Top Five Things to Watch on New Year’s Eve Instead of Going Out

The ladies from Absolutely Fabulous

Let’s get real: New Year’s Eve is a scam.

Instead of a wonderful, significant party what mostly ends up happens is you make superficial, drunken promises to yourself about what’s gonna change in the new year. We all know that if you really were going to get in shape or find a new job you wouldn’t wait until January 1st to do it. And if you don’t have anyone to kiss at midnight? Forget it.

So instead of all that nonsense, why don’t you save your money and chill at home? You can take inventory of the presents you received over Christmas and decide which are worth keeping and which you won’t feel guilty about throwing out or giving away. Then after that, you can curl up on the couch and let your old friend Steph recommend a few things for you to watch to ring in the New Year hangover-free.

  1. Binge Watch Absolutely Fabulous

Instead of actually partying, you can live vicariously through the hilarious antics of PR specialist Edina and her Fashion editor best friend Patsy. This UK show has five seasons, various specials and a full-length movie. It’s guaranteed to make your New Years Fabulous sweetie darling.

  1. When Harry met Sally

Besides being a classic rom-com (The writing! Carrie Fisher as the best friend! That orgasm scene!) it was one of the all-time best New Year’s Eve scenes in the history of cinema. What girl doesn’t appreciate the fantasy of having the love of your life finally declare his feelings for you during the countdown to midnight?

3. The Holiday   

This super-sweet Nancy Meyer rom-com in my humble opinion should eclipse Love, Actually in terms of being a must-watch during the holidays. I mean who doesn’t love watching Cameron Diaz belting out Mr Brightside or Kate Winslet coming into her own with the help of 90-year-old Eli Wallach and a surprisingly charming Jack Black? The AV Club wrote a great piece about the brilliance of this movie I encourage you to check out.

4. 200 Cigarettes

A fun 90s movie with an insanely stacked cast about a bunch of intersecting stories all taking place on New Year’s Eve. Paul Rudd is in it; do you need to know anything else? (I thought not).

5. Boogie Nights

If romantic comedies aren’t your style and you’re looking for something a little more hum, adult, to watch, may I suggest Boogie Nights? One of P.T Anderson’s greatest movies stars Mark Walberg, Julianne Moore and Burt Reynolds as a chosen family working in the sex industry.

How A Christmas Carol Helped Shape Our Modern Idea of Christmas

Ebeneezer Scrooge has been portrayed countless time in pop culture. My favourite portrayal belongs to Michael Caine in this classic adaptation.

Christmas, shortened from “Christ’s Mass”, has been around a long time. It was first recorded to have been celebrated on December 25th in Rome in 336 AD. But the idea of a holiday at the end of December goes back much further than that, to the pagan Yule celebration (which the Christians stole many traditions from). 

Over the course human history, Christmas has gone in and out of favour. In the 17th century, Puritans in both Britain and America banned Christmas outright, associating the holiday with deviancy. By the 19th century, while it was no longer illegal, Christmas was still not widely celebrated on either side of the pond. It was the time of the Industrial Revolution, and more and more people were pouring into the cities to find work. 

The work they did find, mostly in factories, were jobs with long hours and conditions inconceivable today. Poor and exhausted, it’s not hard to understand why these folks weren’t feeling particularly merry. But that was about to change.

The 1840s were an important time for the development of modern-day Christmas; Henry Cole first introduced the Christmas card, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert popularized the German tradition of decorating Christmas trees, and in 1843 Charles Dickens wrote one of his most celebrated works, the novella  A Christmas Carol. In Prose. A Ghost Story of Christmas. 

A Christmas Carol was an instant success not because it ‘invented’ a modern Christmas as some have claimed. The idea of family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, games and dancing at the end of December had all been around long before. 

Instead Dickens, always an ardent critic of the British social class system, helped revived celebrating Christmas by suggestion you didn’t need Ebenezer Scrooge’s wealth to enjoy the holiday. What you really needed was the love and support of a family like the Cratchits. 

The novella was also important because it popularized the idea as Christmas for a time of charitable giving, and inspired the use of the phrase “Merry Christmas!” as a holiday greeting. A clear sign it has remained one of the most famous Christmas stories to this day is the fact that has never gone out of print.

There have been countless film adaptations of A Christmas Carol. My personal favourites have always been the ones that don’t take themselves too seriously, like A Muppet Christmas Carol or the Bill Murray helmed Scrooge. There’s a new adaptation coming out from FX that seemed kind of interesting until the end of the trailer where apparently Scrooge has a Harvey Weinstein moment with Mrs. Crachit. 

