The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Panned by critics, this is actually a wonderful, inspiring film. A steampunk version, the foe uses automatons created by a giant engine.

Several moments stand out in this film. The moment Clara realizes the sugar plum fairy is not as sugary sweet as she appears. The moment Clara realizes the only one who can save the four realms is herself. She happens to be staring at a mirror and her mother’s words comes back to her.

The film is a feminist victory. The young girl’s bravery and intelligence save the kingdom which is rarely seen in most films.

Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley, and Helen Mirren give great performances here.

Anything is Possible

“Anything is Possible,” is the last line of the last story in this remarkable collection. The collection is as much as it about miracles as it is about family secrets and hidden shame.

Anything is Possible

Abel of the short story “Gift,” feels shame that he and his sister Dottie used to eat out of dumpsters as children. Though he has worked hard and grown rich, Abel has never gotten over the sorrow and loneliness of his childhood.

When he watches “A Christmas Carol” with his family, though, a strange thing happens. When his granddaughter forgets her toy at the theater, it gives him the opportunity to make a friend for the first time in his life.

Lucy Barton who was featured in Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton makes an appearance here as well in the short story “Sister.” Lucy has a panic disorder that stems from her childhood. None of the Amgash residents, including Vicky, her sister, know about this.

The residents view Lucy as one of the few who left Amgash unscathed. They talk about Lucy in amazed tones for she is the only one who seems to have triumphed over her impoverished childhood.

Tommy’s reaction is typical:

“Lucy, Lucy, Lucy B. Where did you go to, how did you flee?

One of the pretty Nicely girls, Patty, is particularly drawn to Lucy’s story.

Gemini by Carol Cassella

Cassella is an M.D. so there are many accurate medical details given in this story about Jane Doe, the woman brought in to hospital after a hit-and-run.

The novel moves back and forth fluidly between the present and the past. Eric and his girlfriend, the medical doctor treating Jane, want to find out more information about Jane.

The novel also focuses on two people who almost fall in love, Raney and Bo. Raney, who has been raised by her Grandfather to be self-reliant, hardens her heart against Bo because of his privileged background.

The meet each other as kids in Quentin, WA . Even then, Raney is keenly aware of class differences. Bo’s family leaves him in Quentin during the summertime when they travel or get divorced.

Although they sense a spark between them, circumstances keep tearing them apart. They nearly get together when Bo, a freelance writer, has a car accident in Mexico.

Convinced he has abandoned her, Raney casts her love for Bo aside.

Does anyone, however, truly forget their first love?

When its revealed that Jane Doe has a distinctive scar, the attending doctor’s boyfriend realizes he knows the patient.

Since this is a medical drama, the character’s illnesses and medical condition shape the story. For example, Erik, a science writer who also has neurofibromatosis, is hesitant to commit to his girlfriend because of it.

Though no one gets the medical miracle they are hoping for, the ending is deeply satisfying.

A Saint a Day

St. David’s spoons


Today (March 1st) is St. David’s Day, the patron saint of Wales. St. David is the smallest city in Britain.

Its a beautiful city with a strong artistic and “farm to fork” community, cathedral, and interesting history.

Though as with all saints there are many legends, the real St. David established a religious community in what is now the city of St. David.

Visit the Cathedral, the St. David’s Bishop’s Palace and watch the St. David’s parade in Pembrokshire.

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

The 14th annual Story prize, given annual to top story collections, went to Elizabeth Strout for Anything is Possible.

Other finalists were Daniel Alarcon’s The King is Always Above the People and Ottessa Moshfedgh’s Homesick for Another World.

Lee Conell received the “Spotlight Award” for Subcortical.

The interconnected stories in Strout’s Anything is Possible include characters from her novel My Name is Lucy Barton.