Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Movies

I think I've finally turned the corner. I survived all of Sunday without any medication. I didn't feel great, but I was able to function and breathe without cough syrup or decongestants. Then I finally got some deep, restful sleep last night -- something that hasn't been happening with the cough. I'm still not up to doing much and I think there will be much napping and sleeping, but if I continue improving at this pace, I'll be well by Christmas. I was supposed to have a make-up dance class tonight and tomorrow night, but I don't see it happening tonight. Tomorrow, though, I might be able to make it through at least the barre section of the class, even if the rest might be too strenuous. I made the mistake of looking in the mirror this morning, and I look kind of like the walking dead -- dark circles under my eyes, red nose, wild, tangled hair, sallow skin. I could probably scare a miser into changing his ways.

I managed to fight through the congestion with weapons from a variety of cultures. Friday night, I had pasta with arrabiata sauce (a very spicy tomato sauce with a lot of garlic and peppers). Then Saturday it was vindaloo, which I might not be able to eat when I'm not stuffed up, as it was so spicy my ears were tingling (but I could breathe after eating it). Sunday night I made chili that I'll probably have to eat this week instead of freezing some of the batch, since it also might be a bit too hot for normal eating.

This weekend, I may have overdosed a bit on the cable Christmas movies. I've already confessed to my fondness for these cheesy concoctions. I guess one reason I like them is that they're not at all edgy, and with "romantic comedy" having turned into mostly a gross-out, "edgy" thing on the big screen, this is one of the few places where you can see something unabashedly sweet and romantic. I started my marathon with ABC Family's latest, which I didn't have high hopes for, as their movies tend toward the corny, but it turned out to be surprisingly good, maybe even better than any big-screen romantic comedy I've seen in the last few years. It was called The 12 Dates of Christmas and was about a young woman who's been trying to adhere rigidly to her life plan, which included marrying her now-ex boyfriend. She messes up an obligatory Christmas Eve blind date with a promising prospect because of her focus on meeting up with the ex, only to find out that the ex is now engaged to someone else, and she thinks she's missed her chance -- until she wakes up and it's Christmas Eve all over again. It's sort of a Christmas Groundhog Day concept, and I think they did a good job with it because her reactions to it seemed very realistic as she worked her way through each go-round the way you'd imagine someone would, thinking it's a dream, then seeing a doctor, then focusing on ways to get the ex back, then finally focusing on the new guy, then getting frustrated with the constant re-sets and going a little nuts with it. I actually liked the main characters and wanted them to get together, and they avoided a lot of cliches by not making the ex or his new girlfriend evil. In fact, there was no villain. I wonder if they ever sell these on DVD because I could see myself working this one into my holiday film festival collection (I like to rotate movies and keep them fresh instead of wearing out the same ones over and over again).

And then to get my true cheese factor, I started working my way through the Lifetime Movie Network OnDemand Christmas menu, alphabetically. I landed on one called All She Wants for Christmas, which involved a business-minded young woman working in the corporate office of the local Christmas decorations factory in her small town. She's trying to make the operation more efficient, since it's been losing money, and if the plant closes, much of the town will be out of work. It gets more urgent when the recently deceased owner's granddaughter shows up to review the plant, but she's a little distracted by the charming free spirit who shows up and takes a seasonal job at the plant. This one was cute, but very predictable, and it included the romantic comedy cliche of the woman flipping out when she sees the guy speaking to another woman, and if you don't know the other woman is actually his relative, then you've never seen a movie like this (the women in Lifetime movies never seem to watch Lifetime movies). But it was really hard for me to concentrate on the actual movie because all the women in the cast had the same extremely fake-looking, overprocessed, yellow-blond hair that didn't at all go with their skin tones, and that got to be extremely distracting. It was like Christmas With the Lannisters (geeky reference: In A Game of Thrones it's a plot point that the Lannister family is known for their blond hair, and that means in the TV series that a number of naturally dark-haired actors have really fake-looking yellow-blond dye jobs (or wigs) that don't go at all with their coloring).

