The Lesson of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving


Every year, I watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and every year, I ask myself the same thing.  Why didn’t Charlie Brown just say no?

At the start of the special, when Lucy again challenges Charlie Brown to kick the football that she’s holding, why doesn’t he say no?  Why does he think that a national holiday would actually make Lucy hold the football long enough for him to kick it?

When Peppermint Patty decides to invite herself over for Thanksgiving dinner, why doesn’t he say just say no?  Peppermint Patty (aka Priscilla) may not take no for an answer but why not at least try?

When Peppermint Patty tells him that she’s invited Franklin and Marcy over for dinner, why doesn’t Charlie just admit that he only knows how to make “cold cereal and maybe toast?”

When Linus suggests that he could have two dinners and then Snoopy and Woodstock volunteer to cater the whole affair, why doesn’t Charlie Brown say no?  Doesn’t he know that anything he does is destined to go wrong?  Couldn’t he see Snoopy wrestling with the folding chair and just said, “No, this isn’t going to work?”

When Peppermint Patty yells about only getting toast, popcorn, pretzels, and jelly beans for Thanksgiving, why doesn’t Charlie just kick her off of his property?  No one would have blamed him.

And, when Peppermint Patty invites herself to go to Grandma Brown’s condo for Thanksgiving, why doesn’t he say no?  Why, after all she’s done to him, does he still want to give her a good Thanksgiving?

It’s all about faith.  All of the Charlie Brown holiday specials deal with faith.  Not just spiritual faith (though that was always present) but also faith in the goodness of humanity (even if it is sometimes hard to find) and optimism for the future (even if Charlie sometimes didn’t share it).

Just as Linus believed in the Great Pumpkin, Charlie believed in Thanksgiving, a holiday where we give thanks for and appreciate our friends and family, even if they are sometimes crabby or if they don’t realize that pretzels and jelly beans are a great meal.  Just as Snoopy believed that he could be a World War I flying ace and a published writer, Charlie Brown believed that a dog and a tiny bird could cater an entire holiday affair.  And, just like how he’ll never stop believing that the little red-haired girl will someday notice him, Charlie Brown will never stop believing that he’s going to kick that ball.  Charlie Brown never stops believing that things could go well even though they never do.  He never stops believing that the next day could be better than the last and even if his friends and his dog aren’t perfect, he never stops being thankful for them.

That’s the lesson of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  Never stop believing.  Never lose track of what you have to be thankful for.  Never let a dog and a bird cater your Thanksgiving dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Artwork of the Day: Flag With Legs


(Andy Warhol, 1985)

Originally, when I was thinking about what I wanted to say in this post, I was going to open by saying that, right after the 4th of July, Thanksgiving is the most American of all holidays.

But, actually, that’s not totally true.  Though Thanksgiving may have been first been celebrated in the States, many nations have days specifically set aside for giving thanks.  Canadian Thanksgiving has been celebrated since 1879.  Some people in The Netherlands, from which many of the pilgrims originally came, celebrate the holiday.  Liberia observes Thanksgiving on the first Thursday of November.  In Grenada, a Thanksgiving holiday is observed on October 25th.

That said, Thanksgiving always makes me think of America.  Later today, I’ll be at my uncle’s, having a huge meal.  Because the weather’s getting cold, we’ll probably eat inside.  If we did happen to go outside to eat, we’d be eating in the shadow of an American flag, one that’s much larger than the one in this picture.  That’s right — on Thanksgiving, my uncle actually lowers his Texas flag and replaces it with an American flag.  That’s the power of this holiday.

(Rest assured, at midnight exactly, the Texas flag will go back up.)

As for today’s artwork of the day, this picture was taken by Andy Warhol in 1985, two years before he passed away.  As with much of Warhol’s work, it somehow manages to be both earnest and satiric at the same time.  It was this combination that made Warhol such a uniquely American artist.

Enjoy this uniquely but not solely American holiday!

 

Music Video Of The Day: God Only Knows by The Beach Boys (1966, dir by ????)


Apparently, the most difficult thing in the world is to try to find a good music video for Thanksgiving!

Seriously.

First off, there really aren’t that many Thanksgiving songs and those that do exist don’t have music videos.  If there had been an official music video for Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant (which Gary wrote about yesterday), I would have shared it.  But, as far as I can tell, there isn’t.

