Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hamlet 2: The MicroReview

Hamlet 2. Dir. Andrew Fleming. Screenplay by Pam Brady and Andrew Fleming. Perf. Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, David Arquette, and Elisabeth Shue. 2008. DVD. Universal Studios, 2008.

My parents (God bless 'em) gave me the DVD of Hamlet 2 for Christmas! Hurrah!

What's more, we had the opportunity to watch the whole thing last night. Huzzah!

But when it comes to reviewing it . . . well, I just . . . don't . . . have . . . the words. It's—unfathomable.

I can certainly say that it's not for all tastes. It's odd. It's quirky. It has a lot of language. [Let me clarify that: it has a lot of bad language, most of which was grauitious.] And it has scenes in which Jesus arrives in Elsinore in a time machine that he gives to Hamlet so that he can go back in time to prevent Gertrude's poisoning and Ophelia's drowning.

But I thought it worked quite well. There were some very funny moments—moments that parodied the "endearing teacher inspires students" movie genre. And the production of Hamlet 2 (aptly enough, the play-within-the-film) toward which students and teachers are moving and of which we get pieces near the end of the film is very intriguing. The image that heads this post is from that production—Ophelia spins in front of a giant seascape video while a glee club sings a version of Elton John's "Someone Saved my Life Tonight."

Visually, it's a cross between Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books and A Midsummer Night's Rave.  Whatever else might be said about those two visual styles, they can't be called boring.

And the plot itself is well-crafted.  Though it's set in a high school, it doesn't spend too much time grappling with the emotions of the high schoolers—it's more interested in the drama teacher.  Some of the funniest scenes involve his interactions with the school newspaper's drama critic.

I really don't want to give you any spoilers—the film is worth watching.  But I will give you these two stills from the film:

After reviving Ophelia with CPR, Hamlet looks at her with new eyes.

The delightfully-named "Prickly Pear Fertility Clinic."

Links: Trailer. Official site. Previous Post One. Previous Post Two. Previous Post Three. The Film at IMDB.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

After Shakespeare After All

Garber, Marjorie. Shakespeare and Modern Culture. New York: Pantheon, 2008.

The New York Times recently reviewed Marjorie Garber's new book, and it sounds very interesting, despite the mixed critique the article gives it. Her previous book, Shakespeare After All, is enormous—and well worth reading (which isn't to say I've finished it). Like Harold Bloom's The Invention of the Human, Garber considers each of the plays in turn in that copious volume.

In this book, she deals with ten plays. According to the review, the scope is enormous. It also indicates something of its thesis:
Shakespeare and Modern Culture is founded on proving the truth of a mind-bending formulation, that “Shakespeare makes modern culture and modern culture makes Shakespeare.” The history of the plays as they have been performed and debated across the centuries is “the story of a set of mutual crossings and recrossings across genres, times and modes.” The book’s overarching idea derives from the rhetorical device known as chiasmus, or “crossing of words”—the theoretical two-way street illustrated by that phrase about Shakespeare both making and being made.
It's intriguing, and I'm asking my library to buy it for me (as a late Christmas gift). Any book that quotes from Dire Straits and Ali MacGraw— well, from Dire Straits, at least—is all right it my book.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

There Will Be a Shakespearean Title

There Will Be Blood. Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson. Perf. Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul F. Tompkins, Paul Dano, and Randall Carver. 2007. DVD. Paramount, 2008.

Since it's proving desperately difficult to upload a video at present (after four hours, the two-minute clip I planned still hadn't uploaded), you'll have to be satisfied by these comments on a film that I have not seen.

However, it does have a Shakespeare allusion (though not a direct quotation, so it's not exactly titularly parasitic) in its title. There Will Be Blood seems to allude to this speech of Macbeth's from III.iv:
It will have blood; they say, blood will have blood.
Although I haven't seen the film, the themes do seem to be Shakespearean—Macbethean, to be more precise. Those who have seen it, let me know if the allusions run deeper than that!

And everyone can wait until after Christmas for the intended video clips. I'll store them up for later distribution!

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Take Arms Against a Sea of Tribbles

“The Trouble with Tribbles.” By David Gerrold. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and James Doohan. Dir. Joseph Pevney. Star Trek. Season 2, episode 15. NBC. 29 December 1967. DVD. Paramount, 2008.

Shatner, William. “Hamlet / It Was A Very Good Year.” The Transformed Man. Decca, 1968.

