Movies

The Rundown: Merry Christmas, Let’s Watch ‘The Nice Guys’

The Rundown is usually a weekly column that highlights some of the biggest, weirdest, and most notable events of the week in entertainment. This is not that. This is a very special all-Christmas edition. It’s still formatted the same, and still contains a list of some good things, it’s just that this time they’re all holiday-themed, or at least sort of holiday-themed. It’s festive. Grab some cocoa and enjoy.

ITEM NUMBER ONE — Listen to me

Well, guess what: It’s Christmas. It doesn’t exactly feel like it, for about seven reasons that don’t need rehashing here. You can go one of two ways with this. You can lean hard into the holiday spirit to try to drag your unwilling brain there like a child who does not want to go to school, or you can just ride the wave of apathy like Scrooge and be a grump about it. Or, I guess, there’s a third way: You can chill out and watch The Nice Guys. The Nice Guys is a Christmas movie, kind of, which works for a year when “kind of” applies to everything. Also, it is good. That helps, too.

The Nice Guys is one of many movies set at Christmas that are not actually about Christmas. Die Hard is the most famous of these, as you know and can’t avoid, because lots of people like to insist it is “the best Christmas movie.” I tend to disagree, personally, if only to draw a line between Christmas movies and movies that take place during Christmas. Die Hard 2 is probably more of a Christmas movie than the original, if we’re being honest here. Dennis Franz’s character goes on a personal journey not entirely dissimilar from Ebenezer Scrooge, just with dozens of armed terrorists and Bruce Willis visiting him instead of three spirits. Same thing, really.

There are others, too: Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3, The Last Boy Scout, aaaaaand I’m just listing movies written and/or directed by Shane Black, who also wrote and directed The Nice Guys. This is not new information. Shane Black loves setting action movies around the holidays. He explained why to Entertainment Weekly a few years ago:

“Christmas represents a little stutter in the march of days, a hush in which we have a chance to assess and retrospect our lives. I tend to think also that it just informs as a backdrop. The first time I noticed it was Three Days of the Condor, the Sydney Pollack film, where Christmas in the background adds this really odd, chilling counterpoint to the espionage plot. I also think that Christmas is just a thing of beauty, especially as it applies to places like Los Angeles, where it’s not so obvious, and you have to dig for it, like little nuggets.”

So there’s that. The ties to Christmas in The Nice Guys are thinner than some of the other movies listed above. It barely even comes up for most of the movie. The best real evidence comes right at the end, in this scene in the bar, with the decorations in the background.

WARNER BROS.

Christmas confirmed. You now have an excuse to watch this movie, again or for the first time, which you probably should, especially if you tend to enjoy Shane Black’s movies, which I do. It is very much a Shane Black movie, too. It opens with a dead adult film star and features a wise-cracking child and a couple of mismatched detectives and some grammar jokes and a big shootout at the end. The man has a style.

It’s also worth watching it again to remember how good Ryan Gosling is. Ryan Gosling is so good in The Nice Guys. It’s a little infuriating, actually. People should not be allowed to be that good looking and talented and good at physical comedy. The example I always use is that it’s like discovering the richest dude you know is also a scratch golfer. You don’t need to have everything, buddy. Be bad at one thing. For me.

But that’s just me being petty. This is not the time of year for that. This is a time to appreciate things, like Russell Crowe doing comedy and Matt Bomer showing up with about 50 firearms evil Kim Basinger and Ryan Gosling having a luxurious 1970s mustache and doing a whole piece of business with a pistol and a bathroom stall that is funnier in about 15 seconds than some comedies are in their entire running time.

It’s a good movie. It’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours on a night this weekend, a night you might have otherwise spent with friends and family at a big holiday party. This Christmas may not feel like Christmas in a lot of ways. We’re all going to have to hunker down and figure out how to make it work. I’m probably going to watch The Nice Guys tonight. And at some point, I’ll also watch what is, in my opinion, the actual single best Christmas movie: The Muppet Christmas Carol. More movies should be narrated by a small blue monster with a long crooked nose who is pretending to be Charles Dickens. It probably could have made The Nice Guys even better, now that I think about it.

Something to consider going forward, I guess.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Send me the cake, Tom

Getty Image

Two things are important here:

  • Tom Cruise sends lots of people an allegedly very delicious white chocolate coconut Bundt cake every Christmas from a place called Doan’s Bakery
  • I am using the picture of Tom Cruise waving to photographers while standing up on a speeding boat instead of a picture of cake because it is one of my favorite pictures ever and I have used much flimsier excuses than this to post it

But back to the cake. Apparently, Tom Cruise has been doing this for a long time. He sends them as little thank yous to co-stars and friends and crew members and a whole bunch of other people. It’s more important this year, though, in part because the holidays are going to be so weird for everyone and any nice gesture will help, and in part because I just found out about it and now I WANT THE CAKE, TOM.

