Month: October 2012

Wednesdays With Will: MacBeth (2006)

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Happy Halloween everyone! I hope you’re enjoying a great day of trick or treating, celebrating All Hallow’s Read, and enjoying the day.

For this inguaral WwW Halloween post, I’ve decided to review the Bard’s most supernatural play, MacBeth aka “The Scottish Play”. Why?Well because it has everything that you would for a Halloween viewing, murder, mayham, violence, death, ghosts, witches, the list goes on and on.

20121031-024925.jpgThe version I’ve chosen is the 2006 version from Australia, directed by Geoffrey Wright (Romper Stomper, Cherry Falls) and starring Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans) in the title role and Victoria Hill (December Boys) as his blood stained hands Lady.

Ini many ways this film could be viewed as a companion piece to fellow Australian Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet. Both were directed by Australians. Both feature their director’s sensibilities (Luhrman does a Romantic Tragedy, which he perfected a couple of years later with Moulin Rouge, Wright a horror/thriller, which is what he cut his teeth on.) Both feature a young cast, many of which would later go on to become big stars in huge movies (interestingly both feature leading men who would find success in films directed by James Cameron. Leonardo DiCaprio did Romeo + Juliet and then Cameron’s Titantic, Sam Worthington did MacBeth and then later Cameron’s Avatar, the current #1 and #2 box office smashes.) Both feature, what I would term “rock and roll” motifs and feeling So let me warn you right now, if you are a Shakespearean traditionalist or purist, stay away from this movie. Watch Orson Wells or Roman Polenski’s amazing versions that are much more in line with the traditional Shakespeare. This MacBeth takes place in Melbourne and the actors retain their natural accents (much like Luhrman did by setting his movie in America and allowing his actors to keep their accents), it features guns and knives, fast cars and motorbikes, all while retaining the Bard’s original dialogue.

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Sam Worthington does an admirable job as the title character, in fact this may be the best acting I’ve seen him do. His MacBeth doesn’t break any new ground, but is a believably tortured soul who does what he does to gain power and hold unto that power. Victoria Hill likewise doesn’t break any new ground as Lady MacBeth, playing her viciously calculating, cruel and insane. The rest of the cast, I wasn’t familiar with, but all were excellent in their respective roles.

While the acting was good, the directing left a lot to be desired. It was well done, but follows many of the action movie cliches that plague modern movies. The film opens with a wonderfully creepy introduction to our three teenage schoolgirl witches.20121031-030239.jpg

But then cuts over the opening credits to show us MacBeth and Banquo’s hedonistic and violent lifestyle as Melbourne mobsters with quick cuts, “Avid farts”, flashing lights, and shaky hand-held camera work. The action then moves to a nightclub that MacBeth and Banquo have secured and acquired for mobster leader Duncan. There, while tripping on drugs, MacBeth has his fateful encounter with the three witches who tell him his fortune. And this is where I have issues with the film. If this is, as suggested by the film, fueled by MacBeth’s drug use, then Banquo would have no idea what the witches were saying in MacBeth’s fortune. But that is a major point of Shakespeare’s original script, Banquo and MacBeth both have their fortunes told by the witches and are aware of each other’s fortunes, thus the reason MacBeth kills Banquo and is haunted by his ghost. Without Banquo knowing MacBeth’s fortune, MacBeth’s murder becomes more “crazy” and less “protective of the throne”.

This 2006 version is quite good, but I think 2010’s BBC version with Patrick Stewart is better. Both are similar in tone, with a modernistic approach, but Stewart’s version is just better overall (as it should be, I don’t think anyone is going to confuse Sam Worthington’s acting with Patrick Stewart.) Both versions are currently streaming on Netflix Instant.

Now as I wrap things up here, I do want to encourage you to head over to Smashwords and download my new 10 minute play, The Mysterious Case of Lot 249, for free. This offer expires at midnight Oct 31.

