FreeForm 25 Days of Christmas

Thanksgiving is now over, meaning that it is officially the holiday season.  Stores are decorated, the radio is playing festive music, people are now buying gifts for the upcoming festivities, and TV channels are playing their holiday movies and TV episodes.  A staple TV holiday movie schedule is ABC Family, now FreeForm, 25 Days of Christmas movie schedule.  This is a month long event that people look forward to starting in October.  FreeForm posts the movie schedule in November for their viewers to get excited and mark their calendars and DVRs for when their favorite movies are playing.

The 2017 schedule is out and it is starting in 3 days, so it’s time to look at it now and prepare for a month of nonstop holiday movies and entertainment.  Starting on December 1st everyday from 7:00am to 1:00am there will be nonstop holiday movies.  There are hundreds of holiday movies to choose from for FreeForm to put on the schedule, but they mainly stick to the same 50 or so movi

Buddy the elf showing his holiday spirit

es each year.  The classics like Home Alone, Polar Express, and A Christmas Carol are always played several times throughout the month so that everyone can get a chance to watch the show.  The most popular holiday movie in recent years is Elf.  Elf is playing 20 out of the 25 days, so don’t worry about missing it because there are plenty of opportunities.

With FreeForm being owned by Disney, there are also a lot of Mickey Mouse appearances throughout the month.  Disney takes classic stories like A Christmas Carol and replace the characters with the familiar faces of Mickey and his friends.  Movies like these will be played several times throughout the month along with non-Disney versions as well so people can watch it both ways or just pick their favorite version and watch that.

The movies throughout FreeForms 25 Days of Christmas range from animated to live action, child to adult movies, and old to new.  Claymation movies are sprinkled in throughout the new animation remakes.  The classic Rudolph The Rednose Reindeer claymation is generally played at least once during the month.  This year The Little Drummer Boy will be played 5 times throughout the month for all those who enjoy classic claymation movies.  These claymation movies are generally more for adults who grew up watching them, children now enjoy the animation in the Polar Express and A Christmas Carol more than the claymation animation style.

FreeForms 25 Days of Christmas is a nonstop holiday party for the entire month of December.  Whenever people are feeling festive they can put it on and know that it will deliver.  It shows movies for every age to enjoy and for families to watch together.  Check the schedule now to make sure that you don’t miss your must watch holiday movie.

When Comedy Films Are Scary

I love a good laugh, but I’m a tough critic. As a result, it can be hard for me to find a nice comedy to watch when too many that get heavily promoted are gross or overtly problematic. What has shocked me in my question to find smart comedy is when the comedy doesn’t look like comedy at all.

My first experience with this paradox was in 2003, when I was around four. One afternoon my parents, cultured as they were, mistakenly rented the French animated film “The Triplettes of Belleville” for me and my even younger brothers to watch. They had rented “Finding Nemo” as well. I clearly remember my parents leaving my brothers and I with my grandmother with the request that we try to watch the French film first since we had already seen so many Pixar movies. I eagerly put on “The Triplettes of Belleville”, wanting to not only obey my parents but to watch that little clownfish be found by his dad again.

I was horrified by the French film. The bleak world depicted by animator Sylvain Chomet was depressing, and most of the characters looked evil. The French song featured in the film “Belleville Rendez-vous” was unintelligible to me at the time, but the wailing notes matched with the nightmarish art of the movie was enough to send me over the edge. I stopped the movie within five minutes and made my case that he movie was horrifying to my parents. I watched it all of 14 years later at age 20 and was again scared watching it, not surprised to learn that it is rated PG-13.

The plot is notably minimalist with little if any dialogue: a presumably French cyclist raised by his supportive grandmother has his chance to make his dream of becoming a champion cyclist come true, until he is kidnapped by what looks like the French mafia and held captive in Belleville, a faux New York City filled with stereotypical fat Americans. His grandmother comes to his rescue, accompanied by three aged, former singers known as the titular triplets of Belleville.

What kept my attention throughout the movie was the varied yet scary character designs. They are hellish, from the deformed cyclist’s incredibly muscular legs legs somehow connected to his terribly thin torso, to the closed eyes and hunched shoulders of the witch-like triplets of Belleville. The dark colors and sketchy figures present in this world, from sexualized prostitutes to grim-faced gunmen who kill in cold-blood, added to the fear factor. And yet, to my surprise, the film is labelled a comedy! I concede that the whimsical way the plot is developed in “The Triplets of Belleville” explains its classification.

I believe “The Triplets of Belleville” is an anomaly as far as comedy films go, as other comedy films I have watched that have been questioned for their humor have made me laugh. One is this year’s smash success “Get Out”, which has recently stirred controversy because it was entered as a submission to the comedy category for best picture at the Golden Globes. The plot was so nuanced and developed that it did not feel like it depended on humor to succeed per se, but it did make the film incredibly unique by masterfully intertwining the two genres. And, every joke was uproariously on point. But it is a horror film at heart, and I can understand why the comedy label may feel a bit of a stretch, even though there is no horror category that it can be submitted to.

