Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

When I was much younger and Christmas tree buying time came around in the Martin household, I was always very extra.

I would insist on choosing the ugliest, loneliest looking tree in the lot and we would inevitably end up with two – the pretty one that got to shine bright in the front room and my sad, usually balding tree positioned optimistically in the hallway so it would be the first thing anyone would see when they walked through the front door.

I’d bundle those underdog trees in as much love (and Star Wars figures) as my childish heart could conjure, and that was my own personal festive tradition. My family tolerated this probably because they didn’t have the energy to argue (and they loved me) – and I’m grateful to have had the chance to express myself from such a young age.

When I think about this ritual now, it could be a metaphor for a lot of my human relationships. I always made a bee line for the people I perceived needed something the most, whether it was true or not (invariably it was). I would come home with strays all through childhood (friends from less harmonious homes, actual stray cats and dogs) and as I matured, I did the same with men.

Damaged, needy men were my speciality and my inner rescue radar would pick them up with ease. This as you can imagine led to a lot of heartache on my part as I learned the hard way that you can’t fix people. Especially when they don’t want to be fixed.

I’m not entirely sure what made me think I had the qualifications to mend anyone anyway. All I know is that I’ve spent way too much of my lifetime attracted to broken people and one day – hallelujah! – I was able to stop.

It started when I left a six year relationship, which I now recognise to have been highly psychologically abusive. Then I cut out my first significant and totally toxic friendship. It was like losing a limb for a while and then, it felt INCREDIBLE.

For the first time I came to realise that we don’t have to put up with the things that hurt us. We have choices and ever since I discovered this, every time I get a whiff of another one of my strays, I catch myself.

I’m all for being there for others and I’m not saying all needy people are toxic, many of them are just like my trees. They need water, a comfortable pot and a shit load of tinsel – and they’ll start to thrive again. It’s just that I’m not responsible for anyone but myself and I have no business thinking I am.

I’ll always be attracted to the ugliest dogs in the street and Christmas trees that have seen better days but I don’t have to save anybody anymore.

I never did.

Girl Gang: Christmas Edition

Inspired as always by my girl, it’s your festive edition of the Girl Gang series. Obviously.

Barb, Black Christmas (1974)

Oh, why don’t you go find a wall socket and stick your tongue in it. That’ll give you a charge.

I have a real soft spot for the festive sub genre of Christmas horror movies and Black Christmas is no exception. While it offers up a traditional slasher narrative, it is also very sad. I also love it for the progressive tackling of its abortion story line and its delivery of super messed up characters, particularly Barb (played by the late, great Margot Kidder).

By rights I suppose Jess (Olivia Hussey) should be the standout for this gang, given her position as the level-headed Final Girl but Barb pips her to the post and I’ll tell you why. Sure, she’d be quite the challenge as an actual friend, her drinking is very damaging but the girl needs help damn it. She’s sassy, she’s mean (but funny) and she’s also quick-witted AF (particularly when snarking out an obscene telephone caller).

Every GG need a blunt and dynamic member and Barb’s our girl, though maybe someone needs to have a word with her about getting kids drunk. I hate that Barb isn’t the sole survivor of Billy and his murderous tendencies but if you’re going to go out, why not take death by crystal unicorn? ICONIC.

Let’s be honest that Den Mother, Mrs Mac (Marian Waldman) totally has an open-ended invite to join this group too – what a dame. You can read my review of Black Christmas here.

Bridget Jones, Bridget Jone’s Diary (2001)

Wait a minute… nice boys don’t kiss like that.

Inviting Bridge to the party seems like a pretty obvious move and I’m not sorry. BJ is a sweary hot mess who makes poor decisions and messes up a lot but she also takes risks and isn’t afraid to make a tit of herself. I can honestly say that there is nothing more appealing to me than a person who can embrace their goofy side (my friend Heather is a shining example of this).

Bridge is somewhat normal and when I’m hanging out with girls I want to feel comfortable and never judged about my own dubious choices. BJ would never shame me and she’d be down for whatever, ride or die to the end. I think she’s inspirational too in so many ways, while she’s fucking up she does also learn and eventually realises her worth isn’t dependent on validation from Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant).

If we were friends though I would have to have a very stern chat with her about her constant diet talk and calorie counting – do it on your own watch, Miss Jones for the love of God.

Iris, The Holiday (2006)

I’m looking for corny in my life.

