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Showing posts from October, 2013

They're All Going to Laugh at You: On Three Versions of Much Ado About Nothing

People my age, I think, can for the most part be divided into two groups--those whose first encounter with William Shakespeare the playwright (as opposed to William Shakespeare the cultural icon and creator of such linguistic commonplaces as "To be or not to be") came from Baz Luhrman's 1996 Romeo + Juliet, and those for whom it was Kenneth Branagh's 1993 Much Ado About Nothing.  I'm in the latter group, and--all due respect to Luhrman--I can't imagine a better introduction.  Branagh's sun-dappled, cheerful film, in which he and his then-wife Emma Thompson headline as the argumentative lovers Benedick and Beatrice, is not only a top-notch adaptation of an excellent play, but it has a lightness and an effortlessness that cut through a young person's (or even a not-so-young person's) conception of Shakespeare as serious or difficult.  It's full of song and dance and beautiful scenery which, far from distracting from the archaic language, only en…

Thoughts on the New TV Season, 2013 Edition, Part 2

By most yardsticks, I suppose, this year's fall pilot season isn't much worse than previous years.  But it is much more boring.  For every show I've written about this year, there are two or three about which I had nothing to say that I haven't said a million times before--unoriginal plots, underdeveloped characters, blandly beautiful leads, indifferent procedural stories, poorly defined antagonists.  In short, boring shows hardly worth talking about.  The below are the few exceptions--though hardly innocent, the lot of them, of the sin of unoriginality.  (Progress report on previously-discussed shows: Brooklyn Nine-Nine remains funny, SHIELD remains a show that I wouldn't be watching if it weren't for its pedigree, I gave up on Hostages after the second episode, and Peaky Blinders is a lot of fun even as its story becomes more predictable.)
Sleepy Hollow - Every year, it seems, there's a new cheesy genre show for fandom to get bemusedly enthusiastic over, o…

A Sense of an Ending: Thoughts on Breaking Bad and Dexter

The most shocking moment in Breaking Bad's final episode, "Felina," happens in its teaser.  Having spent months holed up in rural New Hampshire as his body finally succumbs to cancer, fed only by scraps of news about his family's (mostly ill) fortune in the wake of his exposure as the meth manufacturer Heisenberg, Walter White is headed back to Albequerque.  Slipping into an unlocked car, he frantically and ineffectually scrapes at the ignition with a screwdriver.  As the lights of an approaching police car begin to illuminate the car's interior, Walt--sick, tired, and cold--leans back in despair, and then speaks.  "Just get me home," he rasps.  "Just get me home.  I'll do the rest."  With less than an hour left in his show (and only a few days left in his life), Walter White is praying.

At the most basic level, this is shocking because Walt has never been presented as a person who thinks about spiritual matters, much less the existence of…