The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #37: Hamlet (2000)


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Rogues Guide to Shakes on Film

37. Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet (2000)

When it comes to presenting Shakespeare well on film, sometimes it just isn’t enough to be a pretentious twat.

Baz Luhrman has proven that once, and Michael Almereyda has proven that twice, the first time with Hamlet.

Hamlet 2000 poster.jpg

This Hamlet stars a really goofy knit-cap. Underneath it, unfortunately for this movie, was Ethan Hawke’s facial stubble. Even more unfortunately, Ethan Hawke was underneath all that.

Hamlet and his Stupid Hat

Clearly, this is one of those Hamlets where you’ll have to try to watch around the idiot playing Hamlet.

On paper, I should love this postmodern film, which sets Hamlet in New York City, in 2000, in a corporate context: Denmark is a Corporation, run by Hamlet’s uncle and his mother. The family lives in the Elsinore Hotel. Hamlet is a film student, and there is a meta-cinematic dimension to the way this Hamlet is imagined. There is so much potential in these choices.

The rhetoric of Claudius’s speech to Denmark works perfectly in a PR-saturated corporate world.

And Kyle MacLachlan’s Claudius seems grandiose in addressing Bill Murray’s thoughtful Polonius,

Hamlet Bill Murrayand Liev Schreiber’s lucid, powerful Laertes.

And then the scene moves to Hamlet.


Ethan Hawke acts with the intensity of a Fruit Roll Up being peeled from plastic.

Hamlet Yuck

Kyle MacLachlin, who I adore, will by the end of the movie seem bewildered to find himself outside of a David Lynch universe. By the final act, his Claudius mostly seems shell-shocked. I could try to rationalize this as a valid aesthetic choice.  Claudius is in shock that his impulsive plan (to kill his brother, to marry his sister-in-law, who he had secretly been in love with while his brother was alive, and gain the CEO-ship of Denmark) actually worked, but has actually brought him little satisfaction.

But so many of the actors look dulled with shock in this movie, or like they are trying to act their way out of a Quaalude haze. Or like they are trying to act with Ethan Hawke.

Hamlet Sam ShepardSam Shepard, another interesting casting choice, theoretically speaking (a Postmodern playwright acting in Shakespeare), plays the ghost of the father of Hamlet, but not persuasively. But we rely on Hamlet to let us know how frightening the ghost is, and Ethan Hawke forgot to wear his knit cap in that scene. Sam Sheperd as King Hamlet’s ghost is an opportunity squandered.

In time, with their contact with Hawke, almost everyone seems to be on the same soporific downers in this film.

Diane Venora portrays Gertrude as a bored socialite. Fine. Sure.


If only the play were called Polonius. Or Laertes. Or Ophelia.

Hamlet Julia Stiles Liev Schreiber

Julia Stiles does well as Ophelia, conveying a sense of vulnerability and sensitivity and … peculiar timing. Her Ophelia is struggling to have an identity. She looks nearly as pristine as a doll.

Hamlet Polonius OpheliaShe is being systematically crushed by the characters of Hamlet. Stiles clearly know what her lines mean, and she has to act with the affectless non-acting and occasional ham-acting of Ethan Hawke.

Hamlet Julie Styles and the Horrible Hawke

Besides Hamlet, Ophelia is the other virtuoso role in the play. Odd how Julia Stiles generally emotes well, yet her character has every cause for the stilted, affectless mode of most of the cast, since she is the recipient of so many gazes in this film, and is viewed at times as an outright art object by Hamlet.

Hamlet GazeThat is how Michael Almereyda seems to view humanity, though: not as a collection of human psyches and spirits, but as art objects for him to film doing Shakespeary things.

This Hamlet loves to watch his film footage from film school and other media, and all of it comes off as self-indulgent rubbish, like Hamlet is casually thinking of the movie he would like to make out of the poetry of his soliloquies. In other words, Almereyda interrupts his bad film of Hamlet to show us even more abysmal, shittier films. Such meta-cinematic play requires brilliance, and this film, alas and fuck, is not brilliant.

But clearly Almereyda and Hawke are convinced that they are.



