Hallmark Observations: Second Chance Christmas

I have to be honest, friends. I’m flagging a bit. But I made a commitment to you: one movie review a week, and I’m going to deliver. This week’s is Second Chance Christmas. Caroline is all set to divorce her husband until she gets amnesia. Somehow this is also about Christmas. Alternate titles: Love Strikes Twice, and Old Acquaintance Be Forgot which is my personal favorite.

Since Caroline is played by actress Katrina Begin, I’m willing to give her a chance. She can’t be terrible, right? The cast lists no one named Nick, but there is a Nick Siebold who handled the visual effects, so for those of you keeping score at home, drink.

Also, note the title. I made sure this one was about Christmas. I’m not going to repeat last week’s mistake.

Caroline just walked into a party and immediately rearranged some nonessential decorations on a cocktail table. Either she’s an interior decorator, or a party planner, or her OCD control freak behavior is about to play a pivotal role in the divorce proceedings. Put your guesses in now, kids.

She’s a party planner! Also a control freak, because of course. Hallmark movies are made for women who are control freaks.

Wow, for their first Christmas she surprised him with a dog, which feels like a really bold decision for one year of dating. Of course, I thought she was going to announce she was pregnant, so there’s that.

Side note: Who facetimes about deeply personal things while walking on a public street??

Side, side note: Why is it all other Katrinas I’ve ever seen are blonde? What went wrong, self? We have the Scandinavian last name, how did we miss the blonde hair??

So far I’m picking up that Caroline is divorcing her husband because he’s a cartoon artist who plays video games, doesn’t clean anything, and refuses to walk the dog.

I think she just conned him into divorcing her. At Christmas.

So she’s in a hit and run and then a crowd gathers to take photos for their insta? Hallmark, you are hitting this a little too close to the mark, slow your roll. I came here for fantasy.

The doctor is about to diagnose her based on her not knowing the answer to just one question: what’s your favorite ice cream. Which by the way, I don’t know my favorite flavor either. Is this explanation enough for why I don’t remember names? Or facts, or why I’m watching Hallmark movies??

The doctor is predicting she gets her memory back anytime between a day and a decade, but who wants to bet it’s going to be Christmas Eve/Christmas Day?

Jack: “She chose to go home with me? That’s gotta mean something, right?”

Dad: “It means she’s got amnesia.”

I am all here for the amnesia put downs. Bring it, Pops.

I can’t lie to you, the disaster that their house is…I’d divorce him too. You guys should see the kitchen. They have rats, I know it. This is almost like Overboard except these two really are married.

We are dangerously close to this turning into a horror movie as Caroline puts together the clues about how, yeah, it looks like she was divorcing her husband, and oh, she might maybe be running her own business, but everyone is lying to her and telling her she’s unemployed. I’m telling you, put a butcher knife in her hand and change the music and we are heading for a gory ending.

“I’m really, really good at decorating.” She says as she throws handfuls of marshmallows at a jello mold.

We’ve reached the stalking phase of their new marriage. I should have mentioned this earlier, this movie is billed as a comedy.

Tree decorating!!  Guys, it’s Hallmark foreplay at its finest.

She remembered everything on Christmas day. I’m a Hallmark savant, that’s what this is. No one else could have seen this coming. Unless they were also watching this movie.

“May a truck strike me down in the street if I’m lying.” Amnesia humor is gold.

OMG Caroline almost hit Jack whilst driving. I am loving these dark jokes.

“Auld Lang Syne” apparently means “old time’s sake” so I learned something today, damn you Hallmark. Your films aren’t supposed to be educational.

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Hallmark Observations: Wedding Wonderland

Like many other Hallmark movies this one has two titles. Wedding Wonderland is known by the title Winter Wedding on imdb. I think they made the right call going with the former because the latter just reminds me of the red wedding scene from Game of Thrones for some reason. I assume this movie is the opposite of that scene.

While no leading man in this movie goes by the name “Nick” I should note that our male protagonist is played by a man whose real name is Nick, Nick Bateman, so Hallmark’s still using a very strict policy of hiring for their leads.

Opening song is actually not Christmasy. What has gone wrong?

Also, it’s starting out with a couple very much in love. It’s like it’s backwards. If a Hallmark movie starts with a proposal are they going to both be dead by the end? Maybe this is more like the red wedding than I thought.

The heroine has dreamed of a wedding in Cabo her whole life? Was she born a sorority sister? Also I sense the plot is about how she doesn’t end up having a wedding in Cabo. It’s not the title at all that is making me think this.

Hallmark Aspirations: “Making brides beautiful is what I was made to do.” MADE TO DO

Uh oh, she’s got the cardinal Hallmark flaw: she thinks her plans will work out. Women, amirite?

Wow, her mom booked an entire resort in Cabo for the wedding? Are all wealthy people just in Hallmark movies?

Ooh Canadian alert. Our hero just said “oot” instead of “out”.

Her mom just discussed a breakfast item called “Crunchy avocado benedicts” which sounds like the opposite of what avocados should be.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never been married, but there’s a lot of discussion about an engagement party that I did not know was a critical linchpin in getting married.

Like other Hallmark heroines Hallie owns her own business, this time it’s a styling salon. And it’s a really poor knockoff of the Beauty Shop dynamic.

The so-called “winter” wedding dress she tries on is off the shoulder with no sleeves. Because apparently “winter dress” does not mean what I think it should mean.

Ew, “custard eggnog”. What are the recipes in this movie even doing?

Rich groom Lucas is upset his parents are creating a hot springs because when you’re wealthy these are the problems you have.

Also the entire resort her mom booked canceled their reservation and it’s THE WORST WEEKEND OF THEIR LIVES.

In the interest of moving the story along they’ve decided to just get married this weekend. I have no idea how far they are out from their summer date. Which is great because a slow burn of their chronicled issues heading up to the wedding is too demoralizing to consider.

The best man and the maid of honor are completely unsuitable so they’re definitely going to fall in love. By the way, anyone who keeps a cream puff tucked in their jacket for later is not to be trusted.

