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October 22, 1999 - Image 18

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-10-22

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6B - The Michigan Daily - Weekend, etc. Magazine -- Thursday, October 28, 1999

0

The Michigan Daily-Weekend, etc. Mag

4 R $

Movies of the Decade - #6
Rent'Hamlet,' perchance to dream

I ONLY HAVE "'S" FOR YOU

By Ed Sholinsky
Daily Film Editor
The '90s have seen a resurgence
of Shakespeare in cinema, as his life
and works have routinely become
the stuff of movie magic. At the
forefront of this Shakespearean rev-
olution is writer-actor-director
Kenneth Branagh, who has shown
with "Henry V," "Much Ado About
Nothing" and "Hamlet" that the tra-
ditional formula of editing the bard

for the big screen is unnecessary.
In contrast to the faux-biography
"Shakespeare in Love" and the spate
of drastic updates ("Romeo and
Juliet," "10 Things I Hate About
You"), Branagh found a purer way of
taking Shakespeare off the stage and
off the page and putting him on the
big screen.
This is a type of purity that has
eluded such fine artists as Laurence
Olivier, Orson Welles and Franco

Zeffirelli, whose efforts cut corners
that stole from the grandiosity and
completeness of the work.
After many unsuccessful attempts
to capture "Hamlet" on the big
screen - including the Oscar-win-
ning Olivier version - Branagh
finally did it right by showing no
fear of the play's imposing length
and scope.
Branagh takes hold of the familiar
See HAMLET, Page 16B

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Kenneth Branagh puts on his antic disposition for his entrance in "Hamlet."

teyOUrar earning
extra cash
.holidays?
Then take a .A

I was sitting in the O'Hare American
Airlines terminal in Chicago last sum-
mer, drumming my fingernails against
the armrests. I had come to the end of a
chapter in my book, "Skinny Legs and
All" by Tom Robbins, so I scanned the
room for anything interesting to look at
while waiting for my row to be
announced. The blonde girl sitting across
from me was reading one book and hold-
ing another, so, out of curiosity, I peeked
at their titles: "The Reader" and
"Midwives." I immediately recognized
them from the widely read school of lit-
erature known as the Oprah Book Club,
with the easily identifiable, oval-shaped
stickers all aglow.
I inwardly groaned to myself.
"Sheep!" I thought. "Bet she doesn't
even know who Torn Robbins is." But I
noticed as I lugged my carry-on toward
the boarding line that she seemed
absolutely engaged by Mr. Bernhard
Schlink's writing. Her eyes were wide
with anticipation and captivation, flip-
ping through pages of "The Reader," not
even glancing up as the final rows were
called to board.
This blonde girl, after glancing at her
ticket, took the seat across the aisle from
me. I made small talk with her while
waiting for takeoff, discovering that she
had grown up in a suburb of Chicago;
that she, like me, lived in Los Angeles;
and that she was working on receiving an
Masters in Psychology at UCLA while
still working full-time as a kindergarten
teacher. She then excused herself to use
the restroom, and I realized these were
probably the only leisure books she had
read in awhile, as time did not permit her
to otherwise. In fact, she could have
bought these books at the airport, seeing
as how every book blessed with the
Oprah touch has also made the New
York Times bestseller list.
I looked towards the bathrooms, all of
which were occupied, and leaned across
the aisle, snatching "The Reader." I read
the back cover description, which actual-
ly didn't sound too bad. Translated from
German; cool. Skimming the first page
(while checking the bathroom status), I
admired his writing style: simple, lovely,
Marquez-like descriptions. Interesting. I
thrust the book back onto the orange-
striped seat when I saw blonde hair exit-
ing the bathroom.
Thumbing through "Skinny Legs and
All" I had a lot to mull over. As an
English major during recent years and an
avid reader my whole life, I had always
frowned upon books intended for the
masses. I had opted for Jane Austen and

the Bronte sisters rather than VC.
Andrews. I had always equated popular
books with bad literature. Is it possible
that I was hasty in my judgment of
Oprah's books?
I talked to a few of my classmates
about this, trying to get various opinions
on these books
by people who &
had actually '
read them. Most
of the students I
talked to had
good things to
say about the
Oprah books
they had read,
complaining 7
only that most
of the books Gina
carried a similar Hamadey
theme: woman
as victim. But tat f
even this holds
true for only the Arts
half of the
books, if that much. One person even
told me that her creative writing teacher
at this university had included two of
these Oprah books on her list of excel-
lent contemporary fiction - before they
won entry into the prestigious club.
In light of this added credibility, I
inquired about the Club at Borders. Meg
Amos, a book seller at the information
desk, had quite a bit to say on the sub-
ject. It is a little-known fact that right
after the latest Oprah Book Club book is
announced, Borders gets noticeably
more crowded, and book-sellers basical-
ly point in one direction all day -
towards the newly "O"-erested book.
Furthermore, she has noticed that
whereas women with children, presum-
ably housewives, have historically
entered the store solely to select from the
Romance section, or possibly the latest
Mary Higgins Clark, they are now ask-
ing for any or all of Oprah's picks. These
are not the only people buying Oprah's
books. Amos also has spotted men and
teenagers poking around the listed
books. Some have even been known to
bring in the complete Oprah's Book

Club list, asking the booksellers which
they would recommend.
This really is revolutionary. Whether
or not Oprah chooses these books from a
certain type, and whether or not these
authors deserve the almost celebrity-like
attention and remuneration they receive
in connection with their oval "O" sticker
is basically inconsequential. They are
being placed above, sometimes even
supplanting, the likes of Grisham, King,
and Clark. And it is about time, for these
formulaic, prolific, Establishment writ-
ers have been writing within the para-
digm of their respective genres for as
long as I can remember. But now they're
finally being challenged by lesser-
known writers.
Thus, housewives and others who, at
one point, would only have bought a cer-
tain type of hackneyed, predictable book
are now reading Toni Morrison. They are
challenging their thoughts and often pre-
conceived notions on racial and sexual
issues. These readers are forced to pon-
der provocative themes like control,
power and religion. Oprah's Book Club
could theoretically be opening their
minds, maybe inspiring them to join
book clubs or reread "Crime and
Punishment" and other core novels they
have stashed away from their college
days.
As for readers like myself, who still
cringe at the sight of a permanently
emblazoned Oprah insignia, I say be true
to your own tastes; do not feel obligated
to read every book that this all-influen-
tial woman deems worthy. I intend to
stick to my Tom Robbins, John Irving,
Kurt Vonnegut and other tried-and-trues
because I have read enough to know that
these authors write in a style that is com-
plimentary to my liking. But, I will keep
Oprah's opinion in mind when browsing
through new releases. I did succumb to
my own shameful desire, buying "The
Reader" at the airport on my way to
Hawaii later on that summer. And I thor-
oughly enjoyed it, my own eyes opened
wide with captivation.
-Gina Haniadev is the books editor
fbr Daily Arts. Contact her at
ghamiadev wnich.edu ifyou so choose.

Five C
Stud
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4.ENGLAND
THEATER, OLI
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ROME'S GREA
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look at
a,
rn some extra cash for the holidays,9
open some possibilities in manage- '
n the road.

Read it.
Write it.
Recycle it.
Daily Arts

r":
EJ,

You can ea
and maybe
ment dowr

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