nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
It’s the end of term, which means great busyness at work, plus a hectic weekend as my father came to visit. On the downside, I’m tired, though that is partly my fault as I keep not going to bed early enough. On the upside I’ve done some very enjoyable things, and I’m a lot less shattered than I have been at the end of every term for the past umpteen years, on account of my new tablets. Alas their miracle effects don’t include keeping the rain off, but you can’t have everything. It took 48 hours for my shoes to dry after a walk on Saturday in wet grass.

Some things I have seen this week:

Show Boat. Dad came down on Friday night and we went to the Sheffield Crucible production, which has transferred to the New London Theatre. It was utterly fantastic, and it’s a great shame that a production that has been so well-reviewed, of a piece that is not done that often, is closing in August rather than January due to lack of ticket sales. Clearly London audiences are just unadventurous… I admit that I watched the whole thing through a haze of nostalgia for the Opera North/RSC production of the late 80s/early 90s and subsequent family listening to a recording in the car, but everyone else seemed to be having a good time, too. A good solid case saw stand-out performances from Ravenal (a young American singer), Julie and Joe – the latter two understudies, it would be hard to imagine the leads being better. In short, if you’re in London and can see it, do. Here's the trailer, and here's Willard White in concert.

When Marnie Was There To describe something as ‘charming’ often seems a double-edged compliment, with an implication that it may also be rather slight. WMWT is utterly charming on every front, but it is also a serious and thoughtful film. I’d not seen a Studio Ghibli film before and I’m regretting that now, as it looked absolutely gorgeous and was completely worth seeing at the cinema. It’s based on a British children’s story that I’d never read, and which follows a fairly standard ‘lonely girl goes to stay with people in the countryside and meets a mysterious child who lives in an old house’ trajectory, but the depiction of the children’s friendship and their lives is done with a wonderful sensitivity. We saw the subtitled version, trailer here.

Eddie Izzard: Force Majeure It’s not that I’m not accustomed to attending performances in a foreign language – I like opera, after all. It’s just that they often have surtitles, and even then you don’t need to know more than the plot. Whereas this was in German, on account of the titles for the English hour of the three-hour show being sold out.

It turns out that with a little preparation to drag ye olde GCSE more to the forefront of the mind, Eddie Izzard is surprisingly easy to understand in German. For a start, he’s British, so he speaks with the “British person talking foreign” accent that I’m used to. But also the nature of his comedy works well even if you don’t get every world. The conceit of taking a concept and drawing it out to ever-absurder lengths means that as long as you can grasp the concept you can go with it. I got completely lost only at one point when I had absolutely no idea what sort of frantically-digging animal he was on about. The options my brain tried included werewolves, my neighbour guessed crabs – if only I’d stopped trying to think “what does that word sound a bit like?” and gone instead with “which animals famously dig in the way he’s doing an impression of?”, since the answer was moles.

There clearly were more sophisticated jokes and references that the native-speaker portion of the audience was getting and people like me weren’t, but overall I was quite chuffed with my ability to follow what was going on. All I have to do now is spend the weekend reminding myself of such technical details pronoun declensions, verb conjugations, and where you put the second sodding verb before my course next week...
nineveh_uk: Picture of a wild rabbit with text "I hope your rabbit dies" (sheep)
My parents have set out for points north once more, a day earlier than anticipated on account of Youngest Sister having broken her upper arm on Thursday evening. I suspect that will prove to be her last ice-skating session… Other than phone calls to various people on this subject, we had the relaxing sort of weekend suited to somewhat tired people in late February, and other people did the cooking, which I always like. I enjoy cooking, but it gets tedious day in and day out, especially the washing up.

We saw Icelandic film Rams on Saturday, highly recommended. I found myself thinking afterwards how incomparable it was as a piece of art compared to Star Wars, which was the last film I saw at the cinema. Not that I didn’t enjoy Star Wars, which was a fun piece of light entertainment that I enjoyed very much; but Rams simply offers more to chew on.

I shall cheat and quote the beginning of the Guardian review:

In a secluded Icelandic valley, estranged brothers Gummi and Kiddi are warring neighbours, competing with each other for the best ram prize that has become a symbol of their family feud. But when the spectre of the fatal scrapie disease threatens their remote farms, both brothers are faced with the prospect of a cull. Can these long-term enemies find common purpose when their ancestral stock and way of life are threatened?


