Christmas Links #16

Cate Blanchett and Ian McKellen on Rehearsals, ‘Lord of the Rings’
"After journeying to Middle-earth together for the “Lord of the Rings” movies, Cate Blanchett and Ian McKellen are playing more grounded roles in this year’s films. In “Mr. Holmes,” McKellen stars as the famous detective in old age. Blanchett pulls double duty in “Carol,” as a 1950s housewife who falls for a younger woman; and in “Truth,” in which she plays embattled “60 Minutes” producer Mary Mapes."

'Star Wars': How the Ewoks Came to TV 31 Years Ago:
"Long, long ago — try 1984 — on a network not so far away (ABC), Star Wars fans gathered around the TV to witness the next chapter in George Lucas’s beloved franchise. No, it wasn’t a long-lost Lando Calrissian spinoff or another terrifying Holiday Special. Instead, it was a feature-length family friendly adventure based around the furry woodland critters who had helped the Rebels defeat the Empire once and for all in Return of the Jedi. We’re talking, of course, about the Ewoks, who lived amongst the treetops on the Forest Moon of Endor and employed ingenious traps and other guerrilla tactics to combat Imperial troops and confused Jedi alike. Popular characters — and even more popular toys — with young audiences, Lucas saw the potential in giving the Ewoks their own adventure within the larger Star Wars universe."

The 25 Greatest Christmas Albums of All Time:
"It's no surprise that a Christmas song – Bing Crosby's "White Christmas"– is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling single ever. There's a universality to Christmas music that even transcends religion. Just ask Bob Dylan, who was raised Jewish but loved Yuletide tunes enough to record an album of them in 2009. From gangsta rap to jazz to reggae to indie-pop, from crooners to rockers, the impulse to knock out a "Blue Christmas" or a "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" knows no boundaries. Read on for our list of the 25 greatest Christmas albums of all time."

Flying close to Beijing's new South China Sea islands:
"Last year the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes travelled across the South China Sea in a fishing boat and became the first journalist to observe close-up how China is constructing new islands on coral reefs. A few days ago he returned to the area in a small aircraft - provoking a furious and threatening response from the Chinese Navy."

Alicia Vikander: ‘I made five films in a row before I had a scene with another woman’:
"I don’t have the best feet,” Alicia Vikander says matter-of-factly midway through our interview. She doesn’t speak in the smugly self-deprecating tone of unnervingly beautiful celebrities eager to point out that they, too, are humans with physical insecurities; rather, it’s expressed as a shrugging statement of fact."

Birmingham's former Central Library demolished:
"Demolition work has begun on Birmingham's former Central Library. Built in the 1970s in the brutalist style, the building has divided public opinion over the years. Prince Charles described it as looking like "a place where books are incinerated, not kept". A £189m library opened in the city's Centenary Square in September 2013."

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