Showing posts with the label Erin Snyder

The Holdovers (2023)

Sometimes I'll say a movie doesn't have much of a plot, or that it's not driven by its story. In most cases, I'm lying: the movie has a plot, it's just that said plot is driven primarily by subtle character interactions and developments that are both difficult to remember and even more difficult to recap. In other words, I'm really saying the movie's plot isn't defined by external story beats but internal growth. The Holdovers is one such film. I'm spelling that all out, because I don't want to give the impression that very little occurs in the course of the movie, or that there's anything less than fantastic about the writing. This is an amazing movie, and it deserves the accolades it's received. But it's also a subtle movie, which means it's a pain in the ass to actually describe the plot, so don't expect more than a vague overview this time. The premise centers around two or three characters, depending on which side of the

Things to Come (1936)

Let's acknowledge up front that this isn't something I'd call a Christmas movie, though it comes significantly closer than I'd have expected. Things to Come is a 1936 British science-fiction film directed by William Cameron Menzies and scripted by... hold on... got to check my notes here... some guy named H. G. Wells. Anyone heard of him? Things to Come doesn't have a typical narrative. While the movie sort of has a lead actor, his characters (he plays a couple) are really just standing in for an ideology. The real main character is the fictional city of "Everytown" (subtle!) which evolves and changes over the course of a century. The movie is less interested in its human characters than it is in speculating on the arcs of history. This is quite literally Wells's vision of a possible future, augmented with absolutely astonishing sets and visual effects that often left me scrambling to figure out how shots were achieved. That qualifies as a recommendati

The Dead (1987) [Revisited]

I've been meaning to re-watch this for a while. I originally wrote about this back in 2016, and while I'll link to that post , it's not one I'm proud of. Having a "review" up for a critically acclaimed adaptation of a James Joyce story where my take is basically just me whining that I found the movie boring hasn't sat well with me as my appreciation for different kinds of films has expanded. I suspected - correctly, I might add - I'd react differently if I gave the movie another chance. That said, I agree with at least part of my original sentiment - this one really isn't for everyone. It requires a great deal of attention to follow the large number of characters and their relationships. Multiple viewings are probably the best approach if you're unfamiliar with the source material - at an hour and twenty minutes, that's not too heavy a lift (I watched this twice yesterday, for anyone curious). Even then, the movie and its underlying plot (w

Cronos (1992)

I first saw this ten or fifteen years ago while exploring Guillermo del Toro's filmography.  Filmed in a combination of English and Spanish, Cronos is his first film. I recall thinking it was good but being a little underwhelmed at the time, particularly compared to his follow-up, The Devil's Backbone. If I noticed this was set at New Year's, I forgot it soon after. While this didn't leave much of an impression on me then, it absolutely did now. I think I was expecting a more typical vampire story, and as a result wasn't ready to fully appreciate the more subdued, thoughtful film del Toro delivered, which is more a fairytale assembled out of deconstructed horror elements than the usual superpowered monsters. In my defense, understated genre films were more common in the '90s and early '00s, so something like this stood out less then than it does in 2023. Regardless, this is fantastic, which means it's time for a mandatory spoiler warning. If you're a

Ordinary Love (2019)

I found this on a list BFI released of "10 Great Christmas Films of the 21st Century," along with a mix of movies we've seen and ones we haven't (all of which of course went right on my watchlist). While I agree Ordinary Love is a worthwhile film, I'm less convinced it makes much sense to call it a "Christmas film," though it does have the holidays bookend the movie, a common use of them. The BFI's synopsis, however, claims this is "about a Belfast couple grappling with chemo over the holidays," which is demonstrably false - the holidays are well over before the disease is diagnosed, and the bulk of their ordeal takes place significantly later. I'm guessing whoever made the list didn't have a chance to rewatch this before finalizing it. Which is understandable. By their nature, these kinds of lists are typically tossed together at the last minute, and besides - it's not like the movie is unworthy of praise. I just wouldn't c

Mouse Hunt (1997)

Just about the only thing you'd describe as subtle in this comedy from the late '90s is its holiday setting, which - to be fair - is a bit ambiguous. The film definitely starts just before Christmas, though even that takes a little while to be established. Christmas Eve plays into the story in a fairly significant way, though we sort of breeze through the 25th itself. After that, the timeline gets a little muddled, though it certainly seems like virtually all of the movie would have to be set between Christmas and New Year's. But I'm getting quite a bit ahead of myself. Let's start by acknowledging what I assume is obvious from the seemingly contradictory fact that this involves some pretty impressive talent yet has been virtually forgotten: it's not good. That's not entirely accurate. Instead, let's say this really doesn't work, and most people without an interest in Gore Verbinski's filmography would be better off skipping it. This is Verbinski