Here’s the trailer:


It’s a powerful film, with some terrific acting, real pathos, unattractive woolly jumpers, set in a place that makes February in southern England feel like paradise by comparison, and with lots of sheep.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Cinderella, Scottish Ballet. So it turns out that what I really like in ballet is plot. There were fewer dance pyrotechnics in Scottish Ballet's production than in my recent cinematic Nutcracker, but I know very little about dance technicalities, and all I can say is that the choreography was charming, dancing looked very good to me, the orchestra was excellent, and Cinderella actually has a proper story*. As is the mark of a good ballet, I spent the next couple of days balancing on one leg and pirouetting around the place. The dancer playing the Prince had an extraordinarily young face that looked about 16, though the internet tells me he is about 26, which worked really well in terms of plot and characterisation.

All that plus the fantastic Edinburgh Festival Theatre, which has stalls the price of a London upper balcony containing comfy seats, ample legroom, good sightlines, and in the foyer a large bar and decent lavatories (the latter not actually in the foyer).

Carol, dir. Todd Haynes. I strategically skipped this in Oxford as it was on later in Edinburgh, which meant I got to go with my father and youngest sister (Mum being under the weather stayed at home). It was terrific, beautifully acted, and shot with enormous sympathy for the complex characters. While obviously the main focus of the film and its critical attention is the central love story, it also has quite a lot to say about class and how this relates to Carol and Therese's specific situations and options. I shall definitely be seeing it on DVD and will be going back to look again at Haynes' earlier Far from Heaven, to which it feels something of a companion piece.

Star Wars A good straightforward fun space adventure film, it does what it sets out to do, and it entertains the audience while doing it. Characters aren't deep, but they are deftly sketched by the story and feel plausible, and the plot moves at a good clip while remaining comprehensible, and it was blessedly free from stopping the action for pointless thumping. It looks good, the music is stirring, and it has Harriet Walter flirting with Chewbacca**. In short, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and I look forwards to the next one.

And Then There Were None What with one thing and another we didn't end up watching a lot of Christmas TV, but this was terrific. Gripping throughout, growing more and more tense as it progressed, and though I've not read the book the fairly minor alterations seem to have been neatly done. Performances were strong all round, but Maeve Dermody should be particularly recognised as an utterly convincing Vera. Personally, I like to think that were I trapped on the island with a serial killer I'd consider setting fire to the house, but on the other hand I would not be hampered in my actions by worrying about being exposed as a murderer.

All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride Christmas Eve on BBC4 ventured into Slow TV territory with this delightful two-hour film of a couple of women driving reindeer sleighs through northern Norway. It looks very cold, and very snowy, and there is no soundtrack beyond the ambient noise, and we taped it and it was perfect to watch on Boxing Day morning.

*Though I note the Wikipedia summary "After travelling across the world and meeting princesses with no success, the Prince begins to search his own kingdom, trying the slipper on every maiden who attended the ball. Back at Cinderella's home, love has allowed the Prince to defy the laws of time and space; though it is only the morning after the ball, he has already travelled the world and back again in search of his love."

**I'm wondering how that casting conversation went.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Having missed Spectre, and put off Carol until the Christmas break, I finally managed to get myself to the cinema not only once this week, but twice, indeed on successive days.

Bridge of Spies When I say that this was an excellent old-fashioned film, I mean that in the best way. It was possessed of such old-fashioned virtues as a strong script, coherent and engaging narrative, good pacing, fine cinematography, and top quality acting from all concerned. The film dramatizes an incident in 1960, in which a Soviet spy was exchanged by the USA for a US pilot whose spy plane was shot down over the USSR (the U-2 Incident), plus a student who got himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Though the events of the story are greatly compressed, and there is little exploration of the wider context, the basic historical outline of the spy story is apparently fairly accurate. Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance are terrific as the leads, but there are also fine performances from the younger actors playing the US pilot and student, and by Amy Ryan as Donovan’s wife (also a tribute to the script, which resists the temptation to make her a metaphor for American small-mindedness, by leaving that role to the American officials who are being small-minded), and the eternal issue of how to deal with the accents of Russian and German characters speaking English is got round by casting Russian and German actors. Engaging and entertaining from start to finish, definitely recommended.

The Nutcracker, live broadcast of the Royal Ballet production from the ROH (see link for trailer). The music was sublime. The dancing was fabulous. The costumes were gorgeous. There's just one tiny thing...

I'm not saying the plot of The Nutcracker is ludicrous, but it's an excuse for dancing in the way that huddling for warmth is an excuse for fanfic porn.

I'm not saying the plot of The Nutcracker is ludicrous, but it gets more interesting in the second act when there isn't one.

I'm not saying the plot of The Nutcracker is ludicrous, but I ended up making sense of it as Drosselmeyer the toy-maker's forbidden love for his nephew.

