comedy, personal, politics, sports, tv

2022 in pithy quotes and shared links

After trying and failing to come up with a year-in-review that was entertaining and enlightening, I’ve decided to be lazy — I mean, creative — and regurgitate old quotes in the name of narcissism — I mean, find relevant and informative excerpts from my writing this year to highlight the best and worst of the year.

Enjoy.


January

6th: “We once stood with Stalin against Hitler. We can stand with Cheney and Manchin against QAnon.”

30th: “One-way traffic, as they say. Well, it’s actually four-way traffic, as the USA pass the ball all over the place with nothing moving forward. Eventually, Pepi gets an awkward shot from an awkward angle that goes awkwardly out of play.” (The Guardian: USA-Canada World Cup qualifier live coverage)


February

5th: “The men’s free skate is the next event in the figure skating team competition. Canadian Roman Sadovsky will get us started with a program set to the Snow Patrol song ‘Chasing Cars.’ Is that the one with the repetitive two-note guitar riff or the one with the repetitive two-note guitar riff?” (The Guardian: Winter Olympics Day 2 live coverage)

7th: “And back to the big air — the skiers go in reverse order of their two-jump scores in the last round, and those who are out of contention are having some fun. Norway’s Sandra Eie landed upright at last. The USA’s Darian Stevens did not, going for a 5000 septuple cork inverted stalefish meat-grinder scrum-half flippy floppy and bouncing up with a big smile and shrug after failing to finish it on her skis.” (The Guardian: Winter Olympics Day 4 live coverage)


March

2nd: “DIRECTOR: Well, it doesn’t fit the story, but OK. How do we make it interesting?

“PRODUCER: Tommy does a lot of cool tricks with his sticks and then looks like he’s putting himself in an armlock.

“DIRECTOR: That works.

“PRODUCER: Tommy? You cool with that?

“(Band snorts cocaine)

“PRODUCER: It’ll be fine. Here’s a pile of money.”

3rd: “I’ve given up news for Lent, but I have something complicated to discuss … Shamrock Shakes are NOT just vanilla shakes with food coloring.” (Facebook)

10th: “The women, though, have more work to do. They’ve convinced a lot of supporters and columnists that their legal fight was essential. Now they need to convince those who actually look at the federation budget.” (The Guardian: Women’s team got equal pay, but not everyone in US soccer is happy)

11th: “The blonde woman in the nice SUV counting out change with shaking hands to buy two boxes of Chardonnay at 7:30 a.m. at the 7 Eleven next to Madison HS is either having a better day than I am or a considerably worse day. (She did drive away from the school, so that’s good.)” (Facebook)


April

15th: “So on that note, to quote Frank Costanza, I’ve got a lot of problems with you people …” (Medium: A Good Friday airing and burial of grievances, 2022 edition)


May

4th: “But just for fun, should we tell Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that aliens are coming in from space? I’m sure his response to fortify an atmospheric border would cost Texas taxpayers a lot of money, but it would be less destructive to the rest of us than the extra layer of border security he added before realizing, ‘Oh, right! Food comes across the border!’ Total cost to Texas: roughly $4,000,000,000. And the rest of us need to pay a bit more for produce, thanks to this self-inflicted knot in the supply chain. The word for that is ‘inflation.’ Or, as some people might say, ‘Damn, these avocados are expensive.'”

18th: “Who has two thumbs and just saw a faint line on his COVID test that likely means a positive?
… wait … where’s my other thumb? …” (Facebook)

23rd: “More recently, she owned the stage in the world’s most dramatic paint ad.”

