Today is January 8th, which means we’re already over a week into the new year. But, as we all know, January is the longest month of the year and those 8 days have felt like twice that. Christmas is a but a distant memory: a brighter time without work or responsibilities. So, obviously, the thing everyone wants is to read my review of a Christmas film. Yes, I should have posted this sooner but I was already behind with Into the Spider-Verse. Let’s not worry about it too much. The twelves days of Christmas may be over but who really worries about that kind of thing anyway? Bad luck? I can’t get a job I want, my health is all over the place, I’m currently single: I think I’m pretty good on bad luck right now. How much worse can it really get? So, I’m just going to do this. Regardless of how appropriate it is. After all, I only watched this for this bloody blog… and, to a lesser extent, Cumberbatch. At this point, the obsession is so strong I’d watch him in any old shit.
Happy Christmas to anybody reading this on or around the 25th! I hope you’ve had a wonderful time however you decided to spend it. The rest of my family have turned in for the night so I’m taking the time to post my review of the final Netflix Christmas film of 2018. It’s the one I was least excited about, which is why I left it til the last-minute. Of course, I can hardly say that I was looking forward to any of them (with the possible exception of The Christmas Chronicles) but, after seeing the trailer, my expectations for The Holiday Calendar were the lowest of the low. I mean the entire preview gave away the entire story. Not that I couldn’t have guessed from the poster anyway. But, needing to get a sense of completion, I knew I had to watch it eventually. At least I didn’t really have to pay attention to the plot. It’s not like there were going to be any shocks with the narrative. And, after a busy day at work, something this mindless is kind of the only thing I’m in the mood for.
Now, we already know that Netflix have added some pretty questionable Christmas films this year but I actually had some hope for this one. It’s Kurt Russell for fuck’s sake. Kurt Russell playing Santa. I love Kurt Russell. I love Santa. It’s a dream combination. Then I saw the trailer and it looked like a Frankenstein’s monster made up from the tired narratives of old Christmas films. So my excitement started wavering a bit and I put it to the bottom of my pile. Then I watched The Princess Switch and decided it couldn’t be as bad as that. And, there have been loads of people at work raving about it. Once again, I swayed due to popular opinion and decided to watch it this week. Well, that and the fact that the only one I really have left t watch is the stupid magical advent calendar one and that looks even shitter than A Christmas Prince 2. And, if nothing else, Kurt Russell was sure to be perfect as Santa, right?
Last night was my Christmas party at work and, I’m sorry to say, the free wine on the tables was really flowing. Mainly in my direction. I wasn’t feeling as bad as I expected this morning but, boy, was I glad I had the day off today! I’m so tired. But, instead of spending the day in bed, I have to get myself sorted before I’m out again tonight. I’m such a Grandma these days. All I want is to snuggle up in bed watching more shit Netflix Christmas films. I still have loads that I want to watch but, I’m happy to say, that I have watched the most important one already. After last year’s A Christmas Prince got the internet going mental, I was kind of excited (maybe excited isn’t the right word) to see how the sequel would go. The first film was so bad but in such a wonderful way. And this one has a wedding. That’s always a narrative choice that is both original and full of funny ideas. Right? Guys? Am I right?
Think back to this time last year when Netflix changed the history of Christmas films by releasing one of the worst yet most compelling Christmas films in recent years. For an entire month, the internet became obsessed with A Christmas Prince and, when news came of a sequel, everyone was excited to continue the story. What nobody was ready for was the increased volume of original Christmas films to come out of the streaming service. Each trailer I saw was worse than the last and, if I’m honest, my excitement to watch them was only increasing. As we know, I love a Christmas film and a cheesy and obvious Christmas film is even better. I have decided to only review Netflix films for December and I decided to start with a doozy. A film that was essentially The Lizzie McGuire Movie meets A Christmas Prince? Starring Vanessa Hugdens sporting a terrible British accent? Who wouldn’t be desperate to see that?
