Alex: Now that Christmas is over and the government starts taking away our movies, eggnog, and Stuffies, we move into the next phase of annual celebratory tradition – awards season. And did you know that here at this very blog, we even have our own little awards show too? I call it the Noggies and while maybe not as prestigious as the Oscars or Golden Globes, at least it sure beats the hell out of the Latin Grammies. So hope you are appropriately dressed up and got the office pool all organized because the 1st Annual Noggy Awards show is about to officially kick off!
MOST COURAGEOUS THING
– A Snow Globe Christmas breaks the color barrier
– Steve Guttenberg breaks the religion barrier, playing Santa Claus in Single Santa Meets Mrs. Claus and Meet the Santas
– Shannon Elizabeth actually does her own singing (or so I assume) in Catch a Christmas Star
– Nothing is particularly courageous about a making a movie (WINNER!)
Yes, it’s true. As much as I love watching movies and then shows where people who work on movies get awards and congratulated, it is completely ridiculous to hear that word, “courageous”, bandied about the way it has over the past few years. There are just so many more courageous things one could do in the world than make a movie. Even if technically, by the letter of the law, the word could apply in certain cases, I still don’t want Anne Hathaway to tell me how courageous Hugh Jackman is for doing a job that most of us regular folk dream of. I actually don’t want to hear Anne Hathaway tell me anything, come to think.
BEST ALL-TIME MOVIE
– On Strike For Christmas (WINNER!)
– Undercover Christmas
– All She Wants For Christmas
– Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus
Of course I am talking about all-time, made-for-TV Christmas movie on the stations that I have been covering here. Or am I? These things hold a very special place in my heart and since I don’t find myself writing a blog about, say, the great works of Akira Kurosawa, perhaps Christmas movies really are the best movies ever? And if I had to name a favorite, I’ve got to go with On Strike For Christmas. Like I said in my review, it was the gateway drug for me. Got me hooked. But like I also said, it’s of a higher quality than many of its counterparts and there is less joke fodder, forcing me to confront the very real possibility that I like these movies because I like them, not just to make fun of them.
BEST 2013 MOVIE
– Kristin’s Christmas Past
– 12 Trees of Christmas
– Let it Snow
– All I Want For Christmas
– Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas
– Holiday Road Trip
– Christmas Belle
There were a great many newcomers this year, more than ever as a matter of fact, and I watched just about all of them. Picking a favorite was tough. Nothing quite qualified as all-time classic for me but plenty still stood out. In the end, we went with Kristin’s Christmas Past. Why? The premise was pretty interesting and memorable. A girl goes back in time to 1996 and gives her younger self a little bit of dating advice but nothing about the terrorist attacks on 9/11 or anything else meaningful she could do to have a better future. Probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway because her past self isn’t really interested in hearing anything either, despite completely accepting the fact that this is an older version of her from the year 2013. Then of course there are time travel problems and an actor whose own future most definitely involves gay porn but that’s all part of the fun and the main character was just likable enough to make me care about her and her aunt who had cancer in 1996 but was never mentioned again.
WORST 2013 MOVIE IN A NON-CHARMING WAY
– A Very Merry Mix-Up
– Fir Crazy
– Window Wonderland
– A Snow Globe Christmas
– Santa Switch
Gotta go with Window Wonderland here. Snow Globe Christmas was a bigger disappointment and I still don’t believe that Santa Switch was a totally planned event but WW loses because it fails on all counts, other than its catchy title. I didn’t like anybody, nobody even cared about Christmas, and most importantly, for a movie completely centered around two people trying to out-do each other with department store window displays, said department store window displays were terrible, which kind of turns their catchy title against them. But you can take heart one thing, Window Wonderland. As much as I didn’t like about your movie, I very truly believe that it is superior in almost every way to American Hustle, something being touted as one of the best films of this year, up for many awards, some of them even better than a Noggie. I am completely serious here. Not saying it to be snarky or with any qualifying statement like, “superior-for-what-kind-of-movie-it-is-etc.” It’s just straight up better. Sure, American Hustle required more of an effort to make but if you break down the components of what makes a movie good – story, characters, acting, clarity, pacing, direction – Window Wonderland sweeps every category. And I will defend that statement to anyone who challenges it.
