Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Comparing American And British Words With My British Boyfriend

I think the title says it all. We decided to look at different British and American words that mean the same thing and try to objectively decide which one was better. I, the American, am "K" and he, the Brit, is "Z."

Soccer or Football?
K: I will concede that football is the better word. It more accurately describes what you're doing.
Z: With American football you're mostly running with a ball in your hands. Where does soccer come from? *looks it up* It apparently is a shortened word for "association football".
K: But what is "association football"?
Z: FIFA and organizations like that.
K: So what is it if you do it in your backyard?
Z: Black market football.

Cart or Trolley?
Z: I don't have particular feelings one way or the other. I think of a horse drawn cart when I hear cart.
K: Is that not what the thing is? It's the no-horse-needed version. What's a trolley then?
Z: I don't know. Rhymes with brolley. I don't know. I don't have strong feelings.
K: I do because a cart is a word with a clear origin. Whereas for me, a trolley means something different.
Z: I bet it's fucking French. *looks it up* It's English and it comes from TROLL?
K: How does it come from troll?
Z: It's a Suffolk dialect of "to roll".
K: Oh. Cart's still better. Trolley is just a word born of a specific dialect's contraction.

Trolley or Tram?
K: For me, it kind of goes both ways.
Z: I see them as two distinct methods of transport. The tram is what we used in Dublin and the trolley is what you get in San Francisco. The trolley has a distinct old timey feel even though trolley apparently only comes from the early 19th century.
K: Yeah, I live near a trolley museum and for me a trolley is an older and usually open air thing on a rail and a tram is a more modern, closed thing on a rail usually with connecting carts.
Z: What about the Boston trolley?
K: I guess it's a trolley based on age? When did tram start being used?
Z: *looks it up* A tram is from the early 19th century in German and Dutch coming from "trame" which was a beam in a mine on which public street cars were modeled.
K: I guess tram is definitely the right word in Amsterdam. It seems like we really can't nail down a difference.
Z: I'll call it a draw and say whatever the company names it is right in that context. Maybe trolleys are a subset of trams. I don't know.
K: There's an added complication that in America we call those golf cart trains trams as well. These words are impossible.

Elevator or Lift?
Z: They both mean the exact same fucking thing.
K: I conquer. Both words 100% valid.
Z: Roald Dahl is very British and he called it "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator", not lift.
K: Well, he was Welsh. 
Z: That's no excuse. Wales is mountains and valleys anyway; there's no place for lifts. However I do think lift might imply more goods and elevator might imply more people. I think it only depends on what country you're in. But then again what do you call a lift that carries food?
K: A dumbwaiter. Wait, did you mean food in a restaurant or warehouse items?
Z: Warehouse items.
K: Then, elevator.
Z: A goods elevator.
K: Just an elevator. Maybe some people get specific about it but not typically.

Apartment or Flat?
K: Here's the thing: Apartment is technically wrong because they're connected but they are apart from freestanding houses. On the flip side, what the heck is a flat? That could mean anything.
Z: It's something that happens when one of your tires gets punctured.
K: Exactly!
Z: It's a not commonly known fact that flats in the UK are made of tire.
K: Really?
Z: *long pause* Remember that time you asked me what a prefect was and I just read you the description on a Harry Potter Wiki?
K: I'm an idiot. Sorry.
Z: *looks it up* It comes from the Scottish for a floor of a house and Old English "flet" for a dwelling, floor, or ground.
K: So it could be anywhere that you chose to live?
Z: Pretty much so long as it is flat, the adjective.
K: So both words are problematic. Is there one that seems better?
Z: Not particularly. I think some things are more appropriate for either word.
K: Such as?
Z: If you lived in council accommodation, a high raise concrete block, then it's a flat.
K: But it's called that because that's what you use in England.
Z: Yeah.
K: So that doesn't mean anything to this argument.
Z: Well, I think flat is more associated with lower quality housing. If I was getting a place in the Shard I would say it was an apartment.
K: I guess that makes sense actually. A flat does sound cheaper. It's kind of like how there's a difference between a tenement and an apartment building.
Z: Yeah.

Truck or Lorry?
Z: In the UK, truck, lorry, and van are all different methods of conveyance. A van is what you would think of. A truck has to be flatbed in some way.
K: Here a truck can be a pick-up truck or a tractor trailer truck which are vastly different. 
Z: *sends picture* This is a truck.
K: So a farming truck? It's a bigger version of a pick-up.
Z: The front needs to still look like a car. It has to have a bonnet. *sends picture* This is a lorry. 
K: That's a tractor trailer truck. So essentially you use different words and we call everything a truck. Where does lorry come from?
Z: *looks up* Origin obscure. Meaning "to lug" or "pull around". Possibly comes from words meaning cow dung or heavy.
K: I think Americans just went the simple route. So which is better: tractor trailer truck or lorry?
Z: I'm not sure. There's not a big difference either way.
K: I would say that tractor trailer truck is a better word because it clearly describes what it is but that it's convenient to have a different word to distinguish a tractor trailer truck from a regular truck.
Z: I guess if you needed a shorter word for tractor trailer.
K: We'd say truck. Context always seems to clear things up without any more words needed.
Z: I don't really have an opinion.

Waiting in Line or Queuing?
K: In America we use "queue" but mainly to mean something like a "Netflix queue". Something more inanimate, I guess? Waiting in line makes sense as a phrase but then I don't know the origin of queuing.
Z: *looks it up* Originally used for "tail" in French then became "line of dancers" in middle English and then extended sense to "line of people" by 1837. Queuing is actually different from waiting in line here. You queue for services like at the supermarket but for a bathroom you wait in line.
K: Is the bathroom not a service? I've had to pay to use a bathroom in England.
Z: I think it's contextually sensitive. You wouldn't say, "I queued for tickets", you wait in line for tickets. Queuing implicitly implies shopping while you could wait in line for anything.
K: So then why is queuing even a thing? Why keep the word around as verb? As a noun I can understand its practicality because "line" is a vague word and at least in the way Americans use "queue" there isn't really a better word for it. You could call it a "Netflix list" for instance but queue implies priority that list doesn't necessarily.
Z: Queue is shorter than waiting in line. It's superior in that sense.
K: But is it better when it has such limited uses?
Z: Maybe I'm overestimating the times when you can't use it. Queuing is better.
K: I maintain that waiting in line makes more sense in construction and is more practical since it can always be used but that queue as a noun is useful,

Chips or Crisps?
Z: Crisps.
K: Why?
Z: It's an onomatopoeia. It IS crispy. Crisps aren't chipped potatoes; they're shaved. It more effectively describes what they actually are.
K: I would like to point out that when we first met and got into a chips v. crisps v. fries debate I said that would should agree to never say chips because it was a vague word in all senses and that we should both only use crisps and fries and you declined. With that in mind, the next one . . .

