Random recent TV show ramblings

I’ve been a bit uninspired lately–as I suppose happens when you’re in lockdown again, so I thought I would ramble about some of the television series I’ve finished watching recently, just for fun.

Before I do that: I got my first vaccine shot! It went fine, although my arm was very sore for at least a day afterwards. My next appointment is in August, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

On to the television:

Shadow and Bone: Like millions of other people, if the viewing numbers on Netflix are anything to go off of, I recently finished watching the first season of the fantasy YA adaptation Shadow and Bone. Shockingly, while I had heard of the books, I had never actually read them. That may have to change, because I loved the series. It’s set in a historical fantasy kingdom where an orphaned girl learns that she is a Grisha, a person who has a magical ability. And not just any Grisha, she is the Sun Summoner, who is essentially a figure of legend and prophecy, with people hoping she can destroy the fold, a swatch of darkness and shadow that splits the kingdom in half and is very dangerous to cross. This premise may sound typical of YA fantasy (the “chosen one” is a common trope), but it didnt feel derivative or boring to me at all. The characters were really interesting, the worldbuilding was fun if overwhelming at times, and the aesthetic of the show is beautiful. I loved it, and it made me both interested in a second season and interested in reading the books.

The Nevers: The mid season finale of the first season of this HBO show aired, so it’s yet to be even a full season, but I thought I would talk about it anyway. It’s set in Victorian era england a few years after a mysterious event caused people–mostly women–to suddenly develop powers. The series follows two women and their group of the “touched” as they fight those trying to oppress them and/or capture them, and figure out various mysteries along the way. This is another series I’ve been really enjoying. Without spoiling it, I’ve loved how its developed so far, and how it fits into many of my specific interests. I love the Victorian era clothes and I think the cast and the quirkiness is really great. I’m interested to see where it goes next.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: I don’t think I’ve talked about it enough, but I’ve devoured pretty much everything Marvel has put out over the past decade or so, and the Disney Plus shows are no different. I loved WandaVision, so TFATWS had big shoes to fill. WandaVision also had the advantage because I thought it had a more unique premise and did something different, so I was looking forward to it more when it premiered. However, TFATWS was amazing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the action scenes, I loved the character exploration, I loved the overall arc, and I loved a lot of the themes that it chose to present. Like every show on this list, it isnt free of fault or of criticism, but overall I that it was a fantastic watch. I also just really missed Marvel content. I’m sorry, I love a superhero.

The Irregulars: Sadly, this Netflix show has been cancelled after this first season (I think it was a victim to Netflix choosing to promote Shadow and Bone, which premiered only about a month later, instead of it, which sucks), but I really enjoyed it so thought I would talk about it anyway. This was another Victorian-era set show, where a group of ragtag teenagers in London find themselves working for the strange Doctor Watson and his mysterious associate Sherlock Holmes as they investigate a series of supernatural crimes and events in the city. I have watched pretty much every Holmes adaptation there is, and I thought it was cool that this came at it from a different angle and included a supernatural component, so this is another show that fit right into my specific interests. I do think it wrapped up in a way that would make it satisfying to watch just the first season, but there was so much potential there and wish it could get a second season. It was really fun and creepy and enjoyable to watch.

I have, of course, watched a lot more TV this year. But this is what I’ve completed in the last month or so, so will leave it here for now.

I talk about Golden Globes nominations because why not

I know the problems with awards shows. I know I often curse the choices made, or the lack of women in certain nominations, or lack of POC, or lack of queer people.

But I still love an awards show. And I MISS awards shows. Even the ones that have been held in the last year just haven’t been the same. And I would know–I watched them all regardless because goddammit, I miss awards shows.

When it comes to awards shows for movies and television, I admit while I have often heard of most of the nominees, I’ve never seen them all. I love TV and I love movies, but these awards shows (especially the Oscars) have a tendency to award certain kinds of films and disregard others (see this excellent YouTube video on the concept of Oscar Bait). Sometimes though, I simply haven’t seen the films or shows yet and end up thoroughly enjoying them whenever I do (examples include: Parasite, Jojo Rabbit, Hidden Figures, The Favourite, and The Marvelous Mrs Maisel for TV, all of which I watched after their awards run). Every year I mean to watch all the nominated films and at least one episode of each the shows, and every year there’s something in the line up I either just cannot bring myself to watch or have no interest in. And so I never do.

