June 27, 2012

Status Anxiety: Is She Gonna Curtsey?

 Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette in Sofia Coppola's film

Does Kate Middleton curtsey to "blood princesses" first or vice versa? Lapham's Quarterly comments on the current Queen's recent updates to the Order of Precedence (who curtseys to whom and when) with a look back at Marie Antoinette's introduction to Comtesse du Barry, Louis XV's mistress. Read the post here. --Kim

June 26, 2012

Ivory Plans to Film Richard II in 3D

“Things sweet to taste prove in digestion sour,” warns John of Gaunt in Shakespeare's Richard II. Kind of how I feel about the preponderance of 3D films glutting the market. That said, I can't help but be intrigued by the idea of Bolingbroke and Mowbray dueling it out 14th-century style in 3D IMAX. Director James Ivory, of the famed duo Merchant Ivory Productions, has announced plans to film a 3D adaptation of Richard II. Merchant, who passed away in 2005, and Ivory were known for their lush period dramas, including Romancing the Tome favorites Remains of the Day, A Room with a View, and Howards End. While the new film is yet to be listed on IMDB, there is a TV adaptation of Richard II which was filmed at Pembroke Castle in Wales and is scheduled to premier on June 30 in the UK. So whom would you cast in Ivory's adaptation? --Kim

June 25, 2012

Shakespeare on Display!

Just in time for the throngs of tourists pouring into London next month, a new exhibition debuts at the British Museum on July 19 called Shakespeare: Staging the World, which will feature a rare copy of the Bard's First Folio along with other objects which might have inspired him, like a racy, interactive picture of a Venetian courtesan. (Daily Telegraph).

This official video promoting the exhibit is crazy dramatic.

Something Wickededly Good This Way Comes: Antaeus Co. to Perform Macbeth

Yes! A duel. Antaeus Co. rehearsing Macbeth (photo via Antaeus)

Antaeus Company, LA's classical theater ensemble, will stage one of our personal fave's Macbeth, with previews beginning July 5th. Every Thursday night after the performance, members of the cast will hold a Q&A session with the audience. I enjoyed the company's clever production of the Jacobean satire The Malcontent last year. And speaking of Macbeth, here's my newly adopted one-year old pup, Macbeth. Double, double toil and trouble... --Kim

Scrappy Macbeth

June 22, 2012

Out on DVD: Mitford Mania!

Available for the first time on DVD in North America is the 1980s Masterpiece Theater miniseries "Love in a Cold Climate," based on the hilarious and charming autobiographical novel of the same name by Nancy Mitford (as well as her other tome, The Pursuit of Love). Judi Dench stars as "Lady Alconleigh," the long-suffering matriarch of the prettily precocious brood of "Bright Young Things."

If you've never read the works of Nancy, or Decca Mitford's Hons & Rebels (or a non-fiction biography of this outlandish family), add it to your list immediately. You won't be disappointed. From their crazy antics as kids to shocking elopements and even more shocking political leanings, I find myself sort of obsessed with the whole lot. I'm currently wrapped up in Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford, which I stole from Kim's personal library.

Has anyone seen this miniseries, and can you vouch for it? I've been disappointed by other film and TV renderings. (Nothing can quite capture the comedy of the books.)

June 20, 2012

Baz's Great Gatsby: Yea Or Nay?

Another catch-up post: I had decidedly mixed feelings upon watching the trailer for Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, and was relieved to know I am not alone. (via Huffington Post).

Maybe the ennui I felt is appropriate for such a novel, but I'm pretty sure given the splash and sensationalism of this trailer that's not exactly what they intended to elicit from me. I just can't quite wrap my head around the casting, and the whole thing seems over-produced (even for Baz). I think adapting this book is a task no filmmaker has yet lived up to. The 1974 one gets a pass ONLY because I'm soft on Robert Redford, and who can forget that television version starring Mira Sorvino back in 2000? (Yeah. Pretty much all of us.) An offbeat interpretation is a good idea, yes -- so if anyone can make it work, maybe it's him. He knocked Romeo + Juliet out of the park, after all. (I'm also one of the few people who will cop to liking Australia.) So maybe this F. Scott Fitzgerald classic is in good hands, after all. I'll reserve judgment till Christmas, when it hits theaters.

P.S. I hope there's at least some actual jazz music in the film.

