Loaded weekend at the Pocono Community Theater in East Stroudsburg. Tonight at 7 and and tomorrow at noon the theater is showing The Nutcracker on the big screen and Sunday it’s showing the locally shot movie The Fields at 7 p.m.
But the big, big, big, BIIIIIIGGGGGGG event is the theater’s revival series showing the movie that is both the greatest Christmas movie ever and greatest action movie ever — Die Hard. Show starts at 10 p.m. Saturday and goes for the next 131 minutes of pure awesomeness. I’ve never seen Die Hard on the big screen, and am kicking myself that I can’t make it Saturday. Then again, patrons who can make it win since I’d uncontrollably, audibly recite every word of the movie and inadvertently ruin it for everyone.
It’s hard to put into words how much I really love Die Hard, but here goes: There isn’t an action movie more believable than Die Hard or an or action movie star more relatable than John McClane. None. Anyone can find themselves in a Die Hard situation. Don’t laugh! You can. I mean, the chances are completely remote, but really, it can happen. And at no time would anyone ever be as successful as John McClane, it’s just not possible. The beauty of Die Hard is that at no time does it ever take superhuman strength or ridiculous intellect for McClane to take down the bad guys. All John McClane had was police weapons training, street smarts, a stubborn wife with backstabbing associates and some kids who don’t know when to keep their yaps shut. With all of that, he saved about 50 lives and thwarted a highly organized, impeccably planned international robbery scheme.
The whole thing makes complete sense of an impossible situation. Big robbery operations like that worry about the things Hans Gruber worried about — local SWAT, the FBI and coked-out, brown-nosing hostages. You know, the regular stuff. They couldn’t have planned for one wily New York City police officer to take them down from inside the building, and it would have been hard to lock down that person.
Of all the Die Hard ripoffs — there’s at least a dozen at this point, some of them pretty good — each one of them contained at least one moment where you look at your buddy and say, “Are they kidding?” Not Die Hard. In a movie of improbability, nothing in Die Hard seems impossible. In Speed, there’s no freakin’ way the bus jumps that gap in the highway. In Sudden Death, Jean-Claude Van Damme wouldn’t have two such dorky kids nor would he be able to safely slide down the Igloo in Pittsburgh. In Under Siege, there’s no way Erika Eleniak goes for that pony-tailed mofo Steven Seagal. You get the idea?
Every time McClane is asked to do the improbable — not impossible -- he does it with the same attitude we would. He doesn’t want this responsibility, but he grudgingly accepts it. “I have to jump off a building with a fire hose tied around my waist? I have to use my gun to hold me up in a 40-story elevator shaft? I have to run through a room of glass with bare feet? Are you effing kidding me? Go pess up a pole, I’m going home. Crap … wait. Hold on, I’ll do it. No one is beating me today.” Any man who has a brain and an ounce of red blood does the same exact thing every single time. Every. Single. Time. We also hope to be as funny and quick-witted in our game we play with the terrorists, right?
The underrated backdrop of Die Hard is that at one point or another, McClane takes down every kind of stereotypical movie villain. He (mostly) kills the “brut thug” Karl in an epic hand-to-hand battle in which McClane tells him he will, presumably and hopefully at distinct times, kill Karl, then cook him, then eat him. He thwarts the effects of the ”nerd” by dropping a computer monitor with 10 pounds of C-4 strapped to it down an elevator shaft. Then a trusty, unknowing sidekick knocks out the nerd in the underground parking lot (which is actually the most unbelievable part of the whole movie, since Argyle probably has the punching power of a 16-year-old cheerleader). He takes out about 10 “goons” along the way either by way of bullets or neck-snapping.
All that’s left is the “ringleader,” Hans. McClane uses street smarts to avoid death in their first head-to-head battle (“Oops, no bullets. Whaddya think, I’m effing stupid, Hans?”) then a genius combination of book and street smarts in their second and final encounter that calls to mind a later Bruce Willis role. “That’s how you’re gonna beat them, Butch. They keep underestimating you.” Instead of just coming in guns blazing and fists flying — which is what we assume someone like Martin Riggs would probably do — McClane comes up with a plan. He will laugh.
That’s right, that was his plan. Laugh. His whole life-saving, wife-saving plan was based on an old saying that when you laugh, the whole world laughs with you. Basically, he was trusting something you’d see in a fortune cookie to save the day. I open up a fortune cookie and get things like, “You will have a wonderful day.” McClane’s fortune cookie leads him to the secret to taking down terrorists.
Sounds stupid, right? Somehow, when you watch it, it all makes perfect, understandable sense. Why can’t Obama do that to bin Laden?
Obama, surrendering with his hands behind his head, dripping with blood: Guess you win, bin Laden.
bin Laden: You Americans, all action stars. But this time, Bonnie Bedilia doesn’t walk off into the sunset with Steven Seagal.
Obama: That was Bruce Willis, jerkweed.
bin Laden: Enough jokes!
Obama: You would have made a pretty good action star yourself, Osama.
bin Laden: Oh yes. What was that you said to me? Yippe Kai Aye, mister falcon?
Obama laughs, bin Laden laughs, everyone is laughing, then Obama pulls out a glok taped to his back and shoots everyone down before they know what hit them. Bing, bang, boom, terrorism is over. Easy, right?
As fantastical as that sounds, Die Hard makes it seem easy, defensible and completely plausible. How is that even possible? In the world of Die Hard, anything is possible. Well, maybe fist fighting on the wing of a jet running on a never-ending runway isn’t very possible, but hey, we all make mistakes later in life, right?
Anyway, the point is, while you’re waiting for 24 Hours of a Christmas Story, Die Hard is the best alternative for a modern-day classic of a Christmas movie. And Die Hard on the big screen has to be even better, right? And you’re welcome that I won’t be there.
Some other local links:
I’ve spent most of my life making sure the people in my life knew enough not to get me an ugly Christmas sweater, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job at it since I’ve never gotten one. I’m just not that kind of person, I don’t like getting gifts that can only come out once a year unless it’s Wolrd Series tickets. When you get married and have kids, you’re kinda forced into those kind of gifts because everyone thinks it’s really cute to get “baby’s first Christmas” ornaments, pajamas, bibs, etc., and they pass those gifts off as presents for you and your spouse. Let’s just make this clear — those are presents for the kids, not the parents. When you get my 5-month-old a baby’s first Christmas onesie, you still owe me a present. Shallow enough for ya? Well that’s how I roll. Anyway, two bars are having ugly Christmas sweater events, Wing King is Stroudsburg is having its event all today, and Sycamore Grille in Delaware Water Gap is having its event Dec. 23.
The Sherman is doing what it does best tomorrow night — a jam show, the Jam Stampede. It’s been called the Christmas Jam in the past — and is this year -- but moving toward the alternate title of ”Jam Stampede” may be an admission that no one thinks of hippies and Christmas in the same sentence. Smart move.