There is Gold Among the Dross

I’ve made it over the hump and feel encouraged that I may survive through 50 of these movies. It helps that in this most recent bunch there’s one movie that I think is unironically good: well acted and genuinely moving. Good movies remain rare, but most of the movies I’m watching – not all, mind you – have at least some redeeming moments or performances. I’m trying to learn to spot and appreciate the gold among the dross. Or, if it’s not real gold, at least I can appreciate the shiny, gold-painted bits.

Speaking of trying to learn…I’m learning that a lot of people I wouldn’t expect enjoy these movies. More men than I would have guessed, more “progressives”, more younger adults. It’s not just your Southern Baptist Nana in Tennessee who has made these movies such big business. My initial assumptions were wrong, and probably a little snooty.

Official Entry #26: Every Other Holiday (2018)

Watched: November 30, 2019

Tracie is a single mom to two little girls whose only Christmas wish is to spend Christmas with both parents, at their grandparents’ house. Can Tracie and her ex, Rick, get along for a few days for the sake of their daughters? Even more of a challenge, can Tracie’s parents get along with the man who broke their daughter’s heart? And can Rick prove to Tracie that he’s a changed man?

Our Romantic Leads: Tracie (Schuyler Fisk) and Rick (David Clayton Rogers)

Their Meet-Cute: I don’t know about the meet-cute, but there are some sly references to what these two childhood sweethearts used to do in the corn field.

Star Power Casting: Dee Wallace and Glen Morshower as Tracie’s parents. Dee Wallace (ET, The Howling, Cujo) has the more recognizable name, but Morshower has been in loads of things, including regular roles on Jag and 24.

The 110% Award: It’s not that kind of movie.

Observations: Okay, I really liked this movie. I mean, unironically liked it. Maybe my standards were a little low because of the dross that preceded it, but this seemed like gold to me!

Schuyler Fisk is Sissy Spacek’s daughter and seemed like she might be heading for something great when she starred in early 2000s movies Snow Day and Orange County. I thought she was great then – pretty, but not in a cookie cutter way, and with a naturalness on screen. I still think she possesses those qualities. I don’t recognize David Clayton Rogers from anything, but he, too, gives a solid and believable performance.

If you think Dee Wallace, as a very controlling and judgmental preacher’s wife, seems unrealistic…well, I’m sorry, you haven’t spent enough time around church people. And I say that as a lifelong churchgoer and preacher’s kid. Glen Morshower’s character came as a suprise – a pastor who is empathetic, kind, and tolerant. Woot!

There are certainly parts of this movie that fall into the hokey, Hallmark-ish movie traps, but they’re relatively few and far between. And the bit with Rick being relegated to a tiny folding chair at the family dinner was both funny and painful. No one knows how to twist the knife like family.

Official Entry #27: Holiday Road Trip (2013)

Watched: December 1, 2019

An overly ambitious career woman working at a luxury pet product company is assigned to take a cross country promotional tour – right before Christmas, natch – with the CEO’s ne’er-do-well son and Scoots, Jack Russell terrier and brand ambassador. They encounter colorful small town characters, get arrested, fall in love and learn life lessons. Also, Scoots gets booked on Wink Martindale’s talk show.

Our Romantic Leads: Maya (Ashley Scott) and Patrick (Patrick Muldoon)

Their Meet-Cute: Maya knows Patrick from work. She thinks he’s an idiot.

Star Power Casting: Shelley Long as Maya’s mom, George Hamilton as Patrick’s dad. Also Donna Pescow (Saturday Night Fever, Angie), Susan Olsen (The Brady Bunch) and Mindy Cohn (The Facts of Life).

The 110% Award: Brian Nolan as the hairstylist for the Wink Martindale show. Imagine the stereotype of a male hairdresser, then multiply by five.

Observations: This was quite a comedown after Every Other Holiday. It’s not great.

