Tag Archives: Lindsay Lohan

Jokes Hide Shadows and It’s Quiet Outside — “Falling for Christmas”

“Falling for Christmas”, you’ll be shocked to know, is a Christmas movie. The first in Lindsay Lohan’s multi-picture deal with Netflix, it perfectly captures the streaming platform’s ability to churn out movies you’ve seen before, but this time with that one person who makes you go, “I haven’t seen this movie I’ve seen before with that one person in it”. Why did I watch it? Pretty much the thing I just said.

Lohan plays Sierra Belmont, spoiled daughter of a ski resort mogul. When her even more spoiled influencer boyfriend Tad Fairchild proposes to her, Santa hurls her off a cliff because a little girl wants her dad to meet someone. I…wait, what?

Jake Russell is a dad who doesn’t want to meet someone because he mourns his wife and his bed-and-breakfast/ski resort is struggling in the face of clearly buying tens of thousands of dollars of Christmas decorations. He probably could’ve just gotten away with a nice tree and some of those icicle lights.

Russell is played by Chord Overstreet, which would have been a much better name for this character. His plan to avoid meeting anyone is helped by a charm that’s conveyed by smirking and leering at inopportune times like a serial killer.

His daughter Avy makes a wish for him to meet someone, and a nearby Santa who gets some weirdly discomfiting close-ups taps his nose like he’s playing charades with a more kindly Santa from another film who doesn’t hurl women off cliffs.

This nose-tapping unveils Santa’s control of the weather, conjuring a great wind that sends Sierra hurtling down the mountainside. Ultimately, she is concussed. Jake finds her and Sierra wakes up in the hospital without her memory. She has suffered amnesia because we live in a fatalistic world where a deterministic Santa does not mark down who’s naughty or nice, but rather declares it on a whim, trapping us each in a cage where our decisions mean nothing in the face of a capricious god.

I’ve got to say, it’s a breath of fresh air. I’ve always been a fan of Old Testament Santa.

What follows is “Overboard”-lite, except Russell doesn’t actually know who Sierra is. Russell’s defining characteristics are taking advantage of the situation to make Sierra work as an unpaid maid, and having a daughter with way more personality than him. Thankfully, other people keep telling Sierra how great he is.

Meanwhile, fiance Tad is lost in the wilderness with an ice fisher, an increasing number of stereotypical jokes suggesting that Tad is gay. These are the worst jokes in “Falling for Christmas”, but it seems like the film eventually realizes this (a lot of bloopers during the credits are scenes involving him that didn’t make the cut). The movie quickly forgets that Tad exists until he’s needed for the climax.

“Falling for Christmas” is exactly the movie you expect it to be. Quite weirdly, that’s exactly what I wanted. You got me again, Netflix, and just in case I didn’t know it, they sneak in an ad for last year’s Brooke Shields Christmas retread, “A Castle for Christmas”.

Now, I don’t want to cast aspersions on an ensemble that really doesn’t have much to work with, but “Falling for Christmas” is carried by Lohan solo. Millennials like myself will recognize that in the early 2000s, Lohan was poised to be an absolute star. Her work in “Freaky Friday” and “Mean Girls” was more than just being a good comedy lead. As Roger Ebert wrote in his “Freaky Friday” review, Lohan possessed “that Jodie Foster sort of seriousness and intent focus”.

That may seem ridiculous to read in 2022, but it was accurate. Lohan had serious comedy chops and an underlying intensity that elevated the consequences of otherwise wacky premises. That focus took center stage with more dramatic work in smaller films like “A Prairie Home Companion”, “Bobby”, and “Chapter 27”. Addiction, DUIs, and disappearing from set derailed that. The burgeoning online celebrity gossip industry of the 2000s also chewed up young actresses while praising men for courageous fights where they did the exact same thing; there wasn’t a more complex or useful conversation to be found. It’s hard to say where Lohan could’ve gone if she’d been able to corral her demons and build on her best work.