While Oscar noms aren’t out yet this year (the ceremony was pushed for obvious reasons), the Golden Globe nominations were announced today. So why not go through them and talk about what I have seen, what I haven’t, what I have heard of, and if I am interested. I won’t bore you with every single performance category, so will stick to the main ones.

Best Motion Picture: Drama

The Father: Vagurely remembered the trailer so went to go rewatch. It looks deeply depressing so I honestly probably won’t watch it. The cast is amazing though so I’m sure it’s good, maybe one day I will watch it if I want to be sad.

Mank: Have yet to watch, but it genuinely looks interesting. I think it’s cool that it’s in black and white. Biopics can be hit and miss but this looks like it was told through an interesting lens.

Nomadland: Had no clue what this was and had to google. Reminds me of books I did not like to read in school. But it has Frances McDormand and as usual I am sure she put in a great performance.

Promising Young Woman: REMIND ME TO WATCH THIS. I have been really interested but just have yet to take the time to sit down and watch. It looks really good and I am amazed I managed to avoid all spoilers.

The Trial of the Chicago 7: LOVE this entire cast. I have also not watched this, which makes me 0/5 in the drama category. Not super surprising honestly.

Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: I didn’t even watch the first one in full. It just gave me too much mass secondhand embarrassment. Props to Sacha Baron Cohen for being in two nominated movies though (he is also in Trial of The Chicago 7)

Hamilton: I may have mentioned once or twice or three times on this blog how much I love Hamilton. It won many Tonys during its musical run for this same original cast, which I think is extremely well deserved. It deserves awards for the speed of Daveed Diggs’ rapping as Lafayette alone. I don’t expect it to take this category but know I love it.

Music: There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this movie, as is expected when a non-autistic person makes a film about autism also starring a non-autistic actress. Haven’t seen it, do not plan to do so.

Palm Springs: I have been wanting to watch this since it came out but we don’t have Hulu in Canada, for some strange reason. It was recently released on Crave here so it’s on my to-watch list after Promising Young Woman. I love Andy Samberg.

The Prom: This was a surprising one, but I am aware there aren’t as many options for nominations this year due to COVID-19. This was fun and cute and light. It’s a musical and I can never hate a musical. I would not choose it as the winner though.

Best Motion Picture: Animated

The Croods: A New Age: I have seen the trailer for this and I will say I am not the intended demographic and leave it at that.

Onward: I really enjoyed this film. It was cute and charming and really heartwarming. I’m also a big Tom Holland fan and am happy he is having such a successful year.

Over The Moon: I had never heard of it but it looks very cute. Again I think a bit specifically younger skewing.

Soul: This movie is absolutely beautiful both visually and in its plot and message, so I am 100% cheering for it to win. Fantastic. I need to watch it again already even though it gave me an existential crisis and then fixed it again.

Wolfwalkers: I had never heard of it but I looked up the trailer and LOVE the animation style. It looks really good honestly, I will add it to my to watch pile.

Best TV Series, Comedy

Emily in Paris: I watched Emily in Paris. I enjoyed Emily in Paris. It was fun and fluffy and I was obsessed with Emily’s outfits (me and the actress, Lily Collins, are really similar in size, so I just kind of…imagined it all on me). But why on earth is this show nominated?? I’m truly baffled. It’s cute, but I think there are so many other shows in the comedy category that should have taken its place. Especially since this category turned out very white.

The Flight Attendant: This show honestly took me by surprise with how good it was. It was so well written and I really loved the visual choices made in the show. I’m happy that lead Kaley Cuoco was nominated because I think she deserves it for the work done here. Watch it if you haven’t, you will just want to keep going.

The Great: I watched one episode of this show the other day. I love the leads, and I like the basic concept. But as someone who is into Serious Period Pieces, I kind of…wish it was one of those? Or at least slightly more historically accurate? I will probably try another episode though to see how it goes.

Schitt’s Creek: Am I a bad Canadian if I never religiously watched this show? I’ve watched a few episodes here and there and always enjoyed it, I just wasn’t watching from the beginning. This show SWEPT the comedy Emmys, so wondering if it will do a repeat.

Tad Lasso: I have heard of it, but have never seen an episode. It’s apparently quite good hearted which is promising. Maybe will check it out.

