Rented: Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing (2012) by Joss Whedon

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I’m not sure if I told you how I came to love Shakespeare. I had tried to read Macbeth at some point and labored through three pages of it before throwing it into the corner not to pick it or him up again for years. And then I watched Much Ado About Nothing – Branagh’s version – and fell in love.

muchado2It’s still my favorite movie version, it’s still one of my favorite plays, it’ll always have a special place in my heart. And I would probably not have endeavored to watch a different version if it hadn’t been for this addition to the title: A film by Joss Whedon.

And then, of course, there was the casting of Amy Acker as Beatrice. One of my favorite actresses playing one of my favorite Shakespearean characters? Count me in.

And now I’ve watched it. In fact, I’m at this moment watching it a second time in one day. Oh, my goodness, what a ball, a blast, a festival of wit and comedy and noir elements that make this movie not better than Branagh’s, but different and wonderful.

I must confess that I couldn’t imagine anyone playing Much Ado differently, in each and every scene I had a flashback to the ’92-version. But slowly the actors of the Whedon-verse acted themselves into my conscious and I couldn’t resist their charm. I’m fascinated, I’m stumped, I can’t stop watching. And how do you even begin to resist Amy Acker?

Let me tell you something about Acker – she’s genius. In every part I’ve ever seen her, she not only amyacker2convinced me, she awed me with her talent. I loved her as Doctor Saunders/Whiskey in Dollhouse, and I’m madly in love with Root in Person of Interest. She’s just so special in every role, she’s amazing.

But she’s not the only one in this brilliantly cast Whedon-family adaptation of Shakespeare. I never liked Alexis Denisof better than when he played Benedick, he’s earnest and smart and comical when he’s told that Beatrice loves him. Such an honest performance. I loved Fran Kranz in Dollhouse and I love him as Claudio. And then there’re Nathan Fillion as Dogberry and Tom Lenk as Verges and, hell, they’re the funniest thing – yes, funnier than Michael Keaton and Ben Elton even.

muchado4I guess, I have one thing to criticize, though. While I first thought it refreshing to see Riki Lindhome cast as Conrade, I feel that casting Conrade with a male actor in this version would have been even better. Making Don John (Sean Maher) a gay villain – not a caricatured man who is evil because he’s limited to his gayness, but just a villain who happens to be gay… That would have been even more interesting than having a Shakespeare character emasculated.

Apart from this, I simply love Whedon doing Shakespeare. But then, has there ever been a thing Joss Whedon has done that I didn’t love?

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Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect (2012) by Jason Moore

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(Okay, I decided to do this new thing – snapping pics of my tix and posting them with the review [these are only this year’s Pitch Perfect-tickets; I have another one from last year]; just for fun, y’know. And yeah, I’m aware that’s an ugly background, it’s my carpet; I will try to find a new one.)

As you can see, I haven’t been to the movies lately – money is hard to come by these days. But I didn’t want the world to end without having watched Pitch Perfect, so, this was the first movie since July I indulged in (I’m not especially sad to have missed most of summer’s blockbusters). As so many others I watched the trailer and just knew it was good – and for once, I am able to say that I was not disappointed by the product that was put out.

Is the story innovative – hell no! But who cares:

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Beca (Anna Kendrick) is pressured by her father (John Benjamin Hickey) to attend college although she would much rather move to L.A. to become a DJ. Her roommate Kimmy Jin (Jinhee Joung) hates her, and the only person paying any attention to her is this guy Jesse (Skylar Astin) who obviously just wants to get into her pants. Campus has four a cappella groups, among them the all-boys Treblemakers and the all-girls Barden Bellas. They are declared enemies but as life – or Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet much?) – has it, Beca ends up with the Bellas, while Jesse joins the Treblemakers. Hilarious ensues, the girls get their shit together and finally win the nationals, everybody wins – and Jesse gets into Beca’s pants (it is indicated, fortunately, we only see them kiss).

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As I said, the story isn’t really innovative, the love story’s kinda boring but it’s not the center of attention which is good. The main attraction is young people singing a capella and trying to be cool doing it. Yes, it leans heavily on Glee but it also makes fun of the show (the shower scene with Beca and Chloe wasn’t only hilarious, it was professedly gay – and a female rip-off of all the times the gleeks sang in the shower).

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Anna Kendrick is a wonderful lead, she is talented, she is captivating, she rocks this movie – and so does her cleavage (and if you tell me you weren’t as distracted by it as I was you’re lying). And then there’s Rebel Wilson playing Fat Amy. How do I explain Rebel Wilson – she is flawless… if you haven’t seen her in anything yet make sure you watch her in Pitch Perfect – she rules this movie, she is badass, and I am saying this with the utmost respect for her and all her abilities. She’s funny.

