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:fresh: Book: Stiffed, by Susan Faludi
:fresh: Song: Starman, Dar Williams (cover)
I'm a big Shakespeare fan, and here are some movie adaptations that I've enjoyed over the years. Please, send me your opinions, I'd love to discuss them with you. I can only post five movies at a time... To be continued...
21 Grams. The movie was released in November, 2003.

It premiered here in Estonia last week. LAST WEEK! Five months after it's initial release. And we were lucky to get it *at all*. For example, Lost In Translation was never going to be released in Estonia, until it got Oscar nominations. And I'm not even going to mention stuff that I've only seen thanks to the unlimited possibilities of eMule.

Oh yeah, the movie was still fantastic (I had previously seen it through the aforementioned not terribly legal medium). Three of the best perfomances of the year, with Sean Penn bringing a much deeper personality into his character in 21 grams than he did with his character in Mystic River (truth be told, none of the characters in that movie really grabbed me, aside from Tim Robbins', who rightfully earned his oscar. I don't see any reason to nag about the movie's disjointed editing, since it made you think a lot more about the movie, and therefore increased the immersion in the film, and surprisingly also made you care more about the characters, and meaning(s) of the film. And secodnly, it wasn't disjointed at all. After the conclusion of the movie, you could clearly see the logic of the editing, and similarly to Trier's Dogville, the unusual style took only a few minutes to get used to.

Oh, and some of the cinematography in the movie was fantastical. And Benincio Del Toro was great also.

So, what else have I seen in the meantime.... saw Amadeus again for the upteenth time. I also listened to the commentary by Peter Schaeffer and Milos Forman, who mentioned about the final scenes of the film, something along the lines of "no-one with a right mind would create a scene, in which two composers sit, and one dictates music to the other, in complicated terms, which few of the audience could actually understand". Let it be said for the record, that since I have an interest in classical music, I had no such trouble, but still, that scene, and the overall last 45 minutes (with especially the extended opera scenes, natch) were among the most powerful stuff I've seen in cinemas, ever. That is what makes a great director - take things that no-one with a right mind would take, and make them into something mindblowing.

I also saw several interpretations of Shakespeare on film, and one in theater. first, I saw Kurosawa's Ran, on DVD. Made me wish to have a home cinema, but well, the thing is as always in the price. It's a work of art, and a wonderful display of beautiful colors and battle scenes. No more needs to be said.

I also saw two versions of Hamlet for the silver screen. The first was the 'modernised' version, which starred Ethan Hawke. Now, I've seen a lot of modernised shakespeare in the past (amongst them a version of "Romeo & Juliet" in which Juliet was a goat, and which was actually quite good), and mostly they come off as parodies of the originals. This version of Hamlet is no exception. The Danish kingdom is replaced with a movie company, the dead king is now a dead executive, and we've got cell phones, skyscrapers and all that stuff placed right at our noses for us to see that 'this is teh 20th century!!!!1111oneoneone'. Yet the text has remained to an extent the same, and doesn't fit at all. Ultimately the film is more about Hamlet In The 20th Century, than it is about Hamlet, and that is why it fails.

The second version of Hamlet is the one with Kenneth Branagh, and it is about 180 degrees different from the version with Ethan Hawke. It is played, line by line of Shakespeare's original, and it shows. It's like a lavish theatrical experience, that still manages to appear real, and while it does have it's share of problems (the length issue for example, which may fit a theatre, which has intermissions, but not cinema), is the definitive Hamlet. The comparison of those two renditions shows yet again, that one shouldn't mess with the Master.

And finally the stage version of Hamlet, that I saw. It was presented in a black-box type theatre, with the only props being two thrones (for Claudius and Gertrude) and a ledge. The perfomances were superb, and there were several symbolic aspects underscored by the frequent changes in costumes (for example, Gertrude switching her white gloves to black ones, after her conversation with Hamlet, as a symbol, for feeling guilty of his husbands death).

One more thing. Hamlet is one of my favorite works of literature ever. Right up there with Hemingway's "Old Man and the Sea" and Lermontov's "The Hero of our Time" and Remarque's "All quiet on the western front". Yet, I have completely no emotions towards the chief character. Hamlet. So there he is. Always hesitating, and finally going through with his revenge, staying true to his noble ideals in a cruel world. But ultimately, a person who manages to stay true to his ideals, isn't half as interesting as one who doesn't. Which, to me at least, makes the king Claudius the tragic (anti)hero of the play. A king, who would otherwise be a superb leader, if it weren't for his crimes. And his praying monologue is one of the best speeches written ever. So, I'll top off this lengthy entry with my all time favorite Hamlet quote:

"My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go."
Best in Show: Kenneth Branagh
One for the future: Kate Winslet
Stand-out scene: Hamlet and Gertrude post-Polonius stabbing
Brainer or no-brainer: Brainer
Stands up to one viewing or repeated?: Repeated
DVD commentary any good?: n/a