Best TV Series, Drama

The Crown: Oddly enough I am a period piece lover who…has never watched The Crown. My mom likes it? I heard good things and the acting was very good from episodes I have seen, although sometimes leaned almost a bit too much into impressions.

Lovecraft Country: Anyone who says there isn’t good horror in TV shows hasn’t watched this show. Some of the horror and supernatural elements in some episodes are truly horrific and yet I could not look away. I think the way it handled historical events and combined them with classic film tropes and horror elements was very well done. Loved the musical choices made as well, including old Black spirituals and speeches from activists.

The Mandalorian: I tried so hard to get into this show. I love Star Wars! Pedro Pascal is great! I LOVE SPACE. I LOVE SPACE SO MUCH. But I could not get into it. I’m sorry Space.

Ozark: I’ve seen parts of this show walking into the room while my dad had it on. I don’t think it’s for me, but I like the grey aesthetic and acting looks great.

Ratched: I’m almost surprised I haven’t given into this Ryan Murphy series yet. I just don’t understand why anyone thought we needed background for this particular villainous character? But that’s Ryan Murphy for you.

Best Limited Series or Movie

Normal People: One of the biggest shows of 2020 and I have not watched it and kind of have no interest in doing so. It just doesn’t draw me in. The cast seems very charming though. Love the accents.

Small Axe: I have not watched, but JOHN BOYEGA WAS NOMINATED FOR THIS and I am very happy for him. This also doesn’t particularly draw me in as a show, but I may watch the episode with John.

The Queen’s Gambit: I LOVED THIS SERIES. I know everyone did, but for good reason. This mini series about chess, of all things, managed to keep me riveted the entire time. Anya Taylor-Joy was a big part of that, and I’m so happy she was nominated for this as well as for Emma. The costumes were also magnificent, I love that era in fashion.

The Undoing: Everyone talked about this show while it was airing and I honestly still don’t really know what it’s about. I think there’s a mystery so I will probably watch it eventually.

Unorthodox: Another one that got quite a few nominations at the Emmys, and another one that doesn’t personally appeal to me. I’m sure it’s very good.

Clearly, I have homework to do.

In which I have feelings about book adaptations

The other day, Netflix revealed some of the cast for their series adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s comic book series, The Sandman. I am a fan of that series, and was really excited to hear that not only would there be an adaptation, but that Neil Gaiman would be heavily involved. I knew the author himself would be able to do the very best to bring the comics to the big screen.

There’s been a lot of book adaptations over the years, and I have watched a lot of them. The quality of these vary. Sometimes a great movie or series isn’t always a great adaptation. Sometimes it’s both a great adaptation and a great movie/series. Sometimes it’s neither. There will always have to be changes made when going between mediums, but sometimes these changes are for the better and sometimes they are not.

ADAPTATIONS THAT MAKE ME GENUINELY MAD

Howl’s Moving Castle: Now this is going to be a controversial opinion, because this movie is generally very well loved. But here’s a confession: I’ve never actually watched the full thing. How could it be on this list then, you ask? Because even the parts I have seen, even the trailer, are so far away from the book I love that it makes me angry. The book “Howl’s Moving Castle” is written by Diana Wynne Jones, an author I have sung the praises of before, and is one of my favourite books. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s touching, it’s strange, it’s set in an interesting world with interesting and imperfect characters and cool and new ways of looking at magic and doing magic. And yet that’s all thrown away because the movie wants to be…whimsical. It’s not true to the humour of the book, or to the spirit of the book. The characters are softened around the edges. Not even THE MOVING CASTLE ITSELF is done right. The world in the book “Howl’s Moving Castle” feels like a real world, even with its use of magic and spells and demons. The movie doesn’t show me that world. Maybe it’s a great movie in itself, but I know I will never be able to enjoy it.

Ella Enchanted: I will forever list this as one of the worst movie adaptations of a book I have ever seen. If I hadn’t read the book, I wouldn’t think the movie was a masterpiece, but it’s harmless and fluffy enough. But having read and loved “Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine?? I am genuinely offended by its existence. The movie takes the rough concept of the book and some character names and basically creates its own early 2000s family friendly fantasy movie with it. That’s annoying enough, but doing that to ELLA ENCHANTED? A beautiful novel with a bleaker take on the story of Cinderella with fleshed out characters who change and grow and an interesting love story and a detailed universe?? YOU HAVE ALL THAT AND YOU GIVE ME SINGING CHRISTMAS ELVES? The insult! I await the day when Neflix or Amazon prime or the BBC or someone does a proper mini-series adaptation of this book.

