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Such is the mythic quality of the December festivities that when Good Fortune happens during any other month, it can be difficult not to reach for the glittery Yuletide vocabulary to capture the sense of celebration

THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR?

Preston Sturges’ 1940 comedy is about an office clerk conned by colleagues into believing he has won a huge prize at a local department store. It all gets out of hand when he and his fiancee start spending the money like there’s no tomorrow. Or indeed, like it’s, er, Christmas in July.

This year, I’ve prided myself of covering a film with at least some mention of Christmas here on a monthly basis. Christmas In July just yearns to be included this month. And it would have been, had my own Christmas not come on 26th of the month when I was called to Guy’s Hospital in London for my own kidney transplant!

So, I’m still recovering, low in energy, on the mend but without my laptop since I’m staying close to the hospital for my regular check-ups. For the moment, my review of Sturges’ film can wait. When I am back with my computer and notes on the film, I will edit this page accordingly.

Until then, I conclude with all good wishes to my readers and supporters,
Catherine vR

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Into the wild: a growing lad must converse with an ancient natural force to face his future

Like George Bailey in Christmas classic, It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), young Conor O’Malley cannot escape his limited fate so he must learn to live with it. And so grow.

CONOR’S MIDNIGHT GUARDIAN

FOR A 13 YEAR OLD boy, it seems like a dream. Conor’s Dad, Liam has just turned up from America where he lives with his new family, and is suggesting his son join him in L.A. The teenager (Lewis MacDougall) is excited. L.A sounds like sunshine, bright colours and a new life for the boy – and freedom from his washed-out English life where the sun barely shines; he is being mercilessly bullied at school; and is presently living with his too strict and seemingly unfeeling Grandmother (a miscast Sigourney Weaver). And, worst of all, his single Mum (Felicity Jones) is dying of terminal cancer while assuring her aware son that she will get better. And then his Dad adds, ‘We were thinking over Christmas. That way, you could be back home in time for school.’ Conor’s heart sinks.

Like a chorus line for whenever they meet, Liam (Tony Kebbell) will assure Conor that he will be ‘going to come to L.A for Christmas’. (It often occurs at the pier, a place of fun and joy for a Dad and his boy but also suggests that Liam s trying too hard to reconnect.) Except Conor has listened to his father and seen through such promise. ‘In your cramped house where there’s no room for me,’ he spits out, throwing his Dad’s excuse that he couldn’t stay in the United States for ever right back at him. He is also adamant that he does not want to leave his sick Mum on her own in England for the festivities, presumably snce he fears she might die in the meantime.

A Lost Boy Finds Hope In The Wild

Sunshine and Christmas seem a New World away. Conor is essentially ‘stateless’ while his Mum is ill in hospital – and the unsaid question is where he will live should she die. He certainly does not want to remain with his grandmother. He’d feel an entirely lost boy were it not for the unexpected appearance of a huge leafy giant who has emerged from the ancient yew tree that stands in the cemetery on the hill. He sounds exactly like Liam Neeson (which is reassuring since he is also Aslan and Qui-Gon Jinn. On the other hand, Neeson is the assassin known for declaring: ‘I will find you. And I will kill you.‘ And, currently featuring in Scorsese’s Silence (2016) as a Jesuit missionary to Japan who denied Christ. The rotter!)

Which makes Neeson’s casting hugely appropriate. Whenever this Monster appears at 12.07, day or night, although he clearly delights in rolling the name’Conor O’Malley‘ around his mouth, we are never quite sure whether he has the teenager’s best interests at heart as he ‘encourages’ the boy to smash up property and people. He is a truthteller and a truthseeker, weaving a series of three tales for Conor and challenging him to reveal his own truth cum nightmare for the fourth tale. As with the ghost tales for Scrooge in Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843) it is by facing the darkness of his heart that Conor shall be set free to live, however painful that might be.

An Ancient Spirituality Primed For Our Time

Patrick Ness, author of the acclaimed YA novel on which A Monster Calls is based (Ness also wrote the film’s screenplay), faced criticism for his apparent lack of imagination in reprising ‘A Christmas Carol’s three-stories-within-a-story style. On the contrary. That and Liam’s overplayed reference to Christmas ironically emphasises what Ness’s story is not. And by doing so, focuses on a very contemporary strand of English spirituality.

