Crude Observations

Artificial Lists

This week is all about my top 10 Christmas movies but I have been intrigued by the recent excitement about AI, namely ChatGPT, which everyone seems to be using to fart around on Twitter or avoid work.


Personally, I was hoping that I could get it to think of and write a blog for me, but that was not in the cards, at least at this stage of my understanding how it works.


Undeterred, I decided to let it write some clever vignettes for me while I gathered my movie thought, so I thought I would share the stories it wrote for me.


Natural Gas Prices


Once upon a time there was a small village that was struggling to make ends meet. The people had been living off of the natural gas that was being pumped from the nearby wells, but then one day the prices started to drop.


The villagers were in shock as they watched their incomes plummet. But then one brave man had an idea – he decided to open a store selling natural gas at a discounted price. People from all over the village flocked to his store, and the man became an instant success.


He became so successful that he soon opened other stores in the nearby towns and cities. Everywhere he went, people were buying his discounted natural gas and his business was booming.


One day, the man decided to take a break from all the hard work and take a vacation. He hopped on a plane and flew to a tropical island.


When he arrived, he was surprised to find that the prices of natural gas there were even lower than at his own stores. He was so amazed that he decided to stay on the island and opened up a store there, selling natural gas at an even lower price.


Soon, people from all over the island were coming to his store to buy their natural gas. The man became a millionaire overnight, and the villagers back home were thrilled that their friend had made such a success of himself.


And they lived happily ever after!


But the best part was that when Christmas came around, the man sent back gifts of natural gas to his friends and family back home, so they could all enjoy the low prices he had found on his tropical vacation.


Alberta Politics


It was the Christmas season in Alberta and the politicians were feeling festive. One politician, Premier Alberta, thought up a brilliant idea – why not give everyone in the province a free Christmas turkey?


The plan was met with great enthusiasm by the citizens of Alberta, who all eagerly awaited the arrival of their free Christmas turkeys.


However, the plan soon ran into problems. The turkeys had to be sourced locally, and the local farmers weren’t willing to part with their turkeys for free.


Undeterred, Premier Alberta decided to use the power of politics to get what she wanted. She called a special session of the provincial legislature and proposed a bill – the Christmas Turkey Act – that would make it illegal for anyone to sell their turkeys for more than a certain price.


The bill passed with overwhelming support, much to the relief of the citizens of Alberta. On Christmas Day, everyone in the province received their free turkey, provided by the government.


The Christmas Turkey Act has since become a joke among the political circles, with many referring to it as Alberta’s version of the “turkey tax”. But the citizens of Alberta are still thankful, especially those who can now enjoy a free Christmas dinner.


Justin Trudeau and Pipelines


Once upon a time, Justin Trudeau was in the middle of a heated debate about the construction of an oil pipeline in Canada. He was determined to prove that it was a good idea, and he was certain he could make a convincing argument.


So, he decided to take a field trip to the proposed pipeline site and show everyone how it would benefit Canada. But as he arrived at the site, he noticed something strange. The pipeline was actually made out of chocolate!


At first, he was confused and thought it was a joke. But then he realized that someone had actually gone through the effort of constructing a giant chocolate pipeline!


He couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. With a wry smile, Justin declared, “Well, here’s your proof: if someone was willing to put this much effort into building a chocolate pipeline, just imagine what they’d do for an oil pipeline!”


The crowd erupted in laughter and cheers, and Justin’s argument was won!


The Real Me:

OK, speaking of artificial intelligence (something I am accused of on a regular basis), it is time to do some actual work and present to you my most anticipated blog of the year, which is annually some of my best work. That’s right, here comes my annual paen to the Christmas movie.

This is mainly because as any regular reader knows, I have an uncharacteristic weak spot for Christmas and holiday movies.


Wait, let me restate that. I have a Christmas and holiday movie problem. It’s not pretty. The family is actually concerned and tried an intervention but the Elf on a Shelf didn’t make it on time.


So, pretty much the day after American Thanksgiving the binge begins, with our home television tuned nightly to the Women’s Network, Lifetime (Canada’s answer to Hallmark Channel) and Bravo watching a virtual non-stop barrage of such timely holiday classics as Hats Off to Christmas, Christmas in <<insert generic small-town name here>>, Sharing Christmas, A Cookie Cutter Christmas, A Holiday Engagement, A Royal Christmas, A Corgi Christmas, A Wish for Christmas, Crown For Christmas, Family for Christmas, A Cheerful Christmas (this seems mailed in to be honest) – I could go on forever. And most of these movies have one of two generic plots – either a scrooge-like, non-Christmasy city-slicker is dumped into small-town America (often during a blizzard) where they discover the true meaning of Christmas or some “commoner” American (usually a dress-maker or a teacher) discovers that her new boyfriend/prince charming is in fact a real honest to goodness prince of some made-up European principality and she has to battle both a grouchy queen and bad Christmas mojo to secure her rightful place at his side as he discovers the meaning of love and Christmas at the same time.


