Advent Calendar

7th December 2020 – 17 days til Christmas

Dear Readers,
today I want to recommend you The Nutcracker performed by the Russian national ballet as well as a Walt Disney film production by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston.

https://www.royalmoscowballet.com/the-nutcracker

First to the famous ballet, the score was written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1892 and the original two-act ballet choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. It wasn’t that popular in the late 19th century, but today it’s performed every christmas season by many many ballet companies, the most famous, of course, is the Russian State Ballet. I once saw a live broadcast and it was unbelievably beautiful! Seeing them dance live is even better though (I saw them perform Swan Lake twice).

The story varies always a bit from performance to performance and so do the character names, so here is only the basic plot: It’s Christmas-Eve, after decorating a big tree and celebrating a big party, Clara (the main character) gets a wooden nutcracker from her godfather. When her brother Fritz breakes it, Clara is heartbroken. By midnight, Clara goes looking for her beloved nutcracker, suddenly the mice fill the room and the nutcracker grows to life size. Clara finds herself in a battle between mice and gingerbread soldiers. The mice start eating the gingerbread soldiers and the nutcracker, already wounded, leads the soldiers. In a fight between the Mouse King and the wounded nutcracker, Clara throws her shoe, distracts the Mouse King and saves the life of the nutcracker. The nutcracker transforms to a handsome prince and travels together with the girl to the Land of Sweets, ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy in the prince’s place until his return. He tells the story how Clara saved him from the Mouse King and they all celebrate with a lot of sweets. At this point the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier perform the extremly famous Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. (For all who don’t know it I linked a video on Youtube.) It often happens, that the ends change pretty much from perfomance to performance, for The Nutcracker that’s the case too.

Published by Palmtree Media: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dnKOjIRgOU

Now to the film: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018):

Directors: Lasse Hallström, Joe Johnston
Writers: Ashleigh Powell (screen story and screenplay by), E.T.A. Hoffmann (suggested by the short story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” written by)
Stars: Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley, Morgan Freeman

The story is pretty similar to the one of the ballet, though there are some changes of course, but because I think they are very important for the tension while watching it, I won’t tell them, just watch it and I’m sure you’ll be surprised, if you only know the basic plot or the ballet so far.

Film poster from: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56083804

The first time I watched the film was two years ago in an Irish cinema and I was spellbound. It was amazing. It wasn’t just the great cast, the gorgeous ballet dancers and the thrilling way of telling the story in a new way, the combination of it all left a feeling like never wanting to leave the cinema again.
It unites a fantastic fantasy plot, outstanding dance art (personally, I just love ballet, for me it’s one of the most beautiful, most ellegant ways to express stories and feelings) and an excellent picture-sound creation.

The Nutcracker is one of the most famous and one of my favourite Christmas-Stories, I hope you enjoy it.

Yours,
Aly

Advent Calendar

6th December 2020 – 18 days til Christmas

Dear Readers,

it’s me once again, Deimos and I’m back to support Alys christmas mission. Like before I have a film review for you, today however it’s about an animated film: “Rise of the Guardians”

Just like last time this one isn’t really a christmas film either since it’s set around easter but still seems to be exactly that, even more so than before. I mean, how could it not: Jack Frost is the protagonist and thus, there is snow like everywhere. Also, one of the deuteragonists is the actual Santa Claus with his reindeers and christmas elves and so on, there is no way one could deny that this screams ‘christmas time’ like few other things.

The story is rather simple yet still intriguing. Jack Frost, a young looking boy with the ability to create ice and snow and to ride on the wind awakens with no memories. Several centuries later and Jack is enjoying himself by having fun and causing a little mischief with his powers. He likes it, when children have fun because of him, however he still doesn’t know what his purpose is and why he is invisible to the children. North (Santa Claus), Sandy (the sandman), Bunny (the easter bunny) and Tooth (the thooth fairy) are the guardians and they protect the wonder, dreams, hope and memories of the children of the world. As opposed to Jack they are actually visible. However an old enemy arises, the personification of fear and darkness Pitch Black, the literal boogeyman. He threatens the guardians and the children, so they need the help of Jack, they need him to be a guardian. Jack is not convinced that he can be a guardian but the children need him…

The visuals in this film are great, the animation is just really fun to watch and also quite kid friendly. The amount and use of tension is right and it is continuously nicely emphasized by the sometimes epic, sometimes melancholic but always fitting soundtrack. The animated locations look stunning and are awesomely designed. I think they used the already known, literally legendary characters like Santa very well and formed the story nicely around them. The character design is creative and combines more familiar elements (like Santas red coat) with less familiar ones (like the size and the boomerangs of Bunny). Furthermore are the characters quite well written and have depth that lets them seem more real, like actual persons. Most parts of the film are somewhat comedic and have several jokes, which often use visual elements.