The beautifully animated tales in earthy reds and browns the Monster weaves, emerge from a time of kings and farmers’ daughters, knights and dragons, apothecaries and priests. The stunning watercolour washes bring to mind the 1930s children’s hymn, ‘When A Knight Won His Spurs’, which, interestingly ends with the couplet: ‘And let me set free with the sword of my youth, From the castle of darkness, the power of the truth.‘. Which is *exactly* what the Monster is endeavouring to help Conor to do. He is thousands of years’ old which suggests an attractive pre-CHristian sensiblity of an ‘original England’ reaching out to Conor’s post-industrial world.

Fairy Tales With Very Human Endings

The Monster’s stories, based on his own experiences, rather than have conventional happy endings with a clear sense of who is good and who is evil, are far more interesting and thought-provoking than that. He show humans to be conflicted beasts, a mix of right and wrong, with a contradiction at the heart of so much of our behaviour. By the third tale, the Monster is telling of Conor’s own invisibility that will burst into visibility with too much force. But destructiveness can be positive too, revealing dark truths that once confronted enable new life. And Conor must hug his mother as tightly as possible in order to let her go.

As kids we need fantasy to understand reality,’ director J.A. Bayona has explained. ‘This is what fairy tales were written for. Using fairy tales we can understand very complex emotions and thoughts that, the other way around, we wouldn’t be able to process as kids. So I think fantasy is more effective in telling a better comprehension of life and life itself.‘ [1] At one point, hearing of his parents’ failed marriage, Conor will say to his Dad, ‘So you did’nt get ‘happy ever after’?‘ ‘Most of us get ‘messily ever after,‘ is Liam’s very honest, true and lived experience of an answer.

A Modern Mythical Tale Of A Boy’s Bereavement

A Monster Calls celebrates the value of storytelling as well as the manual treasure that is drawing and painting from the heart. The Monster – himself perhaps the embodiment of the mythical ‘Green Man’ – has witnessed the origins of fairy tales before they were sanitised. That he provides ‘hope in the wild’ (as the poster strapline goes) with a ‘manchild’ is the continuance of a 2016 cinematic trend via films including The Legend of Tarzan, Jungle Book, Pete’s Dragon, Captain Fantastic, Hunt For The Wilderpeople and even Revenant and Room where the natural world is where ‘home’ is found away from the troubling contemporary world.

it is to J.A Bayona’s credit that his use of a range of animation techniques including blue-screen and digital does not detract from a very earthed and undoubtedly English tale. An incredible and terrifying sequence in a graveyard also emphasises the quality of young MacDougall’s acting, while underscoring Bayona’s real gift as a director of teenage boys. (Tom Holland’s superb appearance in The Impossible (2012) was reminiscent of Christian Bale’s debut in Empire Of The Sun (1987) – and he makes a hidden appearance in A Monster Calls too.)

It is only January, but A Monster Calls is already a shoe-in for one of the films of 2017.

[1] http://screenrant.com/a-monster-calls-interview-ja-bayona/

dekalog
Shadowlands: the warming light of decorations does not touch everyone

The release of the restored television and cinema classic presents a timely refocus on an urban community at Christmastime

KIESLOWSKI’S CAROL FOR THOSE LEFT OUT IN THE COLD

It is the evening of Christmas Eve when Poles celebrate the festival, and on a grey Warsaw housing estate a man dressed as Father Christmas is getting ready in his car before heading off with his sack to an apartment block. A little girl will answer the bell and he will tell her in a deep voice that ‘Santa Claus is here’. In his stationary car, he has already been passed by a drunk man dragging a fir tree behind him and weeping, ‘Where is my home?

As the block door opens, dishevelled bereaved father, Kryszytof (Henryk Brnaowski) whom we recognise from the first episode of this acclaimed television drama happens to come out. As his neighbour, Santa wishes him ‘Merry Christmas.’ ‘Sorry, I didn’t recognise you,’ replies the broken father, his words weighted with so much unspoken truth about the loss of his young son, Pawel. (The boy’s fate was sealed when his father gave him a premature Christmas present of a pair of ice skates.) Kryszytof looks through the block window and sees Santa entering a decorated living room. It appears as magical as the Mexican front room Arthur Christmas (2011) is in awe of. Santa hands out presents to his two small children, his wife and older relation. It is a jolly scene of family celebration – a Christmas archetype – yet we also see that there are those it shuts out by default, who are left with their noses up against an icy window pane at this time of year.

