Review : Ophelia

Ophelia by Lisa Klein
Maybe the book was better?

I first referenced Daisy Ridley’s Ophelia back in May 2017. I never expected it to be great, but I always hold out hope. I think it’s important for Shakespeare Geeks to support projects like this and let the studios know that the Shakespeare Universe has plenty of opportunity for story telling of many sorts. How else will we ever get another Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead?

Unfortunately it wasn’t worth the wait. Ophelia joins a very small list for me – namely, the list of Shakespeare movies I literally can not finish.

One of them is Anonymous, the piece of garbage that came out some years back arguing for the Earl of Oxford as the rightful author.  I love the part where he wrote Midsummer Night’s Dream at 6 years old  Moving on.

Another is the 2013 Romeo and Juliet starring Hailee Steinfeld. This one had me tying myself to the chair just to finish the trailer.  Let’s just say that I was done when I realized that it opens with Mercutio winning a joust.  Huh? Exactly.  I didn’t even get to the awkwardness of 14yr old Juliet crawling around the bed trying to look sexy.

And now we have Ophelia.  It’s based on a young adult novel so I suppose we can give it some leeway for being one step removed from the original material.  But…still.  Gertrude in this one is obsessed with remaining young and beautiful. We know this because she confides in Ophelia, who is her preferred confidante, because Ophelia knows how to read.  Gertrude appears to be using some sort of magic potion to retain her beauty.  Yeah.  This potion, I think, is made by Gertrude’s twin sister.  Still with me? As I write that I’m still assuming that I misunderstood what I was watching, because that can’t be right.

That’s not what got me, though. What got me reaching for the STOP button was the random interrupted rape scene.  This one should be on TV Tropes. Random girl finds herself surrounded by random guys, who harass her. Then, as these things go, suddenly she’s on the ground, held down by several of them while one starts to climb on top.  Does anybody remember what act and scene this was?  Enter Ophelia, carrying a huge jug of water making her look like something out of Ode to a Grecian Urn.  Because she’s a strong independent woman she, of course, confronts our primary rapist, who immediately loses interest in girl #1 and starts bantering with Ophelia.  She says that he stinks and needs a bath and you think, “Ok, here’s where she dumps the water on his head.”  No, the dialogue isn’t that intelligent.  Here’s where Hamlet enters.  Then you think, “Ok, here’s where we see Hamlet’s irrational temper, he’s gonna kill the guy.  Or at least we get a sword fight.”  Nope, neither of those things.  We just get Ophelia dragging Hamlet offstage by the arm, exactly like Hermione and Harry Potter.  COMPLETELY IGNORING THE GIRL BEING HELD ON THE GROUND BY SIX GUYS.

I had to go back and rewatch that scene because it couldn’t possibly be that bad.  We see the girl get up.  That’s it.  We don’t see her leave.  Ophelia and Hamlet don’t cast her a second glance. It’s truly as if that scene should have been followed by the guys saying, “Now, before we were so rudely interrupted…”

It’s not Shakespeare. It’s not well written or acted, it does not move the plot along or say anything useful about either of the main characters.  So for those reasons, as they say on Shark Tank …. I’m out.

 

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Oh, Keanu…No….

I don’t know how I missed this back in May, but Keanu Reeves – Man of the Internet Hour – John Wick, “Neo”, “Ted Theodore Logan”, player with puppies, rider of subways, anonymous donator to children’s hospitals – is an admitted Oxfordian.

The man played Mercutio at 15, Don John at 29 and Hamlet at 31. My Own Private Idaho is an acknowledged retelling of Henry IV. But in his own words, he’s “always been an Edward de Vere” guy:

I always wanted to know — ever since I was growing up — who really wrote the plays of Shakespeare. So I wanna be there at that moment with “Shakespeare” — cause I don’t really think it was “Shakespeare.” I’m an Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford [guy]. So I’d like to be there in the 1600s “Shakespeare” writing Hamlet.

I guess he’s staying away from Macbeth, The Tempest and other later plays lest someone ask him how Oxford wrote those when he was dead.

Now I’m sad. Just goes to show that you can be a great guy – successful, even – and still not have any common sense.  As far as I’m concerned he’s flat Earth and anti-vaxx, too. What a shame.

 

 

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I Love Good Omens So Much

I was beyond excited when I learned that Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman was being turned into a tv series.  If you’re not familiar with the backstory, the two friends had basically agreed that there’d be no further work done on the property – no spinoffs, no merchandise, etc.. – unless they were in agreement.  Well, Terry Pratchett went and died (*). And that was the end of that hope.  Except for the part where he personally left a letter asking Neil Gaiman to make the movie version.  Well, now that’s just ineffable, that is.

Anyway, this post would be a mile long if I keep blathering.  The story tells of the friendship that is formed over thousands of years by the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and the demon Crowley (formerly “crawley”, as in snake…, played by David Tennant) because they’ve been stationed on Earth ever since Man was there, basically cancelling each other out so often that they get bored and stop wasting their time. I convince my kids to watch it with me, and they seem to like the first episode, so now it’s become family viewing time. One weekend night when everybody’s available we’ll all wind down and watch an episode, the whole family in the room, no electronics. Is very nice.  My wife and oldest are on the big couch, my middle on the love seat, and my son on the chair in what I’m only just realizing is very Goldilocks and the three bears of us.  I’m on the floor with pillows.  Just to set the scene.

