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Reflections On Another Christmas Gone

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It was a close one this year, what with the Grinch armed with a machine gun holding Santa Claus hostage in the old McCallister home. For a while there, it looked like Christmas might have to be cancelled. But some quick thinking from Dooley and the Christmas Narwhal saved the day, and...

You know what? I don't need to recap this. You caught the news last night; you know the gifts were delivered, the Grinch is safely back in Arkham, and Santa Claus destroyed that asteroid before it reached orbit. We don't need to go over all the details or spend more time mourning Donner.

What matters is Christmas 2015 came on schedule, and - aside from a few mishaps - it was a merry one. Here at Mainlining Christmas, we spent the season as we always do, force-feeding ourselves holiday cheer. Overall, our slate of movies was surprisingly good this year: we really weren't expecting that.

That's not all, though. We hung out with reindeer, marveled at sculptures of Christmas dinosaurs, we…

Is It Really Christmas Already?

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It seems like it was just Black Friday last week.

Even though we crammed a lot of holiday cheer into this season, our list-of-things-to-watch is only getting longer. As I mentioned this year, researching one holiday special keeps leading us to more and more. Netflix sees our patterns and recommends more Christmas-themed stuff. We buy obscure movies and specials all year long whenever we find them cheap. So don’t worry about us running out of material anytime soon.

The thing that most surprised me this year was how many honestly enjoyable, quality movies we watched.

Some of the highlights of this year for me were:

Meet Me in St. Louis - a classic movie musical, expertly crafted and gorgeously filmedThe Apartment - another classic, this one quietly subversive, biting, and extremely clever8 Women - a french film about family, anger, passion, and the judgement of women by womenMrs. Santa Claus - a sweet family musical about feminism and social justice in the 1910s, starring Angela Lansb…

10 Deadly Christmas Elves

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Too often elves are portrayed as weak and timid. Even if you doubt Christmas elves are as proficient with the long and short sword and bow as their sylvan cousins, you shouldn't underestimate their unique talents. Make no mistake: while forged in Santa's workshops, their skills have militaristic applications.

With that in mind, Mainlining Christmas would like to offer a list of 10 elves who are potentially lethal.

Wayne, Call Sign: Little Drummer Boy (Prep & Landing)

Weapon of Choice: Sleep grenades, cane hook, tree trimmer, and a host of other high-tech gadgets.

Danger Level: Low. Wayne's equipment is intended for non-lethal combat, and his centuries of training and experience make it incredibly unlikely he'd lose control and do anything drastic. However, it's worth remembering three facts: he's prone to depression, he's slipped up before, and he's proven again and again that his gear is extremely versatile. Would he ever take a life? Probably not. …

Delving Ever Deeper

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After the first year of Mainlining Christmas, we knew we could keep this up for a while. We didn’t even manage to hit everything on my initial brainstorming list that year, and new Christmas movies, episodes and specials come out every year.

What we didn’t expect was that even now, in year six, we would still be discovering untapped veins of pure jingle.

This year we’ve patched some holes in our repertoire of classic movies, and are catching up on some of the most recent releases. A lot of the other things, we found through serendipitous chains, following the pine-needle trails from one place to the next.

An example:

I was looking for a reminder of some of the media we’ve seen that features an ‘alternate’ Christmas. In a fit of brilliance, I decided to see whether the trope had a tvtropes page, which of course it does. 

On this page I found a reference to the holiday episodes of the Disney Channel show Sofia the First.

In adding Sofia the First to the to-watch list, I wanted to fin…

The Final Frontier: Science Fiction and Christmas

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When it comes to movies, I don't think any genre has been more under served at Christmas than science fiction. There's a massive amount of Christmas-themed horror and fantasy, but very little SF. I'm honestly not sure why: it's a surprisingly logical fit, given the genre's interest in culture and religion. There are a handful of exceptions, though most of them are mixed with other genres.
By my count, there have between two and four Christmas science-fiction films with meaningful budgets made in the past five decades (the exact number depends on how generous you are in defining both "Christmas movie" and "science-fiction").

Of course, TV has been more generous: science-fiction series, like every other genre, are often compelled to carve out some time at the holidays. What follows is essentially intended as a survey of the genre and a breakdown of how the concepts interact.
SPACE When most people who aren't fans of the genre hear the words, …

The Borders of Christmastown: Some Thoughts on what are and are not Christmas Movies

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There are plenty of lists out there trying to pick the best and worst Christmas movies of all time (most of those lists are full of crap, but that's not relevant). Lindsay and I spend a lot of time going through those lists looking for anything we've missed, and this often leads to an existential quandary.

What the hell is a Christmas movie?

Sometimes, it's easy. Elf, for example, is a movie set at, about, and concerned with the holidays. I've never heard anyone claim otherwise. Pull out the holiday elements, and you're literally left with nothing.

At least, all of that's true under my definition of Christmas. If you're preoccupied with the idea that Jesus is the reason for the Black Friday rush, then you likely have very different thoughts on whether Elf has anything at all to do with Christmas. Also, you need a goddamn history lesson.

But for the rest of the world, it's a Christmas movie. Almost as much so as Miracle on 34th Street, which is arguably…

The 1st Annual Mainlining Christmas Black Friday Party

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I always get depressed this time of year.

I mean, sure, I love Black Friday - who doesn't? But it always seems like something's missing. When I think back to when I was a kid, Black Friday always seemed so magical, so special. It was a time for families and friends to come together and celebrate the season.