23rd: “And what happened to the Tea Party? Hello? Libertarians? Are you high? Oh … you are. Yay, you got a victory on one issue. Have some brownies.” (Medium: Expanding upon Elon Musk’s view of polarization in cartoon form)

26th: “‘My three-year-old could’ve made that call!’ exclaimed commentator Kaylyn Kyle after an apparent handball wasn’t called at the end of an NWSL Challenge Cup game between OL Reign and the Washington Spirit. Unfortunately, most three-year-olds who grow up to be soccer fans will be armchair referees rather than being on the field where they’re actually needed.” (The Guardian: Referee numbers are plunging and aggression is to blame)


June

13th: “So I’m back for Round 3 with another program. I’m starting by watching a tutorial video on how to watch the tutorial videos.” (Facebook)

18th: “So apparently, the big thing in Wilmington is to cruise on Front Street on loud motorcycles or in tricked-out Jeeps blasting hip-hop and occasionally hard rock and I’ve never wanted so much to drive up and down a street in my RAV4 blasting Tori Amos.” (Facebook)

25th: “So you’re upset that people hate Donald Trump. A majority of people. A substantial majority of people. But here’s a surprise for you: We don’t hate you.” (Medium: A letter to the person leaving the F— BIDEN stickers at Starbucks)


July

14th: “I don’t know how to reach low-information voters and explain the realities of climate change, COVID prevention or domestic terrorism. What I do know is that we’re not going to fix the problem with doomscrolling. It’s not a coincidence that the longest song on the new Metric album, maybe the longest they’ve ever done, is called Doomscroller.”

19th: “It’s 2032. At long last, humans have landed on Mars. Back on Earth, US sports fans have a simple question: Is the Mars colony in the Big Ten or the SEC?” (The Guardian: College football realignment winners and losers)

24th: “Reconstruction! Not as cool as R.E.M. made it sound. The Ku Klux Klan kicks into high gear. The Republican Party, founded in 1854 in large part to prevent the spread of slavery to new states and territories, is trying to be the good guys, held back a bit by Southern Democrats stuffing boxes with ballots and stuffing people with bullets.”


August

1st: “I think the only thing more surprising than Robert Fripp’s sudden career turn would be if Pauly Shore started making popular videos analyzing the evolution of iambic pentameter.” (Facebook)

3rd: “The purpose here isn’t to put forth some sort of Milquetoast Moderatism. There’s no middle ground between “the left” and the people who ran into the Capitol alongside people bearing Confederate flags and anti-Semitic slogans. The people on the “left” who commit political violence are swiftly denounced and hold no real power; the people on the “right” who do so are given political cover by a party that refuses to participate in an investigation of an assault on democracy.

“But there’s no reason We the Common People Who Have Things in Common can’t rise above all of the hatred, all of the ignorance and all of the fundamental disrespect that manifests itself everywhere from political protests to merge lanes on the interstate. We have more in common that we think, and we need to demonstrate that in a show of strength to disarm the haters.”

8th

10th: “Rob goes on entertaining personal digressions. He has a unique style. Which, of course, I have felt compelled to parody, like Weird Al doing Eat It or Ridin’ Dirty. So this is also full of personal digressions that I hope are entertaining. Either that or you’re going to come out of it saying you now know way too much about me.”

19th: “When a hotel says something on its room service menu is “housemade,” does that mean it can’t be made in an apartment? If I were to order avocado toast right now, would someone have to run a few blocks to a house, make the toast, then run back?” (Facebook)


September

2nd: “What must it be like to know that every swing of the racket could be your last in competitive singles tennis? What must it be like to do that in front of a packed stadium with millions watching on TV? Then what must it be like to see your opponent suddenly hit long and give you a break point? Maybe Serena Williams can answer whenever this ends, three minutes or 30 minutes from now.” (The Guardian: Live coverage of Serena Williams’ final match)

7th: “But nowhere in the Laws of the Game does it say, ‘… but don’t call it if someone makes a fantastic play immediately afterward.'” (Soccer America: TV commentators’ over-the-top VAR criticism)

9th: “Who else would love to see King Charles III come out and say, “Parliament is dissolved. Brexit is herby rescinded, and we shall rejoin the European Union. Also, we’re sending our military to reclaim our American colonies — the good ones, anyway. Monarchy’s back, bitches!”” (Facebook)

25th

29th: Third-grader: “Mr. Dure? Why is your hair so disorganized?”