I just want to go on record that this more than any other movie is difficult to take seriously. It’s probably because I’ve never had a dream wedding destination? Or …you know…money to splurge on destination weddings?

Also sidenote, the groom’s mother is making the food and keeps licking her hands and the spoon and so much nooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

The groom’s brother, despite the fact that he squirrels squishy food away into his coat, is actually quite adorable, though given the maid of honor just broke up with her fiance, he’s moving way too fast. But that is a staple of Hallmark movies. “When it feels right it is right”, right?

Guys, there’s a lip sync in this movie. It’s…choreographed? I can’t tell you how much I didn’t need this.

Wow, Cabo opened up again, fifteen minutes before the wedding. Which is the crisis point of the movie, I think? It’s hard to tell because none of the problems seem to be actual problems. Or as Chandler would say, “This must be so hard. “Oh, no! Two women love me. They’re both gorgeous and sexy. My wallet’s too small for my fifties, and my diamond shoes are too tight!”

And the wedding just got postponed. And somehow their love is now in question. And the best man and maid of honor are picking a fight with each other because no one can be happy right now. No one.

Wow, big reveal, Hallie’s mom lied about where she and her husband got married? This seems oddly sociopathic. She also just figured out that Hallie just wants to be married to the man she loves. Guys, Hallmark world is a terrifying place where people lie about absurd things and then ruin their children’s lives over having a dream wedding at an expensive resort in Mexico. And also they’re surprised that other people marry for love. Which is…kind of foundational to functioning in a Hallmark movie.

I’ve kind of realized this is not at all a Christmas movie, but honestly I’m too far in to switch. I should have put it together sooner, if I’m being honest, but I genuinely thought for Hallmark that winter was synonymous with Christmas. That’s my bad; I won’t fail you guys again. Anyway, they get married. Everyone’s happy or whatever, and the best man and maid of honor, if all goes the way it should, will be the stars of the sequel. Where I assume the big issue up for debate will be a disagreement between coconut cake with the chocolate syrup on the side or on the cake itself.

Christmas at the Palace: Family Observations

Katie, our heroine, is a former figure skating champ who suffered an injury and turned her focus to putting on ice shows in foreign made-up countries like San Senova, where our hero is the begrudging King. Troubled by loss is his past, can he embrace Christmas cheer in the present – and our heroine?

I sat down to watch this gem with my sister, brother-in-law, and mother. There were varying responses to the film.

We open on: CGI snow, and no shots of faces as a “professional” ice skater swirls on the ice.

My mother: Do you feel bad you guys never got to ice skate?

Brother-in-law. “M”: [in no way related to my mother] I do, and I blame you.

Hallmark Hallmarks: There’s a Nicholas in this movie, as I’ve discovered there is in any Hallmark movie. New element to a drinking game: do a shot when you’re introduced to a Nicholas.

Our hero is called “The Grinch King” by his people, which is fair because he just looked at a tree and said “why is THIS in here?” Also, there are way worse things to be called.

Hallmark Reality Check 1: The entire country of San Senova was founded on Christmas, both the day and the idea. I don’t even remotely understand how this works. What is their international trade like? Is it all flown over in sleighs by old fat bearded drivers?

Hallmark of Hallmarks: Our hero, Grinch King, has a kid. Yeah, he’s a dad. What do you think happened to the Mom?” – “M” slashes at his throat.

Hallmark of Hallmarks: Heroine bumps into hero: “There’s no way that’s she didn’t see him.” – Sister

Hallmark “Comedy” Hallmark: King gets up to give a speech, knocks everything down “King Doofus…the FIRST.” – M

Regarding our heroine and her best friend: Me: “I can’t tell which one’s Katie and which one’s Jessica.” Mom: “They’re not sisters” M: “I think they’re clones.”

Hallmark realities: The royal family inexplicably has a private ice rink.

We now have a time frame for romance: two weeks. We know this is the time frame because Christmas is two weeks away. In a Christmas movie if the climax doesn’t happen ON Christmas, something has gone awry.

Hallmark realities: Our heroine’s dream is to buy an ice rink in New Jersey, because of course it is.

Meanwhile the secondary romance between the clone bestie and the chief advisor is percolating nicely and normally. No weird hitches here, why would there be? They’re just plotting and development.

Hallmark Prediction:  Clone Bestie breaks an ankle before the performance and our heroine is forced to take on the lead role. Meanwhile, the Grinch King is going to play the ice skating hero that requires no ice skating, and his daughter is going to play the historical princess of yore, neatly occupying all principle players on the ice.

Aside: If I’m being honest we’re all spending way too much time trying to figure out the relationship of Princess Patricia to the King. Sister? Aunt? Great Aunt? 

Mom [after The Grinch King specifically calls her by her name]: “That one’s Katie

Hallmark breaks the fourth wall: Katie: “Christmas is my middle name.” You honestly can’t joke about this in Hallmark movies, Katie.

Hallmark realities: Katie just compared prom queen to being an actual king to his face.

“My family has always assisted the crown.” Slavery, that’s what that is. – Sister

Clone bestie Jessica just injured her ankle. We’re in the endgame now.

The king’s adviser enters the room and immediately backs off on seeing our romantic pair at arts and crafts. “This important state business can wait. He’s sewing… something he’s never done before.” – Sister

Clone bestie flirting with the adviser: “Speaking of adventure—” Have you ever been to Trenton?” – Sister

Oh look at that, Katie’s skating the Queen role.

They continuously cut away from anyone actually getting on the ice. I don’t think anyone knows how to skateM

Hallmark Reality Check: On the handmade Grinch King stockings for the staff: Those are a little close to the fire.Mom

Hallmark missed opportunity: “What if you didn’t have to lose anyone?” our king asks obviously proffering immortality which would be a fantastic plot twist.

“Do you date?” “Not since Kristina’s mother died.” That implies he was dating when his wife was…alive?” – M

Mom just shushed M for talking while the characters are talking.

M: “Are you afraid you’re going to lose the plot?”

Mom: “…No.”

