Ahoy there from the inter-festa deep!

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas? Ours was very good, indeed. And then as we were driving back from my ancestral pile (so to speak), I thought “Well, that’s Christmas over, I suppose.” It always seems a bit anti-climactic, don’t you think? It’s a good thing Peter has the whole week off.

Then the next morning I was rather grateful to RC2 for this post popping up first thing in the morning to remind us that, no, those months of prep and excitement aren’t for a single day, but the fun’s just getting started (even if the food isn’t as good (although, I did buy myself a ham yesterday, so inspired was I by Christmas dinner and anyway I’ve never glazed my own ham before)):

Wheat & Weeds – The Second Day of Christmas

(It’s a rather beautiful picture, isn’t it.)

Funny story: We went to Mass on Christmas Eve (Christmas Day masses are always during The Child’s nap time and Christmas Day without a nap isn’t something I’m willing to contend with). They had a 4:00, 6:00, and Midnight mass. I figured the 4:00 sounded great so I drag the other two out of the house 45 minutes early and we end up standing against a wall. Then a nice old Church Lady comes and asks if we want to sit “in the sanctuary”. I’m not sure that’s allowed? So there was me and The Child (Peter skedaddled), front-and-center (the other two families up with us were tucked into a corner).

Anyway, there were so many people there that, during communion, when all the eucharistic ministers were scrambling to distribute stock, at one point one of the ladies comes past us, unlocks the tabernacle and takes the host out of its little casing, breaking it up for extra. So naturally I imagine a sign on it, “In case of emergency, break glass” and was quite amused.

So, Movie Reviews!

First, The Hobbit:

It’s fine. It’s just way too long, the fight scenes won’t end (I felt the most sorry for the composer, who had to string along a ridiculous number of tension-supporting “Sting! STING! STING! STING! STING!!!!“s together over and over. They get to be really obvious, and generally speaking, when you start noticing the music in a film, it usually means they’re failing with the pacing of the thing.

So they got through the first couple of pages of the book, in a little under three hours, which meant stretching every battle scene to within an inch of its life (and STILL not getting the details right, as I learned from Wiki later because I was totally confused). So you have to sit through these half hour battle scenes, or flashbacks of battle scenes, or a roller-coaster-ride-esque chase scene, or a rolling boulder scene (Indiana Jones much?), etc etc etc, and then in the gaps they drag out some Famous Actor (or a Famous Actress, since Cate Blanchett’s the only female with a speaking part in it (which is fine, given the source material)) and have him (or her (or them)) monologue in Great And Portentous Tones for a few minutes. It’s kind of embarrassing. Instead of focusing on the plot, I kept thinking “Oh poor Cate,” or “Oh poor Hugo Weaving” or whoever, having to have the most awkward conversations with each other in the most unnatural way.

Or else Gandalf says something with a twinkle in his eye and the producers of the thing pat themselves on the back and say “There, we’ve put drama/character development/emotional depth into it. Let’s roll another boulder!”

Also, I’d really like movie reviewers to see these stupid films in 2D. All the reviews of The Hobbit spend half their length discussing the (de-) merits of 3D or 48 fps, whereas if they’d just see the thing in 2D, even if they’re missing whatever the genius director intended, they’d at least spend their movie review reviewing the bloody movie. Argh. Anyway, I’m not going to see any movie in 3D, so when I read a movie review, I don’t flipping care about the quality of the third flipping dimension.

But, as I said, it’s basically fine. It’s too long and too scary and too violent for a kid to watch until he’s way older than when he’s read the book (ahem, filmmakers), but it’s perfectly enjoyable for a Saturday afternoon if you don’t expect it to be a modern masterpiece. Which is disappointing, because it should be one, but it can still be taken on its own terms, as a very normal movie.

Anna Karenina:

This movie was gorgeous. I don’t particularly have anything new to say about it that wasn’t already said by The Sunday Times review and The Telegraph (I can’t find the link), but comparing notes with a friend from work who didn’t see it with us because she was still reading the book, it seems to follow the book perfectly, including everything it needed to include without skipping anything important (or adding anything unnecessary; see above).

Having it take place on the stage was lovely, and fun to watch, and managed to convey the idea that the aristocracy’s life was lived for watching by others, but also reinforced the idea that it was built on the suffering and grinding poverty of those they didn’t even see, without having to spend precious minutes hitting us over the head with “Look at the inequalities in society! Get it? This is Russia! You all know what happens next!!” etc.

Keira Knightley was great (I kept having to defend her to coworkers who couldn’t forgive Pride and Prejudice, ignoring Atonement and, even better, The Duchess), the costumes were amazing, the male actors were lovely, the sets fantastic, and, as all the reviews mention, there’s a strange detachment from the characters, which is great!

When we (a group of female coworkers) went and saw it, one of us said slyly before it began “I brought a box of tissues” because, well, it’s a Russian novel, innit. But none of us actually cried. And I think this is great because I think if I read the book I’d find Anna a massively irritating person, either her or her boyfriend, and everything that happens could have turned into tragedy porn, “Let’s now spend 30 minutes manipulating great heaving sobs out of our audience”, but they didn’t. So you watch the movie and you enjoy it and you come away with all the literary devices (foreshadowing!) and lessons and so on without having to get comprehensively crushed by the depression of it all, especially over a character you may find rather flawed.

Incidentally, in the movie, I think they did a good job of making nobody particularly at fault, except, just slightly, the boyfriend, who bore the most responsibility (or rather, it’s his fault, but you don’t end up hating him for it, because you understand). From what I hear, the book lays most of the blame on Anna.

The Gruffalo!

This is an adorable little kids movie. I usually hate all these animated monster movies because they tend to not be very nice to look at and the characters rather rude, but this is great. I think I enjoyed it more than anyone else in the household, but never mind.