Ten tales that capture frail and troubled humanity

As the restored highlight of a box set comprised of almost the entire television output of acclaimed Polish film director, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Dekalog (1988) has acquired a deserved place in the cinema canon of the late Twentieth Century. Written by Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, and loosely based around the Ten Commandments, it began life as a low budget ten part monochrome tv drama series. Money was so tight that the filmmaker could only afford two takes maximum but this gives each tale a naturalistic tone. We feel very close to these people. The series’ reputation grow beyond Poland (two of the sections were made into films, A Short Film About Love and A Short Film About Killing (both 1988), and Dekalog was celebrated beyond Eastern Europe at film festivals and included in cinema programmes.

In fact, the series can be effectively read as an extended film about a community centred on a Warsaw housing estate in the 1980s, where an individual whose story is told in one episode will be seen in the background in another one. (Kieslowski was to repeat this pattern in the remarkable Three Colours film trilogy, most astoundingly in the final scene of the finale, Red (1994).

A heightneed view of ordinary lives

Throughout Dekalog, an all but silent man observes the lives and stories playing out before him: he could be termed ‘Christ-like’ but he is a much like the Berlin angels of Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987), observing and standing by human beings but having no agency on what befalls them. None of the stories are prescriptive or moralistic but rather raise questions and do not take spiritual sides.

Indeed Dekalog speaks to viewers wherever they live of ordinary human predicaments and responses to recognisable circumstances. Today, the series can also be regarded as a semi-historical account of a people emerging from Communism into their own confused and often troubled autonomy even while there is no mention of this: people simply get on with their lives.

City-wide search for meaning

The Christmas Eve episode is the third in the series – Dekalog 3 (Dekalogy Trzyi) is based on the seventh Commandment ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ [Exodus 20: 14) it is effectively an hour long three-hander. The tale revolves around Santa –Jamusz (Daniel Olbrychski); ex-lover, Ewa’s search for her partner, Edward this winter’s night – and how she inveigles Jamusz into helping her in her quest even while he has left his suspicious wife at home.

Yet Dekalog 3 also turns out to be a rather touching fable about individuals’ search at this time of year for some sort of meaning. En route, we are shown how different beleaguered people celebrate Christmas: from taking their own life; drinking enough to end up naked in a grim cell; singing together at a care home; or celebrating Midnight Mass. Ironically for all this sadness, the screenwriters express an inclusive humanism. All these ‘minor’ Chirstma stories are as valid and important and worth looking at as the traditional family celebration at the episode’s heart. ‘It’s difficult to be alone on a night like this,’ admits Ewa at one point. Her ex’s reply: ‘People shut themselves in, draw the curtains’ is a pertinent comment about how exclusive a traditional Christmas can be. Dekalog 3 honours those people on the outside too.

Santa Claus and guardian angel

And Jamusz’s comment suggests he’s very aware of his role this Christmas Eve. He has stepped outside that decorated comfort zone. He seems to sense that, for this one lonely night, the Santa in him shall guide Ewa (Maria Pakulnis) beyond her despair, even while they deceive each other along the way. It is reminiscent of the angelic company of Nicholas Hoult guarding the suicidal Colin Firth in A Single Man (2009). By the morning, Jamusz and Ewa part, flashing their car lights at ach other.

Presumably, this was their old signal when they were having an affair, but this Christmas night they have spent together it has been redeemed into an act of fondness: a genuine farewell. Returning to his wife, Zona (Joanna Szczepkowska), it is clear to all three that the good and honest Christmas deed was done that night. The light of the season made itself known.

‘Dekalog and Other TV Works’ Dual-Format Blu-ray & DVD plus interviews, commentaries and a 128-page collector’s book is available from http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk at a special offer price of £49.99 (RRP £64.99) from 31st October.