Oh, Iris, let me count the ways in which I love you.

The Holiday, I would say is on par with Love Actually it terms of quality but that’s not to say I don’t fucking adore it. But, while Cameron Diaz skips through snowy fields with Jude Law, I’m always dying to get back to Iris (Kate Winslet) in the city of Angels.

Iris is a perpetual romantic with her heart set on the ultimate bad boy (Rufus Sewell) – been there, done that. The thing is, she’s just about done with his games and her apartment swap is the first step in a long journey to getting the fuck over it. Step in Jack Black and arguably the much more important leading man, Arthur (Eli Wallach).

Iris is a good, kind woman and she’s a laugh. She’s into movies and she’s into banter and I want to have a drink with her in a bar so bad – and then I want to go home and watch old videos with her into the early hours and laugh about all the rat bastards that have ever broken our hearts.

Selina Kyle, Batman Returns (1992)

Honey, I’m home. Oh, I forgot. I’m not married.

Sure, lonely but lovely Miss Kyle becomes one of Gotham’s greatest villains/heroes of all time following a terrible ‘accident’ at the hands of her boss Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) – but even before that she was an interesting person and I want Selina on my team.

While she’s portrayed as a bit of a door mat, I don’t see her that way. Selina’s ambitious and damn good at her job. While the men around her only see her as a lowly secretary, the woman holds everything together (familiar?). Our girl is gorgeous and sweet – and what’s more, nothing can keep her down. Not even death and certainly not Batman or Shreck – or the pervy Penguin.

Selina evolves from self-deprecating loser to mischievous minx to the sassiest adversary Gotham’s dark knight has ever seen and the arc is beautiful. PLUS, I want her apartment and her entire wardrobe SO BAD. SUE ME.

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Selina Kyle: so good she deserves her own slideshow…

Who’s in your gang?

Merry #blogmas 🎄: Introduction

Happy December the 1st! Although I’m not Christmas’ biggest fan, I’ve decided to force myself into the festive spirit anyway.

Last night we had our first work do (we have two, customer services and the corporate event) – it was fun and I managed to leave by midnight, relatively unscathed. This morning I’m watching Netflix Christmas movies and tomorrow I’m actually going to put up the tree. Who am I?!

Anyway, happy first day of #blogmas. I’m not sure I’ll be able to smash out a post for every day of the month but I’m going to damn well try.

So, it’s going to get a whole lot more Christmassy around these parts, sue me. I might not be fully ready but I’m going to embrace it anyway.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Right? 🎄🎄🎄

Love is a Gift

It’s still November yet the John Lewis ad has already aired and I’ve been harrassed more than once by Olaf the Snowman from Frozen in the Open Market. I’m no Grinch but I do draw the line personally at embracing the Christmas Spirit before December 1st. If you’re an early Christmas lover then that’s fine, you do you hun.

I have had more than one conversation about the darker side of Christmas though and even though I don’t want to be ‘that guy’, I do think it’s important to acknowledge and understand that not everyone is full of the joys of Rudolph this time of year. The Christmas season is incredibly difficult for many people for many different reasons – and the relentless onslaught of Mariah Carey holiday songs can take its toll (is there more than one actually?). Everywhere you look when you’re not feeling it is a homage to the big man and his pals – it must be unbearable.

This very topic came up at work yesterday as a collection of us gathered around one of our phones to watch an ‘alternative’ Christmas video. You might have seen it yourself on television as its creators have been interviewed a couple of times and lots of viewers are saying it’s even better than the Elton John JL advert this year.

The concept is simple in itself, and features a thirtysomething man listening to cassette tapes on an old Walkman, left to him as a gift by his late mother. Each tape is a touching personal message recorded for him for every year she was able to do it. Its tagline is “Love is a gift that lasts forever. Merry Christmas.”

Most of us were near tears even talking about it but a couple of people pondered why we have to think about sad things at Christmas – which prompted quite an interesting debate. While I get that point, it’s not a choice for a lot of lonely or bereaved people. There are people with nothing in this world, who barely get through their day to day lives, let alone the festive season. Just because everything is sprinkled with a light dusting of glitter does not mean that those troubles go away.

This isn’t a call to arms really. There are a lot of things you can do to give back this Christmas, from volunteering to reaching out to someone who may be struggling. Even just standing up and saying you’re there for your friends and colleagues if they need anyone can be a good thing. I’ve seen a couple of Facebook statuses over 2018 that touch on that same point.

Life is tough at the best of times and Christmas is hard – it’s financially stressful, socially exhausting and there’s a lot of pressure to pull on your favourite ugly sweater and get into the spirit. What if you can’t? I just think we should be conscious of each other and kind wherever we can be.

What are your thoughts?

In the meantime, have a look at Love is a Gift, the short film mentioned above.

Christmas Inheritance (Film) Review

Putzel (86)

GAH. Something that the Netflix UK needs to rectify in time for December 2018 is the lack of Hallmark Christmas movies it has to offer. While Jill has suggested so many amazing sounding Festive cheese fests for this month’s theme, I’ve struggled to get most of the titles here.

Thankfully – or not – Christmas Inheritance was one of the easier to get my glitter encrusted mitts on and so here we are. You can almost guess the entire plot from the film’s title too which is strangely comforting, and exactly what you need from a Christmas film.

*Spoilers*

Christmas Inheritance (2017)

IMDB Synopsis

Before ambitious heiress Ellen Langford can inherit her father’s gift business, she must deliver a special Christmas card to her dad’s former partner in Snow Falls, the hometown she never knew.

My Review

Ellen Langford (Eliza Taylor) is a restless party girl with a douchey fiance who isn’t really interested in her and a fractious relationship with her dad. Mum passed on when she was younger and there’s something missing from her life. What on earth could that be, one wonders?

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Those pine needles are going to be a bitch to remove

While Dad is incredibly wealthy thanks to his successful gift company, he worries about Ellen and her lack of grounding. So after she shows herself up at a business function (cartwheeling into the Christmas tree, that’s my girl), he engineers a little task for her. Go and hand deliver a letter to his business partner Zeke in small town Snow Falls, where the dream for their company first began.

Ellen is reluctant to take this trip because she’s a princess – and is determined to conclude business and return the big apple (and her life) as soon she possibly can. She’s a little bemused as to what she’s supposed to discover in Snow Falls, though her father is insistent that she will learn a lesson here.

Things get off to an awkward start when local business owner Jake (Obvious Child’s Jake Lacy) accidentally runs over Ellen’s suitcase. He drives her to the the only B&B in town which he also just happens to own – so their paths are destined to cross again, who knew?

Jake runs the B&B with his aunt Debbie (Andie “Is it raining? I hadn’t noticed” MacDowell) and it’s a quaint little place full to bursting with embroidered cushions. Debbie it turns out used to date Ellen’s pa before he met and fell in love with her late ma.

Oh yes, and Ellen has arrived incognito – nobody knows she’s the daughter of famous Snow Falls resident Jim Langford – they know her under an assumed name: Ellie London (or something lame like that). It’s through Debbie’s reminiscing about Mrs Langford that Ellie learns what a kind and decent woman her mother was.

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“Not another fucking Christmas movie.”

Well, Snow Falls is a neat little town that thrives on Christmas Spirit and before long the community attitude starts to rub off on Ellie too. Uncle Zeke incidentally is nowhere to be found so while she waits around for him to show up, she’s left kicking her heels in town.

While beginning to enjoy her time, Ellie seems less absorbed in her own problems – and when a storm whips up, leaving lots of people stranded for the night, she mucks in just like everyone else, even agreeing to share her room with a young mother and her kid. At one point Ellie even goes and rounds up the town’s only homeless person and brings him back to the B&B where he’s welcomed with open arms (everyone is so freaking NICE, this town would drive me mad).

Jake starts to take note of Ellie after this, ‘cos everyone knows kindness = bangable. Jake, for the record, has been hurt by a previous love and is totes not interested in getting into another relationship ever again, much to Aunt Debbie’s dismay.

Meanwhile, Ellie has told Jake in a panic that she’s a baker but since she doesn’t know the back end of a mixing bowl from her own arse, Debbie soon works out that she isn’t what and who, she says she is. Ellie confides her true identity to Debbie and Debs agrees to teach her to bake so she can maintain the charade.

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Elle’s Christmas card that year was pretty awks

And, as Ellie warms to this charming way of life and spends more time with Jake, looking at snow sculptures and doing charity work (probably), a spanner arrives in the form of her fiance, Gray (Michael Xavier). Gray is dismissive of Snow Falls culture, takes the piss out of the new improved Ellie and breaks a promise to keep her identity hidden. He also cock blocks Jake, who’s everything Gray is not (boring, pious).

Anyway, Ellie is changing and so is her attitude to other people and she outdoes herself when she organises a kick arse collection of local crafts for a Christmas fayre (or something, I lost interest). But Jake is taken aback by her lies and the fact she is engaged to be married – and it feels as though there can never be a happy ending for anybody.

Shall we all just go home? But lo! What light through yonder window breaks? Is that Ellie dumping her fiance and returning to Snow Falls under her own steam because suddenly she understands what all this has been about?

Maybe.

And does this also mean that Uncle Zeke and Mr Langford have found the perfect person to take over the mantel of their business, and drive it into a bright and exciting future?

Maybe again.

I’d say slap this on, grab a cup of tea and a slice of Stollen – and let the good times roll. Christmas doesn’t have to be officially over until the 6th January (and then we all turn into pumpkins if we haven’t cleared away all evidence). So enjoy.

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Oooh pretty

My Thoughts

Look, there’s really no sense in critiquing this. It’s exactly as expected. The story line is predictable, the characters bland yet palatable. The scenery is cute and Gilmore-esque – and you can almost smell cinnamon emanating from the screen.

All in all this isn’t the worst I’ve seen this season. It’s pure Christmas comfort in 105 minutes.

My Rating

2/5. It’s fine.

But what does my beautiful wifey make of this? Would she leave it out in the cold or welcome it in for cookies? Find out here.

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New Year, Same Me

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In 2018, I pledge to be even more me.

To take up more space, to take more chances, make more mistakes, more friends, more noise. Take trips, say yes, create more. Write more and be more present.

I’m tired of all the new me bullshit. While it’s nice to take stock of a year and look upon a fresh new one with a sliver of excitement, why must we always have to change? Who I am is just fine thanks, I’ll not be adjusting at all.

Apart from trying to save instead of spend, I’ll be:

  • Eating whatever the fuck I like
  • Going on at least two European breaks
  • Visiting London at least once
  • Writing regularly and maybe even outlining a plan to write something ‘real’
  • Recording a lot of new episodes for the podcast
  • Watching all the films
  • Reading all the books
  • Being vocal about anything and everything than means something to me

What are you thinking?

Black Christmas (Film) Review

BlackXmasThe last in our Christmas Collab series, and I wanted something a little less saccharine, perhaps because it feels like Christmas is done and dusted now, and it’s all a little much, innit, after five days of merriment?

So step forward Christmas Horror. What better way to begin the Christmas comedown than to witness some innovative murders and laughable acting in a seventies cult classic?

I’ll elaborate more below, of course, but I have to say this wasn’t the film I though it was going to be. They sure did make ’em suspenseful back there in the 1970’s, didn’t they?

Beware *Spoilers*

Black Christmas (1974)

Director: Bob Clark
Stars: Olivia HusseyKeir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon

IMDB Synopsis: A sorority house is terrorized by a stranger who makes frightening phone calls and then murders the sorority sisters during Christmas break.

My Review:

It’s Christmas at the Kappa Delta Go Go sorority house and its occupants are in full festive swing. The Christmas tunes are banging and the booze is flowing as Margot Kidder and pals get into the spirit.

So nobody inside, nor Neighbourhood Watch for that matter, notice a heavy breathing weirdo scaling the outside of their pretty mock Tudor home and breaking in through the attic window. This is the stuff of absolute nightmares, I will not lie.

While the girls party on after their men have been sent home, Jess (Hussey) receives an obscene phone call from “The Moaner” (who’s called before). As the girls gather round to listen, The Moaner unleashes a torrent of abuse which is both gross and confusing. The call ends when Barb (Kidder) snarks him out and he tells her he’ll kill her.

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I need this jumper

After the call, Barb, who’s a little worse for wear, manages to upset her housemate Claire (Lynne Griffin) by calling her a virgin and she storms upstairs to pack for her Christmas break. I think we can safely say that she’s not the virgin Barb thinks she is, as she turns out to be the first house victim.

Her lifeless body is transported by our mystery killer to the attic where he remains, just him and his victim. Cosy. Meanwhile, downstairs, the rest of the gang fuss around their Den Mother, Mrs Mac (Marian Waldman) who is frankly my favourite character in the whole film, and therefore in grave danger.

Next day and Mr Harrison, Claire’s dad (James Edmond) is worried when she doesn’t show to be picked up outside the school. He finds the sorority house and is shocked to find it rather more progressive that he’d expected (e.g. everyone drinks, swears and has boys over). Mrs Mac doesn’t do much to ease his worries when he catches her referring to the cat as a “prick”.

(I love her).

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Mrs Mac: My Personal Hero

They go looking for Claire at her boyfriend’s Frat house but she’s not there so they go to the police who are about as useful as a chocolate teapot. The main cop on the front desk implies that Claire’s gone and shacked up with someone in a cabin somewhere and dismisses their worries completely.

Mr Harrison is sure she ain’t that kind of girl and so are Jess, and Claire’s boyf, Chris (Art Hindle) so they demand better action from the Fuzz. Luckily, they catch the attention of Rent-a-Lieutenant, Ken Fuller (Saxon), who’s as good a cop as he is handsome. He takes them seriously and gathers together a search party. At the same time he is dealing with a missing local schoolgirl, so the party splits up looking for both girls.

Barb isn’t in the party as she’s been sent to bed to rest (too much boozing, innit) but Jess, Chris and Phyl (Andrea Martin) join Mr Harrison in the park, where they make the grizzly discovery of the school girl’s body.

Jess returns home early and I haven’t explained this yet, but she’s preggo. She has told her boyfriend, Peter (Dullea) that she doesn’t want to keep it and he’s not best pleased, fucking up an important piano recital and then smashing up his piano. (What did the piano ever do to you, Peter?).

What Jess doesn’t know is that Mrs Mac has gone into the attic to find the mewling pussycat and that was a big mistake. She doesn’t come back down. And actually nobody ever asks questions about the cat again, anyone would think they were preoccupied.

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“Hmmmm, I need something sharp for this here murder… which one though?”

One by one the girls are picked off, without being discovered by the others, and in unique and wonderful ways. For instance, I’d never seen anyone stabbed to death with a crystal unicorn before and now I can cross that off my Bucket List.

The frequency of the obscene calls from The Moaner steps up as well, so Jess reports them finally to Lieutenant Sex Brows, who arranges a tap on the phone.

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“Why thank you, yes I do spend a fair bit of time on my brows. Stephanie at It’s Not You, It’s Your Brows on Main Street does them.”

Peter turns up and is horrible to Jess, threatening her when she refuses to back down on the abortion issue. He smashes some bulbs on the Christmas tree to show he means business then storms out. Lieutenant Sex Brows doesn’t like him on sight and begins to wonder if he’s guilty of the phone calls.

I’m going to leave this here I think, after the Questions Section, as it’s worth a watch but let’s just say that the calls are traced – and they’re coming from inside the house! 

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Barb and Phyl took their annual game of Twister VERY seriously

The bumbling cop on front desk is tasked with the issue of getting Jess out of the house without freaking her out but fails dismally (you had one job!).

Plus, Jess isn’t the kind of chick to leave her friends alone in a house with a mass murderer so she pops upstairs to wake Barb and Phyl. That doesn’t work out too well and would ya know it, there’s a final showdown of the Slasher Movie kind.

HURRAY!

Questions: 

Will anyone else besides poor Jess ever answer the fucking phone? Will anyone survive? What the hell is Peter’s beef?

Will the cops ever properly search the house? I mean if calls are coming from inside the house, does that not warrant a thorough shake down of the premises? I guess not.

And… will you ever sleep again? Because I don’t know if I will.

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Eye eye

My Thoughts:

I thought this would be a lot more fluffy than it was with more pillow fights and sorority girls in negligees. I’m not disappointed that it wasn’t that way, in fact I was pleasantly surprised by how tense and genuinely creepy this movie is.

It’s also infinitely more subtle than slashers of the modern age, though it still isn’t for the light-hearted. I mean, there are hooks through throats and suffocations a plenty.

At one point it actually had a Hitchcockian vibe (Psycho (1960), naturally) and that’s what makes it stand out a little more from many films of this ilk. I’d even dare to put it up there with some of the seventies greats. I mean, it’s not Halloween (1978) but it’s not far off.

I recommend it, if you’re looking for an alternative to ABC Made-for-TV festive parables, animated elves and Christmas specials (not that there’s anything at all wrong with any of those things)

My Rating: 4/5. Yeah I dug this.

What did my sweetest baboo Jillian think though? Find out here.