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Book Review: We Are Santa

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We Are Santa Ron Cooper, 2020 New Release! A digital copy of this book was provided by Netgalley for the purpose of review. Wow. WOW WOW WOW. This might be "just" a coffee table book, but it charmed my socks off.  The premise is simple. Photographer Ron Cooper recruited fifty professional Santas (talking to and interviewing even more) and took gorgeous photographs of them both in and out of costume. The book includes quotes, profiles of some Santas, and background information. The additional info is enough to establish some context for readers who might not be familiar with the history of Santa's look or the reality of the professional Santa gig, but it's not tedious even for those of us who know this world fairly well already.  The variety is fantastic. Santas in red but also other colors, in robes and coats and pajamas and kilts and cowboy boots and military camo and a pirate-theme and... Of course, there are lots of lovely fur trimmings, but also Hawaiian shirts, o

Derry Girls: The President

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Derry Girls is a charming, hilarious sitcom set in Derry, Northern Ireland, in the '90s. Because it's set during the Troubles, a lot of the unique character of the show comes from how a constant threat of public violence is usually just background noise to the everyday lives of the characters. An example from the first episode: having to take a different route because of a bomb threat is just annoying to them, not anything weird. The other unique thing about Derry Girls is the characters. It's a show about teenage girls doing teenage girl things - school and friendship and family and mad schemes that escalate in exceedingly dramatic fashion. Erin (my husband, Erin - get ready for some confusion, because that's also the name of this show's main character) said that he appreciates that the main characters aren't "likeable" - that they're allowed to be extreme in a way teen girls on TV usually aren't. On the other hand, I do find them likeable - b

Milo Murphy's Law: A Christmas Peril (2017)

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Milo Murphy's Law is an animated Disney series from the creators of Phineas and Ferb. It's also in continuity with that show, featuring callbacks and eventually crossovers. I'm a big fan of Phineas and Ferb, so I was naturally interested in this, but - like so many things - it was difficult following at first. Once Disney+ launched, I caught up with the first season, which includes a Christmas episode. I should probably get this out of the way: the series, while well written and interesting, lacks the alchemy that made Phineas and Ferb exceptional. The characters just aren't as endearing, and the premise lacks the whimsy that really elevated its predecessor into something truly great. This is still good television, but (at least so far) it hasn't managed to recreate the magic. Half the series revolves around Milo Murphy, the youngest in a family who "Murphy's Law" was named after. In theory, whatever can go wrong around them does, though what this

Book Review: Ming's Christmas Wishes

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Ming's Christmas Wishes Susan L. Gong, 2020 New Release! A copy of this book was provided by Netgalley for the purpose of review.  I had to read through this children's book twice to understand it, but it definitely grew on me.  This short, beautifully illustrated children's book follows a few days in the life of a young Chinese-American girl in the 1930s. Ming wants a Christmas tree (this is related to a larger desire to fit in at school), but her mother won't hear of it.  The next day, Ming's father takes her to visit some family friends and some places his father took him when he was young. The trip connects her with her heritage, and they even come back with a tree to decorate - not a fir tree to cut down and discard, but a Chinese pine to keep in a pot.  That all sounds simple enough, but there's something distinctive about the way this book is written, and it's somewhat unsettling if you're expecting a standard children's story. For one thing,

Happiest Season (2020)

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When making a Christmas movie, it's important not to take too much on. It's fine to try and blend a couple subgenres or ideas, but if you were to, say, attempt to fuse three distinct premises into a single movie that's already destined to be unfairly judged as the first mainstream lesbian romantic Christmas comedy, then one of two things is going to happen. Either something isn't going to work and your gingerbread house of cards is going to collapse, or... ...Or you're going to inexplicably pull off a goddamn miracle of a film that puts damn near every other Christmas movie ever made to shame and causes everyone else working in Hollywood to resent you for making them look bad. Yeah, so, if I were director Clea DuVall, I wouldn't expect to get invited to a lot of holiday parties this year, but that's fine because there's a pandemic. Besides, she could probably use some time to start drafting acceptance speeches, because this movie is the real deal. In cas

Dash & Lily: Season 1 (2020)

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Dash & Lily is an 8-episode-long Netflix series set entirely around the holidays. Now that binge-able shows are the norm, I suppose it was inevitable that these would start popping up (I speculated as much while talking about season 3 of Fargo last year). I'll acknowledge I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around what Dash & Lily is, or at least what it's best described as. At the time I'm writing this, I don't know for sure if it's intended as a limited series, the first season of an ongoing show, or what. But even beyond that, it kind of exists in a gray area between television and film. It doesn't conform to either medium, but rather incorporates elements as needed. Which is great, honestly. I sometimes think we get overly attached to conventions to the point that entertainment is forced into boxes it doesn't belong in. The vast majority of what defines a "television show" or a "theatrical film" is based on the limita

The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special (2020)

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I can forgive The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special for being bad, but I can't forgive it for not being bad enough. The original Star Wars Holiday Special , of course, is a thing of legend. It's impossibly bad, unbelievably bizarre, and utterly mystifying. It's never officially been released, and everyone involved seems ashamed. I'm not saying this had  to be that bad, but it had to be... something. Most importantly, it needed to be memorable, and The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special is already fading from memory minutes after watching. I guess I better get the plot down before it's gone for good. Set soon after Rise of Skywalker, the special opens with Rey trying (and failing) to train Finn to become a Jedi while their friends are preparing for Life Day. Blaming herself for Finn's lack of progression, Rey follows some advice in an old Jedi tome and heads out in search of a lost Jedi temple. BB-8 accompanies her for some reason. They locate the temple and come across