Professor of Media and Society Lester Friedman recently appeared as a guest on WXXI’s “Connections with Evan Dawson” radio program alongside Democrat and Chronicle columnist Jack Garner to discuss their take on the best and worst holiday films, remakes and the evolution of romantic comedies.
With discussion ranging from commentary about “A Christmas Story” and “Elf” to “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” Friedman, Garner and Dawson offered a rundown of their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with various movies as well as other insights. The segment aired clips from each film, followed by a panel discussion as well as questions and comments on social media from listeners. Regarding “Elf,” Friedman asked, “Who could deny Will Ferrell dressed as an elf running through the streets of New York City?”
When asked about his favorite Christmas film, Friedman cited Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” The panel agreed that the film was just the right blend of Christmas meets Halloween.
The segment also included discussion about another film, “Love Actually.” Friedman and Garner agreed Emma Thompson did well with her role, but that Hugh Grant’s portrayal as prime minister didn’t fit. Friedman says it wasn’t one of his holiday picks, but Garner says he enjoyed it.
The dialogue transitioned from noted holiday films to the state of the genre of romantic comedies. “The working hypothesis is that Hollywood is changing the framework for romantic comedies,” Dawson said.
The panel addressed films such as “Trainwreck,” “Suffragette” and “Brooklyn,” which each portray women in ways largely different from traditional romantic comedies. “The new idea being that at least these films are more true to life and defy convention,” Friedman said.
The panel concluded their conversation by returning to the Christmas theme, reminiscing about classics such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street,” ending the hour with “A Christmas Story.”
“I didn’t grow up in that era, but what makes it work is it’s nostalgic without getting syrupy; it doesn’t tip over the edge,” Friedman said.
Recordings of past “Connections with Evan Dawson” shows are available on the WXXI website.
Friedman joined the HWS faculty in 2005. He earned his B.A. from Alfred University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Syracuse University. His new book, “Hideous Progeny: A History of the Frankenstein Narrative,” will be published by Rutgers University Press in June 2016. Friedman’s recent books include “Citizen Spielberg” (University of Illinois Press, 2006), “Fires Were Started” (Wallflower Press, 2006), “American Cinema of the 1970s” (Rutgers University Press, 2006) and “Cultural Sutures: Medicine and Media” (Duke University Press, 2004).