Tuesday, December 27, 2011


This accompanying photo you see is one that made its rounds all over the world via the internet last Christmas season. The story behind this photo is a simple one: this stray dog had been wandering around a certain neighborhood for a few days and one night found the perfect place to rest.

I love what this photo simply conveys toward us as we approach the New Year: choosing to find peace, rest and comfort in the arms of the Father.

The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. - Psalm 145:8

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Meet John Doe: Movie Review

Even though I am a huge classic movie buff I was not aware of this film, nor even it being considered a Christmas film, until last December 2010. I caught maybe the last ten minutes of it after midnight on Christmas Eve and the last scene was so powerful, I had to rent it and watch from start to finish. With that said, here you are:

Imagine yourself living in a big city or state where the economy is bad, unemployment is high, many people in need of food, and all the politicians are crooked. You then decide to protest these ills of society by threatening to jump off the roof of City Hall on Christmas Eve unless things improve. Do you think anything would change? Would anybody care?

This is the premise behind Frank Capra's 1941 film Meet John Doe,
starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. A story that deals with the heart of the American people and definitely resonates with each of us today.

Stanwyck plays reporter Ann Mitchell of the New Bulletin newspaper,a struggling paper that has been bought by a wealthy industrialist. Ann gets laid off from her job but is asked to write one final column. She obviously wants to come up with something that draws fireworks in hopes of maybe keeping her job. Ann creates a fictional character named John Doe, an unemployed homeless man who writes a letter to the paper protesting against the collapse of decency in the world and threatens to jump off the roof of City Hall at midnight on Christmas Eve unless things change.

The Governor and some competing newspapers believe this is a hoax and just another publicity stunt. So when the town begins to show an interest in John Doe by offering him a job and a place to live, the newspaper finds itself needing to cover up its tracks. So they hire a homeless man who is without any family to pose as John Doe.

The newspaper and Ann Mitchell decide to use John Doe to unite the American people with Doe's philosophy that it is the little people who are the backbone of America:

"The character of the country is the sum character of the little punks.
The meek will inherit the earth when we all work together."

And one of John Doe's other philosophies that he asks of the people,

"Why can't that Spirit, that Christmas Spirit, last all year long?"

John Doe is asked to do a radio speech and the next thing you know his story has taken the country by storm. News begins to spread throughout the land of his story and small town folks are creating John Doe Clubs to carry out his message. These clubs obviously have one stipulation: no politicians allowed.

Ann Mitchell and her publisher decide to circulate John Doe and his message throughout the towns of America and we see small towns everywhere uniting together with brotherly love toward one another. Neighbors are seen giving other neighbors a helping hand with food, small jobs with pay,and offering others a place to live.

And as any good story goes, there's always one villain in the crowd.And in this case it is the owner of the newspaper,a man named Norton, who wants to use the John Doe movement for his own welfare to gain a seat in the White House.

Of course John Doe has no desire to go along with this political maneuver and realizes Norton is just another politician who wants to kill the decency of mankind and the John Doe's of the world. Norton blackmails John Doe to follow or otherwise he would spread the news that John Doe is a fake and he would then be shunned by society wherever he went.

When John Doe addresses a crowd of thousands at a John Doe Rally, Norton pulls out all the stops. He has delivery boys spread throughout the crowd newspapers with the headline John Doe is a Fake. Amidst all the ruckus John Doe leaves out a back entrance and disappears for a few days. And while he has disappeared from the American people without a word, John Doe Clubs begin to disband throughout the land.

On Christmas Eve night, church bells ringing at the strike of midnight, John Doe shows up atop the roof of City Hall. But also up there waiting for him are a few loyal John Doe club members who still believe in his philosophy and had seen it work in their neighborhoods. John Doe has seen the hatred throughout the country, the dirty politics, and the indecency of mankind, and chooses to go ahead with the once created plan of jumping. And then Ann Mitchell comes running into his arms with the speech of all speeches:

"Please don't give up, John! The John Doe movement isn't dead. Oh,John, if it's worth dying for, it's worth living for. Oh,please John...you wanna be honest don't ya'? Well you don't have to keep the John Doe idea alive. Someone already died for that once. The first John Doe. And He's kept that idea alive for nearly 2,000 years.
And He'll go on keeping it alive for ever and ever and always."

