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Bright Eyes (1934)

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For those of you who - like me - don't have much of a background in 1930s film, this is for all intents and purposes the movie that cemented Shirley Temple as a child superstar. Along with two other films she made the same year, it also netted her an honorary Juvenile Academy Award, the first of its kind awarded. This is also the origin of the song, "On the Good Ship Lollipop," which... is not a mark in its favor, in my opinion. Let's jump into the story. Shirley Temple plays Shirley, a part you'll be shocked to hear was written for her. Shirley is obsessed with aircraft, largely because her late father was a pilot. She spends most of her time at the airfield with her godfather, James, who'd been her father's closest friend. When she's not there, she's living with her mother, a maid boarding with her employers, the Smythes, who are greedy, selfish, and self-obsessed. Also living with the Smythes is their uncle, Mr. Smith, who's standoffish but

Musical Versions of A Christmas Carol: An Extended Analysis

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You probably noticed that we've been watching a lot of versions of A Christmas Carol. As we went, I started noticing how many musical versions there are. As a lifelong musical theater fan, I'm a sucker for a good musical. Because these are all adaptations of the same story, many use songs in similar places for similar purposes. I find it interesting how these songs can make very different choices, so let's take a few minutes today to explore that together.  I don't remember enough music theory to get too bogged down in whether these songs are necessarily "good" by any specific musical metrics. I'm interested in only a few things:  Does the song support the story, expand the character(s), or enhance the tone? Is it enjoyable to listen to: lyrics understandable and not annoying, tune catchy, performed well?  How do the songs which fulfill the same purpose in the narrative compare across adaptations? Here are the versions of A Christmas Carol I'll be visi

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) [Revisited]

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We've seen this before, of course - Lindsay did a brief write-up back in 2010 . But we were overdue for a reexamination of this even before I set out to watch every significant version of A Christmas Carol ever made. I realize this isn't a popular opinion, but I'm not a huge fan of this movie. There are elements I really like, and I admire what they're trying to pull off here. But as a whole, I think it fails more than it succeeds. It tries to be too many things and doesn't manage to pull its disparate parts together. First, let's try and break down what this is trying to do. The Muppet Christmas Carol represents a surprisingly high-concept approach to the material - this really isn't just the Muppets doing Dickens. The best description I can offer is it's a relatively straightforward adaptation of the story (aided by musical numbers), paying homage to previous adaptations, with a Muppet narrator and supporting cast accompanying Michael Caine as he encou

Every Time a Bell Rings (2021)

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We're trying to catch up on at least a few Hallmark Christmas movies this year. We mostly dropped them a while ago, in part because we got tired of writing what felt like the same review over and over again, and in part because it became easier to watch similar offerings from streaming services we were already subscribed to. But after stumbling across a few better-than-average offerings, we found ourselves wondering if the production company had improved, or if we'd just seen a few anomalies. Consider this a data point in what will no doubt be a long attempt to answer that question. And this data point is a check in the "anomalies" column. Every Time a Bell Rings is a Christmas dramedy centered around three adopted sisters, now grown up, dealing with unresolved issues, life events, and the loss of their father, all while reviving a childhood tradition in which they complete a scavenger hunt to try and locate a bell family legend claims grants wishes. I'll tell you

The Note (2007)

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We came across this movie on a list purportedly ranking the best Hallmark Christmas movies. We'd actually just seen one from that list we liked, which is absurdly rare for this studio, so had high hopes for this one, which was ranked at #4. Maybe we'd been too hard on Hallmark this whole time. Perhaps we simply saw a handful of bad films and foolishly dismissed them prematurely, we thought. Then we watched The Note, and... nope. Never mind. Okay, let me walk that back a bit. First, I have actually seen good movies - plural - produced for Hallmark's various channels. I do suspect I've been too quick to group these together: good or bad, I'm discovering they occupy a wide variety of genres and styles. And I remain optimistic that I'm going to see more good - or even great - films with Hallmark's branding. But it's not this one. That's not to say The Note is awful. It's fine for what it is, but we're talking 2007 TV drama quality. Not even TV mo

Scrooged (1988) [Revisited]

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I wasn't going to do  this again . Depending on your point of view, it's not at all clear this should count as an adaptation of A Christmas Carol at all. Really, it's more a parody or derived work. If we're counting this, should we also be counting The Grinch, It's a Wonderful Life, or Cash on Demand? But this kept appearing on online lists of Christmas Carol adaptations, and I eventually decided if I wanted to seriously look at how these have evolved over time, I really needed to consider this one as well. To recap, I briefly reviewed Scrooged as a Christmas movie more than a decade ago, with the main takeaway being I thought the movie was fine but not particularly memorable. Rewatching it in 2022, I have quite a few more thoughts on a number of different subjects. Some of this is going to be very positive, some negative, and still more that's just... weird. Let's start with the weird, actually. Scrooged begins with a number of promotions for holiday specia

Entertaining Christmas (2018)

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Among our various yuletide pursuits this year, we're trying to catch up on a number of Hallmark movies. Basically, we realized we'd more or less neglected the company for the better part of a decade due to, well, having better things to do with our lives, and - because there's obviously something wrong with us - we decided we should watch a handful of these in an attempt to recalibrate. So far, it's not going particularly well. That's not to say these movies are especially bad; the ones we've seen so far are a modest step up from those we saw back when we started this blog. It's just that I don't feel as though I'm learning much from the experience. I'd hoped to get a sense of the company's output by watching four or five movies, and it's starting to feel like I'd have to sit through forty or fifty before actually understanding what the hell these are evolving into. To be clear, we don't have that kind of time this year. Or at lea