Miracle on 34th Street

One of the great things about holiday magic (which, shut up, is something that I very seriously believe in) is its ability to elevate the mundane: cheesy made-for-TV movies and classic cartoons are simply better by virtue of their Christmas-y subject matter. So when you take a justifiably engaging and entertaining movie and sprinkle that Christmas magic all over it, you have an instant classic.

So it is with Miracle on 34th Street, released 65 years ago, and my absolute favorite holiday movie ever since I first saw it six years ago. For those who haven’t experienced it, it follows a mother and young daughter who don’t believe in anything they can’t see, including imaginary games, magic, and certainly not Santa Claus. The movie traces their encounter with a department-store Santa who, the movie sincerely posits, is The Real Santa Claus. As they slowly come around to the possibility that this “nice man with a white beard” might be more than they initially thought, they realize they’re not alone. Santa, or Kris Kringle, as he’s officially known in the movie, has spread his charm to every character, be they young children or greedy department store heads.

So the plot has a LOT of cheese-potential, but somehow, in the execution, Miracle on 34th Street manages to underscore the story with enough gravitas and serious, earned heart that there’s not even the whiff of cheap sentiment. And the characters are not just well-written, but perfectly cast: Edmund Gwenn, who plays Kris Kringle, won an Oscar for this role, and it’s so deserved. It’s impossible to watch him and not wish that there really WAS a Santa, and that he decided to just go ahead and let these filmmakers film him just doing his thing. The rest of the cast is spectacular too, especially the adorable, but again, in NO WAY cutesy Natalie Wood as the young girl.

If you need a reminder as to what’s so special about this time of year that could make the craziness worth it (so… all of us), please watch this. You’ll be positively HUMMING with Christmas magic by the last scene!

The perfect, hilarious, original 1947 trailer shows almost NO footage from the movie, but captures its charm and essence perfectly:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ce_op2qG24%5D

WHY do they not make trailers like this any more???

(Photo courtesy of Modern Times)

Year-End Best Books Lists

It’s the end of the year (or is it the end of humanity? Three days to go, where are all the sick parties?), and that means the glorification of one of my favorite things in the world: THE LIST.

I love a good “best of” list, and none more so than the Best Books of the Year. Lists summarizing the year’s exceptional movies and TV shows usually function as the season’s postmortem, summarizing media inaccessible in the present moment. Say I’m convinced by a year-end roundup that I need to watch Homeland. It’s hardly easy for me to decide to watch marathon the first two seasons over the holidays (though I could see this changing quite a bit in the years to come). Books, though, are perfect nuggets of entertainment and inspiration that make perfect companions for the holiday break. And what better way to get excited for all that holiday reading than poring over glowing recommendations from my fellow impassioned readers?

With that said, here are a few of the lists I’ve been looking over in the past week, along with a blurb from the book I’m most likely to pick up first from the list: Continue reading

Tragedy in the Time of the Internet

I was going to post today about year-end best books lists. That, like so much else, will have to wait for next week.

Unlike many of my peers, I don’t want to take this time or space to talk about gun control, mental illness, our culture of violence glorification, or prayer in schools. Not because those things aren’t important to me, as they very much are. But we can’t control our reactions to tragedy, and apparently mine is to sit here, mostly frozen, reading everything I can (fact, fiction, opinion, protest), and trying to process today’s events.

The internet helps us all feel more connected to one another: acquaintances or old friends now feel completely inserted into each other’s daily lives as if we were bosom buddies or roommates. Bloggers who are otherwise complete strangers to us eloquently speak about some aspect of their lives in a way that resonates with us, and we slip into a quasi-relationship where we become part-friends, part-fans. I was recently at a local playground and recognized a well-known LA blogger, or rather, I recognized one of her adorable, oft-photographed children, and then realized that I thus recognized the mother calling for the baby. I debated whether to say hi, but realized that, for me, the relationship was more public figure/fan than friend/friend, or even one random mom with a cute kid to another, and in those situations, I tend to leave the person alone.