I nearly went with Alanis Morrisette’s Thank U but then I realized how much that song annoys me so I decided not to.  If Natalie Merchant’s song, Kind and Generous, had been called Thank You, I would have used it but, unfortunately, it’s not.

I eventually went with God Only Knows because it’s the type of song that can bring tears to your eyes and I recently rewatched Boogie Nights and I love how the song is used in the film.  And, to be honest, it’s a song that captures the feeling of Thanksgiving, even if it’s not really a Thanksgiving song.

So, I used it.  I can’t really tell you much about this video, other than music videos in the 60s and 70s were considerably more straight-forward and less flashy than what we’re used to today. It’s a simple video but it works for the song, I think.

Enjoy and happy Thanksgiving!

A Movie A Day #317: Flashpoint (1984, directed by William Tannen)


November 22, 1963.  While the rest of the world deals with the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, a man named Michael Curtis drives a jeep across the South Texas desert, heading for the border.  In the jeep, he has a $800,000 and a high-powered rifle.  When the jeep crashes, the man, the rifle, and the money are left undiscovered in the desert for 21 years.

1984.  Two border patrol agents, Logan (Kris Kristofferson) and Wyatt (Treat Williams), are complaining about their job and hoping for a better life.  It looks like they might get that opportunity when they come across both the jeep and the money.  A bitter Vietnam vet, Logan wants to take the money and run but Wyatt is more cautious.  Shortly after Wyatt runs a check on the jeep’s license plate, a FBI agent (Kurtwood Smith) shows up at the station and both Logan and Wyatt discover their lives are in danger.

Though it was made seven years before Oliver Stone’s JFK, Flashpoint makes the same argument, that Kennedy was killed as the result of a massive government conspiracy and that the conspirators are still in power and doing whatever they have to do keep the truth from being discovered.  The difference is that Flashpoint doesn’t try to convince anyone.  If you’re watching because you’re hoping to see a serious examination of the Kennedy conspiracy theories, Flashpoint is not for you.  Instead, Flashpoint is a simple but effective action film, a modern western that uses the assassination as a MacGuffin.  Though Kris Kristofferson has never been the most expressive of actors, he was well-cast as the archetypical gunslinger with a past.  Rip Torn also gives a good performance as a morally ambiguous sheriff and fans of great character acting will want to keep an eye out for both Kevin Conway and Miguel Ferrer in small roles.

Thanksgiving Tradition: ALICE’S RESTAURANT (United Artists 1969)


cracked rear viewer

There’s another Thanksgiving tradition besides gorging on turkey’n’trimmings and watching football (which usually ends up with me crashed on the couch!), and that’s listening to Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 story/song “The Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”. Here in chilly Southern New England, I catch the annual broadcast on 94-HJY (Providence’s Home of Rock’N’Roll) at noontime, just before the yearly chow down. Arlo’s one of our own, though born in Brooklyn a long-time Massachusetts resident, and still frequently plays concerts around the state (catch him if he’s in your neck of the woods, he always puts on a good show).

Director Arthur Penn stretched Arlo’s 18-plus minute autobiographical tune into a 111 minute film back in 1969. ALICE’S RESTAURANT is not a great film, but it is a good one, with Penn and coscenarist Venable Herndon hitting all the touchstones of the counterculture movement: free love (read: sex), drug use, the Vietnam War, long-haired…

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Artwork of the Day: Terror From Under The House


This poster is for a 1971 film called Terror From Under The House.  I haven’t actually seen this film.  Normally, I would look at this poster and assume that it must be about a monster living in a basement but this is 70s exploitation that were talking about.  Just because its featured on the poster doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily going to be in the film.

Apparently, Terror From Under The House was just one of the many titles used by this film.  It’s also known as:

  1. Revenge
  2. Behind the Cellar Door
  3. After Jenny Died
  4. Inn of the Frightened People
  5. I ekdikisis (which means “The Revenge” in Greek)
  6. Il passo dell’assassino (which means “The Killer Steps” in Italian)
  7. Miedo sangriento (“Bloody Fear” in Spanish)
  8. Violence en Sous-Sol (“Violence in the Basement” in French)

The main thing that I noticed about this poster was that apparently, audiences were forced to accept the “Free Screaming Teeth of Terror” as proof that this movie was so frightening that watching it could lead to death.  I’m not sure what exactly that means but this film was rated PG so, honestly, how scary could it be?

Someday, I’ll watch it and let you know.