The holidays are here and as they roll around, they bring with them the long list of "to dos." Shopping, cards, baking, it seems there is always something to do. One of my favorite things is watching Christmas movies because honestly it requires little to no effort, and I still feel like I am enjoying the holidays. After everyone is asleep and I have the house to myself, I like to eat something that is definitely not good for me but is good for me and watch a Christmas movie while I wrap presents. While I enjoy this tradition, I am rather picky about what kind of Christmas movie it is. I want to watch something that keeps me in the holiday spirit without leaning too far into Christmas. I enjoy the holidays, but my family was never the caroling, matching sweater, or Christmas vacation type, so I grew up a Christmas moderate you might say. That being said, Hallmark can often be a little too on the nose for me. I say this with no judgement; the holidays should be just that, a holiday, so if TV Christmas movies do it for you, watch on! But if you are like me, a Christmas Lite who sometimes feels overwhelmed with all the Christmas movie options, I have got you covered. I have picked out my favorite adult Christmas movie, something new to watch this year, and a new family classic sure to fit all the “Christmas Lites” of the world while they wrap their gifts.
My go to adult Christmas movie is The Family Stone. The Family Stone came out in 2005 and it has an all-star cast with Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rachel McAdams, Clare Danes, and more. The film is about grown children who have come home for Christmas with their parents Sybil and Kelly (played by Keaton and Craig T. Nelson). Their son Everett (played by Dermot Mulroney) brings home his new uptight girlfriend Meredith (played by Parker) and chaos ensues. The film does it all from laughter at sibling antics to enough emotion to bring a tear (I always well up when Sybil signs to her son Thaddeous from across the table after he feels Meredith has insulted him and his husband). I am not sure why this film has become a staple in my family. It could be it was the first Christmas film we watched that showed a family as chaotic as ours. It could be the fact that Christmas is not treated as some magical cure that makes the characters better people, in fact it seems to bring out the worst in all of them. Or maybe it is the fact that the film touches on issues often not discussed in Christmas movies. Whatever it may be, this film has become a “must watch” for my family; in fact, every year my brother and I watch it the night before Christmas while we wrap presents and text each other. If you want to watch a film that is most definitely not perfect but may make your family seem a bit more normal, The Family Stone is for you.
My new favorite “Christmas Lite” selection is the 2021 Disney+ show Hawkeye. While Marvel and Christmas may sound like an odd couple, the truth is it works. The show has a fun Christmas tone to it complete with music and the backdrop of a New York winter without being over the top. Stars Hailee Steinfeld and Jeremy Renner have a hilarious teammate dynamic as Kate Bishop and Clint Barton (Hawkeye). The show follows the duo as Clint tries to get Kate out of trouble and still make it home in time for Christmas with his family. The show is more than just fun; it’s also packed with plenty of surprise emotion as it delves into the human side of the Marvel universe. With the not so surprise inclusion of Florence Pugh as Yelena reprising her role from Black Widow, the show sets up a fascinating future for the Marvel universe. The show has all the heart of many Christmas specials with all the action and wit we have come to love from Marvel. If you like your Christmas movies with a side of action, Hawkeye is perfect for you!
Another new but sure to be classic family Christmas movie I enjoy is Netflix’s Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey. The musical movie debuted in 2020 and has an amazing cast including Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Kay, and Anika Noni Rose. The film has a beautiful and mystical Christmas backdrop, but the plot of the film is much more Christmas adjacent. The story follows a toymaker Jeronicus (played by Whitaker) who has turned bitter and angry after his apprentice betrayed him and stole all of his inventions. After his granddaughter Journey comes into town, Jeronicus starts to find hope again as he tries to find his toy making magic again. Journey along with her new friend Edison have an epic adventure as they attempt to make things right in time for Christmas. The film has a fascinating storyline, exciting adventure scenes, touching flashbacks, and incredible music numbers. The show also shows the importance of representation both in front of and behind the camera. With a well-represented cast and director David Talbert, the film is a long time coming. Jingle Jangle is an epic journey that is sure to become a family favorite for years to come. So, if you like your Christmas movies to have a plot beyond Christmas, Jingle Jangle is a perfect family film for you.
If you want something to watch while you wrap this season, I recommend watching these three options. They are sure to keep you entertained and in the holiday spirit. The Family Stone can be found on Amazon Prime or Peacock, Hawkeye can be found on Disney+, and Jingle Jangle can be found on Netflix.
