Archive for the 'Film' Category

Sea Change

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

The cruise is now nearing the half-way mark. Because we spent our first full day at sea, I’ve already given three of my four talks on Shakespeare. I’ll post more details about those in a later thread.

I’m having a lot of fun. Everyone has been so nice to me and very appreciative of the talks. Fellow passengers will come over to me and start conversations about Shakespeare, which has been the best part. There has also been other Shakespeare-related entertainment. The cruise had asked me to select four appropriately-themed movies, and their screenings have been additional opportunities to engage with the Shakespeare fans on the ship. For those interested, I chose the following movies:

    Richard III (1995) with Ian McKellen and Annette Bening
    Much Ado about Nothing (1993) with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson
    Macbeth (2015) with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard
    Shakespeare in Love (1998) with Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow

There is also a group of three talented actors who are performing scenes from Shakespeare throughout the ship. These scenes are popular among the passengers, and they make the theme of the cruise more ubiquitous.

And, oh yeah, in addition to all of the Shakespeare stuff, I’m also on a cruise. The lifestyle keeps you quite busy and very well fed. The staff is almost as big as the passenger manifest, and they are highly professional and courteous. This is my first cruise, so the experience is somewhat of a sea change for me.

I also had a chance to visit Oslo, where we stopped for two days. I went to go see the Nobel Peace Museum, which had a thought-provoking exhibit about the targets that are used in the military of different countries around the world. They also have an exhibit showing the various people who have won Nobel Peace Prizes though the years.

Our next stop is Helsingor, the real-life setting of Hamlet, though Shakespeare referred to it by the Anglicized version of the name: Elsinore. I’ll be escorting a shore excursion to provide some Hamlet perspective on the trip. But I’ve never been there myself, so it should be a great trip for me as well. I’ll keep you posted.

Film: Joss Whedon’s Much Ado

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

It would be difficult to watch a movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing without, on some level, comparing it to Kenneth Branagh’s sweeping masterpiece of twenty years ago. But Joss Whedon’s interpetation of the play is too different, both in intent and execution, from the 1993 film to make such a comparison meaningful. Both films do a fine job of telling the story and entertaining the crowd. Indeed, the fact that they do so in such strikingly different ways stands as a testament to how versatile Shakespeare is, and why we continue to find new ways to perform him after so many years.

Shot in twelve days at Whedon’s home during a filming break from The Avengers, the 2013 Much Ado about Nothing demonstrates how much of Shakespeare works on its own, though it’s not without some very nice touches and insights into the play. The ensemble cast speaks the original text in a very casual, natural-sounding manner, as though everyone went around speaking poetry all the time. “My soul burns with passion and, oh, could you pass the salt, please?” That’s not easy to pull off, but the cast does so masterfully across the board. That’s not too bad for a group of friends pulled together on a lark.

The pace of the film is slower than we’ve come to expect from movie adaptations of Shakespearean comedy. The soldiers have returned from war, and have earned some relaxation. We can therefore enjoy the lazy feel of a summer vacation, where there is no work to be done, and nothing better to pass the time than to lounge by the pool or hang out in the kitchen with friends. In these moments, the respite from the busy day-to-day world, we have time to indulge in mulling over the minute details of each social interaction. If it’s all much ado about nothing, then perhaps it’s because nothing is all that’s here. We might as well fill out the time by playing pranks, throwing parties, and writing poetry. If we get really desperate for entertainment, we might even fall in love.

Even the comic scenes are somewhat laid back, which makes the transition less abrupt when we shift to serious moments. That’s always a problem with this play: Benedick and Beatrice discover their love in a sitcom, but have to declare it in a soap opera. It can be really hard for an audience to catch up emotionally. But this film keeps such an even keel that it doesn’t seem to hit so hard when it happens. The prior relationship between Beatrice and Benedick is established in the opening scene of the film, so these are real people to us, with a real history, and not just a couple of comic characters out of their element.

The funniest moments of the play find their laughs in their own understatement. Nathan Fillion deadpanning Dogberry’s malapropisms, Joe Friday-style, while drinking stale coffee from a paper cup steals the show.