BEST USE OF CHRISTMAS (2013)
– Let it Snow
I didn’t even nominate any other movies for this. I guess Fir Crazy was deserving, kind of, but I wasn’t going to put it through the process of getting its hopes up only to get shut down by the Candace Cameron Bure – Alan Thicke double-team about a ski lodge with so much Christmas spirit, they don’t even allow technology on the mountain, save for technology they do allow, which is some. Plus they gave us little annoying factoids about old timey and other cultural celebrations and events related to the holidays and for that, they deserve a little bit more than just candy in their shoes. But thinking back, I guess Pete’s Christmas used Christmas relatively well, as the plot involved a kid reliving Christmas day over and over again. But one of their holiday traditions was playing football in the park against another group of people (who didn’t seem related, like another family or something) they didn’t even like or seem to know. And then other townsfolk came to watch this pointless, podunk game. That’s not Christmas. That’s not even National Egg Day.
BEST USE OF TROPES (2013)
-12 Trees of Christmas
Again, why even give anybody false hope here? While every one of these movies follow a pretty obvious list of repeated conventions, 12 Trees of Christmas seemed to cram the most in. Actually, there is no “seemed to” about it, I even have a chart where this is scientifically proven (see previous post). But for all the great, tried-and-true classic traditions they followed, I hope they establish a few new ones. Like Casper van Dien growling like Batman for no apparent reason (also like that Batman). That should be in just about every one of these films. Couldn’t hurt, right? Anything other than Casper van Dien’s vocal chords, that is.
BEST TITLE (all-time)
– Fir Crazy
– Snow Bride
– Christmas With a Capital C
– All About Christmas Eve
– Finding John Christmas
– Christmas Twister
Lot of worthy films here but I have to pick All About Christmas Eve because it works on several levels, although some of them perhaps odd and inappropriate. Plus as much as I like the term, “Snow Bride”, and hope it becomes a thing, it doesn’t really apply as well as it should. You might say that well, a girl was found in the snow wearing a wedding dress so thus, “Snow Bride.” But I’d say, sure, except that doesn’t really factor into the movie’s plot ever again and by your logic, we should have called the original Terminator film, “Naked Dude in an Alley.”
CHRISTMAS QUEEN (all-time)
– The Zunes (Daphne Zuniga)
– My Wife
– Debbie Macomber
As much as my wife will always be my very own Christmas Queen, I know she would never support me breaking the rules so I will give the Noggy to the Zunes. She’s in 3 of these movies that I know of – On Strike For Christmas, A Family Thanksgiving, Christmas Do-Over – and they’re all solid, in large part due to her. Take On Strike For Christmas (please!). She’s the perfect mother and wife who makes the holidays and life itself magical for her family, despite being under appreciated and the fact that her husband is an alien. Seems easy enough but I think it’s a lot tougher to make this actually believable. To make you believe and feel for the person. This is the power of the Zunes. She could even win a Latin Grammy. Even though there is no such category and I refuse to recognize that as a legitimate award.
– Candace Cameron Bure
– My Wife
That’s Haylie Duff. Not her sister, Hillary, or former bass player for both Guns ‘N’ Roses as well as The Fartz, Duff McKagen. Once again, I want to vote for my wife here too because she’s just so great but that’s not really fair to all the other people who were actually in these movies. And Duff has been in a lot of them. 3 in 2 years. Just like the Zunes, they are all quite solid and I find myself caring about her as a character, which is odd because I didn’t think I would care about her as a person. I had her pegged for a less talented, less attractive version of her sister but just like so many of the people in movies, Christmas has taught me a little lesson about life. Duff is completely likable and believable and thus, is the heir apparent to Queen Zunes.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Okay, this time, my wife is taking home the Noggie. It’s still true that she didn’t technically appear in any of the films but I assure you that no one else is more supporting. The fact that she watches all these things with me and has yet to file for divorce goes way beyond an award I just made up. I think it qualifies for sainthood. Plus I occasionally steal some of her jokes.
– Donald Faison
– Gil Bellows
– Drew Lachey
– Joey Lawrence
– Patrick Muldoon
– It doesn’t matter
And the Noggie goes to….It doesn’t matter! It really doesn’t. You could make a case for any of the above mentioned gentlemen but one thing I have learned from this mystical journey, one of many things, is that the lead male actor is not a critical component to the movie being good. Nor can a strong, main dude elevate a movie that is fundamentally bad. It’s a women’s world, which may not be surprising since we’re talking about movies on the Lifetime and Hallmark networks but I don’t think this is something they specifically set out to accomplish. Many of the stories are centered around women, that part is obviously intentional. And women play the role in our society as something more delicate, something to be protected, so it makes sense that you might be more likely to care about them finding happiness. Or think they need help to find said happiness. Plus, because these films are shown on networks geared towards women viewers in stories centered around women, lead actresses are more likely to try a lot harder than lead actors might, which can produce more extreme results, good and bad. But I think it’s more than all that. I think it’s….actually, no, That’s pretty much it. Those are the reasons.