Fries or Chips?
K: Fries. Fries is a better word because they are fried and chips is vague.
Z: No. Chips are chipped potatoes like wood chips or cement chips. Chips are a subset of fries. They are steak fries but it's a better word.
K: But a chip can also be something small, like a chip in a teacup. A chip from a potato would be more like the indent left behind when you dig an eye out of it.
Z: I think they're both acceptable terms.
K: Well, I think the fact that chip can be applied to two entirely different things that just happen to be made of the same vegetable says something. Chip doesn't denote a size. It is a flawed word. Crisps and fries are far more specific. Both countries should throw out "chip" as a word.
Z: Fish and Fries.
K: It's got nice alliteration.

Eggplant or Aubergine?
Z: Aubergine.
K: I agree. There's no egg in eggplant. The word makes no sense.
Z: It doesn't even look like an egg.
K: I am curious where the word aubergine comes from though just for my own interest.
Z: *looks it up* It comes from the French which comes from the Catalan from the Arabic from the Persian from the Sanskrit.
K: Oh sure.

Zucchini or Courgette?
K: They're both vastly different words for the same thing so I guess it's a question of where they come from or what they imply. I just find it weird that the British use the French instead of the Italian when they should have decided to get rid of it out of spite by now.
Z: Nice point. I actually found a whole website for this one. Apparently they are different because they refer to different stages of development even though they are in the same vegetable family. If they are harvested before they grow to 15-20cm they are courgettes and if they get bigger they are zucchini.
K: That's stupid.
Z: Yeah. There's an even split across the English speaking world in whether they use zucchini or courgette. Except in Scandinavia they use squash because what the fuck do they know.
K: My conclusion: whatever.
Z: It's a matter of when in Rome or when in Paris.

Sink or Wash Basin?
Z: I would say basin because sink doesn't refer to what happens in a basin. It doesn't sink, it drains.
K: I inclined to agree but if you take "wash" out of the equation, sink and basin are equally vague from a visual standpoint. And it's not called a sink because the water sinks; it's a sink because it is sunken in. 
Z: *looks it up* Basin comes from water vessel in vulgar Latin.
K: Well, when have you ever used sink when not referring to water in some way. What does one usually sink in?
Z: Self doubt?
K: I think they're both good words. To me sink conjures the image of a kitchen sink because it is a sunken portion of the counter while a basin is more what you have in a bathroom.
Z: They both work but I don't think sink is quite as good.
K: I understand that. I might even agree.

Cell or Mobile?
K: Mobile is an easier word to grasp. They both are capitalizing on different aspects of the phone and it's mobility is probably more obvious than its cellular nature.
Z: Yeah.
K: Nothing else?
Z: I don't really care. Everyone says phone anyway. In German, it's "mein handy."
K: So the Germans win.

Uburger or Gourmet Burger Kitchen?
Z: Oh fuck you.
K: Because you know Uburger in Boston is better than the UK's beloved GBK.
Z: I refer you to my previous "Oh fuck you."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

An American In London (Or, My Experience With British Ideas On Americans)

This is a topic I have been trying to avoid writing about, insisting that it doesn't bother me as much as it really truly does but after reading an article today in a British publication, I really feel provoked to do some sharing.

The article in question was about the show Downton Abbey and it asked a question that has been repetitively asked of the show's creators, actors, and, apparently, random newspaper staff who fancy themselves culturally savvy individuals: "Why do Americans love Downton Abbey?" Now, I should specify that there have been many wonderful answers to this question, in particular I remember a smart answer from Robert James-Collier, who plays Thomas Barrow, where he pointed out both that English imperialism has lead to most countries of the world being able to claims ties to English/British culture and that America, being a new and idealistically modern country at the time of its creation, would likely take an interest in traditions that are older than the nation itself and of the sort that the country deliberately separated itself from.

So what answer did this publication give? That Americans like to be proven right about their ideas that the British are uptight and intensely hierarchical and have poor dentistry. It then goes on to say that this is actually satisfying to the British because it feeds their own perceptions that Americans like overly dramatic period dramas. You see, it's funny because stereotypes are true! 

I don't think many Americans quite realize what the perception of them is in England unless they have actually experienced this firsthand. Many Americans have a tendency to somewhat idealize the United Kingdom and British culture both for the reasons Mr. James-Collier gives and because of the idea that British culture is classier by way of its more dignified reservation (I guess as opposed to Americans who are in your face and uncensored) and its impression of being more intellectual than American culture (which only serves to prove that they've never heard of Georgie Shore, Cher Lloyd, or chavs). One could argue until they're blue in the face about the accuracies of these ideas but one thing does seem to be apparent the more time I spend around British culture: the construct of the ugly American is alive and well.

I guess now it's story time. The first time I went to England in 2012 I had a particularly positive experience in regards to the locals which in hindsight I can now attribute to the fact that I pretty much spent all my time talking to either my British boyfriend, his parents who both immigrated to the United Kingdom in their late teens, and various waiters at London restaurants who had a wide variety of accents, almost none of them British. I really didn't spend any time talking to actual British nationals aside from the one who already thought I was good enough to date. The only exception was a friend of his parents who mostly spent her time asking me hilarious country-comparing questions that seem to ignore globalization like, "Do you have Cheerios in America?" and "Have you heard of Jimmy Page?"

It was on my second trip to London last year that I started to realize that the so-called "special relationship" between America and the United Kingdom is dwindling more than people realize.

On my first day there I went to a pub in Richmond for lunch with my boyfriend and one of his closest high school friends. It was a normal outing: good conversation with greasy and curious British food. We parted ways on amiable terms and "it was really nice to meet you" and I didn't really think any more of it. It wasn't until a week after my vacation had ended that the day came up again while talking to my boyfriend. He mentioned that he had talked to his friend and that he really liked me and that he had said, "we were worried when we heard you were dating an American but now that I've met her, she's cool." Naturally I assumed what he meant by this was that because we had met on the internet, he thought I might turn out to be a middle aged man or something; what friend wouldn't be wary in that situation? My boyfriend replied, "Well, yes. That. But also, you know, because how Americans are." "No, I don't know" I replied with a sense that I should be angry, "How exactly are Americans?" I asked if it was a question of weight because while I am certainly larger than the average British girl, I know I'm not the morbidly obese person that even Americans sometimes think of as characteristic of their own country. He assured me that I wasn't fat (which wasn't my concern) and said that I was partially on the right track. I asked if it was because I was educated and he agreed that was more so what he was getting at but that it was somewhat education and somewhat awareness of the world.

Suddenly I was flashing back to all the other times on my trip that I had seemed to surprise someone with small facts like that I could back up with historical accounts how the laws in America that foreigners find most objectionable to be the ones that are completely misinterpreted from the founding fathers' intentions or that I happened to know the names of the current and previous president of France (even if I couldn't pronounce it with a proper accent). The fact that I knew what I considered to be fairly basic ideas about domestic and foreign politics shocked both diverse British college students of my own generation and the upper class circles my boyfriend's family roams in.