Tangent aside, my point is that the internet makes us feel closer. When tragedies of this magnitude happen, we all run towards family and friends. But I know I can’t have been alone in wanting desperately to know what my friends were feeling and saying, and that includes my “friends” as well, meaning my Facebook and Twitter feeds. And one thing I noticed as I refreshed is that every so often, there would be someone talking about something else besides today’s shooting.

At first, I felt jarred, and then a bit upset — how could anyone be thinking about anything else? But then I saw those folks get some frankly insane feedback to that effect, and I began to feel for them. Whether they had content set to auto-post, whether they had not yet heard the news (seemingly impossible in our 24/7 news culture, but actually kinda comforting), or whether they were choosing to speak about something else in an attempt towards normality, it’s their prerogative. If there should be a moratorium on anything today, please let it be judging others on their reactions or lack thereof. The internet may make us feel like we’re all one big family (the type that involves prying great-aunts), but you there? You do not know most of your Facebook friends’ inner lives, and you do not get to lambast others on Twitter for every post made that doesn’t match what you feel right now.

There’s such a need to band together right now, to find the answers, and to please fix these problems, these horrors that plague our lives from time to time, sometimes more often than others. I have no answers or suggestions as to how to do that, but what I do know is that tragedies happen. And they are immeasurably terrible. But if something happened to me tomorrow, I would so want to think that I spent my last day, and every single precious one before that, as active in my pursuit of happiness as I could be. Whether that’s by seeing a silly movie by myself, spending time with my ingenious toddler, gasping over what the HELL Kristen Stewart just wore on the red carpet, eating a million and one mint M&Ms, or making out with my hot husband.

In the face of unexplainable, devastating death, I choose to mourn, but also to live. And I’m okay with that.

Holiday Gift Guides

I adore gift-giving. It’s shocking, really, from someone as selfish as I can be (I’m an only child! Not accustomed to sharing!), but I get so much joy out of figuring out what to get for a loved one that s/he will appreciate, but not have thought of for him or herself. So I let myself go a little crazy at Christmas, starting usually right after Thanksgiving.

But — besides the schadenfreude-laden glee that I get from reading Walmart-related tweets — I can’t stomach crazy Black Friday trips to the shops. There’s the pressure to grab-and-buy-and-grab-and-buy, there simply isn’t enough selection, and it’s rare to find a brick-and-mortar store that’s perfectly curated to my tastes. So, unsurprisingly, once I’ve gathered my list for the year, I turn to the internet for help.

And help it does! Gift guides are a very popular feature for blogs at the end of the year, because duh, these are my people, and having an opportunity to go into raptures about awesome stuff found in every crevice of the internet is pretty much nirvana.

I’m too late to do a gift guide of my own this year, but I thought, for those of you who are still searching for the ideal present, I’d do a quick roundup of some great guides that helped me this year. These are actual ones I used, so if you’re on my list and see something that you love, DO NOT BUY IT FOR YOURSELF. At least not till after Dec 25!

Happy gifting:

  • Design*Sponge’s gift guides, which are themed by both topic and price point, and absolutely chock full of exquisite, just-right things.
  • A Cup of Jo’s gift guide is targeted to specific people in Joanna’s life, but her thoughtful explanations of why each is a fitting gift will have you thinking of the folks in your life that would just love these things too.
  • Cool Hunting’s guide is a microcosm of exactly what the site is about: things that are insane, a bit superfluous, and sure to be appreciated by those folks that just get you.
  • Hammacher Schlemmer’s gifts are, yes, the ones from the SkyMall catalogue. This probably tells you all you need to know about me, but I think a lot of the things here perfectly skirt the line between ridiculous and useful, at least for my beloved friends and family. As it is, I’m mourning that our upstairs hallway’s walls are apparently not tall enough for the world’s largest write-on map mural!

(Photo courtesy of Design*Sponge’s jewelry gift guide. So sparkly!)

The Death of Ombré

Being obsessively into things necessarily means that there are also things I abhor just as passionately. I try not to focus on those too much, because who likes being a hater all the time? But now that this recent Buzzfeed roundup of trends that died in 2012 has declared the end of dip-dye (#8) and ombré (#9), I’m relieved to not have to keep silent any longer!

