Now is the Coffee of Our Discontent

Would we drink coffee with Richard III?

Kristy: With trepidation I say yes, if for no other reason than out of curiosity. The portraits you get of him are so varied, I want to know which is more accurate. I’ll admit most of my knowledge of him is from Shakespeare, who doesn’t paint the most flattering portrait. He’s witty and brings a fair bit of the funny in Shakespeare’s play, but he also orders the murder of several family members. I think it’s a fair bit the man was ruthless, you kind of had to be to survive in a noble family at that point, but was he any more so than his contemporaries? Inquiring minds want to know. He doesn’t seem to have been all bad. If wikipedia can be trusted he favored printing in vernacular languages and made publishing stuff in general easier. Aside from the possible baby killing he might not have been a bad king at all. So yeah, I’d like to just get a sense of the guy. I’d like to know how he feels about his own legacy (and being buried under a car park all those years). And if there’s a way to work it politely into conversation, yes, I’d love to ask, “So… what did happen to your nephews?”

Cammy:  I’m going for the “I-had-coffee-with-a-star-of-a-Shakespeare-play” factor and the potential to harass someone.  Anything I’d want to ask is generally pretty smart alec.  Kristy is covering the obvious, “Sooo, what’s up with those nephews?”  to which I also want to add, “So, have you seen what Shakespeare says about you?”  That should be a real doozy of a conversation right there.  And then, to add insult to injury I’d like to go with ,”So, the arrow in the ass–before or after you lost consciousness?”  and “How does it feel to know you’ve been entombed under a carpark in Leicester?”  Yeah, he’s going to hate having coffee with an ass like me.

“We will draw the curtain and show you the picture.”

Happy Twelfth Night!

We’re back from our holiday hiatus with New Year’s Resolutions to keep up with our posts (okay, so, that’s one of my resolutions, Kristy kept up with hers so it would be a kinda moot resolution for her…). Honestly, we might have started up a little sooner, but we have an appreciation for holidays that get neglected in the US, and poor Twelfth Night makes the list.  One more wasted opportunity for food, drink and revelry.  Sad, really.  So, re-starting on Twelfth Night is our virtual attempt at bringing the wassail back.

I don’t know what holidays are coming to.  First the Christians come along and co-opt the pagan fun.  Then market forces and greed co-opt what little fun the Christians left.  Federal holidays get consolidated and ignored by everyone but government employees and banks.  I looked at my work calendar for this year and my face fell when I realized that December 30, 2011 was to be my last holiday until Memorial Day 2012.  Seriously? What happened to those presidents with birthdays in there?  MLK?  Something?  Not that any of those were exactly the kind of holidays that called for drinking, stuffing one’s face and generally living it up, but a day without work has a better chance at wacky fun than an average work day.

There’s a topic that would win some points with me in the upcoming presidential rat-race.  I want a candidate who’ll advocate for a few more national holidays.  The opportunity for bi-partisan compromise on that one is just golden.

Of course, more holidays would likely result in more needless hiatuses on our part…..

 

To Coffee or not to Coffee

Would we drink coffee with William Shakespeare?

Kristy: Seriously, have we not done this one already?  If we have, I can’t find it.  And no harm in two coffee dates with the same person I suppose.

Yes, I would definitely have coffee with the Bard.  Before I go further I must let you all know that while I love Shakespeare, I also fully acknowledge that he was a hack.  And probably something of an asshole.  And I haven’t entirely forgiven him for giving us Romeo and Juliet.  But on the other hand, you can’t read parts of Richard III (the non-baby killing parts) without realizing that this guy would be fun to hang out with.  You know he would not just be fun to people watch with, he would offer scathing, hysterical critiques.  I also love Julius Caesar more than is probably healthy and “My Mistress’ Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun” is my favorite love poem ever.  Not to mention I used to do a very fun unit in my intro-lit classes comparing different film versions of Hamlet and I’d love to hear which one is Bill’s favorite.

Cammy: Yes.  But, for full disclosure, first, I’m going to sock him across the chin for Romeo and Juliet right off the bat.  And then, I’m going to buy that jack ass a good stiff drink of his choice for Much Ado About Nothing.  And then we’re going to see if Mr. Wordsmith can bring it and kick my ass in a battle of verbal wits.  And if he can’t beat me (which, should be very easy for someone less allegedly skilled than The Bard), I’ll sock him again (yes, I’m this confident that I could kick his ass).  Then it will be quiz time–let’s debunk this “Shakespeare didn’t write that” myth once and for all, and let’s get honest facts on where he got his stories (because we know he had sources, let’s lay ‘em out).  Kristy might want to send me out of The Spacial Anomaly because I’m likely to make this more lit an interrogation at Gitmo than a chatty coffee get together….

Kristy: Still… Sounds like a good time.

I Hate Romeo and Juliet

I hate Romeo and Juliet.

 

Have since before the hideous hazing ritual of high school wherein every freshman alive is forced to read this epic fail of teen angst.