Patrick Muldoon was in Melrose Place and Starship Troopers. He’s got an oily bohunk kind of vibe, and was playing a 35 year old in this movie when he was (as near as I can tell from his bio) 50. It does strain one’s credulity.
There is an especially stupid sequence involving Patrick as a stripping Santa at a retirement home. For the love of God, can we stop making old women’s sexuality a joke in movies? I haaaate it.

Uggie, as Scoots, gets less screen time than I had hoped. If a dog is on the movie poster, please give him a lot of screen time!

Finally, please enjoy the unique performative stylings of Donald H. Read as “Man in Park”.

Official Entry #28: The Holiday Calendar (2018)

Watched: December 2, 2019

Please don’t confuse The Holiday Calendar with The Christmas Calendar (2017). In The Christmas Calendar, the calendar is filled with notes from a secret admirer who turns out to be the dead grandma. In The Holiday Calendar, the calendar predicts the future. Don’t get it twisted.

Abby is an aspiring photographer being wooed by a seemingly perfect doctor, on a series of perfect dates. Meanwhile, her lifelong best friend waits for her to realize that he’s the real one for her. He even joins her in working as an elf at a local Santa’s Village, which is surely a sign of true love.

Our Romantic Leads: Abby (Kat Graham) and Josh (Quincy Brown)

Their Meet-Cute: As is the case in a lot of these, they’ve known each other since childhood. I had no idea going into the project that this was such a trope. I should have put it on my bingo card.

Abby does have a meet-cute with the perfect doctor, Ty, when his Christmas tree falls off his car and she runs over it.

Star Power Casting: It’s Kat Graham herself, who was a regular on The Vampire Diaries

The 110% Award Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll as Fernando the elf. Fernando is the “comic relief”, though you should take the words “comic” and “relief” with a grain of salt.

Observations: This movie is located in the Netflix Christmas universe, which means you wind up with an Escher’s world in which characters watch Netflix movies on TV, but also overlap from movie to movie. So a character here is scrolling through movies on the Netflix home page and passes A Christmas Prince. HOWEVER, the character of Abby is also in the movie The Knight Before Christmas in which someone mentions visiting Aldovia, the fictional country from A Christmas Prince. So Aldovia is both fictional and real within the world of The Holiday Calendar. It’s like Schrodinger’s cat. I want more of this, as it gives me a riddle to try to solve as I watch the movies.

Kat Graham is very pretty and a decent actress. Quincy Brown (the son of P Diddy) is a far less accomplished actor. Perhaps he’ll grow.

Speaking of Quincy Brown, I said to my teenage daughter, as she watched this with me, “That’s P. Diddy’s son!” “Oh, wow! P. Diddy’s son!” she replied, with sarcasm. “Mom, I have no idea who P. Diddy is.” “You know,” I said, “Sean “Puffy” Combs. Puff Daddy.” She just looked at me blankly and shook her head. How fleeting is fame!

This movie was inoffensive but not especially interesting. And when you’re trying to get through 50 of these, you really need them to be interesting.

Official Entry #29: The Truth About Christmas (2018)

Watched: December 4, 2019

Jillian is the campaign manager for her aspiring politician boyfriend, George, and is accustomed to spinning the truth – or outright lying – until she makes the mistake of lying to Santa. Suddenly, on her first visit to meet her boyfriend’s family, she finds herself completely incapable of lying. Much awkwardness follows, as she assassinates Grandma’s traditional stew recipe, tells George’s mom truth about her and George’s living arrangements and completely blows up family brunch. But soon Jillian is uncovering deeper truths about herself and her dreams, and will be a better person for it. Thank you, Santa!

Our Romantic Leads: Jillian (Kali Hawk) and George (Damon Dayoub)

Their Meet-Cute: If this is explained, I missed it. It’s possible. I was struggling to stay interested through much of this movie.

Star Power Casting: I’m having to trust IMDB on this one. Damon Dayoub was a cast member on NCIS and the character of his younger brother, Blake, is played by Ali Ghanour, a regular on The Goldbergs.