Hallmark jumps the shark: Now there’s a mythical Christmas star that guides them all. The Sen Senova star. I feel like there was something like this in The Lion King too. – Sister

Hallmark Hallmark: There’s a copious amount of contemplative tree staring in this movie.

Hallmark Reality Check: An anxious clone bestie to Katie about the ice rink she just flew to Trenton to purchase: “What if you don’t like it?” It’s an ice rink. Can’t she just facetime the ice rink to her? Sister

Hallmark Hallmark: There’s a lot of dead moms. – Sister

The Grinch King to his kid: “Tina Bear you do know I can skate.” Literally no one knew he could do that.

Katie makes her entrance back to the rink and approaches the princess: “You’re out kid – M

I think we can all agree that they missed a real opportunity with the title here. They were so close with Grinch King. Why Hallmark, WHY.

Hallmark Reflections: A Fairy Tale Christmas

A Fairy Tale Christmas is the story of an estate valuer named Bella staying at the villa of a grumpy attractive man who needs his books and property appraised. As coincidence would happen, this is their love story. Also, and this is just a sidenote, this all takes place in California so the image above is about 1000% more wintry than this entire movie.

Here’s a brief list of thoughts I had whilst watching this “Christmas” film.

This is an incredibly not at all veiled Christmas Hallmark redo of Beauty and the Beast, I think I should mention here that Haylie Duff’s sister Hilary Duff did a remake of the same story called Beauty and the Briefcase. I should note, in both cases the sisters play the role of “beauty”.

Belle just gave bra-cup money to the bell-ringers. I literally know no women who have bra money.

Gaston has just showed up. He’s oily. His name is “Tony”. Like “Gaston-y”. Gastony is terrible, and his suit is shiny which is actually kind of the same thing. Gastony’s really gross. Like men who talk about women as commodities gross.

Quick everyone, what’s the correct response to Belle’s discomfort with Gastony when she says “he’s not really my type”? If you didn’t say “why don’t you just go out with him.” Then you’re already a better person than her FATHER.

Stock footage of vineyards. And our “Beast” morosely wandering about. He’s attractive, athletic, and serious. WHAT A MONSTER.

Stock Christmas music is playing to remind you that even though there’s no reason this has to be a Christmas movie, it is dammit.

“You don’t want to go there, Missy.” Ahh small town patronizing misogyny from the diner owner. How quaint.

“I’d prefer it if your father were here.” Says our charming Beast. It’s actually kind of astounding the diner owner doesn’t like this guy.

Oh he’s a beast because his fiancée died. Okay. I like how Hallmark movies have real life tragedies that they mostly gloss over to get to the Christmas decorations.

Shirtless beast. Can’t sleep without his snuggle buddy “Beast” which is the name of his dog. To avoid confusion I’m going to refer to dog beast as “furry beast”.

Oh Beast is still shirtless to go running through the vineyards. This is yet another sign he’s moody and dark: silent vineyard running. Non-hairy beast is independently wealthy and apparently “just travels the world”, one assumes by running. He is the perfect man: wealthy, idle, in shape, attractive. Sure, he’s sullen and rude. But one can’t have EVERYTHING.

Non-hairy beast just gave Belle a really angsty look. Love is in the air. OR indigestion. No fooling, you could really rework this movie as an ad for Pepto-Bismol. Or Viagra. “Are your morning shirtless jogs the only exercise of your stamina these days? Has it been years since you’ve been able to be close to a woman, you know, in THAT WAY? Do you just gaze at them from afar with sad eyes and then go running again shirtless in the vineyards? We have the drug for you.”

Belle just quit. Apparently it’s because non-hairy beast is rude, but I’m pretty sure it’s because he’s finally wearing a shirt again and she sees it as a step backwards in their blossoming relationship. She better not accept an apology unless he shows up in only his underwear.

Uh-oh, he’s headed to apologize fully clothed. Somehow the apology worked anyway.

Ew Gastony just told Belle he’d buy her the New York Public Library. Which is concerning on several levels, not least of which is his incomplete grasp of how buying and selling things works.

And now it’s furry-beast out for a morning jog. Shirtless, of course, but also pants-less. He’s so much more intense than non-furry beast.

“I would love to be a rare book dealer one day.” Belle says. To which our wealthy out-of-touch hero says, “you should do it!” “It’s a banana, Michael, what could it possibly cost – ten dollars?”

His grandparents met at the library?? How cute is that? Where is that movie?? I would 100% watch a movie about teens meeting in a library. Maybe they could sing Marian, Madam Librarian to each other.

“Forgot to feed Beast” the hero chuckles. Always funny when your dependents go hungry because you’re off day-drinking in the vineyard.

“So you believe there’s a “right one”?” he asks, meaning a soul mate. To which she replies, “Of course, what girl doesn’t?” And then IMMEDIATELY falls over while walking, naturally he follows her down for reasons. I don’t know. An earthquake maybe? Or the dead fiancée’s ghost sending a message?

See now this is the problem with dating someone in your employ. You start “readjusting time frames” to accommodate late night dates at Christmas festivals. No one takes business seriously, she starts cuddling your dog, rearranging the solarium, drinking your wine in your vineyard. Where’s the boundaries of a healthy relationship? What is she charging for or not? Who’s whoring themselves out to whom in this situation??

And now non-furry beast just told her she needs to set some boundaries with her dad. Non-furry kettle, meet pot.

He literally said he was going to throw a Christmas party so that people would “assume we’re each other’s dates for the night.” Which is so sad. This guy deserves a Hallmark movie.

Slow motion tree decorating is happening. It’s so disturbingly sensuous. This is the movie for anyone who thinks I’m kidding when I talk about erotic tree decorating. It’s 100% a kind of foreplay in the Hallmark world.

Oh dear, he’s reading the entire “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” poem to her from a “book” he made when he was seven. For a rare book dealer, she’s distressingly charmed by this. Wow she fell asleep while he was reading the poem. Amazing. To be fair, I was kind of nodding off there as well. I can’t stress this enough, Belle loves books. Loves them. Unless someone opens them and starts reading them. Ugh. BORING.