Artemis Fowl: I read all of the Artemis Fowl books growing up, and there were always rumours of a movie but it did not come to fruition until 2019, released in 2020 on Disney Plus. I could not believe that after all those years…this is the movie fans of Artemis Fowl got. They really took some rough plot points and the character names and descriptions and said “good enough” and proceeded to make a generic kid hero movie. The worst part about it is that the Artemis Fowl books should be SUPER EASY to adapt. You can easily picture the action, scenes, and dialogue while reading the books. But the movie didn’t even maintain THE MAIN CONCEIT of the series–that Artemis is a 12 year criminal mastermind who captures a fairy for his own gain. THEY COULDN’T EVEN KEEP THAT. That’s the whole point?? It’s not like it wouldn’t be “appropriate” for kids, because KIDS READ THE BOOKS. It’s just laziness and a lack of respect for both the source material and the intelligence of their audience. Maybe I will have to wait another two decades for a proper adaptation.

ADAPTATIONS THAT ARE GREAT IN ALL WAYS

Good Omens: We started this post with Neil Gaiman, and we are coming back to Neil Gaiman. “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett is one of my favourite books. It’s funny and weird and irreverent and it’s about the apocalypse. I was really excited when I heard that it wasn’t getting a movie, it was getting a whole mini series to be released on Amazon Prime. Gaiman was heavily involved, writing the series and acting as showrunner because he wanted to make sure the adaptation was done right not only for the fans, but in honour of the late Terry Pratchett. He absolutely did that. The series was amazing, managing to capture the comedy of the book, the emotion, the tone, the weirdness. Everyone was flawlessly cast and put in fantastic performances, from the child actors to Frances McDormand as the voice of God. I absolutely recommend it even if you haven’t read the book, and I recommend reading the book too.

His Dark Materials (the HBO series): I may be jumping the gun a bit since the third and final season of this series will not be released until next year, but for now I feel safe putting this here from what I have seen. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman were books I read over and over growing up, and can always return to. They’re pretty intense and serious in a lot of ways, but I was always so drawn in by the world and the characters and how it tied in magic and religion. I was so glad when it got a series, because although it’s a trilogy, there’s no way to capture the full scope of even one book in a single movie. They were able to include scenes and characters that would not fit in otherwise. I’m also glad they did it when there was enough of a budget that it LOOKS beautiful. I’m really interested to see the visuals for the next season and hope they do just as well adapting the final book as they have the first two.

Emma (2020): I’ve watched pretty much every Jane Austen adaptation out there, but I have to give a shoutout to this 2020 adaptation. The costuming was flawless, it was so well acted, and it was engaging and clever and funny, just like Jane Austen’s writing is. I think it also let its leads be less than perfect while the audience still roots for them. I even mentioned it as one of my favourite films of 2020.

I DON’T FEEL AS PASSIONATELY ATTACHED TO THESE BOOKS BUT DAMN THESE ARE GOOD MOVIES

Stardust: And Neil Gaiman makes his third appearance on this list! I don’t remember this book very well for some reason (maybe I will make a point to read it this year), but I adore this movie. I think it’s massively underrated and should be a fantasy movie classic. It’s just full of joy. Please watch it if you haven’t.

The Princess Bride: Yes, this is actually a book adaptation! I would say this is one of those movie adaptations that has overtaken the book in the public consciousness. It’s an absolute classic and I’m fairly certain I can recite every word of it. I can’t even remember the first time I saw this movie, that is how much it is a part of my brain. If for some reason you have lived under a rock and not watched it, do so.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World: I’ve only read the first few graphic novels in the series that this movie is based on, so I honestly don’t know how the hardcore fans view it as an adaptation. I know it does make several changes, although to me the movie still feels true to the spirit of the graphic novels. It’s a really fun movie with a hilarious cast. It’s also very stylized, and I know that isn’t for everyone but I am one of those people who LOVES a visually stylized movie. Give me all the aesthetic. It’s also set in Toronto, so special points for that. Again if you haven’t seen it, do it.

SOME QUICK MODERN ADAPTATION SHOUT OUTS

Clueless: Another Emma adaptation, but set in Beverley Hills in the 90s. It’s somehow still a better adaptation than Ella Enchanted. Fun and cute and funny and a fave always.

