Yes Virginia, Die Hard is a Christmas Movie

Yes Virginia, Die Hard is a Christmas Movie

Have Yourself an Action Christmas

There is an ongoing debate about whether Die Hard can be considered a Christmas movie. For me the answer is a resounding yes! Die Hard (1988) and Lethal Weapon (1987), which are both set in Los Angeles during Christmas time make a great 80s action double feature. You can make it a triple LA action feature and include Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) written and directed by Shane Black, who wrote Lethal Weapon.  This is a comedic murder mystery starring Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilner, and Michelle Monaghan that is a love letter to the film noir movies of the 1940s.  A side note: Black has a thing about Christmas in LA. He wrote and directed Iron Man 3 (2013) which was also set in Los Angeles at Christmas time.

Fatman (2020) with Mel Gibson as a world weary Santa Claus who must fight off an assassin sent by a sociopathic child on the naughty list is a true action Christmas movie.  This one is my new favorite. 

My favorite TV Christmas episode is also heavy on the action.  NCIS episode  11 9th Season – Newborn King.  Stuck in a snow storm on Christmas Eve, Gibbs and Ziva take refuge in a closed gas station with a witness they are protecting, a very pregnant Marine.  As she goes into labor, hitmen show up to kill her.  Ziva fights off the bad guys while Gibbs delivers the baby. 

Fun Fact: The title of this blog is a reference to one of the most famous letters of all time.  In 1897 eight year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the newspaper The New York Sun asking if there was a Santa Claus.  The editor answered her with an editorial that started with Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus.  You can read her letter and the reply here.   

I wish you and your loved ones a very merry Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate in December!

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For Your Viewing Pleasure:   British Cozy Mysteries to Stream

For Your Viewing Pleasure:   British Cozy Mysteries to Stream

In the past couple of months, I have discovered some wonderful British cozy murder mystery series.  The British really know how to do cozy murders for television. The stories are always a little bit funny, with enduring characters, and a hint of romance.  These shows are mostly on BritBox and Acorn TV, which are the two British television streaming channels. A couple are on the PBS Masterpiece streamer. The easiest way to watch all of these shows, is to add the channels to your Amazon Prime Video. That way no matter where you are and what streaming box you’re using, you can watch. 

Magpie Murders (PBS Masterpiece) – Susan Ryland is a successful book editor, but when her most famous murder mystery writer turns in his book without the final chapter and then dies mysteriously, she’s got a double mystery on her hands. Where’s the chapter? And did someone kill the author?  This ingenious series switches between Susan’s present day investigation and the murder mystery from the book set in 1953. 

Miss Scarlett & the Duke (PBS Masterpiece) – Set in the 1880s, Miss Scarlett is the first woman private detective in London, taking over her father’s firm.  She works and clashes with a handsome Scotland Yard detective. 

Shakespeare & Hathaway (BritBox) – Set in present day Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s hometown, Louella Shakespeare and Frank Hathway are private investigators.  The assistant Sebastian, an aspiring actor, goes undercover as wacky characters. 

Signora Volpe (BritBox) – Follows a British spy who goes to a small Italian town for her niece’s wedding and gets drawn into a mystery when the groom disappears. 

MacDonald & Hobbs (BritBox) – Ambitious DCI Lauren MacDonald is transferred to Bath from London and even worse she is partnered with strange DS Hobbs.  But he turns out to be a savant, seeing connections others don’t, and together they make a great team. 

Agatha Raisin (Acorn TV) – PR powerhouse Agatha Raisin retires early and buys her dream cottage in a village in the Cotswolds where she is promptly accused of murder.  In trying to clear herself, she discovers a talent for solving murder and makes friends with the quirky characters in the village. 

Sister Boniface Mysteries (BritBox) – Set in a village in the 1960s, forensic scientist and perpetually perky Sister Boniface assists the local police detective.

Madam Blanc (Acorn TV) –  Mrs. White’s husband dies on an antique buying trip in the south of France.  The police say it was an accident, but she proves it was murder and that her antiques knowledge can help solve crimes. 

Happy watching!

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My Favorite Movies About Writing

My Favorite Movies About Writing

Writing is, as all of you know, a solitary, cerebral occupation. Even when you’re actually pounding on your keyboard, you’re in your head. The process of writing, the blood, sweat, and tears of it, is difficult to dramatize. Lots of characters in movies are writers, but very few films are about writing itself. Here are my favorites that capture what a writer goes through as he tries to get the story in his head down on paper.

