Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Top Ten Shakespeare Films Streaming on Netflix

The Top Ten Shakespeare Films Currently Streaming on Netflix, Augmented with a List of the Five Most Unusual Shakespeare Films Available; Together with The Four Worst Shakespeare-Related Films One Can Stream Therewith.

Note: Netflix's ever-changing catalogue has made it impossible to keep this list updated. My apologies for that. Consider this a snapshot of what Shakespeare once was available on Netflix—and what might return to it one day. 

Celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday by watching some of the best, some of the rarest, and some of the worst Shakespeare films ever made!

Netflix has recently been allowing some truly marvelous—and some unbelievably rare—material to stream from its movie-laden servers.

Below please find three lists of the amazing, the astonishing, and the terrifying.

Top Ten Shakespeare Films Currently Available for Streaming on Netflix:

10. Deliver us from Eva

This is an interesting derivative version of Taming of the Shrew. Read a post by Bardfilm on it.

9. Macbeth

I have not yet seen this film in its entirety.  Patrick Stewart stars as Macbeth in this very bloody modernized version of the play. Those who have seen it—once they stop twitching—say that it's really very good.

8. The Tempest 

I hate to admit it, but I haven't yet found the time to watch this filmed version of a stage play. Christopher Plummer stars as Prospero. What am I waiting for? Well, I suppose I'm waiting for the grading to be done, but that needn't stop you from watching it!

7. Hamlet

I really enjoy this Hamlet. Set in New York City in the early 2000s, the film traces the turmoil surrounding the Denmark Corporation. Its postmodern use of images to restructure the narrative is intriguing. And it has Ethan Hawke and Julia Stiles. Click here for a post by Bardfilm on the film.

6. Love's Labour's Lost

I don't care what anyone says, I still think this clunky, bizarre, not-terribly-well-performed Branagh film is a lot of fun. As an added bonus, we get Cole Porter songs and synchronized swimmers! What's not to love? Click here for a post by Bardfilm on the film.

5. Coriolanus

Ralph Finnes' film had far too limited a theatrical release. But the world can make up for it now by streaming it ad infinitum or at least ad terminum from Netflix. It's another very bloody film. If it gets to be too much, switch to Love's Labour's Lost for a few minutes of light relief.

4. Shakespeare in Love

This is the film that snatched the Academy Award away from Anonymous (to hear the Oxfordians tell it). In reality, this film deserves even greater honors that it has received—though you should take it with a historical grain or two of salt. Click here for a post by Bardfilm on the film.

3. King Lear

Ian McKellen's King Lear is unspeakably deep, and the supporting cast helps make the jewel of his performance shine all the brighter. Click here for a post by Bardfilm on the film.

2. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Although this film could have been edited more fully—it's about thirty minutes too long—I still enjoy it every time I watch it. Tom Stoppard's play about what Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are like when they exit from Shakespeare's play into their own world has here become an extremely well-acted, astonishingly interesting film. All college students should read this play and watch this film while in college (and I try my best to make that happen); everyone else should also read it and see it! Click here for a post by Bardfilm on the film.

1. Slings & Arrows

I'm thrilled that this Canadian show is so readily-available. It's one of my very favorite Shakespeare-related productions. Watch the first two episodes, and you'll be hooked. The story is about actors at a famous Canadian Shakespeare festival, their intriguing lives, and the Shakespeare they enact! Click here for a post by Bardfilm on the film.

Five Most Unusual Shakespeare Films Currently Available for Streaming on Netflix:

5. Otello

I suppose I have to admit that this production isn't all that unusual, but it is wonderful—and I was a bit surprised to find it available on Netflix. I still remember the first time I heard this opera. I was in college, and I happened to find an LP in the free bin at Vintage Vinyl. Those first notes—so full of energy—knocked me sideways.

4. Siberian Lady Macbeth

This is also operatic, but in a different sense. It's an odd, dark, black and white film, set in Russia and directed by a Polish director. If you like Kurosawa, you'll like this.

3. Machete

I cannot believe that Netflix has this. For several years, I've searched for a DVD of Machete—to absolutely no avail. Yet here it is, streaming live on Netflix. I have not yet seen it, but it is an Othello-related film filmed in Puerto Rico in 1959.