Me: “Because it’s been falling out since I started working here.”

(Which is true but coincidental.)

(Facebook)

30th: “Not particularly happy with humanity at the moment. Thinking we should turn the planet over to dogs and dolphins.” (Facebook)


October

24th

30th


November

11th: “I generally think complaints about ‘wokeness’ are overblown and that young people have a lot to say. Then I hear someone from Harvard on a town hall griping that their generation is the ‘most financially underserved in history.’ (Facebook)

27th: “The Greek goal was offside in the Monty Python sketch, by the way. Confucius needed VAR.” (The Guardian: Croatia-Canada World Cup live coverage)


December

10th: “In Grant’s case, I keep thinking that I should send him a message to express my sympathy. I can’t process that the fact that he can’t answer. When my wife came running up to say, ‘Grant Wahl died,’ I heard what she said but couldn’t understand those three words in that order.” (Duresport.com: Grant Wahl: 1974-2022)

14th

16th: “The women’s legal team’s filing includes plenty of self-aggrandizement about the landmark settlement and the collective bargaining agreement that followed, the latter of which was a multiparty conversation that would be at best tangentially related to the lawyers’ aggressive posture. What’s mentioned a bit less frequently is one little detail: They lost the case. (The Guardian: Lawyers seek big money from US women’s soccer team)

16th: “Comparing teams’ records across groups is always awkward because some groups will be a Group of Death and some will be a Group of Sharks and Minnows.” (Soccer America: Thinking outside the box to create best World Cup format)

16th: “What would famous philosophers suggest regarding USA Curling? Plato would say we’re living in a cave, observing only the shadows of Niklas Edin and Tabitha Peterson. Ayn Rand would let the free market decide, which means we probably wouldn’t have any curling on TV at all. And Rene Descartes would say curling doesn’t think; therefore, it is not.” (Duresport.com: Why support USA Curling?)

16th: “If I’m found murdered in the next few days, please check my latest Guardian piece and my latest blog posts for suspects.” (Facebook)

21st

24th: “Google’s Santa Tracker says he’s in Beirut. NORAD’s says he’s in Luanda, Angola. Whom are we to believe? This is a matter of national security, and we can’t even place him on the same continent? We’re in grave danger! Shut your chimney flues and close your blinds!” (Facebook)

comedy, music, x marks the pod

X Marks the Pod parodies 60 Songs That Explain the 90s

I love the podcast 60 Songs That Explain the 90s, by The Ringer’s Rob Harvilla. It’s now inaccurately named, having gone beyond 60 songs.

Rob goes on entertaining personal digressions. He has a unique style.

Which, of course, I have felt compelled to parody, like Weird Al doing Eat It or Ridin’ Dirty.

So this is also full of personal digressions that I hope are entertaining. Either that or you’re going to come out of it saying you now know way too much about me.

Enjoy.

comedy, journalism, videos, web

Mostly Memorable Media: Links for July 7

A irregularly published assortment of the best reads on the web.

The future

Whither office parks? Younger workers would rather live and work in cities (NYT). But aren’t cities prohibitively expensive? Seems easier to spruce up these parks with nice strips of restaurants and other diversions. That’s basically what Tysons Corner is doing on a Very Large Scale.

Bubbles vs. climate change: MIT scientists have a Montgomery Burns-ian solution to climate change. Make a Brazil-sized shield of bubbles in space. Not from champagne, sadly. (Freethink)

Photo by pineapplelove 🙂 on Pexels.com

Doomscrolling

Give up on Manchin already. Try Collins or Murkowski. And just get some climate deal done before the GOP potentially takes the House. (WaPo)

We nearly had another mass shooting July 4. But an anonymous tip led to arrests that may have prevented countless casualties in Richmond, Va. (Axios Richmond)

