As N and I watch just about every Hallmark Christmas movie each year, and as I have mixed feelings about this, about the entertainment quality of this, and about the point of it, I figured one way to make this mindless watching feel less mindless would be to live blog about each one. I’ve started this series late, about 6 movies in, but I’ve started it.
It’s been a while since I’ve done this. I don’t know whether it’s worth doing. Since the last post we’ve watched a number of Xmas movies. In one, the Woman was a dog therapist, and the movie had a puppy in nearly every shot. In another, the Woman was a museum director who fell in love with the subject of her PhD dissertation who traveled inadvertently through time to be with her at Christmas. In another, a Woman who loved Christmas movies found herself inside of a Christmas movie and had to fulfill a Christmas movie plot to get out of the Christmas movie and back to her life (which magically had the Man in it, transported from the Christmas movie, and I was like: how is he getting a social security card?).
None of this content needs blasting. I’m spending hours absorbing content I wouldn’t recommend to a single person. I have more important things to write. But also, a thing you hear a lot about Hallmark Christmas Movies is that they’re formulaic. Yeah, duh. So is a sonnet. Probably I love HCMs not just because I love Christmas (children love Christmas), but because I love the feeling of watching puzzle pieces fall into place.
The fantasy of the world even possibly working like that.
Anyway, premise: in this tiny town named Pine River, every Xmas, a tree appears in the town square overnight and it’s called The Angel Tree, and we’re to believe that nobody knows how this happens, that small towns aren’t filled with nosy people on whom nothing is lost. So then, once The Angel Tree appears, you can write a little note and hang it on the bough and your wish on the note will come true. It’s like a goyishe Western Wall.
The Woman grew up in Pine River, and if she can go back and get the scoop on who does all the wish-granting, then her boss will put the story on the “main page of the app” and give her her own column. The app or magazine or whatever is called Aspire. So that’s how the Woman, in the big city, gets shipped to the small town that Hallmark pushes on every big city Woman in its universe.
She arrives before the AT is up. My guess is the Man will be Matthew, her friend from when she was a teen and lived in town. That’s a thing I’ve seen a couple times already this year—it happened in the violinist movie: a friend from childhood who was never a love interest becomes in adulthood the Man the Woman wants to kiss and love. Does this happen to real humans? Women readers: have you jerked off to the thought of male friends you were never hot for in high school?
Okay the AT is now up. “Look, Mom, they’re already hanging wishes!” says the Niece. She’s a True Believer. The Man is a True Believer. The Woman lives in the city, which makes her something else.
Strip Peter Dinklage of half his hair and all his charisma and you’ve got the Man. The chin of his beard is white, which is generous of Hallmark to allow. No news on his ass yet, but I’ve already given up hope. His job is diner-runner. The Woman is a new-to-me face. I like her. Is it the husk in her voice of the thickness of her hair that makes me trust she’s good at her reporter job? Or is it simply that her job is Reporter and not Event Planner? She reminds me of a former student I admire. I think the Niece is actually the Daughter, and now the adults are trimming a tree with the Niecedaughter and a boy her age, so maybe these two are both single parents wearing ribbed sweaters? Oh, no, okay the boy is the Nephew of the Man. Oof, this is busy casting.
At this point the Woman is interviewing townspeople about their past experiences with Angel, the carefully ungendered person the town believes is behind all the decades-long wish-granting. At 28 mins in, my guess is that Angel is everyone; it’s the town working together without quite realizing it. The Man believes that the town is going to work hard to protect the identity of Angel, which you know. I’m probably right, and I’m never right about this stuff.
How do I feel about this? Much of me loves it. The fantasy of Hallmark smalltown movies is that we might find ourselves living in communities where everyone knows everybody in a way that somehow creates zero conflicts (and as a white man I’m able to enter into this fantasy more readily than others). Our middle sister is usually the family member most eager to forego gift-giving around Christmas, because which of us Maddens really needs more stuff? But this always bums me out, because one of the ways I’ve marked adulthood is how I’ve found greater joy in giving people the right gifts over getting what I myself hope for. It feels so good to give somebody a thing they didn’t know they’ve wanted and that they suddenly enjoy. It’s hard work to find this thing, but it’s worth that hard work, and Yuletide is the time of year that we’re all just trying to give and give and give. So I’m right now 100% on board with this movie, and also 1.5 martinis into the night.
