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My 12 for ’13: Much Ado About Nothing & The Joy of a Shakespearean Sex Comedy…

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 10…

I feel a little sorry for Shakespeare. The guy wrote some of the most influential and iconic plays ever composed; invented countless turns of phrase and even words; became inexorable associated with theatre and stage work… and yet he’s still hated by just about every student forced to sift through Romeo & Juliet or Hamlet or Macbeth as part of their education. While Shakespeare is easy enough to read once you get a grip of it, or once you have enough experience, forcing kids to read those plays at school is one of the most effective ways to kill enthusiasm for the Bard.

The beauty of Shakespeare is that he isn’t just an “important” writer, that he isn’t just a key part of the evolution of world literature, a formative figure in the history of narrative. Not that any of those are minor accomplishments, mind you. The real beauty of Shakespeare is that he’s actually very good. Not with qualifications like “… for his time” or “… in context.” Shakespeare remains a great writer in the most fundamental “this is actually a pretty good story well told” sort of way.

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The best directors to adapt Shakespeare’s work to film realise this, and accept that Shakespeare is still a great storyteller; you just need to figure out how to translate his works properly to the screen, in the same way you’d translate a modern best-seller or a beloved cult comic book. Kenneth Branagh figured out how to do this, with his adaptations almost popping off the screen.

Much Ado About Nothing demonstrates that Joss Whedon has it pretty figured out as well.

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Joss Whedon at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013

This event was part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013. It was hosted after a screening of Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing.

It has been a pretty great year for great guests at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. Robert Towne gave an interview and a workshop of screenwriting. Danny DeVito popped along to the Jameson Cult Film Club screening of L.A. Confidential. And Joss Whedon came to Dublin, with tickets to Much Ado About Nothing selling out so fast that they almost crashed the JDIFF servers. Whedon hung around afterwards for a rapid-fire questions-and-answers session, talking a bit about the film and his future plans, as well as his frequent artistic collaborators.

Image from JDIFF twitter feed.

Image from JDIFF twitter feed.

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Non-Review Review: Much Ado About Nothing

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

Joss Whedon’s adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing has delightfully intimate roots. Apparently, the movie stems from occasions in various Whedon households where he would host “Shakespeare Sundays”, with friends and family reading through classic plays in a very cosy environment. Much Ado About Nothing represents an extension of that intimacy. It’s literally filmed in Whedon’s own home, using money saved for his and his wife’s twentieth anniversary. Whedon even wrote the music, and his extended family are heavily involved. Jed Whedon supervised the music and his sister-in-law Maurissa Tancharoen can be seen singing at points.

That’s the wonderful charm of Much Ado About Nothing, a movie that seems to have grown and developed out of a genuinely personal creative space, a project deeply personal and intimate to Whedon, filmed while he was editing one of the biggest movies of all time. In a way, Much Ado About Nothing feels like the most talented and highest quality student film ever produced.

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Justice League Unlimited – Flash and Substance (Review)

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. To tie into the review of Green Lantern: First Flight today, we thought we’d take a look at an episode centred on that other iconic Silver Age DC hero, the Flash.

Justice League and its spin-off Justice League Unlimited were two very strange shows, at least from a structural perspective. They both featured expansive casts (the latter more than the former, admittedly) – most of which were crammed full of characters new to the DC animated universe. Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series had done a great job establishing the two biggest names, but the bulk of the characters were pretty much blank slates heading into the crossover series. So characters like the Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern relied on episodes centring on them to grow and develop character – although the focus was very much on the ensemble cast. However, my own favourite episode of the show is a more intimate character profile of a character frequently overlooked: the Flash.

Frenemies…

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