Questions, Comments, Concerns: A Christmas Prince

Today’s Questions, Comments, Concerns features A Christmas Prince, a Netflix Original Movie that’s really a Hallmark movie for cord-cutters. Mindless, low-quality holiday entertainment isn’t just for people with a cable package! It’s 2017!

Comment: You can tell they’ve got that Netflix budget because of all the establishing shots of New York City.

to be fair they saved some $$ by using the clipart that came preloaded on their PC

On Hallmark, everything takes place in a picturesque small town that’s obsessed with Christmas because that’s the cheaper thing to do.

Comment: “Amber! We’re junior editors! Not writers!”

Dialogue like this is why people think that editor means human spellcheck.

Question: Wait, how can I become a Junior Editor?

Forget that my real rank is above “junior editor.” Amber gets sent abroad to cover a European prince. Nice work if you can get it.

Concern: Netflix spent its whole NYC budget on those establishing shots.

or actually, this is new york’s FINEST diner.

Amber goes into a tiny, empty diner that definitely seems like it’s somewhere in Hallmarkville. It’s her dad’s. He’s a Real New York Character, AKA he has an accent.

Comment: Netflix also spent some Establishing Shot Money on European mountains. Alps?
Concern: By the time they show the lush, snow-covered Swiss? Bavarian? castle, I’m already sold.

I don’t need this to be a GOOD movie, I just need to have a good time watching it.

Comment: Maybe Lead Girl would be a senior editor if she hadn’t showed up to a royal press conference in jeans and sneakers.

non-spoiler: rom-com lady is clumsy. also i have a follow-up question about the white plastic light switch. surely the castle electrician could upgrade that.

Now would be an appropriate time for me to use the terms “slacks” and “pumps.” Yech.

Concerns: Many

Amber gets mistaken for Princess Emily’s new tutor, Martha.

Question: Can we cut to the part where Emily is vibrant and lovable?

On one hand, A+ for having a child with disabilities as a primary character! On the other, they make her petulant and peevish like that hidden boy in Secret Garden. Collin, was it?

Comment: You know Rose McIver (Lead Girl) from other stuff.

I IMDB’d her because her face was so familiar, and not just because she looks like she’d play Keri Russell’s sister. She’s been in a LOT but I remember her best as the sister in The Lovely Bones.

Comment: We didn’t have to wait long for Emily to get vibrant and lovable.

She’s a cutie.

Concern: My ability to suspend disbelief.

For a split second I start questioning how Amber is pulling this off, whether there are visa implications, the scads of journalistic ethics violations… and then I relax into the soft fluff of A Christmas Prince like a child making a snow angel.

Comment: Cousin Simon’s no Prince Richard, but could still get it.

Richard though.

Concern: Male primogeniture, boo.

Princess Emily isn’t in line for the throne and I’m having S1 Downton Abbey flashbacks.

Comment: The cell phone sticking up out of Amber’s back pocket is honestly some of the most realistic costuming I’ve seen.
Concern: We have competition.

Meet Lady Sophia, a hussy in a red dress. You can tell she’s a hussy by the red dress. I don’t make the rules.

Question: Do we know for absolutely sure that Princess Emily’s not a Little Girl Ghost (TM Joey Tribbiani)?

Emily discovers Amber’s true identity and barters to keep Amber’s secret as long as she writes the truth about Richard. Emily says knows because she sneaked into Amber’s unsecured computer, but she seems awfully British and all-knowing …  like a Little Girl Ghost.

Comment: I want Emily the Little Girl Ghost to get a friend who is a child.
Concern: Amber takes Emily sledding

I definitely think that children with disabilities should be encouraged to do anything other kids do (with necessary modifications and safety supports) but I just feel like Amber should’ve at least Googled if it was fine.

[It was fine, by the way.]

Comment: Horse stuff.

There was an equistrian sequence, but we all already knew that going into this. Richard chases off wolves in a page straight out of the Beauty and the Beast storyboards, then they retreat to Gaston’s lounge.

Concern: Prince Rick looks good in a turtleneck.

I don’t hate turtlenecks but it’s such a specific man who can pull it off, right? I know Amber agrees because they almost kiss in a beautiful barn. I could pay off my student loans selling reclaimed wood from this barn. And those are law school loans, ok.

Question: Do they put Christmas lights on actual castles?

Genuine question. I love them but bet royals think they’re naff.

Comment: Prince Richard is a fake!! Prince Richard is a fake!!

Well not FAKE, but he was adopted into the royal family in 1990. I assume there’s a rule about that in most royal families? Also with the giant age gap between Richard and Emily, I like to think this is one of those fake adoptions, like when old-Hollywood actresses would get pregnant, disappear for a year, then “adopt” a baby.

Concern: I was surprised by a plot twist in A Christmas Prince.

I never get surprised in Hallmark movies. Advantage: Netflix.

Amber’s so shocked that she uses the words “gosh” and “freaking.”

