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Yet ANOTHER Experiment

Lately I’ve noticed that in between the charming pictures of my friends’ grandchildren and pets, Facebook has been slipping me images of fabulously handsome men with truly extraordinary abdominal muscles, gazing out with intense looks of ANGUISH combined with DARK PASSION.

EH??
A bit of research revealed that they were book covers for a genre called Paranormal Romance. AHA! I knew I’d eventually pay the price for subscribing to Shudder–which I did in order to watch A Discovery of Witches, a story in which a VAMPIRE and a witch fall in love.
So, as a scientific experiment, I downloaded one of these little tales. It began well–passion, smouldering looks, etc. But then! UGH. Blood all over the place, not to mention horrid torture.
Friends, I clicked it shut and went straight back to light hearted regency romances. Thanks for NOTHING, Facebook!

Brave Experiment Fails

Feeling that perhaps it was time to move on from romantic witches and kiddy flicks, I bravely tried two grown up films. Oddly, bothmovies feature women who disappear in Berlin. And neither, I regret to say, charmed me.

First I watched a show called Unorthodox, a German-American show–mostly in Yiddish!–which is about a young woman fleeing her Hasidic community in Brooklyn to go live in Berlin. There were some fascinating scenes of her life in Brooklyn–fascinating, that is, in the way one of those Animal Planet shows is fascinating, which goes on for instance, about the feeding habits of bears (wow, who knew they ate lily bulbs!) But then she’s off to Germany, throwing her sheitel (=wig) in the lake, and…sigh. As Nanny Ogg said about Granny Weatherwax in Witches Abroad, “Esme is getting to act just like a foreigner, yesterday she took her shawl off, next thing it will be dancing on tables.” Soon enough, Esty will daringly apply lipstick! Her husband is something of a schlemiel, but he loves her and misses her. I understand he will be rushing off after her, but I will not be there to watch his inevitable failure. This show got grand reviews, and maybe you’ll love it! Say hello from me if so.

Then I turned to a sci-fi noir film called Mute. We start with a long dreamy view of a floating boy almost drowning in a lake–and his stern Amish mama does not allow the doctors to do some kind of surgery so that the boy loses the ability to speak!
See, this was when a sensible person would have shut it down and gone to bed.
However, I valiantly soldiered on.
Leo, now grown up, is a bartender in a Berlin strip club, and is in love with one of the waitresses. Berlin is just like LA in Bladerunner, huge electric signs blinking on and off, lots of little zingy spaceships zipping about, and a great deal of NOISE. There are gangsters, there is a nasty pimp, there are immoral American surgeons–and then, the girl disappears, Leo starts smashing things up with the leg of a carved bed he’s been making for the girl–and I thought, I AM HATING THIS.

So, it’s back to the

romantic witches

and kiddy flicks for me.

My collection of subscriptions is getting WAY out of hand: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, HBO Max, PBS–several music programs–and then there is Microsoft, Adobe- well, well, one need not list them all.
Too too shaming.
So I thought, I shall CLAP A LID on this disgraceful business, and start terminating the unworthy members of the club.
Starting with Disney, that arrogant giant.
But first I thought I might, you know, just look through Disney’s assets.
LORDIE, what a bunch!
I forgot that Disney bought Pixar.
So many WONDERFUL movies.
I clicked on WALL·E. Oh MY. I had forgotten how much I loved this movie. WALL·E (Waste Allocation Load-Lifter:Earth-class) the wistful PC robot is all alone (except for his little cockroach) on the garbage heap that is earth. Until EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), the delectable MAC robot arrives! Charming scenes ensue, and eventually WALL·E follows EVE to the far away space ship where the human race is hanging out. MANY amusing scenes with the ship’s robots–and the final happy ending, coming back to earth, and the pleasant song by Peter Gabriel that accompanies the final credits.

What can I say. Perhaps I will not cancel Disney just yet.

Ender’s Game

I recently watched (again) the movie made of Orson Scott Card’s excellent book, Ender’s Game. Much was lost in the process of cramming this book into a 2 hour movie, and the grim story is lightened, made easier to bear. But there were some good visions, some fine scenes. The boy who plays Ender does well, Ben Kingsley’s fabulous tattoos are grand–and Harrison Ford is amiable (much more so than Col. Graff in the book).