BEST LAUNCHING PAD
– Saved by the Bell
– BH-Niner (Beverly Hills 90210)
– Melrose Place
Do you know what I’m talking about here? Launching Pad, as in an older TV show which spawned actors who would later appear in these Christmas films. Not only are many of the actors from those three shows above the right age and point in there career to start going the Christmas movie route but I would guess that a fair amount of the Hallmark/Lifetime/Ion audience are also the right age to have grown up with them. In terms of pure volume, BH-Niner wins this thing hands down. Jennie Garth has been in a couple of films, so has Tori Spelling, so has Gabrielle Carteris! Luke Perry did one too and even the girl who played Brandon’s girlfriend, Nicky, had a brief role in Snow Bride. To my knowledge, Ian Zierning has yet to make an appearance but he did star in Sharknado earlier this year, so give him a break. The problem though, is that none of the movies packing ex BH-niners are that good. Then we have Saved By the Bell. Zack was in the mysteriously-missing-in-action-this-year flick, The Twelve Dates of Christmas. AC Slater did Holiday in Handcuffs AND the voice of the dog who saves Christmas in The Dog Who Saves Christmas. And Elizabeth Berkeley even got into the mix a couple of years ago with Lucky Christmas. But Bayside High is kind of in the same boat as West Beverly. Quantity versus quality. That’s why they can’t touch Melrose Place. While the majority of the cast cannot boast these movies on their resumes, MP has the only one it needs – the Zunes. She singlehandedly carries the show like she did all those Christmases before going on strike in On Strike For Christmas. To be fair, Dr. Michael Mancini does pitch in a little. He has a supporting role in Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus and once again, that’s a quality film. The Zunes trilogy plus SSSMC are just too consistently strong to let this award go to anyone else. Given that track record and I’m sure the fact that many of the other Melrose Placers can’t have anything better to do right now, I am shocked that we aren’t seeing more of them pop up. Like Andrew Shue doesn’t want any of this? C’mon Shue, jump in. The water is just fine.
NOTE: It just occurred to me during Christmas Keepsake Week that I failed to mention the meaningful contributions of another Melrose Place alum, one Patrick Muldoon. He was a main character in both Holiday Road Trip and A Boyfriend For Christmas, then he transitioned effortlessly to a memorable supporting role in All About Christmas Eve. That’s all positive yardage right there, and makes me awarding Melrose Place the Launching Pad Noggie stand up against any scrutiny.
– Girl karaokes Heart of Glass in Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade
Another tough one. My normal approach here has been when in doubt, go with the Zunes and given how oddly obsessed I am with that “How much time is left in the quarter?” scene, it makes good sense that I would give the Noggie to it but when I really look deep within my soul, I realize that it’s not about how much time is left in the quarter. It’s about how fast someone can swap out a magnetic hard drive with a solid state system with RAM drive SSS and the only scene that gives me that answer comes from the 12 Trees of Christmas.
SHOULD BE IN MORE OF THESE MOVIES
– Eva La Rue
– Patricia Richardson
– Donald Faison
– Jami Gertz
– Joey Lawrence
– The Zunes
Of course the Zunes should always be in more of these movies but this award is more meant for people I’ve seen once and want to see again. Donald Faison was extremely likable in an extremely unlikable film (A Snow Globe Christmas) and it would be great to see his quest for redemption but I kind of want him to do a little more, career-wise before coming back to Christmas. Plus, like I said earlier, the male lead is just kind of gravy. They can make a good movie a little better but that’s it. So sorry, Joey Lawrence, that goes for you too, though I certainly hope we cross paths again. Both Patricia Richardson and Eva La Rue were good but in non-lead roles and just like the male lead, this doesn’t provide enough impact on overall enjoyment of the movie. Well what about them doing another movie where they are the lead? Yes, that could totally work but I’m afraid I have made my choice. It’s Jami Gertz. And even though I didn’t even officially review Undercover Christmas this year, it is somewhat of a classic in our household and like On Strike For Christmas, was one of the early stars. So much of that came from her performance too. She plays kind of this obnoxious character who I really shouldn’t like yet still completely care about and believe. That my friends, is what we call the craft and I’d really love for Gertz to get another shot.
