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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

TV
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.


www.astor-theatre.com
Magnificent...
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 soon...one 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.
(****):