John King (Episode, well, all of them) holds a PhD in English from Purdue University, and an MFA from New York University. He has reviewed performances for Shakespeare Bulletin.






Episode 221: There Will Be Fan Fiction 2 (The Revenge)


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Episode 221 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I share There Will Be Fan Fiction 2, a special edition of Jesse Bradley’s prose reading series, There Will Be Words.

This installment features the fan fiction of Shauna Basques (Jason Todd-era Batman), J. Bradley himself (The Mighty Ducks/Fatal Attraction crossover, obviously), Brontë Bettencourt (Frozen), A. C. Warner (Star Trek: The Next Generation, as read by me), and me (Flash Gordon).


Check out the first installment of There Will Be Fan Fiction, which featured Teege Braun writing Small Wonder, Jared Silvia writing King of the Hill, Stephanie Rizzo writing about a post-apocalyptic Lewis and Clarke, Genevieve Anna Tyrrell writing Dexter, and me, that is John King, writing a Benny Hill Show/Ace Frehley crossover that includes David Foster Wallace, Yoda, My Little Pony, and a hint of Cthulu.

Also check out J. Bradley’s latest book, Jesus Christ, Boy Detective, and here us talk about it back on episode 216.


Check out Brontë Bettencourt’s blog, 21st Century Brontë.

Episode 221 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #152: Casino Royale

The Curator of Schlock #152 by Jeff Shuster

Casino Royale

(The movie is shit.) 


Oh, I’m sorry. No clever sub-head this week. I dove down a rabbit hole that I should have steered clear away from.

What am I getting at? Where do I start? You know, I tend to view the cinema of the first decade of the 21st century with a kind of a ho-hum attitude, mainly due to the slew of remakes and reboots . Still, I think I’ve been unfair. After all, the oughts gave us the first two films of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy: Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Those two films corrected a problem I had with the original Tim Burton Batman, namely the plot point about the Joker being the one who murdered Batman’s parents. The screenwriter even warned Burton against adding that in, but Burton ignored him. Now those Burton Batman films have been eclipsed

The other triumph of 2000s cinema was the adaptation Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel. Why? Because it too eclipsed an earlier adaptation of Casino Royale, a 1967 parody film that is a festering turd of a movie. I’m using great restraint right now.


I try to keep this blog rated PG, but I’m really struggling today. I don’t understand how this movie got made. Some other company other than the Broccoli family must have secured the rights to the first Bond novel. Okay. Fine. So another studio decided to make a Bond movie. It wouldn’t be canon, but neither was Never Say Never Again and that wasn’t terrible. Oh, and they decided to make Casino Royale a parody of James Bond movies. Hey, nothing wrong with that. Austin Powers was a parody of James Bond and I found it hilarious.


But 1967’s Casino Royale went horribly wrong. When you parody something, you actually have to know something about what you’re parodying. It’s evident to me that no one who worked on this movie had ever read a Bond novel or even seen one of the Connery pictures. I guess Billy Wilder is to blame on this one. From what I’ve read, this is one of those screenplays that got lost in development hell. Ben Hecht had taken the first crack at it, opting for a straight adaptation of the novel. Billy Wilder would eventually rewrite it, changing it into a spoof. And apparently, Peter Sellers hired Terry Southern to write dialogue for his character that would outshine Orson Wells and Woody Allen.


Yes, Orson Wells and Woody Allen are in this motion picture. So is John Huston.  This is bizarre. Woody Allen insisted that he would not receive a writing credit of any sort for this movie. How kind of him. Peter Sellers got into a fistfight with the director, George McGrath. Peter Sellers also refused to star in scenes with Orson Welles because he was afraid/intimidated and/or was jealous that Welles got more attention from Princess Margaret during her visit to the set. Orson Welles also insisted on performing magic tricks in his scenes because why not. 


And then we have David Niven as a retired James Bond who ends being subjected to various seduction techniques by young women with bad Scottish accents.


What else? Cowboys and Indians show up during the films final brawl in the casino. A chimpanzee in a toupee eats soap bubbles. A flying saucer kidnaps Bond’s niece.

