The holidays are always stressful, and there's nothing like a worsening, uncontained pandemic to intensify the bad vibes. We sincerely hope you'll be staying home with your small bubble to wolf down mashed potatoes and watch the worst Peanuts special this year. We will be. But we'll also be stuffing our queues full of beautiful, delicious content to help pass the time a little more pleasantly.
As we write this, queer Hulu romcom The Happiest Season, Disney+'s Taylor Swift folklore film, and Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square have just dropped, and we have no idea how good/enjoyably awful any of them are, but all three seem like safe bets. Here's the stuff we have seen, though, from Planes, Trains and Automobiles to a memorably brutal Macy's Parade mishap.
November is many things to many people—for me, it is an annual opportunity to spend my life savings on half-off Criterion blu rays at Barnes & Noble. This year, the Criterion sale lined up with a personal Robert Altman kick, and so on Monday I returned from the promised land of the Lloyd Center with a copy of McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Altman's legendary 1971 "anti-Western," in hand. I knew I would love it, and I did, but I didn't know what a wintry spell it cast or how visibly it influenced First Cow, a movie I talk about so often I have been given the unofficial title "First Cow editor."
Set in Washington State and shot in British Columbia, it (like First Cow) concerns early settlers of the Northwest who try their hands at industry and suffocate under its thumb. Altman's movie casts Warren Beatty as a showy-but-bumbling gambler and Julie Christie as his savvy business partner (the title's ampersand conspicuously nods to their professional, rather than romantic, relationship) who open a brothel in the nascent town of Presbyterian Church. The soundtrack consists exclusively of mournful Leonard Cohen tunes, and Altman's penchant for twisting ordinary life into grand, overwhelming statements on The Way We Live is on full display—the silent, snowy, devastating finale is as potent as anything I've ever seen. It's not exactly uplifting, but it's a gorgeous way to welcome in the season, and a haunting reminder of the forces that have always separated us from ourselves and one another. —Conner Reed, arts & culture editor