Chris under a trance in “Get Out”. Source: Bago Games via Flickr.

This made me think of another film that was deemed too dark for a comedy: the 1971 film “Harold and Maude”, a romantic comedy-drama about a 20-year-old man obsessed with death and a 79-year-old woman who loves life (an old manic pixie dream girl, if you will). Roger Ebert panned the film, giving it one and a half stars out of four saying: “Death can be as funny as most things in life, I suppose, but not the way Harold and Maude go about it.” I was horrified by the beginning when our protagonist simulates hanging himself, and would jump when I saw how his subsequent suicide “attempts” become increasingly outlandish as he scares off potential girlfriends arranged by his unfazed mother. And yet the comedy of seeing the varied reactions from the interested girls was captivating, and built up to the climax when (spoiler alert) Harold loses the love of his life to suicide. This was the moment I learned the meaning of black comedy, as I pealed with laughter at the same time I cupped my mouth in horror and sank in my seat out of sadness. I respect Ebert’s opinion informed by his near-encyclopedic knowledge of film, but I do believe more credit is due to a movie that pulls off such a remarkable feat.

Harold and Maude. Source: Craig Duffy via Flickr.

In conclusion, I do not know what to make of these comedy films that struck me as unusual. Their dark styles do not hinder the message of their plots, but still made me uneasy while watching. I believe this is symptomatic of merging different elements of the comedic with the tragic, and I look forward to seeing even more genre-bending comedies as I continue my quest for a good laugh.

When Art Horror Isn’t Scary

This October I enthusiastically got into the spirit of the holidays by catching up on highly-acclaimed art horror films that have been released within the last decade. These included “The Babadook” (2014), “It Follows” (2015) and “The Witch” (2015). But there was one problem: these scary movies weren’t really that scary. Disappointed by this revelation, I looked up movie reviews of these films and was surprised to find out they were all belittled as “not scary” by people on the Internet when they first came out. It made me wonder what  I expected from scary movies in the first place that made these otherwise excellent films disappoint me.

The main issue was jump scares. I had always considered myself a refined movie goer who could stand the lengthy plot development that puts my parents to sleep. But the 90 minutes that these three films clock in at don’t live up to the anticipation I had when I started watching them. In all three cases, we are given a horrific illustration of the antagonist’s evil powers right at the beginning that captures your attention immediately. But little information about these supernatural creatures is then given. The main characters are then left to debate about whether or not these monsters even exist as they confront fate and encounter these evil forces. This puts the viewer in an awkward position. We see the witch use baby Samuel for his blood. We see the Babadook worm his way inside the mother’s body. We see “it”, in a shocking turn of events, follow.

And yet the movie suffers from not letting the monster at the center breathe life into the plot by rearing their ugly head. You cannot deny how real and scary the threat posed by the antagonists in these films are. You know that the main characters are wrong to shake it off. And yet their false hopes that nothing is out of the ordinary carries weight. They have not yet encountered their demons head on, and since we see what they see we can understand why they would not consider the possibility they are being haunting by the supernatural. By not including jump scares to make the antagonists’ constant threat palpable, these movies force you to focus on the character development as the conflict fueling the plot comes to a climax.

The antagonist always returns at the end of the film, proving the dread that I felt the entire time I was watching these movies was valid. This confrontation at the end allows for the protagonist to unlock their true power, concluding with the main characters overcoming obstacles in making peace with their flaws that sparked the antagonists’ haunting in the first place. Thomasin in “The Witch” dives in to her lack of faith, only to become capable of supporting herself when her struggling family is unable to. The mother and son in “The Babadook” learn to coexist with the grief manifested in the Babadook. Jaime brazenly ignores “it” following her at the end of “It Follows” when she walks with her arms linked with Paul, demonstrating a sense of strength that comes from feeling supported by people who care about you. These endings may have left me unsatisfied as a horror fan. What’s the point of spending the entire movie with the protagonists defending themselves from the monsters if they are unsuccessful anyway? And yet by making the plots of these horror movies more nuanced, it allows film to depict deeply human emotions in a creative way.

I support the trend of these art horror films resisting cheap scares to further develop their characters and their struggles instead. While it may take away from the visceral roller coaster of emotions you have while watching a horror movie, the quieter, more intimate moments of human emotion that are being tapped into make it worth it.

Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho

A few years ago I stumbled upon a little foreign short film called “Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho,” which is Portuguese for “I Don’t Want To Go Back Alone.” It is a coming-of-age story about a young blind man named Leonardo, and is a beautifully done piece about young love. Rather than explain the entire premise and ruin the ending, I’m putting the film here for our readers’ enjoyment:

The story of Leonardo and Gabriel is a story of love and identity that I couldn’t help being captivated by from the moment I saw it. What I love about this film is that, though it has it’s problems, it takes an important step towards greater representation of identities in films. It’s the first story I’ve seen about a young gay man discovering his sexuality who’s lived experience is also influenced by his ability status. Disability is very rarely portrayed in popular culture unless it is a defining characteristic, and to have a blind main character in a film where the focus is not his blindness is really cool. It’s important to point out, however, that this film didn’t go so far as to include a blind actor as the main character, Leonardo, which is a shortfall in representation that is often seen in films today.