10 Things I Hate About You: This classic teen movie manages to adapt one of the most sexist Shakespeare plays, “The Taming of the Shrew” into a hilarious non sexist teen comedy where Heath Ledger sings a Frankie Valli song. We love to see it.

West Side Story: Another Shakespeare adaptation, this time turning “Romeo and Juliet” into the a battle between two gangs in 1950s New York City. It’s also a musical with iconic songs and beautifully choregraphed dance numbers.

I could keep talking about adaptations for hours, I really could. I love books and I love movies and I love television and it’s inevitable that I have opinions when the worlds come together. Including some very passionate opinions!

Why true crime?

Tonight I finished watching the Night Stalker docuseries on Netflix. it followed the case of Richard Ramirez aka the Night Stalker, who committed a series of murders, assaults, attacks, and kidnappings in Southern California in 1985. The story was told by the detectives who worked the case, as well as members of the press, some families of victims, and some survivors. It also covered the court case for Ramirez and everything that followed. It was a really well done docuseries–informative, straight forward, and interesting.

I’ve always been interested in true crime stories. I was reading a lot of mysteries and murder mysteries at a young age and also enjoyed various procedurals and mystery shows. These were all fictional of course. But I was also very interested in history from a young age, and with that came real life mysteries, real life crimes, real life unsolved and solved cases, real life murders. I know I’m not the only one. There are so many docuseries and documentaries and YouTube channels and books about true crime because it captures the interest of so many people. What is it about true crime stories that interests some of us so much?

I think part of it for me is the mystery solving aspect of it. I like stories and I like puzzles. It’s fascinating to see pieces come together, to see exactly how detectives solve the case, or to see what stops them from solving the case (often: bureaucracy). I like seeing the historical context and how that might help or hinder the case. It’s all really fascinating.

But I can’t pretend there’s not some morbid part of me, as I think there is in many others, that is fascinated in a horrified kind of way at how many terrible acts some human beings are capable of committing. I’ve read and watched stories of people doing such awful, shocking things, ranging from the truly over the top (if you haven’t looked up Ed Gein…you know what maybe don’t, save yourself) to the simply vicious. These horrible things are committed by people, people who have jobs and go grocery shopping and have families and had childhoods. Sometimes the monsters are just…humans.

I think I consume these things in a pretty healthy way. It doesn’t impact my life, or my mental health, nor do I feel anything but horror and disgust for these people. But that doesn’t mean everyone is the same. Richard Ramirez was a genuinely evil human being–and he had groupies. He had women writing him love letters and sending him raunchy pictures, some even getting off on the fact he was “dangerous.” There are also people who are inspired by these stories–copycat killers, internet attention seekers, etc etc etc.

But does that mean we shouldn’t have any of these documentaries or television shows or long write ups in newspapers? I don’t know if anything would be accomplished by doing that. I think despite living in the age of internet fame and notoriety, the kind of person who would kill for attention would be doing something damaging no matter what. Maybe what’s important is making sure these stories aren’t romanticized, or sensationalized more than they need to be. Maybe if these stories are to be told, we should make sure that they are told with respect to the victims, with consent from families and survivors. Maybe it’s important to make it about facts and problems and not headlines. Maybe we need to be reminded when we learn about true crime and serial killers that these aren’t myths, these aren’t legends, these are people, not bigger than anyone else, but capable of real, human, horrors.

Fave Movies I saw in 2020

It’s December 20th and you know what time of year that is…the time of year end lists. I was in the mood for a list, and so I thought I would share some of my favourite movies that I watched in 2020. They didn’t all come out in 2020, but I watched them all for the first time this year. This also definitely isn’t every single movie I watched this year–as you can probably tell from earlier posts, I have spend a lot of time in 2020 watching film and television. But these are some that stand out in my mind as I look back at the year.

Emma (2020)

I love Jane Austen’s novel Emma, I love the modern adaptation Clueless, and I love period pieces in general. So it’s no surprise that the 2020 Emma was one of the highlights of the year. The movie is an aesthetic feast between the colours, the cinematography, the historically accurate costumes, and the beautiful cast. But every single one of those aspects is more than just there for aesthetic purposes. The shots, the lighting, and the costuming all are integral parts of the story. The cast is perfect, finding the perfect balance of emotion and humour. I absolutely loved this film.