Or as my father put it, it's a shop window plot, there solely to display the exhibits, namely a pretty Christmassy set and cute dancing children (act 1), and spectacular exhibition dancing (act 2). By the end of act 1 I had decided that good as the dancing was, I would never need to see it again. My life does not need toy soldiers vs. mice warfare in it. By the end of act 2, which is just a bunch of exhibition dances one after the other, I was converted. At least to act 2.

The dancing is gorgeous. The sugar-plum fairy and prince section was absolutely staggering and on its own would be worth the price of admission. It also illustrated the extraordinary tightness of ballet tights that appeared to be spray-painted on as the camera view showed the prince's thigh muscles quivering in the leaps. Mention must also be made of Gary Avis, playing Drosselmeyer as if auditioning to represent earth at the 2016 Galactic Cape-Twirling Championships. And passionately in love with his nephew. One of the cinema audience response tweets run across the screen at the end suggested there should be a Drosselmeyer spin-off. I am 100% behind this, just as long as it is the incestuous goth aesthetic version. With capes.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I have received a gift fic! Traitor to the cause. Vorkosigan fic in which, as the summary puts it, “Miles finally goes too far.”

I had two meetings at work today. Both have been cancelled. I am rather pleased with this as I have a ton of stuff to do that is more important. It would help if I weren’t feeling knackered due to waking up in the middle of the night because I was hungry, failing to go back to sleep after having a biscuit, and then not being able to eat more than half an orange for breakfast because I was tired… Oh irony.

There are too many things on at the cinema! I still haven’t seen Spectre, and I want to see Carol and Bridge of Spies. I really need to actually to get my act together and go, rather than procrastinate. Or end up at random films about sheep instead.

At the end of [community profile] picowrimo I have managed 6300 words on the eternal WIP, finished the bodyswap fic, and done much thinking about other ideas. I am considering this satisfactory, especially as I am carrying on into December rather than collapsing into a heap. Does anyone have any comments on using Scrivener? One of the many things I have learned from the eternal WIP is that I need a better way of organising both text and notes. Random bits of paper in a carrier bag and notes for different chapters jumbled together in Word docs is not ideal.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
It's decision time, never a good season for me. Having finally got round to upgrading from Windows XP to 7 on Sunday, following a blue screen of death incident that forced the issue*, I have reached the inescapable conclusion that while my 2007 laptop is largely in good nick apart from needing a new battery (not an issue because I use it like a PC), its hard drive is full. So I get to take lots of my documents off it, store them externally, and run programmes only on the hard drive, or I upgrade the hard drive, or I buy a new computer. The first is annoying and liable to lead to worry about losing stuff. The third seems unnecessarily expensive and environmentally wasteful, given that I have a computer that functions fine apart from being full. So it may be screwdriver time. On the plus side, the manual does give instructions on how to do it. The relatively small cost seems worth a punt if I can put off spending a couple of hundred a while longer.

I went to see Beyond Clueless this evening. It was an enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes, and there was a lot of amusement in some of the montages, but ultimately I agree with Mark Kermode's three stars, rather than the more breathless review I read in the autumn. It lacks a real thesis, and fails to deliver analytical bite. Ultimately, the genre it's analyzing does the analysis better.

*Fortunately everything was backed up, not my standard state of affairs.
nineveh_uk: Picture of fabric with a peacock feather print. (peacock)
I went to the Live from the Met cinema broadcast of The Merry Widow yesterday evening. It was a lot of fun, being the sort of production described as ‘lavishly mounted’ on every front, and having Thomas Allen in it. But the memory that will remain most with me is perhaps not the singing, or dancing, or even the decision to shove an extra aria in the finale pulled from a different Lehar piece (WTF, suddenly she’s singing generic praise of love?), but the introduction and interval interviews presented by Joyce DiDonato, who is an American singer and a woman who never misses the chance to use an adjective.

I take back all that I have ever said about the writing advice not to use adjectives. I have found the scriptwriter who really, really needed to hear it. Every singer was introduced as “the adjective [Renee Fleming]”. In one instance before an interview she used five in a row (by that point it was so bizarrre in effect I was counting). Some of what seemed a bit weird to me was presumably expected US vs. British presentation styles*, but no one needs five adjectives in a row like that! I wonder if the singers compare what they got during subsequent performances, ranking the relative merits of being ‘radiant’ vs. ‘American’?

The Met website has tons of clips of previous broadcasts on it, which I can see is going to keep me happy for some time.