Ultimately, Whedon seems to be testing what happens when you throw out all of the elaborate sets and period costumes, the vibrant colors and emotional score, the histrionics and the dramatic pauses, and just put Shakespeare’s brilliant words in the hands of talented actors. And as it turns out, the text holds up. The period seems to be the present, as iPhones with streaming video abound. Men wear suits and ties instead of military uniforms. And did I mention that the whole film is presented in black and white?

With a bare mimimum of chewing the scenery, slapstick gags, or even background scoring, this film wants to put nothing between you and the play. So, if you already love Shakespeare, you’ll probably really like this film. If you don’t, you should check out the Branagh movie; it has all of that other stuff. This is not the movie to use to introduce yourself to Shakespeare, even if you’re already a Whedon fan.

And it occurs to me that the relaxed atmosphere is no accident. It’s Joss Whedon who is the soldier back from war looking for some relaxation. I’m not very familiar with the man’s other work, but if this is how he unwinds, he’s earned my admiration. He didn’t pander to a general audience; he created a movie of Shakespeare the way he likes it. That’s why it’s so good.

Given how little expense and time apparently went into creating this, and how wonderful the outcome, I wonder if we can expect the same team to come back together to do another play. I understand a second Avengers movie is in the works…

Film: The Tempest

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

I was surprised to see that my local theatre was showing a movie version of The Tempest with Christopher Plummer as Prospero. I was unaware that there was such a film, and this is kind of my thing.

It turned out to be a filmed version of a stage production from the Stratford Festival in Canada. I’ve seen stage plays captured on film before, and with good effect, but never in an actual movie theatre, and this was unlike any other such film I had ever seen. Footage was taken from two different performances in front of live audiences. They used 10 different cameras, so they really were able to cut from scene to scene in a very cinematic way. And the actors were all miked for the film, not the audience, so the sound quality was immaculate.

I have to admit that the immediate effect was somewhat jarring. After the opening storm scene (which is meant to be jarring) we have the scene where Prospero gives the exposition to his daughter Miranda and the audience. Here we see the effect of imposing close-ups on a medium that wasn’t designed for it. We hear and see actors emoting and projecting for an 1800-seat theatre, but right up close and personal on the big screen. This took some getting used to, but once my eyes adjusted, the artifice disappeared, belief was once again willingly suspended, and we were left with just the story.

There is a difference between seeing a stage production and a movie, and ultimately this was more like seeing the stage production. There are so many opportunities to have digitally-enhanced special effects in movies, but we quickly become jaded to these. The better the effect, the more invisible it becomes over time. However, in the theatre, the opposite is true. The magic of the stage has a much greater chance to be awe-inspiring, and this effect was preserved even as we know what we’re watching has been filmed. Just as in the theatre, we could see stagehands striking set pieces and the stage revolving to create wonderful illusions. The theatre requires much more of the audience than films do, and knowing that we are in on creating the illusion through our belief is part of the fun. Whether we’re being asked by Shakespeare to “piece out our imperfections with your thoughts” or by Peter Pan to clap for Tinkerbell, there is an actor-audience dynamic that loses something when the two don’t share the same space.

So, I was very conscious of the fact that I was watching this performance with two different audiences. First, the Stratford audience was visible and audible in the movie, which added a great deal. But there was also the audience that I was part of, sitting in an air conditioned movie theatre on a warm Sunday afternoon. The stage audience was quite often laughing and clapping along with the performance, while we in the cinema audience rarely were. And as much as I was appreciating the audience response, perhaps even needing it, it served as a constant reminder that I was one step removed from the living space. I was an audience to an audience, vicariously living out the theatrical moment.

Nevertheless, I had a transformative experience, and that’s not something I get to have too often these days. Frankly, The Tempest has never been one of my favorite plays. But as I was sitting there watching this amazing production, it occurred to me that I could not remember actually having ever seen a stage production of it. I’ve read it, held readings of it, taught it… I even led a 7th-grade class in creating a half-hour animated musical production of it, for which I edited the script. But never having seen it the way Shakespeare was meant to be performed, as they say, I never fully appreciated it until now. So maybe some of the magical fairy dust was able to find its way into the movie house after all. I do believe in fairies. I do!

