Tales from the bargain bin: An embarrassing obsession

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The Folk Years: Blowin’ in the Wind and Yesterday’s Gone (Time-Life). CD set found for $2.99 at Goodwill.

The first time I saw The Folksmen (Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer of Spinal Tap fame in their guise as a 1960s folk trio), I laughed so hard I had an asthma attack. But I also had an overwhelming sense of deja vu. The Folksmen were a deeply sourced spoof of the Kingston Trio and the Limeliters, seminal, earnest folk groups of the pre-Beatles era. This was some of the earliest music I remember hearing on my parents’ radio and hi-fi, along with Peter, Paul and Mary and the Brothers Four. How dead-on an imitation was The Folksmen? Take a look.

Kingston Trio:

The Folksmen, from A Mighty Wind:

And here are the Limeliters, circa 1981, singing the obvious model for “Old Joe’s Place,” “There’s a Meetin’ Here Tonight.”

For the full Limeliters/Folksmen comparison, this nine-minute European TV performance is pretty much a condensed version of A Mighty Wind. Enjoy, ye of stout heart!

Born on Saturday Night Live, the Folksmen were later resurrected in Guest’s underrated 2003 mockumentary A Mighty Wind, which chronicles the making of a public-televison reunion concert of the group and their ’60s folk scene compadres the New Main Street Singers (read: New Christy Minstrels/the Rooftop Singers) and Mitch and Mickey (Ian and Sylvia).

I should explain at this point that I’m obsessed with A Mighty Wind. I will watch that movie anytime, anyplace. This Is Spinal Tap is considered the masterpiece of the Guest/McKean/Shearer oeuvre. But I rate A Mighty Wind almost as highly because it nails the specifics of a less popular genre just as flawlessly. If you’ve ever seen the strangely watchable PBS Pledge Break special Folk Rewind starring John Sebastian (please tell me I’m not the only one who can’t look away), then you’ve seen just how right A Mighty Wind got everything about the music, the personalities, the gentle, well-meaning mindset of the people who performed and consumed this godawfully polite aural Cream of Wheat.

And I speak as one of them. Like many white kids in metropolitan and suburban areas on both coasts in the late ’50s-early ’60s, I grew up with folk music, or rather, a steam-cleaned, relentlessly smiley version of folk music, as part of daily life. I listened to Pete Seeger’s children’s albums (but not his overtly radical stuff), sang black spirituals like “Kumbaya” and “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” with no context at Jewish summer camp and endured the dreaded group-singing of “Erie Canal” and “Goober Peas” in elementary school. Hellishly cheery easy-listening folk tunes like “Walk Right In” by the Rooftop Singers and white-washed folk exotica like the Calypso-ish “Don’t Let the Rain Come Down” by the Serendipity Singers were Top Ten radio hits. (Where did the Lumineers come from? Here’s your answer.) In one universe, Bob Dylan was kicking folk music’s slumbering ass, energizing it with a protopunk’s spirit. In another, there was … this crap. I bet the killjoys who shouted down electric Dylan at Newport really dug this stuff. They deserved it.

Given all of this, you can probably imagine my fiendish delight when I came across Blowin’ in the Wind and Yesterday’s Gone, two discs from the eight-disc 2002 Time-Life CD set The Folk Years in a Goodwill crawl. Sixty songs in all, encompassing some of my most beloved/hated folk-mush ever, including “Don’t Let the Rain Come Down,” “Walk Right In,” the Sandpipers’ supremely dorky version of Pete Seeger’s “Guantanamera” and — YES! — the Limeliters’ “There’s a Meetin’ Here Tonight.” Now I can guffaw through my very own A Mighty Wind/Folk Rewind in the privacy of my home, whenever the spirit moves me!

I know, I’m being harsh. Even the blandest of this music had its purpose. Without it to learn from and, ultimately, rebel against, we might not have had Dylan, or the skiffle-bred Beatles, or the trailblazing British electric folkies Fairport Convention.