Comment: I love Amber’s bedroom with the Christmas tree.

When I was a kid, sometimes I used to pretend I was princess Anastasia and had a room like that. Yes, I know it’s actually Grand Duchess. Yes, I willfully ignored the unpleasant imprisonment and execution angles.

Comment: Richard’s so British (or whatever… Genovian?) he pronounces Sophia “Sophier.”
Comment: Amber wears her converse with her formal outfit…

Just like every group of groomsmen in wedding photos, c. 2010.

Question: Do princes really have a wedding ceremony to their country?

That’s more or less what Richard has. Objections and everything. Reminds me of when Dennis Rodman married himself (I’m old).

Comment: Mean Sophier’s objection was the adoption thing, clearly.
Comment: Richard’s late father hid the truth in an acorn ornament because nobody can be normal in these movies.

My favorite part is how Richard’s dad knew this would all come to a head at Christmas, and that somebody would decipher the secret clue about acorns, and how nobody would crack open or throw away the ornament before this point.

I also don’t see how a note in an ornament is legally binding. He should’ve just changed the code while he was alive. Easy-peasy.

Comment: Aldovia. The country was “Aldovia.”
Comment: The judge or whatever says “Merry Christmas to all,” which is the most Christmas we’ve had in a while.
Question: Why won’t Amber’s editors encourage her to run a piece on this?

They call it a “puff piece” but it looks like an exclusive, walks like an exclusive, sounds like an exclusive, it’s a duck.

Comment: It’s not a romcom unless someone makes a grand gesture at the end.

Richard comes to NY and proposes to Emily. I’m still floored that she works for a publication that thinks this ISN’T a story. He has neither a security detail nor a press following. She accepts.

Comment: A Christmas Prince has one thing in common with Hallmark movies

…. and that’s a couple meeting, falling in love, AND getting engaged all between the start and end of the Christmas season.

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Pop Culture Blind Spot: Christmas In Connecticut

Merry December! This month’s pop culture blind spot challenge: finding classic or otherwise beloved holiday films that we haven’t seen. It’s a tough one for me – I was raised on oldies like White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, and kept up with the major developments of the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s like the other Miracle on 34th Street,  Christmas Vacation and Elf. That’s why my blind spot pick today hearkens all the way back to 1945: Christmas in Connecticut.

Short Description:  A food writer who has lied about being the perfect housewife must try to cover her deception when her boss and a returning war hero invite themselves to her home for a traditional family Christmas.
Not only does this sound like a really fun premise, it reads 100% like a rom-com they’d still make today. The difference is that in 1945 talkies weren’t even 20 years old. It would be a rom-com cliche today, but in the ’40s it was a rom-com groundbreaker.
We open on a submarine shooting torpedoing a ship. So this is like, definitely a World War II movie.

Image links to post from the blonde at the film. i didn’t let myself read it before writing, but it’s a lot of fun with some great background on old Hollywood!

Two sailors from the ship have been adrift in a lifeboat for 15 days. One – Jefferson Jones, played by Dennis Morgan, who had an extensive career playing a lot of military guys – imagines himself in a light blazer dining at a bistro table and he looks like a handsome hipster of today. After getting rescued he convalesces in a military hospital and becomes obsessed with magazine food columns. See also, the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.
 
Alexander Yardley is a human Bustopher Jones, and he’s Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck)’s publisher. She’s a food writer but PSYCH she does not know how to cook. This is such a good rom-com job! So good, in fact, that I start googling which other rom-com involves an advice columnist who’s winging it. I swear I’ve seen this somewhere else?

It wouldn’t be one of our Pop Culture Blind Spot posts without linking to an article about the house in the movie. Click on over to Lisa’s Home Bijou!

Anyway, Yardley wants Elizabeth to host Jefferson Jones for dinner because he’s a war hero and her number one fan. You will recall that Elizabeth knows jack about cooking. I can’t wait for the wacky misunderstandings! Also in the course of writing about cooking wouldn’t you learn how to cook? Wouldn’t it be easier, writing-wise, to just learn how to cook? Or are all of her recipes made-up craziness that magically turns out OK?
Elizabeth also has a pretend husband and child! This is a blast! And her drapey blouse and high-waisted Katharine Hepburn pants outfit is completely on point.

LOOKS FOR DAYS.