PLEASE NEVER BE IN ANOTHER ONE OF THESE MOVIES
This was going to be her year. The year Alicia Witt was going to make us forget all about Elisa Donovan and rip the crown of Christmas Princess away from fellow up-and-comers like Duff and Candace Cameron. She had a new movie on each of the Big Two networks and plenty of promotional momentum but the problem was simple – those movies weren’t good enough and she wasn’t good enough in them. What’s more is that even though it seemed like she must be trying hard, doubling down on the Christmas movies like this, I felt like her performances were lacking in effort. Especially in A Snow Globe Christmas, I never believed her character for a second. Didn’t believe she was a TV producer, didn’t believe she had any romantic interest now or ever in Donald Faison, and didn’t even believe Paris was the capital of France while she was on screen. Sure, we could give her a second chance but I have no reason to expect different results. Does that mean I am officially NOT insane?
– Finding Christmas
– Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas Dinner
– Let It Snow
I’ve already said plenty about this Canadian thing so I’m not going to go through it all again but Movies, you know what you did. You film in Canada because it’s cheaper, you set the movie in the United States because it’s awesome, but you don’t do a good enough job hiding your shame. It was one of the most common tropes spotted this holiday season. Therefore we have several deserving candidates but I have to give the Noggie to Finding Christmas because it had 4 main characters and 3 of them were obviously Canucks, including Mark Lutz who hands-down had the strongest, most obvious accent. I felt like I was watching Strange Brew for a second.
MOST INSANE THING
– Time management in Christmas Belle
– Eye on Frisco show in All I Want For Christmas
– The amount of times Noelle busts the guy in All She Wants For Christmas
– Set design in A Snow Globe Christmas
– Steve Guttenberg as Santa
– Score in Meet the Santas
– Sound mixing in Finding Christmas
– Singing in Catch a Christmas Star
– Everything in Christmas With a Capital “C”
– Camera work in Guess Who’s Coming To Christmas
– The 12 Dates of Christmas being mysteriously absent from all network programming this Christmas.
Whoa! That’s a huge list! And rightly so. The movies reviewed on this blog are all very much in the Insane Thing business and really any one of them worth their salt has at least one moment that makes you question reality. Plus there are so many different types of insanity. Like technically, the idea that I can’t hear a fair amount of dialogue in Finding Christmas has got to be the most insane thing but it doesn’t really scream “crazy” as much as it does just “bad.” Same is true for the time management in Christmas Belle and a few others. Everything in Christmas With a Capital C probably wins the volume award since there is so much madness everywhere you turn but if I had to pick one single thing, it would be Steve Guttenberg playing the role of Santa Claus not once, not twice, but thrice (it’s actually just twice) in Single Santa Meets Mrs. Claus and then again in the sequel, Meet the Santas. For one, clearly he is a man of the Jewish faith. For two, he’s Steve Guttenberg. Admittedly, he was at one time a much bigger star than 99% of the people in these movies but we all feel pretty badly about that. It was like an embarrassing mistake you make as a kid and just kind of want of pretend never happened. A dirty little secret. Bringing back Guttenberg is pretty much making us read our 5th grade diary to the entire world.
And that about wraps things up. Boy, it sure has been a great holiday season, huh? I have loved watching each and every one of these movies and I already can’t wait to watch even more next Christmas. It’s interesting to compare them to the quote-un-quote normal films because while I originally got into this racket to poke fun, I have to admit that there are things that these TV movies made on shoestring budgets in shoestring nations do legitimately better than their theatrical release counterparts. There are certainly opposite examples too but it’s amazing that sometimes the craziest movie in the room is not the one with Shelley Long in it.
Maybe I’m just like an undercover cop who got in too deep and can no longer distinguish right from wrong but hey, at least that’s a lot clearer and more interesting than the character dynamics in American Hustle. Or makes more sense than anything in a Kurosawa film. Actually Kurosawa films are not really that unclear or abstract. Actually, I’ve never seen one. But in any case, this is one undercover cop who thanks you for reading his blog, wishes you the happiest new year of 2014, and hopes that no matter what happens, we take down Mendoza.