The “pillowy” cake and Doan’s Bakery are favorites among Hollywood A-listers, but the dessert has become so associated with Cruise that it’s informally known as the “Tom Cruise Coconut Cake,” said the site Goldbelly.com. Made with chunks of sweet white chocolate, rich cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut flakes, the cake can be shipped for $99 and is “good enough to derail the strictest Hollywood diets,” Goldbelly.com reported.

I DON’T WANT TO PAY $99 FOR THE CAKE

I WANT TOM CRUISE TO SEND ME THE CAKE

SEND ME THE CAKE, TOM

I’VE SEEN ALL THE MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE MOVIES

I’VE EVEN DEFENDED MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II

IN WRITING

THE CAKE

TOM

SEND IT TO ME

In any case, celebrities who have talked up Cruise’s coconut cake generosity include Jimmy Fallon, Henry Cavill and Cobie Smuthers. Rosie O’Donnell once posted a photo of her cake, wrapped in a bow, on Instagram, with the caption “Christmas is here when Tommy’s gift shows up #holidayseason,” Us Weekly reported.

TOM

TOM CRUISE

COME ON

SEND ME THE CAKE

PLEASE

I’M SORRY FOR YELLING

I JUST REALLY WANT IT

I’M DOING THE BEST I CAN

TOM

SEND ME THE CAKE, TOM

I’LL GIVE YOU MY ADDRESS

TOM CRUISE

THE CAKE

ME

SEND

CAKE

TOM

PLEASE

ITEM NUMBER THREE — A good Christmas song to add to your holiday playlist

I could really go for a new season of Documentary Now. I could go for a new season of Documentary Now for a bunch of reasons: because there hasn’t been one in a while, because I love it, because I’ve already watched “Juan Likes Rice and Chicken” like 200 times, etc. But since I don’t have a new season to watch yet, and what with it being the Christmas season, I suppose the next best thing I can do is listen to the song “Holiday Party” from the “Co-op” episode.

Have you listened to this song before? I do hope you have. I also hope you have not, though, because if you have not listened to it yet that means you get to push play right now and listen to it with fresh ears. What a treat for you! I’m actually kind of jealous because I know what’s coming in the song and it still cracks me up every single time. How could it not? Especially when Renee Elise Goldsberry from freaking Hamilton starts singing and it happens again. What a perfect little piece of comedy. A Christmas treat. Watch it right now if you haven’t, before I spoil the surprise in a few paragraphs. Hurry.

You know what? Let’s all have some fun this holiday season. Let’s all make a big Christmas playlist with all of our favorite classic numbers on it and then let’s slip this sucker in right in the middle, between… oh, I don’t know… let’s go with between “O Holy Night” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” It won’t be quite as fun without a big crowd of people hearing it together and slowly realizing what is happening, but it’s still a little treat for you and whoever is within earshot.

You could also play the long game with it. Listen to it a bunch of times to learn the words, then do it next year at the party and sing along through the first verse like it’s a popular song everyone should know. Really get after it. The goal is for lots of people to be paying attention to you when you get to this part…

IFC

… and then you just BELT it out. Hilarious. A little gift from you to you. You’ve earned it.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — I understand the sentiment but they did not have to bring the horse into this

Prepare to read one of the truest sentences you’ll ever encounter. Here we go.

Please listen to the song again. I think, maybe, it never really sunk in for you how brutal these insults are. All of them, top to bottom. Imagine someone saying any of them about you. Imagine someone saying any of them to your face. Because someone saying like “you’re an ugly piece of trash” is bad, yes, sure, of course, but “your brain is full of spiders” and “your heart is full of unwashed socks” are hurtful. The specificity of it all. They really put some thought into those. They hate you so much they really sat down to craft an insult. That’s an entirely different level.

The worst ones are in the very last verse, though. They never really jumped out at me until I saw them in print. Here, let me show you what I mean via blockquote.

You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch
With a nauseous super “naus”!
You’re a crooked dirty jockey and you drive a crooked hoss, Mr. Grinch
You’re a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce!

I don’t know what exactly “a nauseous super naus” is but it sure sounds rough. Probably how you’d feel after chasing a bowl of chocolate ice cream with a tall glass of orange juice. But the real killer is the “crooked dirty jockey” line, partially because he’s implying that, if you were a jockey, you would be the kind that cheats, and partially because he’s dragging your poor horse into it for no reason at all. I don’t even know what he means by “crooked hoss.” Is he saying your horse can’t run straight or that the horse is a cheater, too? Pretty bad either way. That horse never did anything to anyone. Probably. Unless the cheating thing is true.

