Thursday, November 14, 2013

Shakespeare. It's about Shakespeare (really).

So... it's been a while since I've just straight up featured a buy of mine from Goodwill. There's been a lot of Halloween stuff and stuff about excellent people generously sending me awesome... stuff. A lot of non-Goodwill related stuff. So I thought I'd kick off this post by talking about Joss Whedon's recent adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" 

It'll make sense in a bit, I promise. But be WARNED: This post is much ado about Shakespeare. 

The last week of October I was sick with the flu. Not the oopsy-poopsy barfy-warfy flu, but the kind where it hurts to move, you're Gravitron-level dizzy, you lose your voice, and you feel alternatively freezing cold and hinges-of-Hell hot in turns.  That flu. I would have traded it all in for a few oopsy-poopsies, believe me. This meant I was a wreck leading up to Halloween. It meant I missed a week of work. It meant that I was emotionally drained and depressed and vulnerable. I was ready for all the murder mayhem and mischief to very quickly go back in their boxes and back to the attic. I was ready for something lighthearted and fun. I was ready for Time Warner Cable's one-demand menu to drive me right off the deep end. 

Sort of like this but with more of me
screaming for it to just shut the f**k up already.
We have Time Warner Cable, and the on-demand menu is sort of like a DVR you can go into and watch recent shows (if you are not familiar with the concept) and movies, and the like. Some of it, like the prime-time programming, is free. Some of it, like recently released movies, you have to pay anywhere from 2 to 4 bucks to watch, and it's a 48 hour rental where you can watch it as often as you like during that period. Well they were selling the HECK out of this movie, "Much Ado About Nothing" by Joss Whedon. I had heard that he'd recently done a "secret movie" where he and all his friends got together and adapted a Shakespeare play to chill and relax between making all the money in the world from Avengers films. 

Pffft. Movie schmovie.
Joss Whedon did this thing AT HIS HOUSE. It has Firefly captain Mal Reynolds, SHIELD agent Phil Coulson, and stoner dude Marty from that Cabin in the Woods in it. Also Chrissy Seaver from Growing Pains. So we rented it. Shakespeare kind-of sort-of invented the romantic comedy after all, and I needed to clean the depressed/sick right out of every fiber of my being. Here's the trailer:

Well, I watched it once with my wife. The Shakespearean dialogue was a little hard to translate at first... but I didn't do too bad, since I'm semi-familiar with Shakespeare from highschool (more on this in a bit), and some casual reading I'd done on my own, along with the Baz Luhrmann Romeo + Juliet viewings. Then I watched it again the next day by myself and found that I understood it perfectly. THAT was the magical viewing. One of the awesome things about the film is how casual Whedon's cast manages to make the dialogue sound. It hits the ear... for the most part... conversationally and natural. And I ended up LOVING it. 

So I picked it up at Wal-Mart for 13.00 bucks and watched both commentary tracks one after the other. As of this writing I have watched the movie 4.5 times and the only reason I'm not watching it while I'm writing this RIGHT NOW is because I MADE myself lend it to a friend at work. I need to go call her right quick. BRB. 

I have never seen the Kenneth Branagh version of the film... and I probably never will. I think Joss Whedon's treatment has ruined me for most other adaptations of Much Ado... and possibly for any other adaptations of Shakespeare tales in general. It also has a heartening 84% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which I'm happy to see. 

So who is THIS handsome devil? He's ME! I played Caliban in a high-school one-act competition production of the Tempest... and it is one of the most trans-formative experiences I have had in my entire life. Getting up on stage and snarling my way through my performance made me feel confidence I did not possess in those days. 

And when Neil Gaiman included Will Shakespeare (and some of his works) in the Sandman mythos:

My lifelong love was cemented. A few years after my wife (then girlfriend) and I were in the Tempest together, (she played male villain "Antonio" as "Antonia" in our version) she bought me this because she loves me: 

Which I still display with pride. And FINALLY... to actually tie all this in with an actual POST ABOUT GOODWILL... My recent viewing of "Much Ado About Nothing" has inspired me to start tracking down Shakespeare's plays. I want to find and read as many of them as I can and I want to do it on the cheap:

As you can see, I found all four of these plays for .99 cents. I've been seeing Shakespearean plays for sale second-hand FOREVER. Seems all people don't suddenly develop obsessions with the Bard the way I have. 

So here we have "Richard the III", "Julius Caesar", "Hamlet", and "Othello" to start off my collection. I want to avoid big collections of plays, unless they're smaller paperback collections, simply because I plan to read these on the bus while I'm commuting to work, and they need to be transportable. I'm not going to pretend I'm an expert at Shakespeare. I struggle with the language, but I also enjoy it as a puzzle to be interpreted. What I am mostly interested in is discovering where our modern-day stories take their root from. Shakespeare has influenced in some way or another almost all facets of pop-culture we currently enjoy whether we realize it or not (or want to admit it or not). 

A couple of other recent finds involve ol' Willy as well. In Shakespeare: The World As Stage author Bill Bryson explores the truth behind Shakespeare's identity. There are many who question whether or not Shakespeare actually wrote his entire (or any of) catalogue of plays... or if the face we associate with him is truly his. This books looks intriguing to me, and I honestly can't wait to dip into it. This book cost me 1.99. 

