Today’s post about culture.

…not the “culture wars,” which are a different thing altogether, but actual culture. (Not yogurt, either.) It’s kind of a throwaway post — I seem to be a bear of little brain this week.

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I adore the Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson version of Much Ado About Nothing. One of my favorite movies, it occupies a space near the top of my “movies on DVR that I find so soothing I use them to go to sleep by” list. But the acting is uneven, to say the least.

The cast breaks into American actors and British actors. The British actors sound comfortable, whereas the Americans sound forced (or, like Michael Keaton, ridiculous). Keanu Reeves came in for a lot of grief about his acting in this movie, but  Robert Sean Leonard was not much better. You need only listen to the interchange between Branagh’s Benedict and Leonard’s Claudio about the virtues of Hero to hear the casual naturalism of the first (tricky when doing Shakespeare) and the forced drama of the second.

The two exceptions were clearly Denzel Washington as Don Pedro, and Kate Beckinsale as Hero. Washington in particular, was wonderful: I would love to see him in more Shakespeare. The obvious would be Othello, of course, in which he would be incredible, but I think he would make a great Brutus in Julius Caesar.

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Speaking of Shakespeare, Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Hamlet. Holy cats. I even would rather see this than David Tennant’s Hamlet.

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Speaking of Benedict Cumberbatch, I have also been re-watching Seasons 1-3 of Sherlock, and The Abominable Bride is on that queue of movies to sleep by. I have seen it probably fifteen times at this point, and I still love it.

My brain keeps thinking “Hey! You need to write Sherlock / Doctor Who crossover fanfic!” Then my then brain proceeds to think about  Downton Abbey / Doctor Who crossover fanfic (either the Tenth or Twelfth Doctor), at which point my brain shuts down in confusion. (The Tenth Doctor would, with the suitable forgeries of course, make a great match for Lady Mary; the Twelfth Doctor could help Lady Edith, who has no prejudice against older men.)

Given the Internet, I am positive that both of those things exist. I’m simply too cowardly to hunt them down.

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Speaking of Downton Abbey, I do have another Downton Abbey post in the wings, this one about the effects of unemployment as shown in the show (short form: they did a good job) if I can muster the intellectual effort required.

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I saw Hail Caesar! about a month ago. As I was watching I was well aware that, as much as I loved the movie (and I did), if you knew little about the era of Hollywood being spoofed, about the types of movies being referenced, or about the grand tradition of nasty gossip columnists (of which Perez Hilton is the spiritual successor), you would probably find it boring beyond belief. (This is clearly reflected in the mixed reviews for the film.) The Coen brothers made a valentine to the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the rest of us are merely onlookers.

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I am reading a lot of books lately. Many I have read before, but now I am reading them with an eye to understanding their writing. I just finished the first two books of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy (she needs to get out the third book pronto), and am moving onto non-fiction, namely The Monuments Men, by Robert Edsel.

 I am one of the few people who liked the movie. In fact, I only read the book after I saw the film. The book is a fascinating if somewhat long-winded account of the rescue (and destruction) of Europe’s cultural treasures during World War II.

It’s a mixed bag: the discussions of the art and architecture I love (in large part because I am familiar with many of the works to the point where I can visualize them without having to resort to pictures), whereas I am disinterested in the military history which is necessary to place the fate of the art in context. For example, I knew of the destruction of the monastery at Monte Cassino, but really didn’t understand the military considerations that caused the Allies to bomb it (in vain, as it turned out). Even  knowing its military importance, I am far more interested in why the monastery mattered in the first place.

I think, like Hail Caesar!, the extent to which you enjoy this book depends heavily upon your enthusiasms.

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There. The bear of little brain is signing off. Maybe I can go find some honey.

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