This Time-Life set (the half I own, anyway) does a good job of charting the evolution of folk B.D. (before Dylan) and after. Dylan’s influence is all over the Blowin’ in the Wind disc, even if he isn’t (the lone Dylan track, “Boots of Spanish Leather” is on disc 7, which someone must have grabbed before me). After the mostly quiet acoustic tracks on disc one of Blowin’ in the Wind, the crystalline opening electric guitar chords of the Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!” kick off disc two like a wake-up jolt of caffeine right to the bloodstream. Whoever segued the Byrds into the Kingston Trio’s smugly snoozy version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” has a wicked sense of humor. Two songs later, there’s the peerless Dylan interpretor Johnny Cash making “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” into a Johnny Cash song, and, you know, I think this was $2.99 very well spent.

The Folk Years also excels at conveying how the folk movement brought world music, part of that Mad Men-era tentative dip into suburban multiculturalism, to white middle-class American homes for the first time. If you’re of my vintage, I bet there was a Harry Belafonte album or two in your parents’ hi-fi cabinet. Belafonte’s beautiful “Jamaica Farewell” is included here on Blowin’ in the Wind, and his indestructible “Banana Boat Song (Day-o)” is on Yesterday’s Gone.

Blowin’ in the Wind also contains a live recording of Pete Seeger doing “Guantanamera,” complete with his educational spoken interludes explaining the song’s origin as a poem by Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti. It’s an important piece of political folk music. But, forgive me: besides making it impossible to watch PBS pledge programming or old Limeliters videos without falling into shrieking laughter, A Mighty Wind has also ruined educational spoken interludes about Hispanic history for me — see Christopher Guests’s epic downer of a Spanish Civil War ballad “Skeletons of Quinto” in A Mighty Wind.

I bought The Folk Years only partly as a snort. There are folk-pop songs here that I loved on AM radio as a kid, and continue to love now, even in their unfashionableness: “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine,” written and sung by the exquisite Gale Garnett, the winsome pop-ified cover of Ian and Sylvia’s “You Were on My Mind” by We Five, “Someday Soon” by Judy Collins. And there are some crucial ’70s folk/pop/country hybrids — Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” and Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind” are two — that take your breath away with their emotional depths.

But while I’m happy to finally have many of these songs on CD, my chief motivation in pouncing on this Goodwill treasure wasn’t to complete my collection. It was pure, gooey nostalgia — for these songs that create sense memories of early childhood,  for how my dad used to think the Kingston Trio’s “Charlie on the MTA” was the cleverest song ever to hit WBZ-Boston’s airwaves. But mine is a nostalgia combined with an unsentimentalist’s horror of nostalgia. And maybe that’s the snarky quirk in my character that compels me to see the humor in the unabashed sincerity and unconscious elitism of the palest of these performances, and in tributes like PBS’s Pledge Break folk specials. In all of the above, I think, the creators of A Mighty Wind are my kin.

©Joyce Millman, The Mix Tape, 2016

 

 

Pop quiz

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Lyrics to “The Oogum Boogum Song”* or fashions at a summer music festival?

1. Your high-heeled boots with your hip-hugger suit

2. That cute miniskirt with your brother’s sloppy shirt

3. Nose ring, dreads, British barrister wig on your head

4. Your pink cowboy hat, mini-romper, fanny pack

5. Your bell-bottom pants (I just stand there in a trance)

6. Those big earrings, long hair and things

7. Your cute tank top, sideboob about to pop

8. Your gladiator shoes with your Batgirl Underoos

9. That macrame dress (girl, you’re such a hot mess)

10. That cute trench coat and you’re standin’ and posin’ (you got soul, you got too much soul)

11. Floaty scarves all around —that’s it, just a bunch of scarves?

12. That Fedora from Kohl’s (girl, you’re so rock and roll)

13. Your red union suit with your KISS army boots

14. Your hair like Haim, stripey cardigan like Mayim

15. Your cute flower crown and your see-through hippie gown (get out the way, for Miss del Ray)

16. Not Your Daughter’s Jeans and an E Street Band tee —Mom???

*A 1967 Billboard Top 40 hit single written and recorded by R&B/soul singer Brenton Wood (real name: Alfred Smith). It was resurrected in 2014 for a Kia K900 commercial featuring LeBron James.

