Anything is possible…in a Hallmark Christmas Town
Last week Hank Stuever, Washington Post staff writer, reviewed the newest of more than 200 Hallmark Hall of Fame special presentations. A bah humbug review, I must say, to kick off the season that represents the most sentimental of holidays…Christmas.
Just as A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph, and Frosty have become annual traditions, so have movies made by Hallmark. I hope they continue to make these heartwarming celebrations of simpler and kinder living. Especially when so many families are running around at 4 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving to buy, buy, buy the latest toy, electronic gadget, and more, so that Johnny or Janie won’t be disappointed come Christmas morn.
I really enjoy watching a feel good movie that promotes giving simpler and even more precious gifts than the ones that come wrapped in a fancy designer labeled box. Stuever wrote that, “One has to wonder how many of the millions of viewers drawn to Hallmark’s made-for-TV holiday movies watch them in the earnest and simple way the producers and writers (and advertisers) intend.” Well, count me as one of those viewers.
I know they are going to be sappy and idealistic, and that I will need a box of tissues handy for most of the movie. That’s O.K. I sit down to watch because I want to escape for two hours into that mushy world where “miracles can and do happen,” and “anything is possible.”
Hallmark’s newest offering, November Christmas, does not disappoint. Heartthrobs at any age, Sam Elliott and John Corbett, are nice to look at too through tear-filled tissues. Had Scrooge Stuever not pointed out the seam of the bald cap in one of the final scenes I wouldn’t have noticed. Having worked in television production, I too, often watch shows with a critical eye for these stumbles. However, unless it’s incredibly awful, I choose to overlook these imperfections when I’m already emotionally vested in the outcome. In this case it’s more of a coloring difference, and when focusing on the warmth of that moment, not at all noticeable. This tells more about Stuever’s fears of certain feelings, than it does about the behind-the-scenes make-up team at Hallmark Productions.
Of course growing up watching these may be part of the reason I am a delusional optimist (See related post). But, I would rather shed a few cathartic tears, and believe that anything is possible, over Stuever’s approach of pointing out cosmetic flaws while using sarcasm to call attention to movie moments that are more idealistic than realistic. It’s a choice to protect and deflect by putting up a shield of wise cracks rather than to let hope, dreams, and maybe a few tears flow.
There’s nothing wrong with helping people, if only for a few hours, to feel that they could be like one of those thoughtful giving people on the screen. Just maybe that warm fuzzy feeling will last for awhile after the movie ends, and they will take that dreamy example into the real world to positively touch another person’s life.
Stuever may consider this part of the Hallmark cliché, but there’s a reason clichés exist. It really is the gifts that cost the least in dollars that give the greatest rewards, and are remembered the longest. Time spent with family and friends making holiday cookies and spiking the eggnog; Time building snow forts and trading snowballs with the neighborhood kids; and hiking through the woods with family, or a new boyfriend, to cut a tree. Those are the memories I have held onto for years and will continue to recall every time I hear the familiar Hallmark Hall of Fame jingle.
Now if only Dolly Madison would bring back those wonderful zinger’s commercials that were as much a part of the experience as that voice and musical notes that announced a break in regular programming for a CBS special presentation.
Gifts that come from the heart are better than ones that break the bank…or they should be. Those are the lessons in the Hallmark movies, as well as the classics that never grow old. We may be in the age of 3D movies on the big screen, and soon our TV, but Jimmy Stewart in black and white still captivates in It’s a Wonderful Life. Because we long for this time to be about more than just getting, or being disappointed about what we didn’t get.
Even though it may not be obvious to Mr. Stuever, there are still small townspeople who band together to make a down-on-their-luck family’s holiday brighter. They exist in small towns and in neighborhoods within cities, or even between a handful of friends. I have witnessed, participated in, and benefitted from this type of giving.
To be fair, in true Scrooge fashion Stuever does finally, yet backhandedly admit, that while he relishes his twisted and critical viewing style that even he is not immune to the dream state created by Hallmark. Finding…”A slight sniffle, a single tear? A hot-cocoa sigh of comfort?” Proving the underlying Hallmark theme, that even for an irreverent sarcastic realist like Stuever…anything is possible.
Now I’m curious to read his book Tinsel. A non-fiction offering about his experiences following three families as they celebrate Christmas 2006, 2007 and 2008. What will it say about modern day Christmas?
Ho, Ho, Ho…Readers, What say you?
What do you say about Hallmark Hall of Fame Presentations? Thumbs-up? or Thumbs-down? Do you allow yourself to shut out the cold cruel world for a couple of hours to feel the warm cozy Hallmark glow, or do you turn the channel or watch with a twisted viewing eye like Stuever?