Gerant-Wyn Davies stole the show as Stephano, and his scenes with Bruce Dow’s Trinculo and Dion Johnstone’s Caliban were laugh-out-loud funny. I loved the music, particularly the goddesses singing, which was a masterpiece of theatrical spectacle. Julyana Soelistyo was delightful as a spritely Ariel. And, of course, Plummer was magnificent as Prospero, drawing me into his world as though I were just another one of his hapless victims. His delivery of the most famous Prospero speeches, no more than overly familiar words to me, made me understand why they became so famous in the first place. When he finally said “I’ll drown my book” you could feel the deep sense of loss for him. I can’t say what Shakespeare had in mind, but someone was definitely saying farewell to something that was deeply profound and meaningful to him.

And, as though you hadn’t already gotten your $18 worth, there is a bonus at the end. After the play is over, the movie continues with a Q&A featuring director Des McAnuff and Plummer taking questions from the show’s producer and an audience who had viewed the film. Plummer was witty and charming, especially delighting in taking wry pot-shots at Anonymous without ever mentioning it by name. They also discuss the challenges of interpreting a stage production for the screen and some of what they’ve learned about working with The Tempest.

I don’t know how much longer this movie will be in theatres, but if you can’t see it on the big screen, it will definitely be worth checking out on a smaller screen near you.

Another Story

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

The Klaxon invaders lit up the starship corridor with weapons fire, as Alliance scientists and technicians dove for cover on the other end. Klaxons had a reputation for ruthless violence, but nothing could prepare you for your first encounter with them. It was likely to be your last.

This starship seemed an unlikely target. The captain recalled how a mundane scientific mission had turned noteworthy by the addition of the President of the Intergalactic Council, who decided to join the expedition as an observer. The scientists had been excited by the leader’s visit, and were eager to show him the important work they had been doing. But now, a Klaxon boarding party was attacking, and his life, all of their lives, were very much in danger.

A Klaxon pulse blast damaged a power generator, creating massive interference waves in the electromagnetic field within the ship, which rendered pulse weapons on both sides absolutely useless. What now? Hand-to-hand fighting? Klaxons weren’t known to be skillful in direct combat, but they could likely hold their own against a team of scientists with no battle experience.

Suddenly, the side hatch flew open, and there stood Will Daring, one of the two humans who had recently been taken from Earth, the planet they were currently orbiting. Telescopes had not yet been invented on their world, so it seemed safe to do the experiments close by. The captain had no idea how the male human had broken loose from his containment section, but he had bigger problems.

Will Daring walked halfway down the corridor. Was he fearless, or did he just not understand the threat the Klaxons posed? He bent to the floor to pick up one of the sharp wooden pikes that had been dislodged from its decorative place on the wall by the Klaxon weapons, and waved it menacingly in front of the invaders. The Klaxons took one look at the handsome eighteen-year-old human gesturing wildly with his makeshift lance, and decided it wasn’t worth the risk. They made a hasty retreat to their battleship, frightened off by no more than a boy holding a stick.

When he returned back to his hosts, the captain greeted him warmly. “You have saved the lives of this entire team, not to mention the President of the Intergalactic Council. We are all in your debt, Will Shake-Spear.” It was customary for Alliance captains to grant titles based on achievements in battle, and Will liked the way the moniker rang in his ear. “I have something for you,” the captain added slyly, beckoning Will to follow him into a side chamber.

Once the two men were alone, the captain handed Will a thick packet of paper, bound in a leather portfolio. Will looked through the pages and was surprised to find a collection of 55 plays: Hamlet, Macbeth, Love’s Labours Lost, Love’s Labour’s Won, the titles went on and on. “This is our gift to you, Will Shake-Spear,” the captain beamed, “a collection of plays for you to stage with your theatre company. We have analyzed your simple language, and have created combinations of words to appeal to the primate brains of your species. The stories have been taken from among the most popular in your culture, but the language patterns we’ve created are more complex than anything your world has ever seen.”

“What am I supposed to tell people,” Will responded, “that space aliens gave me these plays?”

“No, you must say that you yourself wrote them.”

“What sane person could possibly believe that?”

“Nevertheless, you must claim these plays as your own, or risk being condemned as a lunatic.”