However, the movie was a complete flop, and so no more movies of Card’s fine stories will be made any time soon. Which is a pity.
I understand that people have been taught to regard Card as a homophobe.
Dear friends, just read the books. He hates no one. He is a Mormon, and they are not enthusiastic about same sex marriage, to say the least. But even if he were a virulent antagonist in the battle–which he is not–there is no trace of that in his books. I just read Speaker for the Dead, which Card explains was the book for which Ender’s Game was intended to be simply the prequel. It is a book about loving your neighbor as yourself–a difficult task for any of us. But still, a worthy task.
My first husband hated Wagner because Hitler loved him. If I love or hate Wagner, it is because of his music, not his opinions or his fans.

Yesterday I was noodling about–working on a fine animation of Il Trovatore if you must know–when suddenly a message came up from Kaiser Permanente.
YIKES–could it be???
It was!
An invitation to make an appointment for my Covid vaccination! HOT DOG!
Perhaps this world is not after all the place of endless woe I had been imagining.
I quickly logged on, made an appointment–for TODAY.
I was very cool about it, but I must admit that I didn’t sleep well last night. Excitement, fear? Both. Plus a whole nightmare about my ancient car breaking down on the way–always a dependable source of worry, my car.
However, it didn’t break down–it bravely plunged through blinding sheets of rain on terrifying super highways, while my phone soothingly spoke in my ear about turning here, turning there, and finally the words of comfort: you have arrived at your destination.
I honor Kaiser for posting signs at every possible place–I was nervous–but here was an arrow, there was another one, and another and another, and then there were signs saying Park Here Vaccine People. I parked! Then sat breathing heavily for a while, reviewing the instructions: Go to the second floor!
Friends, I went to the second floor!
And entered into a genial confusion, patiently and efficiently managed by a group of competent people–mostly young black women–who were patient and kind with the confused elders. I was told where to sit. Eventually a pleasant young woman called my name, gently pressed a sticker saying “I got my Covid 19 Vaccine today!” to my chest, and led me to the nurse who pushed the needle into my arm. After that, I was led to a room to sit for 15 minutes in case I dropped dead, but I didn’t–and another kindly nurse made me an appointment for the second shot.
And I drove home!
I shall now pour myself a healing glass of wine. Well, OK, a third healing glass.

Capture

Mon Panache!

Thank you, Allan, for recommending Cyrano My Love–an entrancing film! And oddly satisfying to watch it right after having watched Topsy Turvey, set around the same time and also involved in the business of staging a show. Topsy Turvey is much more detailed, more thronged with people and action. But I have always loved Cyrano–as has the rest of the world, there are countless versions of it–films, plays, books. I remember seeing the play at the Kennedy Center, with Derek Jacobi sporting the famous nose.
At the end of Cyrano my Love, they added a charming little clip of some famous Cyranos to the credits–and there they are, discoursing on the Nose, the Kiss–Gerard Depardieu, Jose Ferrer, so many others. Just lovely, brought tears to my eyes.

Romeo and Juliet Again

A performance of Romeo and Juliet! As envisioned by Matthew Bourne! I had enjoyed his Cinderella, his Red Shoes–so, why not try it? $10 ticket, a BARGAIN compared to the tickets for in-person performances. Virtual performances not quite as riveting, but good enough.
Unfortunately, having bought the ticket, I forgot about it and only remembered this morning that last night I was to have watched this cultural event. NO MATTER! With virtual performances, exact time is of no concern. So I clicked the button, turned it on.
AH.
We start with a long talk from Mr. Bourne about how he hesitated to do this, how BORING to do something that everyone has already done. But never fear! He would bring his own special vision…YOUTH..blah blah…
At this point I wandered away and cleared the dishwasher, loaded it with the breakfast dishes. Once the droning voice was replaced by music–Prokoviev’s gorgeous Romeo and Juliet!–I hastened back to my computer.

YIKES! We’re in some kind of asylum, the young dancers all in white uniforms, a brutal guard grabbing Juliet for forced hanky panky. NOT exactly what we signed up for.
The music has been chopped up, changed, as has the story. Of course all the reviews talked about how passionate and contemporary it was. Except for the one that said, “bleak, disturbed, troubled…”

Well, it is that.
But it is also powerful.
Dan Wright, who danced the part of the brutal guard, is simply compelling–a big man with terrifying tattoos and a shaved head. Juliet barely comes up to his shoulder.

There is one scene–a party!–when the inmates are suddenly allowed costumes, and they dance like a wave of the sea. We finally notice that they are beautiful young people.

