Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Brings its Shakespeare Game

“Operation: Broken Feather.” By Dan Goor and Michael Schur. Perf. Andy Samberg, Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, Joe Lo Truglio, Chelsea Peretti, and Andre Braugher. Dir. Julie Anne Robinson. Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Season 1, episode 15. Fox. 2 February 2014. DVD. NBC Universal, 2014.

“Halloween II.” By Prentice Penny. Perf. Andy Samberg, Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, Joe Lo Truglio, Chelsea Peretti, and Andre Braugher. Dir. Eric Appel. Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Season 2, episode 4. Fox. 19 October 2014. DVD. NBC Universal, 2014.

Until Fox cancelled it, I had never heard of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. When the furor over its cancellation spread all over Twitter, I noticed (as did NBC, who picked up the show for a sixth season). My first question was "Does it have any Shakespeare?"

Since then, I've been investigating, and I've found a few instances of Shakespeare in the quirky sit-com about a police precinct in Brooklyn. Here are a couple of instances.

First, in "Operation: Broken Feather," the character Jake Peralta makes fun of the character Amy Santiago, emphasizing the way the last three syllables of her name form the name of a particularly-evil well-known villain. Note: The language in the clip below is not entirely family-friendly.

Second, in the episode entitled "Halloween II," the character Charles Boyle tries out a number of Halloween costumes on his colleagues. Note: The language in the clip below is not entirely family-friendly.

I'll be keeping my eye our for more Shakespeare. But I think there will probably be a lot more in Season Six. The main reason Fox had for cancelling it in the first place was that there wasn't enough Shakespeare.

Links: The Show at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the first four seasons from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Hamlet and Hutch

Hamlet and Hutch. Dir. Jared Young and Matthew Young. Perf. Burt Reynolds, Elizabeth Leiner, and Emma Rayne Lyle. 2017.  DVD.  Criterion, 2000.

Hamlet and Hutch is a pretty forgetful, barely cohesive film about a great-grandfather and his great-granddaughter, a greyhound named Hamlet who almost gets sold to an Alabama racetrack, a theatre that's about to go out of business, and any number of other Saturday-morning feel-good film tropes.

Here's a brief take of the plot. Note: Spoilers will follow, but I bet you could guess the ending of this film. Hutchinson Byrne ("Papa Hutch"), the famous Broadway actor, moves to Georgia to be with his semi-estranged granddaughter because he can no longer take care of himself in New York City. His great-granddaughter is fond of acting and films—notably Audrey Hepburn—and soon arranges for Hutch to put on a play in the theatre that her mom is about to sell because she can't afford to hold on to it and run her flower shop. So they get a greyhound named Hamlet for some reason, and then Hutch starts exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer's. He wanders off, loses the dog, can't perform without the dog, but eventually puts on the show when the dog turns up again.

Here are two scenes from the film. In the first, Hutch and Liv trades lines from Shakespeare and Roman Holiday.

The next scene gives the grand conclusion. Note: It misleadingly presents the dog as having had a more crucial role in the story of the film, but Launce's dog Crab has almost more to do with the plot of Two Gentlemen of Verona than Hamlet the greyhound has to do with this film

There you have it! There are a few other bits of Shakespeare scattered through the film, but nothing earth-shattering. For example, Liv and Hutch read a bit of Midsummer Night's Dream—until Hutch forgets his lines. All in all, it's not a great film, which is both unfortunate and disappointing. If you want a better engagement between Bert Reynolds and Shakespeare, try the Twilight Zone episode entitled "The Bard" (for which, q.v.).

I'll be taking a look at another Bert Reynolds film called A Bunch of Amateurs. I'm hoping from more and better Shakespeare from it.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Little Shakespeare Every Now and Then in Pearls Before Swine

Pastis, Stephen. BLTs Taste so Darn Good.  Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2003.

———. The Crass MenagerieKansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2008.

———.  Pearls Falls FastKansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2014.

———. Pearls Sells OutKansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2009.

———. Sgt. Piggy's Lonely Hearts Club ComicKansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2004. 

———. Pearls Gets SacrificedKansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015. 

We've seen some good use of Shakespeare in the comic strip Pearls Before Swine before (for which, q.v. and q.v. and q.v. and q.v.).

Well, there's even more! I've gathered a few examples from the books listed above. Enjoy!

from BLTs Taste so Darn Good.

from The Crass Menagerie. Please note, Mr. Pastis, that you will find some good crocodile material in Antony and Cleopatra. And Hamlet also mentions one!

from Pearls Sells Out. The Shakespeare is really in the annotation rather than specifically in the comic itself.

from . . . well, I've lost track of where this one is from, I'm afraid. I'll try to track it down. In the meantime, I'll just agree with Mr. Pastis on this one (though I've pretty much always felt that way about the play).

from Sgt. Piggy's Lonely Hearts Club Comic. It's not exclusively Shakespearean, but he has his share of cuckold jokes. Thanks, Mr. Pastis, for continuing the venerable (?) tradition.

from Pearls Gets Sacrificed. The humor comes in the unexpected cultured quality of Larry the Croc's parents.

Bonus Image: The Strip at the Beginning of this Post in Full Color:

Click below to purchase the books from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Book Note: Jo Nesbø's Macbeth

Nesbø, Jo. Macbeth. London: Hogarth Shakespeare, 2018.

We've been dealing with some heavy, darker material here at Bardfilm lately, and I have one more in that vein before we turn to some lighter stuff.

The most recent novel in the Hogarth Shakespeare series is Macbeth, a retelling of . . . Macbeth.

