Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Our first match-up in the Best Holiday Movie EVER Tournament is going to address the biggest question/issue that came up immediately upon the Selection Committee (my wife and I after a large bottle of Cabernet-Merlot blend) announcing the field Sunday night.

'Not Quite' Genre: (3) Planes, Trains, and Automobiles vs. (6) The Ref

While none of the initial reaction to the brackets out-and-out questioned the placement of The Ref, there were immediately several mentions of Trading Places. A prototypical candidate for the 'Not Quite' genre bracket if there ever was one, it's one of the early-to-mid 80s Eddie Murphy classics. Not on par with Coming to America, it is right there with the first installment of Beverly Hills Cop or 48 Hours in the triumvirate of (non-stand up concert) films that catapulted Murphy out of "Saturday Night Live" and into superstardom.

It is, quite honestly, nothing short of a travesty that Trading Places is not an incredibly strong 3- or 4-seed in this bracket, which would push Gremlins down into this Wild Card spot and bump The Ref completely out of the discussion. 

None of this is to say that The Ref is not a great movie and, as it does take place on Christmas Eve but really has very little at all to do with the holidays, is not a strong candidate for the 'Not Quite' bracket. It has Kevin Spacey - always a plus, and Denis Leary's most screen time in a film that isn't animated. Leary's rage-infused stand-up is the most underrated act of the late 80s/early 90s, and was so inexplicably unique it's managed to pigeonhole Leary into basically playing himself - pissed off, flawed, blue collar anti-hero - in anything he's ever done - Ice Age included (yes, a saber tooth tiger is blue collar). On the negative side, Judy Davis is so good at playing a bitch you end up feeling no sympathy for her, and Christine Baranski makes her first of two appearances in this tournament. That's like having two Indiana Hoosiers in the same tourney, one coached by Bobby Knight and the other by Tom Crean. You just can't decide which to hate more. 

The match-up does The Ref no favors, as Planes, Trains, and Automobiles teams a comedic genius with the best comedic character actor of the 1980s. Combine Steve Martin and John Candy with a John Hughes script directed by John Hughes, and you get what you always got with a John Hughes-directed movie (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Uncle Buck): Gold. And heart. Nothing crushes you in the middle of a two-hour gutbusting laughfest like the scene where Candy's character puts Martin's character in his place, and gives him some perspective as a takeaway.

I'm not going to make my opinion on every match-up so blatantly obvious, but I think you can see where I come down on this one. The question is, where do YOU? 

Go to Twitter and vote. The winner moves on to next week and a match-up against either Love Actually or Die Hard.


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