It is really really, difficult to sell a Christmas movie in California. The sun is shining, people are wearing shorts…so we have to rely almost exclusively on santa hats to affirm this is Christmas.

Barn remodel scene! Almost exclusively done by volunteers while wearing what I’m assuming is the volunteers’ uniform of…Santa hats.

Obligatory ‘it’s beautiful” from the heroine, taking in the Christmas decorations, as the hero looks at her from the corner of his eye and agrees.

Distressingly long make out scene from the barn to the living room interrupted by Gastony who gets worse and worse by the minute. And non-furry beast just ignores literally everything she has to say. My vote is she marries no one and rides off into the sunset on her own.

Ooh good, she’s laying into her lazy father. Love it. More of this. Stick up for yourself, woman! Go specialize in rare books! Go make out with estate sellers in their living room! Steal their dogs! Live the dream!

Sidenote: Always watch movies with captions, you get some interesting info. For example, right now “Techno Christmas music” is playing. Without captions I wouldn’t have known what to call this music that eats the soul.

“Don’t let tonight be the biggest regret of your life.” Non-furry beast is admonished. I guess it’s possible to regret more being kind of rude to a girl you made out with once than losing your fiancée tragically.

Gastony: “I drove all the way up here, I think you owe me a moment.” What a douche canoe. He’s exceptionally well-cast. I expect him to be a romantic lead in another Hallmark movie sooner or later.

She is also wildly overdressed for a barn dance. Or a Senior prom.

She just told Gastony “I love you as a friend” and I just find that impossible to believe. There’s literally no positive quality to associate with him. Nothing remotely friendly. And he just forced several kisses on her, which our hero somehow? Took as consensual and is now mad at her about.

This movie has gone dramatically off the rails in the last five minutes. She definitely needs to get a break from men.

Watching the hero and heroine run toward each other Gastony just rolled his eyes and said “Oh God” disdainfully which is the single most relatable thing in this movie. Because what the hell, non-furry beast just proposed to Belle after knowing her for several days and she accepted. That’s it. I’ve lost all respect for her. You’re on your own, rare book collectors. I can’t help you.

 

A Hallmark Candid Synopsis: Finding Father Christmas

On a certain level I understand that a Hallmark Christmas movie hinges on Christmas being a vitally important holiday that is appreciated, acknowledged, and celebrated — with bells on. But if your only exposure to film was Hallmark channel movies, you’d really have a very terrifying perspective on the absolute necessity of specific Christmas rituals, rites, and saccharine sweet antics.

Finding Father Christmas ticks all the boxes and then some. In a story about a young woman who hasn’t felt up to celebrating the holiday since her mother died during a Christmas play when she was a young girl, this movie needs to make up for any and all lost time. Here’s a short chronicle of the almost cultish obsession displayed with this holiday:

  • Christmas town — You can’t convince me this isn’t a gimmick the producers thought up. A Hallmark Christmas town is essentially a ceramic Christmas village come to life, but instead of that weirding everyone out, they’re happy to live in the snow globe (that’s, by the way, the basis of a totally different Hallmark movie).
  • Tree lighting tradition — Okay, this is a tradition in some places in the world. But can we all agree, this is not a “Christmas necessity”. It’s a fun light show. You could get a better display from a Pink Floyd concert.
  • Gift baskets — I haven’t seen this one before, but basically our love interest’s family has unlimited wealth which is amply displayed in giant pinterest type gift baskets that are given out to the townspeople. And given the off-camera shriek of one of the recipients, it’s the highlight of the year. But honestly, what happened to just mailing out Christmas cards? Isn’t that enough effort??
  • Horse drawn … cart — Yeah, you gotta have a sleigh — or something like a sleigh — pulled by reindeer — or something like reindeer…anyway it’s romantic to go on a ride in an open air vehicle in the winter with a lap blanket and a man wrapped around you. It’s really the only valid excuse for public groping we’ve come up with as a people.
  • White Christmas — I think we can blame several earlier movies for this Christmas necessity. But ever since I could drive I’ve been baffled by the trope. It’s a huge travel day and everyone is thrilled that now the road is an obstacle course with hidden death traps. Happy holidays from the ditch, friends.
  • Christmas eve tradition — The insistence with which people stress “we ALWAYS do this on Christmas eve” had me thinking that maybe it was something major. Like ritual sacrifice. I’d even have settled for a yearly ritual burning of the Elf on the Shelf.
  • Christmas day tradition — In case you weren’t feeling boxed in enough by expectation and history, there’s a Christmas day tradition TOO. Not church though, I noticed. I’m not sure yet if the overt religious themes are being weeded out entirely, but they’re certainly being nixed in favor of what I’m going to term “Christmas religion”.
  • Christmas religion — At some point in the movie someone will be wondering what all this Christmas fuss is about. Why the gift baskets? The lights? The tree? Why is everyone so blessed happy? It’s at this point that our Christmas pro (who probably has a gift wrapping room at the Christmas cottage) gives a small tutorial on “the reason for the season”. It’s not Jesus. It’s “loving people” “life” “taking time for the small moments” “spending time with those you love” “letting people know you love them” “sharing with others”. Honestly, it’s whatever sermonette our heroine has been struggling to grasp for the previous hour+.

My advice is if your own Christmas is lacking in the experience of any of these tropes, watch this movie. You get the vicarious experience with 100% less of the glitter and inevitable family fallout. ALSO This is the first in a series of three. So. There’s so much more to look forward to?

Hallmark Musings: Married by Christmas

My brother in law suggested that for the entire Holiday season I review Hallmark channel films. It’s a family tradition of hate watching sappy romances and mocking them relentlessly that needs to be shared with more people. The catharsis is real. And sometimes the hangover.

All films I’ll be watching can be found streaming on Hallmark’s website. It’s a fairly cheap subscription so if you want to put yourself through this you’re welcome to, I could use the moral support.

I don’t have a real selection process and am open to suggestions for the next films. So let me know what you’re in the mood for.