I can’t do this anymore.  Sometimes when you look into the abyss, the abyss looks back. Casino Royale is that abyss. I leave you with Orson Welles yelling at an English guy.



Jeffrey Shuster 1

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Aesthetic Drift #13: Young Kid in a Voting Booth

Aesthetic Drift #13 by Brett Pribble

Young Kid in a Voting Booth

Alone in my college apartment, satirical versions of Al Gore and George Bush reenacted the first debate of the 2000 election on Saturday Night Live. Will Farrell played Bush as a clueless redneck, and Darrel Hammond’s take on Gore was rude and robotic.

Bush Gore

This didn’t seem like satire because both politicians seemed like total douchebags in real life as well. I agreed with Gore on many issues, but I didn’t like him. Voting for such an establishment politician felt like a betrayal of myself, of democracy itself. The thought of voting for him unnerved me.

I wasn’t going to compromise my values. It was the system’s fault for putting me in an impossible situation, for providing me with only bad options.

Bush frightened me, but I wondered if his presidency would really be so much worse than Gore’s. They both answered to corporate masters. The difference in their tenure would be minor, and it would certainly be minor compared to me alienating myself from myself by compromising my values and voting for someone I didn’t believe in one hundred percent, or even 65 percent.

It wasn’t long before I discovered Ralph Nader. Now, here was a dude I could get behind. I agreed with him on every issue, and he wasn’t beholden to corporate money.

Nader speaks

I knew that he wouldn’t win, but if America was ever going to develop a third party it had to start somewhere. Shaking from anxiety as I entered the voting booth, I marked my vote next to his name.

That evening Bush declared victory. Gore’s campaign contested the results but would ultimately be rebuffed when the Supreme Court ended the election with the Bush vs. Gore decision. Somehow that outcome already felt inevitable, though. I watched a Bush rally on TV in horror as his supporters pumped their hands in victory. It was surreal to see crowds of people cheering for Bush, so surreal that everything seemed to lose color, and I felt like I was watching the German acolytes in Triumph of the Will. My stomach swirled and my heart ached. Something horrible was to come. I could feel it.

In the coming years, President Bush exceeded my darkest fears. We invaded Iraq without any real evidence, killed thousands of Iraqi civilians, and created a civil war that would not only wreck havoc on that nation but the entire Middle East. Bush doled out massive tax cuts to billionaires and created massive income inequality. Eventually, the economy plunged into the worst recession since the Great Depression.

I was ashamed to call myself an American, and I loathed the way the rest of the world viewed Americans: idiot cowboys full of greed and guns. It didn’t occur to me when I voted for president that I was also voting for our chief ambassador of American Democracy. When my trip to Europe in 2008 felt like an apology tour. Anytime I told people I was from the states, they’d ask, “Why Americans love Bush?”


When Bush pushed for a constitutional amendment declaring marriage between one man and one woman, it stung to watch my gay friends vilified. Would such a disgraceful law ever have been voted on had Gore won the election? I was angry with Bush, but I was angrier with myself.

I’ve never regretted a decision in my life more than my decision to vote for Nader. The silver lining to me has been the belief that Americans would never make this idealistic mistake again. Just because a democrat was part of a political machine wouldn’t mean we would allow our country to be destroyed by a half-witted lunatic. The presidency was bigger than me feeling pure. It was old people getting their social security checks and maintaining a positive image to our allies abroad. It was a lot of things that at twenty years of age I didn’t understand:

  • Ÿ Supreme Court Appointments
  • Ÿ Unemployment benefits
  • Ÿ Women’s reproductive rights
  • The environment

We’d learned our lesson from what happened sixteen years ago, though, or so I thought. We would never let such a reckless person run our country again just to maintain idealistic purity. We wouldn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. I believed this. But now, months away from the November election, I hear my fellow liberals saying they aren’t going to vote for Hillary Clinton. I thought we’d learned our lesson after Nader, but just as I was wrong about not voting for Gore, I was apparently wrong about our collective memory. I also thought I’d never see a politician as terrible as Bush again in my life time, but Trump makes him look like a competent saint.

