Hoot Recommends: winter holiday edition

December 4, 2020

“The Nice Guys”

Do you know what sealed it for me that humanity should just give up already and make way for the dolphins to replace us? On its opening weekend, Shane Black’s “The Nice Guys” grossed less than “The Angry Birds Movie.” It’s too late for us as a species. “The Nice Guys” is a 2016 comedy noir starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as a pathetic private investigator and hardened hired enforcer, respectively, tramping through late 70s L.A. on the search for a missing teenager. Their journey takes them through the magical realms of corporate espionage, kid detective work, existential hallucination and high class pornography, all punctuated by biting dialogue and almost constant near-death experiences. Like Black’s other venture into crime-comedy, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” “The Nice Guys” is absolutely hysterical. 

Gosling and Crowe’s March and Heely seem to have both the best and worst luck possible, stumbling in and out of firefights and accidently happening upon evidence, while making jokes sharp enough to decapitate. Black’s style of clumsy and awkward yet realistic violence is on bloody display and allows for engaging and side-splitting fight scenes. The performances should also be commended, from Gosling’s hilariously out-of-his-depth March to the frighteningly calm heartthrob hit man John Boy, played by Matt Bomer. This film is the perfect concoction of charm, charisma, chemistry, comedy and carnage. It’s a smart little pearl of a film, so perfect in itself I would dread a sequel, especially considering how Black’s next project was “The Predator,” an unfunny death rattle of a franchise about aliens trying to steal autism. So right the wrongs of mankind and watch “The Nice Guys” this holiday season. It is after all, like every Shane Black film, technically a Christmas movie. There’s mistletoe and Christmas lights at the bar they visit, sue me. —Sam Finbury

“Polar Express”

Perhaps this is because I watched “Polar Express” at a crucial moment during my childhood, but reflecting on the movie now that I am older, it has always stood out to me as not only being a classic, but also a movie that provides an insightful message to children such as myself that recently discovered that Santa Claus was fantastical. Immediately after discovering this, I found myself losing a little bit of excitement during Christmas, and the magic associated with the holiday disappeared almost entirely. This movie, however, gave me new meaning for Christmas, and another reason to celebrate it.

To minimize the risk of spoiling the movie for any of you that have not seen it, I will limit my discussion to the final scene of the movie, which involves a bell that only rings if the person who rings it truly believes in Santa. During this movie, some of the characters have gone through struggles regarding whether they believe in Santa or not, and this metaphorical idea of a bell reinvigorated the magic of Christmas for me; I hope it will for you too! —John Fornaigel

“Full Court Miracle” 

Disney has created one Jewish holiday movie ever: “Full Court Miracle.” You’ve probably never heard of it because it was infrequently played and never advertised. This is for good reason of course, as the movie is completely nonsensical and hard to believe. “Full Court Miracle” tells the story of Hanukkah through a Hebrew school’s basketball game for middle schoolers. And yet, I can’t help but watch the movie every year. 

The plot isn’t particularly good, the acting is cheesy and the script leaves a lot to be desired. But there is something so oddly wholesome about watching a bunch of middle school boys try to play basketball—while wearing kippahs, nonetheless! If you don’t know the story of Hanukkah, well, you probably still won’t after watching this. If you do know the story of Hanukkah, you can see how the story is going to play out but instead of dreading the predictable ending, you find yourself looking forward to it. When the power goes out during the game and the backup generator just has enough power left for a couple minutes at most, you smile. 

Buried in this Hanukkah plot is a heartwarming story about a basketball player who had to give up on his dreams of being a star, but still finds a way to stay with the game. It’s a story of how one man can really change an entire team’s lives. It’s… honestly not that good, but it’ll make you happy all the same. —Emma Lichtenstein

Holiday Lights

Holiday lights are my favorite part of this time of year. People go above and beyond for their light displays: some sync their lights up to music, others coordinate with their neighborhoods and there are those who do both. 

I love it because even in the darkest time of year, the night remains lit by the cheerfulness of others—it’s contagious. I used to, and still do, love driving around to look at fancy lights, or even going to see the light displays at the Winter Lantern Festival at Snug Harbor. Because it may be dark and cold and miserable weather, but, boy, are the lights pretty and they are mesmerizing. 

I love the community that decorating builds; when neighborhoods work together to create displays which are solely for the enjoyment of the public it brings people closer. They get no real reward from doing these elaborate light displays except for the happiness of others—isn’t that kind of beautiful?

This year, more than ever, we could all use a little extra light in our lives. —Victoria Morrongiello

“Lego Star Wars Holiday Special”

If you’re a Star Wars geek who wants some wholesome holiday cheer, look no further than the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special (streaming on Disney+). The galaxy far far away doesn’t have a Christmas or Hannakuh, instead celebrating Life Day, which is analogous to most winter solstice-esque celebrations: gift-giving, family and friends gathering, etc. Here, we follow Rey (Helen Sadler), who is now officially a Jedi. Rey takes it upon herself to teach Finn (Omar Benson Miller) how to become a Jedi himself. Meanwhile, Poe (Jake Green) stresses about making the perfect Life Day celebration, and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) is the only one who seems to at least be trying to have a good time.

In the middle of all this, Rey discovers a portal that takes her back in time. Thinking that this will help her figure out how to best train Finn, she jumps through the timelines of past Jedi teacher-student duos, showing a highlight reel of fan favorites. 

Most importantly, underlying all these time-jumps, Rey essentially learns that being a Jedi teacher is not really about being the perfect teacher—the most important thing is friendship. In a very “Christmas Carol” fashion, one of the special’s final scenes involves Rey looking up at the ghosts of all those Jedi who she encountered. It’s touching, and fans will have no choice but to feel the warm fuzzies when they see their favorite character duos, in a rare moment, look genuinely happy, albeit in their Lego forms. 

In sum, this holiday special is a love letter to Star Wars fans who also want some warm, wintery cheer in their favorite fictional universe. So if you want something to laugh about this season, this holiday special is the right Star Wars content for you! —Caroline O

“Love the Coopers”

Cheesy holiday movies are undoubtedly the best part of the winter holiday season: what could be better than a cup of hot chocolate and a movie? And what better movie than a light-hearted comedy about family drama? “Love the Coopers” is a prime example of such a movie: Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and Sam (John Goodman) are getting a divorce after being married for 40 years, but before telling their entire family, they want one more “perfect” Christmas. Despite that desire, it seems like no one is looking forward to this Christmas—they’re all just pretending to. 

The movie follows all the members of the Cooper family, including their adult kids and grandkids, Sam’s aunt, as well as Charlotte’s father and sister, as they navigate their own issues so close to Christmas. A lot of family drama and hidden feelings are revealed during dinner, and of course, are all resolved by the end of it. Oh and did I mention that the movie is narrated by the family dog, Rags (Steve Martin)? If that doesn’t persuade you to watch the movie, I don’t know what will. It is a movie full of memories, family and love: perfect for a cold winter night. —Sasha Skarboviychuk

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