(Answer key: 1,2,5,6,10 – lyrics)

©Joyce Millman, The Mix Tape, 2015

(Not) Record Store Day 2015

 

Desi and Marnie in happier days (Photo © HBO)
Desi and Marnie in happier times (Photo © HBO)

 

(FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — APRIL 1) Record Store Day is April 18, 2015, and this year’s celebration of independent music sellers promises to be the best ever. Why? Because Record Store Day 2015 Ambassador Dave Grohl is included FREE with every purchase!  At last, you won’t have to endure the wait for Dave’s TV appearances, which can sometimes occur hours apart!  The inexhaustible Foo Fighters frontman will come to your house, wherever you are, and do whatever you want! He’ll organize your vinyl collection so the rare stuff is placed in just the right spot for your friends to notice your awesome taste –not too near to the top, where it looks like you’re trying too hard, but not buried in the back of the crate, either. He’ll clean out your garage. He’ll drive Grandma to the foot doctor. He’ll even DJ at your daughter’s bat mitzvah. And he’ll do it all with a big toothy smile, because that’s the way he rolls! And best of all, he won’t leave!  You can hint, you can plead, you can even call the cops, but how much do you wanna bet the cops end up jamming with him? His energy is THAT infectious!

Here are some late additions not really to the totally fake list of Record Store Day 2015 special releases, as of April 1 get it?:

Various Artists, Saturday Afternoon at the Guitar Center. An exclusive compilation of live performances by the best unsigned musicians around!  Tracks include some of the guitar solo from “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love” by the retired firefighter down the street; the opening notes of “Stairway to Heaven” by the guy who gives guitar lessons at the Senior Center; something that might be “Master of Puppets,” it’s hard to tell, by the scary Peterson kid; a three-year-old having a tantrum on the floor while her brother pounds on a djembe;  the intro to “Crazy Train” by that weird guy over there in the Slayer T-shirt; and the chords to “Heart of Gold” by your mom. Each album comes with a commemorative extended warranty and a ukulele.

U2, Songs of Innocence (Deluxe Version with 10 Bonus Tracks). FREE to anyone who visits a local independent music seller on Record Store Day! You don’t even have to buy anything to receive this exclusive gift from the legendary Irish rockers;  just cross the threshold of a record store and it’s yours! Seriously, you will not be allowed to leave the premises until you’ve accepted your copy. Too busy to stop by? No worries! We’ll find you! We have your Apple accounts! We know where you live! Slainte!

Various Artists, Lost in Greenpoint: The Songs of Desi and Marnie.  Producer T Bone Burnett and a host of roots-ish superstars celebrate the short-lived but influential Brooklyn duo whose sound defined modern American folk music with an indie edge. Or were they more, like, “She & Him” with actual romance? You decide! Guided by newly discovered demos recorded during the duo’s heyday in the early-2015’s, Lost in Greenpoint is a vision of what might have been if Desi hadn’t disappeared right before the couple’s big record company showcase. Features Desi and Marnie’s timeless words and music performed by Mumford and Sons (“Song for Marcus Garvey”), Bon Iver (“Oaxaca Blues”),  the Decemberists (“Rattlesnake Cowgirl”), Of Monsters and Men (“Kokopelli Shelly”) and First Aid Kit (“Whoa, Wow, Wonderful”), among others, as well as a bonus track (“Close Up”) by 12-time Grammy-winning solo artist Marnie herself. (Desi, who now fronts a Lumineers cover band, refused to participate in the project, citing “negative energy”. Plus, he’s just a big douche.) This exclusive Record Store Day release features passionate liner notes by the mayor of New York City, Ray Ploshansky.