Who killed journalist Shireen Abu Akleh? We’re not sure it was Israel. But we’re pretty sure it was Israel. (Politico)

News deserts abound … Roughly one-fifth of the country lives in or is likely soon to live in an area not covered by local media, allowing elected officials to do their dirty work unwatched. Newspaper newsroom employment has dropped by nearly 60% since 2005. (Northwestern/Medill)

… while a prominent J-school collapses. The once-proud University of North Carolina journalism school is turning into a wingnut’s plaything. (Poynter)

COVID is outrunning the vaccines. Thanks in part to the FDA’s sloth (Matthew Yglesias). But that’s about to change (Reuters). And these variants continue to be less scary, especially if you have any kind of vaccine protection (Yale). Less than one-third of people studied (disclaimer: it’s self-reported) are even reporting a fever (NBC). If it’s up to me, everyone would either be up to date on vaccines (preventing serious illness and hospitalization) or wear a mask (preventing infection). We don’t have the political will to mandate that, so we’ll have to rely on the honor system. Which would be easier if we were honorable people.

Will Trump ever really get caught in a legal quagmire? Probably, but not by the Jan. 6 committee, which is more about Trumpism than it is about Trump, no matter how many revelations remind us that the ex-president will forever be in the conversation as the Worst Ever. But it’s in Georgia where the man who’s as orange as a peach is likely in real trouble. (The Atlantic)

Insight

Why Russians believe the “Nazi” tag in Ukraine: It’s not just misinformation. It’s a different way of looking at Nazis, rooted in WWII:

The common Russian understanding of Nazism hinges on the notion of Nazi Germany as the antithesis of the Soviet Union rather than on the persecution of Jews specifically said Jeffrey Veidlinger, a professor of history and Judaic studies at the University of Michigan. “That’s why they can call a state that has a Jewish president a Nazi state and it doesn’t seem all that discordant to them,” he said

Also noteworthy in this story: “We tolerate in most Western democracies significantly higher rates of far-right extremism,” said Monika Richter, head of research and analysis at Semantic Visions and a fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council. Ouch. (WaPo)

Silly rabbit. Twitter is for journalists! Among U.S. journalists, 69% take Twitter Very Seriously, a number that rises to 83% for young’uns. How many average Americans get news from Twitter? Just 13%. And they say we’re out of touch. Oh, wait, they’re right. (Pew)

And on the lighter side …

Problems explained in pizza: Canadian comedian Julie Nolke is back with Part 7 of her “Explaining the Pandemic to Her Past Self” series, and this one tackles other issues.

Metal marching, I’ve been told! Metal marching, I’ve been told! Keeps our Navy feeling bold. Keeps out Navy feeling bold. Andres Antunes, the man who made Kenneth Copeland’s judgment on COVID-19 go viral (sorry) with a metal remix, has done it again with a terrific Navy marching cadence.

Rock on.

comedy, tv

Farewell to a great SNL group

Once upon a time, Saturday Night Live went through waves of wholesale changes, allowing us to divide the show into several eras.

Original

1975-80: The original Not Ready for Prime Time Players dwindled from their 1975 debut to the end of their fifth season in 1980. Chevy Chase left after one season and change, later replaced by Bill Murray. Next out were John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, leaving the core of Murray, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner to be supplemented by the quirky duo of Al Franken and Tom Davis, later joined by Harry Shearer and some cast appearances by band member Paul Shaffer and an array of bit players.

(Coincidentally, as chronicled last week in a marvelous WaPo oral history, Radner, Shaffer, future SNL cast member Martin Short and Short’s SCTV castmates Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin had all appeared together in a 1972 production of Godspell.)