Maybe she could’ve been a star, won awards, had an MCU role, who knows…but those concerns feel less consequential than the simple idea that she could’ve enjoyed the opportunity to continue delivering performances that were uniquely hers. Her last film role before this was in 2013’s “The Canyons”, a massively overlooked performance of tolerating obsession and abuse in a film that really should be overlooked – the behavior of the other names involved since (James Deen, Paul Schrader, Bret Easton Ellis) make it an utterly garbage assembly of human beings before any judgments on Lohan.

Of course, as I researched this article, I realized Lohan has waffled terribly in the last few years between opposing Brexit and authoritarian types, then defending fascist leaders like Putin, Erdogan, and Trump, then trolling them, and that’s without talking about her initial defense of Harvey Weinstein. This last is complicated by Lohan’s stated anger at the press’s lack of coverage when she suffered domestic abuse. She was nearly killed by her former fiance, evidence including police phone calls and domestic abuse documented in two videos that collectively point to at least two years of suffering life-threatening violence. Ultimately, the news saw a public dismissal borne from how the 2000s gossip industry trained us to view her. A domestic violence survivor was treated as just Lohan being Lohan, as if it was her fault. There was no public response of empathy, and she connected this in follow-up statements to her anger that others were receiving the empathy and action she’d sought. It doesn’t justify or legitimize her response in any way, but on a human level I can grasp the desperation that shaped it.

That’s no reason to justify any of Lohan’s harmful statements across the board. What it may do is contextualize the role she assumes in defending that harm. Many victims are trained to do just that: defend the harm of others. They seek to legitimize that harm because failing to do so once threatened their own survival. Spend enough time surviving that way and you stop thinking there’s any other.

Rose McGowan, who survived a Weinstein assault, suggested, “Please go easy on Lindsay Lohan. Being a child actor turned sex symbol twists the brain in ways you can’t comprehend.” This too, is both complicated and demonstrated by McGowan’s long history of homophobia and transphobia, and going full QAnon in the last few years.

Part of me wonders if Lohan’s experience as a child actor plays into her gravitation toward abusive, toxic, harmful male figures. We’ve been told again and again how bad things are for many child actors, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, labor violations, wage theft, drugging, the list goes on and on.

As far as I can tell from limited research, these red flags don’t crop up in Lohan’s story directly, though she has a complicated history with her family. Nor does every survivor wish to talk about what they’ve endured. It’s tempting to think the shape of what’s missing from a story – or what’s similar to so many other stories – can be evidence, but conjecture would be irresponsible and uninformed.

I didn’t watch “Falling for Christmas” because I thought it would be good. It held up its end of the bargain there. I watched it because I wanted to see if Lohan still flashed that talent that’s gone so unfulfilled, and I figured either way I’d get a review with some good jokes. The talent’s there in spades, showing through briefly despite the material and direction. The jokes are there – not in the film, but if you want to talk about an angry, vengeful Santa, absolutely. But think about it too long and something else is there, too – some shadow of who we become in the face of repeated cycles of abuse, of what’s lost – forget talent-wise, but in our humanness.

None of this is on the screen. This is exactly that movie you can start and not pay attention to, turn on in the background, glance at only once or twice and know precisely what’s happening. Look too long at the shadows it casts, though, and the shape of things change.

You look at someone who’s suffered abuse and turns around to justify others’ abusers and…criticism and empathy both are owed, right? It’s just…how do you tell when? How do you tell what measure of each? Many moments are apparent. You stand against somebody supporting a dictator or a rapist, or as we see among other celebrities right now, espousing hate. That’s the uncomplicated side of the equation.

We’re talking about a celebrity, but we know this in our own lives, too – especially over these last several years. It’s complex to oppose someone for whom you still feel empathy, whose lashing out from pain you might be able to understand. It might be the only way they know to survive. Criticism of harmful stances is warranted, necessary, and needs to be seen and repeated, even if somewhere in there you know it might induce the same panic in the criticized as abuse once did. But ease off too much and empathy for one enables them to continue defending abusers and systems that target many. The world isn’t built in a way where we can always offer both, and we’re not built in ways where we can sustain offering empathy to both without becoming hypocrites and making each job harder. It’s often a good judgment not to offer both. It’s often our own survival mechanism. A community can’t sacrifice itself for one person to feel comfortable.