If they remade this in 2017 you know they’d make Elizabeth a food blogger and it would not be as good. Maybe a HGTV-style personality.
Elizabeth’s first excuse to get out of falling in love with Jeff being a hostess is that her fake baby has whooping cough. #VaccinateYourKids
So Elizabeth has this friend John who always proposes to her. Like, it’s a habit. And they’re not even dating or anything, he just proposes marriage regularly and Elizabeth expresses zero interest in him.  Here’s how this convo plays out:
His point: You need someone to look after you. [Note: it’s 1945 -M]
Her counterpoint: I don’t love you.
Elizabeth demurs that it “gets harder and harder to find an excuse to say no.” John counters “well you can’t blame it on your career this time because you haven’t got one.”
1. SICK BURN, JOHN.
2. This is why nobody accepts your proposals, John.
Elizabeth accepts the proposal, but only because she needs a husband and a farm in Connecticut, like, yesterday. Elizabeth’s editor Dudley also needs Elizabeth to procure a fake baby (a real baby that’s not hers, technically), because they’ve already bought his kids’ Christmas presents so he needs this to go off well. If you’re keeping track, so far Elizabeth is a liar who’s otherwise okay, and Dudley and John are The Pits.
Elizabeth brings her chef friend, Felix, along to cook. That’s where she’s been getting her recipes, by the way. He’s German. I ship him and John’s Irish maid Nora. German and Irish? That was an OK marriage in the ’40s, right? I lose track of who used to be weird about each other.
 
Barbara Stanwyck’s waist is tiiiny. Or is it the shoulder pads?

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but bring back shoulder pads 2K18?

Elizabeth coos “oh, John! Where did you get it?” about a neighbor baby he borrowed them, as though it’s a nice table runner or a new coffee table.
Felix puts paprika into Irish stew, which turns it into goulash. B- ethnic humor.
Know what you never see anymore? Tinsel.
Jeff brings Elizabeth a rocking chair because she wrote in her column that she could never find a good one.
HA! Elizabeth tries to answer Jeff’s questions about the baby and she is clearly a stranger both to him and to all babies. Fortunately Jeff is a good uncle and has met babies before. He gives “Robert” a bath and JUST KIDDING, turns out the baby is now Roberta.
[I will say that I have a lot of nieces and nephews and I’m always surprised when adults who can’t deal when they have to feed, change, bathe and generally deal with babies. They’re just little humans who need their necks supported, is all.]
Elizabeth and Jeff have an old-fashioned piano party while she trims the tree. He plays the piano and sings. Girl. Marry him.

John pervs about where he and Elizabeth are going to sleep tonight because it’s supposed to be his wedding night. Except they didn’t get married, so Elizabeth will stay in the guest room, thanks. He pouts and stomps off saying that he won’t sleep a wink. Wow, rom-coms in the ’40s really ramp up the bad qualities in the guy who’s purpose is to get dumped, don’t they? In the 2010s he’d just be too into his work or fantasy football.
A different neighbor drops off a different baby than yesterday, because they assume the new lady in the big house just takes other people’s kids for the day

Elizabeth cooks.

Elizabeth and All Her Guys* go to a barn dance. But in a dance hall. So just a dance I guess.
*All Her Guys = Yardley, John, Editor – was it Dudley?, Jeff and probably Felix.
Elizabeth and Jeff joyride in a sleigh, and I’m sorry but you only do that with somebody that you mean to fall in love with.
I was really hoping they’d bust out the Comedy Rule of Threes with people dropping off random babies at the house, but no such luck.
Elizabeth and Jeff got arrested – just a misunderstanding! – and the borrowed baby got reported as kidnapped after its mom collected it – also just a misunderstanding! We have angled the Tangled Web stage of the rom-com.
Elizabeth spills the beans about her… all of it. Everyone’s furious except for Jeff, a good person. In this pre-internet age, as long as none of these people say anything about Elizabeth’s true identity, nobody would find out, right? Felix pulls a fast one and tells Elizabeth’s publisher that she has another offer, and suddenly they want to keep her after all.
By the way, Jeff had been engaged to his nurse. Fortunately she married his shipmate so he’s all set to mack it with Lizzie. People really were willy-nilly about their engagements in the post-war era, huh?
“What a Christmas!”, Felix giggles.
What a Christmas, everyone.

The Holiday Is Our Aesthetic

Christmas movies, in general, are aesthetically dreamy. Those technicolor classics like White Christmas bring the Old Hollywood glamor, cozy houses in movies like The Family Stone make me dream of joyfully chaotic decor, and Christmas rom-coms are the sparkliest and dreamiest of all rom-coms. That’s why this month, our aesthetic goals come from 2007 Christmas classic (ahem… modern classic), The Holiday.

Kate and Cameron’s Hair

Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz’s hair look perfectly normal, but that’s the thing. In 2007, Kate’s loose, beachy waves were actually at the very start of the loose, beachy waves trend, and I think it says something that it still looks current 9 years later – in contrast, imagine trying to sport, say, 1994 hair in 2003. I’ve also always been envious of straight, fine hair like Cameron’s that can looks fun yet professional in a short, croppy ‘do, as opposed to … floofy. I think a lot of us would look floofy with that haircut.