Kenneth Branagh's take on The Bard's Denmart-set tragedy clocks in at just over four hours. The Olivier version was a comparatively brief two and a half - Branagh is clearly signalling that his is the complete and unabridged version. Packed to the rafters with big names Branagh himself takes the title role, while Kate Winslet is a luminous Ophelia. Branagh updates the proceedings to the 19th century and his is a peroxided, lithe, black-clad Lord, less sombre and brooding, more scenery-chewing and flamboyant. Derek Jacobi and Julie Christie are solid as Claudius and Gertrude and the assembled cast is refreshingly eclectic, ranging from Ken Dodd and Jack Lemmon through to Brian Blessed, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal. Much better than the 1990 Mel Gibson version, this was shot mostly at Blenheim Palace and at Shepperton Studios, which housed the largest single set ever built in the UK for the castle of Elsinore. Epic, lavish, and gripping this is sure to satisfy even the most staunch Shakespearean completist.
Comments pending.
So, I just spent two whole days in the 'lord. It wasn't as bad as my previous trips have been. I got to see McPherson, my old debate coach. He was playing with a litt R2D2 toy that responded to voice commands. It was hilarious. Other than that, I didn't see anyone I knew (probably thankfully, too).
Stuff I brought back:
Mom gave me a few things to bring back with me. I got a lamp, a picture frame, and a dvd player that has never worked on her tv (but none that she has bought have ever worked on that thing so I'm hoping that it will work for me).
My brother is trying to be a rockstar. He's growing his hair long and playing the electric guitar. He walks around the house singing ACDC, Guns&Roses, and the likes.
Meg let me borrow Hamlet. I'm gonna watch it sometime of my days off.
I'm so bored. I can't wait to be done with school.

We have our first softball game this weekend. I can't wait! We're gonna kick some boo-tay. Or not. Either way we'll get WASTED after the game.
Damn loud kids.

That's all for now.
Spectacular, well performed, but lacking, for some reason, in areas. The whole spot the star thing detracts from the main film (Gielgud in a non speaking role, i mean, come on!), but it is still worth the watch. But Olivier's is better.
brillant, i loved this movie the whole play, 4 hours of glorious Shakespeare
I recently purchased the DVD of this "eternity version" of Hamlet, and I believe it was worth the wait, and worth every penny I paid for it. When I first saw this version a few years back on VHS, I don't think I properly appreciated Branagh's achievement. However, now that I've had the chance to watch it a few times, I am quite simply amazed at the breadth of the director's vision. For the longest time, I thought Zeffirelli's Hamlet, starring Mel Gibson, was as good as film versions of this famous play could be. I just went back to that version yesterday, and honestly, it seemed like a pale shadow of the play, compared to Branagh's version.
There is so much great material in the long text of the play that Branagh chose to adapt into his screenplay, that one misses so much in the shortened versions. Branagh's film is not an easy one to watch the first time, clocking in at around 4 hours. But if you can find the time to set aside, the experience is well worth the time invested. Branagh creates a world of intrigue and emotion that is presented in some of the most incredible language ever written. His actors present each word with deep understanding and clarity. There are a few moments when things don't work quite as well, such as the long speech that comes immediately before the intermission, which may have worked better in a less bombastic style.
And the cast...where do I begin? Derek Jacobi's Claudius is powerful and nuanced, Kate Winslet's Ophelia is complex and touching, Richard Briers's Polonius is crafty and a bit slimy, and the list of fine performances goes on and on. I'm not wild about Robin Williams's portrayal of Osric, but most of rest of the cast is exceptional. (Even though I'm not a big fan of Charlton Heston, his Player King is right up his alley. A bit overdone, but exactly what the role calls for.)
Branagh's Hamlet is truly an amazing piece of cinema, and a great presentation of Shakespeare's masterpiece.
This is the only film of Hamlet that contains the full four hours of William Shakespeare's masterpiece and gives a unique feel to the whole story. Not many directors could pull this off without boring their audience but Kenneth Branagh's skillful use of bravora film style and stunt casting allows people to see the importance of the scenes that are cut out. Examples of this include Gerarde Depardue as Reynaldo who's entire purpose in the film was to simply say "yes my lord" as Polonius asks him to spy on Leartes. Also included is Billy Crystal as the grave digger, Robin Williams as Osric, Jack Lemmon as Marcellous, and Charlton Heston as the actor. Branagh's performance of the Act 4 scene 4 soliloquy is nothing short of cinematic marvel as the camera slowly pulls back as the intensity grows. It is a scene that literally made me want to jump out of my chair and start applauding. Kenneth Branagh is the only film maker that understood the importance of every scene in this film and knew how to convey that importance to the general audience. This is a must see for everyone who enjoy's good story telling, brilliant acting, and incredible direction.
Even with countless versions and having personally witnessed my tenth grade English teacher flog it to death, there is still much to admire in Kenneth Branagh's lavishly produced adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet." The least of which is the large and talented cast which is a mix between Branagh's regulars(including Derek Jacobi and Brian Blessed) and Hollywood cameos. Of which, Charlton Heston and Billy Crystal especially impress.(Yeah, I'm amazed, too.) Despite rarely leaving the ornate throne room, the movie gets past its theatrical roots by not only focusing on the present, but on the past where Prince Hamlet(Kenneth Branagh) remembers better times, giving emotional potency to the 'Alas, Poor Yorick' speech. And it is not Hamlet's reluctance for revenge that causes the tragedy but a singularly rash act. Regardless, he has no options. Once his father's ghost(Brian Blessed) appears, there can be no other course of action. So, one of the play's themes is the weight that a younger generation bears from its parents. Also, remember that Ophelia(Kate Winslet) is prohibited early on by her father, Polonius(Richard Briers), from seeing Hamlet who she loves. All of which is set in the foreground while Fortinbras(Rufus Sewell) is on the march in the background

