Reminder for this evening: at 6PM EST, I’ll be live tweeting the Lifetime classic The Christmas Shoes. It’s … an experience. I’m going to attempt to do this sober. I’m not sure if I’m going to finish it sober, but a girl can dream. You can find me on Twitter with the handle @bsdriverreview. Come play with us… forever…. and ever… and ever…
The early 90s were a great time for family-friendly comedy. We had stuff like Home Alone and Ernest Scared Stupid. It was good times for everyone. 1994 saw the hits keep on comin’ with The Santa Clause, a wonderful piece of holiday confection concerning a selfish executive named Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) who inadvertently becomes the new Santa Claus. Along the way, he has to rebuild his relationship with his son and adjust to his new role. It’s a sweet Christmas movie. Here are five reasons to watch it this weekend.
#1 – Tim Allen, pre-conservative mouthpiece
Some people won’t want to watch this film due to the presence of Allen. Allen’s managed to land himself in hot water lately because he keeps going on about how hard it is to be an outspoken, well-connected conservative man in Hollywood. To which I say: dude, if you avoid this one on that principle, I understand completely. Allen’s come off as a tone-deaf douche in recent years – it’s pretty rich to lecture people responsibility when you served a comparatively short sentence for federal drug crimes that would have put away someone of a different skin tone for many more years to come. So I get it. However, the film is a reminder that before we got 2017 Allen, 1994 Allen was way funnier. Or at least quieter to the point where we could focus on the work instead of the asshat.
#2 – Where burned Christmas dinners go
Not all of us are master chefs, and as such, we fuck up dinner. I’ve burned my fair share of meals in the past, but nothing as bad as Christmas Eve dinner. It’s nice to see a dad try to do an important dinner (especially when he’s an ad executive that can afford the help) and fail miserably – it’s a bit of a connection. Some of us just mess up. We smell our own. And that’s comforting.
#3 – The magic of Santa
Watching the magic unfold in this film is adorable. Everything is done well, from the magical first night at the North Pole to the little pieces of everyday magic. The best part: little kids are the ones that really take notice. It’s the crawling on the lap and the sly sideways looks, the small smiles and knowing questions. They know what’s up. That’s the real magic of Santa: the wonder and insider knowledge of small children that something wonderous is happening and the grown-ups don’t get it because their spectacles are clouded.
#4 – 90s Krumholtz
In the 1990s, actor David Krumholtz was in quite a few movies. Furthermore, he was enjoyable in everything. My personal favorite was his turn as a bratty child star in Life With Mikey. Really, the cereal commercial scene with him screaming is everything (I can’t find it on YouTube to link it. You cut me deep, YouTube. You cut me real deep.). His turn in this film sees him as the no-nonsense head elf of the North Pole. If you’re familiar with his work up until this point, you’ll immediately perk up with recognition. It’s like seeing an old, sarcastic friend and knowing that you’re about to have a good night out with them, in the corner booth of a restaurant packed with Jersey Shore types. Krumholtz still gives me that feeling.
#5 – The logical response to the changes
You know, for a family movie, this film approaches some serious concerns about parental fitness and mental health in a way that’s proactive and real-world. One of the first things we typically do when poking holes in a film is to look for the real-life applications of the situation, and how out of place they seem in an effort to make the plot work. We typically watch these films, snort and go, “That would never, EVER happen that way.” This film does a good job with stabbing in reality: Scott runs the risk of losing his job, his relationship with his son, and his parental rights, and it’s done so against a realistic backdrop and process. There’s concern and legal recourse that’s relevant to the plot and fitting to the scenario. While the ending is a bit out there, it’s not a bad perspective to take.
The Santa Claus is available for rental on Amazon.
Ah, love is a many-splendored thing. It starts off as a flush, an infatuation with something beautiful in front of you, its imperfections imperceptible to you as you rush to spend every waking minute with it. As time goes on, sometimes love takes on different dimensions, including little jokes and teases. Sometimes, though, you wind up with those little jokes and hints of discomfort that spiral into the silence of one party and the free license to cruelly mock on the other. And that’s exactly where we wind up with the toxic friendship between Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) and Joe (Gregor Fisher) in Love Actually: a portrait of what’s supposed to be a feel-good male friendship where one party is fat-shamed and ridiculed with the expectation that the other party doesn’t have to change his behavior.