Everyone has their own favourite Christmas film. It’s a deeply personal and, often, confusing thing. I, personally, don’t understand why anyone would say anything other than The Muppets’ Christmas Carol but there are some weirdos out there. Love Actually is one of the those films that genuinely baffles me. There is so much love for that film but, when you really look at it, it’s just awful. I know people who willingly watch it repeatedly throughout December. Who would do that to themselves? Netflix should stop trying to shame fans of A Christmas Prince and starting calling out the people who are watching Love Actually again and again. They’re the real worries. Alongside the more contemporary Christmas viewing there are the real classic Christmas films that people just adore. Although, not all of them seem to be as popular over here as they are in America. I don’t know why but it feels like A Christmas Story hasn’t really translated to the UK market in the same way that most other Christmas films have. Every year I see and hear loads about it but, up until recently, I’d never seen the film myself. I knew quotes from it but had no context for them. After a recent prompt for an Instagram challenge I’m doing this month referenced the film, I decided it was finally time to watch it. After all, people seem to bloody love this film. Why else would it be played over and over for 24 straight hours? Oh god, imagine a world where somebody starts doing that for Love Actually? I couldn’t cope.
Now that I have seen A Christmas Story I have to say, I don’t get it. I was so ready for it to be the greatest thing I’d ever seen but I just don’t get it. I mean, it’s a fine collection of stories and all but it’s nowhere near as funny or endearing as I’d been lead to believe. The film is narrated by adult Ralphie Parker as he reminisces about the Christmas he had when he was 9 years old. Specifically about how desperate he was to get his dream present: a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Unfortunately, as he’s only a fucking kid, most sensible adults see this as a bad idea. Ralphie isn’t one to be stopped so tries every trick he can think of to convince his parents that it’s a good idea. Along the way, there are several smaller plots going on including Ralphie’s father winning a ridiculous prize in a competition, an ongoing joke concerning his dad and the neighbours’ dogs, Ralphie’s encounters with the school bully, and a brief encounter with some ill-advised swearing.
A Christmas Story is a very odd film that attempts to win favour with its nostalgic setting and fairly twee sensibility. The story is set around the 1940s so there is a slightly magical feel to everything. It’s a little historic whilst being incredibly familiar. Hearkening back to a time when Christmas was much less commercial and families thought about the more important things. Although, there is something quite off-putting about the setting. It feels too forced. I just couldn’t get on board with it. I like nostalgic TV but it has too feel natural. Take something like Mad Men, which makes the historical references work within the context of the story. A Christmas Story just seems to be using the past as a way to create a feeling that it is unable to generate naturally. Using nostalgia to create a festive ambience.
It’s not as if there aren’t good moments in this film but they are somewhat outweighed by the bad. For all the jokes that land fairly well, there are far more that just feel forced or cringey. There are parts of this film that make me feel so uncomfortable because they’re so bad. Like the moment Ralphie’s father is opening a crate and misreads the word “fragile” for no reason whatsoever. It’s not funny or silly. It doesn’t make any sense. Just like the whole film. I get that it is supposed to have the feel of several small vignettes coming together to create a festive treat but it just feels too disparate. There is nothing, other than Ralphie, that really ties these stories together. It just feels badly edited and unconnected. And super long. It’s not actually that long a film but watching it felt like a fucking marathon. I can’t imagine how long a 24 hour repeated watch would feel.
I guess it’s entirely possible that I’m missing something that I’d get if I was in America. Maybe that’s why the film hasn’t really made it over here. Something fundamental has been lost in translation. All I do know is, this film certainly won’t make it into my yearly festive rotation of films. It’s not the worst Christmas film I’ve ever seen but it’s certainly not an experience I’m keen to repeat.
Christmas is only 5 days away and I’ve only got 3 days at work until I have a whopping 2 days holiday. Woo! Yep, I’m on the late shift on Christmas Eve and then back in work at 6am on 27th December. I never get a Christmas break as I’m always called upon to do this gem of a shift. It sucks but my manager’s aren’t willing to change their ways. Still, I am desperately trying to get in the festive spirit by watching Christmas movies, wearing Christmas jumpers, and endlessly listening to festive jingles. It works some of the time but, as anyone who works in any kind of retail/hospitality job this time of year knows, it’s hard to not let the season of good will break your spirit. No matter how many times I play my favourite Christmas song on repeat. Speaking of, what is your favourite Christmas song? I read an article recently that made the bold claim that the best was officially All I want for Christmas is you by Mariah Carey. I really doubt the validity of their statement because I, for one, wasn’t asked my opinion. I fucking hate that song and, whilst I’m at it, I hate Fairytale of New York too. It’s not cool to like it because it promotes alcoholism and includes swearing. It’s a shit song that doesn’t promote the festive spirit. My number one? Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses or anything featuring the Muppets. I’ve got simple tastes. As you’ll see in yet another Christmassy book tag.
1. “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch”: Name a villainous character you couldn’t help but love.
