In the Heart of the Sea

Two days ago I read an interview with Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. I first read his book Why Read Moby-Dick? which led me to read next In the Heart of the Sea late last year. It was while I was reading it that I learned that it was being made into a movie that I’ve since been anticipating eagerly.

Details about the movie have been sparse, but more news arrived yesterday that Ben Whishaw is confirmed to play Herman Melville, while Osy Ikhile will be playing Peterson, one of the sailors on the Essex. I’m curious as to how Herman Melville will be written in, as this incident (particularly the whale ramming the ship and its inevitable sinking) inspired him to write Moby Dick but he was not aboard the Essex, although he did later meet the son of the first mate Owen Chase (who will be played by Chris Hemsworth in the movie).

Although I haven’t yet reviewed In the Heart of the Sea here, I do fully recommend it for anyone interested in history or looking for a good adventure story (but based on fact). Even if one doesn’t know about ships or whaling, it is readable and Nathaniel Philbrick does a wonderful job of telling a story as well as informing.

Change For A Dollar

Here’s a short film to start your day. If you need your faith in humanity restored, or like to see beautiful acts of random kindness and are moved by them, watch this. I watched it last night and my eyes were wet by the end.

From the video description:

Is he asking for Change, or is he asking for CHANGE?
Follow a man as he affects multiple peoples’ lives with just one dollar, proving that it doesn’t take much to be the change in someone’s life.

Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” {Review}

Some may say that Joss Whedon and Shakespeare, two giants within their own rights, are an unalloyed union of geekery for fans of both. Whether you’re a fan of one or the other, or both, Much Ado About Nothing offers something for everybody. Even a person who isn’t a fan of Shakespeare might find himself surprised, for Joss Whedon makes the original language accessible and, best of all, one can understand what they’re saying. (You don’t just have my word, you have Stephen Colbert’s!) There is no stumbling, no effort or struggle to understand the words. Any of the humour originally derived from the text (wordplay or slang, or cultural reference) that might otherwise be lost on a modern audience is punctuated by each actor’s performance and sometimes even the set itself, such as when Benedick is offering his thoughts on marriage and women while sitting next to a dollhouse with Barbies. (My favourite line, “That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she brought me up, I likewise give her most humble thanks. […] And the fine is, for the which I may go the finer, I will live a bachelor.”)

I’ve been looking forward to seeing Much Ado since I caught wind of it (and the marketing lead-up to the movie’s release; the ever-changing Twitter bio instilled much laughter). From the get-go, my impression of Much Ado About Nothing is what an indie movie should be, ideally. (The definition of independent movies is not quite determined, and a discussion for another time.) It also embodies the kind of moviemaking I treasure: friends having a good time, whether it’s an indie movie on a micro budget or a major blockbuster, I always enjoying watching behind the scenes features with the cast and crew having a good time and enjoying themselves, and sharing stories in interviews.

I finally saw the movie on Wednesday, with my sister and aunt and all of us loved it! Brilliant and engaging, we laughed at the lines – most of them by Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof), and Dogberry (Nathan Fillion) – the moments of physical comedy (Alexis Denisof wins again), and cursed the “inevitable betrayal” of Don John (played by Sean Maher, who played Simon Tam in Firefly), who tries to sabotage a marriage before it has even happened. (Side note: I had no idea that he was in this movie! I had a minor crush on him, as his character, in Firefly. I did not like his character at all in Much Ado; he brilliantly and convincingly played the villain, a snake in the grass.)

Prior to seeing it, I borrowed a copy of the play from the library to be familiar with the text but so much of the comedy and humour, as well as the tension arising from Don John’s deceit, came alive from the actors’ performances. While I read the scene in which Don John frames Hero for infidelity with some unease, I was tense (my sister, sitting next to me, stressed out) when watching it happen in the movie and even more so as it led up to the point in which she is framed and publicly humiliated. Likewise, while I might have read humorous, witty lines with amusement with amusement, I laughed out loud while hearing those same lines (particularly Dogberry’s). It has long been argued that Shakespeare is meant to be performed, not read, and I can now attest to that – when done well. Such is the case with Joss Whedon’s adaptation.

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A Bloody Big Ship

One of the most memorable scenes in Skyfall is when Bond meets Q at the National Gallery in London, where we first see Bond staring at The Fighting Temeraire. Q breaks the ice when he speaks about the painting:

Q: It always makes me feel a little melancholy. Grand old war ship, being ignominiously hauled away to scrap… The inevitability of time, don’t you think? What do you see?
Bond: A bloody big ship.

(What follows is a brilliant moment of wit and banter. The whole scene is gold. Watch the clip embedded above.)

As I watched Skyfall, I picked up on the old versus new theme and the different, various references. I wondered if I was reading too much into it – it was, after all, a James Bond movie. I don’t think it was supposed to be deep, or intended as such. If one is to take away one reference that capsulizes Skyfall and James Bond as a whole, though, I think it would be The Fighting Temeraire.

It’s on this note that I borrowed from the library The Fighting Tememraire: The Battle of Trafalgar and the Ship That Inspired J.M.W. Turner’s Most Beloved Painting by Sam Willis. It’s a biography of the ship, strange as it sounds, and though I don’t usually read about naval history, it is an interesting and insightful read. I happened to chance upon it at the library and recognized the painting on the cover immediately, even though – I’m sorry to say – I didn’t immediately remember the painting’s name. (But I was able to find it again easily, by just Googling “a bloody big ship” and looking past the Skyfall fan fiction search results.)

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