Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Deliriously Delicious Crossing of Fandoms

Mmmmmm. Ready for this?
Doctor Who:

(Yeah, everybody knows about this one, but anyway):

Sherlock Holmes:

Sherlock Holmes:

Doctor Who:

(Sherlock, The Doctor, and Papa Moffat)

Sherlock Holmes:

(just refreshing your memory):
Now for the truly delectable coincidence:

Huzzah for Fangirling all over Blogger!!!

Another Day, Another Paper

Maybe I shouldn't get into the habit of posting school assignments here, but oh well. This project was to watch a movie version of Hamlet and "discuss staging." Feel free to ignore this post.

For this assignment, I watched the 2009 made-for-television version of the Royal Shakespeare Company's 2008 stage rendition of Hamlet. My decision was entirely based on the fact that it starred David Tennant, a personal favorite actor of mine; but I wound up enjoying it for much more than just that.
The movie seems particularly suited to the analysis that is being asked of me, as it deviates from and concurs with the original in very interesting ways.
The costuming is modern. Bernardo and Marcellus wear police uniforms; Horatio wears a sports jacket. This provides sort of a new medium to work with; allowing the creators to use modern conceptions of dress to mold and form the viewer's opinion of a character. For instance, Hamlet begins the movie in a simple black suit and tie suited to his mourning; but as he descends into his 'madness,' he dons a slightly over-sized novelty t-shirt and worn jeans.
The setting is present-day as well, as far as that Claudius's political lackeys tend to wear blue-tooth devices, characters ride in cars rather than carriages, and everyone carries hand-guns instead of swords. This also provides for an artistically pleasing but highly distracting switch of camera angles from third-person omniscient to a crackly, grayscale security camera at various angles near the ceiling. It did play into the plot in a minor way, though. In Act 2, Scene two, just before one of Hamlet's soliloquies, all of the other characters leave the room. We switch to the security camera; the actor scans the room, spots the camera, rips it off the wall, and throws it out the window. The prince's next line, “Now I am alone,” takes on an entirely new meaning.
The use of Hamlet's soliloquies bears mentioning. They were very well delivered, which speaks volumes of Tennant's acting ability. Also, a number of them he delivered into a small camcorder, adding a kind of a vlog-type feel that makes more sense to a modern mind than the actor pacing around and talking to himself.
The original dialogue was left mostly intact; with a very few minor adjustments. Here and there an archaic word would be exchanged for it's modern counterpart. Lines were cut out of some very long, repetitive descriptions and soliloquies. A few scenes were rearranged for the sake of clarity, with great success. As a whole, it stayed very true to the original.
The biggest difference was in stage direction and acting style. Either the scripts we read today leave a good deal of movement to the imagination, or the actors on the stage at the Globe Theatre stood very still, delivering their lines with minimal motion or physical communication. In the version I watched, actors and actresses move around comfortably, embrace, add little hand gestures and such; making the whole thing seem much more natural. These things also helps interpret meaning and portray a character's personality when the language is obscure; and add new, fresh meaning to the dialogue. The scene when Laertes takes his leave of his sister Ophelia and their father Polonius towards the beginning of the play is a good example of this. When Polonius begins to give his parting advice to his son. By Laertes' and Ophelia's manner, a rolling of eyes, a chiming in in unison with their father here and there, we understand that Polonius's long-winded counsel is familiar, frequent, and repetitive. Without changing the lines, the scene takes on a kind sarcasm and hijinks that makes it easier to understand.
The actors themselves add by their acting, as must needs be, their own new take on the characters. Horatio becomes gruff but lovable, further affirming my positive opinion of him. Polonius looses all that is sinister and becomes wise, foolish, doddering, comical, and dear. Gertrude shows real remorse that almost makes us forgive her. Rosencratz and Guildenstern are gullible, unintelligent, and overarchingly effeminate, which almost makes them interesting. Ophelia overacts, turning one of my favorite characters from the play into something utterly insufferable. I responded to most of her lines by pressing the mute button on my remote. David Tennant adds some of his signature charm and quirk and playfulness, his quick, jumpy ways and his dark edge to the title character, really bringing Prince Hamlet to life.
There was a bit of dirtiness added that I didn't see as necessary, though I suppose movie-makers see it as an attempt to appeal to a modern audience. The play-within-a-play was rather vulgar, with one of the clowns wearing a tasteless pair of novelty boxers. When Ophelia lost her mind, I was blindsided by her suddenly and needlessly ripping off her dress. These things really don't add to the play at all, rather cheapen it.
With the exception of Ophelia, the casting was excellent, boasting a couple of well-known names. Using celebrity actors, however, has a downside. Their work may be truly brilliant, but for many viewers, their past roles eclipse their current, making the play more difficult to follow. If, in your mind, you can only think of what was supposed to be dastardly Claudius as Jean-Luc Picard, it is unarguably more difficult to take the character seriously. If you think you hear The Doctor speaking every third time Hamlet opens his mouth, it is sure to be a distraction.
In conclusion, changing things like setting and dress, and acting style to something a modern viewer finds more familiar makes the play more accessible to him or her while still preserving the beauty of William Shakespeare's high, grand, gorgeous language. My twelve-year-old brother sat and watched the three-hour movie with me. He has never read Shakespeare, and has always expressed the heart-breaking, “Because it is Shakespeare, it is therefore boring,” opinion that seems so prevalent among today's youth. However, the setting was so familiar, the acting so clear, that he followed quite well and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

