Film Review: Romeo & Juliet (dir by Simon Godwin)


It’s a shame, really.

RomeoJuliet, which as you can probably guess is a cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic play about the doomed lovers and the warring families, is one of the best films that I’ve seen this year.  Under normal circumstances, I would probably have it listed as the 2nd best film of the year so far, right underneath The Father.  Unfortunately, RomeoJuliet did not receive a theatrical release.  Instead, in the United States, it was aired on PBS.  Though it was submitted for Emmy consideration, it was unforgivably snubbed when the nominations were announced earlier today.

And that’s a shame because this film adaptation of RomeoJuliet is one of the best that I’ve seen, one that celebrates the story’s theatrical origins while also working as a wonderful display of cinematic artistry.

The production was filmed over 17 days at London’s Royal National Theater.  Because it was filmed at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, there’s no audience.  Instead, the film opens with a small company of actors, all dressed in modern clothing, walking through the theater.  Director Simon Godwin emphasizes the emptiness of the theater and the almost eerie silence as the actors take their seats around a table and start to recite their lines.  We immediately recognize some members of the cast.  Jessie Buckley plays Juliet while Josh O’Connor plays the role of Romeo.  Adrian Lester is cast as the Prince while Tasmin Grieg plays Lady Capulet.  As the actors recite their lines, they stand up and start to move around the theater and, before our eyes, they transform from being actors to being the characters from Shakespeare’s play.  Suddenly, we’re no longer watching Jessie Buckley and Josh O’Connor.  Instead, we’re watching Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet.

As the action moves to the stage, Simon Godwin continues to emphasize the eerie emptiness of the theater and the desolate look of the play’s ornate but still rather simple sets.  Even with the presence of the actors, the streets of Verona still seem as deserted as the streets of London and every other major city were during the worst days of the pandemic.  Watching the story unfold, it’s hard not to feel that Romeo and Juliet aren’t just rebelling against their warring families but they’re also rebelling against the sense of hopelessness that afflicted so many people in 2020.  Romeo and Juliet’s refusal to surrender their love takes on an extra poignancy when filmed against the backdrop of the pandemic.  At a time when many people were saying that civilization was collapsing and the world was on the verge of ending, Romeo and Juliet refuse to surrender their love.  If their world is going to end, it’s going to end on their terms.

As opposed to other cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, this version of Romeo and Juliet does not attempt to hide its theatrical origins.  Instead, it embraces them, right down to the obviously fake moon that is lowered from the rafters whenever a scene takes place at night.  And yet, the actors give such good performances and Simon Godwin directs with such confidence and skill that the viewer still gets wrapped up in the story.  Like all good works of theater, Romeo & Juliet succeeded in convincing the viewer of two contradictory things, that they’re both watching a production in a London theater and that they’re watching the Capulets and the Montagues as they walk through the deserted streets of Verona.  This production of Romeo & Juliet is one that celebrate both the power of the stage and the power of cinema.  Perhaps most importantly, it celebrates the power of Shakespeare’s classic tale, with the mix of the actor’s modern costuming and Shakespeare’s Elizabethan language reminding us that great art is universal and timeless.

Jessie Buckley and Josh O’Connor both give compelling performances as the film’s doomed lovers, with Buckley bringing a good deal of inner strength to the role of Juliet while O’Connor wisely underplays the scenes that would tempt a lesser Romeo to go overboard.  As opposed to what we often see in lesser productions of this play, Buckley’s Juliet is never foolishly naïve and O’Connor’s Romeo never surrenders to shrill self-pity.  Instead, they’re two lovers who know what they’re getting into but who are still willing to take the risk, even at the most bleak of times.  When Buckley and O’Connor first show up in the film, walking through that empty theater, they look like themselves, two talented performers in their early 30s.  But, as they perform their roles, they transform before our eyes into Romeo and Juliet and it’s thrilling to watch.

One has to applaud the National Theatre for filming this production.  One also has to applaud PBS for airing it in the States.  But still, how I wish Romeo & Juliet had been given a theatrical release or, at the very least, a Netflix or Prime release!  This is a production that I wish more people had seen, a great work of theater, film, and art.

Romeo-and-Juliet-First-look-26.01.21-1-copy-1618268389

Here are the Emmy Nominations!


I’ll just be honest and admit that the Emmys snuck up on me this year. It’s been a busy few weeks and I still haven’t gotten to sit down and watch all of the contenders so my opinions on what got snubbed and who deserves to win probably aren’t worth much.

I will say this: I am stunned that Small Axe was pretty much totally snubbed. (It did get a cinematography nominations but that was it.) Under last year rules, Amazon could have submitted at least three of the Small Axe films for Oscar consideration — Mangrove, Red, White, and Blue, and Lovers Rock. It chose not to, announcing that Small Axe was only going to be submitted for the Emmy awards. You have to wonder if there’s any regret about that decision because all three of those films were superior to many of the films that were Oscar-nominated earlier this year. (Mangrove has been described as being “the good version of The Trial of The Chicago 7.”)

Though it never got the critical love that Small Axe received, I was a fan of Hulu’s A Teacher and it’s a shame that neither it nor Kate Mara received nominations this year.

I’m happy to see Cobra Kai get some love. And I’ll be happy when the inevitable Ted Lasso backlash kicks in because gooddamn, if there’s any series that I’m sick of hearing about….

Here are the major Emmy nominees!

Outstanding Drama Series

The Boys

Bridgerton

The Crown

The Mandalorian

Lovecraft Country

Pose

The Handmaid’s Tale

This Is Us

Outstanding Comedy Series

Black-ish

Cobra Kai

Pen15

Emily in Paris

Hacks

Ted Lasso

The Flight Attendant

The Kominsky Method

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Regé-Jean Page, Bridgerton

Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us

Billy Porter, Pose

Jonathan Majors, Lovecraft Country

Matthew Rhys, Perry Mason

Josh O’Connor, The Crown

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Emma Corrin, The Crown

Olivia Colman, The Crown

Uzo Aduba, In Treatment

Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale

Jurnee Smollett, Lovecraft Country

Mj Rodriguez, Pose

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Michael K. Williams, Lovecraft Country

Bradley Whitford, The Handmaid’s Tale

Max Minghella, The Handmaid’s Tale

O-T Fagbenle, The Handmaid’s Tale

John Lithgow, Perry Mason

Tobias Menzies, The Crown

Giancarlo Esposito, The Mandalorian

Chris Sullivan, This Is Us

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Gillian Anderson, The Crown

Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown

Emerald Fennell, The Crown

Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale

Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale

Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale

Madeline Brewer, The Handmaid’s Tale

Aunjanue Ellis, Lovecraft Country

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish

Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method

William H. Macy, Shameless

Kenan Thompson, Kenan

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Aidy Bryant, Shrill

Jean Smart, Hacks

Allison Janney, Mom

Kaley Cuoco, The Flight Attendant

Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Bowen Yang, Saturday Night Live

Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live

Brett Goldstein, Ted Lasso

Brendan Hunt, Ted Lasso

Nick Mohammed, Ted Lasso

Jeremy Swift, Ted Lasso

Paul Reiser, The Kominsky Method

Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Hacks

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live

Cecily Strong, Saturday Night Live

Aidy Bryant, Saturday Night Live

Rosie Perez, The Flight Attendant

Hannah Einbinder, Hacks

Hannah Waddingham, Ted Lasso

Juno Temple, Ted Lasso

Outstanding Limited Series

Mare of Easttown

I May Destroy You

WandaVision

The Queen’s Gambit

The Underground Railroad

Outstanding Television Movie

Uncle Frank

Sylvie’s Love

Oslo

Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia

Dolly Parton’s Christmas on The Square

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Paul Bettany, WandaVision

Hugh Grant, The Undoing

Ewan McGregor, Halston

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Leslie Odom Jr., Hamilton

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Kate Winslet, Mare of Easttown

