A Guitar Heavy Holiday (Music Thoughts: Farewell December, Matt Nathanson)

I don’t normally listen to the kind of music Matt Nathan son sings – he is. singer songwriter, basically a guy with a guitar. But I don’t necessarily dislike his particular style. But I was intrigued that he has a track here that features the San Francisco Gay Man’s Chorus, and I thought that was an unlikely and interesting combination, so I went ahead and listened to the rest of the album.

And yes, this was a very pleasant listen, and I have to be honest, I don’t know if I will ever listen to this thing again. The track with the chorus, ‘Christmastime Is Here’ is very nice, and there are other tracks that appealed to me: his version of ‘Mamacita,’ and his cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘River.’

But the rest just went over my head, if I have to be honest. His guitar heavy tracks like ‘Snow’ and ‘Father Christmas’ just did not appeal to me, and one track, ‘Granda Got Run Over’ just flat-out grated on me. But I am sure those tracks will have fans of their own.

Christmas is Love (Series Thoughts: Dash & Lily, Netflix)

I’m in love with the Netflix Holiday-themed series ‘Dash and Lily.’ It’s light without being dumb, and it oozes romance from its pore, and it never feels forced. Looking at the poster, you might be tempted to think that it is a generic Christmas story, like something you would see on Lifetime or The Hallmark channel, but it is much better than anything you will find in those channels. It is smartly written, and even though it has YA sensibility, most people, especially hopeless romantic, will not be immune to the show’s charm.

The series is about two teenagers, Dash and Lily, who ‘meet’ through a red notebook filed at The Strand Bookstore right next to Franny and Zoeey. From there they give each other a series of dares where they both get out of their shells, and int he process get to know each other more. The series give their love story obstacles, but they are all plausible – the show never insults your intelligence.

It also celebrates New York City during the Holidays. I have always felt that this is the time when the city is most beautiful, and the show captures that completely. I will probably be alone on Christmas this year and I plan on re-binging this show during then.

A Turkey (Movie Thoughts: Frindsgiving)

It’s Thanksgiving Day during a pandemic, and I am all alone at home. I am miserable, looking at the four walls of my studio apartment. I read a favorable review of ‘Friendsgiving’ from The New York Times and I figured, I would just watch this to cheer me up. I mean – it has a solid cast: Malin Akerman, Kat Dennings – surely I would get a laugh or two from these people. If anyone can make me feel something. they would be able to.

Big mistake. I never got into any of the characters – they were all as miserable as I was, and most of them unlikeable. And I felt sorry for Jane Seymour who tried too hard to achieve ‘something’ here and miserably failing. Oh well, I guess the experience is on brand for 2020.

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.

Caught In Middle America (Film Thoughts: Hillbilly Elegy)

When I started hearing that ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ was bad, I did not know how to react. J.D. Vance, the author of its source book, is a big Trump supporter and there’s a part of me that wants to sock it to him. but I also feel for the cast, most of whom I really like, especially Glenn Close and Amy Adams, two actors who have both been ignored by The Academy. But I know I still wanted to see the film and gather my own thoughts about it. I think Netflix is the perfect avenue for this film, too, as it will reach a much wider audience than it probably would have.

Well, the film isn’t the worst thing in the world, to be honest. But it also isn’t good. I have not read the book, but from what I gather, it spews out a lot of Republican talking points. The screenplay by Vanessa Taylor has no time for the politics so she whittled the story down to a family drama, and I can’t say I blame here. What we get is prime melodrama about a family and its struggled with drug addiction, poverty, infidelity – you know, the usual. Close and Adams do sometimes chew the scenery, but what else are they going to do here? Close fares just a tad better especially when you see how successfully they transformed her to Mamaw, the family matriarch. Sure, I got caught in a bit of the story, but then at the same time, I forgot the film as soon as I finished watching it.

His Affection and Her Confession (Television Thoughts: A Teacher S01 E05)

By the end of the fifth episode of ‘A Teacher,’ Claire confesses to her friend Kathryn that she is having an affair with Eric. Kathryn is shocked, and disgusted, telling her ‘I have to report you!’

This episode ends with the audience realizing that the sh*t really hits the fan now. Claire has just come back from a weekend birthday celebration with Eric (he has turned 18) and they had a happy celebration there but upon coming back, they have both realized that there is turning back now – that this thing really has gotten too far. When Eric comes back home to his mom, his familial existence seems dwarfed by his enormous feelings for Claire.

I liked this episode a lot, as a lot happens here, and at the same time, the next episodes are set – what kind of repercussions will this mean for Claire, for example? Mara and Robinson are both so good you take both their sides (really, I kind of understand Claire) and you both feel for their opposing fates.

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.

All About Aaron (Christmas Movie Thoughts: One Royal Holiday)

I don ‘t know why I don’t watch The Hallmark Channel more. I mean, am I not supposed to be the Ultimate Hopeless Romantic? Or is that the younger me? In any event, the lure of Broadway brought me to watch ‘One Royal Holiday’ because it stars Aaron Tveit – the dreamy Aaron Tveit. And he is paired with Cinderella herself, Laura Osnes, along with her Fairy Godmother Victoria Clark. I mean, any Show Queen worth her Playbill collection would rush to see this movie.

And it is glorious. Yeah, I know it’s kind of cheesy, but it cuts right through the chase to your heart. The cast is Class A adorable and you will find yourself swept up with the story and festivities. I had a smile plastered on my face the whole time.And sure, I cried at all the right moments. And Tveit is just as handsome as he can be, even with sketchy British accent, which you will grow to love over the course of the film. My only complaint is that they don’t get to sing in the film (except for the opening credits)

But go see this, and I bet it wioll cure part of the pandemic Holiday blues.