Roadblock (1951)

I was torn on whether to write this up at all. The holiday section accounts for roughly thirteen minutes of the movie's runtime, plus or minus depending on when you assume some ambiguous events are taking place. The section is pivotal and the use of the holidays interesting, but this is more a case where it's relevant to trends of how Christmas appears on film, rather than of particular note to the movie itself. But I found it notable enough in context to want some notes, and this blog is largely turning into a sort of public collection of notes I'm compiling on holiday media for.... God, I don't know. I'm still figuring that part out. Regardless, the compromise I came up with was to write this up but hold the post until after the holidays. I don't want to water down our Christmas season posts any more than I already have. So that's why you're seeing this now. This movie, I should note, is a good one. Roadblock is a noir crime story with a tragic love st

They Live by Night (1948)

They Live by Night is one of several crime noir films Criterion is streaming this year for the holidays. It tells the story of young lovers on the run from the law. I was on the fence about writing this up. Because the movie's timeline is fairly nebulous, it's not at all clear what portion is set around Christmas. A fourteen or fifteen-minute section starting just after the middle definitely is and you could interpret the entirety of what comes before as being in December, but you could just as easily assume the earlier scenes are in October or November. It just isn't clear. The tie-breaker, of course, came down to some thematic connections, but even these aren't clear-cut. More on all that later. The main characters are Bowie (played by Farley Granger) and Keechie (Cathy O'Donnell). Bowie just broke out of prison with the help of two older criminals, T-Dub and Chicamaw. They're staying at a service station run by Keechie's father, who's assisting them i

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg [The Umbrellas of Cherbourg] (1964)

There aren't a lot of definitions of "Christmas movies" that would include this, and I'm not about to claim otherwise. Despite that, I wanted to share a few thoughts for a couple reasons. First, this is an incredibly important and influential movie, which naturally makes me inclined to loosen my criteria. It's also a foreign film (French, if it wasn't clear from the title), which means it's providing us with at least a little insight into how another culture views the holiday season. Most importantly, while it only contains two relatively brief holiday sequences, one of those uses Christmas in a fairly unusual way, which - unless I miss my guess - reflects back on American Christmas movies. More on that later. The film is a colorful musical drama about a couple torn apart by a combination of forces beyond their control and their own decisions. It's notable for its operatic approach - although the music is fairly modern (or modern for 1964 musicals), ev

The Closing of the Year. Sort of.

Christmas Day is upon us once again, so it's time to wrap things up for another year. Well... sort of. See, despite some concerns about whether we'd have enough to keep up with our usual schedule this year, we're actually finishing with a handful of reviews we never got around to scheduling. While we relaxed our rules on limiting posts to media we deemed "Christmas movies" to include films of historical significance or movies that uses the holidays in interesting ways, we held off on a couple that are really movies where Christmas plays a minor role, and post-Christmas seems like a good time to run those. I also want to leave open the possibility we might start posting reviews during the off-season (hopefully shorter than most of what we've been doing) of other movies that fall more in the neighborhood of "movies with some scenes during the holidays" than bona fide "Christmas movies." As I said in my intro piece, this blog has piqued my int

Black Christmas (1974) [Revisited]

I originally saw and "reviewed"  Black Christmas back in 2010 , and if you're wondering why "review" is in quotation marks, go ahead and click on the link. For what it's worth, we weren't exactly trying to write actual reviews in those days - this all started out as sort of a novelty Christmas blog where the gag was we were binging as much holiday stuff as possible and writing about the experience. Sharing our discomfort as we sat through genres we didn't enjoy was all part of the fun. Or so we hoped. But over the years this site has evolved, as have my taste in movies and my knowledge of the history of Christmas media. Even back then, we knew Black Christmas was important (which is why we included it that first year). And as I've encountered various think pieces exploring the film , it became clear I really needed to revisit it. Having rewatched it, I still wouldn't say I enjoyed the experience, but it's far more nuanced and interesting

Tawo [The Tower] (2012)

Here's one that's been on our list for a while. This is a 2012 South Korean disaster movie set on Christmas Eve directed by Kim Ji-hoon. The effects and overall production values are, for the most part, at the level of a Hollywood blockbuster, and the movie was a massive success in South Korea. It was so well executed, I found myself a little surprised it hadn't received a US release... until it got to the third act, when it became extremely clear why this particular market wasn't an option. The premise is going to be familiar to anyone who's heard of the 1974 film, The Towering Inferno, whether you've seen it or not (which is fortunate, because that's another one I still need to get around to). At its core, The Tower is about people trying to escape a burning skyscraper, with the complexity coming from who the characters are, what their relationships are to each other, what they're willing to risk or sacrifice for each other, and so on. While the premis