Showing posts from 2020

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

Godmothered (2020)

For the past thirteen years, more or less every Disney fairytale has started with the same premise: deconstruct and subvert tropes from "classic" Disney fairytales in a way that's progressive enough to deflect criticism but not so progressive that it threatens the bottom line. This formula was established by Enchanted, which I'd argue remains the high-water mark in terms of actually carrying through on that promise. Godmothered, a direct-to-streaming fantasy/Christmas movie that just premiered on Disney+, is easily the most overt ripoff of Enchanted I've seen to date. The twist is instead of focusing on a princess, the main character is a fairy godmother-in-training trying to help a woman find her "happily ever after." And the theme of the movie is the concept of the happy ending is broken, so fairy godmothers should try to help people be happy, instead of attempting to morph that into a preconceived princess narrative. Note this moral is specifically fo

The Christmas Setup (2020)

This year saw a seismic shift in Christmas romantic comedies, which had been almost universally heteronormative (the possible exception being Carol , assuming you're willing to use an incredibly forgiving definition of "Christmas movie" and the classic definition of "comedy"). Gay characters have certainly appeared in other Christmas rom-coms, but until 2020, we didn't really see them presented as romantic leads. Depending on how you want to define "Christmas rom-com," this is either the second or third such new movie we've seen, and there's at least one more we didn't get to. That's obviously a great step, though I feel like the impact is undercut by how absurdly late it is. Sitcoms were willing to feature gay characters back in the '90s. By now, you can find representation in cartoon shows. Movies, both driven by big studios and made-for-TV, are behind the times. Still, it's nice to see them taking those first steps. The C

Lady in the Lake (1947)

I'm not sure how this one flew under our radar for as long as it did. Lady in the Lake is an adaptation of a Raymond Chandler Philip Marlowe mystery filmed almost entirely in first person from the perspective of Marlowe. Because of this, the movie is both directed and starring Robert Montgomery. Lady in the Lake is fascinating as a concept, yet somehow excruciatingly boring in execution. The solution to the mystery is needlessly complicated and poorly portrayed. Characters central to the mystery never appear on film, and significant sequences of Marlowe's investigation are skipped over and instead described in conversation. Most notably, the titular lady is never actually shown, nor is the lake, which is arguably the most significant location in the mystery. It honestly feels as though they couldn't find or afford a location, so they rewrote the script at the last minute. The plot is too convoluted to explain sequentially, so here's the idea. Marlowe is hired by Adrienn

Ma nuit chez Maud [My Night at Maud's] (1969)

I'm going to be upfront about this: I'm a little out of my element here. French New Wave isn't a genre I'm familiar with, so if you stumbled across this review searching for any kind of informed analysis of this classic film, you might want to look elsewhere. That being said, this is absolutely a Christmas movie, so our quest to watch and discuss literally every important holiday movie in existence wouldn't be complete without it. So whether it's a good idea or not, I'll dust off my philosophy degree and try to describe the 1969 French film, Ma nuit chez Maud  or My Night at Maud's, as the subtitles helpfully explain. The movie is... well, let's start with this: it's good. It's very good, very well made, and - if you're used to literally any other kind of movie - very slow. I wouldn't personally use the word "boring," but I suspect it's an adjective commonly invoked in reference to this film. Stylistically, the movie is

3615 code Père Noël (1989)

Occasionally, I have the rare privilege of watching a movie that not only widens my appreciation for the scope of the grander Christmas canon, but potentially explains lingering questions about existing holiday classics. Not only is this one of those movies, it is an absolutely fantastic film in its own right, a horror/action/comedy/adventure in the vein of Rare Exports and Krampus made decades before either of those films. But for the purposes of history, it's more significant that it was made one year after Die Hard and two years before Home Alone. A lot of people have joked about similarities between those films - I've done so myself. But deep down, I always assumed those similarities were ultimately due to similar holiday tropes being used in initially divergent ways that became similar due to the movies' premises. Convergent cinematic yuletide evolution, if you will. After watching 3615 code Père Noël, however, I'm less certain. This 1989 French masterpiece (so, ye