I’ll probably skip watching this one because of one of the most important aspects of the story; Scrooge’s redemption. It may purely be fantasy, but don’t we all wish that someone in the 1% suddenly had a conscience of faith and wakes up on Christmas morning determined to end their evil, capitalistic ways?

For me, It’s Always a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve

Every blog post from now on will have an original piece of art by yours truly. Here’s my take on an iconic scene from It’s a Wonderful Life

Few things in life give me quite as much comfort as watching a film. I know there are some people out there who hate to watch films more than once. For me, watching certain films over (and over) again feel like visiting an old friend. And during the holidays, the film I always make time for is It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life is based on the short story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern. After several rejections, Van Doren Stern self-published the story as a 21-page pamphlet which he gave to family and friends as a Christmas Card. Somehow one of those copies ended up in Hollywood, where produces quickly bought the rights. 

After initially being developed as a Cary Grant vehicle, the project was shelved for several years until director Frank Capra and new star Jimmy Stewart brought it to life again. Both fresh off serving in the Second World War, it’s not hard to see how a lighthearted project like this would have appealed to them. 

Despite strong reviews and five Academy Award nominations, the film was a box-office flop when it opened in 1946. While Capra admitted in the 70s It’s a Wonderful Life was his personal favourite amongst all the films he’d made, as a financial disappointment, it also helped kill his professional career as a filmmaker. 

The government must have been happy that the film was a flop. A piece of interesting history I discovered when researching this post was that the FBI considered It’s a Wonderful Life to be potential “subversive” communist propaganda. In 1947, they wrote a memo saying  “With regard to the picture ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ [redacted] stated in substance that the film represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a “scrooge-type” so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists.”

The film likely would have faded into obscurity if it weren’t for the fact that in 1974 the company that owned the rights to the film, Republic Pictures, failed to renew the copyright. Now a public domain film, anyone who could get their hands on a print could screen it. Television stations jumped on this. With the film airing non-stop on several different networks during the holidays, the story of George Bailey shown what the world would be like without him was introduced to a new generation. (Republic Pictures eventually realized what a horrible mistake they’d made, suing in the early nineties to get the rights back.)

Television is where I first saw It’s a Wonderful Life. It has since remained a constant presence in my movie collection first on VHS, then DVD, and finally Blue-Ray. (Yes internet, I still have physical media. You can call me a Luddite all you want, but until streaming services have all of my favourite films and television shows available constantly I will continue to buy physical copies.) 

For many years, it was a tradition in my family to stumble upstairs to our TV room after we’d opened presents on Christmas Eve (As Norwegians we do Christmas on December 24th) our bellies full of pork and our heads fuzzy after many glasses of aquavit and wine. Then we’d all cuddle together and watch the classic black and white holiday film. 

As the years passed, one by one my family members started dropping like flies until it was just me making that tipsy trek upstairs at the end of the night to watch the film. I admit some years I don’t end up making it through the whole thing, but still, I always make the effort. 

What can I say? Even after seeing it countless times I still feel something at George and Mary’s telephone scene. When Uncle Billy inevitably screws up. When George returns home at the end of the film and realizes just how loved he is. Just like stocking above the fireplace and a Christmas tree filled with decorations, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without It’s a Wonderful Life. 

Welcome to Pop Culture Professor!

My sister jokes I have a ‘mind palace’ for pop culture.

Ever since I was a child, my brain has been wired to remember pop culture facts above all else. Basic addition and subtraction? Nope. But you want to know in which episode of which season the main shipper couple finally got together? I’ve got you covered. (While Jim and Pam kissed in the season two finale of The Office, they didn’t actually get together until season four.)

I used to spout my extensive pop culture knowledge to anyone who would listen at the video store (remember those?) I worked at. Now I occasionally get a moment to shine as the pop culture member of the team on trivia night. But I’ve long wanted to create my own little space of the internet where I could muse about television, movies, music, and literature. Hence Pop Culture Professor was born.

For those of you who aren’t family or friends I’ve forced to visit this page, let me tell you a little about myself. I’m a Montreal native who after graduating university helped co-found the media collective ForgettheBox, where I was an arts and culture critic for many years. I still write for FTB occasionally, feel free to check my posts.

While my stated purpose with this blog is to teach you all a thing or two about pop culture, it will also be a learning experience for me. While I’ve been blogging since 2009, another reason I’ve started all this is to learn more about the behind the scenes aspect of it all; building a site, SEO, social media marketing, etc. So I appreciate your patience as this project goes from ‘she clearly doesn’t know what she’s doing’ to hopefully something much more polished.

In the coming weeks and months you can expect to essays, reviews, and of course top ten lists. Because after all we live in a click bait age, and mama needs her page views.

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