The 100% Acting Award: Kali Hawk, in some early, panicky scenes. Her voice gets higher and higher and more weirdly babyish – causing my daughter to walk into the room, hear one line of dialogue and say, “What is with her voice?!?” Good news – Hawk settles down after a while.

Observations: Well, this is just a rip off of Liar, Liar, right? There must be pitch meetings for these movies that are like, “It’s Liar, Liar, but at Christmas.” “It’s Groundhog Day, but at Christmas.” “It’s The Proposal, but at Christmas.”

There are a few unusually good lines in this movie. When Jillian is trying to explain to George why she’s operating without a filter, she says, “I think it’s a curse!” and George replies, “You’re blaming this on your period?” I laughed. Also, at brunch, among other things Jillian admits that she’s always hungry because she never wants to eat too much in front of the very image conscious George. She begins frantically consuming all of the food that is placed in front of her and George’s brother, Blake, says, calmly, “I like a thick girl.” Again, I laughed.

CALL THE PRESS! Something amazing happened in this movie! It ended with Jillian not in a relationship. Halfway through the movie, I wrote in my notes, “I can see the ending coming from a mile away.” But I was wrong. Yes, indeed, Jillian and George break up, but it’s a very amicable breakup. George is a good guy, not a terrible big-city boyfriend. He’s just not the right guy for Jillian. And while the movie seems to hint that Jillian and Blake would be a better couple, it doesn’t actually take us there. The movie ends with Jillian supporting George in his run for mayor, and George cheering her on as she launches a campaign for city council. The end!

Official Entry #30: Broadcasting Christmas (2016)

Watched December 4, 2019

Emily and her ex-boyfriend Charlie are competing for the same high profile co-host position on a network morning show. Of course, after the initial squabbling and suspicion, they find love again and – shocker! – both get the gig!

Our Romantic Leads: Emily (Melissa Joan Hart) and Charlie (Dean Cain)

Their Meet-Cute: Who knows? Who cares? Not me!

Star Power Casting: Well, aside from our illustrious stars, this movie features Jackée (227; Sister, Sister) and Cynthia Gibb (Fame, the series)

The 110% Award: Ash Santos as a production assistant who wines over the phone in a way that would get her fired on the spot, if I managed that station.

Observations: A movie starring Melissa Joan Hart and Dean Cain seems like pure, uncut Hallmark. Like dangerously uncut. I’m not made for this. Even thirty movies in, it overwhelmed my system.

Remember when Dean Cain wasn’t a terrible person? Maybe he was always a terrible person and we just know it now because Twitter amplifies it.
Dean Cain played a terrible atheist in God’s Not Dead. Melissa Joan Hart played a persecuted Christian in God’s Not Dead 2. A pox upon both of them for being involved in that franchise.

The moral of this movie comes from a woman with a 100-year-old fruitcake. I’ve already forgotten what the moral is, but I know that in the end, Emily says that Charlie is her 100-year-old fruitcake.

Want to support this endeavor, feed hungry kids, and help me get through movies 31-50?  Go here to learn about the great organization we’re supporting, and comment here to let me know if you want to pledge. You can also make a one-time donation, and that is fantastic, but please let me know if you do. We’re trying to get a rough idea of what this fundraiser accomplishes so we can all celebrate together at the end.

Some Running Totals from All the Movies So Far

Dead mothers – 11
Characters own restaurant, cafe, or diner – 8
Snowstorms – 11
Characters shown baking – 12
Terrible “big city” boyfriends (probably work in finance) – 10
Cute, extremely clumsy young women – 6
Dramatic interruptions – 5
Characters pretend to be dating, engaged, or married – 4
“Adorable” children – 16
Adorable dogs – 5
Overly ambitious career girls – 11
Quaint, Christmas-obsessed small towns – 10
Christmas proposals and weddings – 5