Have a great and safe Halloween

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ALL HALLOW’S READ

All Hallow’s Read

All Hallow’s Read is an amazing project put together by Neil Gaiman. It’s basic purpose is to encourage reading among…well EVERYONE. To accomplish this, they encourage everyone to give away scary books during Halloween. This isn’t to take away from Trick ‘R Treating, but to run concurrent to it. Give kids a treat for the teeth and a treat for their mind.

I can’t think of any better way to participate in Halloween, then by participating in All Hallow’s Read. Click on the link above for more information. You can also watch this video of Neil Gaiman explaining WHAT All Hallow’s Read is:

The Monday W.I.P.: The Mysterious Case of Lot 249

It’s that time of year again. The time for ghosts and ghouls, monsters and vampires, werewolves and zombies to all come out of their hiding places and haunt us. That’s right, it’s Halloween time! Happy Halloween.

It’s also the last Monday of the month and time for a check in on my 10-Minute Play Goal. Have I finished this month’s play? Why yes I have, thank you for asking. This month I decided to tackle a Halloween theme, since it is October. But I didn’t want to do anything too traditional. I was struggling with this, what do I do? Then I was watching the 1990 film Tales From The Darkside and was reminded of an old Arthur Conan Doyle story that formed the first segment in that movie. The story is entitled Lot No. 249 and was the genesis of the “modern mummy” story, the first story to explore the mummy as an agent of vengence. From Wikipedia:

 Written in the wake of the late-19th-century fascination with Egyptology, “Lot No. 249” was the first story to depict a reanimated mummy as a sinister, predatory figure and had a profound influence on the horror movie genre throughout the 20th century.

It’s a wonderfully creepy story that I felt was “Halloween” enough, but at the same time unique. With recent trends in horror focusing on zombies, werewolves, and vampires, the poor mummy has been kind of left to the wayside, forced to fend for himself. This is my humble attempt at breathing some life into the mummy.

What I have done is placed the story in one solitary room, a police interragation room, and we open on such an interragation taking place. One Detective Doyle is interviewing Dr. Bellingham. The entire play takes place in this room, with the tension and the clues slowly building. Bellingham is the detective’s only suspect, but is he guilty?

                                                                           

                         The Mysterious Case of Lot 249                    

                                       By                                  

                                 Everett Robert                            

                                    Based on:                              
                      "Lot 249" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle                  

          Emergency Room Productions    Emergency Room Productions         
          October 2012                  c/o Everett Robert                 
                                        2114 Walnut St                     
                                        Hays, KS 67601
Cast of Characters                           

          Detective Doyle:             late 30s-early 50s. Police          
                                       investigator. Beefy, large          
                                       man. Physically intimadating.       

          Dr. Bellingham:              late 20s-early 30s. An              
                                       academic, an Egyptologist,          
                                       associate at the university.        
                                       Pysically slight. Not               
                                       intimatding at all.                 

                                   Scene                                   

          A police interrogation room                                      

                                   Time                                    

          Present
ACT I                                   

                                   Scene 1

At rise we open on a small, typical, uneventfuland completely normal police interrogation room.Small table, two chairs, a mirror upstage. Two mensit facing each other. One, DR. Bellingham, is aman in his late 20s to early 30s. He is rumpledand nervous, twitchy almost and keeps checking hiswatch as if waiting for someone. The othergentleman, DETECTIVE DOYLE, is older, late 0s toearly 50s and much more put together. Suit, badgeclipped to his belt, but no gun, at least that wecan see. Bellingham checks his watch for the thirdtime since the curtain has risen, the silence isbroken.                                                

          DETECTIVE DOYLE                                                  
                         (Some slight amusement)                           
               Nervous Doc?                                                

          DR. BELLINGHAM                                                   
                         (Snapping back)                                   
               Yes I’m nervous! Why would I be nervous? I’ve been          
               sitting here, alone, for the past 45 minutes and no one     
               will tell me why! In fact no one will tell me anything!     

