Fruitvale Station (2013)

Of all the movies we've discussed on this blog, Fruitvale Station's relationship with the holidays (specifically New Year's Eve) is by far the most tragic. The film takes place almost entirely over the course of that day and the following morning, when Oscar Grant was killed by police on his way home from celebrating. The movie is less concerned with plot than with painting a picture of the 22-year-old victim, showcasing his relationships with his mother, daughter, and girlfriend. That's not to say there isn't a story - the events are absolutely structured into a narrative - but the real takeaway isn't how or why this occurred so much as the implications they have for the characters. Oscar, played by Michael B. Jordan, lost his job a few weeks before the movie started and has been keeping this from his girlfriend Sophina (played by Melanie Diaz) and his mother (Octavia Spencer). Sophina is already upset with him after catching him having an affair, so he's r

Let's Talk Swimming Swans and Milking Maids...

Since we started Mainlining Christmas, we've had an unofficial policy of disregarding New Year's media unless it also directly tied to Christmas Day. We've always known this was kind of silly, but then again this blog is silly, so that worked out. For the record, here's the logic. This blog was conceived as a tongue-in-cheek celebration of the massive juggernaut that the Christmas season represents in the United States. As such, the blog would primarily update between Black Friday and Christmas Day (i.e., the holiday shopping season). We've always known this runs counter to several historical versions of Christmas (e.g., the Twelve Days running between December 25th and January 5th) and our own decision to embrace a definition of Christmas much wider than the Christian holiday (which... look, we've written extensively about how this is really just Saturnalia, anyway, so let's not rehash that here). Ultimately, we mostly sided with the idea our study of Chris

Another Christmas Upon Us

As we settle with the people in our household to enjoy the warmth of a raging inferno burning through the remnants of our once-great civilization, it seems like a good time to stop and reflect on the things we didn't do, the friends we didn't see, and the experiences we didn't get to have together. We can also take a moment to reflect on the movies we watched through the long, long, excruciatingly long months of 2020. I assume you're doing the same thing, because - let's be honest here - it's not like there was anything else to do. This has been weirdly a good movie year for us here at Mainlining. Year after year, I keep expecting the well to run dry, only to discover it runs deeper and stranger than I possibly could have imagined. This year, we were introduced to  3615 code Père Noël , The Proposition , Ben is Back , Dash & Lily , and Happiest Season , all of which I'd rank among the all-time great Christmas media (I'm trying to be inclusive to Dash

Last Christmas (2019)

So, technically I should probably open this with a spoiler warning, because structurally this is one of *those* movies where the entire plot hinges on a single misdirect, but... here's the thing. If you've ever seen a movie before - quite literally any movie - you will see the twist coming. Not near the end: from the moment the "twist" character shows up. Hell, I mostly figured it out from the trailer. By the time the obligatory realization montage plays and the main character realizes the truth, I literally said to the screen, "You don't have to do this - everyone gets it." But here's a twist you might not have seen coming: I love this movie. I love it unironically. Also, I love it ironically. This might be the first movie reviewed on Mainlining Christmas to earn both a "highly recommended" and a "so bad it's good" label. It feels like someone made a computer program watch 10,000 hours of Christmas movies and spit out a scrip

Black Christmas (2019)

I watched and reviewed the original 1974 Black Christmas a full decade ago. You can click on that link if you want to, but I'll save you time by revealing the main two takeaways: I hated the original My reviews were crap back then I've since read some pieces that make me think I should probably revisit it, that perhaps quite a bit went over my head. I'm still skeptical I'd enjoy it, but there's a chance I might appreciate it a lot more.  I mainly bring that up to explain that while I'm familiar with the original, I'm in no way attached to it, which is probably for the best, since last year's film is less a remake than a complete reimagining of the premise. There are elements and ideas borrowed from the '70s film, but it's ultimately a new story. The premise this time centers on a sorority at a college founded by a misogynist who studied the black arts. The main characters are a pair of sorority sisters trying to navigate a culture of sexist tra

White Reindeer (2013)

White Reindeer is a Christmas dramedy written and directed by indie filmmaker Zach Clark and largely financed through Kickstarter. The only famous actor in this is Joe Swanberg, who directed  Happy Christmas , which was made with a similar focus on realism over conventional narrative. That said, White Reindeer occasionally drifts into the surreal - maybe even the supernatural, though that's ambiguous. As I often do with movies I like, I'm going to cut to the chase and let you know this is absolutely a movie I recommend. By design, it's a tad light on payoff, and it's certainly not a feel-good movie, but it's a fascinating, honest look at how alienating and difficult the Christmas season can be for anyone who isn't in a position to appreciate cheer and goodwill. A few caveats before anyone starts streaming, though: this movie should have a warning upfront for flashing lights, and I don't remember seeing one. I don't think I've ever seen the kind of fu

Holiday Affair (1949)

The question I most often confront when looking at old romantic comedies is how much of a curve I should grade them on when it comes to overlooking both the use of now cliched tropes and pervasive sexism. Is Holiday Affair good? Well, depending on whether we mean "good for 1949" or "good for 2020," we'll reach distinctly different conclusions. This movie aged... well, fine, relative to most of its contemporaries (or at least the ones I can think of). But it's still dated in ways I found difficult to ignore. I'm not sure if anyone's put together a comprehensive taxonomy for the genre yet, but Holiday Affair would be classified with modern entries like Sleepless in Seattle. The "will they/won't they" tension is built around an illusionary question of whether the character will take a risk for love or settle for the more readily available partner/human obstacle. Really, this is all an update of the old "marry for love or money" c