P.P.S. I covet Daisy's headband.

June 19, 2012

Let's Play Master & Servant

Liv Ullman and Michelle Williams are apparently teaming up on a film adaptation of Swedish playwright August Strindberg's "Miss Julie." (Plot: An upperclass young woman has a fling with a footman, with decidedly grim results.) Film deets here.

The play's been turned into a movie several times before, including a 1972 version starring Helen Mirren, which I'm keen to check out!

Our Invites Must Have Gotten Lost in the Mail....

...still, this celeb-studded Shakespeare party in Central Park last night sounds like it was epic.

Here are all the details from last night's event. Getting to see Shakespeare in the Park is on my bucket list. In the meantime, I can't sneeze at The Independent Shakespeare Co.'s performances in L.A.'s Griffith Park. This summer, I get to choose from "The Winter's Tale," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and "The Comedy of Errors." (Kim, Jess, let's book our dates.)

Love that they used the Shakespeare Bridge in Los Feliz for one of their promo shots. (See below.) I see this bridge every day from the back window of my house, and it makes me happy.

June 15, 2012


This isn't exactly news, but since Kim and I are playing catch-up, I will confess to being giddy in anticipation of Joe Wright's Anna Karenina, hitting U.S. theaters November 9. (The UK gets it in September.)

The cast is killer, with Keira Knightley as Anna, Matthew MacFadyen as Oblonsky (Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy, reunite!), Emily Watson, Jude Law, "Boardwalk Empire's" Kelly McDonald, "Downton Abbey's" Michelle Dockery, and more...

...though I daresay this picture of actor Aaron Johnson makes me wonder if Count Vronsky was really worth flinging oneself on railroad tracks for. (Seriously, I don't get it. Someone enlighten me.)

How Well Do You Know The British Monarchy?

Okay Anglophiles...how will you do on this quick quiz, courtesy of PBS.com? I earned "monarch" status, and that's the sort of feather in my cap (or should I say "diadem in my tiara?") that will leave me feeling blissful for the rest of the day. (Though truth be told, the questions are no-brainers.)

Speaking of PBS, I can see getting into Michael Wood's Story of England, when it begins airing on July 3. It basically takes one tiny village in Leicestershire and looks at the way it changed and evolved over the course of 2,000 years of England's history. Since I'm also a fan of the work of Edward Rutherford, whose novels take a similar approach, I suspect it will appeal to me.

June 13, 2012

Whereabouts: Greg Wise

"What care I for colds when there is such a man?" --Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility

I spotted Greg Wise (Willoughby in Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility, Guy Thwaite in The Buccaneers, and Emma Thompson's real life main squeeze) guest-starring on Zen, a sadly short-lived BBC detective series featuring another Romancing the Tome fave, the swarthy Rufus Sewell (Middlemarch and the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). Zen is set in Rome--albeit with a mostly British cast--and currently available streaming on PBS.org. Wise will portray John Ruskin in the upcoming film Effie, with co-stars Dakota Fanning--as Ruskin's teen bride--and Emma Thompson.

June 12, 2012

Literary Dishes, in Pictures

In my previous post I referenced preparing food in homage to Anne of Green Gables, and now I've come across photographer Dinah Fried's take on famous meals in fiction.

Inspector Lewis: The Merchant of Venice Episode

I was catching up on some Inspector Lewis to prep for the new season coming soon on Masterpiece Mystery when I realized I'd missed a couple of episodes from Season 3. "The Quality of Mercy" is fantastic. At 93 minutes it's practically movie length and, best of all, the plot revolves around a production of The Merchant of Venice. If you don't watch Inspector Lewis, know this: It's set in Oxford (so the sets and scenery are gorgeous) and co-stars tall, mysterious, and cerebral Cambridge grad, Detective Sergeant James Hathaway, who trained for the priesthood in Oxford. (I've had a thing for that since Heath Ledger in The Order. See the comments here.) Hathaway is played by Laurence Fox (Becoming Jane, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and Gosford Park; married to Dr. Who's Billie Piper). You can--and should--watch Inspector Lewis streaming on Netflix. --Kim

Anne of Green Gables Time Warp?

"Don't you ever imagine things differently from what they are?" -- Anne Shirley

Kim and I have good reason to embrace modern retellings of classic literature (and we'll soon be able to tell you why). Still, I found myself shaking my head in stern, Marilla-Cuthbert fashion at recent industry news announcing that Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables is being adapted into a new contemporary TV series.