I’d take a ride in a van with someone who just escaped from a mental hospital just for kicks, swim with sharks on a dare. Hell, I wrote a positive review for a Satanic coloring book for children. But I’d never vote for Trump. For the right amount of money, I’d even suck his tiny fingers, but I would never vote for him, either directly or indirectly (by not voting for Clinton).

We can’t let Incompetent Asshole Part 2 play in theaters across the country. We suffered through this movie for eight long years under Bush. Don’t let the previews fool you. The first film was awful and the sequel is going to be much worse. Vote for Hillary, and help start the next revolution by voting for real liberal in House, Senate, and local races. You can’t fix the system by starting with the top. There needs to be reliable politicians in place for the President to govern. Bernie is gonna have a big voice in 2017, and Hillary might actually list to him. Trump only listens to the sound of himself tweeting out racist bullshit.


Brett Pribble

When he’s not looking for his keys, Brett Pribble teaches creative writing in Orlando, Florida. His work has previously appeared in Stirring: A Literary Collection, Saw Palm, The Molotov Cocktail, and 10,000 Tons of Black Ink. He spends his nights trying to understand the divinity of his third nipple.



Buzzed Books #45: In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe

Buzzed Books #45 by Shawn Whittington

In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe

In the Shadow of Poe

For those who savor Gothic lit, this anthology satisfies.  Edited by scholar Leslie S. Klinger, this collection curates classical chilling tales, often of a dark Victorian flavor, written by literary authors such as Oscar Wilde, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, H. P. Lovecraft, and J. R. R. Tolkien.

The title of this anthology originates from these stories’ obscurity, as Klinger claims they “have been lost in the shadow of Poe.”  One thing that sets these stories apart from general horror stories is that these writers are more known for their contributions to literature, fantasy and science fiction. These authors are telling stories that happen to be sublime in their visions of horror rather than simply trying to spook or gross out the audience. There is a humanity there for which the reader can feel anxiety rather than mere anticipation of horrific occurrences. These seemingly bygone literary qualities feel refreshingly vibrant.

One of these curious techniques that occur in some of these stories is the breaking of the fourth wall.  In this, the narrator (sometimes writing in the form of a letter) goes as far as to recognize and playfully observe upon the oddity his or her lengthy explanations.  This self-awareness is almost post-modern, and diminishes one’s sense that these stories are mindlessly artificial stories.

An example of this can be found in the first story of the anthology, “The Sand-Man.” E. T. A. Hoffman depicts an account of a young man who slowly loses touch with reality and attempts to convey his convoluted concerns to his family members through verbose letters.  When Hoffman interrupts the tale to remind the reader that this is a fictitious story, oddly this adds to the darkly psychological flavor of this central theme, the dangers of delusion.

Leslie S. Klinger’s thoughtful footnotes enrich these old-fashioned stories. An example can be found in “The Leather Funnel,” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who portrays two gentlemen who conduct an experiment to determine the unknown history of a medieval torture device by dreaming next to the object.  The protagonist experiences images of a notorious murderess who, in the 1600s, was accused of killing fifty people.  At the very end of the story, a lengthy footnote provides shuddering details about the actual historical investigation of the murderess’s alleged accomplices, who were certain members of the bourgeoisie. This hysteria-driven investigation is spurred by the murderess’s recorded words in history, which is found in the last footnote rather than in the story itself. This footnote goes on to claim that these bourgeoisie members were later accused of poisonings and witchcraft after the murderess’s death sentence.

What makes this particular footnote intriguing is that not only is it, in a sense, a story within a story but also it amplifies the eerie tone for the ghastly visions the protagonist experiences, a final chill down the reader’s spine immediately after the last words of Doyle’s story.

Klinger’s carefully selected compilation is worthy of the Gothic reader’s library of horror, drama, and the bizarre.


Shawn Whittington 2

Shawn Whittington (Episode 156) is a writer living in Orlando, Florida.




Episode 220: Sam Slaughter!


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Episode 220 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk to my friend, fiction writer Sam Slaughter, who I met back in 2014, when he wrote a little something about Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son for the show. We talk about his short story collection, God in Neon, his chapbook, When You Cross That Line (inspired by Florida Man stories), alcoholism, how we evolve as writers, and the Orlando writing scene.