https://wallpapercave.com/wp/wp2080114.jpg

All in all the film is pretty fast-paced, which is probably good for the often shorter attention span of children. There are some really epic scenes that are more reminiscent of superhero films and some goosebumps moments. The distinction between good and bad is clear, in action as well as in design, which is pretty much a standard for childrens films. Even though I like the film there are a few negative aspects that I want to share: At some points the lack of consequence and continuity is a bit weird and there are instances where theree seem to be double standards that are not explained and don’t make no sense even not in-universe. I don’t want to do into any details, because I have no intention of spoiling anything but if you watch the film again you’ll probably realize what Imean by that. (If you know what I mean leave a comment and tell us what you think!)

The film has, especially for children, great morals that are firmly embedded into the story and its characters. It’s about the power of fantasy, the overcoming of fear, the importance of fun, friendship and solidarity, hope and most of all about believe.

I wish you a happy advent and fun,

Deimos

Advent Calendar

4th December 2020 – 20 days til Christmas

Dear Readers,

today I want to present you an absolutely beautiful fairytale: Dornröschen (you may know it as the sleeping beauty). It was collected by the German brothers Grimm in the 19th century. This version is from my German book of fairytales and was translated by Deimos. Thankful regards.


Sleeping Beauty

Ages ago there were a king and a queen, who spoke every day: >>Oh, if we would have a child!<< – and never got one. Then it happened, whilst the queen sat in the bath that a frog crawled out of the water onto the land and spoke to her: >>Thy wish will be fulfilled and you will you will give birth to a daughter<< What the frog foretold that came about and the queen bore a girl so beautiful that the king did not know how to let himself be and set up a great festival. He invited not just his relatives, friends and acquaintances, but also the wise women thereto, in order for them to be fair and dear to the child. There were thirteen of such in his empire, but since he only had twelve golden plates, from which they could eat, he couldn’t invite one of them. Those invited came and after the feast was held, bestowed upon the child their miraculous gifts; one with goodness, another with beauty, the third with wealth and thus with all that is magnificent in the world. When ten had just done their wishes the thirteenth entered who was not invited and wanted vengeance therefore. She cried: >>The kings daughter shall, in her fifteenth year, prick herself on a spindle and drop dead.<< Then the twelfth stepped forward, who still had a wish left; although she could not revoke the evil spell, she was still able to lessen it and spoke: >>It shall however be no death, instead a centennial deep slumber, in which the kings daughter falls.<< The king hoped, to save his dear child from the spell and let the order roll out that all the spindles in the whole empire shall be eradicated. On the girl however all of the wise women’s gifts got entirely fulfilled, for it was so beautiful, modest, friendly and reasonable that anybody who looked at it had to cherish it.

Picture from: Gaugler, Almut: Märchen by Edition Stuttgart im VS Verlagshaus Stuttgart GmbH, 1993

It occurred on this day on which it was just fifteen years old, the king and queen were not at home and the young lady stayed all alone in the castle. So it went everywhere around, looked at rooms and chambers, as it pleased und finally reached an old tower. It went up narrow stairs and got to a small door. In the lock there stuck a yellow key and when it turned the door swung open and there, in a little chamber sat an old women and spun her flax eagerly. >>Ay you little old lady<<, spoke the kings daughter, >>what are thou doing there?<< – >>I’m spinning<<, said the old one and nodded with her head. >>How that thing bounces around!<< exclaimed the girl, took the spindle and wanted to spin too. She just barely touched the spindle and so the spell got fulfilled and she pricked herself with it. Right in the instant however, when she had pricked herself, she fell down into a deep slumber. And the King and the queen, who just returned, began, with all of the court to fall asleep. So the horses in the stable fell asleep as well, the dogs in the courtyard, the pigeons on the roof, the flies on the wall, well, the fire that flickers on the stove was quiet and fell asleep and the roast stopped to sizzle, and the cook, who wanted to pull the kitchen lad by the hair, because he did a mistake, let go of him and slept, and everything that had living breath was quiet and slept. Around the castle however a hedge of thorns began to sprout, which rose higher each year and ultimately stretched around the whole castle and grew beyond it, so that nothing, not even the banners on the roof were visible. However the saga of the lovely sleeping beauty, since that was how the king’s daughter was called, went around, so from time to time king’s sons arrived and tried to pass through the hedge into the castle. Yet it was not possible for them, since the thorns stuck together like holding hands and the youngsters got stuck and perished pathetically. After long, long years another king’s son came across the country, whom an old man told about the hedge of thorns, where there ought to be a castle behind, in which a beautiful royal maiden, called sleeping beauty, shall sleep alongside all of her court. He also told that he heard from his grandfather, how many king’s sons did arrive to pass through the hedge but got stuck and died a sad death. So the youngster spoke: >>This shall not discourage me, I want through and see the fine sleeping beauty.<< The old one could advice against it all he wanted, he did not even listen to it.
Now, just on the day however, when the king’s son came, the hundred years were bygone. And as he approached the thorn hedge, there were a lot of tall, beautiful flowers, they put themselves apart, so he passed through unharmed; behind him they closed themselves as hedge again. He entered the castle, there were laying in the court the horses and the hounds and slept, on the roof there sat the pigeons and had put their heads under the wings. And when he entered the house, the flies slept at the wall, the cook in the kitchen still holding the hand, as if he wanted to grab the lad, and the maid sat in front of the black chicken that should have been plucked. So he went on and saw the whole court laying there and sleeping and on top the king and the queen. So he went even further and everything was so quiet, he could hear his own breath and finally he got to the tower and opened the door to the little chamber in which the sleeping beauty slumbered. There it was laying so beautifully that he could not avert his eyes and he bend down and gave it a kiss. Just when he had given the kiss, the sleeping beauty opened her eyes, awoke and looked kindly at him.