The Estate of Marvin Gaye, You’ve Been Served: The Lawsuit Album. Includes remixes, greatest hits and unreleased cease and desist orders against Prince, Usher, Justin Timberlake and the estate of Michael Jackson.

Bruce Springsteen, The First Seven Albums: The Remastered Remasters of the Remasters. Are you a Springsteen fan in your 40s who wishes you were born 10 years earlier? Are you an older fan who dreams of going back to your youth, when life still sucked, but not as much as it sucks now? Well, this Record Store Day, you can finally purchase Greetings from Asbury Park (1973) through Born in the USA (1984) in a vinyl format that faithfully reproduces the experience of listening to the Boss’s seminal albums of the ’70s and ’80s — just as if it were the ’70s and ’80s! All seven albums are re-released on crap-quality floppy vinyl distressed with pops and skips. Authentic smudges of Clearasil, burger grease and human tears adorn the covers, poignant reminders of that time Bruce helped get you through some really heavy shit. Super-collectible random copies feature the name of an older sibling scrawled in ballpoint pen on the top left back corner.

Record Store Day wouldn’t be complete without these exclusive singles and reissues!

  •  50 Cent featuring Ringo Starr (“Hey Kanye, I Have a Beatle Too!” b/w “Octopus’s Garden”)
  • George Ezra featuring Dave Matthews and a screaming goat (the folk classic “Wimoweh” b/w a cover of Focus’s “Hocus Pocus”)
  • The 20th anniversary reissue of Bryan Adams’ “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?,” the Oscar nominated theme song to the Johnny Depp-Marlon Brando classic Don Juan DeMarco. The limited edition single features Adams’ original track on one side and a newly discovered version by Depp (with Brando on bongos) on the other.
  • The 20th anniversary reissue of “Peaches” by The Presidents of the United States of America, b/w the dub step remix. Pressed on cannabis-resin vinyl.

Do you miss those classic all-star charity releases of the ’80s? Well, this year’s Record Store Day includes TWO exciting new supergroup projects for a good cause! Jay Z, Beyonce, Kanye West, Madonna, Jack White and many others join forces under the banner of Artists United Against Spotify for an exclusive single! “Do They Know It’s Christmas (and There Ain’t No Santa Claus)?” b/w “I’m Just a Water Bill” aims to raise money for impoverished millionaire music-makers while also teaching them basic life skills. Available in two limited-edition vinyl formats: 200 gram pressing ($20) and paper plate with grooves drawn on it in Magic Marker ($10).  Meanwhile, Dick Aid features Eminem, Robin Thicke, Chris Brown, Adam Levine and more in an all-star benefit for victims of feminism. This special four-and-a-half-inch single features the Dick Aid anthem “We Own the World” b/w a Diplo remix of “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” All proceeds will be donated to the Bill Cosby Defense Fund.

(Record Store Day is April 18, 2015 — for real. You can find the complete list of actual RSD 2015 releases here.

©Joyce Millman, The Mix Tape, 2015

Flashback (April 1, 2014): Record Store Day, the updated list of releases

 

The Boss has two exclusive new releases for Record Store Day!
The Boss is represented by TWO exclusive new releases for Record Store Day!

In no particular order:

CHRIS MARTIN, GOOP ON THE TRACKS. The Coldplay frontman’s heart-wrenching first solo release, inspired by his uncoupling from Gwyneth Paltrow. Includes the epic “Tangled Up in Goop.” Pressed on compostable vinyl.

KANYE WEST AND KIM KARDASHIAN, WEDDING ALBUMA Record Store Day exclusive! Kim and Kanye prove that they’re more than just “Kimye” with an album of stunningly avant-garde experimental music. Side one consists of the couple calling each other’s name for 22 minutes. Side two is a 30-minute extended remix of Kim’s dance classic “Jam (Turn It Up).” Comes packaged as a souvenir wedding album containing a photocopy of the couple’s gift registry, a temporary tattoo of the Vogue cover and a coupon good for 20% off the Kardashian Collection at Sears. The deluxe picture disc version (first 500 pressings) illustrates the scene from the “Bound 2” video where they have sex on a motorcycle.