There is a pervading idea in the present day United Kingdom that Americans are, aside from the usual fat and lazy, also ignorant about foreign affairs and culture, overly complacent in their global position, and are just overall too patriotic for critical self analysis. From newspapers to movies, a good portion of the media put out by the British in the last decade or so has fed into this idea and played it up to the point where it can be seen as an accepted fact. Steven Moffet who runs some of the most internationally popular British shows like Doctor Who and Sherlock (he's essentially the British Ryan Murphy) only ever seems to feature American characters who are either violent, ignorant, or prejudiced and are always an antagonistic force in the main plot. And this is an idea that is so ingrained in current British culture that my boyfriend didn't even think he would need to explain it to me.

So, of course, this begs the question of why? How did this come to be our overseas reputation in a country that we once (and possibly still do) consider to be our greatest ally?

I asked my boyfriend this very question and he thought about it, thinking back to his youth compared to his present and realized that it really was a change that happened, or was at least elevated, in his lifetime. And the reason started with the Iraq War. I was only 14 when it officially started and my boyfriend and his friends were even younger but even then I knew that I didn't support the war and didn't support the president who started it. And yet, this War and the accompanying way that the United Kingdom got involved in it with Tony Blair's support of George Bush was the cause of a foreign relations shift that still hasn't been recovered in the minds of the people. We are all George Bush.

Well, I for one am not. I have lived my entire life in New England which is often seen as the most liberal part of the country (we had gay marriage long before the UK did). I have a general American accent which is often seen by Americans as no accent. I come from a poor family but I went to a good college and I try to keep up with the news which isn't too hard when you live on the internet. I also was never old enough to vote for Bush and wouldn't have if I was. He doesn't represent me any more than Tony Blair represented British adults of around my age.

So UK, I'm asking you to throw us a bone here. Not all Americans are Tea Partying, gun-toting, religious, homophobic rednecks and while a lot of Americans don't know about your more embarrassing contributions to pop culture, most are well aware that you aren't all tea-drinking, stiff aristocrats and manic football fans. Can you please stop portraying us as such? Can you try not to continue this stereotype that is years out of date and doesn't even relate to current young adults? Maybe have a likable, open-minded American character on an internationally popular show that doesn't take place 100 years ago? We don't need the media driving apart our international relationship any more. Politicians can do a fine job of that on their own.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Some Thoughts On "Winter's Tale"

Oh, dear.

I know in my right mind that I shouldn't be trying to rationalize my feelings on this film so quickly after watching it but I have so many thoughts (the vast majority of them bad) that I really need to just embrace every silly, silly element and let it go so the healing process can begin.

As I have said in a previous edition of "Some Thoughts", I mostly want to talk at length about movies that I highly anticipate for some reason and, as a result of said longing, end up dissecting them in a way that produces large blocks of rambling text. And as with Les Miserables and Much Ado About Nothing, I have some back-story to explain why I wanted to see this film.

It all started with me IMDb stalking Jessica Brown Findley. Yes, I wish it had started differently and more profoundly but nope, I've chosen to wear my truth hat today. Let's just say I had a lot of feelings regarding Lady Sybil's death on Downton Abbey (she was my favorite character and I was particularly invested in her and Tom's relationship) and I wanted to see what leaving one of the most internationally popular shows in order to pursue a film career would bring her. I, unlike some, didn't get mad at her for leaving even though it did cause me to become less interested in the show and sob violently during her last episode. I probably would have done the same thing if I was wearing her shoes. She was in a really good position in terms of her recognition as a rising star and yet, she was playing a character who was not indispensable to the show (hence why I predict Dan Stevens might not do as well post-Downton as she has).

So anyway, I saw that she was going to be in Winter's Tale and I read a little synopsis of the book and immediately knew I had to read it. Anyone who has seen my book collection knows that there are two themes among the novels I read that pop up a lot: 1.) magical realism and 2.) taking place during a World War and often involving a love story that is intriguing but mostly meant to support some grander theme. Not to mention it has a bunch of characters with interweaving stories, another trope in a lot of my favorite novels, and it has a lot of extravagant language about the night sky and the beauty of winter. Extravagant language? Victor Hugo is one of my favorite authors. Stars? I literally have star prints all over my bedroom. Winter? I'm pretty much Lorelei Gilmore when it comes to the first snow of the season.

As luck would have it, I found a mass market edition of the book at my favorite used book store for a dollar. And it was awesome. There were a few parts that I thought didn't connect quite right, the rules of the universe could have been fleshed out more, and the ending was kind of incomprehensible but the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. I loved the language, the characters, the themes, the humor, and the weirdness that felt strangely natural.

And within twenty pages, I knew the movie was going to suck.

There was just too much in the novel to make a two hour film of it and when I finished reading I looked up the cast list and realized, without any real surprise, that over half the characters were missing from the movie. Then came the poor reviews and snippets of comments that were incomprehensible to me even having read the book, for example "Will Smith plays the Devil," and that made me not only think that it will definitely suck but that it might be outright offensive to have it share the name of the novel.

And, yes. Yes, I was right.

So because pretty much everything was bad by no hyperbole, instead of nitpicking how wrong everything was because that would take me forever and be ultimately pointless, I have decided to talk about how an adaption of Winter's Tale could/should have gone by means of comparison.

This should have been a miniseries. Even as a miniseries it would have probably taken about 20 hour-long episodes but at least the medium would be more forgiving to the massive amounts of content the book possesses. All you need to do is follow the book exactly however I would recommend two things:
1.) Rearrange the order of events of the novel somewhat. The movie actually started with Peter Lake's parents and I think this was one of the few good choices made. Also, in this theoretical series, reintroducing Peter very briefly sometime in Book Two would probably do a lot for continuity. There are other examples where rearranging scenes would be helpful but far too many to list here.
2.) Add more dialogue. The book is fairly scant on dialogue because it's heavy on internal monologue but this might not play as well on screen (and is pretty much proven by the 2014 film where there is an ongoing monologue on the themes throughout the movie). Also there are a lot of bits in the book where it is written that characters talk but the novel only mentions the topics. A good screenwriter could expand this.

It also wouldn't be bad to expand the 1910s set portion so that it's a bit more 50/50 or at least 40/60 to the modern set part. The movie did do the 50/50 thing except that the second half was boring and something you couldn't bother to get invested in. This might be because the first half was mostly the plot of Book One and the second half was barely even the book; it was thrown together elements from the book to try to create repeated themes and a maximum amount of emotion. I will not get into said desperate attempts at tying ideas together or the random inclusion of Satan. I will not. Because I will throw things.

Have all the characters from the book present and recast pretty much everyone in this movie.

Jessica Brown Findley can stay as Beverly Penn and I really don't think I'm saying this because I saw her as Beverly while I was reading the book. I actually tried really hard not to see her in the role when I read but she kept taking over. She really embodies Beverly well and it's very believable on her in a way I don't think many actresses could pull off. J. Finds has that ethereal perfectness to her that only works on some people. If Amy Acker were in her early twenties, she could have done it. My one weird gripe was that she had red hair and this is only my grip because in the movie they made it such a plot thing when Beverly in the book has blonde hair and her hair wasn't even particularly red anyway. It was the shade of red you get when you try to dye dark hair without doing too much damage. Also, teach her how to do an American accent.