Finally, Shakespeare invades the YA market as well. This story tells the tale of a modern-day girl named for the "Much Ado About Nothing" character, Hero. She finds herself embroiled in a mystery spanning centuries, and involving jewels, and the famed Bard himself. I hope it does not suck. I paid .99 cents for this one though, so if it does I won't feel too bad. 

So there! I finally wrote about something I've grown passionate about (or GEEKING out about!)... that I've bought at Goodwill (with the exception of the DVD). So there! I'll be back soon with even MORE Geeky Goodwill Goodies! Until then, Happy Hunting!


  1. I'm not a huge fan of Shakespeare [nor was I a huge fan of Whedon's Much Ado...], but his body of work and the things he's inspired have always been there in my life. Welcomed white noise that occasionally threatens to have more of an impact on me.

    I've used snippets from Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead" in a short film I did in college. A VHS copy of the film-adaptation is sitting on a shelf directly in front of my face.

    One of my all-time favorite tees in high school featured the Gaiman-version of Sandman hanging out behind Shakespeare who was clutching a copy of The Tempest. Hell, my first AOL SN included the name Caliban [though that was more a shout-out to the former Morlock than anything else. super-nerdy].

    And, last but certainly not least, is the fantastic comic series, Y the Last Man. The protagonist goes by the name of Yorrick and he has a sister named Hero. Which I meant to ask you at some point if you ever read, 'cause I've got a spare copy of the first volume that I've been looking to share...

    1. I have a complete set of Y: The Last man, but have not read the whole series to the end yet.

      I LOVE R&G Are Dead. I was more familiar with that film than anything else Shakespeare related when I was in the Tempest in Highschool. I had a friend who introduced me to Tarentino films and Tim Roth in general, so R&GAD was required viewing.

      I always forget about Caliban the Morock, and before I had any inkling of the Tempest character I wondered where the name had come from. In his first appearance, didn't he kidnap Kitty Pryde when she was still calling herself Ariel? That's a little on the nose now that I think about it.

  2. There is actually a play out there called....I hate hamlet. I could never get into the language of Shakespeare. I think one has to be smart to get it.

    1. I think it has to be made accessible for people to get it nowadays. I don't think people who don't get Shakespeare are dumb. It's hard for me to understand it when I'm just reading it flat especially. It really helps to hear it. It's just language from a different time. But the stories and the moments are still really powerful and relevant when you strip it down to the core.

  3. Always good to find a new passion!

    I've never seen a movie that boasted it Rotten Tomatoes rating before. You'd think Joss Whedon's name would be enough of a sales pitch.

    I originally read "Much Ado About Nothing" along with "As You Like It" and "Midsummer Nights Dream" in the eighth grade of my own accord (yes I was that kid, plus it would be another year before my family got cable television) However I think most of it went over my head at that age and I'd be hard pressed to recollect much ado about the details now. It probably didn't help that I was reading those Marvel Comics Essential Collections, the ones the size of phone books, at the same time so I may have certain elements mixed up.

    So you did High School drama huh? Maybe thats how your daughter got a love for monster makeup. All that spirit gum and face paint must have worked its way into your DNA!

    I really do want to see this movie. I think it would be an ideal bonding experience for me and my Dad, since he's an English major and a big Firefly fan, so I've been keeping my eyes peeled for this one to come out on the Redbox. Your positive review is just that much more of a push to get in on the experience.

    1. I didn't even notice that on the cover of the DVD until you mentioned it just now. I went and looked it up myself and just hoped it was going to rank well (not that it matters... lots of movies I love are rotten on there).

      I actually did drama in high-school and then went back and worked as the drama coach a year or two after I graduated. I did that for about 3 years. I ended up writing a lot of our plays myself, or adapting works that are in the public domain to avoid paying money for royalties. If I made more money, didn't have three kids, and didn't have to spend almost every waking moment doing it... I would go back to directing high-school theater in a heart-beat. It meant reinventing myself and learning confidence when I was in high-school myself, and I saw it do the same for many of the students I worked with while I was working there.

      I hope you and your dad enjoy it... I will warn you, that even though I went in feeling pretty comfortable with the Shakespearean dialect, it was hard for me to get into the movie in the first few scenes. It took a little while for it to feel like it was flowing and for me to stop asking "what the hell did she mean by that?"

  4. I will have to watch Mister Whedon's take on this story.

    1. Well, I really hope you enjoy it... and don't end up cursing my name halfway through the movie.

  5. Awesome read. Bravo to the person responsible for doing your make up. And what are your feelings on Shakespeare's true identity? I always found the "Spear Shaker" Francis Bacon conspiracy an interesting theory.

    1. The make-up person was a girl that I laterfound out had a crush on me, so the fact that she was rubbing stage make-up all over my back and chest seemed a little awkward after the fact... but she did a beautiful job. I felt monstrous, and it really helped to drive my performance. That picture was taken the night we took the one-act to the competition festival, and I earned myself an "All Festival Cast" award, which is a sort of an acting award. I was incredibly proud of myself. It was my last acting gig though, and I wish I'd stuck with it in community theater or something.

      I have no opinions on the identity of Shakespeare. I've heard rumors and theories but I don't really know enough to form an opinion. I know that I HOPE there is just the one man, named William Shakespeare, and that all of those amazing stories came from him. And in the interest of history, I don't think anyone can ever conclusively prove otherwise. I may feel differently after I read the Bill Bryson book above. Who really knows?


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