Rosehill Cottage, Exterior

Forget the likelihood that Iris, a young columnist who’s not at the top of her publication, could afford this. Holiday films are about wish-fulfillment, after all. It makes me happy just to think that SOMEONE gets to live in a gorgeous, quaint stone cottage with wildflower gardens, a rustic fence and a winding road in front of it. (Note: As a real estate addict, I did look up some houses for sale in Surrey. It is as expensive as you’d expect a picturesque London-accessible area to be; I assume the less-expensive ones are also secretly falling down inside. Maybe Iris inherited it from a relative. Whatever, it’s a movie and I’d much prefer to look at this cottage than a tiny, cookie-cutter terraced house from the 1970s).

Rosehill Cottage, Interior

I know that saying “I like the cottage better than Cameron Diaz’s mansion” makes me sound like one of those guys who think it’s a revelation that they find, like, Emma Stone more attractive than Angelina Jolie. The cottage is doing pretty well for itself, thanks. That said, yeah, I would 1000% rather live in Iris’s cottage than Amanda’s SmartHouse. (I bought a cute little 1909 house a few years ago so it’s not just talk. Also I couldn’t afford anything even approaching Amanda’s SmartHouse even if I wanted it, let’s be clear.) Rosehill Cottage really holds up on rewatch. There are layers of cosy decor, lots of overstuffed chintz chairs and a great vintage iron bed, but if you look really closely nothing is sloppy or haphazard. Also: fireplaces everywhere! Stone and stucco walls! A stainless steel tub and a painted wood bathroom floor! Do yourself a favor and go gawk at the Hooked On Houses page for it.

PS, I think “it has a fireplace in the bedroom” is the house version of “and it has pockets!” in a cute dress.

Iris’s Nancy Meyers Kitchen

Ain’t no kitchen like a Nancy Meyers kitchen cause a Nancy Meyers kitchen is very, very charming. Echoing the old-country charm of one of my other favorite Nancy Meyers kitchens (the vastly underrated Baby Boom), this one comes complete with a stucco fireplace, open shelving with blue and white earthenware pottery, flush-mounted cabinet doors in a chalky robins egg blue, and a cosy vintage table. Yes, I did make note of all of those elements for reference when I remodel my kitchen.

Sweaters

Second to the late 90s WB show Felicity, Christmas movies are the best visual source of people in comfy sweaters. If people feeling warm and comfortable is your aesthetic, may I present Jude Law in a blue sweater?

Sophie and Olivia’s Fort

Why is it that you can be a full-grown adult with a home or apartment of your own, but you’d still move into a soft blanket fort with fairy lights any day? Sophie and Olivia, come decorate for me.

Arthur’s Old Hollywood Vibe

Modern Hollywood culture – not much aesthetic appeal. But anything that smacks of the old studio system? Now we’re talking. Arthur, a funny and sweet relic from the days when people only knew about celebrities’ personal lives through fake ‘dates’ they’d go to at the studio commissary, is the real romantic hero of this movie.

This New Year’s Party

Low key decorations, snacks, champagne, and only like 6 people, two of whom are small children. Now THAT’S what a call a no-fuss holiday gathering. But the best part is everyone dresses way the heck up anyway because it’s the holidays, and the best aesthetic of all is “fancier than is strictly necessary, just because it’s fun sometimes.”

 

Previously In Our Aesthetic:

Love Actually Is A 2003 Time Capsule

This year, there are teenagers who were not even born when Love Actually was released. I hope you feel good about that, because I feel awful. Still, I cannot deny that 2003 was a really long time ago. The global economy and politics were different, technology was worlds apart, clothing has changed enough to look absurd now. I always expect this with 90s movies, but seeing a movie from the 2000s look dated – my high school years! senior year, in fact! I worked at a movie theater when it came out! – is a bit of a shock. There’s no denying it: now that Love Actually is a teenager old, it is a veritable 2003 time capsule.

Keira Knightly’s two pieces of hair

2003 was the year side bangs started to make their way back in after those 1990s curled-under round brush bangs were officially out. But it was a transitional time, and if you wanted a bit of interest you’d just part your hair in the middle and leave two little pieces out in front.

Natalie Had Those Side Bangs, By The Way

See also, my haircut c. 2004.

Keira Knightly herself

Keira Knightly 2003, Keira Knightly 2016. WHERE IS THE DIFFERENCE. She’s like a walking 2003 time capsule.

(I remember being floored that I was roughly the same age as Keira when this came out, because she looked like a beautiful, sophisticated leading lady and I looked like a Cabbage Patch Kid without makeup, or an American Girl doll with.)

This Ringtone

Thomas Sangster As A Child

You may remember that for what felt like a 10-year period in the early 2000s, all child roles were played by Thomas Sangster, Dakota Fanning and Freddie Highmore (that English boy with the brown bowl cut from Finding Neverland). It went on for so long that it seemed almost like they were being pumped with puberty-surpressing drugs. Nothing says 2003 like Child Thomas Sangster.

(Upon further Googling, Thomas Sangster is now a 26 year old man, lending further weight to my theory that he played little boy roles forever)

Maroon Five

Just, in general.