Billy has a reputation to defend as the “bad granddad of rock and roll,” and this reputation is far-reaching. Billy shows up to interviews where he mouths off about how much his comeback record sucks; he proudly proclaims that he’s gunning for a career resurgence because he’s a recovering heroin addict whose money has run out; he stokes the flames of rivalries with boy bands on national television; he pulls stunts to boost sales. All the while, he refers to Joe as his “fat manager” that he lives a sad life with in a small apartment. Joe has been funding “our gamble,” as he calls it, and silently cringes with each passing stunt that Billy pulls. As if the lack of professionalism wasn’t enough, Joe’s also got to take personal insult as part of the job. Joe stands by and endures comments from Billy about being the ugliest man alive and public stories about the horrors of seeing him in his underwear.
This behavior culminates at the climax of the film, where we find Billy in the midst of a smashing success for his song. He receives party invitations and notoriety; the champagne flows freely, and Billy’s flush once again. However, Joe’s not invited to any of the parties, which seems really crappy to exclude the rocker’s manager from the festivities. Joe’s home in his apartment without another soul in sight when Billy shows up, declares him to be the love of his life, and gives him a hug. He turned down a bash at Elton John’s place – what a guy! How uplifting. Male platonic love wins the day. Except that in a month’s time, we see Billy stepping off a plane with a new, much younger woman that he introduces to his long-suffering manager, who’s once again waiting diligently at the airport for his client/best friend. He’s polite to the woman, but we can’t help but notice something: Billy gets an entourage, while Joe waits patiently at the airport solo. The subtext here is enough to damn Billy in that nothing has changed: he’s left Joe behind once things start looking up, and yet Joe is still there when he gets back, with a smile and support.
If this is our ideal of male friendship, then the ideal of male friendship needs to change FAST. You mean to tell me that we think it’s somehow okay to have to sit through someone’s insults and shoddy treatment in the name of being a supportive friend? Listen, I get it – in the UK, buddies bust on one another. They can be harsh at times; I’ve seen enough pub banter to know this. However, this example goes well beyond that by merging the best friendship into professional shortcoming: you do not piss off your management team when they are the ones funding your broke ass, and you do not fucking shit on the people who are there when everyone else leaves. Billy gets by on being outlandish, but Joe silently promotes him at all costs and funds his second chances at success. When Billy is washed up, Joe takes him in, as Billy mentions in his interviews to stir up pity. He mocks the man that shows him personal and professional kindness, which is an integrity flaw if I’ve ever seen one. The moment success strikes again, Billy’s first instinct is to leave Joe behind. It would have been far nicer to have seen the public declaration of, “This guy believed in me when I had nothing!” rather than the private, “Hey, sorry I was a selfish twat. Wanna watch porn?” Billy’s apology lacks because, while well-intentioned and a step in the right direction, it’s not the solution to the public embarrassment to which he’s subjected Joe. And the worst part is that in a month’s time, Billy is right back to coming and going as he pleases whilst Joe waits with a smile. If this was a straight relationship or female friendship, we’d be screaming that the dynamics are awful and unsupportive. We’d be telling Joe to drop Billy as a client and change his locks. This isn’t a beautiful story about masculine friendship – it’s the abuser taking what he wants while demeaning his victim in a perpetual cycle.
This may be a harsh interpretation, but I stand by it. If it’s good enough to tell our women that they shouldn’t tolerate behavior like this, then it’s good enough to tell our sons, friends, husbands, brothers, uncles, dads, you name it that they shouldn’t tolerate someone who treats them like this as well. True love doesn’t publicly humiliate while saying, “You know I love you, right?” in private. That portrait is more in line with an abusive dynamic, and we need to squash the idea that abusive behavior is normal.
I’m really torn on how to feel about The Greatest Showman, the upcoming P.T. Barnum fantasy/bio pic. On one hand, I love Hugh Jackman. I’d be pretty crushed if it came out that he’s slime. I want him to be successful in everything he tries. Ditto Zendaya. On the other hand… it’s about Barnum, who is problematic in terms of the legacy he’s left behind concerning animal abuse in performance. I don’t think it’s wise to focus on the feel-good aspect of the man’s life when the legacy is pain that others have worked hard to expose and end. So here’s the trailer for the film. I’m interested to see what others think.
