Monday, November 20, 2017

Jumping the cheese gun

Thanksgiving isn’t a very cinegenic (is that a word?) sort of a holiday. Let’s face it, Christmas is loaded with both religious and secular imagery. It’s about love, magic, hope and salvation. Thanksgiving, by contrast, is about stuffing your face with calories and collapsing in front of a football game. That’s it.  How many major Thanksgiving movies can you name off the top of your head? “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” obviously. The criminally underrated “Dutch?” Surely. Any others? Me either. Thanksgiving isn’t romantic. It wouldn’t even be a big deal if it weren’t a month before Christmas. It’s a second-string, no-frills event. The Chicago of holidays, if you will.

But I felt like getting an early start in my (only somewhat forced) holiday cheer, and you can always count on Hallmark to dish up some schmaltz for any occasion. Sure enough, what I found is about food.

“Pumpkin Pie Wars” starts with a feud between two middle-aged BFFs who were going to start a bakery together unit one of them went into business with her father instead. For the next ten years, the women, both of whom now own bakeries, vent their grudge through an annual pumpkin pie bake-off. (Who even knew that was a thing?) One has a son, the other a daughter. We see where this is going, of course. It's Romeo and Juliet, but with less stabbing and more diabetes.

Sam Montag... er... Harper (Eric Aragon) went to a fancy chef school in London and dreams of opening a restaurant beyond his mom's humble bakery. Casey McArthy (yes, spelled like that and played by Julie Gonzalo) has a business degree from Wharton but her cooking skills would embarrass a grade-schooler. (Several fire department references make that obvious.) Nevertheless, when her mother hurts her foot and can't compete in the bake-off, Casey elbows her aside to take her place. Sam, meanwhile, makes a deal with his mother to look into the restaurant if he wins the bake-off for her.

There really should have been more lead-up to the romance. No sooner do the two agree to work together (not much of a spoiler; the movie does everything to telegraph it but run a banner across the screen) than she's falling off a ladder into his arms, he's showing her around the kitchen at noticeably close range and they're both looking longingly at each other and somehow imagining they're being discreet. By the first kiss (at the usual two-thirds mark) we've already started picking out china patterns for them.

The acting is typical Hallmark fare: a little wooden at the outset but softening up as characters begin to form. Sam's mother (played by the amazingly-named Jennifer-Juniper Angeli) is well done; Casey's (Michele Scarabelli) is such a nasty harridan I kept wanting to disembowel her with a spatula. Besides, the actress keeps forgetting to use her crutches and just sort of walks around with them stuck in her armpits. A little direction would go a long way.

I will say the resolution surprised me pleasantly. I won't give it away, but I was all geared up for an artificially tense bake-off climax when the plot turned a right-angle on me. And the recipes the characters used! Pumpkin cheesecake pie with a caramel pecan topping lined up against pumpkin silk chiffon pie with bourbon whipped cream and a ginger snap streusel crust made my pancreas hurt just thinking about it.

All in all, not great, but not bad. Satisfying in its mundaneness. Sort of like Thanksgiving.

Leave your opinion in the comments and let the holidays commence!

Monday, October 09, 2017

In defense of Columbus

So apparently today is either Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day, depending on whether you’re a dastardly white supremacist or a woke, morally superior progressive.

It’s trendy these days to vilify Christopher Columbus, and by extension, all European-descended people in the Americas, for the genocide inflicted upon the Native Americans. It’s especially popular among people whose entire knowledge of history comes from bumper stickers and kiddie lit. We are expected (nay, commanded) to believe that Columbus was a cruel, racist slave-trading monster who befouled America with his presence for the sole purpose of eradicating the innocent, peace-loving natives.

I usually try to avoid profanity, but sometimes bullshit has to be called bullshit, and this is one of those times. Here’s the deal:

1. Columbus was no saint, but he was no monster either. He was fairly typical for a man of his time and place, and maybe a little more courageous and devout than most. Europe’s trade routes overland to Asia had been choked off and its economy was suffering badly. At the time, there was no way at all to gauge longitude and even latitude was iffy, and the 3,000 miles that he thought it was to the Indies was longer than it was possible to provision ships for. But Columbus had faith, a desire not to be poor and an enormous set of cojones, and those things paid off.