Keira Knightly’s newsboy cap

Or baker boy hat, I guess? These aren’t totally gone, but they were really having a moment in the early 2000s

A VHS tape as a plot device
Dido

as the soundtrack to an angsty scene, in particular.

Norah Jones

as the soundtrack to a slow dance, in particular.

The American girls’ ‘going out outfits’

As discussed in our analysis of mid 2000s fashion, the Going Out Top was a very real phenomenon. That blue sparkly one, in particular, is a prime example of a 2003 Going Out Top in the wild.

Natalie’s off-shoulder Christmas sweater

Way more subtle than the fun yet garish 80s/90s Christmas sweaters, but really throwing me back to the off-shoulder thing that was going on my last few years of high school.

Joanna’s 2003 Pop Star Ensemble

I present: sequin top, a handkerchief hemline, sparkly jeans (totally had a pair) and accent braids. All ready for an American Idol audition.

Lax Airport Security

Things tightened up after 9/11, but the rigid check in/ security protocol as we know it took a few years to develop, making dramatic airport confessions of love possible.

Pop Culture Blind Spots: I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Jonathan Taylor Thomas – J.T.T., if you were born between about 1980 and 1990 – perfectly illustrates the life cycle of a tween hearthrob. He was Randy Taylor on Home Improvement, Young Simba in The Lion King, and a Certified Hottie in the pages of Tiger Beat. When I was in fourth grade (the 1995-1996 school year), all of the girls in my class were obsessed with him. A few short years later – 1998, when I’ll Be Home for Christmas was released – we had all but forgotten about JTT. A lot had happened since 1996 (Hanson. Leonardo DiCaprio. Puberty). That’s how I, a one-time J.T.T. fangirl, got to 2015 without seeing his foray into Christmas entertainment. Here goes:

  • This is the most high-school looking college I’ve ever seen. J.T.T. is in a hallway covered in lockers; his dweeby friend is STUFFED INTO ONE.
  • 1998 thing: J.T.T. uses the phrase “on the net.”
  • 1998 thing: a flock of girls are wearing Biore pore strips and J.T.T. asks if they work (1998 thing: they don’t).
  • 1998 thing: J.T.T. (Jake), wearing one of those button up bowling shirt things, flirts with a Mary Camden-era Jessica Biel (Ally), who has a Smashmouth poster.

  • Ribbed shirts sure were all the rage, weren’t they?
  • I think Mary Camden  is wearing a skort.
  • So Jake wants Ally to spend Christmas with him instead of her family. Is this a thing 18-year-olds do? My 18-year-old cousin went to Florida with her girlfriend’s family last Christmas and we all thought it was a little extra for someone who didn’t exist until 1996.
  • J.T.T. and his bros are in a cafeteria. This is the weirdest, most high-schoolish college.
  • J.T.T’s little sister is roughly the age we were when this came out, and she is the late-90s awkward stage personified.

File under: lime green mock turtleneck, stripey zipped thing, half of your hair pulled tightly back. Yep, all checks out.

  • “Is the convenience of technology worth the loss of our privacy?” – a very prescient J.T.T.
  • J.T.T.’s father offers to GIVE HIM A PORSCHE if he comes home for dinner at 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve. If I am home for dinner at 6:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, I get dinner.
  • So how’d I end up watching this? I’m watching a nephew and niece while their brother is in the hospital (note: this will be relevant later). Anyway, the 8-year-old boy requested a Christmas movie that neither of us had seen. He pronounced J.T.T.’s dad’s offer “a little extreme.”
  • 1998 thing: A group of boys cheat on a final with the aid of beepers and antique dial-up internet.
  • Mary Camden is wearing her second chunky-knit awkwardly short ribbed sweater.

  • The bros drop J.T.T. in the desert wearing a Santa Suit and I have questions. They leave a note: “Let’s see you sweet talk your way out of this one.” So. They knocked him unconscious, changed his clothes, and drove him to a secluded location to die? God, this is dark.

  • Mary Camden: “if you make me listen to any sexist, racist, or homophobic jokes I’m gonna have to slug you.” Add that one to my to-cross stitch pile. (She’s driving cross-country with J.T.T.’s enemy bro.)
  • 1998 thing: Eddie, the enemy bro, is in a sensitive mood, wants to listen to “Jewel, Sarah, Fiona.”
  • Tracey, Jake’s sister, is wearing giant terrible overalls.

Can’t find a pic of the overalls, but here’s a vest. A vest and I guess a spoiler.

