Myvatn, Dec 13 (AP/UNB) — The people of northern Iceland have had their travel plans disrupted with a record high snowfall this December. Roads have been shut, flights cancelled and school suspended.
But for the children of this isolated North Atlantic island nation, the main worry is how the waist-high snow might affect the Icelandic Santa, Stekkjastaur, who comes to town Wednesday.
Stekkjastaur, after all, has a stiff peg-leg.
He is one of 13 mischievous troll brothers, called the Yule Lads, who have entertained and also frightened Icelandic children for hundreds of years.
Instead of a friendly Santa Claus, children in Iceland enjoy favors from the brothers, who come down from their mountain cave 13 days before Christmas according to folklore.
The brothers are loud, reckless, and have names like Door-Slammer, Window-Peeper, Meat-Hook, Candle-Stealer — reflecting their preferred method of pranks or criminal behavior. But they claim to be mostly rehabilitated, and Sausage-Swiper is now keen to host barbecues.
Traditionally, they bathe once a year ahead of Christmas. Every year local actors in Myvatn, an inland community bordering Iceland's uninhabited interior, dress up in 19th-century costume and arrive as the Yule Lads to a natural lagoon heated with water from hot springs.
To children in the region, their arrival marks the countdown to December 24, when Icelanders celebrate Christmas.
"But, but, but — I was told we were going fishing," mumbled actor Hulda Sigmundsdottir, who plays "Pot-Licker," as she dipped her woolen sock reluctantly into the bath.
In the spirit of today's global outsourcing economy, the Yule Lads have also taken on the responsibility of replying to letters addressed to Santa Claus, their foreign colleague.
Soffia Jonsdottir, who is Santa's de-facto secretary in Iceland, says the Icelandic Postal Service forwards all Santa mail to the tiny outpost at Myvatn.
"Santa is a distant cousin of the Yule Lads so of course we are happy to help out," she said. "We reply to every letter that has a return address."
The letters arrive throughout the year and often include a wish-list, personal gift or simply a warm greeting. The Yule Lads, who speak Icelandic, admit sometime struggling with foreign languages.
Fortunately the letters are not delivered to the Yule Lads' home, where they might be stolen by their evil mother, Gryla, said to be a 600-year-old woman who eats children.
This dysfunctional family even has an innocently named "Christmas Cat," a giant feline with the habit of eating children — particularly those not wearing new clothes over the Christian holiday.
"You find a number of parents saying that we have to tone Gryla and her family down a bit," said Terry Gunnell, a professor in folklore at the University of Iceland. "But that would take away some the genuine Icelandic Christmas which is a dark time when days pass with only few hours of sunlight."
Gunnell said the Yule Lads had traditionally been used to discipline children when adults were busy preparing for the holiday.
"On the old Icelandic farms, stories of dark figures kept children from running into the mountains or falling into lakes or things like that," he said.
Parents used to torment children with such disturbing stories that in the 18th century, Danish king Christian VI tried to ban such un-holy tales.
For the next 13 days leading to Christmas, Icelandic children will enjoy favors from the Icelandic Santas as they come down from the mountains one by one, with presents — or a rotten potato in the case of bad behavior.
Five-year-old Anita Heidrunardottir, who was playing with her friends at the Managardur kindergarten in the capital Reykjavik, said she was hoping to wake up to books and mandarin oranges in her shoe in the run-up to Christmas.
"My sister is scared of the Yule Lads," she said. Why? "She does not know them. That's why she is scared."
Los Angeles (AP) — The National Film Registry is turning 30 and will bring in a new crop of films ranging from dinosaurs' return from extinction, a cowboys-in-love drama and stories showcasing Native Americans.
The Library of Congress announced Wednesday that the films "Jurassic Park," ''Brokeback Mountain" and "My Fair Lady" are among the 25 movies tapped for preservation this year.
"These cinematic treasures must be protected because they document our history, culture, hopes and dreams," Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, said in a statement.
The national library chose a few more memorable titles such as "The Shining," ''Eve's Bayou" ''Hud" and "Broadcast News." Others on the list include 1898 film "Something Good - Negro Kiss" and "Smoke Signals" from 1998, along with animated films "Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People" (1984) and "Cinderella" (1950).
The library selected movies for preservation because of their cultural, historic and artist importance since the registry began in 1988. This year's picks bring the total number of films in the registry to 750.
"Brokeback Mountain," released in 2005, is the newest film on the registry. The Oscar-winning film delved into the tragic tale of two cowboys who fall in love and starred Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger.
Ang Lee, director of the film, said he never intended for "Brokeback Mountain" to make a statement, but simply wanted to tell a love story.
"To my great surprise, the film ended up striking a deep chord with audiences; the movie became a part of the culture, a reflection of the darkness and light — of violent prejudice and enduring love — in the rocky landscape of the American heart," Lee said in a statement.
Steven Spielberg's 1993 original "Jurassic Park" was a blockbuster and the top public vote-getter to make its way into the registry this year.
Several films showcased the ethnic diversity of American cinema: "Smoke Signals" (1998) and "Dixon-Wanamaker Expedition to Crow Agency" (1908) explored the culture of Native Americans.