Sooner or later, contact was going to occur. If it hadn't been an Italian representing Spain, it would have been the Portuguese or the English. Or, equally likely, the Ottoman Turks, who were expanding prodigiously. And who traded slaves and forced religious conversions with even more gusto than Christians did.

Yes, Columbus took slaves, and yes, he treated them abominably. Yes, we enlightened 21st-century people recognize this as a horrible thing. But in his day, it was normal. Christian Europeans were prohibited from taking Christians as slaves, but Muslims had been trading in European slaves for centuries, and Europeans owned Muslims and pagans from the Middle East and Africa already. Slavery was a fact of life and had been for millennia. It wasn’t until the early 19th century that any nation abolished it. It strikes me as unjust to hold a man accountable to a moral standard that wouldn’t exist until hundreds of years after he was dead.

2. It wasn’t a genocide. Really, there’s no reasonable way it could be considered one. Webster defines genocide as “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.” The misfortune brought upon the Natives by the white population was great but it was not deliberate, it was not systematic and the group in question wasn’t destroyed.

For the rest of this screed, I’m going to stick with the English colonies in North America, just because (a) those are the only ones I have any stake in and (b) as far as I know those are the only hotbeds of Columbus-hate. I’m not downplaying or justifying the atrocities committed against Natives by white settlers. The only reason I’m not enumerating them is simply that we all know about them. They were horrifying and worthy of condemnation. They also aren’t the entire story.

What usually gets called a genocide was in fact a mass migration accompanied by wars of conquest, such as have happened frequently over human history. Post-medieval England was poor, disease-ridden, crowded and politically volatile. The rest of Europe was no better off. Meanwhile, over the ocean there was a huge mass of land – nobody knew how huge – that wasn’t being used for anything.

“But it already belonged to the Natives!” Yes, it did, insofar as they had any concept of land ownership. But very few of them were farmers, and to European eyes untilled land is wasted. Hunting-gathering is a nomadic lifestyle that requires a large area to support a small population.

So, Mr./Ms./Xs. Progressive-American, if you were in their shoes, would you have stayed in a country where you had no prospect of ever bettering your condition and where the government might at any time turn on you, or would you try to stake out some off that wide-open land for yourself, by force if necessary? Of course you would, and trample anyone who slowed you down. Hunger and hopelessness will outweigh moral smuggery every time.

As for wars, those happen any time you have two groups of people who desperately need the same resources.  Do you seriously doubt, that if the positions had been reversed, Native Americans would not have attempted to conquer Europe? They weren’t intrinsically more virtuous than whites, merely outnumbered and outgunned.

And, crucially, less immune to disease. Europeans had been in contact with Asia and Africa, albeit on a limited basis, for centuries and had built up some immunity in the process. They also kept domesticated animals on a much larger scale. Native Americans had never been beyond their continent, obviously, but because they had no wheeled vehicles or horses, most of them never interacted with anyone but a few neighboring tribes. The overwhelming majority of Native deaths came from germs over which the Europeans had no control whatsoever.

3. The Natives were not pacifistic victims.  As Jim Goad wrote a few Thanksgivings ago (go ahead, read the whole thing):
We fought them from 1540 to 1890. That’s 350 years! They eventually lost, but nobody has proved to be as worthy an adversary as the Indians. We fought them a hundred times longer than we fought the Nazis. When we portray the Indians as an innocent tribe of peaceful hippies who were duped with “guns, germs, and steel,” as Jared Diamond would say, we make them look bad. They were warriors.
If I were a Native, I’d curse Columbus and spit at the mention of his name. I grew up next to a reservation in the ‘70s and I can tell you no ethnic group in America has gotten a dirtier end of the stick. I don’t blame them in the least for resenting whites and the man who started them coming here. Fair is fair.