Sam Slaughter

Photo by Oxley Photography 2014

Plus Tom McAllister of Book Fight fame reads his personal essay, “A Brief History of World Travel (Part 8): Notes on Baltimore, MD.”

Tom McAllister


God in Neon

When You Cross That Line

The Sheltering

Bastard Out Of Carolina


  • Check out Sam Slaughter’s website.
  • Hear Sam read his essay about Denis Johnson’s Jesus’s Son back on episode 119.
  • Or hear Sam read his essay about his misadventures in brewing beer back on episode 126.
  • Or hear Sam reads his essay about helping himself to some sacramental wine as part of our Repeal Day 2014 show back on episode 129.
  • Read the text of A Brief History of World Travel (part 8) – Notes on Baltimore, MD, or check out Tom McAllister’s other essays in this series, and his other work, on his website.
  • Consider pre-ordering Tom McAllister’s forthcoming novel, The Young Widower’s Handbook.

Young Widowers HandbookListen to the music of The Bambi Molesters.

Sonic Bullets

Episode 220 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.











The Curator of Schlock #151: The Quiller Memorandum


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The Curator of Schlock #151 by Jeff Shuster

The Quiller Memorandum

(His name is Quiller and he’s got a memorandum.)


There’s a scene in the beginning of The Quiller Memorandum where a couple of English gentleman are eating lunch at a fancy restaurant. One is eating pheasant and declares that it’s rather good. It dawned on me at that point that the English like to use the word rather quite a bit. I don’t think I’ve used rather as an adjective once during these reviews, but I’ll use it now. The Quiller Memorandum is rather good. I hope you enjoyed this review. Tune in next week for my review of Casino Royale.


Oh, you want to what makes this movie rather good? Well, there’s this guy named Quiller (George Segal), and he’s a spy. Quiller is over in West Germany because some Neo-Nazis killed the last spy they sent over. The head of the Nazis is a guy named Oktober and is played by Max Von Sydow.


For you younglings out there, he’s the actor got cut down by Kylo Ren in Star Wars The Force Awakens. Quiller’s boss is named Pol and is played by Alec Guinness.  For you youngling’s out there, he’s the actor that got cut down by Darth Vader in Star Wars A New Hope

So Quiller is over in Germany trying to find the secret Nazi hideout. The Nazis find him first and keep injecting him with drugs and stuff, hoping he’ll spill the beans on who he works for. He doesn’t give up the information. I think he steals a cab at some point and later fakes his death so the Nazis think he’s dead. Honestly, the whole thing plays like the teaser of a Bond movies that was padded out for two hours. And Quiller’s suits keep getting messed up, unlike Bond’s. I guess this was supposed to be a gritty, rather realistic spy movie.


The DVD has one of those audio commentary tracks where experts talk over the movie giving you all kinds of useful tidbits. Like how the villains in these spy movies tend to very erudite. They’re learned men who are also quite witty.  You’d rather be stuck sitting next to one of them on an airplane ride rather than the hero. Maybe this is why I always like Bond villains so much. Maybe they’re just interesting people who just happen to also want to destroy the world. Nobody’s perfect.

For this commentary, we have film historians Eddie Friedfeld and Lee Pfeiffer. Lee Pfiefer is an editor over at Cinema Retro magazine, one of the coolest magazines I’ve ever seen. It covers cinema from the 60s and 70s in thick, journal quality volumes. I’ve been tempted to subscribe for a while now, but am terrified at the prospect of adding more books to my shelf. We’re entering a critical mass situation here.


Ahhh! The current issue features Enter the Dragon on the cover! Must resist subscribing! There’s an article on Starcrash too! Must resist…


Jeffrey Shuster 4

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

McMillan’s Codex #52: On The Real Silent Hill Experience

McMillan’s Codex 52 by C.T. McMillan

On The Real Silent Hill Experience

Only a few videos on YouTube can claim to be documentaries.  Hundreds of thousands of videos reviewing entertainment media could be classified as insightful if the focus were not on theatrics and a notion that audiences have short attention spans.  Not often enough do you find a critique so meticulously thorough in information that it transcends the humble confides of the Internet.  The Twin Perfect channel knew better than anyone how to make such a video with their series, The Real Silent Hill Experience (TRSHE).