Each episode of the series shows how the friendship between angel and demon evolved (while, in the bigger arc, they plot in modern day to stop the end of the world). They show up in the Garden of Eden, they show up for Noah… Each time the angel is there as a sort of witness, and David Tennant is there to look confused and ask some very interesting questions.  They actually show the crucifixion of Jesus in one episode, for example. Tennant’s demon asks, “What did he do?” and the angel responds, “Told people to be kind to one another.”

And then a title card pops up saying “1601 London” and I threw both hands up in the air and yelled excitedly, “They’re visiting Shakespeare! They’re visiting Shakespeare!!”

Cut to Aziraphale watching a rehearsal of Hamlet. It’s not very good. But the Shakespeare character keeps calling him Burbage, which is appreciated (though he’s too young and skinny for Burbage). Crowley shows up to watch for a little while and out of the clear blue drops some out of context Shakespeare (from another play that I won’t spoil) and I did an excited little dance there from my spot on the floor, arms up in celebration, because when I sat down to watch tv tonight I didn’t expect to get David Tennant doing Shakespeare.

I heard my oldest’s voice behind me say, “Yay, Daddy’s happy.”

Very much yes.

 

(*) He’s not gone, he’s just in the clacks.

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No Pun Intended

One of my favorite puns in all of Shakespeare can be found in this exchange between Hamlet and Polonius:

HAMLET
‘Tis well: I’ll have thee speak out the rest soon.
Good my lord, will you see the players well
bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well used; for
they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the
time: after your death you were better have a bad
epitaph than their ill report while you live.

LORD POLONIUS
My lord, I will use them according to their desert.

HAMLET
God’s bodykins, man, much better: use every man
after his desert, and who should ‘scape whipping?

I love it.  Hamlet tells Polonius to treat the players well. Polonius responds that he will treat them as well as they deserve.  Hamlet says that if he were to do that, no man would escape the whip.  But the last line can also be read as a play on “dessert”, making “whipping” a play on whipped cream or some other confectionary treat.

Except that it’s not a pun at all. I have been informed by numerous sources that the term “dessert” did not exist for Shakespeare (first published in 1633 according to the OED).  Likewise, “whipping” in reference to confectionary, as in a whipped topping or whipped cream, not until the 1800s.

I really wanted this pun to work.  I even did my own research, coming across this recipe for a “dishful of snow”, which is basically whipped egg whites and sugar:

Alas, I have to admit that this is in no way called a dessert, nor does it say to whip anything.  Oh well.  I was actually informed that if Shakespeare was thinking about what we know as dessert, he was probably thinking of something more in line with, “eel baked in Marchpane or lamprey roasted in a sweetened sauce made of its own blood.”  Go ahead and think about putting whipped cream on that!

Anyway, what’s your favorite pun of Shakespeare’s?  I’ll leave you with another favorite that nobody has yet spoiled for me. This one from Two Gentlemen of Verona:

LAUNCE

Nay, I’ll show you the manner of it. This
shoe is my father: no, this left shoe is my father:
no, no, this left shoe is my mother: nay, that
cannot be so neither: yes, it is so, it is so, it
hath the worser sole.

 

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Badly Translated Shakespeare is Awesome

So I spotted a post on Reddit that was clearly in a language I did not know, but also obviously said Hamlet, so I had to check it out. Wasn’t sure if maybe it was a link to a video production I had not yet seen.

Found a wall of text. Thought maybe it was an academic article. So I grabbed the first paragraph and ran it through Google Translate, only to discover that it appears to be your typical summary of Hamlet. Only…wait a second…

The story takes place at the Elsinor Castle in Denmark. Prince Hamlet reveals his father’s spirit and learns the truth that his father has murdered his uncle Claudius, who soon married Hamlet’s mother after his father’s death. Hamlet, who longs for revenge on his father, pretends to be mad.

Ok, this new version of Hamlet sounds awesome. Hamlet reveals his father’s spirit, apparently he was keeping it hidden somewhere. Then we learn that it was indeed Hamlet’s father who killed Claudius! Awesome. Claudius, soon after he was murdered apparently, marries Hamlet’s mother. For pointing all of this out to him, Hamlet wants revenge on his father.

I have to get more of this. I start cutting and pasting more paragraphs:

Because he had no evidence, he organized a theater performance to find out the truth, of course, it was a show of murdering his brother.


Hamlet working out his issues, organizing a performance of him murdering his brother.

Hamlet went to his mother to explain to her how things were and unwittingly kills Poland, the Supreme Chamberlain.


Farewell, Poland. We shall not see your like again.

Claudius was called upon to fight against Lear,

A new player has entered the game! That’s hardly going to be a fair fight, one would think.

Unfortunately the rest of the translation isn’t as good, dissolving into the usual auto translation gibberish. But that was a fun little diversion!

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