Lorne-less

1980-84: Lorne Michaels, the man now synonymous with his show, departed after that 1979-80 season along with the entire cast. Enter a new group that couldn’t carry the torch aside from a young featured player named Eddie Murphy, though Gilbert Gottfried went on to an entertaining career. Only Murphy and Joe Piscopo survived the 1981 clearout. The cast overhauls were a little less drastic the next couple of years, and four 1982 and 1983 arrivals — including Jim Belushi and a very young Julia Louis-Dreyfuss — carried over to the next season …

1984-85: Producer Dick Ebersol, best known for his distinguished career in sports, swung for the fences in this unique season packed with established talents such as Short, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, Rich Hall, Pamela Stephenson and the prodigal Harry Shearer.

Carvey/Hartman to Sandler/Farley (via Myers)

1985-86: Michaels returned in 1985 and started from scratch, building around the hot-at-the-time Anthony Michael Hall and some people who would eventually be huge — Robert Downey Jr., Randy Quaid, Damon Wayans and Dennis Miller. It sucked.

1986-95: So on top of the complete overhauls in 1980, 1981 and 1985, SNL had a near-total clean slate, keeping only Miller, Jon Lovitz and Nora Dunn. Then, just as Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski saw the benefits of his job-saving class in 1986, Michaels brought in a show-saving class — Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, Kevin Nealon and Victoria Jackson. Add Mike Myers (and briefly Ben Stiller) in 1989, and you have a strong case for the show’s all-time best cast.

That group evolved slowly over the next few years. Departing (in order, more or less, though some cast members returned for occasional appearances): Dunn, Lovitz, Miller, Hooks, Jackson, Carvey, Hartman. But the cast kept swelling with the additions of (among others) Chris Rock, Chris Farley, Julia Sweeney, Tim Meadows, David Spade and Adam Sandler. (Most of the others were women, and unfortunately, this was not a time in which women were developed into stars on the show.)

The loss of Hartman in 1994 nearly destroyed the show. Myers stuck around for increasingly infrequent appearances, and Michaels once again reached out to get some veterans who were, to some extent or another, already recognizable — Michael McKean, Mark McKinney, Chris Elliott, Norm Macdonald and Janeane Garofalo. Unfortunately, no one told Sandler, Spade and Farley that they weren’t in charge of the show, and they ran it into the ground. Garofalo fled after a few months of being underused, citing a sexist atmosphere.

Time for another clearout. McKinney and Macdonald stuck around along with lower-profile castmates Tim Meadows and the recently added Molly Shannon.

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comedy

No signs of intelligent life out there (and don’t mention ours)

So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth;
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere out in space,
‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth!
— Monty Python

A recent post making the rounds: “NASA spokeswoman Trish Chamberson has publicly acknowledged the existence of alien civilizations, noting that the state agency is currently in contact with four alien races.”

A few problems with that, as illuminated by USA TODAY’s awesome fact-checking staff:

  1. NASA has no spokeswoman named Trish Chamberson.
  2. The site that carried the article is clearly identified as satire.
  3. NASA has, in fact, found no credible evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Meanwhile, Arizona astronomy professor Chris Impey has reiterated the academic stance that we might not want to connect with our intergalactic neighbors. Or so NASA and Impey would like you to believe … 

But just for fun, should we tell Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that aliens are coming in from space? I’m sure his response to fortify an atmospheric border would cost Texas taxpayers a lot of money, but it would be less destructive to the rest of us than the extra layer of border security he added before realizing, “Oh, right! Food comes across the border!” Total cost to Texas: roughly $4,000,000,000. And the rest of us need to pay a bit more for produce, thanks to this self-inflicted knot in the supply chain. The word for that is “inflation.” Or, as some people might say, “Damn, these avocados are expensive.”

comedy, movies

How to fix “Love Actually” (and enjoy it for all its flaws)

It’s one of the best Christmas movies ever, along with Christmas Vacation.

It’s also one of the most hated and the most scrutinized.

Love Actually does a lot of things right. It has many indelible moments. Colin Firth mangling the Portuguese language as most of the neighborhood watches him propose. Laura Linney’s happy dance. God Only Knows playing as dozens of families happily greet each other at Heathrow.