Real Silent Hill 1

Started in 2010, the series covers the Silent Hill videogames, the spin-offs, movies, and comic books.  The videos, 43 in total, discuss a different title and subject in as much detail as possible.  To back up their statements, there are quotes and materials taken from the games and related behind-the-scenes footage.  While there is an obvious bias, the fact that Twin Perfect took the time to provide evidence makes what they have to say compelling.  They also use citations with the title, date, and publisher on display at the bottom-right corner.

Each episode details the rise and fall of Silent Hill, from the first to last, and everything in between.  As Twin Perfect covered the games, the scale of the videos increased with the degrading quality.  Another factor that played into the length was YouTube’s time restrictions.  When they were lifted the titles Twin Perfect covered were contentious enough to warrant hours of discussion.

The longer videos are the best beginning in 2012.  At the time the publisher Konami began excising their videogame department.  Before the departure of Hideo Kojima, the company’s worst decision was the Silent Hill HD Collection.  Featuring the second and third game, Collection was a treasure trove of glitches, re-recorded voice work, and graphical mistakes that ruined already perfect games.  Twin Perfect covered all of these issues with the voice acting saved for a separate episode, comparing the HD re-masters to the originals in mind-numbing detail.

Real Silent Hill 2

The limits put upon their abilities and scale likely contributed to the staggered release of videos.  Following Collection came Silent Hill: Downpour days later and Twin Perfect’s review of the game did not come out until 2013.  Two years later came an episode on the inspirations of Silent Hill before a review of Silent Hill: Book of Memories this year.  For fans the wait was excruciating, but I think the long-term schedule made them more compelling.

Typical reviewers put out as much content as possible.  To maintain an audience one must release new videos on a consistent basis.  If episodes of TRSHE were released all at once in a row, I doubt some information would have come to light.  The level of detail and research in each video is so meticulous, I cannot imagine what would have been lost if Twin Perfect had not taken their time.

The tragedy of TRSHE is that Silent Hill is more or less over.  Book of Memories was the last series-related piece of media to come out.  Silent Hills almost happened before the Konami/Kojima drama killed the project in the crib.  Twin Perfect’s consistency in covering Silent Hill was so thorough there is nothing left to talk about.  One solution could be to re-analyze Silent Hill: Homecoming and Origins, the start of the series’ decay, with as much depth as Downpour.  Only time will tell.

Real Silent Hill 3

I never thought about Silent Hill before The Real Silent Hill Experience.  Thanks to Twin Perfect, I learned enough about the series to I feel as though I know games like the back of my hand.  Above all, the effort of Twin Perfect is transcendent of the subject matter and platform.  Even if you do not play videogames, The Real Silent Hill Experience is well worth a watch for fans of documentaries.


CT McMillan 1

C.T. McMillan (Episode 169) is a film critic and devout gamer.  He has a Bachelors for Creative Writing in Entertainment from Full Sail University.



Buzzed Books #44: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II


Buzzed Books #44 by Chuck Cannini

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II


Even as I walked through New York City’s streets in the rain without an umbrella, I may as well have received my acceptance letter to Hogwarts. Seven hours and a rendition of Macbeth, which I reviewed earlier this week in Shakespearing #43, were between me and Cursed Child’s midnight release party. The crowds, the costumes, the entertainment, the passion – I love midnight releases.

But I didn’t go. I really needed to write that Macbeth review, Floo powder does not exist to replace the last LIRR train after midnight, I still needed to do my laundry and pick up my car from inspection, and my bank account – well, let’s just say Vault 713 would be mysteriously emptied later that same day. Adult life – responsibility, that dirty R-word – cast the enslaving Imperius Curse on me. Maybe next time, childhood.