I HATE OMBRÉ!! Continue reading

Hart of Dixie

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If I love something, I try to own it. The closest I get, though, are things that I legitimately love, but realize/expect that most everyone else whose opinion I respect will disagree with me.

Which is my preface to this fact: I’m totally friggin’ obsessed with Hart of Dixie. Continue reading

Les Miz Trailers, Pt. 2

These actually were released earlier this week, but I haven’t shared them till now because I was too busy watching them each a million times over.

On December 25, I’ll be in Montana — there best be a movie theater with semi-decent sound showing this! Though, sad to say, I don’t think the most exquisite Dolby Surround will make Russell Crowe’s voice sound anything more than passable. And even that’s being kind.

For your belt-along-enjoyment:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8WSysB5vKM%5D
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHwyCp6ah6U%5D
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xx7K42uyrts%5D
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVFr56GR1mo%5D
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvzLZIiD5TU%5D

Cory Booker

I first heard about Cory Booker, the current mayor of Newark, when Hurricane Sandy hit. As the head of a city clear across the country from me, he hadn’t really been on my radar, though he’s been touted in the last few years as a rapidly rising star of the Democratic party. Part of the reason he gets so much notice is his insane use of Twitter. It actually wouldn’t be that crazy… if he was, say, a teenager avoiding his homework or an athlete during his offseason. But for an acting chief executive of a busy city, his sheer number of tweets per day are almost unimaginable. This would hardly be cause for celebration if he was chatting about his lunch or talking trash about celebrities (you know, the stuff the rest of us tweet about) — but of course, Booker is so awesome because he uses Twitter to truly be a public servant.

During the terrible storm that devastated his city, Booker was absolutely tireless in personally going to people in trouble, trying to get municipal services to those in need, bringing folks food, and (SERIOUSLY) inviting those who had lost power to his house, where they could eat, rest, and charge their phones while he was out helping the rest of the city. The more cynical among us could talk about how politicians don’t do a thing if they aren’t guaranteed media attention, and it certainly is a good storyline: the photogenic, (relatively) young, dynamic, funny Twitter mayor. But the thing is, he DOES what he says he’s going to do, and more. He’s responsive to almost anyone who contacts him, even people who call their mayor “nigga” and demand Hot Pockets!!

Booker’s currently making news because he was having a political conversation (over Twitter, natch) about public nutrition with folks who held different views, and it spurred him and one of his challengers to live off $30 worth of food (the value of a week of food stamps) for one week. Mayor Booker began his week of eating as if he was on food stamps today, and will be live-tweeting the experience.

Anyway, the man is amazing and has all of my support, which doesn’t mean a lot right now, as I’m not one of his constituents. I believe Cory Booker will eventually do great things in service of our country though, and I can’t wait to see what that is.

(Photo courtesy of PAPER Magazine)

Game of Thrones Season 3 Trailer

December is the fastest month, not as measured by calendar days, but by the realization that the year is somehow almost over, for reals this time. Not to mention the rapidly-growing list of to-dos that need to be done before the holidays (later this week, I’m going to reveal my secret for accomplishing one of those quickly and gorgeously!), plus you need to find time for all the good stuff that comes out around this time of year: quality Oscar-bait movies, gingerbread lattes, the 94391242nd reshowing of It’s a Wonderful Life on TV.

So sometimes, it’s a bit of a relief to get excited about something that isn’t happening in the next 22 days. For me, that surge of excitement has crested every time I’ve seen a billboard like the one above, advertising the next season of Game of Thrones. It’s difficult to convince anyone to like something so clearly set in the world of fantasy, even if you tell them that it’s full of breathtakingly gorgeous shots, complicated characters, skilled acting, and (seriously, SO MUCH) sex & violence. So all I’ll do here is say that the Season 3 trailer/production diary came out today, and it is going to be AWESOME. The third book is most fans’ favorite, because everything (everything!!) happens. No book since then has kept up its breakneck pace, which is maybe a relief actually, and the question now is whether the third season will keep up with it. This trailer, while not really showing that much, is still very promising!

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yj0e0r_yLI%5D

(Photo courtesy of Daily Billboard)