  • J.T.T. and a car full of blue-haired Tom Jones fanatics listen to What’s New Pussycat.
  • It starts snowing on J.T.T. in the desert, I scoff, 8-year-old reminds me that deserts have dry climates but can be extremely cold at night. Which is true.
  • Jessica Biel slug’s Douchebag Eddie “as per our agreement.” I miss this teen movie archetype.
  • A van driver swerves about the road while he’s trying to retrieved a dropped sandwich and Charley and I both laugh out loud. FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY. GIGGLES FOR ALL AGES. No but really, this movie is not bad on the separate rating scale I use for Christmas movies.
  • Douchebag Eddie calls himself a “millennial type of guy” who likes yoga and macrobiotic food. I could have sworn we were still going by Gen Y in 1998.
  • J.T.T. and the sandwich guy lie to a cop and say they’re giving presents to children in the hospital. They hand out kitchen appliances.
  • THEN a little boy says that all he wants is to go home and be with his family. My nephew looks a bit glum thinking about his brother, and I learn a lesson about trying to entertain a worried child with Jonathan Taylor Thomas movies. See, that’s why the Babysitters Club used to bring Kid Kits with them. ANYWAY. The hospital boy is never seen again, so there was no point in the movie turning serious for like 20 seconds.

21 Reasons You'll Want To Watch "I'll Be Home For Christmas" This Holiday

  • Sandwich Guy sings to his estranged wife Marjorie at her workplace. Her workplace is a restaurant where you, I guess, choose which cow you want to eat.

  • Douchebag Eddie wonders why more breakfast places don’t serve food right in the skillet. Same. But also, tort liability probs.
  • I’ve somehow stopped noticing that JTT has been wearing a Santa suit this whole time.
  • Douchebag Eddie and Mary Camden stay at a honeymoon suite decorated by my grandma during one of her mid-90s craft sprees.
  • JTT steals a man’s gross meat sandwich, which sounds like a euphemism but isn’t, and says it’s a liver transplant so that his bus goes where he needs it to.
  • This is an OK Christmas movie, but you know what would be the BEST Christmas movie that I’d watch every year? If they cut together all of the Christmas or wintery or snowy parts from all the Harry Potters. I’d pay probably not evening admission for that, but definitely matinee.
  • Allie and Jake meet up and have a boring fight. You could skip it.
  • J.T.T. enters a Santa 5K to get money to fly home. He wins after a cluster of Santas gets taken out by a friendly dog. The whole thing would make a fantastic Where’s Waldo page.

  • Jake donates his winnings to homeless people.
  • Tracey has a plane ticket’s worth of money in her “ballerina bag.” The best thing I had in my Irish Dance bag was maybe like a newish Werther’s Original.
  • Jake stows away in a dog crate because he doesn’t have an I.D.
  • Charley: “How did Allie and Jake get there at the same time, if he flew and she took the bus?”

Me: Wait. How DID they?

Honestly the geography of this trip is very confusing to me.

  • Jake steals a sleigh to get home in time. My nephew notes that Jake “steals a lot” and he isn’t wrong.
  • Jake makes it home at 5:59, but refuses to go into the house until after 6 because he is silly.
  • The Porsche is parked in the snowy front yard by a set designer who doesn’t know how snow works.

 

  • Jake, a silly goose, refuses the car but accepts his father’s love. AWWW.
  • Jake and his stepmom exchange sweater sizes. She is an 8.
  • 1998 thing: a size 8 woman in a movie.
  • Bottom line: this Lifetime-quality Christmas movie that was perfectly serviceable. On my separate rating scale for Christmas movies, it was “cute.” In Christmas movies, cute isn’t a bad thing.

 

Pop Culture Blind Spots: Serendipity

I knew that Serendipity was a romantic comedy that I hadn’t seen, and I was okay with that. I love the genre, but you can’t see them all, right? That was before last week, when I was saw Serendipity in a listicle of Christmas rom-coms. A Christmas rom-com that I haven’t seen is like my holy grail of Netflix-surfing. God. Anyway, it is streaming on Netflix so I decided to remedy the situation STAT, crossing another item off of our long list of pop culture blind spots in the process.

The film opens with Louis Armstrong singing about Santa. So it’s like, CHRISTMAS-CHRISTMAS, not one scene or something. I am shocked.

Molly Shannon is in this? And John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale? I feel like Cusak and Beckinsale make a weird couple, but okay.

This version of Bloomingdale’s at Christmas-time is actually almost crowded and terrible enough to be accurate.

143 online shopping AAF

 

It’s time to talk about John Cusack’s haircut. It’s very feathered for the early 2000s, isn’t it? Like a youth hockey coach in 1991.

Everyone is arguing about a pair of gloves at a store. Please, let this movie not be about people I hate. Anyway, they’re trying to have a meet cute – – also they make a transgender joke that’s not necessarily offensive but still surprising for 2001.

They don’t show the part where they wait in line for 40 minutes to get into Serendipity. Those frozen hot chocolates are legit, though.

My friend who went to high school in Long Island knew girls who had “Serendipity days” where they’d go to the city and do stuff that was in the movie, presumably forcing their boyfriends to play along. It was that popular, apparently. I did wait in line to get into Serendipity 3 during its peak popularity, but as I said, the frozen hot chocolate was legit and I have no regrets.