My hope is that this coming New Year we will see many John Doe's flourish throughout our land. All it takes to start is one individual willing to carry on that Christmas Spirit all year long. Will it be you?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Vacation: Movie Review

This 1989 film starring Chevy Chase has become not only one of my favorites, but a cult classic that many people view more than once during the holiday season, and for good reason. While viewing this film and studying the humongous amount of funny quotes it has to offer, it is no wonder it has replaced the classics like
Its A Wonderful Life as the must see holiday movie every season.

Chevy Chase plays Clark Griswold in the third installment of the series of Vacation films. Clark realizes both his and wife Ellen's parents are getting old so he decides to have an old fashioned family Christmas, one that he never had growing up.

"Our holidays were always such a mess, dad."


How'd you get through it dad?"

"I had a little help from Jack Daniels."

As the Griswold family goes out in search of the great Christmas tree to add to their home trouble abounds, everything from: getting run down in the family station wagon by a semi truck, to hiking waist deep in snow in search of that allusive special tree, only to forget the chainsaw to actually cut down that tree.

"Clark, Audrey's frozen from the waist down."

"That's all part of the experience,honey."

One of the great beginnings in this festive comedy is Clark's fascination with getting the house decorated with thousands of lights, only to have problems in getting those thousands of lights to actually work. But once he does,

"Is your house on fire Clark?"

"No, Aunt Bethany, those are the Christmas lights."

One of the more humorous relationships in all of the Vacation films are the one's between Clark and the annoying Cousin Eddie, played fabulously by Randy Quaid. It seems like Cousin Eddie and family are always taking advantage of the Griswold's.
Each scene shown with Clark and Cousin Eddie presents a comedic duet of shear delight, as they each play off one another well.

While the family is outside admiring the now functioning properly Christmas lights, Cousin Eddie and family show up... uninvited of course.

"You surprised to see us,Clark?"

"Oh, Eddie..if I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised then I am now."

Once inside the festive looking home, their comedic bantering continues:

"Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?"

"Naw, I'm just fine Clark."

One of the more funny moments of the film is when 80 year-old Aunt Bethany hears something inside the Christmas tree.

"What's that sound? You hear it? It's a funny squeaky sound."

"You couldn't hear a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerin plant!"

exclaims Uncle Lewis.

Aunt Bethany's hearing seems to be pretty good for her age as the sounds she hears are that of a squirrel who has taken up residency inside.The squirrel suddenly takes flight throughout the house wrecking havoc along the way. Not to mention Cousin Eddie's dog Snots helping with the dismantling of the home by joining in the chase.

This epic destruction along with Uncle Eddie coming uninvited, and the Christmas tree catching fire from Uncle Lewis' cigar, has the Griswold's second guessing their having a traditional family Christmas.

"Clark, I think it's best if everyone went home..before things get worse."

"Worse? How could things get any worse? Take a look around here, Ellen, we're at the threshold of hell!"

Things do get worse when a messenger delivers Clark his Christmas bonus, only it's not what he was expecting. Clark was expecting enough money in his bonus to put in a swimming pool, instead he gets enrolled in a jelly-of-the-month club.

"If this isn't the biggest bag-over-the-head, punch-in-the-face I ever got!"

Clark goes ballistic and rants heavily about his low-down-dirty cheap boss. He even sarcasticly asks for his boss to be brought to his home so he could lash out at him in person; his boss neatly wrapped in a red bow of course.

Cousin Eddie, who always takes Clark literally on everything he says, drives off to kidnap Clark's boss and bring him back to the Griswold's now defunct family Christmas.

