pesci that arguably this performance is even better than his seminal work in the first two Home Alone movies (I’m sort of joking but I do love those films…)

I watched this film a lot in my younger days but it had been a while since my last viewing and it had lost none of its brilliance on this outing.

Although this is the first time I noticed Samuel L Jackson was in the movie. To be fair he’s not in it for very long, his last scene being among the aforementioned violent scenes but it seems strange I missed him on all those previous viewings.

Score for Christmasishness

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It would be ludicrous to attempt to pass this off as a Christmas movie, but there is a bit of the film that is set at Christmas time and it’s really quite Christmassy for that bit of the movie. It isn’t at all Christmassy for the rest of the film, but in honour of the brief period that it is, it would be fair to describe GoodFellas as a bit Christmas(ish).

The Fourth Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 1

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As if by magic December 2020 is upon us. And so must begin, whether anyone wants it to or not, The Fourth Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films.

And to kick off this year’s festive countdown of films, is a movie that really highlights the difference between the worldviews of children and adults. For it is none other than 1988’s Vice Versa starring Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage. I don’t speak of the plot, though it does centre on the premise of a father and son magically switching places, but rather of my own worldviews. Or at least my cinematic tastes.

For, when I was a child, I genuinely, for a time, believed this to be the greatest movie ever made.

But as an adult I can see that it isn’t.

It’s derivative and entirely unoriginal and the plot is problematic on multiple levels.

That said, I still quite like it and, while the stars of neither Judge Reinhold nor Fred Savage are shining as brightly as they did back in the eighties, it’s eminently hard to dislike either of them.

Score for Christmasishness

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It’s set in the build-up to Christmas and concludes in late December albeit prior to the actual festivities. However there is a Christmas tree, which is relevant to the plot. A stuffed reindeer features, which also contributes to the narrative. Christmas decorations and lights are plentiful throughout and, while the film could really be set at any time of year, it does feel quite Christmas(ish) at times.

The Fourth Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Preamble

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As November 2020 draws to a close, it’s fair to say that even by the pretty low standards normally set by the eleventh month of the year, it has not been an especially enjoyable 30 days. This may well be in keeping with 2020 as a whole, which has largely been a year of fear, recriminations and toilet paper shortages. However, although the previous lockdown was longer, the weather was a bit nicer between March and July and I didn’t really have to go to work for most of that time (I did still go most days but not being obliged to go made me feel virtuous). November’s lockdown has been accompanied by my usual Seasonal Affective Disorder (although if there is more to that condition that just moaning about the weather then it is possible I don’t actually have it) and me spending quite a lot of time in a working environment in which there have been several confirmed cases of Covid 19 amongst my colleagues. So far I seem not to have succumbed, although it is entirely possible that I could be asymptomatic and spreading it to all and sundry even as I type these words. However, aside from the staff and students at the school in which I work (who are all essentially ‘fair game’ according to the UK government’s Covid ‘strategy’) the only people I really see are my wife and daughter and they currently appear to be in fine fettle. I don’t think, therefore, that I’m a super spreader. Yet. Nonetheless it’s fair to say that November has probably been the low point of quite a bad year.

Still, it’s near enough over now and December means the latest lockdown will be also be over shortly. It is to be replaced by a state of affairs which might well be described as ‘lockdown light’. Aside from being able to go swimming again, which I was doing quite a lot during August, September and October, I probably wouldn’t have noticed too much of a difference to life in the post-lockdown UK regardless of the new rules, but as it stands it appears that no-one is going to notice too much of a difference.

However it will be December tomorrow, which means the countdown to Christmas begins in earnest. It may well end up being the worst Christmas ever, but we are still morally and legally obliged to acknowledge that ’tis almost the season.

And so tomorrow I’ll be kicking off my annual festive countdown of movies that are not really Christmas films but are arguably a bit Christmas(ish). I’ve been doing this since December 2017 and since December 2017 it has been, statistically, the least popular bit of my blog. I hardly blogged at all in 2019 and my Christmas countdown was still less popular than the handful of other posts I wrote that year. So, even though my 2020 stats have been, on the whole, pretty good, I’m expecting them to dip for the next 24 days.

Which is fine, because if I genuinely cared about blogging stats I would have given up blogging in despair some years ago. I quite enjoy writing my annual festive countdown, regardless of whether anyone else reads it and this blog has always been predominantly about entertaining myself. Frankly, as long as I can find movies with a vaguely tenuous link to Christmas, I will keep writing The James Proclaims Advent Calendar Of Christmas(ish) Films.