What’s that It Crowd quote? “All women love a bastard”, right?! Well, in certain circumstances that’s true. Villains are just more interesting than most good guys. I mean look at Harry Potter. I’m far more interested in the likes of Bellatrix and Lucius Malfoy than I am in Harry himself. Harry’s a whiny, egotistical classic chosen one. I can’t stand him most of the time. I guess when it comes to the ultimate bad guy you can’t help but love I’d have to go with my traditional answer: Humbert Humert from Lolita. I’m not saying I actually love him but there’s something about Nabokov’s narrative that means you end up kind of sympathising with a disgusting paedophile.
2. “All I Want for Christmas is You”: Which book do you most hope to see under your Christmas tree?
There’s always loads of books I want but I don’t often get them because I’m useless at giving hints. I guess the ultimate goal is the second and third illustrated editions of Harry Potter and the Visual Editions’s version of Don Quixote. All very gorgeous and all over my personal book price limit.
3. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”: Name a character that overcomes major obstacles and learns to believe in themselves.
I feel like my answer to this isn’t going to be that original but, when you think of character development, isn’t it Neville Longbottom than first comes to mind? Look at how far he comes from the scared loner with no friends other than his toad to a strong young man who is leading the DA in a Death Eater filled Hogwarts. He’s a great guy. A much more deserving hero than fucking Harry.
4. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”: a) Which character do you think would be on the top of the naughty list? b) Which character do you think would be at the top of the nice list?
Naughty List: Is saying every literary villain ever a cop out? What a silly question. Anyone who is vaguely bad should be on the naughty list but how to you quantify naughtiness. Who would be the top? Some kind of serial killer like American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman? Or Sauron from Lord of the Rings? Nah, how about Ramsay Bolton from A Song of Ice and Fire? He organised the Red Wedding… there’s no way Santa can even try to forgive that.
Nice List: Again, every hero or nice person in any novel ever. But, purely in the name of playing the game, I’m gonna say Winnie the Pooh. Why? It just popped into my head but that guy always tries to do the right thing. He’s niceness personified.
5. “Frosty the Snowman”: Which book just melts your heart.
I’m not much for the melty-heart kind of books these days. I prefer my novels to be hard hitting and dark. So much so that I’m drawing a major blank on this answer. It probably says a lot about me. I’m a fucking ice queen. I guess, if I were pushed, I’d probably say the Sophie books by Dick King Smith. I was obsessed with those books as a child and they’re so adorable.
6. “Feliz Navidad”: Choose a book that takes place in a country other than your own.
Anything by Haruki Murakami. Let’s say Norwegian Wood. I know that I don’t have enough diversity in my reading material but I’m trying to be better. It’s just that my TBR is kind of full of books written by white men and women. It’s always a question of trying to clear that or be more adventurous. I’m just drowning in books.
7. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: Which holiday themed book do you use to spread the Christmas joy?
I think A Christmas Carol is a great read and, probably, a book that people won’t be as familiar with as they think. Dickens’ original tale is a lot darker than many adaptations allow. The scene with Ignorance and Want is actually quite disturbing. But, it can’t be denied that the Christmas message runs through and, let’s be honest, it provided the basis for the greatest Christmas film ever made.
8. “Sleigh Ride”: Which fictional character would you choose to spend the holidays with (doesn’t have to be a love interest!)
I know it says one character but I’m just going to say the Weasley family. Imagine spending Christmas at the Burrow? It would be so cosy and full of love. Molly rushing around preparing food. Fred and George pulling pranks on everyone else. Arthur enchanting some muggle fairy lights. It’d be brilliant. If we’re talking romantic Christmas then I’ll have to leave the bookish world and say Chief Hopper from Stranger Things. My passion for that man is so strong. I’d spend Christmas with him in his cabin finding fun ways to keep warm!
9. “Baby it’s Cold Outside”: Which book that you didn’t like would you sacrifice to a fire to warm yourself up in the cold?
Which book would I burn? Now normally I’m against damaging any book, no matter how terrible, but there is one book I’ve read this year that leaps to mind. One of Us is Lying is the most offensively bland and unoriginal book that I’ve ever read. It deserves to be destroyed in a horrible way just for being so fucking blatant. Urgh, I’ve never hated a book this much and I did a whole course on novels of sensibility. Those books are super sexist.
10. “Do you hear what I hear”: Which book do you think everyone should read?
