Interesting Finds: Issue #19

Charlie Brown, My Favorite Holiday Films and the disappointment of Wonder Woman 1984

Each week, I curate and spotlight the most curious content I find. Given yesterday was Christmas, I’m dedicating this edition to 3 things relevant for the holidays: Charlie Brown, Favorite Holiday Films and the disappointment of Wonder Woman 1984.

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Charlie Brown vs Global Warming

A Charlie Brown Christmas was released in 1965 and was the first TV special based on the famous "Peanuts” comic strip by Charles Schulz. Courtesy of the Great Falls Tribune:

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is perhaps the most beloved animated children’s special ever produced. It’s the story of an awkward and humble boy’s attempts to find the true meaning of Christmas.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” resonated with 1965 television audiences in a way no other children’s programming had before.

The article goes onto describe how this animated TV feature “nearly single-handedly broke the aluminum Christmas tree industry” which was all the rage in the 50s and 60s. But first some historical context setting for the special’s release:

It’s important to consider the historical context within which “A Charlie Brown Christmas” arrived.

President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas just two years earlier. Peaceful civil rights protesters had been brutally clubbed by state troopers on a bridge in Selma, Alabama, and tens of thousands of young American men were being shipped off to fight and die in a strange corner of Southeast Asia called Vietnam.

The nation was hungry for reassurance — a return to a nostalgic past that was simple, sincere, honest and understandable.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” helped to fill that void, and the foil that was used to represent all that was wrong with Christmas was the aluminum Christmas tree.

Now for the death of the aluminum Christmas tree:

While public and critical acclaim for "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was near universal, it came at the expense of aluminum Christmas tree manufacturers.

Suddenly, their foil needles didn’t seem to sparkle so brightly. None of this was helped by the fact that around the same time, new plastic trees with lifelike, polyethylene needles began entering the market.

The aluminum tree market collapsed. Sales plummeted, and, in 1970, the Aluminum Specialty Company discontinued its production of aluminum Christmas trees.

Close to a million were produced, but, in the end, most of them ended up in trash cans and flea markets. In the 1980s, it was not uncommon to find aluminum trees that once sold for $30 or more to be in a discount bin for 25 cents.

And there you have it: Charlie Brown killed the aluminum Christmas tree market, and helped drive us all back to cutting down real trees and hauling them into our living rooms for a month out of every year.

Favorite Holiday Films

My list of top holiday movies that we keep coming back to year after year. It wasn’t until I wrote out this list that I realized 3 of the 5 movies we were released in the same year. Something about 2003 resonates with the Chow house?

  1. Four Christmases (2008)

  2. Elf (2003)

  3. Bad Santa (2003)

  4. Love Actually (2003)

  5. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

If you’re going to watch any movie of the above 5, start with Four Christmases. It’s so damn funny, it gets us every time, and we are always surprised to learn so many people haven’t seen this movie. Here’s one scene to wet your appetites that takes the awkwardness of the holidays to the next level:

Playstation 5 Excitement

Sony’s launch of the Playstation 5 has been a debacle with massive inventory shortages and scalpers commanding 2-3x premiums. Given the pandemic, video games have been more popular than ever, and I can’t imagine how many disappointed households there are around the world vying for a PS5.

After 6 weeks of monitoring sites manually and with bots, I was unbelievably able snag one for pickup on Monday! This video captures my excitement well. Hat tip to Kiran for sending this to me 😂

Wonder Woman Nineteen Eighty Meh

Warning: While I don’t give details, if you want to completely avoid spoilers to Wonder Woman 1984, skip this section!

We were eagerly anticipating the release of Wonder Woman 1984, and signed up for HBO Max for the premiere yesterday. After spending over 2.5 hours watching it, we were decidedly disappointed in the entire film despite it capturing the nostalgia of the 1980s well. Here’s our take:

  1. Tired: Every superhero movie requires there to be a villain, or two, that’s hell bent on world domination. The issue with WW1984, is that the execution is weak and tired. As a viewer, you fail to connect to the villains nor ever empathize with their plight and motivation. It doesn’t help that we’ve seen countless movies with the exact same setup and plot mechanics. I expected better from a movie in 2020, let alone the sequel to a movie that has grossed nearly a billion dollars in the box office.

  2. Action: It lacked the action we’ve come to expect from these big budget superhero flicks. There were 3-4 action scenes that we recall, and all failed to capture the soul and wonderment of the first film.

  3. Music: While the overall music score was good (Hans Zimmer!), the Wonder Woman theme song just didn’t come through well enough to connect the viewer to the action. Think of the scenes in the first film and in Batman vs Superman. When her theme song came on, you were glued to the screen! That just didn’t happen in WW1984 and it wasn’t until watching this film that I realized how magical this was in previous films and appearances she’s had in other DC films.

Despite my critique, the film is worth watching. Just don’t go in expecting too much and you’ll leave entertained. Our rating is 5/10.