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Top Ten Time!

Well here we are folks, a mere two weeks/blogs removed from a socially distant Christmas. Three days away from the Electoral College in the United States formally casting their vote for President-elect Joe Biden (did you ever think you would learn so much about US politics?), one year into every Albertan’s favourite sitcom (the Alberta War Room) and a mere ten years away from Canada exceeding its Paris Accord emissions target of a 30% reduction against 2005 emissions. All accomplished through the use of an ever-increasing carbon tax and shameless bribery of the Canadian public with rebates.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I am in favour of emissions reductions and acknowledge that carbon taxes are an excellent way to get there, I just wish the Liberal Party would once and for all land the plane on this as notwithstanding today’s announcement, I still feel that this is a moving target and subject to change. In addition, with the major part of the increases occurring outside of their current mandate, things can easily change.

 

I would note that this announcement will offer every observer of Canadian politics a welcome relief from the CPC’s endless harping about the Bank of Canada, deficits and the federal government’s supposed mishandling of vaccine procurement and roll-out (back of the line! Canadians will be last! What? They’re coming on Tuesday? Oh. Well that seems rushed for an experimental vaccine that is controlled by Bill Gates and 5G.)

 

On the subject of distractions and welcome relief, I do very much like this time of year because it is the time when I get to move away from oil and gas and politics and US elections and pithy commentary and observation of all that is terrible in the world and instead focus on what is right in the world.

 

And if you know anything about me, you know I’m talking about movies, more precisely Christmas movies. I have a thing for Christmas movies and, spoiler alert, DIE HARD IS A CHRISTMAS MOVIE, and I don’t care that Barack Obama disagrees or that John Moore says talking about Die Hard as a Christmas movie is boring.

 

At any rate, true to form, this blog is my annual ranking and retelling of the top 10 Christmas movies of all time, a list which includes Die Hard. But not Die Hard 2.

 

 

Not included on the list, sadly, are any of my guilty pleasure movies because, well, they’re just not that good, but what they lack in quality they sure as heck make up for in quantity. I’m referring of course to the annual tsunami of sickly sweet pap that comes from the Hallmark Channel, which has been running Christmas movies non-stop since American Thanksgiving and which I have been shamelessly binge watching while the rest of the world takes in more intellectual fare like the Queen’s Gambit or whatever special is the flavour of the day about the Royal Family.

 

 

Nope, in our house, it’s either NFL football (which with COVID seems to be on every day) or a non-stop barrage of timeless holiday classics such 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 Wish for Christmas, Crown For Christmas, Family for Christmas, The Christmas House (featuring a Hallmark-first gay couple), A Timeless Christmas, USS Christmas, A Christmas Waltz, Time For Us Come Home for Christmas, A Cheerful Christmas (this seems mailed in to be honest) – I could go on forever.

 

 

Fortunately for my brain, most of these movies have one of two generic plots – either a scrooge-like, non-Christmasy city-slicker is dumped into small-town America where they discover the true meaning of Christmas or some “commoner” American (usually a dress-maker or a teacher) discovers that her 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.

 

 

And for some reason, most of these movies star Lacey Chabert (from Party of Five) who seems to have cornered the market on the “Christmas Damsel in Distress” (not an actual title of a movie) role. Don’t believe me? At last count, Lacey has appeared in more than 12 Christmas or Holiday themed movies and she has her own page on the Hallmark Channel website. Clearly, I know too much about this stuff.

 

 

It’s 100% escapist garbage and I love it. But, sadly, none are top 10 worthy due to a variety of factors, but mostly plot. I mean a movie needs an original story to be great, right?

 

 

Fortunately the top 10 below all have excellent plots and, as luck would have it, I have also created for each one an alternate universe plot, which focuses a bit more on energy.

 

 

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 Murray Edwards and Mike Rose 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 so Edwards and Rose lay everyone off on Christmas Day and buy the rest of the Canadian oilpatch they don’t already own.

 

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, Jason Kenney desperately wants a “Red Pipeline Shovel” for Christmas and spends his time dodging a climate bully named Trudeau. Ultimately, he receives the longed for gift, except of course it comes with a catch and that’s an escalating carbon tax that ends up almost shooting his eye out – careful! As the movie ends we’re still not sure what will happen, but Kenney and Trudeau are eating Peking Duck together 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. 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 company runs out of money and parks all of its rigs, lays everyone off and is pushed into bankruptcy by a bunch of angry bankers. In a case of too little too late, the board realizes that Clark has spent a bazillion 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. 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 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.

 

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 Kenney 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.

 

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 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 analyst community is quickly placated and distracted by the IPO of yet another high flying tech firm with no profit, 0% interest rates and the sore-loser antics of a defeated president. 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 this, 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 assets 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 decide to junk their over-priced US assets and return to the Great White North. 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 a 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 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, changing his socks, blandly promoting a progressive agenda while jet-setting abroad and completely ignoring unemployment and game changing capital projects at home. Then the ghost shows Justin all the oil and gas 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 Emperor Jason Kenney 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 yet another 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 that of the Minister of Everything, Chrystia Freeland. Young Justin collapses in terror.

 

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

 

2 – Die Hard

 

New York City policeman John McClane flies to Los Angeles to visit his estranged wife and two daughters for Christmas. He joins her at a Christmas Eve 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 running a spread on the Federally-owned Pierre Eliot Trudeau Memorial Pipeline (formerly called the TransMountain) in some remote mountainous region 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 trench 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 safety gear you moron?” 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 a fleet of F350 Crewcabs 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, an angel is sent to earth to show her what a world without oil would like.

 

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 in the passenger seat of a Tesla battery-powered sideboom driven by Joe Biden working the Nebraska portion of Keystone XL as a bell rings – another oil angel got its wings.

 

So there you have it, my top 10 Christmas movies, 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 has made life wonderful?

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