          DETECTIVE DOYLE                                                  
               Calm down Doc, no one is here to hurt you, we just want     
               to ask you some questions. Can I get you something to       
               drink? Coke, water, coffee?                                 

          DR. BELLINGHAM                                                   
               I want to get out of here is what I want.                   

          DETECTIVE DOYLE                                                  
               And we’ll let you out of here, like I said, we just         
               want to ask you a few questions. Doughnut?                  

          DR. BELLINGHAM                                                   
               No!                                                         
                         (Beat, then much calmer)                          
               No, thank you. I’m sorry, I’m just under a lot of           
               stress and you’re not helping with the matter.              

          DETECTIVE DOYLE                                                  
                         (Leaning forward, interested)                     
               Stress? About what?                                         

          DR. BELLINGHAM                                                   
               Work.                                                       

                                                           (CONTINUED)
          CONTINUED:                                              2.       

          DETECTIVE DOYLE                                                  
               At the university?                                          

          DR. BELLINGHAM                                                   
                         (Another sigh)                                    
               Yes, at the university.                                     

                    Bellingham doesn’t offer any more then that, butDoyle does, leaning forward, anxious, interested,and curious. Bellingham realizes that he’s goingto have to answer.                                     

          DR. BELLINGHAM (cont’d)                                          
               I just received a new lot from...                           

          DETECTIVE DOYLE                                                  
               Excuse me, a lot?                                           

          DR. BELLINGHAM                                                   
               Yes, a lot, a package, a crate. I purchased it at an        
               auction and had it shipped here. That was the auction       
               lot number, 249.                                            

          DETECTIVE DOYLE                                                  
                         (Jotting down a note)                             
               Oh yes, a lot. I got it, go on.                             

          DR. BELLINGHAM                                                   
                         (Exasperated)                                     
               Thank you DETECTIVE. Anyways as I was saying, I             
               received the lot from our sister university in Egypt.       

          DETECTIVE DOYLE                                                  
               From Egypt?                                                 

          DR. BELLINGHAM                                                   
               Yes, well I am considered one of the top Egyptologists      
               in the country, and I needed this lot.                      

          DETECTIVE DOYLE                                                  
               Due to your recent problems at the university?              

                    This visibly shakes Bellingham who swallows hard,eyes wide.                                             

          DR. BELLINGHAM                                                   
               You...you know about that?                                  

          DETECTIVE DOYLE                                                  
               Oh yes, your department chair, Professor Withington,        
               was more then happy to share with us about that. Though     
               I am curious to hear YOUR side, it does factor into our     
               investigation.                                              

                                                           (CONTINUED)
          CONTINUED:                                              3.       

          DR. BELLINGHAM                                                   
               What do you mean, it factors into your investigation?       
               What is this investigation about anyways?                   

          DETECTIVE DOYLE                                                  
               You really don’t know do you? Your colleague, Mr.           
               Norton, was found murdered this morning.                    

          DR. BELLINGHAM                                                   
               WHAT!                                                       

          DETECTIVE DOYLE                                                  
               Oh yes, his brain was pulled out through his nose.          
               Messy business all around.                                  

          DR. BELLINGHAM                                                   
               Through...his brain?                                        

                    Doyle nods slowly and Bellingham swallows hard.        

          DR. BELLINGHAM (cont’d)                                          
               Could...could I have a glass of water please?               

          DETECTIVE DOYLE                                                  
               Of course.                                                  

                    Doyle offers a smile and quickly leaves.               
                    Bellingham sits, quietly holding his head in his       
                    hands and then looking over at the mirror, then        
                    back down. He stands and paces a little, then          
                    reaches into his pocket and fishes out a piece of      
                    paper, carefully folded. He unfolds it and runs a      
                    finger over it and starts reading.                     

          DR. BELLINGHAM                                                   
                         (Speaking silently, simply mouthing the           
                         words, at first but getting louder and            
                         louder)                                           

               Nos-feratos-allo-memnon-kanda...Nos-feratos-allo-memnon-kand
a...Nos-feratos-allo-memnon-kanda!...Nos-feratos-allo-memnon...            
                    Unseen by Bellingham, Doyle re-enters and watches,     
                    hands deep in his pocket.                              

