Ian Thomas Malone

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December 2021

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Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers is a touching tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh

Written by , Posted in Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

Prince Philip passed away just a few months shy of what would have been his one-hundredth birthday, a historic milestone for a royal consort. To celebrate the occasion, members of the Royal Family, including all four of Philip’s children and most of his adult grandchildren, sat down for a series of televised interviews. The special Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers features footage filmed both before the Duke of Edinburgh’s death and after, an intimate portrait of a quite unusual life.

The special largely divides its footage into three categories. The interviews with the Royal Family carry an understandable degree of novelty. Alongside the interviews, archival footage of the Duke’s life presents a biography of his life that may be a bit familiar to many watching. The special also features a behind-the-scenes look at the Duke’s office and library, peeling back the curtain of his day-to-day activities.

No one tuning into The Royal Family Remembers should expect a hard-hitting look at the Duke’s life. The Royal Family, particularly its members who still reside in the U.K., are notoriously averse to airing conflict in the public sphere. The closest the special comes to controversial subjects is a brief explanation of the context surrounding Philip’s proclivity for off-color remarks that would get him in trouble with the media.

The nature of the special makes a pivot from celebration to memorial a fairly seamless one. Death hardly comes as much of a surprise to people approaching 100 years old. While the tone is a bit more somber than any of the Royal Family would have liked, the interviews keep an upbeat tone that makes for enjoyable viewing.

One interesting takeaway from the special is the Duke’s approach to humility. The role of royal consort is a supporting gig, a life in service to supporting one’s spouse. The special highlights how uncomfortable Philip could be when asked to boast about his achievements, instead shifting the spotlight to others. Modesty is a trait sorely absent from so many in power, speaking volumes about the man’s character.

There are no real surprises in The Royal Family Remembers, an engaging hour-long perspective of a fascinating figure. Those seeking a more balanced look at Prince Philip’s life certainly have plenty of other options to find such material. As far as puff pieces go, this one is pretty entertaining.

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Monday

13

December 2021

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A Miser Brothers‘ Christmas

Written by , Posted in Blog, Podcast

Our holiday coverage continues with A Mister Brothers’ Christmas, the 2008 follow-up to the 1974 gem The Year Without a Santa Claus. Featuring returning voices Mickey Rooney and George S. Irving as Santa Claus and Heat Miser, the film aims to recapture the magic of the Rankin/Bass stop-motion classics. Unfortunately, the film never quite comes together as anything more than a nostalgia production with some truly horrendous music. Ian does her best to unpack what went wrong and why she’s still happy that it exists.

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Monday

13

December 2021

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It‘s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

Written by , Posted in Blog, Podcast

We’re back in the Muppets Extended Universe with the 2002 television film It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. With a plot that’s strikingly similar to the 2011 cinematic film The Muppets, adult-themed humor, and some uneven celebrity cameos from NBC Universal properties, the film occupies a weird place in Muppets lore. A strong performance from Joan Cusack goes a long way toward buoying a production perhaps best known for suggesting that Kermit’s existence played a role in one of the defining tragedies of the 21st century.

Be sure to check out all of EI’s holiday coverage! 

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Friday

10

December 2021

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Pinocchio‘s Christmas

Written by , Posted in Blog, Podcast

Into the weeds of the Rankin/Bass holiday catalog! Pinocchio’s Christmas is a bizarre special, serving as both an adaption of the 1883 novel and a more traditional Santa-infused holiday narrative. There is a lot going on, with multiple villains and plotlines converging on the poor wooden boy. Ian does her best to unpack it all.

 

Be sure to check out all of our holiday-themed episodes!

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Friday

10

December 2021

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The Little Drummer Boy

Written by , Posted in Blog, Podcast

We are continuing our Bass/Rankin coverage with the 1968 classic The Little Drummer Boy. Aaron starts off our story as a misanthropic troubadour performing for an audience of none, only to be changed by the healing power of laughter after pounding his drum until a newborn baby saved his lamb. Ian isn’t sure what to make of her affection for Ben Haramad, the closest thing the special has to a villain who isn’t driving a chariot in the middle of the night.

 

Be sure to check out all of our holiday-themed episodes!

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Thursday

9

December 2021

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Rudolph‘s Shiny New Year

Written by , Posted in Blog, Podcast

Holiday coverage continues! Join Ian as she unpacks the trainwreck known as Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, where everyone’s favorite bullied reindeer is tasked with saving time itself. From the Archipelago of Last Years to Eon the Terrible, nothing here makes any sense. The people in power continue to pick on young children, presenting the sensible question of whether time should be saved.

Be sure to check out our episode from last year covering the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special: https://ianthomasmalone.podbean.com/e/rudolph-a-transgender-perspective/

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Monday

6

December 2021

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Succession is a one-trick pony with diminishing returns

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Succession is, in theory at least, a fairly easy show to describe. The Roys, namely Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman (Kieran Culkin), vie for their father’s attention, hoping to inherit an unwieldy corporation leviathan that’s ill-served by a steady injection of nepotism. Armed with a steady stream of one-liners, what can sound like corporate Game of Thrones often feels more like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, loosely connected vignettes in purpose to a broader arc.

Season three positioned itself to tackle the ramifications of Kendall going rogue, prompting Justice Department investigations too broad for Logan (Brian Cox) to squash. Tom (Matthew McFayden) spent several episodes accepting his inevitable indictment, reading about prisons like he was planning a family vacation. Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) found himself in the middle of a game of tug-of-war between Kendall and the broader Roy family, becoming disinherited in the process.

Succession understands the power of dramatic tension, often deploying orchestral scorings of its theme song to heighten its more powerful moments. Scenes like when the FBI raided Waystar Royco made for great TV, not only in their initial execution but through the anticipation of what might happen next week. In a world where many TV shows see their entire seasons released in one day, Succession seemed to understand the value of the slow burn.

