Good tidings, imbibers!
That’s really all I have for my Shakespearean writing for tonight. I’m not that talented/esoteric/confusing to do this entire post in Shakespearean English, so you all will have to to deal with my modern colloquialisms. Anyway, tonight’s delightful duo is Rogue’s Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout and the Kenneth Branagh adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic comedy Much Ado About Nothing. Brief warning: I never read Much Ado About Nothing and have somehow avoided to learning anything about it at all, so I’m sorry that my analysis will be somewhat stunted.
The 1993 film version of Much Ado About Nothing was adapted, produced, directed and starred a certain man by the name of Kenneth Branagh. Mr. Branagh, who you may recognize from random roles in Harry Potter or Wild Wild West, is actually more famous for adapting a number of Shakespeare’s plays for the cinema. Much Ado About Nothing, a story about how people can be tricked/coerced into love and non-virgins should be killed, is one of Branagh’s many adaptations which stars a surprising cast. Denzel Washington plays the only black person in the entire film for no reason, Keanu Reeves plays a dick for no reason and Michael Keaton occasionally shows up for no reason. The film also features Emma Thompson, who is lovely in every role she takes on and, randomly, Kate Beckinsale (Underworld, anyone?) is also one of the leads. For what it’s worth, the cast does a pretty good job despite the clunky language. Keanu Reeves and Denzel Washington are the most ill at ease with the script but they really do make a good effort. As can be expected, Kenneth Branagh is really the scene stealer, filling every minute of his screen time with sharp wit and big personality. And while it is very easy to see the “acting” in this film, the nature of Shakespearean language allows the audience to cut them some slack.
Another feature of the stage-to-screen adaptation is that it needs to be visually fleshed out. Since one of the most boring things you could possibly do is to watch a recording of a play, Branagh takes this opportunity to broaden the visual scope of the story. Though he regularly utilizes longer takes, honoring the difficulty of performing Shakespeare live, he also indulges in massive, sweeping shots that are, for lack of a better word, cinematic. We fly above the lush gardens of the Italian villa on numerous occasions, as well as view scenes from multiple points of view. This blending of stage performance and movie-scale scope actually works quite well.
You know what else works well? Beer. More specifically: beer brewed by Rogue. These guys are awesome. And while their Juniper beer was “meh,” everything else they brew is always fantastic, including their Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout. This big beer, with its strong aroma of chocolate and roasted malt is actually quite mild mannered. It sports a tame 6.1% ABV and is remarkably easy to drink; something not all stouts can claim. This is mostly due to the inclusion of oats into the brewing process. The oats help to smooth out the bitterness of the malt, making it very easy to drink. (On a similar note, I’ve been trying rye beers recently. The addition of rye has a similar, smoothing effect. Try it!). I can’t believe I’m saying this but I would actually recommend this beer to fairly casual drinkers. I realize that most people are wary of dark beers, but I think most people would find this oatmeal stout pretty appealing. In the unlikely case you don’t like it, just hand it over to me and I’ll finish it off for you.
So there you have it, Shakespeare lovers. A tale of confusion and love paired with a rich but not overwhelming brew. Both are appropriate for both the casual and the elite consumer, making it a worthwhile evening for anyone looking to kick back, relax and wonder what the hell Michael Keaton is talking about.
Much Ado About Nothing:
-A strong film adaptation from a not-so-easy-to-adapt playwright
-Mostly strong cast, with a few exceptions
-Actors were definitely “acting,” but who can blame them?