This week we have: Married By Christmas

Quick Plot Synopsis: It’s always been assumed that Carrie would take over the family company when her father retired, but a provisional requirement in her Grandmother’s will makes the fate of the company uncertain and leaves Carrie scrambling to wed before her sister on Christmas Eve. When it comes to family and business, where does true love fit in? (Yes, I wrote this synopsis. It came easily and I’m very mad at myself because I think it’s really good.)

Below are my play by play notes on the movie.

  • On imdb it’s called “The Engagement Clause” which is an arguably superior title
  • Both the leads are Irish? #diversity
  • The titles scroll over a Christmas tree, because of course they do.

 

  • This is honestly the ugliest house I’ve seen in a movie. This includes that one about the house that kills people.
  • Oh look at that, our heroine is a busy businesswoman and she has a perky not stick thin assistant. She’s going to give our heroine some home truths later in the film.
  • “Love is in the air.” “So is the swine flu, Zelda.” Classic. I need to use this in real life sometime.

 

  • The Dad has entered with a serious Dad paunch on full display. It’s important you know her dad is a real dad. I bet he golfs.
  • Oh man I know this plot. She thinks she wants to be like her dad and be a successful businesswoman and make him proud, but little does she know he’d be proud if she just married a man. This will greatly influence her later in the movie.
  • OMG her dad calls her “Care-bear”. Such a dad.
  • He calls his wife “Sergeant Bitsy”? The nicknames have gone too far.
  • Also just called her “munchkin”, and “my girl”.
  • He does golf! Confirmed.

 

  • Ethan, little sister Katie’s fiance-to-be, is appropriately pretty for a young man in one of these movies.
  • Wow with no sense of personal boundaries. Dude. don’t pick up strangers. Literally. don’t pick them up off the ground.
  • “He also forages.” Is that some kind of innuendo?? I think for Ethan “pine nuts” means something else.
  • Ew he just did creepy foraging fingers. Not charming. Not funny. #neveragainEthan
  • I think they’re making fun of hipsters? But it’s really just white people displaying why a lot of people don’t like white people
  • Care Bear needs more wine in that glass.
  • “Perpetually pesky Carrie” one more nickname from Paunchy Papa.
  • Everyone’s gotta stop saying Turducken. Please.
  • Ethan’s not “divine”, Katie. He forages.
  • Katie and Ethan are engaged. Does this mean he gets a family nickname too? I have suggestions.
  • Oh man. the men went to watch football while the lady folk decorated the tree? Balance is restored. Finally, women being FEMININE and men being SPORTS.
  • Oh this is a delight. Grandma Lucille had “specific ideas about gender roles”, but the next generation is CLEARLY not into that.
  • But all kidding aside, leaving the company to your granddaughter’s husband is the DUMBEST thing ever. Someone should have declared Lucille not fit to make a will.
  • Oh Ethan’s about to be a terrible person. I am so glad he lives up to that godawful sweater he’s wearing. By not wanting to let Carrie have the company. Didn’t he JUST get into this family?

 

  • Introduction to the prime love interest!! Oh and he has “soft” hands and somehow this is VERY good news.
  • HAHA his last name is “Courtney” ahhh what a girl.
  • Excellent they’re adversarial right from the start and for no real reason. My favorite romance trope.
  • Oh she doesn’t shake his soft hand. BURN and a good way to delay their inevitable first brush of the hands and ROMANTIC AWAKENING
  • White girl dramatics are starting. Her life is over. Obviously. How can there be a movie to watch if her life isn’t over?

 

  • Oh she’s approaching this crazy marriage idea like it’s a business contract. Amazing. I love when movies try to pretend like women who are analytical also don’t understand how humans work. At all.
  • MALE MEAT MARKET MONTAGE
  • All these potential stranger husbands pick her up at her door? That seems unsafe for blind dates.
  • Oh classic romance misdirection. Paul from high school, the one who got away. “Paul was just a red herring.” — Me at the end of this movie.
  • Paul is adorable and charming and cute and flirty. This won’t work out.
  • Why are all the men dark haired with the same haircut? or roughly the same haircut? At least we know Ethan wears horrible llama hair sweaters (this is assumed, but he’s totally that type)
  • She took Paul’s hand. There were no obvious sparks. He can’t be the guy.

 

  • “Carrie you’re not still angry with Ethan and me are you?” This from clueless Katie. NOOOOOOOOO Why would Carrie be mad at you for saying you were going to THINK about taking the company away from her? That’s just crazy.
  • OMG Ethan’s best friend is Soft Hands Courtney? He has no first name now, it’s just “Soft Hands”.
  • Ethan and Soft Hands are almost identical. I can’t believe they didn’t just make them twins.
  • Also Ethan is not wearing a llama sweater, so disappointed.
  • Now with all three men in the same room it’s evident that Paul’s not the right guy. He has zero scruff. A five ‘o clock shadow is MANDATORY. That’s how we know Soft Hands is a real man, worthy of love.
  • Oh “wah” “it is going to cost a fortune to ship all of this to Napa!” says the bride to be staring at all her presents that PEOPLE GAVE HER. It’s too bad she didn’t think of charity donations until AFTER she got the gifts. #blessed
  • Christmas decorations montage. It’s too soon. TOO. SOON.

I took a break here before my eyes started bleeding

  • We’re back. Care Bear is dressed like an Elf. I’m sure the “why” will become clear.
  • Is it too much to ask that one of the antlers on her head (she’s wearing an elf hat and antlers because she has no Christmas self control, pull it together Carrie) accidentally stabs Soft Hands in the eye when she puts her head in her hands? IS IT TOO MUCH TO ASK.
  • It is too much. Why God WHY. My life is over.
  • Wow she gave him a candy cane. Both a cheap and unappealing treat. Anything bigger would just be leading him on though.

ICE SKATING MONTAGE

  • Not too many people are brave enough to put a clarinet Christmas solo into their movie. #alternativechristmasspirit
  • Oh she thinks Paul might be perfect. That’s actually how you know he’s not the right guy. That, and the fact that he shaves.