Jennifer Connolly can also stay as Virginia Gamely. I was actually profoundly sad by how small her role in the film ended up being. Virginia in the book is so gutsy and peculiar and has so much to do and I would have liked to see her actually get to do something other than crying about her child.

Pearly Soames and Issac Penn must be recast. Russell Crowe is no longer a believable actor and not just because of the poor way the movie character was written. William Hurt has been phoning in roles since he won an Oscar. Why is he still in things? Pearly needs to be menacing even in his moments of utter color gravity and Issac Penn should be more of a quiet eccentric.
True story: When I first read the cast list I thought it said John Hurt would be Issac and I thought that might be kind of great. Oh, was I disappointed to find I had the wrong Hurt.

As for Colin Farrell as Peter Lake, it wasn't the worst thing ever but I kept wanting more from it. I kind of didn't believe his love for Beverly and his presence was just overall bland. Maybe with a better script (and a better haircut; jeez, was that distracting) he could have really pulled it off but he just didn't. Unfortunately, there appears to be a shortage of Irish actors in their 30s in Hollywood and I am terrible at fan-casting so I'm not the person to ask who should replace him. Unfortunately, the only actor I can think of who would meet this basic criteria and actually be strong and convincing in the role is Allen Leech but obviously that can't happen because:
1.) It would be hard to separate his and J. Finds roles from their roles on Downton Abbey. Although, here's the advantage: Peter Lake and Beverly would definitely have chemistry because we've seen these two actors together before. I mean, Joss Whedon cast Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker as star-crossed lovers twice too, although ten years passed in between those two roles.
2.) He's not actually old enough if you are following the book. What's kind of jarring about Peter and Beverly is the age difference and while they (thankfully) changed her age from 18 to 21 in the film, Peter Lake is implied to be in his mid-thirties so that there is a clear gap between them. Of course, I would argue that eliminating this gap would be more beneficial than detrimental to the story, but so it goes.

As for the all the Sir-Not-Appearing-In-This-Films: Hardesty, Jackson Mead, Wootfowl, Asbury, Christiana, Harry Penn, Praeger de Pinto, Craig, Virginia's mom, Jessica Penn . . . someone else fan cast this. Please.

Again, to succeed just follow the book. The movie was so hellbent on thrusting in theme and motif when the book just kind of gave you a little joy if you found a connection before moving on to the next thing. It's especially weird that the movie even made the slightest attempt at pulling in the justice theme with the name of the toy boat when the movie was clearly not trying to write a love story to New York so much as it was writing a love story to, well, the power of love? Maybe? I mean, love is a theme in the book too but a lot of the book is just about New York as a microcosm of humanity. It's actually kind of hilarious that the British movie title is A New York Winter's Tale when the setting is so unimportant to the film. At least the title serves to further separate it from the source material.

If the movie just wanted to tell Peter Lake's story, it could have. It certainly tried to. There was enough time that you could have made this movie Peter Lake's story specifically and made a movie that is not a Winter's Tale but is still a good movie in its own right. But they didn't. They got hung up on giving Pearly a ridiculous background, messing entirely with the second half, and covering everything in cheese.

But you know what actually might be the worst thing?

I have said before that one of the most alienating things I can see in a movie is a sob scene that is not earned. Many Hollywood blockbusters try so hard for that cheap cry from the audience that if you have any semblance of how feelings work, you find yourself all too aware of the fact that you are watching a movie and that nothing is real. This movie is mostly just superfluous attempts at manipulating the audience to feel something. There's so much cheesy dialogue and strange reworkings of the plot for maximum emotional response (see: cancer child).

This is especially sad when you reflect on the fact that the novel was actually really funny and that when many people talk about the novel, they want to mention the parts that made them laugh. I remember the scene when Beverly and Peter have sex to be funny and sweet in the book but when I watched the movie I was laughing hysterically at how overly dramatic it was. The ultimate goal should have been to make something that balanced funny with dramatic and epic with thought-provoking.

And you know what I can blame even more specifically for this failure? The music. It was like every bit of music was pulled from a catalog where the intended feeling was the name of the piece. "Deep Sorrow". "Nerve Racking". "D'awwww".

Solution for my theoretical miniseries: Less music. If there's going to be music it should be more minimalist. And there definitely could have been more era-appropriate music.

Quite simply, there should only be as many as absolutely needed. The effects should be as natural and unobtrusive as possible.

So did I like anything? . . . The costumes. I'm a sucker for 1910s fashion so I especially like Beverly's dress, which you can see the right, and the one she wears right after when she's walking barefoot in the snow. I also like Beverly's star-gazing tent which I now aspire to construct one day. And I did like the designs of the houses in the film, I'll admit. And . . . That's it. I liked visuals. There were some nice shots throughout the film that I enjoyed in a stationary kind of way. And that's what it really all comes down to, isn't it? This movie was beauty without any substance.

And now I'm ready for the snow to melt.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2014 Potentially Oscar Nominated Movies

I feel like this is the first time in years that there really have been a lot of really good movies to pick from in terms of Best Picture. I'm actually kind of floored how much better this year is than the last few in terms of quality.
In 2011, one of my five picks for Best Picture (since I hate the 9 or 10 picks idea) was also in my "Over-Rated" section.
In 2012, there was no competition against "The Artist", one of my picks wasn't even nominated for anything, and everything I didn't nominate ended up in categories that were lower than "Liked."
Last year was definitely better but I had started to claim I was getting cynical.
This year I'm almost overly positive. I really liked 7/9 of the movies nominated for Best Picture which is a record for me. Narrowing it down to five was only easy because four of these I gave 4.5 stars to (I'm notoriously stingy with five stars). FOUR. That's probably a record too.

This year I think I talk about fewer movies since I got lazy. I also haven't seen a bunch of the foreign movies on my list yet ("The Past", "The Hunt", and "Blue Is The Warmest Color") and the only other animated film I want to see is "The Wind Rises." Maybe I'll add some of those when I see them. Also, while I have seen a few documentaries this year, none got nominated for anything.

As always, starred movies are my picks for the five Best Pictures and ones with a plus signs are movies that weren't nominated for Oscars.

Previous Years:   2013     2012     2011

Movies I Really Liked:

Gravity*: This movie was a lot better than I was expecting. I didn't know about the use of IMAX 3D until about ten minutes in when George Clooney reached for a screw and I'll admit I was a bit disappointed by this discovery. While I may be stuck in the mud when it comes to my distaste for 3D, I can believe that this is a movie that uses modern technology to its advantage while still having a plot that can be enjoyed without it (unlike "Avatar" which I holistically hated). The plot may be a little thin but it really holds your focus in a classic sci-fi way (i.e. "Alien"). The attention to detail in the directing and effects more than make up for any of the minor issues and Sandra Bullock did a solid job, although I didn't care for Clooney who was mostly just doing his Clooney thing in space.

12 Years A Slave*: This is one of those movies that begs the question: good story or good story well told? Definitely, the latter. The directing was great, the acting was amazing, and the story was really compelling. I don't think I really have anything negative to say about this one so this is kind of a boring little entry. You could almost say the movie is too traditional but it really isn't thanks to Steve McQueen's interesting direction. It very well may be the Best Picture winner. (And I totally cried at the end.)