The cue-card scene alone is the subject of multiple Saturday Night Live parodies, the best of which was oddly cut for time but has more than 14m YouTube views.

On the other hand, it’s unrealistic, it’s over the top, and it doesn’t portray women all that well. The older or professional women (Emma Thompson and Laura Linney) are hard done by. The youngest women land the smart, handsome, older men.

As much as I love this film and watch it most Decembers, I can’t argue against the Honest Trailer:

You can say parts of it haven’t aged well. But honestly, even 20 years ago, we knew it wasn’t OK to have relationships with such skewed power dynamics.

So as a thought experiment, let’s see how we’d remake each storyline, ranked here from worst to best. I’m not the first person to do this, but I might be the first man. Because, apparently, films in which the women who fare the best are scantily clad subordinates really go over well with women.

9. The office temptress and Alan Rickman

Maybe it’s actually worse when the employee goes after the boss, especially when he’s married to Emma Freaking Thompson and has adorable kids. This is one you’ll probably skip when viewing the film for the fifth or 10th time.

What doesn’t work: The seductress is so disgustingly awful that you wonder what Alan Rickman even sees in her.

What works: Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson. You can see the conflict on Rickman’s face. We don’t even see confirmation that he and the serpent ever consummated their … what would you call this? Not a relationship. Not anything, really. And Emma Thompson forcing a smile around everyone else and breaking down by herself is an acting master class.

How to fix it: Make what’s-her-face at least a little bit two-dimensional.

8. Going to America

Yes, an English accent is an aphrodisiac, so much so that even a loser who isn’t particularly attractive can go to the USA and immediately end up in a supermodel sandwich.

What doesn’t work: The guy doesn’t exactly ooze charisma.

What works: A lot of people would say this one is over the top. I’d argue that it wouldn’t work if it wasn’t. The sheer absurdity is its saving grace.

How to fix it: Give the guy some personality.

7. Laura Linney’s dream date ruined

Tip for first-time viewers: When Laura Linney and Hot Co-worker Dude are in bed, you can start fast-forwarding when the phone rings.

What doesn’t work: Hot Co-worker Dude proves to be a short-sighted idiot who runs away upon discovering that the woman with whom he was about to make sweet love has a mentally ill relative.

What works: Laura Linney’s range of emotions. Her conversation with Alan Rickman is dry English wit at its best. She has her happy dance. Then she breaks down. We’ve been rooting for her, which makes it all the more poignant that things don’t work out for her.

How to fix it: While she’s crying at the end, Karl comes back into the office: “Look, I don’t care if your brother is at the only mental hospital that gives its patients 24/7 access to phones rather than treating them, which is a poor statement on the NHS. You’re beautiful, you’re smart, you’re charming, and I’ll understand if you have to take a bloody phone call.” They proceed to carry on like crazed college kids.

6. Prime Minister Hugh Grant and Natalie

So did his approval rating go up or down when their relationship went public the minute it truly began?

In the brief sequel made for Red Nose Day in 2017, the prime minister has just returned to office, thanks to the fickle British electorate, and he resumes dancing around 10 Downing Street. Natalie is now more of an equal, which is nice.

What doesn’t work: The power imbalance. She’s an employee and clearly much younger.

What works: “Eight is a lot of legs, David” is one of the best lines of the film, and it’s the high point of Grant’s wonderful search on Natalie’s street that includes the discovery that his driver has an amazing voice on Good King Wenceslas, to the delight of the kids down the street.

How to fix it: Instead of the prime minister, the man in question is a young wunderkind like George Stephanopoulos in the Clinton administration. The power imbalance problem is thereby erased. The prime minister helps him find Natalie, so we still have our delightful street scenes.

5. Unrequited love via cue cards

Having a crush on a friend’s significant other is a well-worn trope that’s usually tedious. The exceptions are this storyline and Jessie’s Girl.

What doesn’t work: It’s uncomfortable knowing that two of the three characters here will have to keep this secret for the rest of their lives.

