Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (1986)

It may be one of America’s best-kept secrets: we as a populace don’t really love the Nutcracker ballet very much, and we resent having to ingest it every year as if it were a citizenship requirement. Most of us would be surprised to learn that the original E. T. A. Hoffmann tale has precious little to do with sugarplum fairies and all to do with a rather vicious war between toys and monster mice. Filming ballets has always been a bad move in any event, but this Carroll Ballard film version has a few saving graces beyond the score: it’s designed by Maurice Sendak, and it has a bewitching opening act, shot in intricate close-up, in which Drosselmeier embarks on his epic toy-making venture. Then there’s dancing.

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