Some of the titles seem decidedly lazy with such luminescent tales as “Tell them to come home for Christmas” and “The Nine Kittens of Christmas” (extra points for animal exploitation!) and “Light Up Christmas” (I feel this may have been an ad for a pot store). These titles tell me that the Artificial Intelligence Chat thing I was using above has been writing these movies for quite some time.



A few additional factoids on these Christmas movies. First, the vast majority are filmed in Canada. Second, they are legally required to cast Lacey Chabert in 50% of all Hallmark movies with a sentimentality score of 47 or higher.


Where am I going with this? Well since I am an expert and all, I am going to count down the Top 10 holiday movies of all time (in my EXPERT opinion) and, since this is in theory an energy blog, I am going to provide plot synopses for each as if they were set in the energy industry. You will note that despite my Hallmark addiction, there is nary a one in this list.


10 – Trading Places


As the Christmas season begins, upper-crust executive Louis Winthorpe III and down-and-out hustler Billy Ray Valentine are the subjects of a bet by successful brokers Mortimer and Randolph Duke. An employee of the Dukes, Winthorpe is framed by the brothers for a crime he didn’t commit, with the siblings then installing the street-smart Valentine in his position. When Winthorpe and Valentine uncover the scheme, they set out to turn the tables on the Dukes.


Two old school oil and gas tycoons – let’s call them the “Koch Brothers” bet each other a dollar that a down and out homeless man will be as successful predicting the price of oil as the multi-million dollar analyst and hedge fund manager they are currently paying. As the contest plays out over Christmas, it turns out it’s a draw – no one can predict the price of oil. The Koch brothers fire them on Christmas Day.


9 – A Christmas Story


This movie follows the wintry exploits of youngster Ralphie Parker, who spends most of his time dodging a bully and dreaming of his ideal Christmas gift, a “Red Ryder air rifle.” Frequently at odds with his cranky dad but comforted by his doting mother, Ralphie struggles to make it to Christmas Day with his glasses and his hopes intact. Most memorable line of course is “you’ll shoot yer eye out” which he almost does.


In the oil patch version, newly installed premier Kooky Danielle Smith desperately wants a “Red Pipeline Shovel” for Christmas and spends her time dodging a bully named Trudeau and filing paperwork to bug him. Ultimately, she receives the longed for gift, except of course it comes with a catch and that’s the unintended consequence of almost shooting her eye out – careful! As the movie ends, we’re still not sure what will happen, but Smith and Trudeau are seen eating Peking Duck and doing Jamieson shots while laughing about how well they played that Kenney fellow at a Chinese restaurant.


8 – The Nightmare Before Christmas


The film follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington, Halloweentown’s beloved pumpkin king, who has become bored with the same annual routine of frightening people in the “real world.” When Jack accidentally stumbles on Christmastown, all bright colors and warm spirits, he plots to bring Christmas under his control by kidnapping Santa Claus and taking over the role. Chaos ensues.


The oil patch version follows our protagonist Vlad Putin, the uncrowned king of Russialand who has become bored of incarcerating journalists and enriching himself amid the cold Moscow winters. When he discovers OPEC, the Middle East and Saudi Arabia and all the gold-plated cars and riches he can have, he hijacks the group and appoints himself defacto influencer and invades his neighbour for fun, thus setting off the inevitable destruction of his country. Chaos ensues


7 – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation


As the holidays approach, Clark Griswold wants to have a perfect family Christmas, so he pesters his wife, Ellen, and children, as he tries to make sure everything is in line, including the tree and house decorations. However, things go awry quickly. His hick cousin Eddie and his family show up unplanned and start living in their camper on the Griswold property. Even worse, Clark’s employers renege on the holiday bonus he needs.


Clark is the CEO of a major US energy player operating in the Permian Basin and he wants to drive his stock price up so he can get paid a massive bonus. Clark overpays for land, borrows indiscriminately and squeezes all his suppliers and service providers to drop their costs as much as possible so he can show great numbers. Eventually however, the overworked completions crew based in Midland decides they are tired of working for 1992 day-rates so things go sideways fairly quickly and Clark ends up with a bunch of DUCs. Ultimately, the board realizes that Clark has spent a billion dollars in capex in less than 5 years and has never made a dime while cashing obscenely high paycheques. So, they turf him and he loses his bonus. The new CEO decides that an oil company drilling for oil is dumb and takes all his cash flow and gives it to his lenders and shareholders. Anyone who doesn’t want a divvy gets to sell their shares back. Not very Christmasy, I know – maybe this one is more of a documentary.