Michaela Coel, I May Destroy You

Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen’s Gambit

Elizabeth Olsen, WandaVision

Cynthia Erivo, Genius: Aretha

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Jean Smart, Mare of Easttown

Julianne Nicholson, Mare of Easttown

Kathryn Hahn, WandaVision

Phillipa Soo, Hamilton

Renee Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton

Moses Ingram, The Queen’s Gambit

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Daveed Diggs, Hamilton

Jonathan Groff, Hamilton

Anthony Ramos, Hamilton

Thomas Brodie-Sangster, The Queen’s Gambit

Evan Peters, Mare of Easttown

Paapa Essiedu, I May Destroy You

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Courtney B. Vance, Lovecraft Country

Charles Dance, The Crown

Don Cheadle, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Timothy Olyphant, The Mandalorian

Carl Weathers, The Mandalorian

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale

Mckenna Grace, The Handmaid’s Tale

Claire Foy, The Crown

Phylicia Rashad, This Is Us

Sophie Okonedo, Ratched

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

Chris Rock, Saturday Night Live

Dave Chappelle, Saturday Night Live

Daniel Kaluuya, Saturday Night Live

Dan Levy, Saturday Night Live

Morgan Freeman, The Kominsky Method

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Maya Rudolph, Saturday Night Live

Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live

Issa Rae, A Black Lady Sketch Show

Jane Adams, Hacks

Bernadette Peters, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Yvette Nicole Brown, A Black Lady Sketch Show

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

A Black Lady Sketch Show

Saturday Night Live

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

Conan

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Jimmy Kimmel Live

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Outstanding Competition Program

The Amazing Race

Nailed It!

RuPaul’s Drag Race

Top Chef

The Voice

Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program

RuPaul, RuPaul’s Drag Race

Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Antoni Porowski and Jonathan Van Ness, Queer Eye

Nicole Byer, Nailed It!

Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons, Top Chef

Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John, and Kevin O’Leary, Shark Tank

Kirby Week : “The Eternals” #1


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

You’ve gotta hand it to Jack Kirby — if you or I had been toiling away in the comic-book industry for approximately four decades, only to have our major life’s work strangled in the proverbial crib, we would probably give up on the whole notion of the “sprawling cosmic epic” altogether and just stick with simple stand-alone stories, punctuated by the occasional two-or-three-parter, until it came time to hang up our pencils and call it a career. Who needs the disappointment of early cancellation all over again?

And yet, after the editorially-mandated quick demise of his Fourth World opus, The King’s non-stop imagination kept chugging away at the only speed it knew how to operate : full throttle. And while he kept creating new and innovative concepts and characters during the remainder of his tenure at DC (KamandiThe DemonOMAC), these were all essentially self-contained…

View original post 735 more words

Kirby Week : “Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen” #133


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

One could argue that I should have started this “Kirby Week” theme I’ve got going with with this, as it marks the beginning of what many of The King’s fans consider to be the best and most important phase of his career, but in truth the October, 1970 cover-dated Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #133 is such a flat-out transformational comic (not just for the series itself, but for the medium in a more general sense) that even on an umpteenth read-through, it offers a hell of a lot to unpack and analyze.

Oh, sure, there are more important entries in The King’s lengthy C.V. than this one, but I think a person would be hard-pressed to find a single issue that attempts to do more than this story does — after all, this was the very first comic that Kirby produced under his then-new contract with DC, and given…

View original post 1,287 more words

Music Video of the Day: Piece of Work by Loren Gray (2021, dir by Daniel Duran)


Some people might be tempted to say that this is a somewhat shallow video but I would argue that it’s actually a very clever parody. As soon as I saw that the garage had a disco ball, I understood exactly what I was dealing with. That said, as I watched the video, I also assumed that Loren Gray is actually the head of a secret organization of international car thieves.

Enjoy!