Oh loads. The one I’m always pushing on people is The Monk by Matthew Lewis because it’s fucking crazy. I love it. However, my books of 2017 have to include First Love by Gwendoline Riley and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. I’d recommend reading First Love and listening to the audiobook of Saunder’s Man Booker winning novel. I adored them both in very different ways.
There’s a thing with Christmas movies that mean the expectations regarding quality shift. I mean there’s got to be a reason so many people love the film Love Actually when it is, clearly, the worst thing ever made. I mean it’s a horrible mix of plots that are offensive and irritating and really not very romantic. I have a complicated enough relationship with Richard Curtis without this affront being played a million times every December. But there is a genre of Christmas films that really scrape the bottom of the barrel. The kind of unoriginal TV movies that are churned out in amazing quantities by the likes of Hallmark. And, apparently, Netflix have been trying to get in on the act. Last week I reviewed the film that the Christmas film of 2017: Netflix’s original A Christmas Prince. I watched it and, to my surprise, didn’t totally hate it. I mean I mostly did but I still found some festive pleasure watching it. Still, I was happily done with the “genre” until I was shown the trailer for Netflix’s second big holiday production: Christmas Inheritance. I’m starting to worry about the inevitable increase in the number of recommendations I’ll get from the age 12-14 film category because of these films. Ah, what the heck, my recommendations are already pretty fucked up thanks to all of the 90s gross-out comedies that I’ve watched.
Whilst it might seem that A Christmas Prince and Christmas Inheritance have a lot in common that simply isn’t true. Both feature a female as their protagonist but these protagonists are very different. One is a terrible journalist whilst the other is a terrible CEO. Oh my god, so different! In the latest film, Ellie (Eliza Taylor) is the daughter to the CEO of a fairly twee and family orientated gift company. She expects to take over from her father, Jim, some day but she is more preoccupied with partying to care about the traditions that her father and his business partner started so many years ago. In order to push Ellie into learning more about the company’s values, Jim sends her to the small town where everything all started. She has to go undercover and with only $100 to her name. Yeah, it doesn’t really make sense but it is the only thing that drives this film forward so I’ll go with it. Unluckily for Ellie, Snow Falls is in the middle of nowhere with no amenities and very few ways to contact the outside world. Can she get over her New York ways and prove she deserves to run the company?
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Christmas film without the added touch of romance. Whilst Ellie is engaged to an obvious wrong-un from New York, she finds herself drawn to literally the first (and seemingly only) young man she meets in town. He runs the inn owned by her father business partner and has no time for her big city bullshit. Until he finally starts to see the kind heart that she hides underneath, of course. This is standard rom-com fair: high maintenance girl sent out to hicksville and getting her hands dirty before falling in love with the local dishy Samaritan. But this is different because… it’s Christmas? Obviously, he eventually finds out she’s been lying about who she is and, suffering from his own inner demons, our flannel wearing hero turns his back on the rich young thing.
I’ll be honest with you, I thought after my reaction to A Christmas Prince that I would react more favourably to this film. I didn’t. Just like their previous offering, Netflix’s new film is a mash-up of so many romantic-comedies that have come before it. This time it manages to be as unfunny, inexplicable and unoriginal as A Christmas Prince whilst also giving us a heavy dose of its patronising attitude towards simple rural folk. There is always going to be problem with the conceit of a young rich girl going back to her roots: it always has to imply that there is something so twee and magical about small town living. It forces us to believe that these folks are so backwards that their good nature and kind hearts are an unusual thing. It’s fucking annoying. Snow Falls is the manic pixie dream girl of small towns. An unrealistic place that manages to show the main character who she is and who she needs to be thanks to its endless parade of outdated stereotype characters.
I also found Christmas Inheritance’s inevitability much more annoying. I kind of accepted that A Christmas Prince was going to be exactly the kind of film I thought it was going to be and found it funny to second-guess the plot. Here it seems much less acceptable. Maybe it’s because this film tries to ground itself closer to reality or because it takes itself more seriously? I don’t know. What I do know is that I was much angrier when I was shouting the future plot strands at the screen this time around. In reality, Christmas Inheritance is no worse a film than A Christmas Prince but, if you were to really push me, I’d definitely pick the latter to watch. But it’s entirely possible I never got over my childhood dream to become a princess one day and it’s affecting my life’s choices.
- TUESDAY’S REVIEWS – A Christmas Prince (2017)
I’ve been feeling super Christmassy of late so I made the decision to watch as many Christmas films as possible. I started with this new Netflix classic that I’ve not been able to avoid of late. Is it the new must-see festive flick? Find out here.