6 – Prancer


Refusing to give up her belief in Santa Claus, a little girl discovers a hurt reindeer in the woods, which she believes to be Prancer. With the help of a sympathetic veterinarian (played by Abe Vigoda!), the girl takes care of the wounded creature. It’s supposed to be a secret, but eventually a department store Santa Claus, the girl’s dad and the entire town find out about Prancer, leading to big problems for the girl, her family and, of course, the poor exploited reindeer.


In this timeless classic tale of time gone by, Rachel refuses to give up her belief that if only she does the right thing, then good things will happen for her province’s energy sector. One day, she discovers a slightly broken carbon levy and thinks that this just the ticket to get good results, so she nurses and nurtures it to the point where it should be fully functional. However, she discovers much to her chagrin that nobody really cares what her province does and that by and large people are jerks and just in it for themselves. Ultimately the townsfolk turn on her and some big bully in a blue pick up truck comes along and gets her run out of town and ditches the carbon tax only to discover that when you cut revenue you can’t buy nice things. Ultimately the carbon tax comes back.


5 – Miracle on 34th Street


An old man going by the name of Kris Kringle fills in for an intoxicated Santa in Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade. Kringle proves to be such a hit that he is soon appearing regularly at the chain’s main store in midtown Manhattan. When Kringle surprises customers and employees alike by claiming that he really is Santa Claus, it leads to a court case to determine his mental health and, more importantly, his authenticity which is proved once and for all through all the letters he receives from children everywhere thanks to, of all things, the Post Office.


In this scintillating re-imagining of the timeless holiday classic, a skeptical energy sector is revived when a country called Saudi Arabia kicks an over-extended tight oil sector to the curb. Subsequent to this, the benign oil power uses its market heft and leverage to calm oil prices, reduce inventory overhang and deliver a goldilocks oil price environment to the world just in time for Christmas. A skeptical investment community is distracted by the IPO of yet another grifty SPAC, some crypto blowups and a video of Elon Musk dancing the Macarena with Donald Trump. Meanwhile energy prices continue their inexorable rise even with Scroogy Joe Biden doing his level best to stop the malarkey and get gas prices down. Saudi Arabia is once again proven to be the Santa Claus of the energy sector thanks to its overwhelming market power, acknowledged by no less an authority than yours truly.


4 – Elf


Buddy was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa’s elves. Unable to shake the feeling that he doesn’t fit in, the adult Buddy travels to New York, in full elf uniform, in search of his real father. As it happens, this is Walter Hobbs, a cynical businessman. After a DNA test proves his paternity, Walter reluctantly attempts to start a relationship with the childlike Buddy with increasingly chaotic results and eventually helps Buddy save Christmas.


A once proud and iconic home grown Canadian oil and gas company decides that it isn’t cutting it in Canada so it packs up its management and capital and decides to head south into the United States in search of an acceptable short cycle play to sink all its money into. Now firmly in drilling mode, the company overpays for two acquisitions, changes its name to something incomprehensible and relies on some seismic data provided by the same shady local who sold them their land for $167,000 an acre. Drilling well after debt-financed well, the company finally realizes that this isn’t for them, so they eventually decide to retry their luck as close to the North Pole as many of them ever want to get. So they return to the Great White North and the infusion of cash saves the Canadian oilpatch.


3 – Scrooged


In this modern take on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Frank Cross is a wildly successful television executive whose cold ambition and curmudgeonly nature has driven away the love of his life, Claire Phillips. But after firing a staff member, Eliot Loudermilk, on Christmas Eve, Frank is visited by a series of ghosts who give him a chance to re-evaluate his actions and right the wrongs of his past.


Justin Trudeau is a wildly successful politician whose dismissive attitude to the energy sector threatens to send his economy into a decades-long funk of stagnant economic growth. After being reduced in an election to yet another minority government (an outcome completely due to his government’s own incompetence), Justin is visited by a series of ghosts who give him a chance to re-evaluate his actions and right the wrongs of his past.


The first ghost (played ironically by his father Pierre Elliott Trudeau) shows him his father and then Energy Minister Marc Lalonde drafting the National Energy Program and laughing about those suckers from Alberta while an eight-year-old Justin plays with a Tonka toy excavator and bulldozer in the background.


The second ghost (Ralph Klein) shows present day Trudeau taking selfies, surfing, changing his socks, blandly promoting a progressive agenda while jet-setting abroad and completely ignoring unemployment, inflation and game changing capital projects at home. Then the ghost shows Justin all the oil workers who are out of work because he was too soft to push the agenda, and the slow deterioration of the Canadian standard of living.