What works: The cue-card scene is rightfully legendary, but the church scene with the flash mob playing All You Need Is Love and the scene of Andrew Lincoln venting his pent-up emotion while a Dido song plays are also must-sees.

How to fix it: Nothing to “fix,” necessarily. This is surely the best the filmmakers could do with this angle.

4. Jamie and Aurelia

Now the choices are getting difficult. Critics complain that the film has two storylines with an older man and younger subordinate, but we don’t really know the age gap here.

What doesn’t work: Things are cheapened a bit when she strips down to her underwear. The film requires us to suspend our disbelief in many ways, but Jamie and Aurelia learning each other’s languages this quickly seems more unrealistic than the others.

What works: The scenes in which Jamie and Aurelia try to communicate despite the language barrier.

How to fix it: Maybe a little more time elapsing?

3. The porn stand-ins

Or is it a porn film? Maybe just an R-rated film with some graphic sex scenes? Anyway, this is the simplest storyline of the bunch, but the irony of people meeting under such circumstances is played brilliantly.

What doesn’t work: The forced “all I want for Christmas is you” line.

What works: Every bit of dialogue aside from that.

How to fix it: Maybe more interplay with other storylines?

2. Play drums, impress girl

“Your story thread in Love Actually is the second worst!”

“You better take that back!”

“No way your son would learn the drums in that amount of time!”

Speaking as a drummer, I’d take issue with Peter Griffin here. Learning a basic beat is a hell of a lot easier than learning Portuguese.

What doesn’t work: Why would Titanic be a good film choice to show a young boy with what he’s sure is an unrequited crush? Also, having the girl and the mom both named Joanna is kinda creepy. You have to suspend your disbelief about Heathrow security letting Sam get that far through the airport, but the distractions that creep in from other storylines (Rowan Atkinson’s time-sucking vortex, Bill Nighy performing nude as promised) account for his window of opportunity.

What works: Everything else. Liam Neeson, in accordance with his wife’s wishes, playing the Bay City Rollers at her funeral. Liam’s aching look at said funeral. His concern for Sam and his efforts to break through. Emma Thompson telling him to shape up or no one will want to shag him. Sam’s mad dash through Heathrow. Sam’s drumming, which is competent but just clumsy enough to remind us that he’s a beginner.

And one bit of trivia: Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who plays Sam here, is the voice of Ferb on Phineas and Ferb. In that show, Ferb has a crush of Vanessa, who’s voiced by Olivia Olson … who plays Joanna in Love Actually! One of many clever twists in one of the best children’s shows ever.

How to fix it: Don’t name Olivia Olson’s character Joanna.

1. The aging rock star comeback

You can tell Bill Nighy had the time of his life playing this wildly entertaining character, a rock star who realizes that the best way to promote his horrible Christmas comeback song is to lean into how bad it is. He’s a self-parodying celebrity who’s in on the joke, and every bit of the joke lands perfectly.

What doesn’t work: Are you kidding? OK, maybe he should’ve taken his manager to Elton John’s party instead of going to his place to get drunk and watch porn.

What works: Every time I watch English soccer and hear the name “Watford,” I think of Radio Watford. “Well, Ant or Dec” is even funnier when you know the two real-life TV personalities involved. Nighy’s timing on his “kids, don’t buy drugs” line is masterful. In a film full of storylines that tug at the heart strings, it’s nice to have one that’s just flat-out fun.

How to fix it: More screen time. A spinoff film.

Overall

We’ve finally stopped watching this film every Christmas Eve, and we had gotten to where we skipped a few scenes each year, anyway. But if you’ve never checked this out after leaving the cookies out for Santa, please do. By the time you see all the families at Heathrow while God Only Knows plays, you’ll feel a bit better about the world. (Unless you’re a hard-hearted cynic, in which case you should do us all a favor and just sleep through the holidays.)

Which is why I’ve decided, even though I don’t need to see the whole film this year, to watch and share the heartwarming conclusion:

To all a good night …