Back in the 60’s my family had a tradition of going to the movies on Christmas Day. We did not necessarily go to see Holiday movies. In fact, we saw James Bond 3 years in a row. The landscape in terms of holiday films has changed drastically since then and is now populated with films from Cable TV and streaming. In addition to theatrical releases. most holiday films now come by way of the Hallmark channels, the Lifetime channel and Netflix. Due to increase viewership, these channels and Netflix have upped their reindeer game.
Lifetime more than doubled their fare going from 6 to 14 flicks in 2018; while Hallmark went from 33 movies to 38 in 2018. Hallmark has amassed an inventory of more than 175 Holiday movies. So from the last week of October to the first week of January one can have the pleasure of viewing Hallmark’s old favorites sprinkled with new offerings 24/7. I decided to concentrate on Hallmark which left little time to squeeze in a Lifetime or Netflix movie.
However, I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out to Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles starring Kurt Russell. Kurt carries this cute family fantasy as one rocking Santa. This movie should become a Christmas Classic.
I am pleased to report I met my goal of seeing all 38 2018 Hallmark Christmas movies. I wish to share what I have learned about the Hallmark Christmas Movie Phenomena.
THE HALLMARK MOVIE PROCESS
Hallmark has a template by which they either develop new stories or adapt existing ones. Actually, this process is from the Jane Austen playbook called “Pride and Prejudice”. An early encounter leaves love as a long shot but romance prevails. With this as the broad premise, I have fleshed out the features of a Hallmark Christmas Movie.
1. The movie usually starts with a contentious meet up of the male and female leads. The couple can either know each other, such as old high school sweethearts, or meet for the first time. Either way their encounter is unpleasant and leaves a frustrated feeling toward each other.
2. As the movie progress, the couple will meet up again and either become a team that needs to complete a task or else compete for a prize or promotion.
3. As they progress to the romance level, they will reach a moment of reckoning caused by a miscommunication or misunderstanding. This moment usually occurs about 30 minutes before the end of the movie. The problem gets resolved and the result is a stronger romance culminating with a kiss.
4. Activities that are used to nurture the relationship include snowball fights, snowman building, decorating, drinking hot chocolate, and making/eating cookies.
5. The setting can be either urban or rural but must include plenty of decorations. Often one of the leads is coming back home for the Holidays.
6. The movie starts out with the playing of a known Christmas song to immediately set the festive tone.
The predictable nature of the film gives the viewer plenty of flexibility in the concentration needed to enjoy the movie. There is wholesome comfortable feeling in knowing what the end result of the movie is going to be.
The production of the movies has the following characteristics:
1. Hallmark movies take about 3 weeks to complete.
2. Well over half of the movies are filmed in Canada with Vancouver and Toronto likely locations. These locations will often ghost US cities such as Chicago.
3. Many of the actors are from Canada. The leads are usually in their 30’s or 40’s. Many of the actors have prior experience in TV soap operas or series either as children or young adults. Examples of this are Candace Cameron Bere, and Jody Sweetin from Full House, Danica McKellar from Wonder Years and Alicia Witt from Cybill.
4. 60% of the lead actors are Hallmark veterans that have appeared in other Hallmark movies. Candace Cameron Bere has appeared in 9 Christmas movies, Alicia Witt in 6 and Danica McKellar in 4. Although some male actors do multiple Hallmark movies, they do not have the stay power of the females.
5. To strengthen the cast, veteran TV stars such as Lindsay Wagner, Jean Smart and Kathie Gifford have supporting roles.
6. Some inroads have been made in the use of minority actors in Hallmark movies. 4 of the 2018 movies had blacks in the male and female leads. Holly Robinson Peete has been the major force in minority representation at Hallmark, In addition to Christmas movies, her family was featured in family documentary series “Meet the Peetes” and she stars in the Hallmark “Morning Show Mysteries” series.
7. Kids and dogs are used in the cast for some light humor. The 2018 movies had less kids and dogs.
8. Hallmark movies are not highly rated by viewers. On a scale of 1 to 10 the 2018 average rating is 6.52.
THE 2018 HALLMARK CHRISTMAS MOVIE AWARDS
In the spirit of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I announce the following 2018 Christmas Movie awards:
The Darcy Award for Best Picture
I am pleased to award best picture to Christmas on Honey Suckle Lane. Alicia Witt and Colin Ferguson team up well in this suspense thriller with a dash of romance. Attorney Alicia Witt comes home to assist her siblings in selling their family house and belongings with the assistance of local antique dealer Colin Ferguson. As they work together love letters written by her mother are found, but they were not written by her father. Colin and Alicia work and play well together in the search for answers. The natural aloofness of Miss Witt combines with Mr. Ferguson’s serious nature to make the sparks fly by the end. The marque matchup of these 2 Hallmark Veterans lives up to its billing. I saw both of them on Hallmark’s morning show Home and Family. The enjoyment they had making the movie sure shows.
The de Bourgh Award for Worst Movie
Without hesitation, I select Once upon a Christmas Miracle as the worst Hallmark movie in 2018. This holiday romance starring Brett Dalton and Aimee Teegarden is a true story about Brett giving a part of his liver to Aimee who is about to die from stage 4 liver disease. Aimee does a fairly good job of looking good while near death. Based on viewing pictures of the real couple from the south Chicago suburb Tinley Park, I must say that the real woman looks better than the actress.
The problem in the movie is with actor Brett Dalton who plays the Marine veteran coming back from action in the Middle East. He makes the critical decisions of donating a part of his liver and having a last minute fund raiser just before Christmas for the girl’s hospital expenses on autopilot as if there is nothing to think about His critical thinking goes into deciding how good are his mother’s Christmas cookies. Needless to say he is still living at home with mom. His lack of emotion and expression gave me the creeps. Aimee has difficulty deciding whether she loves him as a person and should marry or loves him for what he did. She makes the wrong decision. I can’t wait to see the sequel next year on Lifetime where Brett emerges as a Holiday Serial Killer. My viewpoint is in the minority. The Hallmark audiences gave this movie great reviews. Brett’s lack of critical thinking apparently translated into selflessness.
The Bennett Lifetime Achievement Award
Without a doubt, the Lifetime Achievement award goes to Candace Cameron Bere, lead actor in 9 Hallmark Christmas movies. The fact she made a Holiday Shoe Stinker this year call Shoe Addict’s Christmas does not undermine her overall work. Candace and her male lead Luke Macfarlane try to provide life support but to no avail. Hang in their Candace a better holiday script has to come your way in 2019.
Until then, keep enjoying Hallmark Movies!