Like father, like son: Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney contemplate their mirror image (Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)

FAMILY MATTERS AMID A MAELSTROM OF METAL AND GLASS

The slow strains from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony accompanied by gunfire and explosions over nothing but a black screen at the very onset of A Good Day To Die Hard is, come to think of it a clever trick that on the face of it seems rather a dim gesture. Heck, it’s not as if we needed to be reminded that this is the latest – count em: fifth – in the John McClane franchise. But that classical extract draws us mentally right back to the original and best, the Christmas-set Die Hard (1988), conveniently hurdling over the sequels and especially the aberration that was 2007’s Live Free Or Die Hard (aka Die Hard 4.0), the edition that many fans would rather did not speak its name.

And what’s so surprising about this reboot of the Die Hard franchise is how well A Good Day To Die Hard fits. I write as someone who can take or leave action movies, but credit where it’s due to ones that play well to someone like me who’s most at home watching quiet character-led indy pictures like Richard Linklater’s Before… trilogy and foreign films like I Wish.

Passing on the baton

The point is that the Die Hard films know what they’re good at – throwing Bruce Willis into a maelstrom of shattering metal and glass and having him coming back fighting and with a wise crack on his lips. Here, he’s the same John McClane, only balder, and it doesn’t even matter if he’s a police any more. He’s headed to Russia to pull his son, Jack (a well-matched Jai Courtney, due to appear in this year’s Suicide Squad) out of an apparent almighty mess he’s got himself into – and has to swallow a smirk when he discovers his boy’s actually a CIA operative, referring to Junior flippantly as ‘double-O Seven of Playing Field, New Jersey.’

It’s obvious that the baton passing from getting-too-old-for-this-game Willis/police officer McClane to holding-his-own Courtney/spy Jack aka John McClane Jnr is no accident. The Daniel Craig-fronted revamp of Bond as well as the success of the Bourne films are stiff competition these days, and the Die Hard producers look keen to play ball and what’s more, from this film alone seem up to the game. If the plot seems shaky and convoluted, and the situations improbable, well, that’s par for the course for this film genre. As well as jaw-dropping vehicle chases, there’s a tremendous all-but-final sequence of a helicopter crashing vertically through a building as McClane and son themselves go tumbling down through the same floors to land, virtually unscathed, in a convenient swimming pool together.

A fight for family

Let me ask you something. Do you go looking for trouble or does it always seem to find you?’ asks a bemused Jack, trying to make sense of his Dad. ‘You know, after all these years I still ask myself the same,’ Senior replies. And no surprise, because the truth is that all this shoot ‘em up bluster is a huge McGuffin to disguise the Die Hard films’ fundamental tale of an Irish Catholic New Yorker attempting but not always succeeding to do right by his family. The first two Die Hards were both set at Christmastime with loved ones crossing the country to be with their family a major part of the plot set-up. In A Good Day To Die Hard, McClane is crossing continents to gather up the clan. Family ties are key.

Marriagewise, John has failed abysmally. The pressure and hours of his job and his recognition that wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedella) ‘was the best thing to ever happen to a bum like me’ at the end of Die Hard wasn’t enough. He saved her from her plane falling out of a snow-filled sky in the sequel (‘Oh, John, why does this keep happening to us?’), and left her hanging on the other end of the telephone in Die Hard With A Vengeance. The fourth film put the nail in the coffin of what had been a clearly struggling partnership indicating that the pair were long divorced (the film’s only notable point). Turns out we had been watching the sad tale of a marriage breakdown all along.

Killing bad guys together

At the onset of A Good Day To Die Hard, McClane and grown-up daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) are on good terms. She waves him off at the airport with a ‘Love you, Dad. Just try not to make a mess of things.’ Lucy clearly has her father sussed. Jack, however, has a bone to pick with ‘John’. (Tellingly, when a shocked son’s getaway van’s path is blacked by McClane Snr in a Moscow street, he blurts out ‘Dad?’ in surprise, but he immediately changes his tune.)

The two haven’t spoken in years. ‘How come you never called and told me where you were?’ pleads John. ‘Like you give a shit,’ fires back Jack. Ouch. Of course, the point is that these two are too alike, that ’killing bad guys’ is both their thing. But they have to risk a fatal dose of radiation at the ruins of Chernobyl, being shot at and the possibility of being blown to smithereens together to realise it and be fully reunited.