I haven't read any other works by Jo Nesbø, and I don't think I'm in the target audience for his kind of thriller. We have here a dark, gritty, drug-and motorcycle gang-filled story about a town, its corrupt police force, and the formerly-drug-addicted Macbeth, who (at the start) wants to clean up the town and the force.

Let me give you a flavor of the book to see if it's what you'd like to be reading. Here's the chapter where Macbeth and Banquo encounter the Weïrd Sisters:

And here's a scene you may recognize from your previous reading(s) of Macbeth:

It's a dark and sordid setting where the stakes are high and could be used for great good—or become corrupt and cause great harm. In other words, it's Macbeth.

Click below to purchase the book from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Film A Thousand Acres: An Adaptation of an Adaptation of King Lear

A Thousand Acres. Dir. Jocelyn Moorhouse. Perf. Jessica Lange, Jason Robards, and Michelle Pfeiffer. 1997. DVD. Walt Disney Video, 1998.

While we're on the subject—and since this is, after all, the Shakespeare and Film Microblog—there was a moderately-successful film version of A Thousand Acres as well.

I'd like to touch on two scenes. First, the "division of the kingdom" scene is as understated in the film as it is in the novel. From this small moment springs much of the rest of the tragedy:

Here's the equivalent of the end of Act II of Shakespeare's King Lear. The Iowa storm captures the fierceness of the elements—and Larry's (i.e., Lear's) anger and madness in venturing out in it.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Book Note: A Thousand Acres

Smiley, Jane. A Thousand Acres: A Novel. New York: Anchor Books, 1991.

I imagine that many of Bardfilm's readers will be familiar with Jane Smiley's recasting of King Lear on a farm in Iowa. And imagine most of those that are familiar with it are also aware of its portrayal of the Lear figure and his relationships with his daughters.

In Agatha Christie's Moving Finger (for which, q.v.), one of the character says, about Goneril and Regan, "something must have made them like that" (23). It's not crucial to the plot of Christie's novel, but it's the key point in Smiley's novel.

Larry Cook, our Lear analogue, sexually abused Ginny and Rose, the two oldest of his three daughters, but he never touched Caroline, his youngest. This characterization provides motivation for the Goneril and Regan analogues' rejection of their father and the Cordelia analogue's acceptance of them.

I don't think we're intended to return to Shakespeare's play with any specific accusations against Lear, but the plot of Smiley's novel helps us see that a reading of Goneril and Regan as monstrous might increase Lear's nobility but a more sympathetic reading of the two helps us see Lear's faults and folly more clearly.

I'd just like to call your attention to two scenes. The first is the "division of the kingdom" scene. Notice how understated Caroline's response and Lear's reaction to it are in this vision.

The second scene to notice is near the end of the novel. Instead of a gigantic battle between the forces of England and the forces of France, we have the modern American equivalent: a courtroom.

The book is very difficult—not difficult to read, but difficult to take in and to deal with. But it is also a masterful example of modern Shakespearean fiction.

Click below to purchase the book from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Friday, September 14, 2018

Book Note: Hamlet's Father

Card, Orson Scott. Hamlet's Father. Burton, Michigan: Subterranean Press, 2009.

While we're talking about Orson Scott Card, I suppose I'd better mention his rare, limited-edition novella that retells the story of Hamlet. I read it many years ago and really didn't feel like writing it up right after finishing it. I still don't feel much like writing it up, but I do feel a bit obligated to do so.



Spoilers will inevitably follow—and, in this case, they're rotten spoilers.

Additional Note: This post will not be as family-friendly as most posts at Bardfilm are.

Hamlet's Father keeps to the basic premise of Hamlet, but it spends the majority of its time setting up the ending. Hamlet returns to Denmark for his father's funeral around page seventy—of this ninety-two page novella. He returns and puts on a kind of half-hearted antic disposition. Here are a few pages to give you a feel of that:

After Hamlet returns, he starts poking around to discover how his father died and who killed him and goes so far as to kill Claudius and Laertes before the real murderer steps forward to confess and to explain his reasons for killing King Hamlet.

Horatio did it.

In Clue parlance, it was Horatio in the garden with the sword in the ear (Horatio suggests that the sword must have felt like poison to the dying man, which is why his ghost mistakenly thought it actually was poison).

King Hamlet was a pedophile who was in danger of molesting Hamlet but instead turned his attention to Horatio, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and others. When Horatio found himself about to repeat King Hamlet's misdeeds, he turned from them and decided to kill the king instead. Here's part of the denouement:

I certainly don't like thinking of Hamlet, Sr. as a child molester, but it does fit my general criteria for modern Shakespearean fiction: it invites a return to the text based on an imagined version of events or on different characterizations. Still, it's a very bleak, dark portrait that we're asked to look on.

The novel is quite controversial. The best statement of the controversy is in this review from Rain Taxi. Their argument is that the novel presents Horatio, Rosencrantz, and the others as gay—and that the molestation is presented as the cause of their homosexuality. Card responded here, saying that the characters weren't gay—so molestation didn't cause a homosexual orientation in them.

My own reading of the novella didn't give me the idea that homosexuality was being attacked—though molestation and abuse certainly were. And I didn't see the molestation as causing anything more than the cultural naturalization of molestation and the desire for revenge on Horatio's part.

What bothered me most was the way the novella takes us into a chilling afterlife. Here's the end of the book:

In punishment for his misdeeds (killing Claudius and Laertes, who were innocent) or for not having been molested by his father (which led to the molestation of numerous others), Hamlet is sent to Hell with his father.

It's a dark and exacerbating ending to a dark and exacerbating novella.

Next up: A Thousand Acres! A light retelling of King Lear set on a farm in Iowa will be a welcome change.

Click below to purchase the book from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2020 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest