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Arts & Culture

Say Farewell to Midnight Bradness

"You'll shoot your eye out!" (MGM)

This weekend brings an end to an era at Landmark's La Jolla Village Theaters . This Saturday November 17, A Christmas Story will be the last film screened as part of the ongoing series Midnight Madness or as it has been known for this final installment, Midnight Bradness, in honor of its programmer Brad Hesselbrock. Hesselbrock has been running the program for the past few years (bringing us pre-dawn screenings of Blue Velvet, A Clockwork Orange, Edward Scissorhands and Plan 9 from Outer Space among others). But Hesselbrock is moving out of San Diego and on to other things. Reportedly he is training someone to take his place so hopefully the midnight madness will continue.

Bob Clark's 1983 film A Christmas Story proves a fitting conclusion to Hesselbrock's term as overseer of the midnight movie series--it's fun, nostalgic and leaves you feeling good (but not in that icky-sweet way). Based on humorist Jean Shepherd's memoir about one particular Christmas back in the 1940's when he was nine-years-old and all he wanted was a Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle. Everyone from his mother to the department store Santa rejects the idea because "you'll shoot your eye out" with that thing. The film has been immortalized in toys depicting everything from Dad's tacky leg lamp to Ralphie in the horrible pink bunny suit to the kid with his tongue stuck on the frozen lamp post. Shepherd's narration is a delight; Darren McGavin (an underused talent) is great as the father who swears a blue streak; and Peter Billingsley is perfect as the determined Ralphie. This is a great example of a family movie that's not sappy, and that genuinely captures a sense of time and place in America.

Companion viewing: Phantom of the Open Hearth, The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters, The Night Stalker (TV series with Darren McGavin as the reporter Kolchak),