When my fingers finally caressed Cursed Child’s golden cover, this was how I reconnected with Harry nineteen years later. Harry put in long days catching Dark wizards and confiscating an illegal Time-Turner, which sounded like awesome reasons to be overworked. But the point resonated with me. Harry grew up. And so did I.

Instead, like how irresponsible Sirius Black connected with his teenage nephew, I lived vicariously and selfishly through Harry’s youngest son, Albus Severus Potter.

Interesting premises surrounded Albus’ character, whose potential had already fascinated me during his brief introduction at the end of Deathly Hallows. Albus had worried that he might be sorted into Slytherin House, and that same concern rippled through the early sentences of Cursed Child’s play format. But in that brief moment on Platform 9 ¾, I had never considered that Albus carried the unwanted weight of his father’s legacy on his shoulders or that this Potter might befriend a Malfoy.

A decades-long grudge between their parents strained Albus and Scorpious Malfoy’s loyal friendship, which contributed to a father-son feud.

 Albus: I just wish you weren’t my dad.

 Harry (seeing red): Well, there are times I wish you weren’t my son.

 Damn, Harry. Can’t blame your temper on the Horcruxes this time.

Like father, like son, though. A bit upset while on his way to his fourth year at Hogwarts, Albus jumped ship – train, actually – and stole the illegal Time-Turner to prevent the death of Cedric Diggory in 1995 (Goblet of Fire), altering the life Albus never wanted.

After seven books and 4,100 pages (I did the math … but I’m also not very good at math) of wizarding history, time travel seemed like a tricky concept to toy with (again). I can’t say that the story failed as a result, because a lot of what happened was clever and fun, but the time travel did not seem J.K. Rowling-clever and raised some unanswered questions.

For one example, why does saving Cedric Diggory alter only some events? And even more importantly, if Cedric lives, does the survival of movie actor Robert Pattinson’s character in any way stop the creation of Twilight?

The historical catastrophe looped back around to Albus, who needed to not just witness the dark consequences of changing history but also understand his father.

But as Potterheads re-experienced the Triwizard Maze, meeting and losing Professor Snape, and of course reliving Harry’s fateful Halloween night, Harry and his backstory seemed to steal Albus’ spotlight. During these emotional highlights, I felt more connected with Harry and less with Albus, who is supposedly the main character. Then again, this play isn’t titled Albus Potter and the Cursed Child.

These were minor oversights, something a grouchy writer like me would grumble about. The Potterhead in me could care less. I barely noticed the absence of novel-length detail in between the script’s bare-essential scene headings, character names, and dialogue. As Harry later explained: “Love blinds.”

As far as the story goes, the only unforgivable gripe I had with Cursed Child concerned Voldemort’s daughter. This idea felt so out of left field that I’m still uncertain if this is the issue of a Potterhead or a writer, so I’ll just say this: the existence of Voldemort’s daughter diminished my interpretation of Voldemort’s relationship with the important love theme throughout the main seven novels. I don’t know what J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne were thinking.

After turning Cursed Child’s 308th and final page, the biggest takeaway for me was that the collaborative effort is apparent in the characters’ dialogue and psychology. Rowling understands her characters, her world. The other guys not so much.

Cursed Child is also a play– meant to be seen and not read, like Shakespeare. Most can’t afford a trip to London to watch the five-hour play. Would I see the play on Broadway? I would like to see how the play accomplished certain potions and spells on stage, but the Potterhead in me says, “YES! ABSOLUTELY! TAKE ALL MY MONEY!”


Chuck Cannini

Chuck Cannini never received his acceptance letter to Hogwarts, so he earned a B.F.A. in Creative Writing for Entertainment instead. He does not like Muggles.


The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #36: Antony and Cleopatra (1972)


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Rogues Guide to Shakes on Film 2

36. Charlton Heston’s Antony and Cleopatra (1972)

31 Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra is Shakespeare’s continuation of sorts of Caesar. The triumvirate of Roman leaders, Octavius Caesar, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Marc Antony is on the verge of breaking with Marc Antony since he has lapsed in his Roman duties and gone native with lust in Egypt with Cleopatra. Pompey, son of the Roman leader who was deposed by Julius Caesar, is threatening Rome with a triumvirate of his own.