But I’m not. I’m the descendant of generation after generation of Europeans, mostly English, who seized the chance to get out of the hellhole that was 16th- and 17th-century Britain. My people have flourished in the New World, and I’ll be durned if I’ll lament that fact. I celebrate Columbus, not because he was a swell guy, but because I benefitted from him. Others may do as they think best.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Could Jackson have trumped the War Between the States?

Okay, first off, from what Trump said it’s obvious that he was aware that Andrew Jackson was dead before the Civil War. (Which really wasn’t a civil war, but that’s a whole nother discussion.)  And while I don’t know that Trump was talking specifically about the nullification crisis, state-federal issues were very much a problem during Jackson’s tenure.

Second, slavery was the issue that pushed the states into war, but it was simply the most volatile aspect of a widening rift between north and south over diverging economies and cultures. The two were going to continue butting heads and it’s possible they might have split anyway, but absent slavery it probably wouldn’t have turned into a bloodbath.

Third, he’s dead wrong that a strong leader could have prevented the war. In fact, it was the election of a strong leader that touched off the war. Previous presidents had been compromising nebbishes and that was why the uneasy peace continued. Maybe if they’d managed to keep dithering until industrialization made slavery unprofitable, it could have died a peaceful death. Maybe. But no, Jackson neither could nor would have prevented war.

Trump’s right about the way Jackson’s wife was treated in the press, though. They literally hounded her to her grave. I notice that part of the interview hasn’t been reported much in the press, probably because they’re so gleeful about savaging Melania. Hard to blame Trump for identifying with that one.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

For your St. Patrick’s Day viewing pleasure

There are certain movies that I just have to dig out in March when my non-existent Irish heritage needs a little boost. There’s “The Quiet Man,” of course. That’s a perennial. There’s “The Secret of Roan Inish,” which is mostly for children but I still find it charming. (And for the life of me I can’t seem to find out what became of Jeni Courtney after she grew up. Jeni, if you ever google yourself and see this, please leave a comment.) I tried to like “The Luck of the Irish,” I truly did, but the acting was so wooden not even the irrepressible Cecil Kellaway could save it. There’s the Neil Jordan/Liam Neeson biopic “Michael Collins.” And then there’s “I See a Dark Stranger,” far and away my favorite.

The clip I uploaded so many years ago here is gone, but sure, isn’t the whole darn film on YouTube now, and therefore also at On The Other Foot?

“I See a Dark Stranger” (inexplicably released in the U.S. as "The Adventuress") would be just another British post-war relic were it not for Deborah Kerr as Bridie Quilty. If all you remember her from is “The King and I” or “An Affair to Remember,” hold on to your hat. As I blogged when she died almost ten years ago,

Deborah played a "little slip of a girleen" from the west of Ireland who tries to join the IRA, finds she's about twenty years out of date, and instead winds up spying for the Germans. The film was okay in and of itself, but it would have been just another late-night British relic except for her. She took a rather generic role and made the young lady into the sort of beautiful, innocently sexy, and self-contradictory creature that so many girls that age really are. When she turned up her nose at Trevor Howard, you could see her looking at him out the corner of her eye. When she declaimed her principles (mostly an inchoate hatred of Cromwell), she sounded just like a thousand other young women who throw themselves so passionately into their causes, never dreaming that they're not alone in them. She wasn't a part in a script, she was a real girl, and the kind that makes you tear your hair out and champ at the bit by turns. She might as well have been sitting next to me, rather than on screen, she was so thoroughly real. I was smitten with her by the third scene.

Speaking of Trevor Howard, he's excellent here too, at his understated best. William O’Gorman is fun as Bridie’s inebriated little father with tall tales of heroism. I do have to close my ears when a crowd of British extras shows up pretending to be American, but that’s a picky. And the dialogue has some lovely dry wit:

Bridie : I'm 21; I'm me own mistress.
Old woman (under her breath): That's an occupation that could change hands overnight.

Watch now and fall in love with Deborah Kerr all over again.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What bigotry really looks like

This is a lie of the most despicable kind. This walking skid mark is deliberately slandering good people because of their goodness. What kind of person does that?

