Treat Kristen Like Crap (Movie Thoughts: The Happiest Season)

Can I be a Kristin Stewart fan even though I am not a big fan of the Twilight films? Or maybe I should say that I am a fan of hers despite the fact that I a not a fan of Twilight. Seriously, I think I have loved her in every movie I have ever seen her in – including her latest, Clea DuVall’s ‘Happiest Season.’ This year, there is a slew of Christmas movies with queer content from Netflix to Lifetime and this, which is streaming on Hulu, brought there after the pandemic. The film sounds right by my alley – a lesbian rom-com with all the bells and whistles.

I only like it, unfortunately. There was something about the energy of it that was a little bit more low-key than I wanted, and I thought Stewart didn’t have much chemistry with Mackenzie Davis, who plays Harper. Stewart plays Abby, who gets ;invited’ to Harper’s family’s Christmas celebration. The hitch, of course, is that en route there, Harper confesses that not only is she not out to her family, Abby now has to pretend to be her roommate. The situation gets worse when they arrive, and Abby becomes the doormat of all doormats with Harper and her family treating her like crap. First of all, the whole set up feels like it’s 2010, and isn’t Pittsburgh progressive? Didn’t Biden win the state by 180,000 votes? Thank God there’s Aubrey plaza’s Riley, a lesbian ex of Harper who becomes Abby’s ally. There is more chemistry between Aubrey Plaza , who plays Riley and Stewart that you wish Abby ditches Harper for her.I found the film mostly enjoyable, or maybe tolerable. Stewart is obviously the star for me, but I have to say that the whole cast each gets moments – Alison Brie as Harper’s elder sister is a delight in all her scenes. And Dan levy is underused as Abby’s best friend. I wish I connected to it more, or believed more in Abby and Harper’s romance to make the film matter more to me.

Delta Dawned (Music Thoughts: Only Santa Knoes, Delta Goodrem)

I know Delta Goodrem is very popular in her native Australia, but I still don’t know here that much. I have listened to a lot of her recordings, but nothing has stuck over the years. I know I wrote about her Olivia Newton John tribute album a while back. but for the life of me don’t remember much about it – I am not even sure if I did like it.

Sad to say, I still feel that way about her after listening to her new Holiday album ‘Only Santa Knows.’ Nothing is still sticking to me. I can’t zone in on her voice – I mean, it’s very good technically, but it just doesn’t hit me in my heart.

For me, I just felt like she went through the motions here, and don’t remember any of the songs even after listening to them. Yes, it is anothjer case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me.’ Sorry Delta.

Pop Goes The Shawn (Movie Thoughts: Shawn Mendes: In Wonder)

I wasn’t really expecting a lot of depth watching the documentary ‘Shawn Mendes: In Wonder,’ because, to be honest, this is about a twenty two year old Canadian pop star, so how deep can it go? The film is a breezy look at a young man who got famous for his peppy pop love songs.

Cue in adoring tween girl fans from all over the world – cue in Shawn’s changing hair lengths, and ‘inside look’ at his romance with fellow pop star Camilla Cabello (‘All my songs are about her’)

Listen, I won’t knock the film – I went and saw it the minute it went live on Netflix. But I am not going to pretend that this film will change anyone’s lives – it’s a ninety minute advertisement for Shawn and her new album.

At This Time (Music Thoughts: This Time of Year, Maxine Linehan)

Maxine Linehan grew up in Ireland so she has fond memories of Christmasses in her youth, so it makes sense she would do a Christmas album. To be honest, I had not heard of her before, although her output includes shows and tributes to both Petula Clark and Barbra Streisand. Her live shows have garnered great reviews.

This Holiday album has twelve tracks, and there are only five traditional Holiday songs. The rest are her own compositions, including the title track which she is promoting. I wish I could say that the original songs are memorable. I have played the album twice now and nothing has stuck.

And since she lives in Southern Vermont, she includes a cover of ‘Moonlight in Vermont.; It’s nice, but kind of out of place here. While she does well eniugh with teh Silent Nights and Happy Christmasses, the mood is all over the place for me. I have extracted her ‘The Perfect Year’ for one of my Holiday playlist but i don’t know rally if I will listen to the other tracks again.

The Man (Television Thoughts: A Teacher S01 E04, Hulu)

Episode Four of ‘A Teacher’ brings us deeper into Claire and Eric’s relationship. Or affair. And all I can say is, you are in danger, boy. In the beginning of the episode, we see Claire trying to establish ground rules. But we see that she is the first one to break it, to extend its parameters, just to suit her whims. Why? Is she a bored housewife who just wants some ‘spice’ in their life, and that could be understandable because she seems to be quite unhappy with her marriage. In her dalliance with Eric, we can see that she is in control, and perhaps that is what she is looking for. In the beginning, the audience is a little bit complicit with the affair – dare I say that I was rooting for it to happen because I thought it would make the characters happier. I don’t know if I feel that way after this episode. I don’t see an upside for Eric – he is madly in love with Claire, and you and I know that this will end in disastrous tears. He can exclaim to himself ‘I am the mf man,’ but I think we can all see he is on the losing end here    
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The Sky is Falling (Television Thoughts: Pilot, Big Sky, ABC)

I don’t know what compelled me to check out David E Kelley’s new show ‘Big Sky.’ I mean, it’s not like I was a fan of his previous shows like L.A. Law or Ally McBeal (I kinda hated that one, actually) Then I realized, yeah probably the allure of Ryan Philippe got me interested. He was promoting the show incessantly and before I knew it, there was the show, on Hulu, calling for me. I just answered the clamor.