I finally found the corny I'd been expecting from ABC Family with a movie on the ION network (I can't tell if they're repurposing Hallmark stuff or if some of this is actually original programming) that was on Sunday afternoon. This one had several of my "don't" elements, but I didn't feel like looking for anything else, and it managed to do the "don'ts" in an inoffensive way. It was called Christmas Mail and was about a young woman who shows up at the local post office, sent from the postmaster to answer children's letters to Santa. The paranoid manager thinks she's been sent to spy on him and assigns a young mailman (the geeky lab tech from CSI: NY) to get to know her and find out what's up with her. What she doesn't know is that he's the uncle of a little girl who keeps writing to Santa about wanting to find a way to make her uncle happy, since he had to put his life on hold to raise her when her parents died. I normally steer away from any holiday movie with adorable moppets and single parents, but this kid reminded me of young Amelia Pond on Doctor Who. And then there's the fact that the letter writer seems to have some connection to the North Pole. They keep it pretty subtle, so I couldn't quite tell if it was a gender-reversed (and less annoying) Elf or if she's supposed to be Santa's daughter. At any rate, she managed to be just enthusiastic and unworldly enough to make it work without being obnoxious. This one also had the "see him with someone else, assume he's married/cheating, then storm off instead of asking about it" cliche. Not one of the better Christmas movies, but possibly the kind of thing I was in the mood for.

What are some of my favorites? In no particular order:
1) The Holiday -- mostly for the English countryside scenery. I wouldn't mind spending Christmas in a cottage in an English village like that.
2) Love Actually -- but I can't watch it when I'm sick because it makes me cry, and that makes my nose run, and that just makes matters worse. It does, however, work for any mood because there's such a mix of stories. There's enough bittersweet that it doesn't make me feel pathetic in contrast if I'm feeling low.
3) The Muppets Christmas Carol -- One of the more faithful adaptations of the novel, aside from the talking pigs and frogs.
4) Scrooge -- the musical with Albert Finney. I love the music, and I love that the perkiest songs are used ironically, until the end. The cheery "Father Christmas" is meant sarcastically to describe Scrooge, and then "Thank You Very Much" is sung during a funeral procession -- the "nicest thing anyone's ever done for me" is Scrooge dying.
5) Christmas in Connecticut -- the original from the 40s -- a great Christmas screwball comedy
6) Gremlins -- I love the contrast between the idyllic small-town Christmas setting and the mayhem that ensues.
7) While You Were Sleeping -- I usually do this one between Christmas and New Year's Day, since that's when it takes place, but it's a nice holiday-set romantic comedy.

These are the ones I can watch over and over, though there are a few of those Lifetime/Family movies I'll catch when they're on. You may notice that A Christmas Story is NOT on this list. I don't really get the love for that movie. It was cute the first time I saw it, but it's not something I can watch repeatedly, and playing it non-stop is a good way to keep me away from your channel for an entire day.


Chicory said...

`While You Were Sleeping' is one of my favorite movies, along with Muppet Christmas Carrol'. A few weeks ago you mentioned the tv show `Once Upon a Time'. I hadn't been going to watch it because the commercials looked weirdly creepy, but after you said how much you were enjoying it, I decided to check it out, and `Once Upon a Time' is exactly the sort of show I love best. Just wanted to thank you for that. :)

Nolly said...

I'll have to check out "The Holiday", because "Love Actually" is currently top of my list in this genre. I love "While You Were Sleeping" any time of year.

The Charlie Brown Christmas Special and The Grinch are also classics of the season, of course, and I have a soft spot for "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever".

Shanna Swendson said...

Yay, another Once Upon a Time fan. I was worried that it would be creepy, and then I also remember "The Charmings," which was awful. But this is turning out to be fun.

The Holiday is more intimate than Love Actually, since it focuses only on two heroines and the people they encounter, though like Love Actually it's not all about romantic love. One of the stories is more focused on a friendship (though there's also a developing romance). I rewatched it last night, and I would call it a "cozy" movie. It gives me the warm fuzzies.