.................I need a vacation.
I'm tired in my bones and in my brain and in my heart. A nap doesn't fix that. A good long vacation, someplace cool and sparsely populated, pretty scenery and leisure time would. I wish.
Life is pretty crazy right now, if you hadn't guessed. School is taking up most of my brain. Finally finished Hamlet, though I still have to write a paper on it and watch a movie version. David Tennant just did a version though, so that's okay. ;)
Stressing over dance stuff, because I'm a ditz and I can never remember to schedule preschooler practices for a Wednesday night before Wednesday actually rolls around, so the widdles aren't getting the practice they need; and 'cause there's a practice scheduled on November sixth for the thirteen people involved in the Christmas dance. Problem there? I still haven't choreographed the stupid thing. It's just plain not working. No Joy to work with, can't work with Corrinne to save me because she doesn't focus and she gets intimidated trying to choreograph with me. The song doesn't lend itself to the number of people who want to be in it, but I've already advertised what song we're doing and GAH!! Lol. :)
And then there's Sherlock. Not that that's adding to the stress. Actually, I think it's partly keeping me sane. Reading Sherlock books and researching Sherlock timelines and working on the fanfiction-esque story I'm writing about Sherlock. It's hush-hush, though, 'cause I'm seriously serious about publishing it, possibly for the first time in my life. I'm not even gonna post the title here, because thus far I'm the only person on the internet to have the idea and I want it to stay that way. And there's my muse, Benedict Cumberbatch playing Sherlock Holmes on the new BBC series, where Sherlock is a tech-savvy, nicotine-patch-using darling. How darling? This darling. And this and this and this and this and this darling. You'll want to mute that last one, as it's set to irritating music. But anyway.
But all of (school, dance, Sherlock, writing, etc.) that is just hiding or distracting from or in the background of what's really bothering me.
It's this God thing. I know, isn't it always a God thing with me?
It all comes from this deep conviction that American Christianity and the American Church just . . . isn't working. We aren't really doing the job we were given to do. Everything is over-complicated and compartmentalized and tainted with the consumerism of the culture around us. We've gotten too far away from what the Church, the Bride of Christ, was originally supposed to be.
And every time I'm at my church, I don't have rest. I want to be AnYwHeRe else.
And any time I'm in worship, well, it's complicated. I keep getting this weird feeling like something's off. And I keep thinking of this one Bible verse, where God tells the Israelites that he doesn't want their sacrifices, he wants their obedience.
So I'm starting to think that maybe this is God getting me ready for something Radical. That He's got a calling for my life that has something to do with doing church and Christianity differently that what has come to be expected.
And my parents are really enthralled with ideas like home church; anything that's more real, more like Christ than a multi-million dollar building and Sunday mornings.
And then I started reading Ezekiel. First few chapters, the parts about God calling Ezekiel. I might as well quote it here:
Ezekiel 2 “Stand up, son of man,” said the voice. “I want to speak with you.” 2 The Spirit came into me as he spoke, and he set me on my feet. I listened carefully to his words. 3 “Son of man,” he said, “I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me. They and their ancestors have been rebelling against me to this very day. 4 They are a stubborn and hard-hearted people. But I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ 5 And whether they listen or refuse to listen—for remember, they are rebels—at least they will know they have had a prophet among them.
6 “Son of man, do not fear them or their words. Don’t be afraid even though their threats surround you like nettles and briers and stinging scorpions. Do not be dismayed by their dark scowls, even though they are rebels. 7 You must give them my messages whether they listen or not. But they won’t listen, for they are completely rebellious! 8 Son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not join them in their rebellion. Open your mouth, and eat what I give you.”
9 Then I looked and saw a hand reaching out to me. It held a scroll, 10 which he unrolled. And I saw that both sides were covered with funeral songs, words of sorrow, and pronouncements of doom.

