OBJECTIVE: Watch a popular or critically acclaimed film we’ve never seen to the halfway point. Pause it. Work together to predict the ending.
A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983)
THE LAST THING WE SAW: We paused at 46:30, in the middle of a tiny scene during which Ralphie and his friends (not pictured) run across the screen being chased by the bullies (also not pictured). Preceding this, there were an array of scenes, the most immediate of which was Ralphie’s unsuccessful helping of his father’s changing of the tire, his swearing, and the subsequent washing of his mouth with soap.
And now… discuss!
Ben: Okay, before we get to predictions, am I the only one who’s not really enjoying this movie? I mean, it’s fine, but it’s not really doing anything for me.
Phil: Yeah, to be honest, I’m finding it a bit too silly and too cute. I mean, I grew up in a house that celebrated Christmas, and this is actually bringing back some childhood memories of being lost in reveries and excited for Christmas—but I don’t think it’s doing it all that well.
Ben: No, it’s similar to those obvious self-explanatory memes that local radio stations post. “Remember Silly Putty? Here’s a picture of it!!”
Phil: Yeah, it’s pretty watered down. Anyway, in terms of predictions, what have we watched?
Ben: Let’s recap.
Phil: A lot of random scenes.
Ben: There is almost no interconnection except the yearning for Christmas and the appreciation for gifts.
Phil: So I think I’ve narrowed it down to its constituent parts, and unless I’m missing some plot points, Number 1 is that he wants that rifle. And I think he’s going to get it.
Ben: He’s going to get the rifle, because why else make the fudging movie?
Ben: And I didn’t write “fudging.”
Phil: Ha! Nice.
Ben: Here’s the thing: his lie about where he learned swears from and his mother’s phone call (which was a fantastic early Kyle’s Mom reaction on the other line) has set up a rivalry between Ralphie and Schwartz.
Phil: You think so? I mean, they’re all just pulling pranks on each other with no consequence. I don’t think there’s any rivalry.
Ben: Well, let’s say he gets the gun. He has this fantasy of defending against some sort of intruder, or bully. He has those two bullies in the alleyway, and I think that either those two bullies or Schwartz are going to be on the other end of that gun.
Phil: The bullies are definitely going to be there; I don’t think Schwartz is at all. I don’t think Schwartz gives a shit.
Ben: Well, then all we saw was needless child abuse.
Phil: Unfortunately, yes.
Ben: Oh god, that’s awful!
Phil: I actually think that’s exactly what that we just witnessed.
Ben: That wasn’t even setting up a rivalry, or a showdown?
Phil: I mean, that other kid Flick got his tongue stuck to the pole, and that didn’t do anything, and they were friends the moment after! I think this is just a bunch of childhood chicanery.
Ben: Yeah, you’re probably right.
Phil: I did write that down, though, that I thought he was going to get one over on the bullies.
Phil: And it’s probably going to be with the gun. And the gun will arrive very late in the movie. Perhaps even the last frame.
Ben: I don’t know about last frame, I don’t think it’s that die hard, but it will definitely be near the end. Probably the penultimate scene.
Phil: The next thing I said was that the dad and mom will continue to be ridiculous. Furthermore, the main thing between them right now is that hideous leg lamp, and she is going to “accidentally” knock it over.
Ben: Somebody is going to destroy that lamp. That lamp’s toast.
Phil: It’s the Mom.
Phil: She hates it!
Ben: I thought it was going to be Ralphie, because he accidentally threw all the lugnuts into the street when they were changing the tire. He’s been pretty clumsy.
Phil: If anybody, it’s Ralphie’s brother who’s the big slapstick star.
Ben: That is a meatball of a kid. He does nothing but roll around.
Phil: In fact, that was the next note I wrote down: “The brother will hang around and do absolutely nothing.” Before we go off on the kids’ goings-on, there’s got to be something coming back regarding the Dad and his inability to fix the furnace, or was that a one-time thing?
Ben: It was a long enough scene that, if it is a one-time thing, that was a really long bad scene.
Nothing new here, though.
Phil: That’s entirely possible, frankly. As for the kids, I think it goes without saying that they’re going to continue playing pranks on each other.
Ben: Yeah, probably.
No pranks here.
Phil: Do we have any specifics on that? Like they’re going to pour their jacks out on the floor so that someone will step on them? Honestly, I couldn’t think up anything too definitive.
Ben: Yeah, and they’ll liberate the chattering teeth from the teacher’s prank drawer. Which clearly has batteries for endurance!
Phil: Yeah! What the hell?
Ben: That thing was chattering for months!
Phil: Well, the only other thing I wrote down was this: “It seems like everyone in this movie is childish and selfish, even the adults. I mean, I know this is from a child’s perspective, but still!” Everybody is a child.
Ben: I think that’s largely true if you have a worldview that’s on the edge of realism and pessimism. I think that’s also true of adults in general, that they’re all kind of childish.
Phil: Not all—although, on the other hand, you are hanging out with a guy who watches half a movie with you.
Ben: We’re in this together, pal!
Phil: So is there anything more to this movie? Because all I can think about is the really glaring plot points in this mist of nonsense.
Ben: There is literally nothing going on, other than that Ralphie wants the gun and the dad loves the lamp.
Phil: It’s going to be a pastiche of childhood in the 1940s, and it’ll certainly be more of that.
Ben: Absolutely. You’ve really hit it on its dumb head.
Phil: Unless we’re so missing something.
The bully, the gun, and the lamp are the only three things that seem like they’re major plot points.
Ben: The only other mildly interesting plot point would be if the dad kept entering those inane contests and he won the gun that Ralphie wanted.
Phil: That rocks! That’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Ben: That would be great! He’s like, “Oh boy, it’s a bowling alley! For the house again!” and he opens it up and it’s 90 pounds of goose down.
Ben: The second he started pouring through that hay, I was like, “Gag gift. 100% gag gift.”
Phil: “It’s a Shetland Pony!”
Ben: “What’s at the bottom? It’s a packet of Big Red!”
Phil: I love it. Anyway, want to watch the second half of the movie?
Phil: Me neither.
Ben: Let’s do it anyway!