I nearly forgot Captain Kirk's famous version of the "To be or not to be" soliloquy from Hamlet.

All right, so it didn't happen exactly that way. I've taken the audio from Shatner's 1968 album that combined the classics of literature with modern song lyrics—all in the inimitable style of William Shatner—and grafted it to the "Trouble with Tribbles" episode.  It actually works, in a weird, wild, wonderful way.

Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Secrets of the Star Trek Title Sequence Revealed

“Title Sequence.” Star Trek. Seasons 1-3 (Original Series); Seasons 1-7 ( The Next Generation). DVD. Paramount, 2002.

From its beginning—from the first word of its title sequence, in fact—Star Trek has been deeply indebted to Shakespeare. In this clip and in the text below it, I reveal the allusions to Shakespeare made in the opening title sequence. For the first time, you may trace the origins of the word "space" and the name of the multiple Enterprises that fill the screens of Star Trek lore:

“I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space[: The final frontier].”
“Goes it against the main of Poland, sir, or for some [final] frontier?”
“With her I lived in joy; our wealth increased / By prosperous voyages [of the starship Enterprise].”
[These are the voyages of the starship] Enterprises of great pith and moment.”
“Whose glorious deeds, but in these fields of late, / Made emulous [five-year] missions ’mongst the gods themselves.”
“O brave new world, [O strange new worlds] / That [have] such people in [them]!”
“I thank your majesty, and her, my lord: / These words, these looks, infuse new life [and new civilizations] in me.”
—Titus Andronicus
“Sound drums and trumpets [to] boldly and cheerfully [go where no one has gone before]; / God and Saint George!”
—Henry V

Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Star Trek's Tempest

“Emergence.” By Joe Menosky. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, and Brent Spiner. Dir. Cliff Bole. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 7, episode 23. Syndicated television. 22 May 1994. DVD. Paramount, 2002.

It's been nearly a month since Shakespeare and Star Trek week began here at Bardfilm. I imagine that it's about time to wrap things up with some final clips and some final commentary.

The Tempest is very good on endings. The number of scholars who have considered it to be Shakespeare's farewell to the stage is very great. I think that that may have been in the minds of Star Trek's writers as they neared the end of their seventh—and last—season.

In this episode, Data is trying to put on a production of The Tempest, but he's interrupted: the Enterprise runs amok, goes crazy, and gives birth, which is the reason for Data's confusing remark at the end of the clip (I conflated the beginning and the end of the episode into one file). Please excuse the darkness of the clip: as you'll see, it was Data's decision, not mine, to have it so dark.

Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Notorious W.S.

Free Enterprise. Dir. Robert Meyer Burnett. Perf. William Shatner, Eric McCormack, and Audie England. 1998. DVD. Anchor Bay, 2006.

I would genuinely feel remiss in my Bardfilm duties if I didn't point you toward William Shatner's rap version of Mark Anthony's speech, cunningly entitled "No Tears for Caesar." It comes from a film cunningly entitled Free Enterprise, in which William Shatner plays the character of William Shatner—a William Shatner who, like that more famous (literarily speaking) W.S., is interested in putting the story of Julius Caesar on stage. The difference is that this version is performed entirely in rap.

For your convenience in doing a comparative analysis, I'm also providing in this post the version presented by The Cosby Show, which I've written about here. Please vote for the one you like best in the comments below!

P.S. The original title of this post was "Rapmaster J.C." But I realized that "Rapmaster M.A." would be more appropriate. But that didn't sound right. So I tried "M.A., M.C." or "M.C. M.A." They were too obscure or sounded like I was granting degrees to Mark Anthony. I finally decided on "Notorious W.S." as an interesting title with a rap allusion and ambiguity as to the antecedent of W.S.—Shakespeare scholars are sure to drool over that. Perhaps "A Funeral Elegy by W.S." should be attributed to the Shatner W.S. and not to the Shakespeare W.S.

Links: The Show at IMDB. The film at IMDB.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Mark Anthony in the Comics

Pastis, Stephen. Pearls Before Swine. 7 December 2008. 12 December 2008 {}.

While we're in a Julius Caesar mood, let's take a look at this comic (forwarded to me by a colleague).

It's something that might be called "Elizabethan Pearls before Modern Swine":

Pearls Before Swine

Just in case that embedding code goes sour again, here's the image directly:

Links: The Comic Strip at

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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 2008-2039 (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