I’d do some “If you’ve never seen Slings & Arrows” banter here, but seriously, if you’ve never seen Slings & Arrows, stop reading and go watch it. It’s just that good. To recap, each of the three seasons maps to one of Shakespeare’s plays – Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear (with some side plots thrown in, too). We’re introduced to the series via Geoffrey, our director, who once had a nervous breakdown after he played Hamlet (and yes, now he’s directing it). He’s haunted by the ghost of his own former director. Meanwhile we get to see what makes a Shakespeare festival work, from how they rehearse to how they make money.
And now they’re pitching a prequel about the origins of the festival itself, back in post war America in the 1950s? I’m not sure what play that’s going to map to, or how much of the original cast would still be relevant, but the original just has so much credibility that I’d get in line to see what the creators come up with next. I hope somebody picks it up.
So I was thinking today about a future where we have people on the moon. You know, typically Friday afternoon stuff. Like you might read in a Robert Heinlein novel. I was talking about the next generation being the ones who might live on the moon, who might be the first to perform Romeo and Juliet on the …. wait a second.
How you gonna swear by yonder blessed moon when you’re standing on the fool thing?
For that matter, how is Hamlet going to ask Polonius, “You see that cloud?”
Here’s the game. Which of Shakespeare’s plays are going to need to do some editing once they’re performed on the moon? For bonus points, put on your director hat and tell us how you’re going to creatively get around those lines. Is Romeo going to swear by yonder blessed Saturn?
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.
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.
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.”