After the debacle of the film of Julius Caesar, Charlton Heston must have been charged up and mightily disappointed.

Caesar didn’t bomb because of him, after all, but because of Jason Robards. As he was nearing 50 years of age, Heston was reaching the far limit of middle age, and wanted another Shakespearean romp, another period piece, another go.

He proved he could be Mark Antony, so why not film Antony and Cleopatra like a sequel to Julius Caesar?

Why not direct the film himself?

Why not adapt the script with someone named Federico De Urrutia?

Antony and Cleopatra Poster

These are not the worst ideas, but Heston overlooked two major things with this film: In A&C, Antony does not have anything like the funeral oration from Caesar, and just as Robards, a capable actor, somehow managed to capsize Caesar, casting the wrong Cleopatra would ruin this new film.

Antony and Cleopatra 5One needs a Cleopatra who can persuade you that Marc Antony is not entirely wrong to cause civil war in Rome, and bring shame to two fine Roman noblewomen, over a single woman who was not his wife. One needs a Cleopatra who is imaginative, erotic, powerful, and mercurial.

For reasons passing understanding, Hildegard Neil played Cleoptra as a hysterical, yet somehow blandly blonde harpy: a bad impression of Elizabeth Taylor, perhaps.

Antony and Cleopatra 2I say this with no joy, as Neil is married to Brian Blessed, who could kill me easily, and frankly if that is how my life ended, I would have no regrets except for the reason for his provocation. Also, Neil spent one season performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company, so perhaps this almost unwatchable performance is connected to whatever mysterious curse befell Jason Robards in Caesar.

Sweet Jebus, there is just so much Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra.

Antony and Cleopatra 3

Where was I?

The script has some excellent moments, I must say.

When Marc Antony returns to Rome to meet with Octavius Caesar in Act II, the dialogue takes place in a small arena while two gladiators, providing a bold subtext, battle one another.

Antony and Cleopatra 3When Enobarbus suggests a bacchanal for the peace brokered between Octavius Caesar, Marc Antony, and Pompey, a pantomime of Antony’s relationship to Cleopatra is enacted in dance. Antony himself, drunk, seems to enjoy the spectacle, especially when she falls into Octavius’s lap.

Antony and Cleopatra 10The dancer playing Cleopatra in this play-within-a-play would likely have made a better Cleopatra.

If Robert Vaughn seems to run away with his scenes as Casca in Caesar, Freddie Jones runs away with his scenes as Pompey. (I know him from David Lynch movies, such as The Elephant Man). Character actors seem to frolic well with Shakespeare.

Antony and Cleopatra 9John Castle is both likeable and creepy as the ever even-keeled Octiavius.

Antony and Cleopatra 11Roger Delgado, who looks like Dennis Hopper, is wonderful as the soothsayer.

Antony and Cleopatra 6Oh, right, Charlton Heston is in this thing.

Antony and Cleopatra 6 HestonAs Antony, whose identity is being torn apart by love, Heston is underwhelming, if not actually bad. There’s not much chemistry between him and Neil, obviously.

This looks like a low budget film with some amazing locations, so there is a dreamy quality here. One gets the sense that Egypt and Rome and everyplace else is very far apart, and everyone must be tired in beautiful scenery.

Antony and Cleopatra 12The sea battle scenes late in the film feature a lot of super-impositions, and apparently uses leftover footage from Ben Hur. It’s kind of fun to watch.

Antony and Cleopatra 4Then Marc Antony and Cleopatra argue.

Then the armies fight on land.

And then Antony will wound himself before being captured, and take about five hours of screentime to die. And then Cleopatra kills herself, but not without a metric fuck-ton of squeaky dialogue first.

My friend Don Royster insisted that this movie was so bad that I simply had to watch it.

For all its flaws (like Hildegard Neil, and Hildegard Neil), Charlton Heston’s Antony and Cleopatra is still much better than Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet, or Michael Almereyda’s Shakespearean botchery.


1flipJohn King (Episode, well, all of them) holds a PhD in English from Purdue University, and an MFA from New York University. He has reviewed performances for Shakespeare Bulletin.






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