*Speaking of transatlantic style difference, I have never seen so many polo necks on an audience before.
nineveh_uk: picture of holly in snow (holly)
Back home, after the end of the Christmas holidays. It’s been a slightly strange fortnight, with a very disjointed second week as one by one the household succumbed to plague*. I had a very enjoyable Christmas, receiving some excellent presents, and we managed to do quite a bit, but there were various things that didn’t get done and I am not returning to work feeling particularly physically refreshed, though it is fair to say that I certainly haven’t thought about much since the 20th, which is good. I will be catching up on Yuletide in due course.

Anyway, other people’s plagues are almost invariably boring**, so here are other people’s (person’s) seasonal reviews instead.

[Unknown site tag]Frozen

A Christmas Eve matinee at Cottage Road cinema has become a bit of a tradition these days, and this year it was Disney’s turn, with a take on The Snow Queen that happily had moved far enough away from the original that they couldn’t justify the title and I was able to enjoy it for what it was rather than fuming about it not being the proper TSQ. It wasn’t exactly deep, but it kept a slightly dopey me entertained for 90 minutes, with decent songs and strong visuals, particularly beautifully realised scenery***, though the too-large eyes for the female leads - multiple, which was nice - are a bit weird. I was amused that becoming a snow queen also involves a lower neckline and skirt with slit to the thigh. I’m being sarcastic, but actually it was a nice film, if not on the level of Beauty and the Beast, which is an excellent film.

Incidentally, does the concept of “true love’s kiss” thus expressed show up before it was spoofed in Enchanted? It was in Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty as well.

[Unknown site tag] The Hobbit II AKA The Desolation of Smaug

Also at Cottage Road. It’s the fairground ride version of the book, but as I’m not that fussed about the book, I didn’t mind (and indeed it has finally inspired me to re-read it, which took some doing). As in the first film, I loved the visuals of the Kingdom under the Mountain, could have lived with it being half an hour shorter, and managed not to ask myself such question as “have the dwarves left the gas on for fifty years” during the film itself****. I could also have lived without the love triangle, though I quite enjoyed Tauriel as an addition otherwise – an infinitely preferable insert to the Laketown stuff. I was very impressed with the animation of Smaug, which achieved both weight and fluidity and made me believe in him as a dragon rather than a man in a rubber suit. I am glad that he will get to be in the third film.
In short, I enjoy the Hobbit films as what they are – I quite appreciate why other people cannot.

[Unknown site tag] Cinderella, Northern Ballet Theatre

The family theatre trip for the season, and great stuff (not least because we gave up on parking in the centre of town and split the taxi fare both ways). I don’t know a lot about ballet, but I like music (original, not Prokofiev), plot, and to come out wanting to leap about the sitting room. A delightful new version from a company who don’t get anything like the subsidy they deserve and consistently provide exciting and excellent classical dance combined with entertaining storytelling, we all came back dancing.

On the ballet front, I also enjoyed the television broadcast of Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty. I am inclined to agree with the critics who suggested that if you’re going to introduce vampires to the story you might as well go the whole hog, but it was gorgeous nonetheless. I would have liked a bit more formal dancing and pointe work rather than bare feet (one day I will damn well buy myself a pair of pointe shoes to have a go in something better than slippers), which I felt would have added variety, but informality was definitely preferable to the original version’s final act of show dances by random fairytale characters.

[Unknown site tag] Boxing day races, Wetherby

We lost. Well, we also won, but less than we lost. It was fun, and very cold.

*Life skills tip: if you find yourself feeling a bit queasy during a 3D film and there is the slightest possibility that this isn’t simply motion sickness, but motion sickness and a gastric bug, leave. Middle Sister did not follow this advice, and ended up in A&E. On the plus side, she managed to do this at a cinema with its own sickroom (OK, the sickroom belonging to the National Media Museum – lots of school trips, and IMAX).

**The exception being actual plague. Thanks to The Bridge I have learnt that the Swedish for pneumonic plague is lungepest.

***The reindeer was basically an excuse to show how well they can do fur now.

****Though not to stop myself coming up with a Benedict Cumberbatch crossover idea, and I’m not even a Cumberstan.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
After a fortnight in the Bosom of my Family, I am now back in the land of no dishwasher. Once again, Christmas seems to have gone incredibly quickly. There were many presents, much food and drink, and entertaining a cheery baby is an excellent excuse for sitting on the sofa not doing much ("I would lay the table rather than watch Muppets Christmas Carol, but I don't want to wake him up"). There was also the opportunity to watch several good films.

The Hobbit (Cottage Road cinema) )

Midnight in Paris (the sofa) )

False Trail (Jägarna 2, Cubby Broccoli cinema, National Media Museum) )

2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony (the sofa )

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