Showing posts from November 19, 2023

Détresse et Charité [The Christmas Angel] (1904)

I'm including both the French and English titles above, but it's actually more accurate to say I've seen The Christmas Angel, as the French version contained a very different ending. The original resolution sounds more interesting, but I haven't been able to find it and I'm guessing the sanitized, happy US version is the only one that survived (I should probably just be grateful any version of this survived more or less intact). The movie is around nine minutes long, and it was made by legendary French director, illusionist, inventor, and probably a whole host of other things, Georges Méliès. The film starts in the home of a poor family in winter around the holidays. The mother's sick and the father's tending to her. Also, there's a hole in their ceiling that snow's pouring through, and a guy I'm assuming they owe money to comes in and argues with the father. At any rate, their only hope seems to be their daughter, who goes out begging for charit

Bernard and the Genie (1991)

Right off the bat, I'm going to open with a simultaneous recommendation and a warning: this bizarre, British TV movie from the early '90s is well worth checking out provided you're able to stomach the racism. Because... yeah, the movie's approach to its subject matter, while clearly intended as tongue-in-cheek, absolutely exploits both the culture it's drawing its mythology from and the race of Lenny Henry, who plays the genie. For what it's worth, the movie's portrayal of race is good-natured and well intentioned, with the movie ultimately existing in part as an endorsement of diversity and immigration, but the subtext of a black immigrant being weird and silly by virtue of not understanding British customs is absolutely baked into the premise. I doubt it was a coincidence that the remake flipped the races of both the genie and Bernard (and, for what it's worth, the cast of the remake was one of its best assets). And speaking of the remake... I'm go

Genie (2023)

This is a remake of a 1991 British TV movie called Bernard and the Genie, which I've yet to see at the time I'm writing this review (though there's a decent chance that'll change before you're actually reading this). Skimming the Wikipedia article for that film, the stories seem quite a bit different, even if the overall premise is the same: a man down on his luck finds a genie who grants him bucketloads of wishes as he tries to fix his problems. Hopefully it worked better the first time around - despite some impressive talent involved, this remake mostly falls flat. The main issue is one of tone, namely that the movie tries to create the wrong one. The scripts for both this and the movie it's based on are written by the legendary Richard Curtis, who seems to treat the story as something of a farce, at least until the resolution. Likewise, Melissa McCarthy is certainly playing the Genie with the same sort of larger-than-life comedic energy. Unfortunately, direct

Le Rêve de Noël [The Christmas Dream] (1900)

This is one of two surviving Christmas movies I know of from Georges Méliès, though unfortunately, I'm using the term "surviving" somewhat loosely. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Méliès is one of the film directors who invented film directing. Also visual effects. And editing. And making really goddamn cool movies. I don't want to get lost on a huge tangent, but if you have any interest in the history of film and haven't seen his work, look him up. A great deal of his surviving films are easily accessible through YouTube and numerous other online sources. He was creating and colorizing lavish fantasy films with monsters and magic in the early 1900s. He's one of the first film directors in history, and his work was easily half a century ahead of his time. Some of his movies are nothing short of incredible. The Christmas Dream is far from his best work, but it's still an impressive visual experience. Unfortunately, as I hinted at earlier, the mov

The Bitch Who Stole Christmas (2021)

If you didn't know there was a made-for-TV Christmas movie in which almost all of the supporting roles are played by former contestants and judges from RuPaul's Drag Race, now you know.  As you can probably guess, it's a fairly unique entry in the pantheon of holiday flicks. Like anything with a strong gimmick, viewers who are very familiar with the source material will probably get more out of moments that are clearly cameos and references than we did. But even though I've only watched one episode of Drag Race, I still enjoyed this.  It's funny and biting, it pushes the envelope (of course), and manages to be charming as well. The film does overstay its welcome a bit. It could have been a tight, hilarious 45 minutes, but at 86 minutes aspects of the underwritten characters get a bit tedious, and the jokes become especially hit-and-miss in the middle.  I want to mention something I alluded to above, that the supporting roles are mostly drag queens. The main characte

Violent Night (2022)

Is there a word for movies that obtain cult status despite being box-office successes? Violent Night occupies a somewhat awkward place in the pop-culture landscape between studio production and weird outsider. Depending on your opinion of the film, you can either view it as the best of both worlds or the former masquerading as the latter in an attempt to appear edgy. I had a somewhat mixed reaction to the film myself. As an action flick with a nasty sense of humor (I resisted the urge to say "naughty"), I found it incredibly satisfying. It's essentially a take on the slasher Santa formula with the premise inverted, so the gruesome kills are cathartic rather than horrific, and I had a lot of fun with it. At the same time, I found the story and underlying lore lacking, and the politics of the thing kind of awful, both on its own merits and even more so as part of the larger holiday media tradition. Let's talk premise before we get into all that, though. The main charact

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

Are we doing Thanksgiving movies now? As a matter of policy, I'm not certain - we've always kind of punted on the question of whether we should view Thanksgiving as an independent holiday or whether it should be viewed as the kickoff to the Christmas season, and the general scarcity of movies centered around the holiday make the point largely moot. But John Hughes's Planes, Trains & Automobiles has started to feel like a notable omission in our collection of reviews of holiday media. Making matters more complicated is the fact the movie is sometimes advertised in a way implying it's a Christmas movie, with a large candy cane signpost displaying the title. Someone wants people to associate this with Christmas, even if the movie is explicitly set over the lead-up to Thanksgiving and culminates with that  holiday. It's also worth noting the movie prominently shows Christmas decorations, along with wintery imagery. None of this is out of place for Thanksgiving, of c

Where We Are Now and How We Got Here

Welcome to year fourteen of Mainlining Christmas. That's right - fourteen years. We've been doing this so long, when we started this blog having a blog didn't seem antiquated. Hell, in 2010 the weird part of this was approaching Christmas as a sort of nerd fandom; now that's kind of normal. For what it's worth, I'm not at all surprised to see an interest in secular yuletide media going mainstream: I'd been expecting that long before we started this. Over the years, this site has shifted and evolved. Originally, we kind of approached it as a tongue-in-cheek look at Christmas media. We focused on consuming as many movies, shows, specials, songs, and anything else related to the holidays we could get our hands on. Reviews, to the limited extent the term even applies, were little more than warnings or recommendations prefaced with vague descriptions. Part of me feels embarrassed looking back at earlier write-ups, though I'm probably being a little too hard o