The reality of empathy is that we can’t act on it everywhere. We have to prioritize by who needs it most, or by how many need it – our empathy for someone causing harm, even when caused by pain or panic, can get in the way of our empathy for someone being harmed. After the damage passes, maybe we can go back and offer what we can, but sometimes that moment’s passed, too. There’s no regret to that. Empathy has to help those who are being punched down furthest first. It’s the right decision, it’s the kind decision. In the quieter moments though, I wonder if the empathy we couldn’t offer or could only offer too late, is still worth mourning. Just as a recognition for the way the world is. Just to remember that we saw it, that we witnessed the need and aren’t training ourselves to ignore it. Just to yearn for kindness. Who knows what Lohan’s story is, but hers reminds me of so many others I do know, and it carries an eerie similarity to a world that’s all too eager to think everything’s a fight for survival that requires harm. What we live in breaks my heart sometimes; that’s why I opened with jokes.

You can watch “Falling for Christmas” on Netflix.

If you want to see articles like this, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to write more.

Thursday’s Child — Caravaggio, Poverty P*rn, and Superhero Wardrobes

Thursday’s Child is what happens when Wednesday Collective runs long or gets pushed a day. The only requirement is that it features a David Bowie song in the opening paragraph. Let’s go with that time he told Trent Reznor how he feels about Americans.

Get to Know Filmmaking’s Most Influential Painter

Stephen Akey


A big part of filmmaking (and critiquing) is knowing your art history. Hell, we wouldn’t have the establishing shot as we know it without Impressionism. Even as a viewer, you never know when that knowledge is going to enhance a movie. Hieronymus Bosch’s carnally oppressive, otherworldly madhouses pop up in thankfully brief, soul-scathing moments of Noah. The first Hunger Games owes its incredibly immediate sense of place to the Depression-era photography of Dorothea Lange.

War photography – especially from failed wars like Vietnam – has heavily influenced the Mexican-Spanish pulp resurgence. I suspect it reflects the lost wars that led to decades of Fascist rule under the PRI in Mexico and under Franco (after the Spanish Civil War) in Spain. Everything from Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men to Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim has found glum, terrifying moments to reflect on their personal ideas of loss, ones that never fail to horrify more than any battle or monster can.

Perhaps no single painter has influenced filmmaking more than Caravaggio: the stark close-ups of Carl Dreyer’s formative 1928 The Passion of Joan of Arc; the matter-of-fact, sometimes uncomfortably foregrounded violence of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai epics; the precise arrangement of players and light in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather; all the way through to the striking use of color and composition of Zack Snyder’s 300. Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth, Tarsem Singh’s Immortals, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, the list goes on and on.

Martin Scorsese might be the filmmaker who, early in his career, embraced him the most. Caravaggio seeped through the seediest moments of Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. The painter was, as Scorsese once told Caravaggio biographer Andrew Graham-Dixon, the entire reason for doing The Last Temptation of Christ.

Caravaggio himself had an interesting life. Not unlike a Scorsese character, Caravaggio had been formed by a violent, hardscrabble upbringing that was both key to his many successes and his strange, historical mystery of a downfall. He found more comfort with gangs, beggars, and prostitutes than he did with high society, and he was exceptionally clever at revealing – both in life and in his paintings – that high society played at that very same, cutthroat level.

Thanks to Chris Braak over at Threat Quality Press for pointing this article out.

What is Poverty Porn?
Tom Roston

Rich Hill

Don’t worry, it’s safe for work. I’ve talked a lot about the ‘genre of excess’ that Izzy Black proposed a few months ago. It seeks to make an accounting of at-any-cost stories of social and financial success, but it refuses to judge the characters therein (think The Wolf of Wall Street, Spring Breakers, The Bling Ring).

The inevitable corollary of that is “poverty porn.” As Roston writes, it’s used to describe an image of the poor “that takes on an almost fetishistic quality, wherein the audience savors how miserable people can get. This can happen even with the best intentions, like those extended commercials for charities in which barefoot children from a third world country stare into the camera.” It takes shape in large part when documentary filmmakers each seek to out-bleak each other in the pursuit of funding.

