Tag Archive: Shakespeare

RICHARD II by William Shakespeare – directed by Rupert Goold  (BBC Two)

Richard loses his crown.

This is why you pay out for a TV license. Well, as I live in Italy, I don’t actually have one but if I was still in the UK I’d happily cough up the fee to fund quality productions like this.

Okay, a play written in 1595 is not exactly contemporary drama yet when Patrick Stewart as the aptly named Gaunt pronounces on England’s fading glory, he could easily be making a speech about the state of the nation today:  “this dear dear land is now leased out….. that England, that was wont to conquer others, hath made a shameful conquest of itself.”  Continue reading



Continuing my list of the fifty Greatest British Cult Movies, here is my selection from 20 -11:

 20. KES  Ken Loach (1969)

One the most remarkable screen performances by a child actor. David Bradley plays Billy Casper, a bright, scrawny 15-year-old kid who is frequently bullied at home and at school but finds an outlet for his frustrations by keeping a pet kestrel. Based on a novel by Barry Hines, it is a moving and brilliantly observed study of hope amid the drabness of  working class life in Northern Britain.

19. SHAUN OF THE DEAD  Edgar Wright (2004)

The definitive modern day zombie movie with a fine comedy duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.  Good jokes about struggling to tell the real zombies from the ‘normal’ brain-dead citizens with plenty of surprisingly gory splatter effects. Continue reading


THOR – THE MOVIE directed by Kenneth Branagh

"Me, Thor. You, Jane"

Thor is a pretty silly movie but the fact that is was directed by ex-luvvie Kenneth Branagh intrigued me as it obviously did Natalie Portman since she accepted the role of  astrophysicist Jane Foster  without even seeing the script.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is an arrogant hot-headed hunk who must learn some humility before he can inherit the  crown of Asgard or win the heart of the comely damsel.

In the process he has to contend with a scheming half brother and a demanding father, Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins.  He must also learn to wield the mighty hammer Mjolnir in a more appropriate manner if he is to conquer the frost giants.

As far as superhero implements go, the hammer is about as far from a concealed weapon as you can get and a hard object to handle without looking like a contender in an athletics event. Poor Thor does his best on the basis that a good superhero never blames his tools.

The family feud and power play have certain comic book Shakespearean aspects which Hopkins in particular exploits to the full. This might also account for why Branagh decided to direct the movie (that and a hefty financial incentive!)

The most watchable scenes feature  Natalie Portman who, like George Eliot’s Miss Brooke in Middelmarch, demonstrates she has “the kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress”.  Despite her relatively drab wardrobe, she manages to look terrific; all the more irritating to see her swooning over Thor’s pumped up body (check out his workout tips). You’d hope she’d be be more discerning than this.

The best scenes of the movie are when the once mighty Thor is cast down to Earth hammer-less. The contrast  between Asgard and small New Mexico town is played out with some good deadpan humour.

It all ends with Thor gazing longingly down to Earth dreaming of Jane and wondering if he’s done enough to merit a sequel.

Bob Dylan is 70 today and thankfully,despite all the mountains of literature and analysis, he still remains an enigmatic and fascinating figure.

The fact that he keeps the media circus at arm’s length means that he has cleverly remained aloof from all the usual trappings associated with the cult of celebrity.

He seems to understand, perhaps instinctively, that, most of the time, the more you know about your heroes, the less interesting they become. In your imagination you can create a compelling  persona that could easily be destroyed by dull facts. One of the point of .Todd Haynes’ movie ‘I’m Not There’ is that everyone has their own idea of who the ‘real Bob Dylan’ is.

Dylan was not the voice of my generation. I put Joe Strummer and Steven Morrissey on this pedestal. They were the ones singing about the issues I could relate too – a loathing for the Thatcher regime and Royals, an understanding of the tiresome weight of boredom, small-minded prejudice and suburbia.

It was not so surprising that I didn’t immediately identify with Dylan’s protest songs. Martin Luther King was shot in 1968 on my 10th birthday and this was the same year that American involvement in the Vietnam War reached its peak. It is possible to protest against the US invasion or civil rights abuses retrospectively but it’s not the same thing.

I was aware of Dylan’s iconic status, of course. My older brother had his first albums and grew his hair into an untidy afro in time to go to the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. But the more I heard people say he was a true poet and visionary genius the more I was inclined to ignore him.

It’s a bit like Shakespeare for teenagers.  I had to study Othello for what were then called ‘O level’ English literature exam. Teachers seemed oblivious to the fact that we spotty adolescents were not interested in the insidious scheming of Iago or the jealous torment of The Moor; we were more preoccupied by the question of  if/when we were ever going to get laid. Continue reading

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