Other additions include ""Days of Wine and Roses" (1962), "Bad Day at Black Rock" (1955), "The Girl Without a Soul" (1917), "Hearts and Minds" (1974), "The Informer" (1935), "The Lady From Shanghai" (1947), "Leave Her to Heaven" (1945), "Monterey Pop" (1968), "The Navigator" (1924), "On the Town" (1949), "One-Eyed Jacks" (1961), "Pickup on South Street" (1953) and "Rebecca" (1940).
New Delhi, Dec 12 (AP/UNB) — In a season of big Indian weddings, the marriage of two business scions on Wednesday is set to be the biggest of them all.
Isha Ambani is the Ivy League-educated daughter of Mukesh Ambani, chairman and majority stakeholder in oil and gas giant Reliance Industries, whose net worth Forbes estimates at over $43 billion.
Her groom, Anand Piramal, is the son of Indian industrialist Ajay Piramal, whose namesake conglomerate is estimated to be worth over $10 billion.
At one of the couple's pre-wedding events on Sunday, Beyonce performed for a star-studded gathering at a 16th-century palace in the Indian city of Udaipur. Guests included Hillary Clinton and a host of Bollywood A-listers.
The competitiveness of India's wintertime wedding season is growing more extreme, exacerbating the pressure on regular Indians to go into debt to finance elaborate weddings, according to Archana Dalmia, a social activist in New Delhi.
"A farmer might commit suicide because he can't save enough money to get his daughter married," she said.
The extravagant wedding of Indian actress Priyanka Chopra and American singer Nick Jonas earlier this month — attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — was straight out of a Bollywood film.
So-called dowry deaths — brides killed when their families fail to meet in-laws' dowry demands — constitute a substantial share of all female homicides in India, a 2018 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report found.
While opulence has always been a feature of Indian weddings, families used to hand down bridal saris as heirlooms. No more, Dalmia said.
"This generation is very different. Priyanka Chopra will never be able to wear it again and she won't be able to pass it down," Dalmia said.
New York, Dec 10 (AP/UNB) — The Los Angeles Film Critics Association on Sunday named Alfonso Cuaron's deeply personal drama "Roma" best film of the year, adding to the acclaimed film's steadily mounting honors.
Cuaron's black-and-white film, a Netflix release, has been cleaning up many of the top prizes of awards season. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and likewise topped the New York Film Critics Circle. "Roma" is widely expected to land Netflix its first best-picture nomination at the Academy Awards.
The Los Angeles critics , which announced their awards on Twitter, also awarded best cinematography to Cuaron. But it notably deviated from the "Roma" drumbeat in the directing category. Instead, Debra Granik ("Winter's Bone") was named best director for her off-the-grid father-daughter drama "Leave No Trace."
Critics groups can influence the larger Oscars race, which has thus far struggled to elevate a likely female filmmaker contender, a sore point for some considering the wealth of options (including Chloe Zhao for "The Rider" and Marielle Heller for "Can You Ever Forgive Me?") and the historic male dominance of the category. On Thursday, the Golden Globes named an all-male field of directing nominees for the fourth time in a row, a record that has drawn increasing criticism.
The LA critics named Olivia Colman ("The Favourite") best actress and Ethan Hawke ("First Reformed") best actor. Hawke was also the New York critics' choice and the winner at last month's Gotham Film Awards.
Best supporting actor went to Steven Yeun for Lee Chang-dong's existential thriller "Burning," which was also the group's runner-up for best film. Taking best supporting actress was Regina King for Barry Jenkins' James Baldwin adaptation "If Beale Street Could Talk."
The critics also named Sandi Tan's "Shirkers" best documentary, the upcoming comic-book adaptation "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" best animated film and Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty's script to "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" best screenplay. Other winners included Nicholas Britell for his score to "If Beale Street Could Talk," Hannah Beachler for the production design on "Black Panther" and Joshua Altman and Bing Liu for editing "Minding the Gap," the documentary about friends in a small Rust Belt town in Illinois.
The critics will hand out their awards in a ceremony on Jan. 12. They will also honor Japanese filmmaker and animator Hayao Miyazaki — co-founder of Studio Ghibli and the maker of animated classics like "Howls Moving Castle" and "My Neighbor Totoro" — with their career achievement award.
Sydney, Dec 6 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Chinese film, Dying to Survive, has taken out best Asian picture at the 8th annual Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) awards.
Dying to Survive is a black comedy based on the real-life story of a Chinese leukemia patient who smuggled cancer medicine from India for other Chinese cancer patients.
"I think the most important thing is to make a balance among entertainment, the sociality, and the humanity of a film," director of the film Wen Muye explained of the film's success while speaking to Xinhua on Wednesday night.
The film has certainly touched the hearts of Chinese audiences, enjoying broad box office success back home, and Australians are starting to pay attention as well, with many seeking to expand collaboration between the two countries' film industries.
Australia's "indigenous western" Sweet Country took out best picture overall on the night, as well as a slew of other awards for its gritty portrayal of life in the dessert, while best supporting actress winner Nicole Kidman urged audiences to keep seeing smaller films which can only survive in the age of blockbusters with sustained audience support.