If you saw this film and craved more of the story of Leonardo and Gabriel, you are not alone. The film was so popular following it’s release that a full length film based on the original story was created by the director, Daniel Ribeiro. “Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho” (The Way He Looks) was released in 2014 and has been nominated for a plethora of independent and LGBT awards, 13 of which it has won. While I cannot in good conscience link video sharing sites for you to watch the film on, I can leave the trailer here for you and inform you that it is in fact available on many sites and suggest that you watch it however you see fit.

Finding Brandon Graham part 2 + Interstellar

Uncanny combination.

Here is the link to Brandon Graham’s blog the “royal boiler”.

It is basically like an online scrapbook of various things that he finds interesting or scans of work he has done recently.

Also, here is an image of the cover of “Walrus” his published sketchbook.

I must say that my interest in comics came at an unfortunate time because nearing the end of the semester, this newfound medium is only acting as a distraction, preventing me from working diligently on the work at hand. But at the same time, it is always nice to find new interests.


On to Interstellar. I didn’t like it that much. Not that it was a bad film by any means. But it wasn’t anything exceptional. I won’t write this with a summary, so as not to have any spoilers.

For the most part it felt as if Christopher Nolan was just way too ambitious with this film. The film was way too long and I felt as if it could have ended at one point but it just kept going. Having a run time of almost three hours, it feels as if Nolan has studio execs by their balls at this point, given the fact that they allowed him to release such a long cut of his film.

Also, does Christopher Nolan have to try and blow people’s minds in every single film he makes? More importantly, I can’t help but feel that people say their minds are blown after watching a Nolan film because they ‘should’ say so. I was always fascinated by the visuals but probably the most mind blowing film I have seen from his filmography is “Memento”, and not “Inception” or “Interstellar” –maybe the “Prestige”. But even then, I find it hard to really jump on the Nolan hype train. There is something about his movies that feel almost too clean for me (I have no other way of describing it as of yet).

I mean I still enjoyed the Dark Knight trilogy and his other films that I listed, but they are by no means my favorite films of all time.

Also, please, why do people have to talk so much during this movie, perhaps I was with the most obnoxious audience, but throughout the movie, there were constant oohs and aahs and questions being whispered. So annoying.

I think Nolan needs to dial back on his stories and bring it back to smaller budget films and focus heavily on story.
Interstellar was fine, but it is no “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Nolan tries so hard to tie up the ending in a nice knot and provide an easy answer to the questions brought up in his movie. But what made 2001 such an amazing film is that Kubrick did not provide an answer. I still don’t know what the ending of that movie means. That is why it is amazing, because it never fails to challenge me and get me thinking.

Out @ the A2 Film Festival

Under the beautiful umbrella of the Spectrum Center, I was able to attend the Ann Arbor Film Festival’s “Out Night,” which showcases short films that focus on LGBTQ identities. Donning my all-black apparel and tapestry-turned-scarf, I was sufficiently visually prepared to enter the space. After getting through the initial sausage-fest reaction (all the non-university Grindr men in Ann Arbor seemed to be in attendance) of entering the space, I was ready to watch some weird shit.

I love weird shit.

But, for better or for worse, there was no weird shit present besides myself.

The films were brilliant and took me to many different locations, many different emotional states, many different lives, many different bodies. What surprised me the most, besides the non-experimental nature of the films (which is a partly misleading generalization because all the films were experimental in their own right since the representation of queer bodies and, particularly, queer bodies of color are experimental in the visual register in-themselves) was the relatively un-in-your-face-queerness, which I did not expect.

Most of the films had some very poignant remarks about identity but it also seemed that all the LGBTQ folks were more or less real normal. A couple took a roadtrip to an amusement site, a rapper told his story, a musing on an author’s stay in Istanbul, a mother and son reminiscing, etc. While there were definitely parts of the films that spoke to LGBTQ identity in its visceral, raw form, there was nothing too out of the ordinary, at least not for an audience mainly comprised of LGBTQ folks.

What was shown, then, were beautiful meditations on LGBTQ life and what it means when identity isn’t just identity but bodies, experiences, and ways of living in the world. A topic that can particularly be unpacked in the short film.

Glimpses and moments were captured. Plots were developed or left out entirely. Emotions were given in their raw form before they could be turned into some metaphor for queer existence. Connections could be made and hinted at, but nothing clear came in conclusion. The short film, while transgressive to real life, has an interesting way at really holding moments that I have experienced and that I wish could be untainted by the continuity of life and my endless goal to make or unmake meaning.

In short, the film festival offers what most movie theatres, televisions, and computers cannot: a real film. Something that doesn’t fit into the pre-made notions of what movies can do, what they are, how they are, and why they are.