Saturday, June 29, 2013

Much Ado About (I've got) Nothing

Every post about Joss Whedon's crack at Much Ado About Nothing has to have a clever spin on the play's title in its own title, but I've got nothing.  I'm writing also about Neil Gaiman's new book The Ocean at the End of the Lane, so I tried to incorporate that...still couldn't find the funny.  The point is, my favorite movie of 2013 (so far) and my favorite book of 2013 (so far) released within days of each other, and those guys are it.

I've seen my share of modern dress/original speech Shakespeare, which can come across really douchey (douchily, verily), but this version of Much Ado feels like it's being played out in exactly the right setting with exactly the right people...almost.  It's practically perfect in every way, but if Joss had swapped this guy...

Good Dogberry

...for this guy...

Perfect Dogberry
Credit: Armando Gallo /Retna Ltd./Corbis
...I would have loved it even more than I already do.  At Dogberry's second or third line, I pictured Steve Carell and couldn't get him out of my mind for the rest of the film when the character appeared.  Carell was hilarious in this!  (In my head).

Any adaptation of this play is as strong or weak, for me, as its Benedick and Beatrice, and I loved the subtlety of these two, with one of my favorite characters ever delivering one of my favorite lines in literature, "Kill Claudio," almost as easlily as someone might say, "Pass the salt." (It feels strange to type that without "please," but Beatrice didn't say "please" either).  Speaking of Claudio, he behaves atrociously.  I have never forgiven him no matter what cutie patootie happens to play him, though I believe we're all meant to.  The modern dress just draws a circle around his ridiculous antics as a groom.  My perfect Hero would walk away having dodged a, uh...dagger.  Broadswoard?

Left: Sandy Rivers??!
Anyway...loved the cast, loved the house, loved the lesbian photographer.  Loved, loved, loved.  It was Gatsby without motion sickness.


On to The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  This is a story that could have leaked out of Neil Gaiman's 2001 novel American Gods.  It's a horror, it's a fairy tale, and it's not for children to read.  I find it really difficult to write about this book, because it brought back a mindset that I'd completely forgotten.  He conjures so well that feeling from childhood that is trusting in adults, but frightened of their seemingly absolute power.  It paints a picture of the vulnerability of childhood where a boy or a girl first realizes that some adults are really monsters, and how very little you can do about it at that age.

That's young Neil Gaiman up there!

There's not much I can say about the story without getting spoilery, but it's an easy investment at under two hundred pages.  The back of the U.S. edition has an artsy, fogged, shimmery version of the above photo, which is perfect for the story and indeed an old picture of the author. 

Those are my favorites so far!  We'll see how they hold up for the rest of 2013.