And to close, I will point out that this is not the first time that Derek Jacobi has played a character named Claudius.
Hello, all. I've been extra super busy with my LEAD ROLE in my school's production of Dracula (I played Dr. Seward to much accolades from people who had no option but to compliment me). It was a really great experience and I grew as an actor and person greatly. Now we do Cats. Fun...

I haven't had too much time to watch movies on my free time. Between school and Dracula, the films I've watched have been in classes (and they have been much better on average than they usually are). Here is the round-up:

Citizen Kane (1941)
Class: American Film
My Score: 10/10
I know that I previously gave this a 0/10 when I was in (I believe) 7th grade. But no 7th grader should be expected to understand or like this movie. I've become much more mature since then and absolutely loved this movie. I didn't find it boring and I thought that Orson Welles' performance was just spell-binding in the same way that Day-Lewis' performance in There Will Be Blood was. This is a work of pure genius and it has earned its spot on the top of lists.
Funny story: The movie fades to black and I hear from my classmates: "That movie sucked!" "Worst movie ever!" "That was so boring!" "Why would anyone like that?" I laughed - they are seventh graders.

The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Class: American Film
My Score: 8/10
It's good, yeah, but there wasn't anything terribly, out-of-this-world fantastic about it. It set a standard for mystery/detective films after that and it deserves mass respect. Humphrey Bogart is a BAMF and the characters are interesting, but it didn't strike me as a brilliant film.

The Thin Red Line (1998)
Class: Responding to Violence
My Score: 8.5/10
What a potential work of art this was. Malick just had too much on his hands. But for philosophical weight, artistic passion, and brilliant cinematography, The Thin Red Line is certainly a great work. It feels very disjointed and extremely truncated, but that's because it basically is. I feel bad for the editor. How do you cut a 5 hour movie down? Malick is a great director, he just tried to do too much. The moments are moving, though. Those moments he captures are spot on.

Hamlet (1996)
Class: AP Literature and Composition
My Score: 9/10
We didn't watch all four hours, we probably only watched three, but I got a good idea of what the film was like and was happy to see a positive reaction from my fellow classmates. I love Shakespeare - the language is just beautiful - and Branaugh just gets it. It's great to see him take on as monolithic a work as Hamlet and be successful. We just finished King Lear and I thought it was easily Shakespeare's best work, but this adaptation of Hamlet is just great. Worth your four hours.

Chinatown (1974)
Class: American Film
My Score: 9/10
I thought this to be just excellent, particularly the ending and Faye Dunaway's performance. Her character arc is fascinating and she is just fascinating. Jack Nicholson also does a good job as the somewhat stereotypical/somewhat not detective. Follows alot of the anachronisms of The Maltese Falcon but the ending is just powerful in its message and bleakness and profundity.

Well, there ya have it. Senior year, baby. Watchin' movies.
When a movie makes Shakespeare interesting, you know it has to be good.
The best Hamlet I have ever seen.
I am not one who likes Shakespeare, at all but with Kenneth Branagh (my favorite actor)and great acting, I enjoyed the movie. This is a movie I will never tire of.
I've never enjoyed the notion of "messing" with Shakespeare. His works represent the highest literary quality known to man. Clearly, Kenneth Branagh seems to understand the importance of not only capturing the essence of Shakespeare's literature, but also inspiring his audience through mesmerizing cinematic visuals and exemplary acting. Praise for a film truly epic in scope, and equally devoted to the original text.
While I can understand Kenneth Branagh's desire to conserve the full text of Shakespeare's work, four hours would be extraordinarily long for a staged production, let alone a film.

Few modern audiences will find this the least bit accessible. Only those willing to set aside an entire afternoon to watch Branagh consistently and severely overact the title role will be able to appreciate his loyalty to the source material.
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