"Yes, officer, it seems my husband's been abducted. The man..was wearing a blue leisure suit. Plates were from Kansas. He was a huge,beastly, bulging man."
the boss's wife exclaims on the phone to the police.

Much to Clark's surprise, Cousin Eddie appears with Clark's boss and a Swat Team to follow. Much to the delight of the Griswold family, Clark's boss realizes what he did to save a cheap buck was wrong, and reinstates Clark Griswold's bonus.

The Griswold family Christmas, not the one they had in mind, but one I am sure they will never forget.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas with the Kranks: Movie Review

This holiday film is a hidden gem that somehow gets lost within the bombardment of otherwise quality and traditional Christmas movies. This story has such an impact ending that it is worthy of watching with the entire family.

In Christmas with the Kranks, Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis play Luther and Nora Kranks, a well-to-do couple who find themselves spending their first Christmas without their daughter Blair, who has joined the Peace Corps.

With the two of them feeling down, Luther offers up this suggestion to his wife,

"Why don't we skip Christmas this year, save the money, and spend it on ourselves for a change."

Luther's numbers crunching comes up with them having spent $6100 for Christmas last year, where an island cruise for the two of them this year would cost only $3000. Nora buys into the idea!

Luther begins his boycott of Christmas by sending out a memo to his office co-workers that he is not celebrating Christmas this year: no Christmas cards, no gifts,and he will not attend office party.

While Nora abruptly lets her gal pals know that she and Luther won't be having their annual Christmas Eve party.

When confronted by the Cub Scouts to purchase their usual Christmas tree, Luther declines, simply stating "We're not doing Christmas this year!"

The Cub Scout leader informs the neighborhood of the Kranks dastardly selfish deed,
"Luther Kranks just stiffed the scouts on a Christmas tree!"

When Dan Ankroyd, who plays the neighborhood watchdog, gets wind of this and Luther's refusal to put up the traditional Frosty the Snowman upon his rooftop, the Christmas guilt trip onslaught by the neighbors begins.
Luther and Nora become the talk of the village, even finding their picture on the front page of the town newspaper with the headline:
Skipping Christmas.

When Christmas Carolers are suggested to confront the Kranks home to bring them some Christmas Spirit, Luther and Nora go hide in the basement.

Luther and Nora even receive threatening phone calls from a kid named Spike, who wants them to: "Free Frosty! Free Frosty!

Suddenly things take a turn when they receive a phone call on Christmas Eve from Blair who surprises them with her returning home for Christmas with her fiance Enrique from Peru.

Luther and Nora are now in panic mode as Blair is coming home in a few hours expecting: a Christmas tree, house decorated, Frosty on the rooftop, and a Christmas Eve party with friends and neighbors who the Kranks originally have made enemies with.

As Luther has trouble finding a Christmas tree, he asks his neighbor across the street if he could borrow theirs since they are leaving out of town. With the help of Spike, Luther tries moving the decorated tree across the street in a little red wagon, something I would not suggest you do for two reasons: one, it might attract the neighbors, and two,it will attract the police.

When the neighborhood finds out that the Kranks Christmas is back on, they pitch in to help out, but make known they are only doing this for Blair's sake. One of my favorite lines in the movie comes from Dan Ackroyd,

"Don't blame the daughter for the sins of the father!"

Many mishaps happen during the frantic pace of putting their traditional Christmas back together. But it all comes together and Blair comes home to a festive home and party as if nothing had happened.

Later Nora becomes upset with Luther who's found hiding in a corner of the kitchen wallowing in self pity and trying to figure out how they can still make their flight out tomorrow for that cruise. She reminds him of what great lengths the neighborhood went to make Blair's homecoming a success and that,

"The true meaning of community is putting others before yourself."

Luther decides to give the cruise tickets away to the old man and woman who live across the street who are spending possibly their last Christmas together as the woman is dying of cancer.

Luther Kranks finally realizes one of the things Christmas is all about:
friends, family, community, and the importance of giving.