Over the weekend, I took part in the Barbenheimer Experience. We saw “Barbie” and — after a break to feed my sister’s dogs and also myself — “Oppenheimer”. I’ll be honest: I mostly did it because it felt like a silly Internet thing to do. But I’m glad I did it.


Not since “Citizen Kane” has a movie about a beloved childhood possession made such good Art™. I wasn’t prepared for how much I enjoyed it. It was fun in a silly, self-aware way. Credit to the folks at Mattel who approved this, because it addresses some of Barbie’s problems.

It’s not just a fun movie, though. The movie addresses serious themes, sometimes satirically and sometimes earnestly. The message gets a little ham-handed in a few spots, but it quickly reels back in. Overall, it provokes thought in a fun way.

One thought it provoked in me: how many times did they have to shoot the beach off scene before they got a usable take?


“Oppenheimer” is not a fun movie, but it was interesting. I didn’t know much about Robert Oppenheimer before the movie, and I’m not sure how much I can claim to know now. While not fawning, the movie’s portrayal of Oppenheimer is complimentary. It doesn’t ignore his personal failings, but it also doesn’t explore them. They are just facts in the story.

I spent the rest of the evening thinking about atomic weapons. Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan may be the ultimate Trolley Problem. An American invasion of mainland Japan would have cost many military and civilian lives. But that didn’t happen. The death of a few hundred thousand civilians did happen. No matter what the outcome of the road not traveled, we can’t ignore what did happen.

Was Oppenheimer’s opposition to Teller’s hydrogen bomb principled or was it petty? I either case, was it hypocritical? Was it ethical? What lessons should we take for the things we invent today?


Both movies are about the end of the world as the characters know it. Both grapple with what that means for the future. They are very different movies, but they compliment each other quite nicely. They’re good on their own, but I’m glad I saw them together.

Christmas movies

It’s that time of year again.  If you haven’t gotten your fill of Christmas movies, you’re running out of time.  If you’re not sure what movies to watch, that’s okay.  I’ve provided a handy list for you, that way you can be just like me. (Oh joy!)

  • A Christmas Story — The king of all Christmas movies,  I watch this one several times a year, generally early in the morning as part of the 24-hour marathon on TBS.  It rivals “Airplane!” as the most quotable movie of all time.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life — Frank Capra’s classic that flopped initially.  A gentle reminder that it’s the little things in our lives that truly matter — especially Zuzu’s petals.
  • Holiday Inn— It’s hard to go wrong with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.  This isn’t technically a Christmas movie, but it did introduce the world to the song “White Christmas”.  There some racism in the movie, although it’s not intended to be insulting.
  • White Christmas — Fred Astaire turned this one down because he thought it would be a “Holiday Inn” retread.  The role of Bing Crosby’s comedic partner ended up going to Danny Kaye, who really makes the movie.
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol — There are approximately a billion versions of the classic Dickens tale, but none combine humor and a scary-as-all-hell Ghost of Christmas Future the way the Muppets and Michael Cane do.  Why they didn’t use the Ghost of Christmas Future as the inspiration for the dementors in the third Harry Potter movie is beyond me.
  • Miracle on 34th Street — The original, of course, not the 1994 remake.  And in black & white.  Colorization is stupid.  I take my “Miracle” seriously because it’s such a classic.
  • Home Alone” and “Home Alone 2 — I was about Kevin McCallister’s age when these movies came out, so my friends and I quoted them frequently.  I also found myself occasionally wishing robbers would target my house so I could fend them off in hilariously slapstick ways.
  • The kid pack: “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer“, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!“, and “Frosty the Snowman — Anyone who hasn’t seen these movies at least once did not have a childhood.  These are classic animated works that I still find entertaining.

There are plenty of other movies out there that people make traditions of, but this is my list.  As I look back on it, I realize I actually haven’t watched many of these this year.  The good news is that they’re all very family-friendly, so I’ll have no problem getting my kids started on them early.