An Odd Trio of Films

After watching Season 1 of Slings and Arrows, it was natural to want to watch a production of Hamlet. We recently watched, and didn’t love, the David Tennant one, which was an unpleasant hybrid of a stage production and a film. We watched Branagh’s completist Hamlet a few years ago. That one bugs me more than a little, as I don’t think the unedited, Frankenstein-ian full text was ever meant to be, or should be, produced in its entirety. And so we settled on, please don’t judge us, the 2000 film with Ethan Hawke. And we really enjoyed it. This modern-media overload version of Hamlet made some interesting choices, and ones that played to the strength of film, rather than just filming a stage-type production. Hawke was fine as Hamlet, as were Gertrude and Claudius. It is a rare production that portrays Gertrude as more than a pawn. I thought Julia Stiles did a fine modern Ophelia, and the casting of Bill Murray as Polonius was interesting, given his comedic past and dramatic present. Most memorable, though, was Liev Schreiber as Laertes. Often Laertes is portrayed simply as a weakling or fool. Not so, here. Schreiber brings a physical presence and palpable sense of menace to the role. Worthwhile if you are a fan of the play, and at less than two hours, a decent expenditure of time.

My husband has become increasingly enamored of local band Cloud Cult, so we snapped up a used copy of the documentary, No One Said It Would Be Easy. It’s charming, but slow and a little meandering at first, rather like the lead singer/songwriter Craig Minowa. But as the documentary continues, and the several band members and associates contribute their memories, art and interpretations, the documentary becomes rather like one of their songs–layered, auditory, visual, weird, beautiful and touching. There is one particularly sad part of the band’s history I won’t spoil here. Another coda to the dvd is that cellist Sara Young and her husband Adrian, their manager, chose to leave the band after the documentary was completed. On screen, theirs was a compelling story, as they talked about and were shown through the process of having two children while playing and touring with the band. It must have been a difficult change, as Sara had been with Craig through all the permutations of the band, yet I’m sure her work/life split will be far more balanced.

If you haven’t heard Cloud Cult before, give them a listen.

For a family film, I took 7yo Drake and 5yo Guppy to see Rio, no relation to the Angry Birds game. We saw it at the Riverview, a discount theater with delicious popcorn topped with real butter, and that was the best part of the experience for me. I was glad not to have paid full price or even standard matinee price. I didn’t feel bad about napping for the last 30 minutes or so of the film. Here’s a good guide to whether you would like the film:

Does the lost bird get found? He can’t fly at the beginning of the movie; can he fly by the end? Do the geeky scientist and awkward librarian fall in love? Do the male and female birds end up together? Does the villain have dark skin? Do the actors who voice the comic relief have dark skin, as opposed to those who voice the central characters?

If you hesitate over any of these questions, then you might not be as bored by Rio as I was. But the boys were delighted, and it was a fine way to spend a rainy afternoon on the cheap.

2 Responses to “An Odd Trio of Films”

  1. merie Says:

    Another fan of the Ethan Hawke Hamlet here! I also really like the Australian Macbeth from a few years ago - definitely not a purist!

  2. George Says:

    I did like the 2000 Hamlet, but I thought it kind of fizzled in Act V.

    I like Branagh’s version better than you do apparently: I find it useful to have a complete version that is well done for reference. Sure, using the entire text is too much, but SOMEONE had to do it, and that one works pretty well almost all of the time.

    Slings and Arrows was really good, except for the part where the guy they thought couldn’t act finally acts and everyone is impressed except me.