The Half of It (2020)

This was a Netflix original movie that I watched with no knowledge because I thought it looked interesting. I cried on and off for half an hour when it was finished. That sounds like an exaggeration, but it isn’t. Something about this movie just hit me hard in the chest that day. It isn’t a romantic love story as much as it’s about friendship and identity and belonging, as much as it’s about different kinds of love.

Parasite (2019)

If you paid even a little attention to movies or awards show last year, you heard about Parasite. Everyone everywhere was talking about it. And they were absolutely right to do so. This thriller is genuinely amazing. There’s so many layers to it, so many universal concepts of class and money and family and fear. It 100% deserved all of the praise and accolades it received. Go watch it if you haven’t–don’t be scared of subtitles!

Jojo Rabbit (2019)

Another big name on the awards circuit this year, it’s a bit hard to describe the plot of Jojo Rabbit without sounding absolutely insane. But this was one of the most unexpectedly powerful and heartfelt movies I watched in recent years. It’s not always an easy watch, in places, but it’s worth it. This movie is also hilarious–not surprising when it’s directed by and co-starring Taika Waititi, who I love (Thor Ragnarok is one of my fave Marvel movies, and if you haven’t seen his film What We Do In The Shadows, give it a shot, it’s one of the funniest movies I have ever seen). This is another one absolutely deserving of the accolades it got.

Coraline (2009)

It’s surprising even to me that I hadn’t watched this movie before this year–it has an animation style and aesthetic that I love, is kind of creepy, and based on a book by Neil Gaiman, whose work I really enjoy. But I hadn’t, so I took the opportunity this year around Halloween to finally sit down and watch. I did not regret it! Even though this is made for kids, I think the imagery, animation, and storyline is still enjoyable for adults. There’s also some genuinely creepy images and concepts, especially in the latter half of the film.

But I’m a Cheerleader! (1999)

This is another movie I was surprised I hadn’t watched yet. It’s a cult classic that I had seen on recommendation lists for years and years, but never really got around to watching. Despite seeing it often recommended, other than a basic idea of the plot, I had no idea what to expect. But it was quirky, fun, funny, and also genuinely heartwarming. If like me you have missed out on this movie, give it a watch!

Frozen 2 (2019)

Okay HEAR ME OUT. This was the last movie I saw in theatres before the pandemic. I have such a vivid memory of me and my (fellow adult) cousins driving home from the theatre and immediately turning on one of the major songs, “Into the Unknown” because it was just that great a song. And also in general…I love Disney movies, and I loved this one. The animation was beautiful, there was more of an intense story than the first (which I also saw in theatres, for the record), and the songs are all great.

Honourable Mentions

Buffaloed (2020)

Quirky, weird, and held up by the performance of lead Zoey Deutch, who I absolutely adore.

Work it (2020)

As a dancer I am legally obligated to include a dance movie on this list, no matter how cheesy, especially when there is actually good dancing and actual dancers in it.

Enola Holmes (2020)

Another one for a slightly younger demographic and the costumes are not very accurate but it’s fun and fluffy and has absolute brick house Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes so that’s fun.

These Aren‘t Movies but Close Enough

Hannah Gadsby: Douglas (2020)

If you haven’t watched this comedy special, what are you even doing? It’s hilarious and touching and clever and hard-hitting.

Hamilton (2020)

I was supposed to see this in theatres this year, and sadly couldn’t. Luckily I have this original cast recording and soundtrack to watch and listen to on repeat now.

Dashing in December

I was a bit unsure of what to write about this week, with both topics I considered feeling a bit more personal or a bit more maudlin than I felt like going in depth. But then, last night, I watched the cheesy Paramount Christmas movie, Dashing In December, and I knew I wanted to write about that instead.

If you didn’t know, tis the season for cheesy holiday movies. Hallmark, Lifetime, and Paramount all fill up their schedules with cheesy, fluffy, formulaic, holiday themed romance movies. And of course, I watch too many of them. While some are better than others, these movies are notorious for being predictable, very clean and PG-rated, and overwhelmingly white and heterosexual. While they have made a few tiny steps towards being less white in the past few years (and I mean tiny, it will be like 2/25 with a non-white lead), there’s yet to be one with a non-straight lead pairing. But in 2020, both Lifetime and Paramount came forward with gay versions of their cheesy Christmas movies.