One Magic Christmas (1985)

I've got a lot to say about this movie - about its themes, plot, and its use of classic holiday tropes - and I'm going to cover a lot of ground. But before I get into all that, I want to take a moment, step back, and summarize this as a whole. This movie is bullshit. I know that raises more questions than it answers. So let's roll up our sleeves and dig in to explore the depths of the bullshit that define the experience of watching "One Magic Christmas," a 1985 attempt by Disney to push out a Christmas classic by transparently tossing cliché after cliché against the screen and hoping it somehow coalesces into something worthwhile. To be fair, not everything in this movie is bad - some of the component pieces are actually pretty good. But that's true of bullshit, too. Cows eat a lot of different vegetation, including some lovely flowers. In the end, though, that doesn't change what's left over. The movie's plot is absurdly convoluted, largely becaus

Snowglobe (2007)

This one was quite a rollercoaster. It started off weak, then got progressively weirder through the second act. By the time it hit the climax, the movie had us fascinated with where it would go next. Then the whole thing was resolved through what might be the least satisfying use of deus ex machina I've seen in my entire life. So, "mixed" would probably be a generous summation for this bizarre fantasy rom-com. I'm going to jump right into the story because this thing is bonkers. The protagonist is "Angela," a single woman with a somewhat unhealthy affection for Christmas, which is... honestly kind of refreshing. The vast majority of these start with a gender-flipped Scrooge - going the opposite way is a nice change of pace. She lives in an apartment building owned by her parents, who also own and run the deli she works in. Her mother keeps trying to fix her up with men by moving them into apartments near hers. Angela is annoyed and frustrated with this behav

Cup of Cheer (2020)

Cup of Cheer is a Canadian spoof of generic made-for-TV Christmas movies. Reading that, your first question should be, "Where does it fall on the Airplane/Scary Movie Scale?" The answer is somewhere around the middle - funny at times, far from the best in the genre, but a hell of a lot better than the Scary Movie films. I assume. I never actually watched those. It's at least better than the Scary Movie trailers. Cup of Cheer is at its best when it remembers its premise and adheres to holiday rom-com tropes and conventions, which it does about 60% of the time. It does a decent (though not entirely even) job playing with elements lifted from Hallmark and its imitators. The problem is the other 40%, which goes for generic, lowbrow shock humor - dick and fart jokes, in other words, and I do mean that literally. Hell, there's a character who's basically a walking fart joke - I haven't seen every Hallmark movie out there, but I'm pretty sure that's not lifte

Remember the Night (1940)

Remember the Night is the third film written by Preston Sturges we've looked at here and, in my humble opinion, the least interesting. It's widely considered a romantic comedy, but I'd argue it's closer to a romantic melodrama with bits of comedic relief. More on that later. The movie opens with Lee Leander (played by Barbara Stanwyck) getting arrested for stealing a bracelet right before Christmas. The prosecutor assigned to the case is John Sargent (Fred MacMurray, two decades before he'd appear in a supporting role in one of the best Christmas movies ever made). When Lee's defense attorney tries to claim she was hypnotized into stealing the bracelet, John uses it as an excuse to have the trial delayed until after Christmas, when the jury will be less reluctant to sentence a woman to prison. John realizes he just ensured Lee will spend the holidays in jail, since she can't pay for bail, so he arranges to have her released until her hearing. But then he d

Alien XMas (2020)

I want to start off by acknowledging there are almost certainly people out there who'd really get a kick out of this new stop-motion Netflix special. There are things to like about this - I'll get to those in a moment - and I really like how dedicated this is to capturing the spirit of 1950s B-movie sci-fi features. But while I like what it was going for, the special fell short for me. And unfortunately, I think this is one of those concepts where "almost good" isn't good enough. The premise relies on a species of alien marauders called klepts, who go from world to world stealing resources. These beings were once brightly colored, but their cruelty transformed them into grey lifeforms, devoid of compassion. So far, so good. One of the two main characters is X, the smallest of the klepts, who's dispatched to the North Pole to construct a device that will nullify Earth's gravity, making it easy for the alien ships to gather up the planet's possessions. T