Her*: I wanted so desperately not to like this movie. It's written by Spike Jonze for God's sake. All I could think when I heard about this movie, a movie about a guy who falls in love with a computer program, was that it was bound to be an entry in "Stuff White People Like." The problem is: I like of loved it. It might be my personal favorite of the year. Yes, it's got a layer of pretension but overall it's a really thought provoking movie about communication and how technology affects the way we connect with others (with a thin layer of existentialism on top). It's also really interesting because it takes place about twenty minutes into the future. All the tech from the movie seems like something we could feasibly have in the next ten years which makes it dreadfully topical while still technically being a little sci-fi.

Wolf Of Wall Street*: Martin Scorsase has made this kind of movie many times before so I find it hard to judge this movie without in some way comparing it to its predecessors and I come up with this: better than "Casino", not as good as "Goodfellas." Heck, the opening scene of this movie is a direct callback to "Goodfellas". After realizing this, I was set up to find this movie to be an inferior copy but I couldn't help but like it in its own right. It was well told and there were some really fantastic directorial decisions and shots and every actor was giving it their all but the spectacle of the movie got kind of oppressive and distracting after a while. Still, a quality film.

Philomena*: This movie burrowed into my brain. That's the best way for me to explain it. I watched it, thinking it was going to be the fluffy feel-good Oscar nominee and while it did make me feel good in some way, I realized that it really made me think. It's true that it's just a story about a woman looking for her son but it's a really compelling story, well told and hilariously acted by Judi Dench. This movie gave me feels but it was still also good.

Nebraska: I don't really get Alexander Payne. Every movie I have seen by him has been perfectly competent and enjoyable but never utterly unforgettable or show-stopping. And again, he has made another one of those. The best thing I could say about this movie is that it strongly reminded me of David Lynch's "Straight Story" and overall gave a Lynch vibe in how it talked about small town America and I found that very appealing. I enjoyed it, I got laughs from it, the directing and acting were fine . . . and yeah. Now that I think about it, I think I liked it more than I originally thought. I actually kind of debated whether this one or "Wolf of Wall Street" should be my fifth nominee.

The Great Beauty: This was a movie that I initially wasn't sure what to think of. It's got a lot shoved into it and sometimes something will happen before you understand why it's happening. When it was over all I could think was, "That was the most Italian movie I've ever seen." Architecture? Check. Nuns? Check. Ridiculously well dressed people? Check. Reminds me of a Fellini film? Check. I felt a bit underwhelmed at first but when hours and hours passed and I was still thinking about the movie and deciding it needed a rewatch, I realized that I actually thought it was kind of great. The name doesn't lie.

Frozen: I loved this movie. I loved that it completely plays with your perception of Disney movies. I love that it's ultimately about two sisters and the love story is secondary. I love that it has a character who is both the main antagonistic force and a character you are supposed to sympathize with and support. I love that song "Let It Go" and wish it would leave my head. This is my favorite non-Pixar Disney movie since "Mulan."

Dallas Buyers Club: I went into this movie having no idea what it was about but having a vague idea that Jared Leto plays a transgender woman in it. It was really interesting and well-acted but unfortunately, I don't have much to say about it aside from the fact that I really liked it.

Inside Llewyn Davis: This was on the upper end of Coen Brothers movies to me but it wasn't "The Big Lebowski" or "No Country For Old Men." It was a fascinating time capsule of a movie about a folk singer in the 60s trying to get by and had some nice little reoccurring themes and the music flowed well within the context of the story. It reminded me that I should set aside some time to watch "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" because the Coens really do good things with music in their films and that one is well known for it.

Blue Jasmine: Woody Allen makes a movie every year of varying quality and this would be about average for him: a film about people coping with something. It was a perfectly competent film with Cate Blanchett doing an amazing job in the lead role. I think my biggest issue with it was the ending. Did she go completely crazy? Was that what happened there? It just felt kind of incomplete or as if he wasn't sure how to end it.

Much Ado About Nothing+: Read it all here.

Warm Bodies+: Did anyone see this movie? Because it was awesome. Yes, okay, we are over-saturated with zombie movies. It's true. But how about a romantic comedy between a zombie and a human as told from the zombie's perspective in a post outbreak society? It's a little cheesy, I'll admit, but overall I just found it hilarious and adorable.

Catching Fire+: In a lot of ways I thought this was better than the first "Hunger Games". They switched directors and managed to make it still have the same look but now without all the nausea-inducing camera work. The biggest complaints I had were with the script. They really didn't mention District 13 enough to have the ending make sense (this could have been fixed easily with an abbreviated Bonnie and Twill scene) and the director kind of killed the impact of the final scene (it lingered on Katniss' face too long without meaning). Everything else was solid.

Movies I Liked:

Captain Philips: So I watched this movie and walked away from it thinking it was a perfectly good action film based on a true story. Then I went online and read all this stuff about how it's this profound meditation on globalization. Sure. That may be a bit of an underlying theme but that is not what you take away from this film. It is an action-suspense film. A well made and acted one (albeit I found a lot of the direction kind of dizzying) but still, above all it is an action film.

August: Osage County: A family drama that hinges pretty much entirely on the actors who were all excellent. There's nothing really to say in the way of directing (unobtrusive) or the script (it's based on a play) so I'll just leave it at: it's a very good film. If family dramas aren't your thing, you might not agree.

Pacific Rim+: My feelings about this movie are so conflicted. It's so dumb but it's so good! I mean, it's a big dumb robot fighting movie where they say, "Don't get cocky" in the first ten minutes! And yet, it takes so many conventions and turns them on their head! And yet, the main character is an obnoxious stereotype! And yet, all the other characters are kind of awesome (particularly Mako, who is a great example of a strong female character, and Newt, who may have been pulled directly out of my brain)! ARGGGGG!

The Great Gatsby: This was essentially "Moulin Rouge" in the 20s and I was mostly fine with that but I could see how someone wouldn't be. Baz Luhrman is a director I always feel mixed about and I was particularly conflicted by the music choices, many of which were good as music, but so incongruous that it took me right out of the feel. Alienation from the time period is not really something you want from a movie based on a book that was the defining book of the underbelly of the jazz age. Just saying.

Saving Mr. Banks: Heart-warming little biopic. Possible Disney money-making scheme but a very nice one.

The Conjuring+: A classic horror film which is actually genuinely creepy and has that added element that many horror films lack: character development.

Rush+: This movie was fine but I feel like I have seen this movie at least three times before. It's a sports rivalry movie, competently made and acted. *shrugs*

Movies I Think Were Over-rated:

American Hustle: Oh God, this movie. So this was a very powerfully acted film that I actually kind of hated. The plot made very little sense and the editing only served to make it even more confusing and the problem when you have a movie that is well acted but nonsensical is that a lot of people are very passionate about something that makes no sense to the viewer. David O. Russell has yet to actually do anything as a director that I would find notable. "The Fighter" was decent but not memorable and "Silver Linings Playbook" I really liked until the last twenty minutes which I thought were kind of stupid. This is Russell's biggest film in scale but I just couldn't abide by the sporadic editing and the convoluted plot.