When I saw the trailer for Dashing in December, I could tell it was more or less the exact formulaic set up as the typical movie of this genre, but it starred two men instead of a man and a woman. So of course, I knew I had to watch it. I was not disappointed; this movie contained many of the Key Elements of the genre and Common Plot Beats that I recognized from watching movies of this kind over and over again.

(I guess I should warn for spoilers ahead, even though I won’t be recapping this movie moment by moment. So now you know!)

The leads: While of course this time around, the leads are both men, they both embody some of the classic archetypes of this kind of movie. Wyatt is a big city man with a busy office job, living in Manhattan and working as some kind of financial planner. You know he’s busy and important because his boss reminds him to bring his laptop home for the holidays, and also because when he started describing his job I just heard static in my brain. We also know he is busy and important because he hasn’t been back home to his small town for Christmas for years, but he is going back this year (a very important staple plot beat). We are informed of this when we meet his mom, who owns a ranch. It is there that we meet our other lead, Heath, who works as a farmhand on the farm and has never met Wyatt before (because Wyatt never comes home), and doesn’t even know Wyatt is gay. He’s handsome, he loves horses, he cares a lot about the ranch, he is loved by everyone but a bit of a loner romantically (this is very important). He isn’t perfect because he is kind of judgmental of the Big City and over idealistic, but he is generally Good. Meanwhile Wyatt is well intentioned and good at heart but can be a jerk sometimes and often prideful.

Secondary Characters: Other important characters include 1. Wyatt’s mom (who is played by Andie Mcdowell from Four Weddings and a Funeral) who is a kind southern woman whose husband died fifteen years ago and is just trying to make ends meet and maybe have a second chance at love, 2. Blake, Wyatt’s high school girlfriend turned best friend and also I guess Heath’s best friend, she’s mostly there to be a sounding board and exposit things and miss her husband, I liked her, 3. Blonde couple who were both friends with Wyatt and Blake in high school, I do not remember their names.

The first meeting: They have a really awkward first meeting, immediately rubbing each other the wrong way for reasons that honestly make more sense when they are both men. I feel like Heath is more in the right because Wyatt is rude right away and ALSO we learn that he’s trying to convince his mom to sell the ranch, which Heath does not appreciate at all. I know this nearly sounds like Wyatt is the villain here, but it’s very important to note that in these movies, things like wanting to sell the family ranch always come from a well meaning place. Wyatt has been quietly helping his mom make payments on the ranch for the last few years and worries that this isn’t enjoyable or affordable for her anymore. They also fight because Heath says his horse and Wyatt’s horse (Dash, get it?) are in love, and Wyatt just disagrees with that on like a philosophical level.

Bonding Moments: Heath accidentally burns his hand on a kettle and we then experience a KEY MOMENT in these films–the moment when the characters who have been antagonistic towards each other up until this point find common ground. In lighter films this can be a shared super specific interest or habit, and in those with more drama, like this one, it can get more serious. Dashing in December includes bonding over the loss of a parent (pretty common trope), bonding over loving horses, and bonding over the love of the ranch. A brand new addition to this oeuvre of films though? Bonding over being gay in a small town. I know I keep calling these movies cheesy, but it was honestly a touching moment of understanding between two people.

Random scene with dancing in it: As a dancer, dancing scenes are always welcome. But as a seasoned watcher of cheesy holiday movies, I can admit there are an abnormal amount of dancing scenes thrown in for no reason. In this film, it’s line dancing at a country bar, because horses. I haven’t been line dancing before but it did look like a good time. These scenes are often used to help bring the romantic leads closer together, often with forced physical affection. I give Dashing in December points for subverting this the tiniest bit because Wyatt and Heath don’t dance together at this time, as Wyatt is uncomfortable doing so at a straight bar in a small town. More extra points get awarded from me personally because the actor who plays Heath was on Dancing with the Stars and is a genuinely good dancer.

Awkward moment that doesn’t actually lead anywhere: Wyatt, in his boxers, walks in on Heath getting out of the shower, also in his boxers. The camera lingering on their chiseled bodies and reindeer underwear is about as risque as you get with these movies. It leads to nothing and exists to remind you that they are both hot and attracted to each other, just in case you forgot.