But I feel like somewhere along the way, we all lost sight of that. Now, it seems like all Black Friday is about is saving a few bucks, improving profits, or scraping bodies off the floor of a Walmart entrance.

Where did we go wrong?

I really don't have an answer to that, but Lindsay and I came up with a possible solution. This year, we decided to skip the shopping trip altogether and throw a good old-fashioned Black Friday party for some of our closest friends. We picked up Black Friday decorations weeks ago - for some reason, they got really cheap at the start of November. I know - I was surprised they dropped the prices right when people would be thinking of Black Fr…

Clarification

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Henry Selick was recently asked whether The Nightmare Before Christmas, one of the greatest holiday films ever made, was a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie. After some consideration, he went with Halloween.

I think it's important to note that, as the visionary director of this phenomenal movie, Selick is uniquely positioned to be able to definitively answer this question.

That's what makes it so surprising that he got it wrong. While the movie's leads are original Halloween characters, the plot is a re-imagining of L. Frank Baum's story, A Kidnapped Santa Claus, as well as his novel, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. These were major influences on the Rankin Bass specials, as well, which in turn served as prototypes for Selick's movie.

But we'll forgive the director for this oversight. If he keeps making movies half as good as The Nightmare Before Christmas, he can claim they're about Arbor Day for all we care.

2014 Draws to a Close

It's that time again. Time to cut down the Christmas lights, knock over the tree, and throw out whatever mistletoe didn't get eaten before it goes bad. It's Christmas again, and you know what that means: it's time to say good-bye to Mainlining Christmas for another year.

Granted, the next year starts in a week, and we typically post reviews whenever the hell we feel like it, so it's not like we'll be out of your lives entirely. But we'll be out of holiday-mode, so the 3 to 10 posts a day pace is over and done with for the foreseeable future.

I'm relieved to get the holidays behind me, but - as is always the case - it makes me a little sad, as well. Sure, the near-constant barrage of Christmas specials and movies gets a bit much, but it's also tradition.

On top of all that, this has been a pretty good Christmas. We've excavated a whole other level of holiday movies and found a number of unexpected gems. We saw old, forgotten films: Beyond Tomorro…

Said The Night Wind...

We’ve come to the end of another season of Mainlining Christmas. This is our fifth year, and we’re running out of pithy things to say to close out the holiday.

However, even now, even year five, we’re still learning new things.

Long-time readers may remember my complicated relationship with Christmas carols. I’ve been sporadically looking for a version of “Do You Hear What I Hear” that matches the ideal version in my head for years. And I’ve always felt especially uneasy about my love for this song. It’s a weird one for me to get hooked on; much of the time I tolerate the semi-religious songs and only really latch on to more secular tunes. But “Do You Hear What I Hear” has always been an exception.

Last weekend, we were in the car, listening to Christmas radio, and a version came on. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. For one thing, it had a lead singer, and I really wanted a chorus. But it reminded me that I hadn’t tried to look up my ideal version of the son…

Semantics and Pagan Holidays

One of the fringe benefits of managing a seasonal holiday blog is the steady supply of free pet peeves. While it certainly doesn't top the list, I've recently been devoting an unhealthy amount of time fixating on the following phrase: "Co-opted pagan holiday." Normally, one should avoid unhealthy things, but since Christmas is a time for indulgence, perhaps you'll indulge me while I permit myself a short rant on the subject.

First, a disclaimer. I've probably been guilty of abusing the term once or twice myself on this blog. I don't recall using it (or the even harsher term, "stolen") in anything other than a joking context, but - if I have - it was an oversight, an error, or I was being an idiot. Because claiming that Christians co-opted or stole pagan holidays is misleading.

You'll note I didn't say it was wrong. From a factual standpoint, it's neither true or untrue. You could assemble a number of experts who agree on every releva…

Mainlining Christmas Gift Guide - 2014

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Other gift guides start from the assumption that there's a brilliant gift out there waiting for you to find, a gift that will convey a sense of emotional gravitas or communicate a message of gratitude or love, or simply convey an expression of goodwill around the holidays. These guides try to give you ideas in the hopes that they'll introduce you to something you haven't thought of or jog your memory into recalling that perfect gift idea.

Here at Mainlining Christmas, our starting assumption is that if you're trying to find an interesting, thoughtful gift at a reasonable price for an adult, you're pretty much screwed. Sure, at one time there were gift ideas ripe for the picking, but that ship has sailed, been retired from active service, was forced to go out on one last adventure in order to rescue a bunch of orphans shipwrecked on Christmas Eve, then sunk off the coast of Gibraltar in a storm. Presumably the metaphorical orphans were then rescued by Batman - he d…

'Twas the Night Before Black Friday

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According to myth, a group of early American religious extremists once arranged a feast with an indigenous tribe in New England on the fourth Thursday of November. Soon after, the settlers set out to murder the people and cultures that had welcomed them in order to claim their land. This went on for centuries, and millions died.

We now recognize this slaughter of innocent life in the name of material gain in an annual tradition called Black Friday.


It's become a tradition here at Mainlining Christmas to go out on the night before Black Friday, which we call Black Friday's Eve. We go not as shoppers but as chroniclers, eager to study the changing holiday.

This year, we went early, mainly because the festivities started early. The number of stores opening at 5:00 this year was astonishing. We began a little later: we arrived at our first stop around 7:30 and traveled from store to store until 9:30.


Our first observation was that everything felt quieter than usual. The stores we…