          DETECTIVE DOYLE                                                  
               What are you reading?

Now I hope you enjoyed that brief sample of The Mysterious Case of Lot 249. If you want to read the entire thing, well I have good news for you, for the next 3 days I’ll be offering The Mysterious Case of Lot 249 for free on my Smashwords page. Just click HERE and get your e-version for free. After that, well who knows what might happen.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Wednesdays With Will (Thursday edition): Shakespeare High

I apologize for not posting a Wednesdays with Will recently or on time, as this weekly blog is probably my favorite of the week, but I’ve had several things going on recently that have prevented me from writing. However now things are slowly getting back on track.

This week, I’m going to review a Shakespeare film that is different then my previous Wednesday with Will reviews. This week I’m tackling a documentary, not about Shakespeare but about how Shakespeare and the arts have an influence on high school students.

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Shakespeare High poster

Shakespeare High looks at the California High School Shakespeare Festival and several schools that participate in it. If you, look me, were unfamiliar the Shakespeare Festival is a competition between high schools who are limited to present a full Shakespearean play condensed and abridged into 8-minute increments. Students are not given or allowed costumes or props other then 4 chairs, the competition picks 3 Shakespearean plays, and the schools field 3 teams (one for each play) of 4 students each. The students are allowed to interpret the plays however they wish, either classic or modern reinterpretation. Think a forensics competition that is focused solely on The Bard mixed with The Reduced Shakespeare Company (in fact Austin, Adam, Daniel, Jess, and Adam, etc that founded or make up the RSC get a nice little shout-out when a group of students perform the Othello rap),

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some of the students featured in Shakespeare High

This is an engaging documentary showing students from all walks of life, like inner city ethnic students to an all girls Catholic school to middle class white kids who still have their own problems and how the arts have shaped and changed these kids for better.We also follow them through the competition and feel their joy as they win or the pain as they lose.

Included are interviews with four famous actors who participated in this competition when they were in high school. Interviews include Kevin Spacey (Seven, The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns), Val Kilmer (Tombstone, Batman Forever, Real Genius), Richard Dryfuss (Jaws, Mr. Holland’s Opus), and Mare Winningham (St. Elmo’s Fire, Hatfield’s and McCoys, Swing Vote) and how their participation in this competition shaped them as actor. One of the best moments is when Spacey and Winningham attend their (along with Kilmer’s) Alma mater and give advice and encouragement.

One flaw in the movie, in my opinion, is that it touches on but never fully explores the issue of modernizing vs traditional explorations of interpreting Shakespeare. This is a discussion that I’ve had with some of my actor and writer friends and I don’t think we’ve ever reached an agreement. I view myself as a modernist who enjoys a different setting for the Bard’s works. However I see the argument for keeping the traditional, classical interpretation of Shakespeare. However this is a broad topic and could be explored in its own full length documentary. However if the subject is not going to be more fully explored, it shouldn’t be brought up.

Overall I recommend this fascinating and educational documentary which is currently streaming on Netflix.

The Monday W.I.P.: Mini Western update

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a mini western contest I entered hosted by Western author Brett Cogburn. Well I’m proud to tell you that I was selected as one of the 39 winners (out of 500 or so entries). In addition to my winning story, another of my stories was selected as a honorable mention.

So what exactly does this mean? Well it means that my winning story will be published in High Hill Press’ upcoming anthology Cactus Country III and the possibility exisits that my honorable mention winner will be published in Cactus Country IV.

I’m very excited about this new publishing opportunity and I’ll let you know more about it when more information becomes available.

On a different note, I do want to apologize for my blogging absence the past couple of weeks, I had some things come up in my world outside of writing to forced me to be away from my computer for 2 weeks. Hopefully this won’t happen again anytime soon.