For while John McClane might have made a balls up of his generation. his fatherly instinct to go and bring his boy home indicates that he’s going to make damn sure that splitting from his children’s mother wasn’t the end of the family. He seems to have learnt his lesson, even as he appears to be bowing out.

A Good Day To Die Hard is on Channel 4 at 9pm.


Familiar family gathering: but do they make ’em like this anymore?

For all the seasonal cinema screenings of It’s A Wonderful Life and tv stations pulling out all the stops to fill the November & December schedules with yuletide movies, annual Christmas-themed film releases tend to be thin on the ground. 2015 looks very different.

IT’S A WONDERFUL TIME FOR CHRISTMAS MOVIES

Last year, it was Get Santa and Nativity 3. One notable year, the tube was full of billboards showing a rather scary Father Christmas with Naughty and Nice tattooed on his fists but that was for Rise of the Guardians: a film set at Easter! That’s not to say that there weren’t pictures that flew under the radar, such as Happy! Happy! But on the whole, the annual selection was nominal, the releases often family-aimed contrivances. The Christmas movie canon, after all is a collection of titles released over decades.

Except this year, there’s a veritable glut. And what is more, there is a broadness in the themes they cover: as a collection, they take in issues of sexuality and gender, homelessness, the traditional family gathering, and folk legend. And that is without counting films such as The Lady In The Van, and New Year’s Day release, Joy which both incorporate Christmas scenes into their trailers while neither film is essentially about Christmastime.

On current release

Tangerine (15)

Given it happens to be the first feature film produced on an IPad, trans drama, Tangerine makes both a strange and fitting double bill to watch with Steve Jobs starring a hugely impressive Michael Fassbender as the eponymous Apple computer genius. Mind you, what Jobs would have made of Sean Baker’s sun bleached dayglo vision set among Los Angeles’s hustlers on Christmas Eve is anyone’s guess. The trans girls are shrill, and the drama of their lives is spelt out in capital letters. But this is a funny, sad, grim, tortured, tender tale of people hanging on to the underbelly of the American Dream with their garishly fake-nailed fingertips during a fairy light-lit day of reckoning.

A Christmas Star (U)

Billed as the ‘first Northern Ireland Christmas film’, production company, Cinemagic have accumulated a young cast and crew along with industry professionals to encourage trainees into the industry. Pierce Brosnan plays a property developer (boo hiss) and the mellow tones of Liam Neeson provide the narration. All who worked on it clearly gained some valuable experience, and the whole project is well meant. And while I have not yet seen the film (it is out on dvd on November 23rd), I have been warned off seeing it both by film reviews and to my face (yesterday evening after a press screening of Christmas With The Coopers).

Out 27th November

Carol (15)

As with The Apartment and The Hunt, the crux of Todd Hayne’s beautifully shot and coloured Carol takes place during Christmastime, but it is not the whole story: which is why, technically, none of them can be classed as Christmas movies. It is in the run up to the festival that Cate Blanchett’s upper middle class wife and mother first sets eyes on Rooney Mara’s shopgirl in the tinselled toy department of a New York store. It feels a magical place where dreams might come true, and the pair effectively bewitch each other, striking up a relationship. Which proves a very dangerous game in America in 1952, especially for Carol who risks losing her young daughter. This is a beautifully rich character study that has had critics salivating but may face difficulty in attracting audiences beyond the arthouse circuit.

Out 1st December

Christmas With The Coopers (12A)

I expected slapstick and schmaltz around the Christmas dinner table with Diane Keaton and John Goodman as the heads of the household. The trailer gives the same poor impression. Ignore the trailer. Christmas With The Coopers focuses more on the journeying than the actual arrival at the family home. It’s a film about memories, regrets, lost love, life’s disappointments and childhood sleights that still burn. And is wistful, funny, sharp, moving, romantic, sceptical, humane, hopeful and silly. There are moments which children will enjoy, but this is essentially a Christmas movie for those who have lived a bit longer. At the time of writing, I ‘ve yet to see all the films listed here, but this might be my favourite of the season. And it’s got a great soundrack too.

