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Showing posts with the label Dance

The Hard Nut (1991)

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Yup, this might be another year for versions of the Nutcracker. This one is now our favorite. If you’re going to watch a film of a ballet, skip this boring one, and this better, but still dull one and probably even this one in favor of The Hard Nut.

This production does suffer from the same problem that plagues almost all attempts to film a live performance: the person choosing the shot sometimes chooses the most boring part of the stage, or hides a transition that would actually be interesting to watch, or focuses on one character when something interesting is happening across the stage as a whole. This film version was produced for PBS in 1991, and the intro pieces with choreographer Mark Morris are clearly a bit dated.

That said, the design, story and energy of this version lifts it well above others we’ve seen.

The first act, especially, is glorious, in no small part due to the marvelous design. The style is based on the cartoonist Charles Burns; it uses strong black and white c…

Angelina Ballerina: The Nutcracker Sweet (2010)

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I’ve seen a few episodes and half-episodes of this show before, and it’s usually at least inoffensive and fluffy. It’s okay CG with cute stories about friendship and such, starring a bunch of young mice who go to a special performing arts school. This special is made up of five short half-episodes, only two of which were Christmas themed, so those are the two I’ll address here.

“Angelina and the Front Row Ticket” In this piece, Angelina has to try to decide which of her friends to invite along to a special performance of the Nutcracker. Frankly, this felt really padded. There were musical interludes that really contributed nothing and not enough plot for 12 minutes. The resolution was pointless and obvious. Plus, it was laughable how much better this same plot was on My Little Pony.

“Angelina’s Holiday Treats” This was a better short. Angelina and Marco eat too much junk food on the day of the holiday showcase and risk ruining their performance. And you know what? Nothing magically sav…

Santa and the Fairy Snow Queen (1951)

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What the HELL was that?

Okay, so Lindsay and I recently ordered a collection on Amazon titled Holiday Family Classics, containing more Christmas specials and movies than you can shake the severed arm of a snowman at. One of the first was titled,"Santa and the Fairy Snow Queen", and I was curious. I mean, I like Santa Claus. I like fairies. Putting them together should be a no-brainer.

I don't know where to start. This live-action special is introduced by a brownie - not an elf, interestingly enough - named "Snoopy" (no relation - had this been narrated by a dog, it would have been far, far better). Apparently, Snoopy's no longer tasked with making toys, but is rather the brownie charged with sneaking into children's rooms late at night to talk to their toys and get information on whether kids have treated them well.

I feel it's significant that Snoopy is one of the most annoying characters to ever grace the screen. She has a high-pitched laugh that…

George Balanchine's The Nutcracker (1993)

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Hey, it turns out that totally by accident we saved the best for last! First we saw the pretty mediocre Nutcracker: The Movie, then a version with pluses and minuses starring Mikhail Baryshnikov. This one, though, was definitely our favorite. I should mention here at the front that one of the stars is Macaulay Culkin. It was good anyway, I promise.

That's not to say it doesn't still have some problems, but the balance between film and stage is much better here. This one was actually enjoyable to watch for the whole first half!

The first act is very strong. Stage magic is used instead of movie magic 99% of the time, the camera angles are well chosen, the makeup works in closeup, and overall the balance between movie-realism and the stylized nature of ballet is very well handled.

The costumes and sets are great, but most important of all, it's well shot. Plus there's a plot! Sort of. The young dancers are surprisingly good. Drosselmeyer is fun, the story, such as it is,…

The Nutcracker w/Mikhail Baryshnikov (1977)

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Overall, this is a better version of The Nutcracker, but it still isn't great.
After our experiences with Nutcracker: The Motion Picture, I was leery of anything that crossed the line between filming a stage production and making a movie. This special made this error less, but I yelled at the screen several times anyway. “Stop with the poor special effects and just film the dancing!”or something. Maybe Erin recalls, I was somewhat incoherent in my frustration.
Happily, when they did film the dancing here, the dancing is very strong. The costumes were better, the choreography was better, it was just overall better done than the blatant cheesiness of the first one we watched.
Now, there are a few aspects of the costuming that make it clear that this is ballet, filmed in the 1970's. There is no hiding of bodies, no shying away from ridiculously tight shiny pants. So be aware of that.
This version does actually manage to get across my favorite thing about professional ballet:…

The Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (1988)

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I liked this more than Erin did, I think, but it eventually grated on me as well. This is also known as the Seattle Ballet Nutcracker, and that is a more appropriate name, as the largest problem with this was the tension between whether you were watching a dance piece or a movie.

I found the beginning rather charming, but eventually it was just long and strange. The surreal narration doesn't add much. The dancing is decently done, most of the time, and I'm sure it was fun to see live. The energy of the dancers just doesn't translate to film. The camera is often filming the least interesting part of the dance, and occasionally it seemed to me that the visuals were out of sync with the music.

Adding a few moments of awkward bluescreen does not change a piece intended for the stage to one suited for the screen. I had trouble staying interested through the Land of Sweets dances; some of the costumes and dancers were good, most just did not work on film. There were moments tha…