Holiday 2018

I’m a little late to this party, but wanted to talk about some of this year’s holiday specials. Two of the three I’m going to talk about were released this year, while the third (I only just discovered) was released in 2016. Typically, I make a point of spending all of December watching Holiday Specials, but this year, I just didn’t have the motivation. So, it was these three and a couple of others, but no Rudolph or Frosty.

Item 1: A Cinderella Christmas

I watched this Christmas fairytale on Hulu. It’s a cute take on the classic fairytale and does not hesitate to be heavy handed on the Christmas theme. The plot was fairly predictable but made its characters surprisingly relatable and sympathetic.

Here, Cinderella is Angie (Emma Rigby, Once Upon A Time in Wonderland), a girl who was orphaned as a toddler and brought up with her uncle and cousin. Her uncle runs a catering business, which, thanks to Angie’s hard work, has become THE event planning business. Her cousin, Candace (Sarah Stouffer, Switched at Birth) takes credit for these achievements while scoping out these high-class functions for a rich husband. It looks like her ship has come in when wealthy Nikolaus invites her to his Christmas party, which the girls are working on. However, due to an unlikely turn of events, Angie goes instead and a Cinderella story ensues.

It’s a cute story, a little cliché, of course, a little predictable, but cute and enjoyable. In hindsight, it’s not entirely surprising that the film was released in 2016. In the last two years, attitudes towards women and minorities have changed, as have casting choices. In our next film, this is much better reflected.

Item 2: Life-Size 2

This long-awaited sequel premiered on Freeform and was then available on Hulu, Amazon, and in the Apple store. In the 2000 original, Lindsay Lohan stars as Casey, a girl who’s mother has recently died. In trying to resurrect her, she accidently brings her Eve doll (a Barbie-esque fashion doll) to life. This now life-sized doll, played by Tyra Banks, helps Casey and her father move on from her mother’s death and grow close once more.

The sequel connects back to the original and picks up on similar themes and problems. During the first film, the Eve doll was on its way to being discontinued for being out of date. Eighteen years later, it’s a similar problem. This time, the doll who comes to life belongs to the grown-up daughter of the doll’s creator. Grace, played by Francia Raisa (Bring It On: All or Nothing, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Grown-ish) is encouraged by her neighbor, Lex (Alison Fernandez, Once Upon A Time, Logan, Orange is the New Black), to use Casey’s spell-book, in hopes of changing her luck.

What follows is very much an ode to the millennial fanbase. Grace is the same age as the viewers who made the first Life-Size such a success. She is navigating adulting and running a company in her mother’s absence. She is easy to connect with, even if her vast wealth is not the most relatable. It’s mostly a rehashing of the original with the key difference being that the key adults are in on Eve’s secret. The film follows a fairly predictable arc, which was no great surprise to me, so I wasn’t bothered. What did bother me was the gratuitous rap music.

The original TV movie featured Eve’s theme song, “Be A Star”, a catchy, jazzy tune you can dance to. The 2018 update seemed to double down on trying to be cool or less white— I wasn’t entirely sure which. I openly admit to being a white woman, one who does not listen to rap music, so I don’t know if fans of rap music or minorities would agree with me, but it felt a lot like those early 2000s attempts at being cool and trying to relate to ‘today’s youth’. I could see how the Eve doll in many ways reflects a white woman’s sensibilities, but I just don’t feel qualified enough to determine if this movie simply dropped that or failed in its attempts to appeal to a wider/different audience.

Item 3: Nailed It! Holiday!

This is a Netflix original program in which amateurs try to recreate baked masterpieces and this holiday set is the show’s third season. Let me begin by saying that this was the first season I watched and from episode 1, I was hooked and now I just want to be on it! Seriously, this show makes me so excited! I love baking and crafting and I love watching people try their best, even if they don’t… quite… get… it…

This Holiday Special is the third season of Nailed It! and the third to be released this year. It’s seven episodes, just like the previous season, and covers Christmas, Chanukah, and New Year’s Eve, plus finishes with a DIY special in which contestants craft ornaments and ugly Christmas sweaters.

I honestly, don’t have enough good things to say. The show is light-hearted and cheery, and doesn’t take itself all that seriously. The judges consist of comedian Nicole Byer and master chocolatier Jacques Torres plus a guest judge. The rapport between the judges and contestants (which change from episode to episode) is always entertaining and fun. It’s an encouraging environment in which contestants try their best with the knowledge that it is unlikely that they will get close.

Contestants bake a variety of goodies, from cakes and cookies to cake pops and donuts. Torres always details how best to go about creating these gorgeous delicacies. It makes you feel inspired, like you could do it to. (And if I hadn’t spent Christmas break so sick, I would have!)

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