Archive of ‘Family’ category

It’s a Wonderful Life? Non-Traditional Film & TV Ideas for the Holidays

One thing’s pretty certain: The holidays require us to spend more time with people. Family, friends, store clerks, shoppers, fellow partygoers, kids out of school, Trail of Lights crowds, crowds, crowds and more crowds. For better or worse, potential social connections are everywhere during the holiday season. Depending on many factors, this may cause you to either cheer or run for the hills (I find myself doing a little of both). Regardless of your stance, I’m going to attempt to stir up some ideas that may help you to either further those connections, or escape them, at least temporarily.

By: Shannon Haragan, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

By: Shannon Haragan, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

Film and TV are powerful mediums. They can lead us to feel deeply, learn about a variety of topics, people and places, identify with certain characters and learn from their choices, or simply serve as an escape. Film and TV can also bring people together. During the holidays, for instance, films can be a traditional part of a family gathering—think Its a Wonderful Life, Elf, or Love Actually. Films and TV shows can even serve to connect strangers: My supervisor recently told me about a Christmas Vacation “quote off” she had with a salesperson while shopping at Old Navy. Sharing the experience of a film or TV show with another person can be bonding, nostalgic, comforting, and/or invigorating, whether you watch it together or simply talk about it afterwards.

On the other hand, if what you really need is an escape from the family, the friends, the crowds — well, movies and TV can help with that, as well.

Instead of making a list of all the traditional movies and TV shows you already know and love (or don’t!), here’s a list of a few “under the radar” options for you to try during the holidays – either to experience with others, to talk about with others afterwards, or simply to escape. Enjoy!

Movies (taking place on or around Christmas):

Die Hard (1988). Set on Christmas Eve, still one of the best uber-non-traditional Christmas movies ever. (Available on Amazon Instant Video and Netflix DVD)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). Tim Burton’s masterpiece, which received both critical and box office success. Stop action, similar in style to the old Christmas specials (Rudolph, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, etc). Also features a wonderful soundtrack.(Netflix streaming)

Edward Scissorhands (1990). Another Tim Burton film. A beautiful story about a misfit who happens to have scissors for hands. Wonderful performance by Johnny Depp.(Amazon Instant Video)

The Ice Harvest (2006) Dark comedy featuring Billy Bob Thornton and John Cusack. (Netflix streaming)

Less Than Zero (1987). Not exactly an “upper,” but features a young Robert Downey, Jr, and an amazing 80s soundtrack! (Netflix DVD)
TV Shows worth the binge (all on Netflix streaming, except where noted):

Transparent (1 season, 10 episodes) This new Amazon-produced series is about a retired professor and father (Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor) who finally opens up about identifying as female. It’s getting all kinds of acclaim. You can watch the first episode for free, but you either have to have Amazon Prime to watch the rest, or pay $1.99 per episode.

Black Mirror (2 seasons, 3 episodes each). Black Mirror is the most brilliant and riveting show you probably haven’t heard about—yet. Only recently released on Netflix (it’s British), it’s getting major attention from critics and audiences alike. Each episode features its own contained story (a lá Twilight Zone), and is filled with profound social commentary about technology and its impact on society and our relationships (or lack thereof). Be forewarned: this one is not for the faint of heart. It is dark. Very dark. But if that doesn’t send you running, it’s absolutely well worth checking out. Plus: There will be a Christmas special starting Jon Hamm (though its US release date is unknown).

Parenthood (6 seasons, 83 episodes). This uplifting, sometimes tear-jerking, family-oriented “dramedy” will be coming to a close in early 2015. If you haven’t tuned in yet, it’s a good time to catch up before the promised emotional and climactic series finale on January 29th.

Peaky Blinders (2 seasons, 6 episodes each) This one’s about a British gangster family in the aftermath of World War I. Beautifully shot, this series grows on you, as the drama gets much more intense after the 3rd episode, and just explodes in the second season. One of my new favorites. And the fantastic soundtrack is comprised of contemporary music (PJ Harvey, Nick Cave). (Tip: sometimes the Birmingham accent is tough to understand; try it with subtitles!)

Cheers (11 seasons, 275 episodes!) Because nostalgia + laughter is a great combo. (Tip: Christmas episodes are season 1, ep 12, season 6, ep 12, and season 11, ep 11)

Serial. This podcast, from the makers of This American Life, is obviously not a movie or TV show, but I’ve included it here because podcasts have the potential to do all that films and TV do (the images are just created in your own mind, rather than imposed externally), and this particular podcast is amazing, simply put. And people are talking about it. A lot. (Also, unlike TV and film, podcasts are perfect for holiday road trips!) Serial follows a single true crime story over multiple weeks, and it basically unfolds in real time, as the producers are just a step or two ahead of the audience. Each episode varies between 30 and 60 minutes, and there have been 10 episodes so far. You can listen directly from the website or subscribe on iTunes.

Surviving the Holidays as a Perfectionist

This time of year is a brutal one for perfectionists. I like to think of myself as a recovering perfectionist. The holidays are a time when expectations and “shoulds” are extra high, making it a stressful season for those of us that like need things “just so.” Perfectionism isn’t just about wanting to do things well or be successful, it’s about performing with the ever-present worry, “What will people think?”.

By: Jennifer Alley, LPC

By: Jennifer Alley, LPC

I find that particularly as a woman, there is both a desire and expectation to not only do things really well, but to also make it look effortless. As a full-time mom who has a part-time private practice, a husband and a house, I can tell you, it is never effortless. I feel especially grateful for my messy, adorable 16-month old who reminds me all of the time that not only are spotless floors hard work, they are actually impossible. She (along with my husband and my sanity) is probably the main reason that I am striving to keep better perspective of healthy striving instead of perfectionism this holiday season.

As we prepare for parties, guests and travel, it is my hope and goal this year to stay calm, remembering that the truth is, it won’t be perfect (and that’s okay). My daughter will drag tupperware out of the cabinets moments before guests appear, toilet paper will be strung out from it’s holder, milk will be spilled on the floor, and I may or may not have makeup on and my hair done. We will likely forget at least three things we need when we go to our families’ homes, and we will also forget at least as many things at their houses when we return. And that is real life right now at the Alley household.

My previous self would spend the last half hour before guests arrived tense, getting upset with my husband for wearing his shoes across my spotless floor, and creating a rather not fun environment with my perfectionistic ways. This year, I want the picture at my house to be one where we are laughing, preparing food, enjoying each other’s company and laughing at mishaps like eating two hours late because the turkey was still a little frozen when it was supposed to be served (yes, this actually happened to me this year). With a family, there are plenty of opportunities to practice having self-compassion, grace, and laughter as it generally lends itself to anything but perfect. And I’m finding that this is exactly what makes the holidays memorable and “perfect”.

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