Ezekiel 3

1 The voice said to me, “Son of man, eat what I am giving you—eat this scroll! Then go and give its message to the people of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and he fed me the scroll. 3 “Fill your stomach with this,” he said. And when I ate it, it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.
4 Then he said, “Son of man, go to the people of Israel and give them my messages. 5 I am not sending you to a foreign people whose language you cannot understand. 67 But the people of Israel won’t listen to you any more than they listen to me! For the whole lot of them are hard-hearted and stubborn. 8 But look, I have made you as obstinate and hard-hearted as they are. 9 I have made your forehead as hard as the hardest rock! So don’t be afraid of them or fear their angry looks, even though they are rebels.” No, I am not sending you to people with strange and difficult speech. If I did, they would listen!
10 Then he added, “Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself. 11 Then go to your people in exile and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ Do this whether they listen to you or not.”
12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard a loud rumbling sound behind me. (May the glory of the Lord be praised in his place!)[a] 13 It was the sound of the wings of the living beings as they brushed against each other and the rumbling of their wheels beneath them.
14 The Spirit lifted me up and took me away. I went in bitterness and turmoil, but the Lord’s hold on me was strong...., 17 “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. 18 If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. 19 If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me.
20 “If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins. None of their righteous acts will be remembered, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. 21 But if you warn righteous people not to sin and they listen to you and do not sin, they will live, and you will have saved yourself, too.”
So yeah. Not that I'm a prophet or whatever. But it feels suspiciously like God is saying something to me through these passages. I'm praying and searching, and a bit distracted. Trying to figure this whole thing out. Isn't that what life is about?

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Paper Written for School on the Topic of my Most Recent Literary Crush

So many remember Sherlock Holmes as first love. For some literally, for others merely literarily. The tall thin man with the hooked nose and this long fingers pressed together, eyes closed in thought. The quivering energy and the dizzying intellect. The dark, almost sinister, man we don't really understand, as seen by the friendly, commonplace man we know completely. And it's not just that we know him, it's that we are him. When it comes to Holmes, we are all simply Watson. We see the Man through a mist of myth and mystery. The living thing becomes the stuff of legend.
Why are we so enthralled with Sherlock Holmes? Where does he fit into our psyche? We do not identify with him, which is usually the basis of a truly great character. Quite the opposite, really. We are drawn to him because he is so foreign to us. All of his darkness and enigma and untouchability is what makes us love him.
There is a whole class of characters like him. From Jay Gatsby to The Doctor to Dr. Gregory House, we are compelled and enthralled (and in love) with what we do not understand. Which makes sense when you think about it. Why else would mystery novels (and movies, and television series) be so overwhelmingly popular. How else did Agatha Christie publish 66 mystery novels and 14 short story collections during her lifetime? Why are there more than 175 Nancy Drew novels and over three-hundred devoted to The Hardy Boys? Not to forget our Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short stories and novels about the detective are some of the most beloved, the most remembered, the most retold, and the most reinvented of all time. It's something we all, as human beings, have in common. To put it simply, we love a good mystery.
This is why plots like that of Doyle's “The Red-Headed League” fascinate us. Information is doled out to us in measured, teasing doses, stringing us along viciously. Yet willingly, obediently even, we eat it up, hungry for more. Through Doctor Watson's blind eyes, we see the same things Holmes does, but we understand nothing until we are told. We are frightened, what is coming? We are waiting in the dark with Watson, comforted by the presence of his revolver, straining to hear anything beyond the breathing of our companions, wracking our brains to attempt to understand what it is we are waiting for. We are disturbed at Holmes' description of the criminal, we wonder how it is he knows of him. We wait, holding our breath in childlike faith for the brilliant detective to reveal all to us. Then, to hear the name of the culprit, to learn how Sherlock solved the mystery. We realize how blind we truly were! How could we have not seen, how did we not also figure out the truth?
This is mystery. The question, the agonizing wait, the build in suspense, the revelation. Exposition, rising action, climax, denouement. Inching towards edge of our seat, relaxing again. This is why we love Sherlock Holmes.