Best part of this movie so far TBH.

I can’t lie, serendipity actually also is one of my favorite words. It’s a long list, admittedly.

Wow. Cusack (Jonathan), a man with a girlfriend, just went straight for announcing to Kate Beckinsale, a woman with a boyfriend, that he has a crush on her. I think this is about people I hate.

They proceed decide to go on a date even though they’re both dating other people, and Kate Beckinsale is wearing a chunky, short sweater like people wore in the early 2000s, along with tights and shorts even though they’re ice skating. In the snow.

Has the costume designer even been to New York? Or, like, outdoors?

Raise your hand if you’d have to beg off from this date because you’re garbage at ice skating.

Ah, yes. Yep. Jonathan begins freckle-flirting. I know that trick.

I think I’m going to end up loving this movie, as I do most rom-coms, but so far (by the end of the day they meet) I’m not sold yet because we’ve been given no information about these people, and no reason to care about them or whether they end up together.

Instead of just “losing his number,” Kate Beckinsale has Jonathan write his name and number on a $5 bill, spends it, then says if it comes back to her it will be meant to be. That is really some high order Manic Pixie Dream Girling.

For the record, we still don’t know Kate Beckinsale’s name.

It’s Sara.

I can’t help but be annoyed that both of these people already have significant others who they’ve been ditching all night.

There are a lot of Christmas sweaters! Non-ironic ones. Were those more popular 15 years ago?

Cool, now Jonathan is making a whole elevator full of people stop at every floor to find the one that Sara whimsically chose so that she could see if there was *fate* or something.

Awesome. NOW Jonathan is grabbing random brunette women on the street from behind while looking for Sara. Bro. Go home to your girlfriend.

A few years later, Jonathan is engaged to not-Sara. Sara is a therapist or something in San Francisco living in a picturesque cottage that’s got to have an insane market value. She also gets engaged in a fire hazard candle death trap with a ring inside of a Russian nesting-box scenario. Can nobody in this movie just do things the easy way?

Now playing: Burn from Hamilton.

Jonathan goes through life imagining Sara everywhere, like that one episode of Full House where the Tanners go to Disney and D.J. keeps seeing Steve.

Sara’s fiance plays sitar (?) and is inconsiderate, so you instantly dislike him and want her to find Jonathan’s manic pixie five-spot.

Molly Shannon is here! Why isn’t she in everything? She is delightful.

OK, but Sitar Fiance is hilarious. I mean you hate him, but he’s so dopey that it’s funny.

Sara and Molly Shannon are in NY to hunt for the guy she could have just given her phone number to years ago.

Know what I don’t miss? Super low-rise jeans.

Molly Shannon, the sassy strait-talking best friend who is all of us, tells Sara that if everything in life were determined by fate there would be no reason to do anything, ever.

It’s so hard to remember which one is Kate Beckinsale and which is Kate Bosworth. Kate Beckinsale, British, has a 16-year-old which I always find surprising. Kate Bosworth, American, was in Blue Crush and 21, a movie I went to on a first date with a guy who turned out to be a mistake.

Jonathan and fiancee Halley are at their wedding rehearsal, which means I may have to hate him for inevitably – but serendipitously! – falling in love with Sara, unless she’s cheating.

But he will fall in love with her, because Molly Shannon turns out to be friends with Halley. Plot twist! SERENDIPITY.

As a groom’s gift, Halley gives Jonathan a book. Not just any book, though! Sara’s Manic Pixie Dream Book with her phone number in the cover.

Either there is a ticking clock sound effect to show that time’s a-tickin’, or there’s a clock somewhere in my house living room that I didn’t know about.

Remember how big cell phones used to be? Remember how they had those little antennae?

There’s some convoluted stuff with Jonathan and Sara both flying places.

Remember when you had to pay for headsets on airplanes?

Anyway, Sara gets the manic pixie fiver on the plane.

The wedding is called off. Jonathan SITS DOWN on an ICE RINK like he doesn’t care that his BUTT IS COLD. People skate around him but you can’t just do that. You can’t just expect people to skate around you. Yet isn’t that what this whole movie is about? Being as impossible as you know how to be and making everyone else skate around you?

Just a generally bad approach to life.

Oh okay cool. Now he’s laying down, just waiting to get run over by skate blades. Like I know your wedding was just cancelled, but you seemed not that into your fiancee anyway, so.

Sara comes to take Jonathan off the ice and they fall in love, then they do that annoying thing with the gloves again.

Is the lesson supposed to be that true love is always fate? Because I think the lesson is really that if you leave things up to fate, you end up having to do 20 times more work to get what you want than if you had just gone after it in the first place.