However, in the unlikely event that you are someone who enjoys reading badly written reviews of movies that are a little bit Christmas(ish), you can revisit all of the previous efforts below:

2017

Door 1 – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Door 2 – Iron Man 3
Door 3 – Lethal Weapon
Door 4 – Reindeer Games
Door 5 – Ghostbusters 2
Door 6 – Batman Returns
Door 7 – LA Confidential
Door 8 – The Long Kiss Goodnight
Door 9 – The Last Boy Scout
Door 10 – The Ice Harvest
Door 11 – The Nice Guys
Door 12 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Door 13 – Gremlins
Door 14 – The Bourne Identity
Door 15 – In Bruges
Door 16 – Trading Places
Door 17 – Eyes Wide Shut
Door 18 – Prometheus
Door 19 – Rocky IV
Door 20 – First Blood
Door 21 – Enemy of the State
Door 22 – 12 Monkeys
Door 23 – Brazil
Door 24 – Die Hard

2018

Door 1 – Submarine
Door 2 – Catch Me If You Can
Door 3 – The Life Of Brian
Door 4 – King Kong
Door 5 – When Harry Met Sally
Door 6 – Hook
Door 7 – Go
Door 8 – Behind Enemy Lines
Door 9 – The Ref
Door 10 – Jaws The Revenge
Door 11 – Jurassic World
Door 12 – The Hateful Eight
Door 13 – Red
Door 14 – The French Connection
Door 15 – The Lion In Winter
Door 16 – Stalag 17
Door 17 – The Royal Tenenbaums
Door 18 – Last Action Hero
Door 19 – Eastern Promises
Door 20 – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Door 21 – The Apartment
Door 22 – Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Door 23 – Ronin
Door 24 – Die Hard 2

2019

Door 1 – Three Days of the Condor
Door 2 – Rent
Door 3 – Tangerine
Door 4 – Filth
Door 5 – 2012
Door 6 – Cold Pursuit
Door 7 – Less than Zero
Door 8 – Just Friends
Door 9 – Shaft
Door 10 – The Rules of Attraction
Door 11 – About a Boy
Door 12 – A Long Way Down
Door 13 – Psycho
Door 14 – The Time Machine
Door 15 – American Psycho
Door 16 – Love Actually
Door 17 – The Boat That Rocked
Door 18 – Edward Scissorhands
Door 19 – Soldier
Door 20 – Better Off Dead
Door 21 – Diner
Door 22 – Run All Night
Door 23 – Crash
Door 24 – Shazam

If, however, you have no interest in this kind of thing, then why not pop back on Christmas Day, when I will be writing my Annual Christmas Message, which is also generally quite poorly received. Although I assume that is more to do with the fact that most people have better things to do on Christmas Day than to read my blog.

Most years anyway…

Entr’acte

Welcome back to ‘Artist’s Corner’, the only bit of my blog where you can find the much-celebrated artwork of Little Proclaims, my two-year-old daughter.

This is very much the final entry in the 2020 series, as all regular activities on my blog must cease next week in order for me to begin my usual festive cinematic countdown to Christmas in what will be The Fourth Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar Of Christmas(ish) Films.

Worry not though, Little Proclaims appears to have no intention of giving up the artwork and is arguably more prolific than ever. So she’ll be back on these pages in 2021 and offering some light relief from the never-ending haikus.

I might even buy her some new washable felt-tips for Christmas so who knows what delights she’ll be able to conjure up.

In the meantime though, I shall leave you wanting more, with one of Little Proclaims recent forays into the world of paint:

A Thousand Words From Little Proclaims

Welcome back to ‘Artist’s Corner’, the bit of my blog that is currently devoted to the art-work of my two-year-old daughter.

Last week saw the finale of ‘The September Sessions’, a nine-week extravaganza celebrating the art she produced on a weekend when she was a bit ill and I couldn’t take her our for fear of inducing Covid-related hysteria.

However, although she bounced back to full health very quickly, she has continued to be prolific in the world of visual media, so much so that I couldn’t possibly feature all of her drawings on this blog without devoting this entire blog to that cause and thus depriving the world of some quite underwhelming haikus.

But it’s fair to say that Little Proclaims has picked up something of a fan-base in the last few months and so we both thought it might be nice for her to communicate with you directly.