 

  • Oh! perky assistant lady tried to give home truths wisdom and got SHUT DOWN. “Do some assistant thing” Ouch.

 

  • Paul is way too into this movie they’re watching. He and Carrie are destined to be BFFs. I  hope he turns out to be gay.
  • If she wanted to seduce him, should have worn a low cut top.
  • Tbh Paul totally reminds me of me watching a movie. It is insufferable. I apologize. No one likes your movie trivia, Paul!
  • Oh good. Wacky bachelorette guests who drink too much schnapps. Oh! And a little slutty. Fantastic. They’re going to be all over Dylan. And Dylan is going to need someone to save him from those cloying bimbo schnapps females.
  • UGH Ethan take up MORE OF THE COUCH. It’s not like it’s made for three and that you’re sharing it with other humans. It’s possible I hate him for no reason. #neverforgetthellamsweater
  • Someone just said “Festooned” and “Christmas foliage” in the same sentence. I think that means we have to sacrifice an elf.
  • They don’t have cellular reception OR a landline at this horrortastic Christmas cottage? WHY? What kind of commune cult house is this??
  • Paul came bearing alcohol. He is going to need it. I also need it.

Gin break

  • Oh Soft Hands came back from a manly hike to help Carrie bake cookies.
  • She just gave him a naked cookie for a snack. Why would someone give someone else a naked cookie unless you’re trying to send a message? #noonelikessofthands
  • Oh she burned herself. And now we have the hand grazing we’ve been waiting for as he TAKES CARE OF HER.
  • She needs a whole towel for this? Dude, do a shot and slather the aloe and away you go.
  • Paul ruined their moment. OMG Paul go be in a different movie.
  • Maybe one where you can get the girl. You deserve a nice woman, Paul. Or man.

 

  • Sisters who don’t communicate. This is actually a good movie plotline. Why didn’t they just do this.
  • Also Mom can’t pick out presents for shit. This is an excellent sub plot. More of this please.

 

  • This is one of the ugliest wedding dresses I’ve ever seen.
  • “Stevie Nicks lace explosion” excellent dress description. Go team Carrie.
  • Carrie’s selfish for wanting the life she’s been working toward not to be snatched away by her disinterested sister? MMMMMMM not seeing it guys.
  • Wow. Katie and Ethan are the WOOOOOOORST. This is how you ruin families right here. Nice job Grandma Lucille.

 

  • Carrie’s going to roofie Paul and make him marry her in Las Vegas. This is not going to hold up in court.
  • Carrie might be selfish for conning a guy into marrying her so she can get her company back. Maybe.
  • Is Paul’s signature clothing item scarves? Because he seems to own a LOT of scarves. Carrie’s in a sleeveless dress so I have no idea what the weather is right now.
  • She is doing a terrible job of explaining this to Paul.
  • PAUL IS GAY. Oh man. They should definitely get married now. This is a way better movie.
  • Wow Carrie is homophobic. How fun.
  • It’s fine guys. She was joking. and drunk!
  • Drunk dialing Soft Hands. Excellent decision. Sidenote, why does she have his number? I think we missed a crucial plot point here.
  • Also, never in the history of ever has saying “Calm down” helped anyone to calm down.
  • I relate to drunk Carrie on a very literal sober level. *ambivalently waves phone at stranger “can you take care of this?”*
  • There’s a lot of straight guy plaid in this movie, side note.
  • She just fell over and said “shh”. This is some excellent acting right here. She’s an exmplar drunk. I’m just going to assume she’s method.
  • Well that was a long and uncomfortable drunk pajama sequence.

 

  • “I need you to return this and I need to die.” I feel you Carrie.
  • Ooh there’s a home truth. “You don’t own the company now. Nothing has to change.” #zoeywisdom
  • Hungover Carrie Munchkin is not having this excellent wisdom.
  • Wow she doesn’t remember drunk dialing Soft Hands. I wish I could totally erase mortifying moments from my own life.
  • Side note, he’s a corporate lawyer who wears a LOT of not suits during working hours.
  • HOME TRUTH CENTRAL, bring it Zoey

 

  • We have reached the part of the movie where I think Carrie needs to apologize to a lot of people.
  • Drunk slutty bridesmaids are cupids helpers. Drunk girls often fulfill this role tbh
  • One apology down, kind of. Like half a dozen more to go.
  • Ew the guys have a “tijuana trip” featuring in the best man speech. Gross.
  • Apology number two happening right now.
  • Calling someone “pathetic” when they’re actively apologizing? Pretty low.
  • “I don’t think we can allow you to talk to anybody you’re not related to.” Truth Katie. You’re being a dick right now, but it’s true.
  • Okay they’re framing this like Katie is the sensible, reasonable one. And honestly, we know Carrie’s not, but Katie got those mad crazy bride eyes. Sooooooo
  • Side note, getting married on a holiday? Kind of a dick move. I think we all know this is Jesus’ birthday, your wedding does not trump that Katie. Especially in that hideous dress.
  • Carrie’s resigning. Right before their wedding. Ultimate passive aggressive move. Love it.
  • Also, let’s just call this ultimate first world problems — fighting over who gets to own a successful company so the other one can follow their dreams.
  • “I’ve been dreading this since THE DAY YOU WERE BORN.” So dramatic papa nickname. Really??
  • If Ethan is not wearing a llama sweater tux I’m going to be super disappointed.
  • Disappointed.
  • BUT IT’S A PLAID SHIRT so…I feel like we’re all losers now.
  • And his best man is wearing a sweater vest. While Carrie has on a full length strapless gown? Did no one discuss the aesthetic of this event??
  • Oooh coy best man and maid of honor romantic looks over the happy couple #clichesthatwork
  • And literally the shortest ceremony I’ve ever seen. Which is good. I don’t want to know anything more about llama plaid Ethan.
  • There’s maybe 20 people at this wedding and no eligible men so the slutty bridesmaids are dancing with each other. #drunkgirlsdontcare
  • Paul is back. His scarf is missing. And he’s pulling a Rupert Everett from My Best Friend’s Wedding. Not as well though. But I appreciate the sentiment.
  • The cake is in the shape of a log? Oh God. Why did anyone allow this.
  • Wait what the what? She’s going to work for that vineyard that Soft Hands is the attorney for? Yeah you’re right, let’s gloss over this and focus more on the dancing.
  • “i’m a nice guy.” RED ALERT CARRIE. RED ALERT. Nice guys don’t feel the need to say this.
  • Aaaand they’re kissing. And it made me feel uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because it came on the heels of him whispering “I look sexy in plaid.”