As a sports enthusiast and a woman, it would seem a given that I be a huge fan of women’s sports, but the truth is that was not always the case. Due to lack of exposure a majority of my sports content has always been men’s sports. Every time I watch women’s sports I am incredibly moved and entertained, but for most of my life I only got the opportunity to watch women’s sports during big moments (World Cups or Olympics). Women’s professional sports are a microcosm for the importance of understanding the difference between equality and equity. Sure, professional female athletes have their own sports, but they are in no way equitable to men’s professional sports. Women are not afforded the same pay scale, same airtime on networks, or offers for endorsements. This is changing but incrementally, not drastically (just take a look at the pay gap for starters). None of this has to do with women’s abilities or how fun watching their games can be. Serena Williams might be one of the most explosive athletes ever, Sue Bird’s three-point percentage is just as consistent as Steph Curry’s, Simone Biles is the most decorated gymnast ever, and the USWNT have been surpassing their male counterparts for decades. All of this has brought more fans to women’s sports, but it seems large media outlets are slow to make progress. So, where do all the fans go? Social media has given me the ability to follow along much easier, especially when following brands such as Just Women’s Sports. They support women athletes by promoting their content with the same tenacity men have always been afforded. While following them I found an entire new way to engage with women’s professional sports: podcasts. Just Women’s Sports has three podcasts they produce, and all three are must-listen to podcasts for sports enthusiasts.
The first podcast is aptly named The Just Women’s Sports Podcast. It is hosted by USWNT star and Washington Spirit defender Kelly O’Hara. O’Hara has a unique podcasting style that is lighthearted but also focused, as she asks guests to share their athletic journeys. O’Hara’s successful athletic career (two World Cup championships, two Olympic medals, and a recent NWSL championship) helps explain her interest in the drive behind each athlete’s story. She seems to be genuinely fascinated with each athlete’s unique journey to the top of their profession. Each athlete starts with their childhood and then discuss all the different milestones that got them to the top of their game. The podcast has guests ranging from household names, such as WNBA star Candace Parker, all the way to recent Olympic swimming sensation Erica Sullivan. The podcast is currently in its fourth season and has many episodes to listen to. Since joining I have expanded my knowledge, as specific episodes sparked my interest in different sports that I had no prior knowledge on. O’Hara treats each athlete with the same intrigue in their work process that men are afforded in interviews. Her guests are not plagued with questions that women athletes are often asked because simply being a female athlete makes a political/social statement. O’Hara gives guests a chance to share what drives them proving women athletes are equally (or more) interesting as their male counterparts. If you have ever wanted to understand the mindset of a professional athlete, this podcast is for you.
The second podcast Just Women’s Sports produces is Tea with A & Phee hosted by WNBA All-Stars and Gold Medal Olympians A’ja Wilson and Napheesa Collier. Tea with A & Phee is a fun and exciting take that feels like you are listening to an hour with friends. Despite being rivals on the court (Wilson plays for the Las Vegas Aces and Collier plays for the Minnesota Lynx) the two have a hilarious and entertaining dynamic. Wilson and Collier discuss everything from basketball to the latest pop culture updates and even their own personal lives during the podcast. In their first season (2020) they took listeners into the bubble with them and podcasted during their time in the WNBA bubble where Wilson ended up winning MVP. With guests ranging from NBA star Steph Curry to rapper Saweetie, and two seasons worth of content, the podcast is a must listen to for any fan of basketball, women’s sports, or even for those who just like a nice cup of piping hot tea.
The third podcast from Just Women’s Sports is the Snacks with Lynn & Sam podcast. Hosted by NWSL and USWNT stars Lynn Williams and Sam Mewis, the show is a peek behind the curtain of Women’s soccer. They interview professional women’s soccer stars ranging from Megan Rapino to Crystal Dunn. The two stars are former roommates and teammates who have a chemistry that makes the podcast feel like a fun bus ride with your teammates. They discuss everything from their personal lives to the weekly happenings in women’s soccer. Their interview style is breezy, and their friendly energy seems to be matched with each guest. If you are a fan of women’s soccer and want to get a deeper understanding of the game from a player’s perspective, this podcast is for you.
The Just Women’s Sports Podcast, Tea with A & Phee Podcast, and Snacks with Lynn & Sam Podcast are all available anywhere you stream your podcasts.
Autumn Andersen is an editor for Penumbra Online and grad student at CSU Stanislaus. She enjoys reading, writing, and talking about her favorite shows.