Anyway, I guess this is also your reminder that this song is performed by a man whose name is Thurl Ravenscroft. You can look it up and everything.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — A good tweet

I say this every time I post a Guy Fieri tweet in this column but I am going to say it again now because it is still undeniably true: His social media team is excellent, one of the best out there, but it is way, way more fun to picture Guy Fieri sitting at his laptop and Photoshopping all of these himself, so let’s all just go ahead and continue doing that.

Also: Someone please make a cartoon where Guy Fieri has to take over for Santa and moves the workshop to Flavortown. And speaking of people playing Santa…

READER MAIL

If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at brian.grubb@uproxx.com (put “RUNDOWN” in the subject line). I am the first writer to ever answer reader mail in a column. Do not look up this last part.

From Brandon:

Since it’s [waves at the general everything] we’ve been mainlining holiday movies even harder than normal. One that never became A Thing in my house growing up was the ’94 remake of Miracle on 34th Street due to the very 90’s reason of we didn’t own a copy, but my wife loves it and it’s now in the rotation. Since you might need some #content for the Rundown on Christmas Eve, I have a question.

The casting is bonkers- aside from Richard Attenborough being objectively perfect as Santa, you’ve got The Guy From The Practice and The Little Girl From Mrs. Doubtfire carrying a remake of a beloved film. If this was remade today, everyone from the main roles to the judge to the CEO of Macy’s would be some sort of stunt casting. So, my question to you is: who do you cast in a 2021 remake of Miracle on 34th St?

My quick cast:
Main Lawyer Person: Charlize Theron
Macy’s Event Person/Love Interest: Chris Pine
Spunky Kid That Invariably Talks Like A Clever Screenwriter: [whatever the Kid Du Jour is these days]
Judge: Morgan Freeman
Opposing Lawyer That We Need To Hate: Christoph Waltz
Kris Kringle: Either we fatten up Sir Ian McKellen or have Jack Black play it straight?

Aside from that, the Gimbels board of directors would consist entirely of comedians that could deadpan evil riffs endlessly and look at home in a suit (John Mulaney, Keegan Michael Key, Maya Rudolph, Maria Bamford using her kind authority voice) and then one guy who is, in a recurring bit, repeatedly glared at for having happy, nice ideas (it’s Ron Funches. I invented this entire part to get more Ron Funches in our lives).

Well, this is pretty much a perfect email. It sets out a premise, gives a little background, and pays it off in a fun way with a couple of little twists. I had not even considered Jack Black as Santa Claus until I read that part and now it is all I can think about. Why isn’t Jack Black playing Santa in Miracle on 34th Street? Why hasn’t he played Santa already? Why isn’t there a Santa Clause-style franchise with him as Santa? It’s madness. I’m legitimately upset now. Let Jack Black play Santa Claus! Make him play Santa Claus if you have to! Something must be done here.

I will also accept Tracy Morgan as Santa. And maybe Frank Langella as the judge. I realized after The Trial of the Chicago 7 that he was born to play a cranky judge. But otherwise, a perfect email. Merry Christmas to me.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Indiana!

Service Sanitation, an Indiana-based port-a-potty company, said it set a world record with its Jingle Johns display. The festive presentation featured more than two dozen port-a-potties with lit up faces singing “Hallelujah.”

A sincere and heartfelt congratulations to Service Sanitation for setting the world record for, uh… most port-a-potties singing “Hallelujah”? I don’t know. This is strange. Don’t mistake me, I’m very proud of them. It takes a certain type of genius to look at a couple of dozen portable toilets and jump to “I’m going to have them sing Christmas songs.” Don’t discount the follow-through on this, either. They actually did it. Think about how long it took. Think about how many people were involved.

This is a serious undertaking. We should acknowledge that.

Steve Dykstra, Director of Marketing for Service Sanitation, told McClatchy News it is not a Guinness World Record, but that the company is self-claiming the title after combing through the internet for days attempting to find a worthy contender.

A Guinness World Records spokesperson said they do not monitor records involving animated faces on light displays. Its most similar record is the largest interactive lighting display, which is in Sydney, Australia.

Okay, so it’s not really a world record. Technically. But I still vote we give it to them. Again, just for the whole undertaking involved. I’ve got to assume it’s never been beaten, either. It would be funny if this kicks off a sanitation arms race, though. Dozens of toilet distributors piling plastic outhouses to the heavens in an attempt to out-do each other and take home the prize. Make it a whole competition. Make it a reality show that airs every December. I was joking when I started typing this paragraph but now I am serious. Make this a Christmas tradition. I want Tom Cruise to send me that cake and I want to eat it while watching gruff sanitation workers in Santa hats stack port-a-potties with a crane. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.

Wait. Hold on. You didn’t think I’d finish this whole section about singing toilets without showing you the singing toilets, did you? That’s ridiculous. I would never do that to you. Especially not during this, the season of giving. Here they are. Enjoy. And Merry Christmas.

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