Love In The Time Of Christmas

Like most every person, the holiday classic Love Actually is a regular in my Christmastime small screen rotation. Viewings ramped up in college—my roommates and I averaged four per season. It’s a nice point of contact for all of us around this time of year, now that we’re scattered across the country.

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In keeping with this very special tradition, I snuggled up earlier this month for my first annual viewing. A selection of my real-time thoughts below, as I rode this particular rollercoaster of emotions for the first time this holiday season.

If you’re really committed (or unfamiliar with the various storylines), I recommend reading while watching, to give these unfiltered comments some context. A festive holiday beverage is also encouraged.

Note: Text has been edited for brevity, but content is almost precisely as it was recorded.

–Elise

DECISION: Fave storyline—Sam and Joanna. This kid’s eyes are the darkest, deepest chocolate-brown, against ghostly pale skin. He is a faery child. With a broken heart.

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WHY DO YOU LOVE KEIRA KNIGHTLY, BRO? WHY? IS SHE TRULY SPECIAL, B/C I DOUBT IT?

Liam Neeson mourning wife, pre-Natasha Richardson Tragedy: always uncomfortable and sad. Eeek.

The British are so different from American folk. They joke/talk about sex and death (“wee motherless mongrel”) immediately and without pity. It’s astounding.

Would the UK ever elect a single man Prime Minister? This is a think-question. Also, would he be allowed to joke about murdering someone on government authority?

Remember when things were recorded on VHS? I mean, really.

“It’s a self-preservation thing, you see…” BEST USE OF A DIDO SONG. EVER.

Laural Linney/Karl is the saddest storyline. Did you know that the only other movie credit of note for the actor playing Karl is The 300? Is anyone surprised? No.

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I have a theory about this one – Laura/Karl get BACK TOGETHER after a couple more awkward encounters at the office, post-weird almost hookup. Also, remember when middle school dances were this way?? Fast songs turn into slow ones really unexpectedly, and dance-partner expectations suddenly skyrocket??? Are holiday parties really like this? Seems like bad business – though great for holiday sex.

Christmas is definitely the time to do dumb and amazing things. Most people are slightly tipsy most of the time, and literally everything shuts down, so you don’t feel guilty sitting around and catching up on TV or reading because WORK CANNOT BE DONE. Even the president goes to Hawaii for two weeks, and North Korea is done catfishing Sony.

Secretary is the wooooorst. We hhhaaaate herrrrrr.

This is probably some of the best work that Rowan Atkinson has ever done. He is the all-knowing, omnipresent and slightly derivative joker character who somehow makes everything come together – the fool, for fans of Early Modern Drama.

“THIS IS SO MUCH MORE THAN A BAG.”

“Fancy a Christmas drink?” (aka, simulated blowjob ask-out scene). I just had to explain what body doubles are to my friend’s mom, who is watching the movie with us. Full disclosure: spent many an early-watch of this movie believing that these two were porn actors. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

“AND HE’S GOT A BIG NOBBBBBB!”

I must say, excellent music choices all around. Santana soundtrack-ing Colin’s arrival in Wisconsin? Just perfect. Ever wonder where Kim Bauer, Don Draper’s wife and that girl who plays a Russian model in like six movies started out? Look no further than this Milwaukee dive bar!! Giving American ladies everywhere a good name.

Are five-somes with four girls really not overwhelming to a single man? Disbelieve.

“It’s a real first!”—something so sad is about to happen! Don’t open it, Emma Thompson—IT’S JUST A JONI MITCHELL CD!!

Terrible Secretary: Is that B always in pajamas? Get some real clothes.

CHRISTMAS EVE!!!

Took me forever to realize that the Billy/Fat Manager Joe was not a homosexual thing. It’s friendship—love. Which is so subtle and great. Not that I don’t love homosexual love. But seriously. It’s great.

“All I want for Christmas is you!” It’s very strange to say this outside of the context of the song. Seems stalkery, or like you’re a simple idiot and don’t know what sentences sound like out loud. You’re cute, but figure out how to be better at charming Martin Freeman. He’s a gem, and deserves more.

“Look everyone, it’s Uncle Jaime!” Why did you bring me cloves of garlic from France? I can get those at Whole Foods, if I really want fancy ones. P.S., for people who are traveling internationally right now and want to buy me presents—cashmere.

“Say it’s carol singers!”

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So many logistical problems with this scene:

  1. What if Peter answered the door???
  2. Is it not suspicious that carolers are accompanied by string instruments?
  3. Dear continuity folks: You have him dropping placards on the ground throughout the scene. Then, cut to walking away with all placards perfectly ordered, under his arm (after the strange double thumbs-up thing). I don’t know why this bothers me, but it really does. When were these collected, and neatly stacked?
  4. Keira Knightley kiss: This is a point of great moral ambiguity and debate among friends and family. Is this kiss a gift–or a terrible and unnecessary betrayal, as well as a confusing thing for Mr. Preppy Man, who is in love with you for no reason? I rather fall into the camp of “relatively harmless,” mostly because big romantic gestures are difficult to for me to let slide without any kind of recognition whatsoever. I would probably do it. Just being honest. Don’t know if this makes me bad, but I hope not. Doesn’t mean I love you any less, future husband (especially if you are as sexy as Chiwetel Ejiofor).