And it is a lie. (Thanks to my friend Katie-Lou for the link.) The Salvation Army believes that any sex outside the context of a monogamous, heterosexual marriage is a sin and they expect their members and especially their clergy to assent. That’s it. That’s the extent of their position on the subject. They also believe in giving and spend long hours for little or no pay running soup kitchens and shelters for the poorest of the poor, and they don’t ask those people about their sex lives. They’re consistently ranked among the most efficient of charitable organizations when it comes to funneling donations to the needy. They do enormous good with very little. As a member of another church that does a lot of charitable work, I’m in awe.

I don’t see sign-boy out there rubbing shoulders with icky, smelly poor people.  He just wants to take revenge on the folks who do because they don’t affirm him enough. And unlike the people he wants to deprive, he probably goes back after a hard day of standing there to a warm home and a full meal.  If the LGBT community wanted to convince the world that it was nothing but a pack of spiteful narcissists, the best way to do that would be to drag down Sally Ann.

Ghosts of “Christmas Carols” past

No Christmas season is complete without endless versions of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” We’re subjected to it so much it’s come to rival the actual Nativity story as the defining narrative for the season. Darn near everybody has taken a whack at being Scrooge: Mr. Magoo, Henry Winkler (his is excellent – see it if you can), Bill Murray... God help us, every one!

I know it’s not good form to put multiple embedded videos in one post, but I just don’t have it in me to stretch it out over three. So here’s a sampler. Leave a comment if you watch any of them.

The good

"Karroll’s Christmas" has a few surprises for a story that’s been done to death. The protagonist Allen (Tom Everett Scott) is kind of a schmuck, but could never equal his neighbor, Zeb Rosecog (Wallace Shawn) for sheer loathsomeness. This guy makes the original Scrooge looks like Mother Teresa. Allen’s relative harmlessness cuts no ice when the ghosts get the wrong address and drag him through time and space to review Rosecog’s inconceivable (I couldn’t resist) misdeeds. By the time he’s able to convince them that he’s not Rosecog, he finds himself sympathetic to the old coot and drafts them to save him.

The ghosts are brilliantly cast: Deanna Milligan, Larry Miller, Verne Troyer and Dan Joffre as a Rasta Marley. (Yes, really.) The ending is familiar and more sappy than necessary, but what the heck? It’s worth it alone for the cringe-inducing (in a good way) proposal scene. You’ll have to watch it to see what I mean.

The bad

I started to review “Christmas Cupid” on its own and just couldn’t get through it. I’m not entirely sure it even qualifies as a Christmas Carol knockoff, as it has only one ghost. The shade in question is a train-wreck celebrity (Ashley Benson) who chokes to death on an olive in her drink and comes back to haunt her agent Sloane (Christina Milian). It’s just one eye-rolling Millennial cliche after another. Milian is okay, but she can’t redeem this stinkeroo by herself. Dear God, please make it stop.

The sublime

Everything becomes funny when you add Blackadder to it, sort of like fart jokes or LSD. This is perhaps the only genuinely original take-off I’ve ever seen. (Update: I found a better copy.) Kind, generous Mr. Blackadder is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past (Robbie Coltrane), who helps himself to the liquor and regales his target with tales of his despicable ancestors. The future sequence alone is brilliantly funny. I don’t think I really need to introduce the cast of the Blackadder shows to you; if I do, you’re reading the wrong blog. Some of the characters in the opening scenes are a little too annoying, but they're balanced out by Victoria and Albert (Miriam Margolyes and Jim Broadbent, respectively). For some reason I can't get past his Teutonic "Damn, damn, damn." And how they managed to get through the future scenes with straight faces, I cannot conceive. (A line that's used to good effect in the show, incidentally.) Watch it all and marvel.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Finally, a good one!

Okay, “Trading Christmas” isn’t good good. But definitely a cut above the offerings we’ve had here so far. This may be because it’s based on a novel by an actual writer water than the stable of underpaid, toymaking-deficient elves that are evidently chained in the basement of the Hallmark Channel building churning out cookie-cutter plots. This one has actual characters, and actual dialogue, and although it’s predictable, it has an actual story line.