Out 4th December

Krampus (15)

Nothing like some influence from European folklore to darken the – enforced – Christmas mood and jollity of a dysfunctional American family gatheinrg. Krampus is the anti-Santa Claus whose focus is on the naughty kids – and while there are shivers and shocks to be had, it also falls on the right side of horror. The audience shrieks will be laced with laughter. As with the excellent Rare Exports, Black Christmas, and, why, A Christmas Carol itself, a dark twist on the festivities provides part of the season’s winter colour.

Out 11th December

The Night Before (15)

Three friends – Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt embark on their annual Christmas Eve night of debauchery across New York in search of the best party, well aware that this could well be their last. If there are any laughs, they are broad ones. And there is one scene set at Midnight Mass that looks set to deeply offend many Christians. James Franco’s genitals apparently have a cameo role. It’s that sort of Christmas movie…

Hector (15)

Peter Mullan plays Hector McAdam, a homeless Scot who every year travels down south to spend Christmas at a London hostel. This year, he has an added journey: he wishes to track down his estranged siblings. This is a small British seasonal film with limited release.

So, it’s quite a year! I will cover each of the films as close to their cinema release date as possible. Look out for my full review of Tangerine shortly.

I don’t remember seeing so many ‘dead’ Christmas trees out on the pavements ever before. It reminds me of that post-Christmas scene in Kramer vs Kramer where Dustin Hoffman’s walking along the street with his neighbourhood friend and the two of them are having to sidestep neglected pine trees all along the way.

But it reminds me too that Christmas isn’t technically over even though it looks and feels like it. Orthodox Christians celebrated Christmas when the rest of us were taking our decorations down on the 6th. For the Church of England, the season of CHristmas isn’t actually over until Candlemass on February 2nd: I have a friend who is keeping out his nativity scene until then while all the baubles and sparkle are back in their box.

Similarly, Christmas pops up in films when you’re least expecting it. I watched Sandra Bullock in While you Were Sleeping the other night. I’d argue that it beats Bridget Jones hands down on character, humour, charm, Christmas glitter, and singleton truth. I also saw classic 1945 British horror movie Dead of Night . the one with poor Michael Redgrave as a ventriloquist tortured by his malevolent dummy. There’s a Christmas ghost story hidden away in that film, featuring the young actress, Sally Ann Howes who went on to become Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Those of us who read The suspicion of Mr Whicker will appreciate the Francis Kent reference too.

I went to see the very impressive The Impossible today. Set at the time of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, and beginning on a holidaying Christmas Eve, it’s a brave cinema scheduler who puts that in their future seasonal programmes. The soundtrack is such that you feel engulfed. Worth catching – with young Tom Holland a highlight. His feature debut is reminiscent of that of Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun. Expect to see more of him.

The way its painted on the Big Screen, you’d almost think that Christmas Eve was the Big Day.  It’s when things happen.

It’s Kim Basinger in a scarlet and fur-edged cloak setting off bullish cop, Russell Crowe’s curiosity in L.A Confidential.  It’s the date of the semi-ghost story Festen director, a captivating Thomas Vinterberg tells on the dvd extra, The disclosure of Festen. And it’s the ghostly visitations to Scrooge in any one of 30-plus movie A Christmas Carols.  Or Doris Day waiting to tell morose husband, Barney (Frank Sinatra) at midnight that she is pregnant, except he attempts suicide by driving full throttle in a white-out in the meantime in Young At Heart  in Bridget Jones’ Diary, we learn that Christmas Eve is the horror of a day Mark Darcy discovers his Japanese wife having an affair with his one-time Best Man (Hugh Grant).  It is the courage, hope, steel – and, unbeknownst tragedy in Polish officers in a Russian POW camp celebrating Christmas and singing carols from home in Katyn.

In the circumstances, Christmas Day itself feels like an anti-climax.  But Christmas Eve is the drama, the expectancy, the storm before the calm, the birth of Christmas Day when ends are tied up, the going-without-saying.  In so many films, it is the culmination, and if not the culmination, the day when things begin to turn right, as in Frozen River.  Christmas Day is seen to be a sign on screen that All Manner of Things Shall Be Made Well.

A Merry Christmas to you all.

I will return for Boxing Day and be writing up to Epiphany on January 6th when the decorations come down.  And after that, I’ve news of a new project.

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