But I admit that MOSTLY, they are writhing in anguish, their movements harsh and mechanical.
Romeo’s cold beautiful parents bring him to the –asylum? school?–write a big check, leave him there. The other lads strip off his clothes and push him into the white top and white jeans uniform. He meets Juliet–RAPTURE. They smile deliriously at one another, wrap themselves together. But there is never that moment of impossible joy that the wonderful duet in Kenneth Macmillan’s ballet gives us–brings tears to my eyes whenever I see it: the boy’s ecstatic leaps, the girl twirling into his arms.
Bourne’s ending is rather spectacularly ferocious. Blood everywhere!
But I clapped for them–well done! Certainly not the Romeo and Juliet I expected, but my $10 was not wasted.

My county has not exactly covered itself with glory in its vaccination process–many different locations all vying with one another, each with its own form to fill out, and appointments VERY hard to come by.

But what of that! So the county can’t figure out these silly little details!
At least our LIBRARY shines! Not only does it give us free access to Acorn TV, it has a fine collection of books, movies, music! Allowing us to face infection and possible death without being bored!
The method for obtaining materials from the library is a miracle of elaborate device-

  1. Find it in the catalogue
  2. Reserve it
  3. Wait for the email announcing its arrival
  4. Set up an appointment to pick it up
  5. (And by the way, do you want it in a bag?)
  6. Go to the library and pick it up.

Thus I managed to obtain a copy of Topsy Turvy, that absolutely wonderful movie about Gilbert and Sullivan, and how they came to create the Mikado.

Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner play the two brilliant men, and there are gorgeous presentations of Victorian stage productions–makeup and wigs as our forefathers would have seen when they went to the theater.

Gilbert had visited an exhibition of Japanese arts and crafts, and bought a Japanese sword. We watch him having some private fun mimicking the warrior moves and grunts he had witnessed–and then on to the creation of the Mikado, that beloved show which has remained popular ever since. Many weeks of work, deftly presented to us, and then the triumphant debut and the audience thundering its approval.
EVERYTHING is perfect in this movie, but I must particularly point out Corduner’s blissful smile as he conducts the orchestra. AND his delighted grin in a Parisian brothel, as a trio of half naked girls sing Olympia’s song from Tales of Hoffman.

Playground, the production company responsible for Wolf Hall and other excellent shows, decided that enough time has elapsed since the last wonderful rendition of hardworking veterinarians in 1930’s Yorkshire–and has delivered up a spanking new tranche of that hearty comestible. Those of us who fondly remember the original series–with Robert Hardy as the stern but heart-of-gold vet who hires Christopher Timothy (the youthful Heriot)– were a little distrustful of this new venture.
Including me. I LOVED the old series; had watched one or two of the episodes recently.
HOWEVER.
The new series is VERY well made, very attentive to details, and the young man playing Heriot is so focused, so intense. And the animals are so vivid, the old pub so welcoming, the other characters so complicated and believable–it is a little jolt of joy, the vision of everyday life in another time, another world.
The series opens in grim Glasgow, Heriot’s parents bidding him goodbye on his trip down south to the green and pleasant dales of Yorkshire. And though he is initially disdained by Siegfried Farnon, yet eventually he wins through, gets the job. PLENTY of dives into barnyard mud for our young man, but he is a doughty one, and he doesn’t give up.

He is a pleasure to behold–always elegantly clad in suit and tie, as are his colleagues. One can’t help but think, MY we are a slovenly bunch these days.
I look forward to watching his escapades of a Sunday evening–only one more to go, alas. But I find that I am not the only sentimental soul about: a second series is on the way.

Earwig and the Witch

This film did NOT earn the good reviews which the director Goro Miyazaki–son of the world famous animator Hayao Miyazaki–was hoping for. It is the first full 3D CG animated film made by Studio Ghibli, and though I enjoyed it, I must admit that it didn’t have the charm of the earlier Ghibli animations–Remember Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle? ALL of which, by the way, will soon be available on Netflix! Hurrah! Except not this one, which is only available on HBO Max.
Here’s what brings the film down: Earwig’s odd doll-like face.

A little spooky–especially when contrasted against Chihiro, the little girl in Spirited Away, whose face is so freely drawn, so likeable.

HOWEVER, who could help loving the blue haired witch, Bella Yaga?

She and the demon Mandrake (ably voiced by Richard E. Grant) live in a grotty suburban cottage in England; they adopt Earwig, take her home and set her to work. Plot happens, and some scary stuff–but Earwig is stout hearted and never quails. And eventually all is well, as expected. The story–as was that of Howl’s Moving Castle–is from a book by Diana Wynne Jones, a writer of very agreeable fantasies–mostly for children, but I find I can read them despite that.

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