Three of them, actually, neatly braided together:

(1) In Boston, college student Heather Spengler (Emma Lahana) has always spent Christmas with her widowed mother, but this year wants to go to Arizona with her boyfriend. Knowing that Mom will flip out if she tells her the truth, she begs off and insists she wants to spend the holiday at school.

(2) Back home in South Woodbourne, Washington, Emily (Faith Ford) is terribly disappointed by this and decides to take the mountain to Mohammad and does a house-swap with writer Charles Johnson (Tom Cavanaugh) in Boston. The writer’s charming brother Ray (Gil Bellows, who apparently does a lot of these movies but whom I mostly remember from "Ally McBeal," and don’t ask me why I watched that show) happens by the house.

(3) Emily’s best friend Faith (Gabrielle Miller) is overcome with sympathy for Emily having to spend her first Christmas alone, and comes up from San Francisco to keep her friend company. When she arrives, she finds instead Charles, who is decidedly not charming, and is forced to impose on him for a place to stay until the next bus to Seattle, which just happens to come through South Woodbourne on Christmas. (South Woodbourne's location is pretty vague. It's described as being a hundred miles from Seattle, which coincidentally is almost the distance to Abbotsford, B.C. where it was filmed.)

Hilarity ensues and romances bloom. But we knew that.

I’ll be honest; I only watched this because Gabrielle Miller was in it. Her character on “Corner Gas” was just about the only thing that show had going for it (except for Lorne Cardinal, who’s not pretty enough to watch for very long). She doesn’t disappoint here. Bellows is his usual competent self and Faith Ford is clearly also a veteran of sappy movies.

Emily is clearly the first among equals in terms of character importance. Her widowhood isn’t just a plot trope; it’s clear that she clings to every shred of her old life through her daughter, who chafes at being conscripted as a surrogate for her late father. Charles, alas, is just a walking trope: the writer with writer’s block and a chip on his shoulder from an ex who done him wrong. But for Gabrielle Miller, I'll put up with that.

It’s clean and innocent, as Christmas should be. Enjoy. And leave a comment.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Why did I enjoy this movie?

Seriously, why? I’m still cudgeling my brain about what aspect of Crown for Christmas I liked. I don't mean to be overly hard on it. The film was sweet and pleasant and I came away feeling good for having seen it. And that's what a cheesy Christmas movie should do, right? Mission accomplished. I'm just trying to parse why it did.

It can’t be the acting (in general; more on that anon). That was textbook recitation more than anything. Courteous courtiers, jovial servants, a nasty spoiled aristocrat, a single father who just happens to be a king. They weren’t so much dramatic roles as cogs in a machine.

And for the love of heaven don’t get me started on the realism. By which I mean there was none. At all. Whatsoever. Not a setting, not a plot point, not a single syllable of dialogue was plausible. Kings do not have their marriages arranged against their will. Servants and royalty do not all speak the Queen’s English in the same accent. In fact, there are no English-speaking countries at all on the European continent (except the Duchy of Grand Fenwick). Hotel maids in New York are not (so far as I know) fired merely for making eye contact with a guest. And that’s not even getting into the actual fairy-tale elements of the story, which strain believability like a piece of gum stuck to your shoe on a hot day.

(Several IMDb commenters pointed out that the proper mode of address for kings is “Your Majesty” rather than “Your Highness.” Technically true, although they are sometimes styled as “highness” in other contexts. Anyway, my understanding is that today they tend to prefer “sir.” Believe me, that’s the least of the film’s credibility problems.)

So back to the original question: why did I enjoy a film with so many howlers? Because, in the end, I actually did. I think maybe it’s because Danica McKellar doesn’t seem to be acting. I don’t mean that she’s a really good actress, although she may be with other material. I mean that I’m not sure she actually knew that the whole thing wasn’t real life, like maybe instead of a script they gave her hallucinogens and just let her interact with the cast. Also, the little girl (played sparklingly by Ellie Botterill) was so charming and delightful that the rest of the cast didn’t really need to be anything but her props.

