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Did he or didn't he?

- 1 Comment(s)

How does a country kid from Stratford, England, with little verifiable education, go on to become one of the greatest literary geniuses of all times? How does a man who lived in the 16th century become one of the most recognizable faces in the world today -- right up there with Jesus, Ghandi and Bob Marley? How does a person from 500 years ago become one of the most oft-quoted people in history?

We are of course talking about Shakespeare, and depending on your school of thought, he either was all of these things, or none. If you are an Oxfordian, you believe all these kudos belong to the Earl of Oxford; if you are a Stratfordian, then you are firmly in the Shakespeare camp.

The new movie "Anonymous" (currently playing in theatres) has once again stirred up this debate, positing some fun and racey alternatives to who can claim the title "The Bard".

But irrespective of who wrote the 38 plays, hundreds of sonnets and other various literature, there is no denying the genius. And CPL is loaded with everything Shakespeare. A quick search of just the name brings up some 1600 offerings! There are 114 titles just for dvd's -- far too many to name, so use Shakespeare DVD as your search term to see some of the greatest names in acting take on some of the greatest words ever put down on paper.

Finally, we have one of the coolest E-Library resources at CPL... "Theatre in Video".

Just go to "E Library" ---> "Art & Music" and scroll down to the bottom of the list to watch FREE streaming vids of some of the best live performances of Shakespeare. Great for theatre buffs (it's got WAY more than just Shakespeare) and students who just can't quite grasp that Elizabethan rhetoric until they hear it out loud.

by Anonymous

Kenneth Branagh

- 0 Comment(s)

Actually, this post began it's life as something else entirely--- it was going to be an accidential film festival, linking several actors across a variety of movies. But when I got going on Kenneth Branagh I realized he needed an entire post to himself. I have always been a big fan---after all, what's not to like? The man is versatile in the extreme, managing everything from Shakespeare to Harry Potter, hero to villian---convincing as any nationality, dashing in period pieces and showing a deft hand at light comedy. He can also swashbuckle with the best of them! Let's take a look at what CPL can offer established or soon-to-be Branagh fans.

In the made for television movie Conspiracy from 2001, I simply could not tear my eyes away from his performance -- he commands attention every moment he is on screen. He is terrifyingly evil, not because he is frenzied but because he is controlling and relentless. Here is an actor at the top of his craft. The movie is the historic retelling of the infamous 1942 Wannsee Conference, where in just under three hours the Nazi's worked out the 'legal' justification for the annihilation of Europe's Jews.

Equally comfortable behind the camera, he has donned the director's cap many times---as in the first film I ever saw him in. It is 1991's Dead Again with then wife Emma Thompson and Sir Derek Jacobi. Actually all three actors rank high on the versatility meter. Branagh credits Jacobi as the reason he wanted to get into acting in the first place and the two have appeared several times together (see Mel's earlier post "Are you a Derek Jacob-ian"). This is a very smart 'whodunit' with a lot of Hitchcock overtones.

Valkyrie--- from 2008, Branagh is one of many highly recognizable stars in this true story of the attempt by several high ranking Nazi's to assasinate Hitler. Tom Cruise is actually the headliner in this and while he can often be over the top in some of his roles, he gives a very tightly controlled performance here. Branagh is as always, excellent. Rounding out the cast is Bill Nighy (even if you don't recognize the name, you will know him when you see him---lately he seems to be in everything); and Tom Wilkinson---another face you will easily recognize.

Shackleton- 2002 A&E mini-series. The true story of British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his 1914 expedition to the South Pole. Their aptly named ship,The Endurance, became stuck in pack ice and after 8 months was finally crushed. Shackleton took to the ice and led the 28 men crew across the Antarctic in what is one of the most amazing true tales of survival ever. This production is excellent, and the mini series was nominated for many awards and won a BAFTA for Best Drama Serial.

He is wonderful as the vacuous and vain Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Based on the very popular mysteries by best selling Swedish author Henning Mankell, we have a 3 episode set featuring Branagh as Detective Kurt Wallander.

Try any of the Shakespeare productions he adapts, directs and appears in, including: Loves Labours Lost; Othello; As You like It; Hamlet; Much Ado About Nothing;Twelfth Night. Half the fun of these offerings is seeing Branagh direct what would be considered unusual choices for Shakesperean roles- Keeanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Denzel Washington anyone? This is very accessible Shakespeare.

He has a small role in Rabbit Proof Fence, a movie I previously recommended under Guaranteed Embarrassement Free 5. Find it by going to tags on the left side of the page and looking up 'family oriented'.

Are you a Derek Jacobi-an?

by Melanie Kolbeins - 0 Comment(s)

British actor Derek Jacobi is best known for his Shakespearean stage work, but he's been in many other movies, series, and tv programs. CPL has many of his best roles on dvd.

Take a look at I, Claudius Never mind the newer Rome tv series (okay, watch it--it's good)... Go back to this classic "classic" set in Rome of 37-68 AD (based on Robert Graves' novel). The production values of this BBC series are very low. Remember the '80s, when we decided to tape in glorious video? Don't let that deter you, Jacobi is wonderful as the "idiot" Claudius and John Hurt as Caligula is truly creepy. Star Trek fans look out for Patrick Stewart. It's a good winter viewing, 13 50-minute episodes, but well worth the time spent.

The Cadfael series

  1. Beloved mystery writer Ellis Peters' (Edith Pargeter's) medieval monk Cadfael plays a forensic investigor looking into murders from within and without monastery walls. Best in the series are The Pilgrim of Hate, the final episode. Try to watch them in sequence because there is a continuous narrative thread in the tv series. Look them up by episode. title Epguides.com lists the order of the series as follows: One Corpse Too Many, The Sanctuary Sparrow, The Leper of St Giles, Monk's Hood, The Virgin in the Ice, The Devil's Novice, A Morbid Taste for Bones, The Rose Rent, St. Peter's Fair, The Raven in the Foregate, The Holy Thief, The Potter's Field, and The Pilgrim of Hate.

    The Riddle

    Jacobi is unexpected as what seems at first the bit part of a homeless man in this mystery set Thames-side. A pub owner finds a Charles Dickens manuscript of a short story entitled The Riddle, which is played out as the story within the story. It's a great premise for a show and Jacobi is the strongest actor.

    Jacobi also appears in Dickens' Old Curiosity Shoppe.

    Love Victoriana? Try the series based on Anthony Trollope's The Pallisers or The Wyvern mysteries, in which Jacobi plays an odious lord whose intentions for his adopted neice turn out to be less than philanthropic. The story has romance and the obligatory "don't go into that room even if you hear weird noises coming from it."

    Even if you're not in high school English anymore, you can still check out our stage productions of Shakespeare on dvd. Try Derek Jacobi in Richard II or Hamlet. You can't go wrong with Shakespeare. This is a good resource for students who have difficulty reading the plays. Shakespeare wrote in Modern English not "Old English" as many assume. It's just Elizabethan, not contemporary modern English, and stage productions really bring the characters to life.