Book Thief: This movie wasn't overrated y the critics so much as it was overrated by the movie goers. Every person I talked to who saw this movie absolutely loved it and I was underwhelmed. It has ELAIC ("Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close") syndrome. That is when you take a book that is really theme heavy and thought provoking and make a movie that touches lightly on those things without actually doing anything significant. It's almost a rough draft of a good movie. I could tell when I watched "Extremely Loud" that the book was really good even if the movie wasn't and later on I went to read the book and discovered that to be the case. In this situation, I read the book first and could tell from watching the movie that this was another example of the same. It's a movie that makes you want to read the book but not rewatch the movie.

Spring Breakers+: This one's popularity I can only determine via time spent on Tumblr where it seems to be rather well-liked. Personally, I'm still recovering from this movie. It wasn't bad but it wasn't exactly good. It does make you hate humanity though.

Movies I Didn't Like:

Romeo And Juliet+: . . . well, the costumes and sets were really nice! Unfortunately, the acting was weak overall and as much as I love "Downton Abbey", Julian Fellowes' adaption of the script was actually kind of painful for me to watch. I spent a lot of the movie saying, "This dialogue sounds wrong" and "I don't remember this scene."

Mortal Instruments+: I feel the need to mention this movie because I actually did read the first three books in the series back in the day. I think the first one came out with I was 17 or something so I was on the very end of the age range for these books and they are highly derivative but I found them relatively enjoyable. This movie, on the other hand, was awful. A huge part of that was the casting. Not a single actor could deliver a joke without it sounding like a parody or a line that sounds weirdly sincere and then Jonathon Reyes Myers played the bad guy and oh boy did he ham it up. The pacing of the movie was dizzying and the effects were pretty silly. The one advantage: AFI songs.

Sharknado+: Just kidding. This movie is awesome.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Top 10 Favorite Satans

It's more than a little shameful that I haven't written anything since June and I'm well aware of this. No movie reviews. No costume analysis. No totally random pop culture critiques. No personal nonsense  For a while I thought it was because of a lack of things to write about but now I can see that that is the symptom and not the cause. Every spare second of time that I have had in the last few months has been filled. If I haven't been running off to Washington DC, seeing musicals in New York or Boston, getting my colonial history on in Salem (one of my favorite New England towns) or rocking out to one of my all-time favorite bands in Nowheresville, New Jersey, I have been parking it in front of my computer filling out endless job applications. Of course, sometimes the end result of filling out job applications is the acquisition of a job and while I am super happy with said new job, I am now working two part time jobs resulting in over 50 hours a week which leaves little time for pop culture but a lot of time to brag about my adventures to coworkers.

The only thing I felt provoked to write about in the last few months in terms of pop culture has been about music, the only thing I have had any time for and that's mainly because of how much time I have been spending in my car. I thought about writing about how the rock genre is floundering in the 2010s (and the punk genre is dying) or something about the emotional connection one can develop with music but I haven't had time to research the first and I basically wrote the other one off as something for my personal journal. Other than that I've been managing to SLOWLY work my way through "Downton Abbey" which would be great for a costume analysis if I had any desire at all to get that many screencaps. And I really, really don't.

So instead, I'd like to talk to you about Satan.

He's one of my favorite literary characters, he's an element in a lot of people's religious beliefs, and he's very open to interpretation leading to all sorts of Devils in literature, film, television, and music. With Halloween, my favorite holiday as I wrote about last year, only recently past, the Devil has spent a bit of time on the forefront of people's minds and his horns on the top of people's heads (including mine) so I figured it might be interesting to rack my brain for some of my favorite versions of Old Scratch. He has looked like everything from an incomprehensible Nightmare Fuel beast to the mulleted and red-skinned finger-puppet on my bookshelf to Elizabeth Hurley and has an ever-changeable personality to match.

10. Beelzebub from "Beelz" by Stephen Lynch

The Devil has had a lot of influence in music. Some think he invented the rock genre (which isn't true but try telling the former Pope that). He has however been running with Van Halen, been given sympathy by the Rolling Stones, and apparently, fathered musical comedian Stephen Lynch. In the song "Beelz" off Lynch's second album The Craig Machine, Lynch starts by describing a fairly typical menacing interpretation of Lucifer before quickly flipping into a high pitched and feminine, "My name is Satan!" Beelzebub, but you can called him Beelz, describes himself physically in terms that seem conducive to a lot of the conventional ideas: goatee, horns, hooves. The album art even has a picture of him as a red-faced and horned stereotype and aside from Beelz's girly voice, he does seem to like typical evil things for the Devil. Of course, he also has some more unique hobbies including romantic walks, watching Fox News, and being a Red Sox fan. While I may not be a fan of baseball, as a part-time Bostonian it's nice to know that someone down there likes us.

9. The Devil from Tim Timebomb's Rock N Roll Theater

Sometimes the Devil doesn't come in the form of some kind of beast. One time the Devil came in the adorable form of a pink-suited Davey Havok with a John Waters-esque pedostache. Kind of a ham, as many devils are, he doesn't want to torture sinners so much as he wants to party with them and stage elaborate song and dance numbers. In the first episode of what will hopefully be more of Tim Timebomb's Rock N' Roll Theater, the devil is perfectly happy to be BFF's with our sinner main character, Dante Wison, and get him laid all in admiration for the debauchery he lived in prior to his sudden demise. But don't ever try to usurp him and fire his elevator girl. He may seem pretty harmless but he knows how to give you exactly what you deserve.

8. Satan from Dante's Inferno

One of the oldest interpretations of the Devil happens to also be one of the more unique and has been rarely built upon by all the literature, media, and music that has come after it. The Devil in Dante's Inferno can be found in the very bottom of the ninth and last level of hell, the level reserved for the traitorous, a level covered in ice that freezes the tears of its inhabitants. Physically, the Devil is a three-headed monstrous beast bearing the heads of who Dante considered to be three of the biggest traitors in history at the time: Brutus, Cassius, and right in the center place of honor, red-faced Judas. Satan is huge and ugly with bat-like wings that seem like they are trying to escape and spends his time crying tears of blood while chewing up sinners in his three mouths. Instead of being a scary figure or a manipulative one, this devil is portrayed as being intimidating but kind of ashamed and depressed, and, compared to his other representations, kind of pathetic. He's just another repenting sinner which makes this interpretation particularly contrary to most of the other ideas about Satan.

7. Satan from South Park

It's far more common for Satan to take on minions than it is for him to date but I guess if he's going to settle down, it would make sense for him to do so with an evil dictator. Saddam Hussein's ex-boyfriend is another one of those traditional red-skinned, horned monsters but don't let his appearance fool you. He can be pretty cuddly (although you probably wouldn't want to actually cuddle him unless you're one of his boyfriends). Sometimes he grants wishes to people who help him or decorates Hell for Christmastime to cheer up the sinners and he's actually pretty sensitive and nice. He puts on his scary face once in a while but it's pretty much an act. He always seemed to be less vengeful and more like just another one of the condemned, making him one of the Satans who is most similar to Dante's Satan. But Dante's Satan never put on a sexy schoolgirl costume. So there's that.

6. Kyubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica

I'm gonna have to walk you through this one, especially if you have never watched an anime. Kyubey is not technically the Devil (although I could actually be wrong) but his role in the story is that of the Devil in the classic Faustian tale. He requests servitude from foolish victims in exchange for a wish and, of course, makes it seem like the payment will not be too bad and may actually be kind of a good time. No one knows the error of their desires until it is too late and he comes to get what he wanted. Hiding behind an innocent cat-like exterior with an unchanging expression and an equally cute voice, he almost seems more like a cousin of Hello Kitty than a creature who is out to feed off vulnerable girl's emotions and ultimately bring about the end of mankind to further his own goals. But he is. So don't make deals with talking creatures that look like Pokemon. 

5. Professor Woland from The Master And Margarita

For another Devil from the category of the "chilling with the humans" type, let us go to the Soviet Union. Woland is angered by the literary elite and their fervently atheist views and part of the reason why he seems to go there is to mess with both the people in power who don't believe in him the most and the greedy bourgeoisie. Strangely enough he also wants to throw a formal ball for all his famous sinners and, if she can endure the party, give an opportunity to a woman named Margarita to be with the man she loves. This Satan is still kind of arrogant and likes to punish sinners but he is not unfair when it comes to punishments and rewards. Physically, he takes on the form of a dark-suited man with a limp and metal capped-teeth and a funky eye although a lot of people can't agree on just how he appears. Unfortunately, Woland is frequently overshadowed by his team of crazy assistants and his motives are unclear a lot of the time so he only takes spot number 5.

4. Hades from Disney's Hercules

As often happens with Disney, the villain is the coolest character in the movie. Hades' goal is simple: overthrow Zeus, take over Mt. Olympus, and maybe pick up some souls along the way. He's a fast-talking deal maker, has frequently had enough of everyone's shit, and is kind of the sassy gay best friend to Megara, a woman whose soul he got in a deal. He also has some of the best deadpan lines in the film. For instance, when asked how things are in the Underworld he says casually, "We'll, they're just fine. You know, a little dark, a little gloomy, and, as always, full of dead people. What are you gonna do?" In an interesting contrast to most interpretations, Hades is blue-skinned and has hair made of a blue flame but turns orange and red when angered. He also rocks a grey toga with a little skull pin on it and has smoke instead of feet. He's a little uptight a lot of the time but maybe sometime he can steal a girl in a field and feed her some pomegranate. I hear that works out well for him.

3. Lucifer from The Devil's Carnival

"I'm not in the business of murdering innocent children. That's God's jurisdiction. I deal only with the guilty" may be one of the best Devil quotes ever. Unlike a lot of modern Devils, Lucifer has the appearance of a more ancient humanoid beast which correlates so well with his personality. He has the very calm demeanor of one who has seen and done it all and spends most of his time seated in his throne, letting his circus performer minions deal out punishments he has set. He may not be very friendly but he is logical to the point where you can't help but agree with him on the points he brings up. By the end he seems to have found renewed interest in his job with the goal of overtaking Heaven but I guess we'll have to wait for The Devil's Carnival 2 (whenever the hell that's coming, no pun intended) to find out how that goes. Oh, and he also has a wonderful bass-baritone singing voice.

2. The First Evil from Buffy The Vampire Slayer

The Buffy universe has a slightly different construction of its afterlife and theistic ideas than the conventional Judo-Christian set-up and as such, its Devil figure is also unique. The First is an incorporeal entity that can assume the form of dead people (including vampires and resurrected people), a power that allows for the ultimate in psychological manipulation. It has existed before people, before even the Old demons, before time perhaps. The First has one main goal: to throw the balance of good and evil in favor of the evil. As with all Devil figures, it cannot be killed, only suppressed, so the next time you start having a conversation with dead people, you shouldn't ask questions, just pick up and move. You probably live on a Hellmouth (I hear there's one in Cleveland). 

1. Satan from Paradise Lost

Okay, so it's kind of an obvious first choice but I would argue that it's still less obvious than if I had given Satan of The Bible the number one spot (and he really doesn't deserve it; however if I made a list of my favorite versions of God, Old Testament God would definitely make that list). The fact is, when I first read some of this poem when I was in high school, I was immediately struck by how John Milton portrayed Lucifer. He's written more like an anti-hero than anything else in his desire to be equal with God and his subsequent jealousy over Adam and Eve is more relatable than deplorable. He may be kind of arrogant but he is not unlikable. You love him and hate him simultaneously and I really think it was this interpretation of the Devil that made a lot of the other ideas on this list possible. Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven, indeed.

Some other notable examples:
* Peaches from Rocko's Modern Life
* The Devil who went down to Georgia
* Damien from The Omen

Now get behind me.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Some Thoughts On "Much Ado About Nothing."

More like Much Ado About Alcoholism, amirite?!

Ignore that (but seriously, there's so much drinking in this movie; I really marvel at all the character's livers and mine is not unimpressive itself).

Anyway, I find that I feel most provoked to write about movies that I really highly anticipate and that I feel some sort of strong personal affection for conceptually before I have even seen it. I felt this way about Les Miserables since I love the book and the musical and Victor Hugo is one of my favorite authors and the cast was intriguing and allow the reasons to continue on into obscurity. This was why I had so many thoughts about it when it finally saw it and why I could write about it with at least some level of (precieved) authority.

Much Ado About Nothing was another movie like this for me. It's directed by Joss Whedon, it's Shakespeare, in particular Shakespeare where the main relationship is a couple who snarks at each other, it's practically an experiment having been shot in a week and at Whedon's house, and it has a cast of actors that made my jaw drop containing many actors whose presence alone in a movie would be an influencing factor in my seeing it. So yes, I've been counting the days and reblogging the GIFs.

I saw it this afternoon after a half hour journey to the city (well, the nearest approximation of a city that my state can manage) because although I live in a large suburb, our 12 screen movie theater only manages to play the three biggest blockbusters in both 2D and 3D and the token family movie of the week. For the reference, the theater I drove to had 15 screens so it wasn't much bigger. The theater itself was curiously full of old people with only one couple in their 30s near my age range. I was probably the youngest person in the theater in retrospect until some younger people trickled in five minutes into the film proper.

So what was my general impression of the film? I liked it a lot. It was not perfect by any means but it was certainly something I was happy to have seen and would see again many times. When it comes to breaking the film down, with the black and white film, the simple costumes that very well may have been from the actors closets, and the single but beautiful location (all elements influenced by the minimal budget and time restraints) I found myself mostly focusing on three elements: the direction, the acting, and how the Shakespeare was adapted to make this particularly production unique.

The direction was mostly good. Mostly. There were a lot of Whedon trademarks like shots through windows, things happening in mirrors, a good use of background and foreground space and these are all things I have no problem with. My favorite scene from a directorial standpoint was the funeral procession scene which I thought was shot beautifully, staged well, and even had the original music to finish off creating the perfect mood.