So, like Abraham’s ten righteous men of Sodom, for the sake of those two actresses the film can be spared from the flames. Behold!

(Check out my other movie reviews here.)

Thursday, December 01, 2016

A poetic interlude

Salvaged from the Crappy Poetry Corner at the now-defunct “Bob From Accounting” website. I’m not sure why I bothered to track it down; it just seems to fit with my newfound holiday spirit.

Christmas in New Hampshire

by Debby, Roanoke, Virginia

The snowy white of Christmas
Basking together in the warmth
Of an electric space heater
Gazing at the twinkling lights
Of a Douglas fir

Then begin the lies
Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies
Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies
Come out of your mouth
Thick and heavy like home fries

No hot tub action for you
Big man with wavy hair
I wanted an engagement ring
You gave me a Chia Pet
And a coupon for a Brazilian waxing

The eggnog flows
Like your Lies
Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies
The electric heater drops into the water
As you bathe alone


A little light housekeeping

So it turns out that leaving my blog untouched causes a lot of dust bunnies and mouse turds to collect in the corner. My kids’ ages are up to date and I’ve bid a fond farewell to some of the blogs in the sidebar that aren’t posting anymore. I’m usually really reluctant to do that, but some of them just pure down don’t exist and others will probably never know. If you (O hypothetical reader) own one and wonder why you’ve been removed, let me know and I’ll put you back.

(I refuse to remove Villainous Company no matter how stubbornly Cassandra away. Someday she’ll come back. I believe with all my heart.)

(I also won’t remove Strange Spanners. That blogger was an old friend who died a day or two after his last post. He never married and had no children and his blog and Facebook page are all that remains of him. Memory eternal.)

I’m also dumping Disqus for the native Blogger comment system. The only reason I ever installed it to begin with was a a workaround to try and import my Haloscan comments when the latter shut down. The import to Disqus didn’t work anyway. If anyone ever figures out how to import them directly into Blogger I still have the files.

Oh, and I changed the icon of St. Expeditus so he wouldn't be so pixellated. I don't know who painted it; I found it through a Google image search on some Pinterest page. I couldn't find out more because I don't have an account and I'm durned if I'll start yet another social media thing I'm never going to use. If the owner of the image ever sees this, I hope they'll let me know whether to credit them or take it down.

Also, since I'm reviving Cheesy Christmas Movies, I'll be going through and fixing broken video links a few at a time. Some of them I just can't find; others I just haven't gotten to yet.

I’d be grateful if you’d leave a comment so I know I’m not just shouting into an empty blogosphere.

The funniest English Spaniard ever to come out of Germany...

... now travels in elephants. I didn't know he'd actually gotten hurt playing slapstick on Fawlty Towers. A professional indeed, and apparently well loved in real life.

Adios, auf wiedersehen, cheers!

Speaking of Christmas, here’s a turkey

Actually, I fear that may be a slight to the noble and tasty fowl. Upon finishing “Snowglobe,” I was ready for a bit more along those lines. When it comes to Christmas movies, I tend to prefer the ones with a little magic in them, as opposed to the ones that are just straight romance or syrupy familial dramas. (I’m not running those down; there are some good examples of both. But on the whole, I like a dash of fantasy in my Christmas fare.)

So the plot of “Christmas Do-Over” seemed like a good fit. Sure, it’s derivative, but let’s face it, there’s darn little originality left in the genre. How bad could it be?

Put it this way: If you took “Liar Liar” and “Groundhog Day,” mashed them together like Play-Doh, and then somehow extracted every bit of sympathy or humor, this is what would be left.

Jay Mohr, an SNL alum from one of its less-funny eras, plays Kevin, a divorced father dragooned at the last minute into spending Christmas with his ex-wife Jill and her parents, who make no secret of their dislike of him. Bad enough, but also joining the festivities is Jill’s new boyfriend Todd, who bought her a car for Christmas and is going to propose. Not having time to shop, Kevin accidentally bought his son an Easy-Bake oven, while Todd got him a train set. No opportunity is missed to rub our face in Kevin’s overall inferiority like a poorly-trained puppy.