Roston suggests a “poverty porn clean-up crew,” and has an interesting proposition to form it.

Work It, Superman
Lauren Davis


That’s quite a get-up Superman has there. You wouldn’t take him seriously. I wouldn’t take him seriously. Yet it’s pretty standard for women in superhero comics. Why does what superheroes wear matter? What does it tell the youth being brought up on them?

I’m thankful Marvel’s had the sense to mostly skip this sort of fetishism in their film adaptations. For Black Widow’s co-leading role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, she’s mostly portrayed wearing something sensible with a leather jacket. As I’ve said before, her most notable accessory is an assault rifle with an underslung grenade launcher. It’s Captain America who appears in various states of undress and just has to break into the Smithsonian when every federal agency is looking for him. Why? To get the right piece of fashion for saving the world. It’s a refreshing and humorous twist.

What Captain America, RoboCop, and Her Say About Surveillance
Willie Osterweil

Captain Military Industrialism 2

I don’t entirely agree with this piece. First of all, never ever start an article off by insulting a large group of people (in this case, liberals) – it signals you’re either playing to a base, or you’re too narrow-minded to consider your opponent as anything other than a hive-mind. Both mean that anyone sitting on the fence, as well as many sensible people who are already on your side, will consider you shrill and discount both your opinion and your effectiveness as someone who can influence others.

Secondly, I don’t agree with many of Osterweil’s points. But that’s no reason not to highlight someone else’s work if he makes those points intelligently.

Osterweil ultimately presents a challenging article about the use and interplay of surveillance and gender dynamics in Captain America, the RoboCop remake, and the Oscar-winning Her.

As an aside that this article touches on, I myself have become increasingly on-the-fence about Spike Jonze as a director. Critical kryptonite, I know. It’s not because of any fault in his abilities – if anything, he might be the best American director when it comes to marrying the various technical elements of film (visual structure, production design, costume, cinematography, editing) to pure artistic flair. More than anything else, perhaps no director has ever used sound as expertly and emotionally as he has. But man, his films’ views of women as creatures too erratic to think of others and as the cause and solution of every problem in a man’s life, no matter how young or old…it grates.

Throw onto that his production and story roles in the Jackass films, which increasingly think hidden camera is meant to be an excuse to sexually harass and abuse women without repercussions, and I have some serious reservations about many of Jonze’s values as a storyteller.

The Price of Rebooting a Successful Franchise
Scott Mendelson

Spidey Fight

Forbes is a terrible magazine when it comes to knowing what the real world is like. It’s also not often very good at analyzing economic policy, but when it comes to analyzing individual industries, it can actually be quite on-the-money (in this way, it’s the exact inversion of The Economist).

Here’s a rather good article on how Sony originally planned to reboot Spider-Man as a smaller, more personal story focusing on secret identity Peter Parker’s school life, with the action being less extravagant and more intimate. Now, I quite liked The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which could deliver fantastic individual scenes but not an entire, cogent story. The best moments undeniably involved Andrew Garfield’s interplay with Emma Stone and Dane DeHaan, when their characters were just bumming around New York and working out their personal issues. A Spider-Man focused on that? Brave, but with this group I have no doubts they could have made it special.

Instead, Sony (just like Warner Bros. is) got jealous of Marvel’s Avengers canon and – instead of blazing their own path – decided the best financial option would be to copy Marvel wholesale and go as big and multiple as possible. The result is…well, it’s certainly not the windfall Sony imagined, and the franchise may not even have the financial success it could’ve if they’d just stuck with Sam Raimi at the helm and Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man another few films.

On a personal note, Spider-Man got rebooted after five years. It’s been 10 years since the last Blade movie. Get on it, New Line.

Screw the Movie, We’re Making a Production

Lohan The Canyons

One of the most successful movies of last year was the critically reviled The Canyons. Now, this takes some explaining. The Canyons was not a good movie. Written by Bret Easton Ellis, directed by Paul Schrader, and promised a film about the future of movies, we imagined the possibility of a searing assault on the conscience similar to Ellis’s previous American Psycho. Instead, The Canyons was a wooden collection of uninteresting psycho-drama, soap opera filmmaking, and borderline soft-core. It cast Lindsay Lohan opposite adult film star James Deen.