 

And that’s a wrap folks. Think fondly of my sacrifice while you watch better movies. #trueheroesanalyzefilms #icantstophashtagging #sendhelp

 

Mistaken Halloween Identity

At some point in my young human life my mom dressed me up for Halloween as a bunch of grapes. I remember being surprised to discover that I was not the only person to ever experience this necessity being the mother of ingenuity costume design.

Honestly, in hindsight and because I really can’t remember if it was at all awkward running around swathed in a cloud of green balloons, it’s one of my favorite costumes.

Not that I wore a lot of them over the years.

A lot of women experience “imposter syndrome” in their adult work life, but I’ve taken it to the next level I think in not wanting to masquerade as anyone but me in most aspects of life – including on Halloween.

But in all honesty, I’ve pretty much always assumed that for women after puberty all costumes must be slutty, and rebelled accordingly, mostly by not wearing them, but also when I did wear a costume, invariably I’d dress as a man.

There was the year I borrowed my dad’s fatigues (not the blood-stained ones) and boots. The bonus to this was that I could wear long underwear underneath. I was probably the warmest person walking around outside in a costume that October.

For my senior year and the class masquerade I decided to go as an old-timey reporter, complete with fedora and one of my dad’s suits from the 70s (that honestly fit me alarmingly well).

I still can’t fathom the rationale of wearing less clothes at the end of October than you’d normally wear in the middle of summer. It’s never made sense to me. Nor have I understood the “excuse” or opportunity to dress scandalously in the name of…what? Pretending to be someone you’re not? Or having the excuse to be someone you’re not?

I suppose it’s not surprising that a lot of women will seize the opportunity to be sexy under the guise of Halloween fun, but I suppose it’s almost a little sad then that in the heights of fantasy and imagination I sought the freedom and power of dressing up in my father’s clothes.

high school halloween

After all, if you’re never going to be a tough soldier, at least for a night you can look like one.

And maybe I was never going to be a hard-boiled reporter tackling the most important stories of the day, but I could dress like one for an evening.

That’s a lot of pressure to bring to a costume, isn’t it? Picking something to change the way people see you, or to become finally the self you wanted to be.

Makes me think maybe kids are really on to something with their costumes. Like the year I was a red crayon. I can’t tell you why I was a red crayon, and honestly, does there need to be a reason? I was a red crayon cause I could be (also maybe I’m a little addicted to costumes with hats, huh).

early halloween

Anyway, this Halloween maybe do yourself a little favor with your seasonal prep and think outside the box like a kid. Go as static cling, or a globe, or a dinosaur – and not a sexy one, just a rad one. (Ps, I’m not going to post a link to it here because ew, but I did find a sexy dinosaur costume after a terrifyingly brief google search. Sigh.)

No Rain, No Flowers

I’ve been planning and saving money to go visit Malta for two years before I was able to afford the adventure. Most people will tell you that anticipation is half the fun of the adventure, and they’re usually right. I was mentally on vacation each time I checked out a rental, or planned which sites to visit, museums to frequent, food I had to eat, wineries I needed to stop by. In my head the vacation was already epic.

If I tell you the trip peaked in the executive Delta lounge at the Seattle airport, you should know I’m only half joking.

Sidenote: Honestly, the executive Delta lounge is a dream lounge. If you know someone who has a lot of air miles under their belt, travel with them just for this privilege. It felt exactly like being a wealthy snob in an 80s movie. That is to say it felt like the kind of rich indulgence that middle class people imagine goes on in exclusive places. They piped in classical music, the seats were spacious, leather, and private. An attendant walked around with a tray of freshly made complimentary smoothies. The water was infused. I spent about an hour giggling because I’d seen The Blues Brothers the night before and just wanted to turn to an old man and say, “sell me your children.” Seriously, watch the clip.

Fast forward to Malta and my friend trying to roll a bag broken by impatient handlers through several parking lots in weather about ten degrees warmer and a billion times more humid than anticipated. And it started to feel like another kind of 80s movie. Things went from sweaty to unfortunate after a glass-shattering misunderstanding at our rental, a canceled reservation for the last leg of our trip in London, and a busybody landlady.

We were only on day two.

The fourth day we were bound and determined to go out and be tourists. Come sweat or high water. I was walking down a flight of stairs and I stepped wrong. I don’t know how exactly, but I fell down about five or six stone steps, bruised my arm, hip, and lightly sprained my knee.

When you’re lying in bed, knee swelling, it’s very difficult not to get ahead of yourself.

Mentally I was trying to figure out how I was going to walk down the two flights of stairs to leave the rental. How was I going to sit in a car if I couldn’t bend my leg? The plane? Go to London? Would my friends have to carry me everywhere? What kind of vacation is that for any of us?

And of course, all the money I spent to get here and I would be spending the bulk of that time…in bed. In bed! I could have just done this at home for a lot cheaper and with less inconvenience. Why hadn’t I just stayed home?

Self recriminations follow once you have enough guilt built-up. I’d know the stairs would be tricky, had already had that conversation with myself once in the previous days. Why had I gotten so cocky as to think I could take stairs like a regular person?? Once you work yourself into a fine state of panic it’s very hard to come back down.

Thankfully I’ve had enough accidents of minorly crippling proportion to look back on to remind myself that premature panic is useful for nothing. It mostly worked. Maltese Netflix also did wonders (one of my guilty pleasures when traveling is experiencing shows and movies that aren’t streaming in the U.S. Who cares about seeing the sights when you can catch up on Brooklyn 99 abroad, right?)