I don’t really want to talk about the Prime Minister/Natalie ending. I feel very meh about it, this time around. I can’t help but notice there are many charming, older British gentleman matched with women more than twenty years their junior this film. It’s a little discomfiting. Pre-prostitute Hugh Grant and the always delightful Colin Firth mitigate this a bit, but mostly—come on.

Christmas concert: The break dancing boys in the background are my absolute favorite people in this climactic final scene. What an excellent touch, guys.

“I never told your mom enough—I should have told her every day, because she was perfect every day.” YES.

I really wonder what would happen if I came up to an airport attendant and was like, I NEED TO SAY GOODBYE TO THE LOVE OF MY LIFE. Would the Christmas spirit move them to let me past? Probably not, but I like to think this is possible, always.

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Heart-picture collage!! Airports really are like this, I think. Except I sincerely hope that the Secret Service, and “coppers” protecting our elected officials are better on their game than these guys are. Is that lady in a red coat, about to jump our PM, a threat?! Let’s let her elbow past us and see!! Oh, good—it’s just his (terribly inappropriate) girlfriend. Just saying, this could have gone down poorly.

Such terrible pop songs on credits. Boo.

WE LOVE YOU! SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!

Today, We Mourn

Class act Benedict Cumberbatch announced his engagement to actor Sophie Hunter in The Times today, further proving that no one else from our real lives will ever be good enough. Now, if you’ll please excuse us because we have things to do.

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– Alison + Elise

Allison Janney Is My Hero

Recently, I have been mainlining The West Wing. This sometimes happens.

I watched it first, from start to finish, with Alison. Our roommate Elizabeth jumped in about halfway through. Once we finished the series, Elizabeth started again from the beginning, and we watched with her. Elizabeth’s then-boyfriend, later-fiancé, now-husband Joe got into it. We all watched it again. These days, Elizabeth watches random episodes to unwind after work and texts me about it (claiming that she’s trolling for clips to show in her US Government class. She does not need to justify herself to the lady who grabs at any and all Harry Potter books to calm herself during moments of distress).

But these past few weeks, in a fever leading up to Election Day (DID YOU VOTE. DON’T LIE TO ME, I WILL KNOW.), The West Wing’s idealistic, quick-fire, smarty-pants back-and-forth has been particularly comforting—and one character, in particular.

C.J. Cregg.

Pause. I know, everybody: Aaron Sorkin isn’t known for writing well-rounded women. I sometimes wonder if he has actually met a human female. But C.J. is smart, funny, incredibly sexy (knows it), and is just—cool. Nerdy, weird, powerful and very cool.

She also has the incredible advantage of being played by Allison Janney.

Guys. Have you noticed how Allison Janney is taking over the world, and being amazing at it? She is everywhere, and she is good at everything. We are talking about one of the most intelligent, sensitive and beautifully hilarious actors in this world right now. In most places—like in The Help (ugh, The Help) or The Object of My Affection—you don’t even realize she’s there until she suddenly is, killing it. Because every character she plays is so specific, and so wonderfully nuanced, we forget about the actress—it’s not Janney we see, it’s Loretta or Bonnie or C.J.

Most of Janney’s characters are a touch kooky, and larger-than-life—but when they are in danger of veering into insanity or bitchiness, Janney grounds them with a kind of vulnerability that makes you go—that person is a real person. Even though they’re on TV. And fictional. If you’ve seen even forty seconds of Margaret Scully in Masters of Sex, you know what I’m talking about.

So, just for fun—because it’s late, and I’m tired, and I wish I could talk to Allison right now and tell her how much I like her (with my eyes, not with my words—because I don’t want to freak her out): Important Role Models In My Life, As Played By A Fabulous Amazonian Actor I Love.

Mom: Bren, from Juno.

I have an awesome mom. But should I ever become teen pregnant (time travel!), I would want Bren by my side, ready to tear into anyone who glanced at me sideways. The way she did to that mean sonogram lady.

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Cool Aunt: Bonnie Plunkett, from CBS’s Mom.

Are you watching this show? Please do, if only to admire all the ways a tall woman can rock ballet flats. Bonnie is a hysterically funny, unbelievably irresponsible mother figure who really knows how to have fun—while maintaining her (very necessary) sobriety. She’s self-centered and egotistical, but she tells it like it is and has the best stories. I wouldn’t trust her to house-sit, or take care of my dog, though.

Eccentric Neighbor: Betty, from The Way, Way Back.

She’s loud, crude, drinks all day and gets way too familiar with you and with your stuff. But she would never judge, and is by your side, cocktail in hand, when you fall to pieces. Cause she has been there.

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Psychiatrist slash High School Guidance Counselor: Obviously—Ms. Perky, from 10 Things I Hate About You.

Doesn’t everybody need a person who’ll say, Get over yourself, you are not the center of this universe—and then distract you with all the adjectives she’s found for “throbbing?”

BFF: C.J. Cregg. See above—and see this.

—Elise