Just then, the ship was rocked by an explosion. The Klaxons had fired on the science vessel and the ship’s systems were failing fast. The captain rushed to the bridge, while Will Daring ran back to the containment section where he and his companion had been kept. There he found the raven-haired beauty Anne Hathaway. Her bodice had been ripped, exposing the tops of her voluptuous breasts. For a moment, Will found himself captivated by her stunning allure before snapping back to the matter at hand. “We’ve got to get out of here!”

The two humans ran to the emergency hatch, but there were no escape chambers. By now, the damaged ship had broken orbit and had descended into the atmosphere of the planet below. Will Daring recalled a drawing he had seen by Leonardo Da Vinci, created over a century earlier. “I have an idea!” he bellowed over the sound of explosions erupting across the ship. Grabbing some nearby cloth, he created a makeshift parachute, grabbed Anne Hathaway, and jumped out of the hatch.

As the two floated gently to their home planet below, Anne Hathaway looked at Will Daring like he was the only man in the world. He had always felt she was unapproachable to him, nine years older and so impossibly lovely. But now they were closer than they had ever been. The landing was rough, but the two were unhurt. Nothing could hurt them now.

The explosion of the starship turned the sky a bright orange, creating a majestic backdrop for the most passionate kiss either of them had ever known. “Oh darling!” moaned Anne Hathaway breathlessly. “It’s pronounced Daring,” Will responded calmly, looking down at the bulky leather portfolio still in his hands, “but from now on, baby, you can call me Shakespeare!”

Film: Anonymous

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

I went to see Anonymous, the new Roland Emmerich film questioning the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, with cautious anticipation. What I was not expecting was to be thoroughly entertained by a period-piece thriller fantasy, but I was! I loved this movie, and can’t wait to go see it again. Seriously.

Let’s set aside the question of whether or not the film is accurate. The film is wildly inaccurate. The notion that Shakespeare didn’t write the plays is not even the most egregious speculation offered by John Orloff’s cheeky screenplay. If anyone wants to stand outside the theatre and argue that, yes, this is all true, they should be treated about as seriously as someone making that claim about Star Wars or Waiting for Superman. But inside the theatre, we have license to suspend our disbelief. Call it historical fiction, alternate timeline, sci-fi fantasy, or whatever helps the medicine go down, but don’t miss Anonymous for political reasons.

The film is based on the premise that the plays we know as William Shakespeare’s were actually written by Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Unable to claim the plays as his own in a treacherous climate, he asks established playwright Ben Jonson to put his name on them. Jonson wants to keep his voice distinct from the nobleman’s, so an illiterate actor, one William Shakespeare, steps forward and claims the glory. Political maneuverings surrounding the question of who will succeed the aging Queen Elizabeth I create tension for Oxford, who finds that he can speak directly to the people through the voice of his celebrated front man. You see? It all makes perfect sense.

The visual depiction of Elizabethan London is stunning and believable. Rhys Ifans and Sebastian Armesto give outstanding performances as Oxford and Jonson. Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson (her daughter) together create a powerful mutli-dimensional Elizabeth. If you can stomach the depiction of our beloved William Shakespeare as an opportunistic buffoon, he is played to comic perfection by Rafe Spall. But if it does bother you, please remember that Shakespeare himself is largely responsible for our present day image of King Richard III as a deformed child-murderer. Payback’s a bitch, Billy-Boy.

But his own depiction aside, I think Shakespeare is honored by this film. A running theme throughout the movie is that these simple words have the power to delight and to inspire, to incite riots and to seduce monarchs. Will some people come away with the idea that Shakespeare was a fraud? Maybe. But for every audience member who gets that impression, there will be another ten who are moved to find out more about these plays and poems. We get to hear quite a bit of the original language spoken by the magnificent Mark Rylance as Richard Burbage, and the see the power it wields. That’s the transcendent truth that rises above all of the fabrications. And that, ultimately, is what we take away from Anonymous.

Shakespeare Anagram: Henry VIII

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

From Henry VIII:

The gentleman is learn’d, and a most rare speaker;
To nature none more bound; his training such,
That he may furnish and instruct great teachers,
And never seek for aid out of himself. Yet see,
When these so noble benefits shall prove
Not well disposed, the mind growing once corrupt,
They turn to vicious forms, ten times more ugly
Than ever they were fair.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

The director of An Inconvenient Truth lent aid to ruthless enemies of government-funded education.

Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman should seek to learn the inherently right way: reform relentless poverty.

Instead, it prefers to foment barbed attacks on unions as anathemas. Why? Why?

Remember, the real superheroes teach in our schools.

More on Waiting for Superman here.

Film: Waiting for “Superman”

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Davis Guggenheim’s new documentary about the need for reform in the American school system is one of the most important films of the year and everyone should go see it. Although I have a number of significant problems with the movie (which – rest assured – will be inventoried below), I think there are a lot of dark truths that Guggenheim brings to light, and even if we don’t all agree on what the solutions are, we can agree on what’s at stake in getting it right.

Waiting for “Superman” follows the journey of five students, and their individual quests to improve their educational opportunities. I’d say the movie gets about 75% of it right: the system is failing these students, and millions like them. But while it might make a good movie narrative to divide the issue into good guys (charter schools) and bad guys (teachers unions), the real issues surrounding education in this country are much more complicated than Guggenheim suggests.

I came out of the movie disappointed about many of the factual inaccuracies and glaring omissions that Guggenheim uses to make his case, but I found that these were well addressed by this piece in the Washington Post. Even better is this excellent article in The Nation, which digs much deeper into the issues surrounding the debate. I strongly recommend these two articles, as they cover a lot of ground that I consequently won’t need to cover.

I do believe that Guggenheim is sincere in his desire to reform education, and that’s important to say, because many participants in this discussion are not. Their goal is to end taxpayer-funded education entirely, and they tend to support measures that move the nation closer to this ultimate goal. The problem with this is that the free market will do an excellent job of educating some of our students, while a great number of children in this country will be starkly left behind. So I’m on my guard when I hear arguments about how charter schools have solved all of the problems faced by public education. But despite some of the darker connections behind Waiting for “Superman”, I do believe that the filmmaker is earnest and I can counter his points secure in the belief that we share the common goal of educating all of our students.

Not only does Guggenheim omit important details, but he often doesn’t even draw the correct conclusions from the evidence actually presented in the movie. What was most striking to me was how powerfully the film showed how the lack of economic opportunities for parents in these inner-city communities directly impacts the education of their children. That alone was worth the price of the surprisingly expensive ticket. But then, we’re told that “many experts” (who?) now believe that failing schools are responsible for failing communities, not the other way around.

Each of the five children depicted has a parent or guardian who is hell-bent on making sure the child has the best education possible. They enter their children into a lottery for the local high-performing charter schools. Presumably, all of the children in the lottery have similarly committed parents. That makes for a pretty good head start for the charter school. Public schools tend to have a more varied range of parent commitment. Also, did you notice how few students are accepted each year? What does that do for class size? And I have to mention, even though it’s well covered in the articles linked above, the large amounts of private funding that the high-performing charter schools depicted in the movie enjoy.

So yes, the charter schools in the film are doing very well, and that’s great news for the students who attend them. But if, as it is admitted in the movie, only one in five charter schools are showing results, that’s a dismal record indeed. And despite the emotionally manipulative scenes where each student’s “fate” was decided by random lottery, I felt myself more concerned for the students who were never in the lottery.

So perhaps the real lesson we can learn from the successful charter schools is that, if the school has a clear and progressive vision, then increased funding can actually make a difference in student achievement. And if we take a closer look at what Geoffrey Canada is really doing for the students in the Harlem Children’s Zone, we might realize that student achievement isn’t only impacted within the school building. He may have even created a microcosm of the society we would have if we could make the connection between our nation’s social fabric and the way our children are educated.

But “firing all the bad teachers” is a much more digestible solution.

And yes, there are bad teachers, and I agree that it should be easier to get rid of them. But in truth, this represents a very small part of the problem, and blaming teachers unions for the decline in educational quality is seriously misguided. Teachers unions have been and should be a partner in education reform, but they also have the task of protecting the rights of their members. Teachers have the same rights to collective bargaining as any other labor force in the country. To frame the issue as children vs. adults is a dangerous distraction, especially when our goal should be to attract the very best people to the profession, and retain them once they’re in. The movie makes the point that great schools start with great teachers. I agree! So let’s make teaching the most desirable profession in America. You can read more about teacher recruitment and retention issues in this Washington Post article. Because once we’ve fired all the bad teachers, who will we get to replace them?