The third ghost – who is really just an apparition, shows a scene that opens with newly minted Alberta Empress Danielle Smith opening the first border crossing station between Alberta and BC, before climbing on a tank and leading a hearty rendition of the new Alberta national anthem “Alberta #1 Dammit”. Then it shows an apocalyptic scene in Ottawa where a broke Canadian government is being taken over by the new Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and his deputy Ezra Levant. A look of terror shows on young Justin’s face as he is shown the interior of the House of Commons and realizes that his Liberal Party in 2024 has been completely obliterated in the election, winning only one seat, ironically held by Mark Carney.


Waking in a cold sweat, Trudeau gives his friends at SNC and Bombardier each 10 billion dollars and commands them to fetch him the finest pipeline in the land!


2 – Die Hard


New York City policeman John McClane is visiting his estranged wife and two daughters on Christmas Eve. He joins her at a holiday party in the headquarters of the Japanese-owned business she works for. But the festivities are interrupted by a group of terrorists who take over the exclusive high-rise, and everyone in it. Very soon McClane realizes that there’s no one to save the hostages — but him.


Canadian pipeline foreman Johnny Canuck is doing integrity work and a cutout on a live mainline natural gas pipeline somewhere in the Canadian hinterland when his crew is attacked and taken hostage by dozens of non-descript environmental terrorists on Bombardier snowmobiles. Canuck realizes there is no one there to help rescue the hostages except himself so he takes on the whole lot of them – carefully emptying their gas tanks into jerry cans, collecting their jackets and putting them in the cab of his truck – the usual. In the closing scene, Canuck has been chased to the end of a side-boom where the chief eco-warrior tries to convert him by yelling at him with a bullhorn. “Repent now you fossil fuel exploiting freak” but he slips into the bell hole while he’s doing it and only the fast reflexes of Canuck grabbing his wrist saves him from getting crushed by a length of pipe. “Hey” yells Canuck, “where’s your helmet, your safety tickets and your cover-alls?” before getting him a blanket and a cup of hot cocoa (our hero has both safety skills and training!). In the last scene, we see Canuck with a lot of concern loading the last of the frost-bitten and chastened attackers into an F350 Crewcab for the long, but warm, drive back to civilization and a Christmas celebration with friends and family.


What? Well seriously, what did you expect to happen? It’s the Canadian oil patch. Safety first. Look out for each other. Everyone goes home.


1 – It’s A Wonderful Life


After George Bailey wishes he had never been born, an angel is sent to earth to make George’s wish come true. George starts to realize how many lives he has changed and impacted, and how they would be different if he was never there.


After Greta Thunberg, environmentalist and climate change warrior priestess, wishes that oil had never been discovered, a geologist is sent to earth to show her what a world without oil and natural gas would be like.


The geologist drops Greta in a world without fossil fuels and underground seismic mapping and tells her to take a look around. After wandering around in the dark and choking on the smoke from all the wood fires required to maintain warmth for 8 billion people, Greta stumbles upon a town where infant mortality is well in excess of 20%, life expectancy is less than 50 years, there are no computers, crop yields are a quarter of what they were, there are no airplanes, war is a constant and what is with these itchy hemp clothes! Topping it all off, Greta discovers that in this world, Donald Trump is the co-emperor with Vladimir Putin. Crying out in desperation, a chastened Greta is heard to exclaim toward the end of the film: “I had it all wrong, surely there is a way we can all co-exist!”


As the movie closes, a smiling Greta is seen driving a Tesla battery-powered side-boom as part of Spread #2 for the TransMountain Expansion project as a bell rings – another geologist has got its wings.


Bonus Movie – Diner


Billy returns home to Baltimore at Christmas to serve as the best man at the upcoming wedding of his childhood buddy Eddie. In the meantime, he and Eddie get together with their friends at the local diner, where they trade stories about their lives. All they really want to do is go back to being the carefree boys they once were, but they know it cannot be. Their funny and at times revealing exchanges help each other face the mounting responsibility of adulthood.


Stu and some fellow Crude Observations subscribers and readers get together at a local watering hole just before Christmas to enjoy a couple of glasses of wine and some good food while swapping stories about the old days when oil was $70 and natty was $5 and people actually spent money in the oil patch. Oh wait, that’s a real thing happening next Thursday!


So there you have it, my top 10 Christmas movies of all time, absolutely ruined by twisted metaphor.


And I know you all wanted Die Hard as the number one, but I just couldn’t do it. To me, the Christmas movie is all about the sappy/happy ending and what could be better than Greta Thunberg acknowledging that oil and gas has made life wonderful?


FWIW, here is the AI list:

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life
  2. Home Alone
  3. Elf
  4. Miracle on 34th Street
  5. The Polar Express
  6. A Christmas Story
  7. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  9. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  10. White Christmas


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