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17 December 2015 @ 09:11 pm
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.

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