By the way, nobody is actually waiting for Superman to come and save our children. It’s a classic rhetorical trick to frame the sides of the debate as the people who agree with the solutions provided and the people who would rather do nothing. But smart and passionate people are already implementing solutions within public education that resonate with the solutions presented by Guggenheim. Here in New York City, we’ve increased educational accountability enormously, and with the cooperation of the teachers union. Nationally, we’re moving towards Common Core Standards for student achievement. We’re not there yet, not by a longshot, but nobody in the system is complacent about that.

Still, despite all the movie gets wrong, it should be praised for shining a spotlight on issues that have been festering in the darkness. This movie has the potential to spark a national conversation about the problems in American education, and how we can best address them. If it does that, despite the film’s flaws, its ultimate effect will be a net positive. If it does that, it will be my very favorite of all of the Superman films.

UPDATE: An anagram review.

Back to the Future: The Remake!

Monday, July 5th, 2010

According to my sister, there’s a scene in Back to the Future where Doc Brown sets the clock in the DeLorean to a day 25 years in the future. Today. And today, probably not coincidentally, also marks the 25th anniversary of the US premiere of the film.

Of course, the real target year for the franchise will be 2015, when we can see how the future as depicted in Back to the Future II compares to the real thing. Until then, I invite you to enjoy this very funny song from Tom Wilson, who played Biff in the trilogy:

Back to the Future IV, not happening? I guess that makes sense. You can’t really do another BTTF movie without Michael J. Fox, and he is more or less retired from acting due to his illness. But do we really need a Back to the Future IV? Or is what we really need a remake of the original movie? Follow along with me, as I imagine what that might look like. And as this is a rough sketch, I invite readers to contribute to the vision, or even modify it as needed.

The film would star today’s version of Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly. I don’t know who that would be, but that’s kind of the point. The movie isn’t for me, it’s for today’s teenagers.

The year is 2015, and Marty McFly is a teenager who is an aspiring video game designer. He gets a call from his friend, Doc Brown, and goes to meet him. Marty learns that Doc Brown has created a time machine out of a Prius, and has bought some enriched yellowcake uranium in order to generate the 1.21 gigawatts needed to fuel it. Doc Brown pronounces “gigawatts” correctly this time. Homeland Security shows up and arrests the Doc, while Marty escapes in the Prius to the year 1985.

At first, he’s not sure what’s going on. He can’t get a signal on his iPhone, so he goes into a restaurant and asks where he can get online. The manager tells him he’s the only customer waiting, so there’s no need to get on line. Marty shows him his phone and asks where he can get reception. The manager tells him there’s a reception in the back. Marty asks how many bars he can get, and the manager asks him for ID.

Leaving the restaurant, Marty sees his young father, George, and follows him. Marty sees that George is about to be hit by a car, and pushes him out of the way. Marty is hit by the car instead. He wakes up to find a teenage version of his mother, Lorraine, who keeps calling him Isaac Mizrahi. He joins the rest of the family for dinner, which they eat while watching Family Ties. After dinner, they play Super Mario Brothers on the family’s new Nintendo Entertainment System. Marty quickly gets bored and wanders off.

Marty looks up Doc Brown, who points out that to send Marty back, they need to generate the 1.21 gigawatts (pronouncing it wrong this time) to power the time machine. Marty looks on his iPhone to find the next thunderstorm. He can’t connect, of course, but Doc Brown notices that Marty’s iPhone wallpaper is a digital picture of himself with his brother and sister, and his brother’s image is starting to pixelate. They realize that Marty prevented his parents from meeting, and he has to get them back together, so they can have their first kiss at the Pac Man Fever dance hosted by the school.

Marty tries to befriend George, but ends up crossing Biff, the local bully. To escape Biff, Marty borrows a skateboard from a local kid, and sticks a broom handle on the end to fashion a makeshift scooter, which he’s more experienced riding. Think about that for a second.

At first, George doesn’t want to go along with the plan. But Marty, knowing George is into science fiction, shows him a video clip of Avatar on the iPhone and George is so freaked out that he’s willing to trust Marty. He’s supposed to punch out Marty to protect Lorraine, but he ends up punching out Biff instead and the rest is history.