VARIOUS ARTISTS, WORKING ON A DREAM:  SOME OTHER SONGS OF BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN. A star-studded lineup interprets the songs that were left off of all the previous Bruce Springsteen tribute albums. Artists include Arcade Fire (“Queen of the Supermarket”), Mumford and Sons (“Outlaw Pete”), Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell and T.I. (“Reno”) and the Kidz Bop Kids (“Waitin’ on a Sunny Day”).

ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE KLEZMATICS, ALMOST JEW. He’s made a country record, written a classical ballet score and, most recently, recorded a hip-hop album with the Roots. Now, just in time for Passover, Elvis Costello breaks another musical boundary in a bold collaboration with Grammy-winning Yiddish music masters, the Klezmatics. You don’t have to be Jewish to dig these Klezmerized reworkings of some of Costello’s greatest songs — but it helps if you like clarinets!  The Seder table will be rocking to tracks like “Hebrew National Ransom,” “This Year’s Mohel” and “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Unleavened Bread.” Produced by T Bone Burnett’s cousin, Shank Bone.

VARIOUS ARTISTS, YOUR MOTHER AND I ARE SEPARATING. If you want to hear the hottest bands around, as curated by New York club legend Stefon, I know just the record for you. This album has everything:  Diarrhea Planet, Bear Hands, Bosnian Rainbows, Quilt, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Leprechauns with Hep C, Furtlenecks, Hoomba, Yeti-Cab, A Shaved Lion that Looks like Mario Batali, Human Fanny Pack, DJ Baby Bok Choy, Teddy Graham People, Donald Duck Having a Vietnam Nightmare. Pressed on Ecstasy-flavored vinyl.

DESITIN’S CHILD, BOOBYLICIOUS. The long-awaited debut 12″ from second-generation superstars Blue Ivy Carter and North West! The baby-ladies bring it with their sassy dance hit about needing mommy’s breast milk — RIGHT NOW! Backed with the DJ Baby Bok Choy remix featuring British rapper Li’l Prince George.

THE LUMINEERS, YOU ARE GETTING VERY SLEEPY. Seventy minutes of “Ho Hey” on one limited edition CD. Rolling Stone calls it “hypnotic white noise.” Pitchfork hails it as “sonic Propofol.” The Better Sleep Council says, “Guaranteed to cure even the toughest case of insomnia.” Comes with exclusive Record Store Day eye mask.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, STUFF I FOUND ON A FLASH DRIVE IN THE GLOVE COMPARTMENT. The Boss continues to delve into his vast cache of unreleased material for this Record Store Day exclusive. According to the Springsteen-penned liner notes, the four-song EP came about when “I was eating a Doritos Locos Taco Supreme in the car (don’t tell Patti!) and I needed a napkin, so I opened up the glove box and – whoa! There it was! Half of a Subway foot-long Meatball Marinara! And this flash drive.” The four tracks are: “Love at the 7-Eleven,” “Outlaw Pete Comes Back,” the “Laverne and Shirley” theme song (recorded live at Miller Park in Milwaukee, WI in 2003) and a cover of “Shaddap You Face,” the 1980 chart-topper by Australia’s Joe Dolce, recorded in Springsteen’s dressing room at the Melbourne arena on the E Street Band’s recent Australian tour. “I would have opened the show with it,” writes Springsteen, “if the band hadn’t locked me in my dressing room.”