Oh, by the way, it’s also a musical. Sweet Jesus.
Some years, we just don’t learn. Which is fine, because, well, it’s entertaining for the rest of you. That’s right: we’re goin’ tweetin’ once again. This Saturday at 6 PM, I’m going to get drunk and watch that horrific Christmas classic that Lifetime hath wrought, The Christmas Shoes. It’s on YouTube and I have a twitter handle. If you’ve ever seen a clip of this shit show, you will realize that I will need ALL OF THE BOOZE to get through it. So join me; at the very least, there will be some good stories.
This week, we’re still stuck at the North Pole. Our festivities continue with a look at the male bullying that goes on between Billy and Joe in Love Actually. I promise, I do actually like this movie, despite that fact that I give it shit every single year. It’s like that one cousin who was always prettier that now leads a vastly different life from me: we love one another, but damned if we don’t push each other’s buttons. To return to happyville, we’re going to recommend The Santa Clause this weekend. And then the weekend will go to shit with me live tweeting a movie about a terminally ill woman at Christmas. Rob Lowe’s going to emote, kids. It’s going to be magical.
Oh Crypt TV, oh Crypt TV, I really love your short films…. (please read that to the tune of “Oh Tannenbaum.”)
I loathe the elf of the shelf. I never had the patience. Most days, I had that moment of redirecting my children while I hastily moved the elf around, breathing a sigh of relief that they didn’t burst into tears because the elf hadn’t left and they had been good. I truly don’t get the people that are all into it and have to come up with fun and interesting ways to get the elf into mischief. No one is cleaning that shit up but you, peeps. Nevermind the whole preparation for a totalitarian government.
So yes, short films. Crypt TV has done it again with a look at what could go wrong when you’re a really crappy babysitter on Christmas Eve with a child that has a demonically charged elf. Here’s Elf on the Shelf.
I still hate that little bastard, even if he’s the homicidal watchmen of shit-upon children. And really, what the hell is with the parents going out on Christmas Eve? And could you please spare the kid a slice of pizza? And whose kid under the age of 13 gets a bedroom in the basement? Honestly, I would have found it way funnier in a grim sort of way if the elf had stayed regular size and gone on a killing spree, then rode off with a Barbie doll under the tree. But that’s just me.
I’m the first to admit that rom-coms are not my strong point. However, I’ll make an exception for 2006’s The Holiday. It’s love in the Air BNB age: two women, Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) try to get away from heartbreak during the holiday season by swapping houses. Along they way, they each find love and valuable life lessons at the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a nice break from some of the doom and gloom I usually inflict upon you. Here five more reasons to watch it this weekend.
#1 – The leading ladies
As much as I don’t want to like Cameron Diaz at times, damned if I don’t love me some Diaz. Even when her character isn’t terribly likable, I still like her. Her Amanda is a breath of fresh air in the rom-com game: she’s a driven career woman who wants to stay at the top of her game, but at the same time, she’s not a robot. Those women are typically the bad guys in these movies, because they go against the grain of what society tells us to want: marriage, babies, a house with a white picket fence that we meticulously maintain whilst hubby works. Historically, those characters are the villains out the steal the man or upend a loving parent/child relationship. Yet she’s the hero, and that’s a nice representation to have. Likewise, Winslet’s Iris is a total sweetheart, but she’s not perfect – she makes boneheaded mistakes and wallows in self pity, and that’s what makes her so great. These women aren’t one-note: no one has a one-track mind. They’ve got interests and careers and relationships that are more than the usual one-dimensional “have it all yet yearning for love” angle. I think that’s why this film works so well: the characters aren’t characters, they’re actual people.
#2 – Rufus Sewell is a douche canoe in this film
I’m sure that Mr. Sewell is a lovely, lovely human being who loves kittens, puppies and small children, but DAMN if he can’t nail the part of smarmy dick so well. I love that version of Rufus, despite that he’s spoken openly about type casting. I don’t blame him there, but fuck, Rufus, you have such a goddamned gift when it comes to playing charming assholes we love to hate. His Jasper keeps Winslet’s Iris on the hook, and we want to boo and hiss at the screen with reckless abandon. That’s a good actor that can elicit a reaction like that. Don’t ever change, dude.