One of the most intriguing – and accurate – theories about the film is that the entire production was a piece of performance art by Ellis, that the process of putting the movie together – recorded in painstaking detail by journalists and tabloid reporters alike – was the real commentary. The performance lies in those details and in our obsession and reaction to them, not in anything put on-screen. That a movie was made was just an unavoidable side effect. In that way, The Canyons may be one of the most important efforts in filmmaking we’ve seen in years. It’s just not one of the most important films.

John Patterson at The Guardian writes about The Canyonscontemplation on the wreckage of cinema.

Adam Batty at the beautifully titled Hope Lies at 24 Frames a Second writes about Schrader’s transcendental style.

And, of course, here’s Lili Anolik’s brilliant original article, Post-Empire Strikes Back, which lays out the argument for Ellis’s the-production-is-art, screw-the-movie approach to what he wants to say. This article in particular is for mature audiences only.

Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned That the Most Outlandish Ideas in That Film Were True
Erich Schlosser

Dr Strangelove

Dr. Strangelove is Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 black comedy about the dangers of nuclear war. It posited a number of ridiculous contrivances – that a general who up and lost it one day could single-handedly launch a nuclear attack with no authorization. That the Soviets had built a “dead hand” system wherein nuclear weapons would be launched automatically if the Kremlin couldn’t be reached.

These were all insane and ribald concepts as to how the military of both countries really worked. Right? They were exaggerations Kubrick and crew made to make a point. Right? Turns out not so much – the reality was far riskier than the insanity Dr. Strangelove proposed.

Wednesday Collective — Cyberpunk, Women Direct, Britain Whitewashes, and the Sharni Vinson Rule

There are so many articles for this week’s Wednesday Collective that we’re going to split it into two parts: today’s and tomorrow’s, which I’ll dub Thursday’s Child because it will be posted on Thursday and I’m a David Bowie fan.

Cyberpunk Gets Old, Files Reverse Mortgage
Molly Osberg

WedCol cyberpunk lead

Cyberpunk isn’t just a component of my generation’s artistic outlook, it’s half the foundation. The post-industrial, dystopian narrative movement whose bones were laid out in 1979’s Alien and 1982’s Blade Runner finally muscled out in William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer. It’s re-formed the fashion and movie industries of Japan, changed Hollywood, and completely defined the video games industry, but – in recent years – technology has caught up to cyberpunk’s vision of a permanently jacked-in populace leading a real life and an online one. Perhaps more damningly, we’ve caught up to the future it once predicted, one characterized by lawless corporate feudalism and inanimate national goverments.

Molly Osberg writes at The Verge about how Cyberpunk’s evolved from social movement to aesthetic fascination, but also defines how its popular dissemination has clipped its social gravitas. What’s most interesting, and I’m projecting my own views onto this now, is how she touches on some of Gibson’s later obsessions, particularly in Pattern Recognition and Spook Country – a pursuit of iconography that borders on the religious, cultivated and refined by international groups of collectors into a borderless social Animism, forming unique languages of data and image to define views of the world that can only be completely understood by those who comprehend how the data connects.

After all, if the corporation-state is now borderless, and the nation-state has grown useless, it won’t be long before we’ll need a people-state. If Mitt Romney’s right that “Corporations are people, my friend,” then the correlation is that people are becoming less so. Maybe cyberpunk’s not quite done. Maybe we’re mistaking its teenage years, as it finds its footing in a changing world, for its retirement. Maybe its most powerful statements have yet to be made.

Female Filmmakers: Film’s Loss, Television’s Gain
Katie Walsh

Jill Soloway

Some directors have a harder time getting studios and indie investors to faithfully pony up the money for feature films. These directors are colloquially known as “women.” You see, women are considered more of a risk to helm a movie than men. Anyone who could give you a reason why could simultaneously give you a reason why he’s a fearful chauvinist living in a bygone era.

Katie Walsh at Indiewire describes the subsequent migration of women over to television directing. I can’t help but wonder whether limiting themselves to half the talent pool is why the range of viewpoints and styles in mainstream film tends toward repetition, while the range of popular TV narratives has grown braver, stranger, and more extensive. Actually, I can help but wonder, since we already know the answer.

Editing for Chinese Audiences

The Karate Kid training

While doing some research for “How China Keeps Bruce Willis Alive” last week, I came across a description by blogger Shandongxifu of how China edited the remake for The Karate Kid. It’s a window into the priorities of the Chinese censorship process, and how filmmakers worked around it to create a completely new narrative.

Britain’s Theatrical Whitewashing
Tony Howard

Adrian Lester in Merlin

Government censorship isn’t the only kind. Pictured above is Adrian Lester in Merlin. He’s an accomplished Shakespearian actor who struggles to land the jobs less accomplished white actors are given. Tony Howard at The New Statesmen pens a scathing article on Lester and other minority actors, who routinely have trouble getting roles on British stage, film, and TV. It reflects a problem that we here in the States still have, but explains how Britain’s centralization of arts funding, as well as their choice to focus on classical repertoire over newer plays, exacerbates the problem to a state of cultural emergency.

Of Charlton Heston & Antonio Banderas
A. E. Larsen

The War Lord

An Historian Goes to the Movies is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs, a go-to source for investigating the historical accuracy of films set in the past. This week, there’s an engrossing historical analysis on The War Lord, a little-known Medieval movie starring Charlton Heston, and a discussion on why intelligent costume designers consciously choose to include historically inaccurate armors in their historical films, using The 13th Warrior as a case study.

The Future of Chinese and Hong Kong Film
David Bordwell

The White Storm

David Bordwell gives a rundown of the annual Filmart festival in Hong Kong. It’s the single biggest film market in Asia. He sets the scene to make you feel like you’re there before discussing the new system of shared productions between Hong Kong and mainland China. He devotes the bulk of his article, however, to the most exciting new films from one of the most well-established yet fastest-growing film industries in the world.

The Sharni Vinson Rule
Jordan & Eddie

Shani Vinson in Patrick

This review of Australian suspense film Patrick isn’t about the industry or any specific technical craft, but it earns a place this week because it gives me a chance to champion two things:

Firstly, actress Sharni Vinson is something special and I don’t want to miss an opportunity to point people in her direction. She led last year’s You’re Next, which achieved the rare trifecta of being my favorite horror movie, comedy, and mumblecore film of the last several years. This gives rise to the Sharni Vinson Rule – One never needs an excuse to post about Sharni Vinson. In the interest of equality, let’s say it applies to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, too.

Secondly, Jordan & Eddie (The Movie Guys) is my favorite site to learn about Australian filmmaking. Australia has a creative and vibrant filmmaking industry that is too often overlooked. These two tend to see Australian movies 6-12 months before we do here in the States, and they have a particular fondness for my kind of suspense and horror.

“Post-Empire Strikes Back”
Lili Anolik

The Canyons

If you’ve made it this far, you’re in for a treat. This would be up near the top, but some of the subject matter is raunchy and I want to be respectful to all of my readership.

Believer Magazine features an excellent story by Lili Anolik on the wreck of a film that was last year’s The Canyons, a movie which accomplished the rare feat of being relentlessly interesting and boring as can be. Anolik interviews controversial novelist and screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis (The Rules of Attraction, American Psycho) and director Paul Schrader (American Gigolo, Adam Resurrected) about a movie that Lindsay Lohan single-handedly pulls from pure dreck to semi-watchable.

Anolik examines a true piece of performance art by Ellis, a post-theatrical movie in which the art on display isn’t the film itself but the cultural commentary housed within the tale of its production. The story of the real movie adaptation of a fictional novel that Ellis’s fictional alter-ego never got around to writing, starring Lindsay Lohan, a male porn star, and controversial director Gus Van Sant as his psychiatrist, is by turns fascinating, hilarious, and chilling. The Canyons may have been terrible, but the performance art of making it may be the best thing Ellis has done yet.