Thursday, December 29, 2005

Post-Christmas season

I'm never quite sure when the 'Christmas season' is over. Here in Cyprus there are celebrations for Epiphany as well as the New Year; schools don't finish for the Christmas break until about Dec 23rd, but then have two weeks off and return after Epiphany (Jan 6th). Which, as Epiphany is a Friday, will mean Monday 9th Jan. Of course Jan 6th is also 'Twelfth Night', the 12th day of Christmas, when traditionally all the decorations should be taken down, but we sometimes do ours before then as it seems a bit silly to keep them up until then. Not that we have many up this year: just the tree, the many cards from friends and relatives in the UK and here, a few candles, and a simple wreath on the door.

Oh, and a nice Christmas tablecloth my mother bought us, but I'll remove that when it needs washing.

We're still eating up mince pies (about 14 left), Christmas cake (about three-quarters left) and other random bits and pieces. Will the post-Christmas season be ended when the cake has all gone? We had cold turkey two evenings in a row with baked potatoes and leftover veg and salad; the rest is going in the freezer for pies, curries, tetrazinni, etc. So we could still be eating that in months to come.

On Tuesday we went to a friend's birthday party in the afternoon, and the boys went to another friend's party in the evening. Yesterday we didn't do much during the daytime, although as it was sunny and breezy, I did a couple of loads of laundry. Exciting, huh?

Then in the evening we all went to see the Narnia film. It was my mother's final evening here so we thought we'd do something special. It was only released in Cyprus (with Greek subtitles) on Dec 23rd but hasn't been as popular as in the UK or USA.

It was an excellent movie. The animals and special effects were so much better than those in the 1980s BBC drama of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The acting was better too, and the scenery, and the battle scenes so much more realistic. But then Disney has a much better budget than the BBC!

I did feel there was a bit too much of the battle shown although it was mostly fairly un-gory. I gather this was deliberate, so the film would keep the PG rating. A good thing from my perspective as I hate gore; the battle was still rather too long and violent for my tastes. They also added in some extra drama and suspense that simply wasn't there in the BBC edition: a rapid race across a huge river as its ice melted (not the gentle stream in the book) which resulted in everyone getting wet. The wolves reaching the beavers' house before those inside had left. Quarrels between Peter and Susan, who really didn't want to be in Narnia at all. Realistic - they did come across as a couple of stressed teenage siblings - but perhaps unecessary.

Edmund and Lucy were excellent. I was surprised at how very young Lucy looked, but perhaps that was correct. She was a great little actress, anyway. Much more my idea of how she should have behaved than the rather pushy Lucy in the BBC series. The white witch was brilliant too. Apparently quite nice in the early scenes; I could quite see how Edmund would have been taken in. The witch in the BBC series was dreadful: high drama and screeching, but totally unbelievable. Like someone out of a pantomime. The Disney version had her less ghastly, but all the more clearly evil as the movie continued.

The beavers were wonderful, with Cockey accents and just the right personalities. So much better than the BBC version which had people in beaver costumes. Of course it wasn't possible to do computer graphics to this degree in the 1980s. The other talking animals were very well-done too, as were the centaurs and giants and fauns. And Aslan was perfect. Just the kind of voice I imagine him to have: gentle, but firm. Loving, and strong.

I was surprised that the Christian imagery was so clear, too. I thought it would have been played down, since this movie is designed to appeal to a wide range of tastes, and those of all religions. Of course it's only clear for those with eyes to see, but I can still remember the huge joy I found when I was about nine or ten, in realising - on my second or third reading of the books - that Aslan was equivalent to Jesus. Thereafter I discovered more and more symbolism with each reading. I'm very glad nobody explained it to me, so I could find it all for myself. I hope that some seeing this movie will understand better what Good Friday and Easter were all about, but of course there will be many who just see it as a good film. And that's all right. When Jesus told parables, not everyone understood them. Only those with eyes to see and ears to hear.

I'm glad it was a good film, because the whole 'cinema experience' is not something I enjoy. I remembered afresh why I prefer DVDs, and why I hadn't been to the cinema for two years.

There's the uncomfortable seats that tip back unless you keep still. The lack of leg room, scarcely better than on an aeroplane. The awful loud pop music that's played for twenty minutes before the film starts. The sick-making smell of sweet popcorn (ugh). The constant rustling of packets and bags, and munching and lip-smacking, as people seem unable to watch a movie without scoffing food. The whispering from those who aren't watching, or didn't understand, or wanted to explain something to somebody. The children getting up to go to the loo, and climbing over everyone to get in and out. And something new: adults texting friends, children playing games on their mobiles. Why on earth would they pay to go to the cinema if they weren't going to watch at all?!

About half the time I was so captivated by the film that I didn't notice all the extraneous noise and other irritations around me. So that makes it pretty good, overall. I was glad I saw it. I just wish it had come out a few weeks earlier so we could have gone to an almost-empty cinema!! Sometimes I really wish that horrible habit of eating sugary, buttery popcorn hadn't come to European cinemas. The smell is so foul, the noise so unpleasant. My only compensation is that at least people aren't allowed to smoke in cinemas any more. Sweet popcorn is definitely less bad than cigarettes.

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