Season three cares only for its mic drop moments. Succession has no grasp of narrative pacing, a show that gives its audience little to invest in beyond amusing one-liners with diminishing returns. A sad waste of talent. The build-up doesn’t have any follow-through.

The first few episodes expose a few of the cracks. Confined almost exclusively to indoor closed sets, a likely product of the pandemic, the Roy family was left to bicker amongst themselves without the beauty that comes from their perpetual globetrotting. Instead, the audience is left with some atrocious writing that gave corporate power struggles the feel of a high school drama.

To some extent, the pettiness is part of the show’s charm. There’s a certain degree of satisfaction to be had in watching Shiv flounder in her executive position, all the empty calories of girlboss feminism. Succession doesn’t really need likable characters, but season three hasn’t given the cast enough to work with to fill the void.

There’s a bizarre amount of disconnect between each episode, introducing and abandoning new storylines, seemingly at whim. Of course, the only narrative that really matters, in the end, lies with Logan and his children. Succession knows its best magic comes from Logan sparring with his kids, revealing what an unbelievably bad father he was at every turn. You don’t need to feel an ounce of sympathy for the Roy kids to see the beauty in these heartbreaking scenes, puppies chasing a car they’ll never catch.

Succession is capable of crafting individual compelling episodes of television, but season three exposed some of the series’ broader structural flaws. There is little more to the whole production than a bunch of unsympathetic blowhards perpetually trying to stab each other in the back. The vignette approach to episodic storytelling occasionally works, but it’s hard to feel impressed by a show that spent its first episodes hyping up an existential threat that it instead decided to abandon with the flick of a finger.

Succession has no stakes. It’s hard to build tension when you know the show will do everything in its power to preserve the status quo. The audience may understand why it can’t deliver on “succession” until closer to a finale, but the show doesn’t seem to care much about progression either.

The result is a glorified sitcom. Succession gives the audience plenty to smile or cringe at, whether it’s through Greg’s antics or the sad existence that is Connor Roy (Alan Ruck). It’s all too lazy to be great TV. Such a cutting examination of corporate power should be able to conduct its narrative like it wasn’t just throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. It’s hard to get behind a show that’s so content in its mediocrity.

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Monday

6

December 2021

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A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa

Written by , Posted in Podcast

Our holiday coverage continues! Ian & Tara talk about the 2008 TV special, A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa, currently available on Disney+. With strong writing, music from The Muppet Christmas Carol lyricist Paul Williams, and fun celebrity cameos from Uma Thurman, Jesse L. Martin, Whoopi Goldberg, and Nathan Lane, Letters to Santa is a very entertaining way to get into the Christmas spirit. 

Be sure to check out all of our holiday-themed episodes! If you’ve enjoyed EI this year, please consider leaving us a review.

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Friday

3

December 2021

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The Muppet Christmas Carol

Written by , Posted in Podcast

When a cold wind blows it chills you, chills you to the bone! Ian is joined by her sister Barbara “Bibble” Malone for an episode dedicated to the definitive holiday classic. Born out of tragedy after the losses of Jim Henson & Richard Hunt, the Muppet troupe banded together to produce one of their finest works. From Michael Caine’s iconic performance to Paul Williams’ chilling music, The Muppet Christmas Carol is perfect on just about every level, as long as you’re watching a cut that contains “The Love is Gone.”

Ian’s review of the film: https://ianthomasmalone.com/2019/12/the-muppet-christmas-carol-is-the-definitive-christmas-classic/

 

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Thursday

2

December 2021

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Christmas at the Ranch brings an inclusive touch to the holiday genre

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

The Christmas movie genre often functions like a machine running on autopilot, churning out hundreds of films, many of which are completely indistinguishable from each other. Big city girl returns home to her rural life, rediscovering the meaning of life through the magic of Christmas.

LGBTQ audiences have been woefully abandoned by the Christmas movie industrial complex, a bastion of heteronormativity. The holiday season can be an anxious time of the year for our community, with many families still refusing to accept the existence of homosexuality. With a gay girl as its lead, the new film Christmas at the Ranch demonstrates how easy it is to factor in inclusive storytelling to the genre.

The film follows Haley (Laur Allen), a workaholic trying to close a major deal for her company and meet a special woman she can connect with amidst the madness that is modern dating. She returns home to her family’s ranch in time for the holiday season. Meemaw (Lindsay Wagner), who raised Haley and her brother Charles (Archie Kao) after the death of their parents, is barely holding things together, exacerbated by medical expenses and other financial hardships. Haley butts heads with ranch hand Kate (Amanda Righetti), skeptical of the prodigal granddaughter’s abilities to turn the tide of capitalism.

Director Christin Baker did a great job capturing the traditional Christmas movie spirit alongside an inclusive narrative. The film avoids all common LGBTQ tropes that place too much emphasis on coming out or winning over a homophobic relative, instead of embodying all the Christmas genre tropes that people know and love. The narrative is quite predictable in its delivery, but that’s also kind of the point. LGBTQ people deserve to be part of the fun.

The principal cast all have great chemistry with each other. Allen, Wagner, and Kao are a sweet family unit, giving their home a lived-in feel that’s vital for the genre. Allen and Righetti are very sweet together, the kind of wholesome romance that many LGBTQ people dream of having for themselves. The narrative never goes over the top with its drama, instead of operating at a mellow tempo that’s just right for a lazy December weekend.

The script is a little clunky at times, but the actors never let things drag. Christmas at the Ranch doesn’t ever try to reinvent the genre, but there’s an understated radical normalcy in its execution. LGBTQ audiences don’t have enough cozy wholesome content. The film hits all the right notes, a much-needed addition to an overly heteronormative genre.

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