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Fundraising in the Happiest Season.

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

A blog by Julia Smith.

My friends, I just had such a fantastic night out. I don’t tend to have many nights out, so it was a bonus that this one was so awesome.

Tonight, my friend and I attended a fundraiser hosted by Albany Pride, at Orana Cinemas. It was a viewing of the recently released movie – Happiest Season.

Albany Pride was created in 2011 by the fantastic team of Andrew Wenzel (Headspace Albany Manager) and Annie Arnold (Social Worker). It now has a large and colourful team who are all truly passionate about the cause. Originally known as Albany Gay and Lesbian, evolving into Albany Gay and Lesbian... and everyone in between, the group more recently evolved into Albany Pride in an effort to become more inclusive of all community members. The focus of Albany Pride is to provide a safe and supporting local group for those in the region who may identify as LGBTQI+, as well as anyone with a friend or loved one who identifies as such, or allies of the community. Albany Pride holds many events regularly, possibly most exciting is the annual Albany Pride Festival which will be coming up over the space of a week in February 2021.

So, tonight was at Albany’s Orana Cinemas. Having lived in Albany for most of my life I have many memories from Orana Cinemas, possibly the first being when Titanic was first released, so 1997, according to Google. I was on a first date, urgh what a disaster that was. But not a terrible movie I would say, it did alright. I do remember being freezing cold, I never figured out if it was the cinema or the fact that many many people were drowning on screen, perhaps a combination of both. Not these days! Hasn’t Orana Cinemas evolved! How many screens was it then? Two? Or Three? With not a huge amount of seating. It is lovely now, big, luscious seating, beautiful ambiance and Six lovely big theatres. 3D movies, a beautiful Café and Bogarts.

Oh Bogarts, how I love thee, for those playing at home, Bogarts to Albany is Gold Class to most other places. Beautiful big couples seating, foot stools, seats that lay back and a personal table for all your goodies, be it soft drink and popcorn, Maltesers and lollies, or my favourite – a meal from Lisa’s Café brought to your seat during the movie. Nothing better to make you feel like royalty. Well aside from perhaps my seating sign from tonight, how fancy is this? Ha-ha. Spoilt rotten.

– I highly recommend the Iced Coffee from Lisa’s Café too. I had a thought the other day too, does anyone else wonder how much Popcorn Orana Cinemas goes through? Or cinemas in general? I would really love to know. Just one of those things you could rattle off in the middle of the dinner party, because why not.

The movie chosen for tonight could not have been a better choice. Happiest Season, featuring Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, and honestly a really stellar cast all around. Happiest Season is a romance, a comedy, and a Christmas movie, but it is so much more than that. It is really a huge step forward for the LGBTQIA+ community. How many mainstream Christmas movies can you think of with a same sex couple as the feature? I don’t mind the odd Hallmark Christmas movie, although I must say I am starting to get a bit sick of the monotony of them, particularly as my son is an avid Christmas fan and will watch any and all Christmas movies he can find, multiple times. I mean, its always the same story isn’t it? Country girl returns home from the city to a comedic and dysfunctional family, runs into an ex-flame, likely in a bar while she is escaping her family, and they reunite. Or did her flame from the city follow her home to try win her over, or both?

Anyway, Happiest Season, while yes, it is a girl returning to her family in the “country”. Is such a beautifully crafted movie. Directed by Clea Duvall, who along with Kristen Stewart has spoken out recently about how they, and many others would grow up watching all these movies, and never see a family or relationship on screen that reflected themselves. Now I am a huge Kristen Stewart fan, I have been since her twilight days, which, unlike most, I loved, ha-ha. But I will admit, she really has evolved. It was so great to see her in this movie looking more herself than I have ever seen her in anything. I remember everyone being really irked in her Twilight days about how she was so “awkward, and quiet”. Well, she has really come into her own since then and she is fantastic in this movie. So is Alison Brie, who I spent a good part of the movie trying to figure out where I had seen her before, because she was so completely different for this role. It was GLOW, the fictional ladies wrestling tv programme on Netflix by the way.

I read recently that the relationship that stole the show was actually not that of Kristen Stewart and her on screen girlfriend Mackenzie Davies, but that of Kristen Stewart and her on screen best friend played by Dan Levy, and I fully agree. Dan on his own was one of the best parts of this movie, absolutely hilarious, but his friendship with Kristen was so beautiful also. It was my favourite relationship in the movie. That said, the relationship between Mackenzie Davies and her on screen sisters played by Alison Brie and Mary Holland also struck a chord with me. Being the youngest of three sisters myself, watching the very intense relationship between these three unfold on screen was quite relatable. I don’t think my sisters and I have had throw down blow out fights, at least since we became adults, but a relationship between sisters most certainly is a turbulent and competitive. It was certainly nice to see the three sisters all come together at the end of the movie.

Did I shed a few tears during this movie? I certainly did, and I am not the only one. This movie was so poignant, humorous, and beautiful. But as expected when dealing with a storyline following someone coming to terms with who they are, who they love, and how they can live their authentic selves – and then sharing this with those around them, it was bound to get intense and tug at the heart strings. I don’t want to give too much away, and I hope I haven’t. But honestly, I cannot recommend this movie enough. It is absolutely beautiful.

Thank you so much Albany Pride for hosting such a fun event, as always. I will be eagerly keeping an eye out for updates on the events coming up in 2021, and I appreciate you all so much for bringing this movie to our lovely town, everyone tonight appreciated it so much.

I am including a copy of the hot off the press flyer provided at tonight’s event which showcases some of the upcoming events planned for Pride 2021, however, an official flyer with confirmed dates and events will be released at a later date. You will be able to find these by following Albany Pride on Facebook, on the Albany Pride website .

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