Not every shot was gold however. When Benedick is giving his soliloquy about how he will never find a perfect woman and marriage is useless, he is running up and down the stairs as part of an exercise routine. I don't necessarily have a problem with this concept but the way it was shot was terrible. It felt very much like a home movie with the camera either directly in front of or behind him and far too close. I have never once wondered what it would be like to get a piggy-back ride from Alexis Denisof but now I have a good idea of how it feels.

Another problem that occurred a few times was that there were a few scenes that focused for a long time on a particular stationary character and the camera was moving very slowly as if the shot was supposed to be steady but wasn't by fault of human error. Basically, a tripod would have been nice because this also added to the sort of home-spun feel that I felt took away from the movie far more often than it contributed. I was also not a fan of the Dutch angles during the shots of the acrobats at the masquerade party. It felt unnecessary and didn't quite mesh with the rest of the action in the scene.

The editing at times was also jarring. Twice during the film there are fades to white which never really looks natural unless someone in passing out or it's a science fiction movie. Yes, they occurred at the end of fairly crucial scenes but they didn't feel any more significant than the rest of the main action. The white screen almost blanks one's mind of what has happened and the next scene comes on so fresh that you are lost. There were a few other awkward editing bits, mostly scenes that should have been edited down a bit after lingering on the same image for too long (see: the movie poster shot), but those were the worst for me.

Now as for the acting, no one did poorly but there was definitely a gradient of performances. When performing Shakespeare the goal should be to make it sound like regular talking, not reading poetry off a card (even if sometimes you are reading sonnets in the work). For me the two actors who stuck out the most to me in terms of mastery of the language were Clark Gregg as Leonato and Reed Diamond as Don Pedro. They weren't actually in super lead roles but every time either of them was in a scene, they were the ones I was focusing on.

Both Amy Acker as Beatrice and Alexis Denisof as Benedick did well although Acker definitely out-shined Denisof. Overall, she just sounded more comfortable with the dialogue. Her "If I were a man" speech was definitely the highlight of her performance for me. They definitely have good chemistry and they are both still great at physical comedy. The theater I was in was fairly limited in their laughter at dialogue scenes but when Denisof was rolling around in the grass, the theater was in hysterics. They also actually gasped when Beatrice fell down the stairs and I'll admit that I did too; that was a really realistic fall.

Fran Kranz as Claudio was fine and definitely at his best when he had to be very emotional. I don't think it's just residual Dollhouse feelings when I say that when Fran Kranz is mad or sad or overjoyed, you really empathize with him. I mean, I knew Hero wasn't being unfaithful to Claudio and yet, when he was yelling at her about how she cheated on him, I found myself wondering how she could do such a thing too. Jillian Morgese as Hero I honestly have nothing to say about and it's not because she was terrible or anything. I'm struggling to remember if Hero had more than a few lines at all.

Nathan Fillion as Dogberry was great. It bothers me a lot when the fool character in a Shakespeare play is done too over the top and silly and Fillion's performance was the opposite. He played it really deadpan and serious which is even funnier to me than the flamboyant comedy thing. He and Tom Lenk as Verges would make a great buddy cop series.

Sean Maher as Don John was better than I expected, not because I necessarily had a preconceived notion about how Maher would be at Shakespeare but because I never would have really pictured him as a villain. Like how Nathan Fillion kept to a low-key performance, Maher wasn't all maniacal laughter and evil light. He was far more the chessmaster who can play sincere when he's lying to your face and I liked that.

As for the other actors, some of them could have used work but most just weren't particularly memorable.

And onto the last element, the adaption choices. To speak briefly on the things I mentioned before as being dependent on budget and time: the black and white film was inconsequential to me and thankfully didn't come off as some sort of silly artistic statement, there was nothing particularly weird or wrong with the costumes (aside from the fact that Hero chose to get married in something she had just lying around; that was a bit strange), and the location worked almost the whole time. The only complaint I have about the location was the fact that the police station really did look like a thrown together space in one of Joss's less-used rooms. It looks almost like they just put some wanted posters on the wall and called it a night. The positive thing I can say is that they really utilized the space and got a lot of great shots out of it.

The biggest addition to this adaption is the back-story between Benedick and Beatrice that I really go back and forth on. The movie has created this idea that Benedick and Beatrice have actually had a one night stand prior to the events of the story and that they also had sex during the masquerade ball. The very first scene of the movie is of Benedick putting his pants on and quietly leaving Beatrice in bed while she pretends to be asleep. The implication seems to be that by day they hate each other but they can ignore that once enough alcohol is applied. One of the things that bothers me about this is that based on Beatrice's character, I can't quite decide if this is in character for her. It's definitely in character of Benedick to try to get her in bed but I don't know if it is for her to agree. Maybe if she's really drunk? The other thing about this scene that bothers me is that I can't decide if this adds more plausibility to their underlying feelings or less. Are they drunken hookups for each other because deep down there is a genuine attraction and respect for each other that blossoms into love or is it really just a shallow thing that turns into a shallow thing in the daylight? I can't decide but I know the movie is trying to tell me it's the former. I think I just need to stop deconstructing it and just take it the way it was intended.

One hilarious addition to the story is that when Don John's two henchman are chatting about the trick they just played on Claudio, making him believe Hero was cheating on him, they insult the prince and are arrested for it while they were smoking a joint. The entire time they are getting convicted of slander, it's actually hilarious that the joint is just ignored entirely. I don't even see this as a directorial oversight. I see this as another joke on the police force's ineptness. They see two people breaking drug laws and book them for a few minor slanderous remarks instead. There's also the addition of Dogberry and Verges locking themselves out of there car when they try to leave the estate which is just delightful.

Other than that, there weren't too many drastic changes to the original idea or text and in one case this was really awkward. After the scene where Claudio calls out Hero for cheating on him, a scene that is slut-shaming in itself but not wrong if you think of it as him shaming her specifically for cheating on him (and right before their wedding) and not for any sex she may have had before they got together, Hero is heartbroken and Leonato's response to this is to tell her that she'd be better off dead for being such a disgrace. I would like to believe that this would be an awful thing to say to your daughter in Shakespeare's time as well but in this modern context it is literally unbelievable. I guess there's nothing to be done about the original script but, man, is it difficult to watch. Also, the your-douchebaggery-killed-my-daughter-so-now-you-have-to-marry-her-cousin thing: really odd in a modern context but a lot less awkward that the scene I just mentioned.

The only other thing I can think to mention is the music which was simple but effective in composition and used Shakespeare's songs from the play anyway so I can't say much there. Oh, and I loved that Maurissa Tancharoen actually appeared at the party singing after a minute of me thinking the music was just being played on an iPod. Surprise lounge singer!

I think that sums everything up. In conclusion, it's definitely worth your time.

And look I didn't mention the Fred/Wesley ship in Angel once during this review! Or how using their actors to play the leads in the movie sometimes made me think that Fred and Wesley actually got a happy ending instead of both dying horribly on the show!