Much Ado About Nothing (2012 Joss Whedon Version): A Movie Review

much ado

Did you know that after he filmed Avengers, Joss Whedon made a modern adaptation of a Shakespeare play? It’s not surprising when you look into Joss’s personal history with Shakespeare. The cast of Buffy would often talk about how during the summer, they would hang out at Joss’s house and read Shakespeare plays. (Incidentally, I would gladly eat a heart in the marketplace to be a fly in the wall for those summers.)

This adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing has a wonderful cast.  Whedon alumni actors include: Clark Gregg and Ashley Johnson from Avengers (Johnson was the cute blonde waitress that Captain America saved), Nathan Filion and Sean Maher from Firefly, Reed Diamon and Fran Kranz from Dollhouse, Tom Lenk from Buffy, and Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof from Angel. Angel fans, grab your tissues because this will be the only chance to see Fred Burkle and Wesley Wyndham-Pryce get the happy ending they deserve.

There are many interesting things in this adaptation, aside from the fact that it’s set in the modern era. First of all, the film was shot in black and white, giving it the feel of an Old Hollywood movie.  The beginning of the film showes that Benedick and Beatrice were involved, which would explain their coarse behavior towards each other. When Hero and Claudio meet, it’s implied that they knew each other before Claudio went off to war, hence why they rush to get married so quickly.

Speaking of the war, it’s never stated outright what kind of war Benedick and Claudio came from, but it’s implied that it’s a mafia war, as Don John and his cohort are seen being led to Leonato’s house in zip-tie handcuffs. The mafia war implication serves as a reason for why Hero allegedly sleeping with someone else before her wedding was such a big scandal. She was accused of sleeping with the enemy!

The film highlights the main story arc between Claudio and Hero, putting their relationship to the test. When Hero fakes her death, she is seen watching Claudio’s remorse at her funeral from a distance. In spite of the fact that Don John tried to ruin Hero’s reputation and relationship, Claudio was ready to atone for his idiocy. (They even have a joke that involves a black woman glaring at Claudio while he says “I’ll hold my mind, were she an Ethiope.”)

In spite of how people may perceive the play, this is actually the best adaptation I’ve seen. Putting my fangirl bias towards all things Whedon aside, there’s this tendency for people to think that Much Ado is essentially a romantic comedy. It isn’t. The implication that Benedick and Beatrice were involved, but never married is there in the text. When Don Pedro asks Beatrice about Benedick, she says:

Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile; and I gave
him use for it, a double heart for his single one:
marry, once before he won it of me with false dice,
therefore your grace may well say I have lost it.

It also serves as the reason why she can’t marry Don Pedro. It’s a back-in-the-day thing, but since Benedick and Beatrice were involved, he had to marry her in order to make their relationship legit. It’s not a “boy meets girl” romantic comedy. It’s about two relationships that fell apart and need to be set right. Of course, since this is a modern adaptation, it’s also clear that Beatrice and Benedick still have feelings for each other.

Did I mention, by the way, that I love Amy Acker in this movie? She is a wonderful Beatrice and the chemistry she has with Alexis Denisof sizzles. They both have scenes that involve slapstick, the characters hiding or jumping around to eavesdrop on their friends’ conversations. It’s hilarious to watch. They may not have the strength that Kenneth Brannaugh and Emma Thompson put into their performances in the 1993 film adaptation of this play, but you can argue that this adaptation feels more intimate.

Even though not all the actors in this film have the nuance and gravity of classically trained Shakespeare actors (looking at you BriTanicK), the major actors all gave memorable performances. My favorite is Nathan Fillion’s version of Dogberry, who comes off like Richard Castle meets CSI Miami. He says all his lines with perfect seriousness, which makes scenes like this all the more hilarious:

Marry, sir, they have committed false report;
moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily,
they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have
belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust
things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves.