DAFT PUNK, IT’S THE MOTHERSHIP, CHARLIE BROWN. The long-awaited reissue of the robotic duo’s soundtrack album for a Peanuts special that never aired. The storyline for the special was no great departure from the successful formula of previous hits like It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown — the Peanuts gang doesn’t believe Charlie when he says that the end of the world is nigh and they must all prepare for the arrival of the aliens. So why was it never shown? Well, as any schoolchild could tell you, CBS was forced to cancel the show just two days before the scheduled broadcast, when the human race was attacked by extraterrestrial destroyer ships. Network bosses deemed the timing of the special “too soon.” The soundtrack album, however, went on to achieve modest success in France, while Daft Punk continues to enjoy a long reign as Our Supreme Robotic Overlords, long may they prosper, die humans die.

(Record Store Day is Saturday, April 19 — for real. Head to your local indie record store and check out this year’s  special vinyl releases and celebrate the joy of buying music in a form that you can hold in your hands.)

©Joyce Millman, The Mix Tape, 2014

Masterpiece Sad Trombone

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(Warning: This piece is chock full of spoilers.)

It’s 9 o’clock on a Sunday night/Masterpiece Classic is such a delight/ the clothes are divine, the Abbey is fine/ but just when it seems you’ll have happy dreams … wah-wah-wah … It’s Debbie Downton!

Lady Mary is attracted to cousin Matthew Crawley, her father’s heir to Downton!  Now the estate will stay in the family, because, surely, nothing could ever keep Mary and Matthew apart!  It’s not as if Lady Mary is too full of herself to let Matthew know she’s in love with him. Or as if Matthew will find himself a pallid heiress to become engaged to. Or as if a world war will break out, and Matthew will go missing in battle and turn up paralyzed, unable to have children, but still engaged to the pallid heiress, who will then die, removing the last obstacle to Lady Mary and Matthew’s happiness. No, Matthew and Mary are destined to be together, sans heartbreaking complications, forever and ever! Look, she’s given birth to a son and heir named George! And Matthew has a new car! Downton Abbey never disappoints!  It’s the most heartwarming romantic saga ever!

Lady Edith has a suitor!

Isn’t it swoon-worthy that Lady Sybil could see beyond class divisions and fall in love with her Irish chauffeur Tom Branson? And now they’re married and she’s going to have a baby!  It was so moving when crusty, elitist Lord Grantham finally accepted Tom into the family, so that Tom and Sybil didn’t have to live in shame in Ireland anymore. Ooh, Sybil’s in labor! Push, Sybil!  Focus on your breathing!  Oh, this is the happiest love story ever!

Lady Edith has a suitor!

Lady Grantham’s maid Anna is so sweet and plucky and her Yorkshire accent is adorable! Wasn’t it beautiful how Anna could see past manservant Bates’s disability and marry him, even though he was already married (but she didn’t know that)? And how she always firmly believed in Bates’s innocence when he was sentenced to life in prison for murdering his secret other wife?  And how Anna cleared his name by the sheer force of her sweetness and pluckiness? Well, that was a lot of drama for one couple to bear, wasn’t it?  Thank goodness there won’t be any out-of-nowhere, ill-conceived, shocking plot developments ahead for Mr. and Mrs. Bates! Downton Abbey would never do that to us!

Lady Edith has a suitor!

©Joyce Millman, The Mix Tape, 2014

25 Reasons Why I Hate “Love Actually”

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1. I hate that Love Actually isn’t really a movie. It’s a glib super-cut of barely formed characters, rom-com cliches, director-screenwriter Richard Curtis’s patented emotion-yanking sap and a mob of British actors you know and love from other, better films. It’s sort of like a Doctor Who Christmas special, with the frantic London-at-holiday-time sentimentality and the trying too hard. Except the Doctor Who Christmas special is usually redeemed by rampaging Cybermen or Daleks, either of which would have greatly improved Love Actually.

2. I hate that Love Actually is set in London, my favorite city in the world, but the visual style consists of  tourism-board shots of all the usual landmarks and it ends up looking like these people live in a London theme park. Again, Cybermen, Daleks, maybe a few Weeping Angels . . . Is that too much to ask?