Unfortunately, although her spoken vocabulary is improving rapidly, in both English and French, she has yet to master the art of writing. But they say a picture paints a thousand words so here are a thousand words that Little Proclaims painted for her fans:

A Poem About The Perils Of An Early Start And A Clumsy Disposition

This morning
Without warning
I fell over while I was yawning

It was quite a trip
Perhaps more of a slip
And I hurt my hip

I hadn’t yet switched on my brain
And now I’m in some pain
Though I’m not one to complain

But no bones are broken
And now that I’ve awoken
The accident will go unspoken

Yes I know I mustn’t grumble
About my little tumble
And onwards I must bumble

I’ll avoid exercise that is aerobic
But otherwise be quite stoic
(Possibly heroic?)

And so despite my woe
I’ll put on a good show
And off to work I’ll go

James Complains About Dominic Cummings But Not For The Same Reasons That Everyone Else Complains About Him

Occasionally on this blog I like to comment on the world of politics. Not often and usually with the kind of authority that you might associate with someone who exclusively reads tabloid newspapers. In real life I don’t read tabloid newspapers. I don’t read newspapers at all. I get all my information from the internet. And sometimes the television. But I like to think I’m relatively discerning about the forums I choose to peruse and so I think it would be reasonable to claim that I’m quite well-informed. Certainly, I’m well-informed enough to know that I don’t really know or understand anything. Knowing that you know nothing is, of course, the definition of true wisdom. I believe it was Socrates who said that. But before you go attributing too much intellectual weight to me, you should know that I’m only aware of Socrates, and what he might have said, because I’m a big fan of the 1989 movie ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ rather than because I’ve ever read any ancient Greek philosophy.

Anyway, my understanding that I don’t really understand anything makes me more than qualified to comment on the world of politics. Possibly more qualified than many politicians who regularly fail to understand that they don’t understand anything and often choose to hold quite firm opinions on a myriad of topics that they know nothing about.

It has been quite a tumultuous time in politics of late. The results of a certain US election appear to be beyond all reasonable doubt. This hasn’t stopped the incumbent casting doubt on them, but even the most ardent of Trump supporters would have to acknowledge that the ability to adopt a reasonable position is not one of his strengths. Well possibly not the most ardent of Trump supporters, because they are probably strangers to reason too, but I imagine a lot of Trump supporters are actually relatively reasonable people who appreciate that he did, in fact, lose.

But that is none of my business really. I mean the global influence of the USA is such that I am, of course, interested in who the POTUS is, and I am relieved that it will no longer be Donald, but the departure of Trump does not and will not do very much to alleviate the total car crash that is the current British Government. Although it might positively influence the current trade negotiations between the EU and the recently Brexited Britain, now that we no longer have the prospect of an, always unlikely, Trump trade deal to hide behind. I expect a trade deal with the EU will happen and it will be one that will satisfy neither Brexiteers nor Remainers, but it will allow a lot of people with quite big egos on both sides to claim some sort of victory, while remaining suitably vague on the nature of that victory.

One person who won’t get to enjoy the latest apparent denouement in the never-ending Brexit saga is a certain Dominic Cummings, along with his good friend Lee Cain, who both departed their roles as Boris Johnson’s brain on Friday. One presumes Boris is relatively confident he can continue to operate without a brain and all the evidence thus far is he is correct to feel optimistic about this as he appears to have done tremendously well in his life to date without the burden of too many coherent thoughts. If you’ve never heard of Lee Cain then you wouldn’t be alone. Despite having a name that would be more suited to the world of stand-up comedy than political advice, he was, according to the British media, quite important. But as the emphasis is very much the past tense, given that he has now gone, it doesn’t really seem worthwhile learning anything about him.

Cummings, on the other hand, is quite well known. Partly for being the architect of Brexit but mostly for breaking lockdown rules and then pretending that he hadn’t and that he was just being a good dad while displaying some highly questionable road safety etiquette.

Cummings is a highly divisive figure, and I can’t quite make up my mind what I think of him. Obviously at face value I detest everything about him and what he stands for, but his utter disdain for the British media and his description of Tory MPs as “useful idiots” do make him slightly more endearing.

But there is one thing that I can’t quite get over.

There was a lot of media attention given to his departure over the weekend, which resulted in a kind of ‘highlights reel’ being played endlessly. One clip that was regularly featured was a moment in which he avoided answering a reporter’s questions by referencing the children’s TV show ‘PJ Masks’.