Callbacks for romantic purposes with varying results: Because these movies are only about an hour and a half and they assume you won’t forget anything, there is always a romantic call back or full circle moment. And reader, I love that. In this film, Heath sets up a makeshift homecoming dance floor to dance with Wyatt. This is a double callback, because not only could they not dance together at the bar, but Wyatt had said he had never danced with a boy like he would have wanted to. It’s really cute. Wyatt attempts to do similar by setting up a projector movie night which calls back to a story Heath told him. However this is less cute because Wyatt messes it up and says something stupid and they fight and march away instead of talking about it like adults. This is a very common occurrence.

The music: Dramatic music over the third act angst and conflict! Shania Twain! Guitar twangs of romance! A Sam Smith Christmas song in the background!

Animals: No this is not in every one of them, but cheesy holiday movies LOVE including some cute animals. In this case of course, it’s horses. Honestly I wish there were more horses.

Happy Ending: There is nothing more important to a movie like this than a happy ending. Maybe this is why I watch them so much. No matter what, you know Wyatt is going to come up with a big idea to save the ranch, and you know a happy Christmas song will play, and you know Heath and Wyatt will make up and kiss in the snow. It’s all cheesy and predictable and it’s not “high art.” But I don’t need it to be.

In conclusion, if you love Hallmark or Lifetime Christmas movies, give Dashing in December a shot. I think it does a really good job of being a gay version of the typical tropes.

And if you have never seen a Hallmark or Lifetime or Paramount holiday movie? Well, it’s not like you have anything else to do this 2020 holiday season.

I told you I would talk about Dark

Like a lot of people, I have consumed a lot of Netflix this year. I’ve never been a binge watcher–I genuinely cannot sit myself down to watch more than like three hours of television at a time–and having more time didn’t change that. But I’ve still managed to get through a decent amount of content. Of the shows I’ve watched, one of my faves has been a German Neflix series, Dark.

The description on Netflix for this show reads, “A missing child sets four families on a frantic hunt for answers as they unearth a mind-bending mystery that spans three generations.” I don’t think that does it justice. It’s a well-acted, well-crafted, grounded, riveting, tangle of a sci-fi mystery. It’s one of those shows I can’t even describe much without spoilers, so I won’t say too much here. But I will say that it involves one of my favourite things: time travel.

I’ve loved time travel since I was a kid watching Back to the Future and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure with my parents and reading “A Tale of Time City” by Diana Wynne Jones and “A Wrinkle In Time” on repeat. I’ve loved it through Doctor Who and About Time and Fringe and The Umbrella Academy and Primeval and countless other books and tv shows and movies in the time since. I’ve loved multiple variations of time travel in multiple genres for what feels like my whole life.

I don’t know what it is that draws me to time travel. I do love history and I’ve been a history nerd since I first started reading. There are a lot of time travel stories that get very historical, going back in time to known eras and even referencing real events or artefacts. But that’s not every time travel story. I love puzzles and mysteries; there’s something so satisfying about putting pieces together, having that “aha” moment, and watching a well crafted story unfold. But that’s not every time travel story either. I love science, and space, and the logistics I might not totally understand. But not every time travel story has those either.

Maybe it’s the possibility I love. I love that I can go into a time travel narrative and not be sure what kind of time travel I’m going to get (will it be a closed loop? Is it butterfly effect? is it more contained, or far reaching?). I love that there’s so many possibilities narratively–things can happen that you could otherwise only dream of. I love stories that take scientific or mathematical theories and push them just a bit further into speculative reality, and I love stories where it’s all magic or handwaved away. I love stories like Doctor Who where every person and place and event in time and space is up for grabs, and I love stories like Dark where it’s all wrapped up in the history of one small town.

To get back to Dark, there’s not much more that I can say other than I love this show, and I’m sadly not even getting paid to say it. I finished the series last night and today drew up a whole time travel related chart. This show has literally turned me into the red string pepesilvia meme.

If this is something you’re interested in, I would absolutely recommend it. There are three seasons of about 8-10 episodes each, and it’s available on Netflix both dubbed and with subtitles (unless you are seriously seeing impaired, I would highly recommend the subtitled version, the actors are so good and also you can convince yourself that you are learning German.) I should warn that Dark lives up to it’s name–it can get really damn bleak, and there are realistic depictions of death, violence, and suicide. But if you can handle it, I would give it a try this winter. Maybe you will even feel as strongly about it as I do.