What a bore. First of all, Philippe is wasted, with a bland character who probably had ten lines in the first episode, and it even looks like he is killed at the end. I am sure I am not the only one they lost there. The rest of the show is about kidnapping, human trafficking, about spoiled brats who got themselves in troubler because of bad decisions they made. I am out.

Time and Tide (Film Thoughts: Time/I Am Greta)

TIME AND TIDE

Now that we have Joe Biden as our President-elect, maybe finally our leader can address certain issues that have been neglected by the current administration. I recently saw two documentaries about two big issues that are country is facing.

Garrett Bradley’s ‘Time’ addresses systematic racism. It centers upon the story of Fox Rich, a woman whose husband has been incarcerated. It shows her plight in raising her six sons because of an error in judgement. As a young couple in desperation, she and her husband robbed a credit union, and they got caught. She accepted a plea deal and served three and a half years in prison, while her husband did not, and was judged to serve sixty years without parole. She highlight the systemic racism for black and brown people – white counterparts would probably get a slap in the wrist for a similar crime.   The film is told from black and white videos that Fox has recorded over the years. This is a most touching film, and will open your eyes to the fact that behind these crimes and prisoners are human beings.

And human beings are affected by other issues, and one of the biggest ones is climate change. On the forefront of this is Greta Thunberg. This fifteen-year-old made waves with her September 2019 United Nations speech where she addressed this issue in front of world leaders, and her voice and message reverberated everywhere. This film gives us a lingering glimpse of the young person here, starting from when she started a strike in the Swedish Parliament House as her name gets more widely known. It shows her meeting French President Macron and the Pope. It shows the movement that she started, and how young people are inspired to engage int his issue because of her. It made me cringe how right wingers have demonized her – she is such a confident unapologetic figure that in some ways she is an easy target. I bet you will get out of the film admiring her more than you already have.

Carrie On (Music Thoughts: My Gift, Carrie Underwood)

Carrie Underwood give her fans a Holiday gift by releasing ‘My Gift,’ her first album of Holiday music. And it is exactly the kind of Christmas album you would expect from her.

One of her biggest hits is ‘Jesus Take The Wheel,’ and there is no shortage of religious-themed carols here. You got your ‘Mary Did You Know,’ your ‘Joyful Joyful,’ your ‘Sweet Baby Jesus,’ so you can say that she really knows her audience.

I found her voice to be predictably competent, but also kind of boring. I don’t think she stretched herself creatively here, (it sounds like she phoned it in) But then again why should se? I am sure this album will sell tons, and will make a lot of people happy. I just wish there was more of anything else here.

Nesting (Film Thoughts: The Nest)

Rory O Hara (Jude Law) has a million dollars in his bank, and he feels like he is the King of The World (the film is set in the heady 80s, so imagine the amount pre-inflation) for some reason, this is not good enough for him and he wants to go back to his native London, uproot his family, and work as a Commodities Trader in the burgeoning London Financial Market. His wife Allison, played by Cary Coon, is skeptical, but goes along for the sake of her family. When they get there, he rents a palatial house In Surrey and situates his wife and kids there, but the family’s world starts to crumble – what happens next is a domino effect of things heading south – Rory loses deal after deal, Allison’s beloved horse dies, their elder daughter gets involved in drugs, the youngest son has a difficult time adjusting to his new school. In ‘The Nest,’ Writer/Director Sean Durkins films all of this in darkness, and you feel the starkness of what is happening to all the characters. Law is great, a slithering sly charmer who uses his skills to lure, but does not really know what he is luring them with, and Coon matches him scene by scene – her Alison becomes unhinged, and we see the character lose it all – literally and figuratively. If there was justice in the world, she would be a front runner for her performance. The final scene is a genius – a family who realize they are down in the depths, but somehow their despair still brings them all together, and even as the situation is bleak, you know that they are going to be alright. 

You’re An Education (Series Thoughts: A Teacher, Hulu, E01-03)

‘A Teacher’ is an uncomfortable watch – that’s my reaction as I finish watching the third season. It stars Kate Mara and Nick Robinson as a high school teacher and student, respectively. She has just started at an Austin area high school, he is the star soccer player. She is a bored housewife trying to have a baby, he has a sensitive demeanor unlike his other classmates. I can see where the attraction from both sides coem from. And of couirse, by the end of the third episode, the inevitable happens – they have sex.

yes, it’s a jarring concept, but the show makes you a little complicit with the affair. The two make such an attractive couple, and they are both great actors that I have to admit I was kind of rooting for the two of them to get together. And then I realize, yikes, she is his teacher, and we are reminded of the warning title in the beginning of the show that scenes of grooming can be uncomfortable to watch. The narrative is just starting, and yes, I am already hooked into finding out what happens next – the consequences, the heartbreak, the legal trouble they both get themselves into.