- BOOK POST – 12 Days of Christmas Book Tag
I didn’t have a book to review this week so I had to pick a random book tag to do. It seemed appropriate considering my Christmas theme. Want to know more about me? Click here.
- TBT – Angel of Christmas (2015)
After trawling through Netflix for another random Christmas film I came across this gem. It’s very similar to A Christmas Prince but with added angels. What could go wrong? Find out here.
- Autumn by Ali Smith
- Women & Power by Mary Beard – Mary Beard writing a feminist manifesto? I mean as if I could say no to this?! This sounds perfect and I just couldn’t resist anymore. It wasn’t very expensive and isn’t very long. I can’t wait to read this.
- Nutshell by Ian McEwan – I’ve wanted to buy this for ages because it sounds amazing. I mean it’s like Hamlet but with a fetus instead of a Danish prince. I love it. I’m already looking forward to reading it.
- Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn – I’m in a bit of a Star Wars mindset at the moment that when this turned up for Kindle for 99p I couldn’t say no. I’m not even sure when I’m going to read this.
- Netflix Binges: Miranda, Luther, Parks and Rec
After I watched A Christmas Prince the other day I went on a bit of a Christmassy binge and watched a few films. Not all of them good. As anyone who has read my lists of the best and the worst Christmas films ever made will know, there is a huge variety when it comes to the quality of Christmas films. Now, I’ve watched a lot of shit ones in my time but usually only indulge in my favourites. It never really feels like Christmas until I’ve seen A Muppet Christmas Carol and, obviously, I really fucking love Die Hard. I tend to stick to a select group of tried and tested classics throughout December so newer Christmas films aren’t really on my radar. Still, the terrible A Christmas Prince hadn’t made me want to vomit quite as much as I thought so I went back to Netflix for today’s TBT post. I picked the first film that sounded remotely similar but, let’s face it, all of these TV Christmas movies are basically the same premise. Young girl, media job, carefree young man, festive magic, romance, the end. How bad could this really be? Spoiler alert: really fucking bad!
This is one of those stupid TV Christmas movies that isn’t meant to do anything but offer a bland viewing option for people in the festive season. It isn’t challenging and follows such an obvious narrative structure so its audience literally don’t have to do anything other than passively watch it. It doesn’t need to be original, well written, well acted, or, really, any good at all. The rule is: the schmaltzier the better. Logic and reality don’t play a part because it’s Christmas. Why should anything make sense. Now I realise that I criticised A Christmas Prince for being written using all the best Christmas teen movie staples but Angel of Christmas makes that film look like Citizen Kane in comparison.
You know, I can just about see how a young, under-qualified wannabe writer might be sent to report on some European royalty story because, when you think about it, it won’t be such a huge story. I can believe that the aforementioned writer would be able to pass herself off as a tutor to a royal child without having to show anyone any identification. I can even bring myself to imagine that the journalist is the first person since the King’s death to go snooping around his desk in order to discover the secret adoption papers. I can do that. What I can’t do is believe any of the narrative of Angel of Christmas. Something even weirder when you consider how fucking similar the plots are.
Here we have a wannabe writer who gets given the chance to write a huge Christmas story for her publication (sounds familiar). She, however, is given the super generic task of writing about Christmas. I mean what kind of assignment is that? Her choice? Writing about the story of her great grandfather’s doomed love for a random actress. I know, weird. But it’s fine because it’s actually really fucking magical. You see, the great grandfather in question carved a wooden angel for the woman he originally wanted to marry but, after she rejected him for her craft, the angel went on to introduce him to his true love. This angel was passed down to his children who found their true loves. It’s a magical, matchmaking Christmas ornament, y’all.
I don’t even really want to write about this film because of how much it offends me. The final, supposedly magical, reveal is so fucking obvious from the start that it’s just annoying. The plot is dragged out way longer than it needs to be and there are far too many twee Christmas montages and establishing shots of snowy vistas. There’s even the world’s least believable love triangle because, well, how do you know the couple are really meant to be together if he’s her only choice, right? This film offers no warm and fuzzy Christmas feelings. It’s presented as some magical and heart-warming tale but it’s just dull and predictable. There are plenty of bad Christmas movies out there but they at least offer some kind of festive cheer to distract you. A Christmas Angel is one of the total disasters that leaves you feeling less Christmassy despite the fact it says the world Christmas about a million times.