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