You know where it goes from here. Every morning Kevin finds himself back on his outlaws’ doorstep, holding the same stupid girly-toy. Poor schmo doesn’t even have time to buy something else. So he resorts to some dirty tricks to try and get his wife and son back, culminating in a fight where he beats up Santa Claus and gets his butt kicked by Jesus. Yes, really.

Eventually, of course, he has a change of heart and redeems himself in the eyes of his son and ex-kinfolk. But it still leaves an aftertaste of defeat.

There are a few fun spots. Seeing Todd slip in dish soap and hurt his back over and over is strangely satisfying. (By this time you’re actively rooting for him to be injured.) The lecherous tipsy grandmother is a kick too.

But nothing, I repeat, nothing can possibly justify climactic scene with Mohr rapping some version of “Silent Night” dressed as a snow pea pod. Nothing. There is no forgiveness in heaven or earth for that sort of abomination.

Watch and be appalled.

Note: there are a couple of short spaces where the sound cuts out. I assume that's to keep the all-seeing eye of YouTube from noticing that it's under copyright.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The return of the cheese

It’s finally happened. I’ve gone over a year without posting on my blog. Ordinarily, this would be where I hang up my spurs and call it a day as so many other bloggers have done. But one thing keeps me going:
Cheesy Christmas movies!
Things have changed a lot since I started the tradition lo, these many years ago. Back then I was pretty much limited to the few I could find on the Internet Archive. A couple of those I still enjoy going back to every so often. I have a special soft spot, for example, for “Beyond Tomorrow” and “Son of the Navy.”

But thanks to the treasure storehouse that is YouTube, we have more cheese to select from than the whole south of France. Part of my workday is spent doing stuff that requires neither reading nor writing, and that time is often spent with a video playing on my phone. Nothing heavy; preferably something I don’t have to look at and can follow by audio. Being as how ’tis the season, I started browsing the other day through Hallmark Christmas movies. (Seriously, I had no idea there were so many.) This led me to a fluff-fest called “Snowglobe.”

“Snowglobe” is one of those films that takes a magical premise and tries to mold it to seasonal sentimentality. Young Angela Moreno (pertly played by Christina Milian) lives with the sort of family that make you want to move out of state and change your name. That is to say, she doesn’t actually live with them per se, but you’d never know it from the way they crowd into her life and make free of her apartment.

Meanwhile, Angela dreams of a perfect traditional Christmas right out of a Victorian diorama. Or, in this case, a snow globe given to her by the usual magical deliveryman. As she falls asleep gazing at it and dreaming of a spherical paradise, she finds herself sucked inside it, where she’s greeted by a tall, handsome fellow with perfect teeth and a perpetually bewildered look. Mister Perfect invites her to stay at The Inn, where mouthwatering food magically appears in the kitchen of a sweet grandma archetype. It’s all too good to be true, so naturally, it is.

This is supposed to be the point when she realizes that her perfect Christmas really isn’t what she wanted. Nuh-uh. The Snowglobians find their way into Brooklyn and hilarity ensues.

There are a couple of factors below the surface of this film. One is the ethnic/racial element, which is never actually mentioned but hangs out in the living room dropping elephant poo on the carpet. Angela’s mother is of Italian extraction and her father a black man from Cuba. Obviously, the globe people are as white-bread as you can get (think of the cheerleaders from that hoary old SNL sketch). The new love interest the family picks out for her (Josh Cooke, who apparently is in a season of “Longmire” I haven’t seen yet) is somewhere in between: all Brooklyn, still WASPish.
The other is that the globules (what do you call the denizens, anyway?) aren’t just paper dolls. In their own plasticky way they have feelings too and Angela’s self-centered (but not malicious) meddling has impacted their lives.

Obviously, we’re not talking high art here. It’s cheese. Enjoy.