It's an interesting idea, so I'm trying to keep an open mind. After all, Anne's brand of humor is as LOL-hilarious today as when it was conceived at the turn of the last century. With the right casting (caveat: Megan Follows is sacrosanct to me) introducing a new generation to the redhead's endearing antics and poignant journey into adulthood can only be a positive thing...right? And yet, considering TV is currently enamored with period dramas like Downton Abbey, Boardwalk Empire, and the upcoming Civil War-Era Copper debuting in August, why couldn't the Montgomery books be resurrected in their original state, complete with pinafores and straw boater hats?

I shudder to think about how some modern elements will be woven into Anne's story, and how some of my favorite facets of the original will naturally be dropped. (She'd hardly need to signal BFF, Diana, with a flashlight when texting is an option.) Perhaps it's the fact that I'm too avid a fan — a purist, if you will — that's making me a little skittish about this one. While everyone else in college was off attending frat parties, my roommate, fellow English major, and all-around kindred spirit, Meg, and I threw an "Anne of Green Gables" movie marathon party complete with recipes inspired by the books and massive swooning histrionics whenever Gilbert Blythe came on screen.

What's next? Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books set in modern-day Orange County?

June 11, 2012

Podcast Alert: Shakespeare's Restless World

And but one word with one of us? couple it with
something; make it a word and a blow. 

I'm really enjoying the new BBCRadio4 podcast series Shakespeare's Restless World, hosted by British Museum Director Neil MacGregor. The series explores the bard's world via objects such as The Stratford Chalice, an excavated monogrammed fork found at the site of the Rose Theatre, and a rapier unearthed on the banks of the Thames. Topics included urban violence (think Mercutio and Tybalt's tragic sword fight) and snacking habits of the Elizabethan theatre-goer. (I couldn't help but wonder if Elizabethans also bemoaned the high cost of concession snacks...) You can find out more and see photos of the objects from the series here. --Kim

June 7, 2012

It's Not Curtains for 435-Year Old Shakespeare Theatre

I got the chills when I heard the story on NPR this a.m. The remains of The Curtain, the 435-year old Shoreditch theatre where Shakespeare's Henry V was performed, have been uncovered in a London excavation. Here's the story. And here's our gratuitous Kenneth Branagh as Henry V photo. --Kim

June 4, 2012

The Lord Chamberlain's Women

Amy and I saw Richard Chamberlain in The Heiress at Pasadena Playhouse a couple of weeks ago. It was a brief respite in what has been a frenetically paced couple months of writing for the two of us (exciting project tba). We wanted to shout "Thornbirds" when Chamberlain appeared onstage as the play opened, but well-bred women (cough) that we are, we instead clapped with the rest of the enthusiastic audience. The Heiress was first adapted in 1947 from Henry James' 1880 novel Washington Square. Olivia de Haviland and Montgomery Clift starred in the film adaptation in 1949. If you haven't been to the Pasadena Playhouse, it's gorgeous. From our archives, Amy's hilarious description of our Thornbirds film festival : RomTome Hall of Fame: The Thornbirds.

June 2, 2012

Chimes at Midnight & Lavender French 75s

Okay, those two items have nothing in common... other than last night I served the latter (with syrup made from the lavender in my garden) at a screening of Orson Welles' magnificent Chimes at Midnight (aka Falstaff). You'd think the film that Welles declared his favorite would be readily available in the U.S. Nope--I had to order the DVD from Spain because of all the right's issues with the Orson Welles estate. Welles, of course, plays the role of Falstaff to Prince Hal (Kieth Baxter) who sows his wild oats with the portly, dissolute Falstaff and then cruelly rejects him when he's crowned Henry V. The black and white film combines the two Henry IV plays and a bit of Henry V. Since the focus is on the relationship between Prince Hal and Falstaff, the movie doesn't include the Battle of Agincourt which means, sadly, no St. Crispin's Day speech. But the Battle at Shrewsburie from Henry IV, Part 1--when Prince Hal goes up against rebel Harry Hotspur and kills him--is and it's absolutely breathtaking. It wouldn't be hyperbole to call Welles' portrayal of Falstaff remarkable.  Some critics are of the opinion it's the best film adaptation of Shakespeare ever. --Kim