At the Pac Man Fever dance, Marty rolls his eyes at the primitive video game technology, and describes in great detail for those in attendance about his favorite video game, Grand Theft Auto. At the end of his description, he finds everyone staring at him slack-jawed. He realizes they may not be ready for a video game where you drive around stealing cars and beating up prostitutes, “but your kids are gonna love it.”

Your move, Robert Zemekis.

Googleplex – 12/12/08

Friday, December 12th, 2008

It’s time once again to check in on what searches people have done to find themselves at Shakespeare Teacher, and to respond in the name of fun and public service. All of the following searches brought people to this site in the past week.

googleplex fridays
This feature happens to share its name with the headquarters of Google Inc., located in Mountain View, California. I have no idea what goes on there on Fridays.

how come king james didn’t like macbeth
I don’t grant your premise, unless you are referring to the historical figure and not the Shakespeare play. In fact, you might say that the play was actually written specifically to appeal to the new king. Witches were a fascination for James, so he’d have been intrigued from the start. Also, James was a direct descendent of both the historical Malcolm and the historical Banquo. Notice that the witches make a prophecy that doesn’t actually come true in the play, which is an odd dramatic convention. They prophecy that Banquo will not be king, but will instead be the father to a line of kings. Later, Macbeth is shown a vision of eight kings along with the ghost of Banquo who points at them for his. The eighth king is meant to be King James, as he is the eighth king in the house of Stewart. The prophecy doesn’t come true in the play; it comes true in the audience.

presidents with the letter x
So far, it’s just Nixon, but the night is young.

shakespeare film 2010
You do realize you’re skipping over a whole year, right? No interest in The Tempest with Helen Mirren as Prospero? Not anxiously awaiting the new Hamlet with Screech and the Chocolate Rain guy? Okay. From what I can tell, the Shakespeare film event of 2010 will be King Lear with Anthony Hopkins in the title role and Naomi Watts, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Keira Knightley as his three extremely beautiful daughters. Also, Eddie Murphy – I kid you not – is planning to do a version of Romeo & Juliet. I imagine he will be playing both roles, but that’s pure speculation.

shakespeare king henry lambasts hal
I was amused to see this one because I used the phrase “lambasts Hal” in my first Shakespeare Lipogram, and I chose the verb because it only has the vowel “A” in it. But I wonder if you’re really looking for that scene from Henry IV, Part One, or if you’re actually looking for this scene from Henry IV, Part Two. It’s one of the great scenes from one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known works and was even listed as #38 on my Top 50 scenes in all of Shakespeare.

Hal finds his deathly-ill father asleep, assumes he’s dead, and takes the crown off with him. When he returns, the King’s awake, and lambasts Hal. They reconcile, and Henry gives his son advice for how to be king. The language is… there’s no adjective I could use that you wouldn’t say “Well, yeah, it’s Shakespeare” but the language is particularly rich and evocative in this scene. I did an anagram of a quote from it a while back, but I’m surprised I still haven’t done the most timely quote of them all: “Be it thy course to busy giddy minds/ With foreign quarrels; that action, hence borne out,/ May waste the memory of the former days.” It’s even got a “Q” in it. I’ll have to save that one for a rainy day.

is macbeth is worth reading
Most definitely. I suggest gathering a group of friends together, dividing up the roles, and reading it out loud. Trust me on this one. That’s how to read Macbeth.

I leave the task of responding to the remaining search terms to my readers:

why is shakespeare is one of the founding fathers
what did the tudors bring back to England

was shakespeare a teacher?

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Conundrum: Venn-Hur

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

In a Venn Diagram puzzle, there are three overlapping circles, marked A, B, and C. Each circle has a different rule about who or what can go inside. The challenge is to guess the rule for each circle. You can find a more detailed explanation of Venn Diagram puzzles, along with an example, here.

This week, in honor of the Oscars, Conundrum goes to the movies! All eight titles below refer to motion pictures.

Have you figured out one of the rules? Two? All three? Feel free to post whatever you’ve got in the comments below. Just tell us which circle you’re solving, and what the rule is.


UPDATE: Circles A and B solved by Irene. Circle C solved by DeLisa. See comments for answers.