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Podcast Review: Household Name: Kentucky Fried Christmas (2018)

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When I heard an ad for a podcast from Business Insider, I wasn't initially interested. Then the ad mentioned that there was an episode about the connection between KFC and Christmas in Japan, and I was immediately searching for the download button.

Unfortunately, the episode didn't tell me much that I didn't already know, but the story was told well and the episode was overall a lot of fun.

If you aren't interested in Japanese culture or the minutiae of the holiday, you might not know that Kentucky Fried Chicken is closely associated with Christmas in Japan. While that might seem strange to Americans at first, the surface-level reasons are those that you might come up with if pressed: Western holiday - Western food, chicken is close to the traditional (i.e., Dickensian) turkey, and Colonel Sanders bears a decent resemblance to Santa Claus.

I was hoping for some deeper revelation or twist, but the reporter on the podcast says that's most of it, although how the co…

Toy/Book Review: The Elf on the Shelf (2005)

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To be clear, I honestly thought I was done writing about Christmas-themed toys. I've reviewed quite a few over the years, but something about the experience wasn't as fulfilling as it once was. It's hard to put my finger on the precise issue--

Oh, wait. Now I remember: no one cared about any of those posts.

At any rate, I've looked at a variety of holiday action figures, dolls, building sets, playsets, a Batmobile, and... whatever the hell this was... but there was one thing that always eluded me. And that, of course, was The Elf on the Shelf.


Obviously, "elude" is a strong choice of words. I've seen countless of these for sale over the years but it's rare to see them marked down significantly. There were times early in the blog's existence I considered paying the full $30 for a chance to mock these little demons publicly. But before I got around to that, I started seeing them parodied and viciously criticized, and... I don't know. It kind fe…

The Peanuts Movie (2015)

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The Peanuts Movie somewhat breaks our litmus test for Christmas movies, in that it objectively passes despite the fact it's pretty clearly not a holiday film in any meaningful sense of the phrase.

For those of you who don't want to read through my treatise on the subject, there are a handful of binary questions we can ask, and any movie receiving a "yes" on one or more those questions is considered, for the purposes of this blog, a Christmas movie. The most basic of those questions is whether or not more than 50% of a movie is clearly set at or around the holidays, and The Peanuts Movie passes. In fact, the vast majority of the film - everything except the ending - is adjacent to Christmas.

But the reason for this is, well, pretty trivial. As far as I can tell, The Peanuts Movie's setting is just an homage to A Charlie Brown Christmas. Beyond that, the holidays really don't come up.

I've seen a few other movies where Christmas seemed to be more a referen…

Book Review: A Cup of Holiday Fear

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A Cup of Holiday Fear
Ellie Alexander, 2019

New Release! I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review.

Premise: Jules runs a bakery in charming artistic tourist town Ashland, Oregon, where she is kept busy preparing for the Christmas rush and snooping around after an out-of-towner ends up dead.

I've read quite a few Christmas-themed cozy mysteries by now. Most of them are readable but nothing special.

It wasn't immediately clear from the publisher's description that this takes place well into a series, but it was obvious from the first page. Backstory and past relationships are recapped at length, even when they have nothing to do with the plot of this book.

I have two fairly substantial issues with this book, and in the end, I can't give it a pass.

The first is the mystery itself; it's just uninteresting.

The killer is the obviously mean character, the victim was a horrible person, and the resolution takes place entirely off-screen in…

We Need to Re-Evaluate L. Frank Baum's "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus"

Content Warning for discussion of genocide and accounts of severe historical racism.

We've reviewed L. Frank Baum's Life and Adventures of Santa Claus in the past, we've written about the Rankin/Bass special, and we've talked it about multiple times. But, in the process of watching the 2000 animated adaptation for the first time, I wanted to go back and revisit the book, as well as its sequels.

So I did. I wrote an extremely long article discussing the merits and flaws of the work (some of the writing is pretty but most of it is kind of boring) and how influential it was (it probably created one of Santa's two primary origin stories, it's more or less the basis for all the Rankin/Bass specials, and its sequels, "A Kidnapped Santa Claus" and "How the Woggle-Bug and his Friends Visited Santa Claus," are probably why we have Nightmare Before Christmas).

I went through the plots, the characters, all of it. It was a lot of work, and I think I did…

The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus (2000)

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This isn't the first time we've reviewed an adaptation of L. Frank Baum's novel. There's also a Rankin/Bass stop-motion version that's visually impressive but otherwise fairly forgettable. This animated version from 2000 shares one of those qualities, and unfortunately it's not the visuals.

For better or worse, this is a very faithful adaptation of Baum's book. There are a handful of changes here and there, but these are generally trivial alterations. The largest change was the decision to expand the role of Wisk, a fairy appearing in the last few chapters of the original, into a major character serving as comic relief throughout.

But the backbone of the story is mostly unaltered, which probably wasn't the best idea. While I'm fond of the original book, it's mostly due to some interesting choices around the setting, tone, and premise. I like that Baum wrote Santa into a world of fantasy and magic, as opposed to religious. The book is a fairy ta…

Let It Snow (2019)

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Netflix has been trying for a few years to encroach on Hallmark’s dominance of the disposable holiday rom-com. One of this year’s attempts is this adaptation of a set of YA short stories.

The film starts and ends with narration by Joan Cusack. She is, of course, awesome, but the narration itself is so corny and obvious that I was literally laughing out loud, and not in a good way.

Taking place over December 24, the movie follows four and a half separate stories and features an array of attractive young actors, many of whom have history working for Netflix or Nickelodeon. I have already forgotten all the characters' names. Many major plot moments take place at a restaurant called Waffle Town.

The plots each fall into a basic romance trope or two:
Pining for the girl next doorToo-practical girl has meet-cute with celebrity in search of "something real"One-night stand (maybe one-night hangout, it's ambiguous) turns out to be true loveGirl dumps cheating boy to learn to …