2. Royal Deceit

I've seen this—but it was years ago! It's a Hamlet film that is primarily based not on Hamlet itself but on the source material for Hamlet. I remember it being fairly violent and having scenes that you wouldn't want to watch with your grandmother sitting on the couch next to you.

1. Measure For Measure

I had high hopes for this film because Measure for Measure is one of Shakespeare's most underrated plays. This film version of the play isn't fabulous, but it does help get the play into the public eye. The production takes Shakespeare's Vienna and puts it in the British military. I wish they had provided a better sense of the purposes for making that switch, but it's still a highly-watchable film. The only DVD available is in Region 2 format—North American watchers, rejoice! You can stream it from Netflix instead! Click here for a post by Bardfilm on the film.

Four Worst Shakespeare Films Currently Available for Streaming on Netflix:

4. Rome & Jewel

Oh, but this is bad. It's Romeo and Juliet as terrible MTV music video—complete with terrible music. It's so bad I watched it and then was so embarrassed to have watched it that I never wrote a review of it.

3. Private Romeo

I haven't seen this, but I've seen the trailers—they were enough to convince me that I did not want to see it. It looks very contrived and very poorly acted.

2. The Comedy of Terrors

I haven't yet seen this, either, and perhaps I'm doing it an injustice in putting it in this category. But I've seen the cast list, and it doesn't appear to have even one Dromio. Still, I will try this—I gather that one of the characters recites some lines from Macbeth.

1. The Tempest 

Derek Jarman's Tempest gave me more nightmares than The Comedy of Terrors is likely to. I know that a lot of film buffs and Shakespeare scholars speak highly of this, but it's poorly lit, the lines are mostly mumbled, and that makes the film on the incomprehensible side. Try the Christopher Plummer film listed above instead.

Links: The Home Page of Netflix.

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

Click on the titles listed in the post above to watch the films on Netflix
(from which Bardfilm receives nothing but kudos).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How to Cook Shakespeare

Dalby, Andrew, and Maureen Dalby. The Shakespeare Cookbook. London: British Museum Press, 2012.

Yes, I've graded enough essays to allow myself the treat of another blog post. If you're a teacher, make sure you've graded the requisite number of essays to allow yourself the treat of reading this post.

The title of this book might mislead some into thinking that it offers different receipts on how to cook Shakespeare, but don't be alarmed—it contains recipes used in Shakespeare's day.

It also contains interesting images and commentary on the dishes, geared toward a popular audience and heavily weighted toward Shakespeare.  The chapter with beef dishes, for example, is headed with a quote from Twelfth Night: "I am a great eater of beef" (Sir Andrew Aguecheek, I.iii.85).

Below, you'll find one of the recipes from the book: Roast rib of beef with pepper and vinegar sauce (66-67). I decided not to include the receipt for "Farts of Portingale" (54-55), thinking that readers might be more inclined actually to make this one.

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

Monday, April 15, 2013

Micro-Post on So Long, Shakespeare

Brown, Tom. So Long, Shakespeare. N.p.: N.p., 2012.

I'm at the stage of grading where I have to bribe myself with a reward after finishing a certain number of essays. The reward, today, is composing a brief post on something Shakespeare-related.

The author of So Long, Shakespeare kindly sent me a copy, and I finished reading it a little while ago; I enjoyed it.

The novel's plot was interesting—it kept me reading to see what happens next—even though there are several points that are contrived. If you accept those, you're on your way to enjoying the book.

The story is on the science fiction side. You need to accept that the DNA of famous people has been gathered in a kind of DNA library. Then you need to accept that, in this world, it's possible to distill the creativity gene from a given set of DNA, turn in into pill form, and transfer that creativity to the person who swallows the pill. Then you need to accept that a mathematical formula can be developed that will, with an astonishingly high level of accuracy, determine the authorship of a given work.  You also need to imagine a new series of Star Wars films—and the attempt to earn an Academy Award for the last in a new series of six films (none of which has received an Oscar).

If those sound like building blocks for an authorship controversy plot, you're right—but that's where I need to stop my comments to avoid spoilers. I will say that the author plays around in pretty interesting ways with the question, having his characters distill the creativity gene from William Shakespeare, the Earl of Oxford, Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth I, Christopher Marlowe, and others.

If you buy into this world, I think you'll enjoy the novel.

Back to the next set of essays!

Click below to purchase the book from amazon.com
(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 2008-2039 (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