A cameo is the term given to describe an item of jewellery, typically oval in shape, which is engraved with a profiled portrait. Dating as far back as antiquity, cameos have been a common feature of the art world throughout history; Elizabeth I is known to have given courtiers cameos baring her own personage as a means of reminding the recipient of where their true loyalties lie. In the context of a film blog, however, a cameo is the small appearance of a well known actor within a film. For example, the word ‘however’ made a cameo in the previous sentence. It would seem that binge-watching Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events has left me somewhat obsessed by definitions. For which I apologise.
2016, sorry to break this to you pal but you’ve not been the best year. Politics, international relations, conflicts and all those celebrity deaths? You’ve got to admit that you’ve dropped the ball a bit.
On the other hand…I suppose you have given us a pretty solid year on the film front. I mean: The Revenant, Spotlight and Room all in one month?! We were spoilt! You’ve been pretty on form with the animations this year: Finding Dory, Moana, Kubo and the Two Strings, Zootropolis – perhaps best not to mention Sausage Party. Your blockbusters were a bit more hit and miss: Captain America was a corker and The Jungle Book was stunning – bravo. Then you gave us Suicide Squad. Seriously 2016? D- for that one, must try harder.
Christmas films are overrated. There: I said it. Christmas films are underrated. I said that too. I’m not deliberately trying to be awkward – that comes naturally to a film critic I suspect – as both statements can, and do, coexist truthfully.
To call something a ‘Christmas film’ is to categorise it instantly, broadly placing it within a box holding our set opinions. I call Christmas films overrated because mainstream audiences, and I’m generalising wildly here, do seem to experience a fuzz of warm nostalgia when it comes to remembering – or perhaps miss-remembering – festive fare. Take Home Alone (Chris Columbus, 1990 – don’t string me up yet!), it’s a good, typically solid film from Columbus and a surprisingly violent one too for what it’s worth. Released at any other time of the year, I’d wager it’d be fondly remembered but never hailed as anything more than it is. Perhaps in the vein of Stuart Little (Rob Minkoff, 1999) or Spy Kids (Robert Rodriguez, 2001) say. However, Home Alone is a ‘Christmas film’ and, as such, considered by many to be a classic. By this default it is allowed to be unrealistic, that’s fine; it can get away with an over-sugared conclusion and it’s overlooked that, as a story, the film’s almost entirely screen-deep. Christmas is the time of year when audiences want to forget the real world (frankly, after 2016 we deserve a break) and need to believe in a message of hope. Is being rewarded for surviving another year, however, quite the same thing as watching a brilliant film?