It wasn’t the vacation I’d planned, and not remotely the vacation I’d wanted. But I’m a firm believer that God’s got a sense of humor. So I’m taking the proverb painted on the stairs outside our rental as a sign of that divine mirth that has become a sort of life hallmark; and perennial encouragement: no rain, no flowers.

Enter Malta: Stage Left

Flying a quarter of the way around the world was more exhausting than I anticipated. I crashed fairly hard when we got to our vacation rental. I woke up just in time to catch my friend headed for bed and in the midst of enjoying a midnight snack I heard explosions echoing off the old rock and stone buildings of Kalkara, Malta.

It occured to me that I’d been fairly out of touch with the happenings of the world, and having no context and no concept of time or, frankly reality, and remembering that Malta used to be a highly fortified island of strategic value my second thought was “Malta’s being bombed.” (My first thought was “explosions are normal right? I hear them a lot out in the county — wait, Malta’s not out in the county…”)

I googled “Malta explosions” immediately. Because if this was a planned thing they’d have a page for that. And if it wasn’t there’d be a news article, right? Unless they were bombing the news offices first!!

There were a few more explosions — that unfortunately woke up my friend — and I think at about this time I looked out our balcony door and saw fireworks. No one’s yet bombed a country with gorgeous colorful displays on purpose, as far as I know.

Fireworks. On a Tuesday. A regular Tuesday evening. They happened again the following morning and evening and became a pattern over the next several days and nights. Which contributed further to my disorientation. I felt like we were closing out the nights at Disneyland, watching the show before dragging our tired selves back home after a full day of visual delights.

This odd displaced feeling was compounded by our walks around the city, each street felt like a fabricated blast from the past. How could it be that real people lived behind such incredible facades?

On Gozo we stayed in just such a house. It looks exactly like a set from a play and I had a strong desire to write a comedic love story during our stay there.

fantasy home

Geoffrey enters stage left from the living room’s french doors, Bianca, nervous about a chance meeting, quickly ducks down as she’s running up the stairs, Gillian, comes out of the bedroom reading and, not looking where she’s going falls into the pool.

Walter hears the splash from above and appears on the balcony, leaping into the water below and her rescue. Rose, stealing the feed from the satellite dish on the roof pops her head over the ledge to enjoy the proceedings. By the end of the scene she’s swung her legs over the ledge and begun enjoying the life show before her.

Geoffrey races toward the stairs to grab a towel for her, trips over Bianca and the pair tumble down tucked innocently and accidentally into each others arms, primed for a romantic kiss except Rufus, the dog, has come bounding out of the kitchen with Bianca’s half eaten sandwich clamped in his jaws and decides to join the fray.

Milton blithely continues showering in the small bathroom just around the corner from the kitchen, loudly singing Ave Maria, very off-key.

It’s disconcerting to find yourself in a place that appears perfectly fabricated. Particularly if you’re sweating heavily. You feel kind of like the audience at a play, you may enjoy the delights before you, but you don’t fit the time period or the style or the atmosphere. Vacations always tend to feel a bit like expensive shows to me, for the simple fact that they’re always so far outside my normal experiences. Even when I’m experiencing the normal routine of island life — the fireworks that signal the beginning of celebrations for Victory in Malta Day — it’s surreal to me. Fireworks on a Tuesday.

There’s a relief then in coming home and sinking back into your familiar role, an active actor in your life’s production. At least here I understand where the explosions are coming from, somewhere out in a field, stage right.

Historical Perspective

America’s a funny place to be from. We don’t really prize or value history, our own being so colorful and horrific. The history we do hold onto isn’t very old. Goes, back a couple generations, maybe but not a lot.

I think it’s probably a very American concept to demolish the old to make way for the new – raze to raise up. And it’s not a bad working concept really, there’s something to be said for flaunting tradition and creating new paths and methods for society.

But I traveled to the country of Malta recently and for the first time in my life I actually stood in a place that’s been standing for several thousand years. To be as specific as possible, 3,000+ years. The Ġgantija temples have been in their spot on the island of Gozo for lifetimes upon lifetimes.

And what struck me when I first saw the ruins was that, well let’s be honest, it’s not that impressive. It’s a few walls of rock. I could say that to you, and that thought certainly crossed my mind, but briefly.

Because I’m standing in a place that people have stood in, all through history, either for religious purposes, or after it fell into disuse, for accidental purposes, or for tourist purposes.

temple 2

And, a quick aside about other tourists. Back when this place was becoming a tourist destination again, in the 1800s or so, people carved their initials into the rock to commemorate their time at the oldest religious site on earth. In their defense, selfies didn’t exist, but also, let’s not defend these monsters who defaced the oldest known religious site in the world. Anyway.

There’s not a lot I can tell you about the temples that wouldn’t be true of other ancient ruins. What people know about thousand year old history is understandably pretty limited, but you can’t quite deny the truly humbling nature of being around something that had a far greater lasting impact than probably anyone could have anticipated.

Certainly, a greater lasting impact than any modern person thinks of leaving behind. I don’t know. Maybe the ancients had a different view. Clearly based on their use of stone and the size of the stone they intended things to be built to last and to matter. But standing there inside Ġgantija, which means “giant” there is a sense of proportion to be felt, a historical humbling. And you do feel small. How can you not? Next to the ambitions and passion of a people with an enduring vision.

Of course, you leave the temple and you’re back on the street and around the corner looking for an ATM next to a Chinese food restaurant. And sure, these are in old stone and rock buildings that have probably been around for a few centuries too, but it’s nothing next to the thousand year old structure you just visited. But that restaurant wasn’t always for Chinese food, that spot in the wall didn’t always hold an ATM, and people didn’t use to visit that temple to get their picture inside of it.

History is transforming all around us, and it’s people that are transforming this world we live in, shaping the places we visit, giving them meaning, giving them purpose, making them beautiful, making them useful, making them work, or tearing them down to make way for something new, something that builds on the old and makes it stronger and more lasting.

Or at least I hope that’s what we’re doing.