You, reading this right now? I love you for reading and being yourself. Happy Holidays.
Oh no. Oh no. The Woman’s article. Usually about 50 wishes get granted each year, but now, with the article, there are 50 wishes hung on the tree in just the first day. I want to watch the Woman reckon with her guilt about this. (Of course it’s begun over a mug of cocoa.)
Aha. The plan is that the Woman and the Man are organizing two dozen townspeople to pitch in and help in the work of granting all the excess wishes. So again: this proves my theory. I mean, I know I just performed enthusiasm for this movie’s premise, but it’s very thin, right? Unless we’re to believe what the Daughter believes, that Angel is Santa (confusing the hell out of the nativity story), I can’t see how this town isn’t by now fully bored with the aggressive samaritanism of one of its older citizens.
Oh, the Man just made a drag pun! “I think we sleigh’d it.” The Woman has been wearing high-waisted acid-washed jeans that bloom wide around the ankles. Hallmark has discovered 2016.
So Owen is the Nephew. That’s the Nephew’s name. Owen. It’s Owen. Owen is probably the Hallmarkest name. Owen’s mom is overseas fighting one of our two useless forever wars it’s wrong to still feel patriotic feelings toward, as much as Hallmark is trying, and she’s so sad she won’t make it back for Xmas—though not sad enough to defect. I was wrong about this with a previous post, but in this movie about wishes coming true by Angel, if this Army lady doesn’t show up in the movie’s last 5 minutes I’m going to start to believe (and publish) that Hallmark hates the troops.
Almost Kiss just happened, in the Man’s diner, but it wasn’t interrupted by the needy Daughter. All we heard were footsteps running off, and there in the diner’s doorway was a red envelope that we’re to understand is “from Angel.” Here’s the thing with Almost Kiss: they’re continuing now, 2 minutes later, not to kiss. They’re in a gentle argument about Owen that’s not worth getting into here, but it’s enough to not get them back in the mood to kiss. Which feels…? So you’re inches away from the lips of a person you want to kiss, and someone/something distracts you. Don’t you go back to the kiss approach ASAP?
Wow shit, this Almost Kiss has led right in the same scene to the All Is Lost Moment: the Woman just said to the Man that he doesn’t understand anything about who she is. When someone says, “I’m gonna go,” you know that there’s no hope for love to happen for the next, oh, couple days of story time. We’ve got 29 minutes left, so I’m taking this AIL even less seriously than most.
Are you asking me why? The answer is easy: I don’t care if these two get together.
Wait. Owen’s mom is in South Korea? We’ve got enlisted people in South Korea that the U.S. decides can’t be sent home for Xmas for, like, a week? Like North Korea is going to attack the moment we let people be with their families. Ugh. Hallmark might be inadvertently producing some of the best anti-military propaganda we’ve got.
Well that’s not true. Is it worth pointing out here that I’ve never seen a person of color serving in the military in the Hallmark Cinematic Universe?
The only thing interesting about this movie’s premise is the mystery of Angel in a town of people who seem communally disinterested in easily solving that mystery, but because it’s a Hallmark movie we need to focus instead on this budding romance between people I don’t want to see get together.
Oh shit, the Army mom is back! There’s so much movie time left! That’s nice of them. Nice to let this actress enjoy more of the set than just a trimmed tree by a fire, or even worse: a foyer near a front door. Somehow the Woman “pulled some major strings” to get the Army mom home. (Her name is Zoe, the Army mom. Classic Army mom name!) Turns out the Woman once wrote a story about the very base Zoe is stationed at, and just made a call. That’s our military for you, giving reporters whatever they need.
So: who cares about a Hallmark Christmas Movie? We’ve got 13 minutes left, and we all know what’s going to happen. If a HCM is a sonnet, what do we do with this one? The magic of a sonnet is the way the content fits, or exudes from, the rigid form, and me I’m charmed by this one’s throwing Almost Kiss right up against All Is Lost. I’m charmed by saying Yes to both Niece and Nephew, when I assume any movie can only bear the weight of one needy preteen.
But these are formalist pleasures. They soothe a brain that indulges itself in its brainy analyticness. Whatever a HCM has to teach me I never want to learn—they are rife with saccharine banalities that seem hell bent on denying like 90 percent of the realities of being a person in the world in 2020. Formulaicness is a pleasure, but lies are something else. I’ve been lied to all year, is that what’s souring me on this cute blog project?
Final Grade: B+