Picture from: Gaugler, Almut: Märchen by Edition Stuttgart im VS Verlagshaus Stuttgart GmbH, 1993

So they went downwards together and the king awoke and the queen and the whole court and they all looked at each other with wide eyes. And the horses in the courtyard stood up and rattled around, the hounds jumped and waggled; the pigeons on the roof pulled their heads from under the wing, looked around and flew into the field; the flies on the wall crawled onwards; the fire in the kitchen rose up and cooked the food und the roast sizzled further; the cook slapped the boy in the face, so that he cried and the maid completed plucking the chicken. And so the wedding of the king’s son with the sleeping beauty was celebrated in all its glory, and the lived happily ever after.


For all readers who understand German language, I want to recommend you a special kind of audio book version of it: You may know Unheilig or the Graf, the musician. If not it’s of course no problem, but if you like listening to a well read story, you might like the musical setting of the sleeping beauty by the Graf:

That’s the track on youtube by Unheilig.

Have a good nights sleep,
Aly

Advent Calendar

1st December 2020 – 23 days til Christmas

Dear Readers,

I love the time around Christmas, especially if it’s really cold and snows a lot but this year I guess everything will be different. It was a tough year, many poeple lost loved ones and the celebration of love is going to be celebrated in distance and lonlier than usual. We needed to adapt to more digital ways to see each other, to work, to live. I started this blog when we had the first lookdown in Germany, now we already experience the second one and I think life will be much different for most people after 2020. Because this is the first christmas for my blog and I want to try to enjoy the pre-christmas-time anyway, I planned something special: I’ll post something every day from now on til Christmas-eve, just like an online advent calendar. I hope to bring a bit of pleasure into the life of every reader. Even if you do not celebrate christmas, it is still the darkest season (at least at the north side of the earth) of the year and I think everyone can use some good books, films, fairytales and food. I hope for it to be an enrichment for your December.
Because these are special editions of my blog entries and outstanding, I won’t numerate those following posts as I do usually. I’ll start with Blog Entry No. 15 after Christmas again.

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Sooo for today I’ll present you a short review about one of my favourite books: Every Day by David Levithan. It’s a romance about A. A is someone, who wakes up in a different body every day, always the same age like him, never in the same body twice. He/She (that’s not really clear because A woke up as girl as often as he woke up as a boy and the book is written from his perspective, but in my imagination A is to be called he) always tried to make no problems in one of the many lives he lived, he always lived the day as the person whose body he woke up in, in the morning and was not able to live an own life. But one day he meets Rhiannon and falls in love. He never told anyone about the kind of life he lives, but he tries to explain it to her. Will she understand it? Or will she think it’s a creepy joke? Even if she’d understand, would they ever have a future? And as if life wouldn’t be complicated enough, Nathan, a boy A spent the day in, thinks he was possessed and hunts A like some sort of demon.

That’s the German cover of “Every Day” (Fischer Verlag FJB) because I read it at young age and got it as present.

As I already said it’s one of my favourite books. It’s more than a simple romance, it’s a work of empathy and different perspectives, about understanding. It’s a philosophical way of thinking about people who might exist, noticing more than a normal human ever could, without us knowing about their existance. It’s a teen-novel with a deep insight of so many problems people have to deal with even at a young age. It’s a book with a sad, but absolutely fitting ending that could lead to a sequel but doesn’t have to (though I would be very happy about one). Every Day is a great book from the very first line to the very last one and I’m more than happy to have found it in the library so many years ago. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Hope you’re having a good time,
Aly