Overall, I highly recommend Shakespeare fans and Joss Whedon fans to watch this film. I also recommend to listen to the commentaries on the DVD. There’s with just Joss Whedon, who explains how they filmed the whole thing at his house. He is amazing with commentaries. Then there’s the cast commentary which basically has you laughing from start to finish.

Now, can we have an adaptation of another Shakespeare play with the cast from Buffy? Like say, James Marsters and Sarah Michelle Gellar in A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

#ThrowbackThursday: Has It REALLY Been 10 Years, High School Musical?

HighSchoolMusical_Jewel

I’m pretty sure that at 26, I’m probably too young to be saying this but…I’m getting old! There is no way that High School Musical happened ten years ago. Granted, I started college by the time the third movie came out, but it doesn’t feel like High School Musical came out ten years ago.

I mean, ten years ago, I was 16 years old. And I loved this musical. I had no idea that it would be the sensation that everyone would either love or hate. By the time I got to college, I stopped talking about it. Nowadays, I consider it (and the sequels) to be guilty pleasures. I occasionally listen to the songs and watching the 10th Anniversary Special last night made me feel majorly nostalgic.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years,though. 10 years ago, I was still in California, blissfully unaware that over the summer I would end up living in an entirely different state. I had my first kiss at 16. I still have the shirt I wore back then and yes, it still fits.

Even though nostalgia has become a major trend, hindsight reminds me that my past wasn’t all rainbows and puppies. While I remember being kissed at 16, I’d rather forget the guy who kissed me! I never thought, at 16, that I would be living in Texas and still trying to make a name for myself through my writing.

In reality, high school is not as fun or musical as TV likes to make it look. It’s less like High School Musical or Glee and more like The Hunger Games.  I was somewhat popular in my high school because I did the morning announcements. I had a boyfriend. Sort of. But I wasn’t as happy as you’d think. By the time I got to my senior year, I felt less like High School Musical and more like this song by Paramore:

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the thing I was missing most was God and the richness of my Catholic faith. When I became part of the community at the University of St. Thomas, God slowly came back into my life. I discovered Adoration, Daily Mass, remembered how to pray the Rosary again, and went to Confession more often. I eventually broke up with my high school boyfriend after being on and off for about 3 years and found better things to love.

In this stage of my life, I often get frustrated when I see my friends and relatives getting married, having babies, living on their own, while I’m seemingly stuck in the same place that I’ve been ever since I got out of college. But I have to remind myself that the only person I can compare myself to is myself. Am I better than the person I was yesterday? If the answer is yes, then I made progress.

Am I a better person than I was 10 years ago?

Most definitely. I no longer want the guy who gave me my first kiss. I’m a much better writer than I was back then. I have somewhat better taste in music and in musicals. But more importantly, I’ve allowed God to be part of my life. I’m honestly happier than I was at 16 because even though I don’t have all the status symbols that people associate with success, the interior change that I’ve gone through is much more significant.

But for old time’s sake, I’m just gonna yell this one more time…

WHAT TEAM?

WILDCATS!

WHAT TEAM?

WILDCATS!

WHAT TEAM?

WILDCATS!

WILDCATS!

GET’CHA HEAD IN THE GAME!

Picture copyright to Disney and is used for editorial purposes only.

Lent Day 9: For Such a Time as This

One of my favorite Old Testament books is the book of Esther. The Jewish holiday of Purim begins Saturday night. Today’s First Reading features Esther in a time of prayer. 

Sometimes, things happen that inspire us to change our perspectives, which Fr. Robert Barron talks about in his Lent Reflection. For Esther, she realized that it was no coincidence that she was chosen to become queen at a time when her people needed someone to save them from Haman’s genocide. Last year, it was no coincidence that the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II happened at the same year that Pope Benedict decided to abdicate and Pope Francis was elected.

Timing is everything and since God is the creator and master of time, it was His will that all of these things happened. To this day, I still wonder why Benedict chose to retire, even though I know that he wanted to retire before he was elected. He chose to be pope for eight years, setting the foundation for some changes in the Church that were more interior than exterior. Because of Benedict, the Mass has changed and I’m starting to forget the times before the new Roman Missal.