#3 – Remembering those who came before us
Well, well, well. Looks like even the elderly get appreciation here. Eli Wallach gets some love in this film as Arthur, an aged screenwriter who forms a friendship with Iris during her stay in America. It’s an honest friendship that forms, and one that doesn’t pity the old man or turn lecherous. This is a woman who genuinely loves hearing about a fascinating person that others write off due to his age. That’s actually a nice message in a big rom-com. So often, the old man is the outrageous, racist coot that’s trying to score with the woman young enough to be his granddaughter. This depiction is a great reminder that friends are waiting for you from all walks of life – you just have to open your eyes and see them.
#4 – A look at bad relationships
This is something I like so much. In addition to the Iris/Jasper debacle, we also get a look at Miles (Jack Black), a man who is stuck in a toxic cycle with a beautiful actress. I liked that we got to see the same dynamic that Iris has with Jasper in a gender flip: the constant waiting around, the longing, the hope that the other person will realize how good you are. It’s painful to watch, but it opens up the question to the audience of how many of us are in relationships like that. I think more people could use this type of self-examination – I’ve known a few people that are stuck in the same shoes as Miles, thinking that they can’t possibly request any better treatment than what they’re given because of fill-in-the-blank-personal-attribute.
#5 – Self love
There’s nothing more powerful than saying, “I deserve better.” Without giving anything away, watch this film if only for this message. I like that it’s not a person driving change – it’s about self love. It’s about wanting a better life because YOU think that you’re worth that. That’s pretty special.
The Holiday is available on both Hulu and Amazon.
If you know me personally, you will realize right off the bat that you’re walking into a rant. Ten words or less: I hate, hate, HATE It’s a Wonderful Life. There’s really not much more I can say about that. No, wait – there IS! One of the many things I dislike about this film (because I have no soul) is the treatment of Mary Hatch-Bailey (Donna Reed), the love interest. We need to have a conversation about Mary, gang.
Let’s start first with her backstory. Mary has been in love with George (James Stewart) from girlhood. As time goes on, George focuses on the duties he has: namely, running Bailey Brothers’ Building and Loan, which his brother has skipped out on in favor of a new job opportunity thanks to his new father-in-law. Despite the fact that Mary is dating someone else, George pays her a visit, they realize they’re in love, and they get hitched. Mary good-naturedly pitches in her honeymoon funds in order to keep the town afloat during a bank panic. She raises the four children she has with George while supporting his endeavors to bring financial fairness to the town. She repairs a run-down mansion to make it into her dream home; she works with the USO during World War II, and she offers kindness when her husband goes through financial crisis with the missing $8,000. She’s also Donna freaking Reed, which means she does this while looking and sounding like the most perfect woman on the planet (as a long-time fan of The Donna Reed Show, I can back up that this woman truly was perfection for me as a child). Mary is a saint walking amongst us. She’s selfless and kind and altogether extraordinary, then she’s in that exterior wrapper. She’s totally an ideal and we expect nothing less for our do-gooder hero.
So what’s the problem with our stoic Mary Sue? Well, that occurs on the alternate timeline, wherein George wishes he had never been born. We find out that Mary never loved anyone like she loved George. In fact, Mary not only never married or had kids, but she went the route of the conservative, unattractive spinster librarian. Mary goes from a beautiful, intelligent woman with a lot of heart to a shy, mousy, physically unappealing woman who distrusts men. Clarence (Henry Travers) bemoans that she’s “an old maid,” after which we’re supposed to gasp, clutch our pearls and scream, “WHY?!” We’re supposed to pity this woman because she’s not married, doesn’t have kids, and hasn’t figured out the mechanics of blush and mascara. Clarence implies that she missed out on her chance at happiness by not getting married, as evidenced in the way that she screams and runs when a man she doesn’t fucking know starts chasing after her (demanding that he needs her and wants to know where the kids are). She went from vibrant and loving to plain and distrusting. Nevermind that in this reality, she has some stranger stalking her on the streets and is justifiably scared. Librarian Mary is one of the great tragedies of George not being born – his existence impacts the core of happiness for this woman, in everything from profession to personality to life goal achievement. Per this example, without a good man, you can’t be physically beautiful, have a decent personality, or any form of aspirations whatsoever. The worst thing you can ever be, according to an agent of Heaven, is middle-aged, unmarried and childless.