3. I hate that many people I know think Love Actually is a good movie and when I say that I hate it, they accuse me of being an anti-rom-com sourpuss. Me, who stops and watches It’s Complicated at the drop of a remote!  Look, it’s not that I hate all romantic comedies. I just hate this romantic comedy.

4. I hate the shameless, pandering reference to victims of 9/11 in Hugh Grant’s opening voiceover: “When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge. They were all messages of love.” Nothing like tenderizing your audience’s feelings — like taking a mallet to a tough piece of skirt steak — right out of the gate. Well played, Richard Curtis.

5. I hate that Love Actually has become a Christmas classic. You want to see a true Christmas classic? Track down Holiday, a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind 1938 romantic comedy starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. And then, if you still prefer Love Actually, then you deserve Love Actually.

6. I hate that ever since it oozed forth from the Working Title laboratory in 2003, Love Actually has spawned a shit-ton of star-stuffed holiday-themed rom-coms: The Holiday (not to be confused with the Katharine Hepburn movie above), Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve. [2015 UPDATE: Love the Coopers] [2016 UPDATE: Mother’s Day] And their ad campaigns all mimic the red and white color scheme and multitudinous cast shot that adorned the posters for Love Actually. The ads for Curtis’s 2013 Christmas entry, About Time, even featured the words “Love Actually” above the movie title, in the Love Actually font.

7. I hate the Love Actually font.

8. I hate the big, thudding “message scenes” that suddenly burst through the rommy-commy fog to scold you with obvious homilies about the perils of taking people you love for granted and not seizing the day. In Love Actually, it’s Emma Thompson quietly sobbing to “Both Sides Now” when she learns husband Alan Rickman is cheating on her with his secretary. And lonely Laura Linney losing her shot at cute co-worker Karl Nolastname because she has to interrupt their date to go calm down her institutionalized brother.

9. I hate that Curtis sticks lonely Laura Linney with a crappy downer of a storyline, yet still makes her show gratuitous boobage.

10. I hate that the characters are so sketchily drawn and the editing so choppy, it’s unclear what some of these people do for a living and how they’re related to one another. Quick, without Googling: Why are Colin Firth and Laura Linney at the wedding together? What kind of company do Alan Rickman, Laura Linney and “Karl” work for?  What the hell is Karl’s last name?

11. I hate the Alan Rickman-Emma Thompson storyline. If you’re going to fall back on ye olde “married man has midlife crisis and sleeps with secretary” plot, you had better make it interesting in a way we haven’t seen a million times. The only interesting person — actually, the only person — in this triangle is Thompson’s Karen. The secretary (“Mia”) is a cliche of a vamp. And Rickman’s Harry is scowly, weirdly prim and so impenetrably aloof that it’s hard to give a crap what he does or doesn’t do with either woman. Some advice? Rickman was in another movie that has become a modern holiday classic, a little something called Die Hard – maybe you’ve heard of it?  There is more storytelling panache in one frame of Die Hard than in all of Love Actually. Plus, (the much younger) Rickman’s Hans Gruber is everything Harry is not — alert, electrifying and sex on a stick. Merry Christmas!

12. I hate that the script calls for Karen, who seems like a perfectly lovely, funny mom and wife (she is, after all Emma Frickin’ Thompson), to dress like a matronly frump. And worse, she keeps calling attention to her matronly frumpiness with low-self-esteem wisecracks; she’s like an Anglican Rhoda Morganstern. “The only clothes I can get into were once owned by Pavarotti,” she says to Harry when they’re back home undressing after the office Christmas party. This is after Harry has slow-danced with Mia right in front of her. It’s another sexist trope — the wife has “let herself go,” so, naturally, it’s all her fault when the husband’s eye starts to wander. In fact, I hate all the jokes about the weight of female characters in Love Actually. Colin Firth’s Portuguese-speaking love interest has a heavier and plainer sister who is treated very badly by the script. The Downing Street tea server who ends up falling in love with Prime Minister Hugh Grant is referred to more than once as “chubby” (she’s not). But then, this is the same Richard Curtis who named a female character “Duck Face” in his script for Four Weddings and a Funeral.