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With so many women packed into one group, gay ensues. I wasn’t entirely happy with the obviously gay character Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean) (and it wasn’t a surprise that with all the white girls in the Bellas, she was one of the few women of color) but then there was the chemistry between Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow. And it’s not just about the shower scene, the first time these two meet, Snow is eye-sexing Kendrick so obviously that even I saw it. And it wasn’t the only time either. With all the things being said between these two during the movie, I actually scratched my head at the end of it when Beca kissed Jesse – I had quite comfortably leaned back into my head-canon and assumed that the two girls would end up together. Well, Hollywood says no and all the fans start writing BeChloe fanfiction.

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Update: I have now watched it four times and that’s only at the movies – and it still rocks. I’m actually rather obsessed with it and count myself as one of those fans who write BeChloe fanfic… what can I say: I love those awesome nerds.

Back to tv: AMC and Santa Barbara

[For those who do not know this, AMC is the abbreviation for All My Children, a daily soap that has been on American tv for more than forty years – so, why don’t you know that?!]

So, thanks to afterellen.com, I have a new obsession: Minx. Minx is the portmonteau for two characters on AMC, Bianca Montgomery (who is called Binx by her sister Kendell) and Marissa Tasker – played by the equally beautiful and charming actresses Christina Bennett Lind and Sarah Glendening respectively. Just look at them:

ADORABLE!

It is a lesbian storyline on a daily show (unfortunately after 41 years, AMC has been cancelled and will end by the end of this week) which is a big thing. I don’t know if you have ever followed an American “story” but it is usually a heteronormative – and often a homogenous – space in tv and there are not many exceptions. Of course, Binx has been out for some time (she came out back in the days when Eden Riegel still played her) and has had some relationships with women but most of those seems to have played out off-screen and in Paris. This time, it’s on and it’s on tv and it’s lovely and heartfelt and adorable and actually well written.

Soaps are not always praised for having realistic portrayals of anything or anyone, let alone lesbians, but this one is actually really good. And so is the acting. I was surprised myself when I first watched a clip.

The concept of soap operas is not a new one in my life and I was so obsessed with one when I was a teen that I never got over the recasting of one of my favorite characters. Watching the Minx storyline on AMC, made me realize that I actully missed having that connection to a “ship.” So, I got into a youtubing mania and dug up some old footage of Julia & Mason from Santa Barbara.

Coming out as a lesbian, one is always looking for clues that may have told us that we were homos before we came out. And I naturally assumed that Nancy Lee Grahn was the real – the only – reason I shipped Julia and Mason. It is so easy to forget that there were actually two people in this that I adored, two characters that fascinated me. Watching those old Santa Barbara clips made me realize why I fell for Lane Davies just as hard as I fell for Nancy Lee Grahn: he was witty, charming, had the most soulfoul brown eyes, and he was tall and lanky and I really dug him with a beard… yeh, I had a crush on that man and today I am not ashamed to admit it…

I am being nostalgic again, very sentimental. So, I spent my time watching youtube videos (I have been watching about 14 hourse of Minx vids in one night, so, obsession is the right word for it) but I am aware that this is not as it used to be. Comparing those feelings I had when I was 14 to what I am feeling now, now falls short. No more sweaty palms in anticipation, no more tears, no more heartbreak when I miss an episode… still, Minx makes me squeel in delight and make snarky comments at Marissa’s ex-hubby JR (Jacob Young).

Being part of a fandom today is certainly different from being a fan before the invention of the internet. I know that, I am a Xenite still and always. But it is a little overwhelming to be able to watch Minx make out in HD and then going to watch Julia and Mason’s (awesomely silly) wedding vows that’s been copied from a video tape that’s more than 20 years old. Ah, the wonders of modern technology never cease to amaze me.

Since AMC is picked up by an internet broadcasting company, there is still hope that we may watch them for a little longer. But knowing what is sometimes done to soap supercouples, I am not even sure  I want to stick around and see them get broken up again – loving a soap couple is not for the faint at heart, and I feel that I may be one of those.

And here’s a great idea for a t-shirt…

[It reads (front): TEAM MINX, (back) #lesbianbatsignal It’s okay to put it up…]

Update: The first episodes of Prospect Park’s All My Children will be broadcasted this spring – and Eden Riegel will return as Bianca Montgomery. Since the storyline picks up five years from when it ended, there’s no word of whether Minx will return… and if who will play Marissa.