Bull. Fucking. Shit. Yes, this film is a reflection of the social attitudes of the time, but really?! You really, truly expect me to believe that Donna Fucking Reed could not have found love without the presence of one person (a complete workaholic that places perceived duty above everything else at that)? The implications of this timeline are horrifying: Mary’s entire personality and appearance change, which means that she’s only a good, beautiful person inside and out because George happens to be around. Without him, she lacks any individuality and spark that draws George to her in the first place. It implies that she exists only to be there for George – without him, she’s just a wallflower that has not achieved the social goals of marriage and children, let alone the personality warmth that formed in her childhood. And really, why couldn’t Mary have had a successful, fulfilling life without those things? She still could have led a war effort. She was smart – she certainly could have been one of the pioneers of medicine or science or human rights. She still could have pitched in money when the town panicked over their finances. She could have styled her hair nicely and slapped on some lipstick because she wanted to, not necessarily to land a man, but out of pure choice (being conventionally beautiful isn’t a qualification for love, after all). On that note, most likely, someone would have wanted to be with her – her options were not George Or Bust, as the character Sam smugly insinuated. Librarian Mary honestly looks like she’s wicked smart and suffers no fools, which means she’s totally got someone macking on her. She could have been Mary Hatch because Mary Hatch should exist outside of George Bailey – Mary should function as a partner for George, not a component of his personality and achievements. There’s not even an ability to smile when you take away, George, which is sad because it means that a world that has a lot of simple beauty registers no impact on her. That’s not a life, and it’s not plausible to think that that much of one’s personality is dependent upon a mate. To think that this amazing woman simply stops being who she is because a particular man doesn’t come around to gift her with marriage and babies is fucking insulting on so many levels. It implies that women aren’t nearly as good on their own – they absolutely require a man in order to reach their peak potential. Still, the greatest condemnation here isn’t on her. This scenario doesn’t so much speak about Mary as it does about George: it’s his need to feel important that robs her of an identity. Mary can’t exist as she is without any outside influence – she can’t be beautiful or smart or liked by others without him; she’s got to be a lonely spinster that wastes away on her own when he’s not around because she exists to give his life meaning. George needs someone to tell him he’s special, to make him dinner and raise his kids and get behind every single ideal he has, even when it means that she forgoes her own wants. For fuck’s sake, he even requires an angel come around to tell him how much he matters. A divine being has to reassure George Bailey that he’s indispensable and the most special creature that ever walked the earth. That’s a level of neediness that beggars belief.
This entire business works to create a pretty nasty ideal. Mary can either be one of two options: the perfect, attractive, supportive partner of our hero, or the lonely, languishing, shy librarian. There’s no in-between, no middle ground for her: she’s either the most perfect woman in the world, or a giant disaster. The real crux of the scenario is whether or not she has George in her life, which makes the distinction between attractive happiness versus unattractive solitude. This isn’t what we should be looking up to at a vulnerable time of the year. Mary shouldn’t exist to make George better, nor should he bear that responsibility for her – they should bring out the best in one another from something that already exists. To insist otherwise means that they’re not really people; just props. There’s nothing aspirational or wonderful about that life.
I don’t know if anyone else is in this boat, but has holiday shopping been kind of blah this year, or is it just me? I’ve gone out to a few stores, and not only has store turnout been so so, but the general tone is, “Don’t spend money.” I know more people that are happy to hang out and bake cookies together, which is sweet and on point with the theme of the season no matter what religion/faith you happen to be, but I must admit that it does make me fear for the economy. Any time that stores have been this dismal, it’s a bad sign. But, you know, stockholders are totally going to reinvest in us, so we should smile and be thankful for trickle down economics. (Note: that was sarcasm.)
As you can guess from the image above, we’re gunning for a bruising this week. We’re attacking the big one. We’re coming for Frank Capra’s widely regarded film, It’s A Wonderful Life. I cannot fucking stand this film. In the words of Sophia Petrillo to Blanche Devereaux, “Fasten your seatbelt, slut puppy.” To balance that – since it is a wonderful time of year, after all – we’re going to recommend a really good movie. The Holiday does not get the love it so richly deserves, so we’re going to show it some love.
In the meantime, be good to one another. We live in a scary world and while it’s not going to get better in the interim, it doesn’t take much to do something nice for someone else, be it a smile or a sandwich. The world needs more kindness and perspective.