Bullets Over Broadway (1994) comedy written by Woody Allen – A wunderkind playwright (John Cusak) is interested in creating deep Art, but he doesn’t care about entertaining an audience. The backer of the play, a gangster, wants to give his mistress a part. John is having to compromise his art to get his project made. Meanwhile, the gangster’s henchman (Chazz Palmentari) has a flare for story and starts making suggestions. It turns out he’s the real talent, and he’s willing to kill a bad actress save his play. This movie points out two creative truths. 1) Writers can be pretentious and untalented. 2) Anyone can have good ideas.

See How They Run (2020) comedic mystery written by Mark Chappell – a fictional murder mystery set around the real Agatha Christie play The Mousetrap involving all the drama around turning a hit play into a movie, including the writer fighting with the director about the script. Even more fun, the murder mystery is full of Agatha Christie tropes that connect to the play. Fun fact: The Mousetrap has been playing in the West End of London without interruption (with the exception of the lockdowns) since 1953.

Wonder Boys (2000) comedy written by Steve Kloves, based on the book by Michael Chabon – Once promising novelist Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) doesn’t do a lot of writing in this movie, but he captures perfectly the mania of trying to live up to the reputation of your own book, and the despair and fear at being eclipsed by a younger, more talented writer.

Shakespeare in Love (1998) comedy written by Marc Norman & Tom Stoppard – Shakespeare falls in love with Viola, who is pretending to be a man so she can act. This relationship gives him inspiration to revise his latest play and turn it into Romeo & Juliet. It’s fun to see the fictional story of how he came up with one of his most famous plays.

Sweet Liberty (1986) comedy written by Alan Alda – Follows the experience of an author (Alan Alda) whose book is being made into a movie. Even though it’s non-fiction, the Hollywood folks are changing it left and right. Alan Alda struggles to keep the integrity of his book and make the screenplay good. This is an overlooked gem of a movie with great performances from Michael Cain and Michelle Pfeiffer as temperamental movie stars.

Adaption (2002) black comedy written by Charlie Kaufman – Writer Charlie Kaufman had such a difficult time figuring out how to turn the book The Orchid Thief into a movie that he wrote the screenplay about his struggle. This movie perfectly captures the turmoil when you just can’t crack the story and everyone else you know seems to be sailing along.

The Muse (1999) comedy written by Albert Brooks & Monica Johnson – Blocked screenwriter Albert Brooks hires kooky professional muse Sharon Stone to help him. She may be crazy, but there’s a method to her madness. She helps him come up with a new idea and gives his wife the confidence to start a business. If only we could all have a muse for hire on call.

Sunset Boulevard (1950) film noir written by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, & D.M. Marshman Jr. – Desperate and destitute screenwriter meets desperate and unhinged movie star while a sweet assistant writes her first screenplay. Sometimes being a writer is deadly.

Stranger Than Fiction (2006) comedy written by Zach Helm – IRS Agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) suddenly starts hearing narration and realizes he is a character in someone’s novel. What will happen if he tries to break out of the plot and falls in love?

Author’s Anonymous (2014) comedy written by David Congalton – When several dysfunctional and unpublished writers accept inexperienced Hannah (Kaley Cuoco) into their writers group, they don’t expect her overnight success. A comedy about competition and creativity.

Something’s Gotta Give (2003) romantic comedy written by Nancy Myers – Diane Keaton is a playwright who uses the heartbreak of falling in love with her daughter’s boyfriend (who is her age) to write her next hit play. The scenes of her crying her eyes out as she types are hysterical and relatable.

See How They Run (2021) – is a fictional murder mystery set around the real Agatha Christie play, The Mousetrap. It takes place in 1953 London, and we see all the drama around turning a hit play into a movie, including the writer fighting with the director about the script. Even more fun, the murder mystery is full of Agatha Christie tropes that connect to the play. Fun fact: The Mousetrap has been playing in the West End of London without interruption (except for the lockdowns) since 1953.

Paris When It Sizzles (1964) comedy written by George Axelrod – This is a mediocre movie. The fun is seeing secretary Audrey Hepburn act out all of screenwriter William Holden’s different scenarios as he tries to figure out what kind of movie to write.

Bonus: The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) romance written by Woody Allen – is not about writing, but the fantasy of living your favorite movie. Downtrodden Depression era waitress Mia Farrow’s life is turned upside down when the romantic lead from her favorite movie steps out of the screen.

What does it say about the writing life that most of these are comedies? Comment to let me know if I left one of your favorite writing movies off the list!

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