I’ll be honest when I say that I took him for granted at the time. #cradleCatholicproblems, I know. But I took the pope for granted even back as a kid when John Paul II was pope. I took both popes for granted for different reasons. When John Paul II was pope, I was a little kid who saw him as an old man. He was past his prime, struggling with Parkinsons, and I didn’t know any better. When Benedict became pope, I was a teenager and I was holding onto my faith during a really hard time, but the problem was I didn’t know what it really meant to be Catholic and there wasn’t really anyone around to help me because I was in public school. In college, I realized how amazing both of these popes were and I figured that Benedict would lead the church until God called him home.

Of course, that didn’t happen. And I’ll be honest: I cried when I heard the news. I knew the news could’ve been worse, but I had no idea that popes could choose to not be pope. I felt abandoned and confused. I wasn’t alone in how I felt, either. It was like Lent had started early. I still miss Pope Benedict today, but I always love seeing him, just knowing that he’s alive and well, even though he’s retired.

Fast forward to March 13, 2013.

I was in the living room, watching the Sistine Chapel’s chimney, waiting for the white smoke to come. So far, I have only seen black smoke and it felt like an answer was taking forever. I knew the times that the smoke was likely to appear, but that morning, it took forever

And then at 1:07PM CST (7:07 Vatican time), the white smoke finally came out.

I started dancing in my living room and I wasn’t the only one. St. Peter’s square was screaming and every Catholic on the internet was rejoicing. Ain’t no party like a Catholic party, people, because we are all connected through our shared baptism and when something like this happens, we can’t help but celebrate.

My mom told me that when God chose the pope in the conclave, he wasn’t just choosing a pope for the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, but that He also chose the new pope for me. God’s timing was working in my life because as I said before, the fact that there was going to be a new pope lifted me up from the sad part of my life. And this was before I even knew who the new pope was going to be.

My first impression of Pope Francis was “He’s kind of awkward and shy.” What I didn’t realize was that he was taking in the crowd and I soon learned just how not awkward or shy Pope Francis was.

Now while people think that Pope Francis is turning the Catholic Church upside-down, I’ll tell you right now, he’s not. The song is the same, but the way the song is played has changed. Think of it this way: if Jesus’s message is like the original version of the best song you’ve ever heard, every pope since then is that band that tries to make their best cover version of that song. Some have made horrible covers, some are okay, and some covers are as awesome as the original. John Paul II’s song was like the showstopping number of an amazing musical. Benedict’s song was a lot more quiet, like a piano sonata. Francis’s song has just begun, but I compare it to an indie pop song that made its way onto the Billboard Top 40. And all of them are equally beautiful in their own way.

But in the end, all popes are striving to sing the same song: follow the example of Christ and live out His message. 

Today, think about how God’s timing has worked its way into your life and pray for all the popes that have come before. Also, pray for Pope Francis, since he asked us so nicely.

Lent Day 2: The Virtue of Humility

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lent Reflection for today reflects on the virtue of humility. There’s a quote from Oscar Wilde that I love:

Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.

Now the best way to NOT be humble is to brag about how humble you are AKA Humblebragging. So how exactly can we practice the virtue of humility?

Read about saints who were the embodiment of humility or the writings of saints who emphasized humilty. Think Mother Teresa, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Paul, St. Augustine.

One of my friends recommended Josemaria Escriva’s “The Way” as something to read for Lent.

As for me…

Image

This book is one of my favorites. This has been with me since high school, back when I was seriously lost. Although at the time, the book was way beyond the reading level of a teenage girl, there were a lot of passages that helped me put things in perspective. As an adult, this book still holds up, only now I’m reading it with a different mindset. Back when I was 16, I read the book to find words of comfort. Now I read this book as my Lenten reading.

Song for today: The Litany of Humility by Danielle Rose