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This time of year the airwaves are full of Christmas carols and other Yuletide ditties, but Out There's favorite holiday anthem has always been 20th-century song satirist Tom Lehrer's "A Christmas Carol," from his 1953 LP "More of Tom Lehrer."
"Christmas time is here, by golly/Disapproval would be folly,
"Deck the halls with hunks of holly,/Fill the cup and don't say when.
"Kill the turkeys, ducks and chickens,/Mix the punch, drag out the Dickens,
"Even though the prospect sickens,/Brother, here we go again.
"On Christmas Day you can't get sore/Your fellow man you must adore,
"There's time to rob him all the more/The other three hundred and sixty-four.
"Relations, sparing no expense, will/Send some useless old utensil
"Or a matching pen and pencil/('Just the thing I need, how nice!')
"It doesn't matter how sincere it is/Nor how heartfelt the spirit
"Sentiment will not endear it/What's important is the price.
"Hark, the Herald Tribune sings/Advertising wondrous things,
"God rest ye merry merchants/May ye make the Yuletide pay.
"So let the raucous sleighbells jingle/Hail our dear old friend Kris Kringle
"Driving his reindeer across the sky./Don't stand underneath when they fly by."
"Derriere-garde recording artist" Lehrer explained about his seasonal song, "It has always seemed to me that Christmas, with its spirit of giving, offers us all a wonderful opportunity each year to reflect on what we all most sincerely believe in. I refer, of course, to money. Yet none of the Christmas carols that you hear on the radio or in the street even attempt to capture the true spirit of Christmas as we celebrate it in the US, that is to say the commercial spirit." Merry merchandizing!
At first the identity of the title characters of director Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Shoplifters" seems pretty clear: they're an impoverished urban family getting by in modern Japan through petty crime and grifting. We see the father, Osamu, teaching his little boy how to shoplift. Though they may lack scruples, these down-and-outers still have compassion, taking in an abandoned little girl they find half-frozen. But by film's end we discover (spoiler!) that they're not a nuclear family at all but a chosen one, and that makes all the difference. About love, the social contract, and intentional community, the winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, "Shoplifters" is Japan's official selection for the Academy Awards' Best Foreign Language Film. It's also our choice for that honor.