Thursday, December 23, 2021

Movies and TV for the Holidays (or Not!)

Whether you enjoy watching holiday-themed TV and movies at this time of year or are just looking for something warm and uplifting (and not holiday-themed) to watch on a rest day (or a nice, quiet movie night with your family), there are lots of great options.

Holiday Viewing

I'm not much into the modern holiday movie trend, watching Lifetime and Hallmark and other similar movies like so many of my friends do. I tend to prefer the classics. I cry every single Christmas Eve when we watch It's a Wonderful Life, and we decorate cookies with our closest friends (even though our "kids" are now all in their 20's) and then watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original cartoon, with Boris Karloff, of course!) every year at this time. I am always up for a rewatch of Miracle on 34th Street (again, the original) or the newer but just as classic Love, Actually or The Holiday, starring Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, and Jack Black in a funny house-swapping romance.

However, I did end up watching two new holiday movies last year at this time, on some sick days. Holidate was a fun romcom, with plenty of humor and a good dose of snark. It's not only about Christmas and New Year's Eve but about all of the holidays, when a man and woman who just met decide to be each other's "holidate" to take the pressure off at gatherings of family and friends. You can check out my review and a trailer here.

My husband and I also watched Happiest Season last year, a new kind of take on the holiday romcom, with an all-star cast. Harper invites her girlfriend, Abby, to come home with her for Christmas and meet her family. The only problem is that her family doesn't know she's gay! Oh, and her father is running for public office on a platform of "family values." There are lots of laughs and farce in this fun movie but also plenty of warmth. We both enjoyed it as a nice, light holiday escape. My review and the trailer are at the link.

I even watched a TV series holiday romcom last year! I was sorting a huge box and a suitcase full of old photos to make a photo book for my father-in-law, so I spread everything out on the family room floor and binged Dash and Lily, a quick 8-episode show that takes place over Christmas and New Year's in New York. The two main characters are young people following clues all over the city (it starts in a bookstore, which of course I loved) until they finally meet in person. The holiday spirit is on full display in one iconic New York scene after another, and it is pure seasonal fun! My full review and the trailer are here.



Non-Holiday Viewing

If you'd prefer to set all that seasonal stuff aside and just lose yourself in a really good movie or TV series, here are some of our all-time favorites that are fun, funny, warm, and uplifting.

On New Year's Eve last year, my husband and I watched Peanut Butter Falcon, and we both loved everything about it! It's about a 23-year-old man with Down's Syndrome who escapes from the nursing home where he's been living (with some help from an elderly friend) and ends up connecting with a guy on the run for different reasons. It's a funny, heartwarming movie about family, friendship, and healing that left us both smiling from ear to ear. I didn't review it until 2021, so I think it will be my #1 movie of the year! Review and trailer here.


Another movie at the start of the year that surprised us was Palmer, starring Justin Timberlake, about an ex-con who ends up caring for the half-abandoned little boy next door who likes dolls and pretty things. It's another odd couple story, but an entirely different one. It had us both laughing out loud and crying--highly recommended. Review and trailer here.


One more heartwarming, funny movie that I absolutely loved was Hello, My Name Is Doris, starring Sally Field. She is outstanding in this role as an older, eccentric woman who gets a crush on a young guy in her office and enjoys massive, much-needed changes in her life as a result. I watched it with two friends, and we all loved it. Review and trailer here.

I was just proofreading and ready to post this when I remembered another great movie that will lift your spirits and put a smile on your face! Our top movie of the year in 2020 was Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It's actually another "odd couple" sort of story but totally unique. In New Zealand, an overweight aboriginal teen boy, Ricky, is taken in by foster parents. He's used to being abandoned and unwanted, but a series of events and a tragedy lead to Ricky going on the run in the outback with Hec, his foster "uncle." This movie is hilarious, action-packed, and full of heart, too. It really has everything.

And, you can always check my Movies tab for lots more reviews of movies in a wide variety of genres, for whatever you're in the mood for!


Here are a few TV recommendations if you want to really get immersed in a fabulous story with wonderful characters. Again, reviews and trailers and where to watch at the links.

Like the rest of the world, we loved The Queen's Gambit. It's an amazing story with an excellent cast but also so much fun to watch, with the bright colors, fashions, and decor of the 60's and 70's.

My husband and I also become totally absorbed by Veronica Mars, starring Kristen Bell. This teen detective show has plenty of suspense and action but also has a sense of humor, amidst its darkness. You can watch the original first two seasons, a movie, and a final, third season (set 10 years after the end of season two) that they made because of demand from fans.

Similarly, Only Murders in the Building is a newer show that also combines murder, suspense, and humor, with an outstanding cast. We can't wait for season two!

I just finished watching Maid, and it blew me away! Based on a true story of a young mother who suddenly finds herself (and her adorable daughter) homeless, it is raw and powerful but also warm and uplifting, with excellent acting.

And if you want something a little lighter, I also just finished watching The Big Leap, which is a fictional show about a reality dance competition. There is plenty of drama here behind the scenes with the contestants (and the show's crew), but every episode includes heart-soaring dance scenes to leave you feeling good.

You can find many more TV reviews, in all genres under my TV Reviews tab.

I hope you enjoy a relaxing, low-stress holiday week with plenty of downtime!

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