In and of itself, I quite enjoyed the irreverence of his response, which was as follows:

“The night-time is the right time to fight crime. I can’t think of a rhyme.”

However, I subsequently came to realise that he was directly quoting the lyrics to the ‘PJ Masks’ theme tune and, frankly, he got it wrong.

The actual lines from the song are:

“Bedtime is the right time to fight crime. I can’t think of a rhyme.”

‘Bedtime’ and ‘night-time’ are not inherently the same thing as any parent, let alone a ‘responsible parent’ such as Cummings, ought to know.

Cummings is guilty of many morally questionable acts, but misquoting a cartoon theme song is just unforgiveable.

Frankly he is a monster.

The September Sessions – 9 of 9

Welcome to a very special ‘Artist’s Corner’. The ninth and final instalment of the seminal ‘September Sessions’, a series of drawings produced by my two-year-old daughter one weekend in September when she was a little bit under the weather and consequently not able to venture out in these germophobic times, for fear of inducing panic.

‘The September Sessions’ have produced some memorable pieces, no doubt, but I think we can all agree that she saved the best until last.

I’m not sure words can truly convey what a stunning achievement 9 of 9 is:

I’m sure there are many regular readers who will be saddened by the end of this series, but you’ll be pleased to know that Little Proclaims has continued to produce many more masterpieces since completing ‘The September Sessions’. Enough to probably warrant me dedicating this entire blog to just posting her drawings. Which may be preferable to the never-ending haikus.

But all that is for another time.

Tune in tomorrow for what will very likely be an underwhelming haiku.

The September Sessions – 8 of 9

Today is the 5th of November, which ordinarily mean it’s Guy Fawkes Night. This is because somebody called Guy Fawkes was quite bad at regicide, but to be fair to him, he was part of a bigger group of people who were all bad at regicide and he wasn’t even the ringleader. But for some reason we only remember him.

In honour of his incompetence we normally have firework displays and bonfires and treacle toffee. Not that I tend to partake in such things, but normally I could if I wanted to.

And given that my daughter is now two years of age, which may be old enough to possibly enjoy a firework display, I might have gone out this evening, if today were not the day that England officially went into its second lockdown of 2020. The lockdown means that firework displays are pretty much off the table. Metaphorically I mean. It would obviously be a bad idea to use a table to stage firework displays any year.

So Little Proclaims will not be seeing any fireworks this year. But in fairness, her drawings are just as exciting in their own way.

Locking It Down As The UK Goes Viral Again

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As I write this, it is Sunday morning, but due to my propensity to write my posts slightly in advance of the day I publish them, this will likely be on my blog on Monday. That’s just the kind of advance planning I do to ensure that a rather niche and little-read blog is able to maintain a daily posting schedule. It’s not important that I maintain a daily schedule or indeed that I blog at all, but I like to apply a little forethought to most areas of my life.

Clearly the UK government adopts a similar level of planning to deal with pandemics, as we are not currently in lockdown in England, but we will be on Thursday. Boris has used all of his negotiating skills to strike a deal with COVID 19 and it has agreed not to infect anyone for the next few days as long as we are in full lockdown by Thursday.

Some people who weren’t party to those negotiations have questioned why the lockdown didn’t come into force immediately but those people are idiots.

Although they aren’t as stupid as the people who have questioned the government’s policy of pretending that there wasn’t going to be any kind of lockdown and then implementing one at the last minute. Those people have obviously never been part of any kind of high level negotiation before. It’s not like the government could just let the virus know what they were planning to do. Then they would have had no leverage. By pretending they were going to try and implement a convoluted and ill-thought through tiered approach to suppressing the virus, they caught COVID 19 completely off-guard when they announced the lockdown that they had secretly been planning to implement all along. I’ll bet the virus is feeling pretty silly this morning.

What is particularly clever about this latest strategy is that the rules are different to the last lockdown so there is no way the virus can have prepared for it. And even more clever is that the rules are possibly even more confusing than last time round so the virus won’t know if it’s coming or going.

Indeed the rules are so confusing that I don’t think anyone really understands them, which is perfect because it means that no-one can explain the rules to the virus.

We’ll soon send COVID 19 packing from these shores, just like we did last time around.

Until then, I’ll be hunkering down in Barnard Castle.

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