 

I’m sure at one point, it was good.  Really.  But it’s so overdone.  Resorting to the Bard in general is a bit cliché, but Romeo and Juliet is hack on top of cliché.  Books, television, movies, music–no art form is safe from the infection.  Not surprisingly, perhaps, Hollywood is the worst offender for over-recycling.  Want your characters to study a play?  Romeo and Juliet.  Want your characters to quote Shakespeare to sound smart?  Romeo and Juliet.  Want to have some kind of allusion or reference to romance?  Romeo and Juliet.  Want a blatant parallel for conflicting families/teens in love/teen death?  Romeo and Juliet.  Want to make a film of a Shakespeare play?  Romeo and Juliet (or Hamlet, but Hamlet bears the repetition so well!)  It’s a literary crutch.

 

But it’s not just the crutch element that makes me want to rip pages to shreds.  It’s the story itself.  I have never found it romantic.  It’s teen angst in costumes.  And while I will gleefully admit that I love Degrassi, but I don’t take the roller coaster teenie bopper relationships seriously as romance.  Because it’s not romance, it’s infatuation and hormone driven adolescent behavior.  Romeo is all about Ros and then, oh, hello hormonal surge, there’s a hot chick yonder….  We all know if those two wouldn’t have offed one another, the follow up would have been Juliet coming home to Daddy, knocked up and begging him to go after that bastard who hooked up with that total skank from down in Venice.  Instead of tragic double-death, you’d have equally tragic and far more realistic Teen Mom-esque life disruption.

 

C’mon people.  The man wrote a whole passel of other plays and a lot of poetry which is arguably way more romantic (if you can get past the slightly disturbing and dirty element that I’m just not going to touch right now).  I’d be a lot happier if people would spend a little more time ripping off Much Ado About Nothing.  And really, why not use Julius Caesar for more than reciting “Friends, Romans, countrymen….”?  After all, you can do wonderful political parallels (particularly for Latin America in the late 1930s).  Is there no love to be had for Merry Wives of Windsor?  Never mind.  Bad example.

 

However, I’d be happy to have someone give that a try–at least it would be a break from the monotony of R&J.

Hamlet: There are Many Copies…

The only thing worse than a movie that sucks is a movie that didn’t have to suck, but did.  For me, one of the best examples of the is the 2000 production of Hamlet directed by Michael Almereyda and starring Ethan Hawke in the title role.

Now, I know some people have problems with modern adaptations of Shakespeare, but I’m not one of those people.  I happen to love them.  Ten Things I Hate About You is one of my standby “get happy” movies and I directed a production of Julius Caesar set in Argentina during the Great Depression.  So Hamlet in modern New York City I can totally handle.  Then we turn to the cast:  I don’t love Ethan Hawke, but he’s a competent enough actor.  Julia Stiles is no Helena Bonham Carter, but I enjoy her for the most part.  Kyle MacLachlan, Sam Shepard, Bill Murray, Liev Shreiber…  It seems like the makings of something great.

Sadly, it is not.  Modernized Shakespeare I can handle, but “To be or not to be” in a Blockbuster?  You’re pushing it to start with then you get all cheeky and make it clear that Hammy’s standing in the “Action” section while deciding whether or not to take action.  Seriously?  I don’t need to get hit by a baseball bat.  Please and thanks.

A big part of the problem with the movie is its brevity.  Now ordinarily a mediocre movie should be as short as possible.  But in this case so much has been cut it’s almost impossible to follow the plot.  And this is speaking as someone who spent two years teaching Hamlet and knows that play inside and out.  I mean, come on, the “Gravedigger scene” is reduced to a five second clip of Jeffrey Wright digging a grave while singing “All Along the Watchtower” (yes, I get your cheeky reference to the joker) (also, we now know the Gravedigger was a cylon).  I realize the scene is particularly hard to manipulate into a modern setting, but… Cutting it is wrong.  It’s wrong, I tell you.

The fencing scene at the end kind of starts out fun, but ends in triteness and then just ends.  Which you’re happy about by this point.

Bill Murray is a good actor, but he seriously bombs as Polonius.  It’s very unfortunate.  And Julia Stiles, bless her heart, really fumbles with her dialog.  I also felt like Hamlet was a little too emo depressed without actually acting crazy enough.

And then there’s the rubber duck.  Which I just don’t get.

But the really frustrating thing is, there’s a lot about this movie which doesn’t suck.  There’s a lot about this movie which is downright good.  What Julia Stiles fumbles away in dialog she more than makes up for in crazy.  The break up scene and the mad scene are really well done.  You see a genuine young couple torn apart because of parental influence.  And then you see a young woman totally losing her shit when her boyfriend breaks up with her voice mail.  And it’s glorious.

Kyle MacLachlan is so deliciously smarmy as Claudius, I love it.  Honestly, of the versions I’ve seen (I have not seen Patrick Stewart’s) he’s my favorite Claudius.  And the first one I understood Gertrude falling for.  Speaking of Gertrude, I thought Diane Venora did a fine job in her second go round as a lousy mother in a modern day Shakepeare adaptation.  Liev Schreiber’s Laertes is… well, let me put it this way:  ordinarily I see Laertes as kind of spineless and lame.  This Laertes?  I kinda want to let do dirty things to me.  I like seeing a Laertes with a backbone.  It’s a nice change.

And yet, the good is not nearly enough to make up for the bad.  The movie didn’t have to suck, but it did.