Unexpected Stars of Elf

In November of 2003, I was a teenaged movie theater employee. In addition to sneaking ‘courtesy cups’ of popcorn and Oreo Cream Blast (TM) every shift and taking my friends to free movies, I’d pop into theaters during my breaks to watch some of the better films [ and sometimes, you know, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen or whatever.] I probably saw Elf five times during that ’03 holiday season – albeit in 15-minute snippets. Ten years on, I still love it just as much. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but Elf — eminently charming, extremely quotable, and in my view, one of the best Christmas movies of all time — was released ten years ago this month.

Everyone knows that Elf had some amazing writing and a great soundtrack, but I think the ensemble cast is a big reason that it holds up so well a decade later. Everybody knows Will Ferrell’s Buddy, of course. Elf was also one of the first times anyone noticed a pre-bangs Zooey Deschanel. There are others that everyone will remember: James Caan, Bob Newhart, Edward Asner, and Mary Steenburgen. But did you realize that all of these folks were in Elf, too? Some of them have been around for decades, and others became famous since Buddy took the journey through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and walked through the Lincoln Tunnel.

Peter Dinklage — Miles Finch

In Elf: Dinklage played Miles Finch, a grumpy children’s book author and – in Buddy’s view – an “angry elf.”

Outside of Elf: These days, Peter Dinklage is earning major accolades for his work in Game of Thrones. You may also know him from his work as Marlowe Sawyer on Nip/Tuck, Stewart on 30 Rock, and my favorite, Peter Drunklage on SNL.

Faizon Love – Buddy’s Manager

In Elf: He’s the hardworking, exacting Gimbel’s manager who insists on six inch ribbon curls and wants to know why Buddy’s smiling like that. He would like Buddy to make work his new favorite.

Outside of Elf: Love has an extensive resume, mostly character work. Shane in Couples Retreat? That was him. The Perfect Holiday (a Queen Latifah vehicle)? Jamal. Reaching back to pre-Elf times, Faizon Love was Wendell Wilcox on The Parent ‘Hood and Big Worm in Friday.

Amy Sedaris — Deb

In Elf: Deb is Walter’s secretary, who likes to whisper and has such a pretty face, she should be on a Christmas card.

Outside of Elf: Sedaris, of the Comedy Sedarises, has a delightfully nutty sense of humor. My favorites are her Jerri Blank on Strangers with Candy, her great books on entertaining, and all of the stories in her brother David’s books where she wears wacky wigs and fatsuits to freak out their father.

Meghan Black — Elf

In Elf: Brief but memorable role in the Cotton-Headed Ninny Muggins sequence.

Outside of Elf: She’s Atlanta on Clash of the Titans, Misty on Dead Like Me, and Kat on Edgemont. I don’t watch any of those, but a lot of people do.

Michael Lerner — Fulton

In Elf: The children’s book editor who affirms that even with those two pages, the book would have sucked.

Outside of Elf: You’ve definitely seen Lerner in one of his roles as a classy older guy. For instance: Mel Horowitz in the TV show version of Clueless, Rollie Simone on Hill Street Blues, and Arthur in Hart to Hart.

Will McCormack — Witness

In Elf: Just “Witness.” I seriously cannot remember Will McCormack being in Elf, for all the times I’ve seen it. Time for a re-watch!

Outside of Elf: Ethan in Brothers & Sisters, Skillz in Celeste and Jesse Forever (which he co-wrote with his ex, Rashida Jones), Robert O’Connor in In Plain Sight, and he’s directing an upcoming Chris Messina flick. Not too shabby for an unnamed Elf character.

Andy Richter — Morris

In Elf: Morris worked for Greenway Press, which between James Caan, Amy Sedaris, Peter Dinklage, and Andy Richter, is probably a lot more fun than the publisher I work for (which is GREAT don’t get me wrong fire me).

Outside of Elf: Andy Richter is best known as Conan’s sidekick (/Amy Poehler’s older brother). He’s also been a recurring actor on Arrested Development, voiced plenty of animated projects, appeared as Stan on The New Adventures of Old Christine, and had a memorable role on 30 Rock’s Ludachristmas episode (/Tina Fey’s older brother).

Leon Redbone — Snowman

In Elf: A snowman in the style of 60s Christmas specials, who keeps it real (“You’re 6’3 and had a beard since you were 15,” he tells Buddy).

Outside of Elf: You probably already know that Redbone wears a felt hat and big sunglasses, and has an oldtime-y, Vaudeville-y vibe, But did you know that his real name is Dickran? Dickran, is his name. Rough.

Jon Favreau — Doctor

In Elf: The doctor who doesn’t have any cotton balls any more.

Outside of Elf: I guess this is technically still quite Inside of Elf, but he directed it.

Peter Billingsly — Elf

In Elf: He informs Buddy that he’s pretty off-pace with that Etch-a-Sketch business. It’s almost like he was b0rn to be in Christmas movies.

Outside of Elf: Ralphie in A Christmas Story; an adult man who has to hear “you’ll shoot your eye out kid!” every time he is just trying to run to the grocery store to buy a damn carton of milk.