13. I hate the “quirky” “All You Need Is Love” wedding scene, where a brass band and choir pop up from the pews to serenade beautiful paper-doll newlyweds Keira Knightley and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who have no personalities and appear to serve no other purpose besides getting quirkily married, because somebody always has to get quirkily married in a Richard Curtis movie.

14. I hate with every fiber of my being the fact that three of the story lines revolve around men sleeping with younger women who also happen to be their employees.

15. I hate the goofball delivery guy who goes to America to get laid by chicks who dig British accents.

16. I hate that the goofball delivery guy’s stupid storyline remained in the movie, along with the pointless porn movie stand-in couple storyline, while a storyline about an elderly lesbian couple was edited out to cut down the movie’s running time.

17. I hate that, as a result, there is no same-sex or senior citizen love among the many permutations of love in Love Actually.

18. I hate the humble elementary school Christmas pageant that looks like it was put together by Danny Boyle as a dry run for the London Olympics opening ceremony.

19. I hate Mr. Bean’s belabored comedy bit in the department store as he wraps the expensive necklace that Harry will give his soon-to-be-mistress in exchange for sex. The audiences I saw the movie with (twice in its opening week — don’t ask) were rolling in the aisles at Rowan Atkinson’s fussy attention to detail and Harry’s increasing panic that Karen, shopping nearby, could return at any time. To recap: Harry is buying a necklace for a woman who is not his wife, because he is planning to sleep with her, upon which he will present her with the necklace. Any humor in this scene is rooted in Harry’s desperation to get the necklace wrapped and in his pocket before Karen comes back. Which means, any humor in this scene depends on us rooting for Harry to succeed with his infidelity against the twin obstacles of the irksome clerk and the perfectly lovely Emma Thompson. Har-har.

20. I hate the clumsy title. Shouldn’t there be a comma between “love” and “actually”?  I hate that this bugs me so much. I hate that nobody else seems bugged by it.

21. I don’t hate Bill Nighy. Do you hate Bill Nighy? WHAT KIND OF MONSTER ARE YOU?

22. I hate the Liam Neeson storyline because that creepy kid who plays his son is like a child actor grown in a test tube. Also creepy: Liam’s character’s wife is freshly dead at the beginning of the movie, but at the end of the movie, a mere five weeks later, he’s making goo-goo eyes at Claudia Schiffer.

23. I hate the supertitles that count down Christmas.

24. I hate the closing montage of what appears to be ordinary people joyfully greeting loved ones in the arrivals lounge at Heathrow, while the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” plays on the soundtrack. It’s the easiest thing in the world to point a movie camera at heartwarming, hugging, weeping reunions and make an audience cry;  a chimpanzee with a movie camera in any airport arrivals lounge could do it. The Heathrow scene of Love Actually is one of the laziest, most manipulative bits of tear-jerking a major filmmaker has ever employed, and I begrudge Curtis every one of the tears I involuntarily gave up to him. I especially hate that Curtis used “God Only Knows” as the musical cue for the scene, because that song is as effortlessly, innocently heartfelt as the montage is putridly calculated. I hate that I now have to think about Love Actually whenever I hear “God Only Knows.” This is not fair!

25. I hate that Love Actually starts showing up on TV in September. I hate that I inevitably hate-watch all or portions of Love Actually at some point between September and January. I hate that hate-watching it has turned into one of my personal holiday traditions. Wait … do you hear what I hear? The Pointer Sisters singing “Jump (for My Love)”? Sorry, gotta go. Hugh Grant is about to shake some Prime Ministerial booty and, man, how I hate that stupid scene! I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

©Joyce Millman, The Mix Tape, 2013, 2015, 2016