Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Movies

The publishing tradition of making sure authors work over the holidays continues. I just found out I'm getting another set of page proofs this week, and they'd really like my comments by January 5. I don't think I've ever had a major publisher book that didn't require me to do something right around Christmas. That may be because I tend to have summer books, which makes me fall into that slot in the schedule. Funny, I was just thinking about one of the changes made in the last round this morning and wondering how it would be handled. I'm just lucky I get to see how it's handled before it's finalized, so I guess I won't complain too much about working during the holidays. I'll probably save this for that low point on the day after New Year's Day when it doesn't feel like a regular day but it's not a holiday anymore.

But in the meantime, there are cheesy movies to binge on. Here are some of the ones I've watched this year (most of which aren't actually new). I'm going to have to add a blanket disclaimer that I am not making any of this up. These are all real movies that I'm pretty sure I didn't dream.

I kicked off the movie watching season the Saturday after Thanksgiving with a double feature on the UP channel, which is new to me. It seems to be aiming for wholesome, uplifting programming. They had two British movies from a few years ago that they were treating as premieres, and I watched mostly because the listed cast members boggled the mind. The first was called Nativity!
and starred Martin Freeman (after The Office, Hitchhiker's Guide and Love Actually but before Sherlock and The Hobbit) as a teacher in what was apparently the loser school in Coventry who gets stuck directing the school's Nativity pageant and who dreads it because his former drama school rival is the director at the school across town and apparently puts on a good enough show that it gets reviewed in the Times. When he runs into his former rival, he panics in a game of one-upmanship and suggests that his former girlfriend, who went off to Hollywood to become a movie producer, may be coming to see the show, and who knows where that could lead. Things spiral out of control when his idiot manchild teaching assistant (the headmistress's nephew) overhears it and tells everyone. It was actually a fairly cute, if wildly improbable, story.

But then there's the sequel, Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger in which they've had trouble replacing Martin Freeman's character because of the idiot assistant (apparently he was the breakout character, or else the actor is related to whoever funded these movies). The newest teacher hired is David Tennant (post-Doctor Who, which makes you wonder if he made the right decision to leave). The idiot assistant wants to enter the kids in a Christmas song contest, and when the teacher won't sign off on it, he kidnaps the teacher and hauls him along with the busload of kids to head to Wales for the contest. Also entered in the contest are the cross-town rival from the previous movie and David Tennant's evil twin, a renowned choral director and composer. Of course, the trip goes horribly wrong with all kinds of obstacles in the way, but there are some fun visuals of a bunch of kids in Christmas pageant costumes hiking across Wales. This one was more of a live-action cartoon, the kind of thing the Disney Channel used to do, and David Tennant payed the typical adult role for that kind of thing, doing a lot of outraged sputtering until he learned a Valuable Lesson about being an idiot, or something.

Then the Hallmark Channel gave us a Texas-style offering, a movie called something like Angels Sing, set in Austin, apparently filmed in Austin (it looked real to me) and involving a lot of Austin people. Harry Connick Jr. is a professor (presumably at UT) who desperately needs to find a house before Christmas, but is hampered by the Austin real estate situation (very accurate). Then he runs across a mysterious old man (Willie Nelson) who's willing to sell an incredible mansion to him for much less than it's worth, but under the condition that he keep up with neighborhood standards. He finds out what those standards are when his neighbor (Lyle Lovett) shows up with a box of lights and offers to help him decorate. It turns out that this is the street in town that's famous for its holiday displays. One problem: Harry hates Christmas. This sounds like the setup for a comedy, but it's a sob story involving lots of death and tragedy, mixed in with the absurdity of Willie Nelson, who is either Santa or an angel, or maybe both, giving Harry advice on faith and hope. I kept watching mostly because Willie leaves a grand piano in the house as a gift when he moves, and Harry Connick Jr. is the star of the movie, so you know what's coming, except Chekhov's Piano is never played.

Another fun Hallmark offering was It's Christmas, Carol, which is your basic Scrooge story, with our Scrooge being an uptight female publishing executive who makes her staff work on Christmas (I'd have believed it if it had been authors, but the publishing business loves their holidays for themselves) and fires someone on Christmas Eve. She gets the ghost treatment, courtesy of her former boss, Carrie Fisher, who gets to be all three ghosts, plus Marley. I had to forget everything I know about publishing to watch, but it was fun watching Carrie Fisher be super-snarky and have fun with the role. I have come to the conclusion that there's a good reason Dickens didn't make the original story a romance because it's hard to build a romance around a Scrooge character. The transformation can't happen until just before the ending, which makes it hard to believe anyone could have fallen in love with this person before the ending. In this case, it was an old boyfriend, but he seemed kind of pathetic for not having gotten over her in ten years and then instantly getting back with her after so long when she spent all that time being a raging bitch, just because she shows up on Christmas morning with an apology.

I don't know how many more I'll manage to fit in between now and Christmas. I did my annual viewing of The Holiday last night, and I want to hit either Gremlins or the Muppet Christmas Carol this year.

1 comment:

Chicory said...

I've never seen Gremlins, but Muppet's Christmas Carol is one of my favorite holiday movies. The songs are just so beautiful.

Kermit is the perfect Cratchett because he's exactly that type kind-despite-being-constantly-put-upon character anyway, and Robin is probably the only Tiny Tim who can pull off the role without seeming overly sentimental. (I think it's because he's a puppet. They're SUPPOSED to be sentimental. And the fact that his song is so lovely it just makes you want to cuddle him.)