Hello possums! You did miss me, didn’t you? I’m sorry to have been away so long, but I was subject to unusually pressing responsibilities. Not only do I have a day job, but I’m a student at the School of Information at the University of Toronto, and a couple of very time-intensive assignments were due simultaneously. I may try to clear out some oldies I had planned to write about but haven’t. Although it’s old news now, one of these days I am going to post something about Shakespeare and the monkeys, just because the project recently in the news using Amazon.com resources is so ineffably stupid it can never be corrected enough.
But the big news while I was gone, of course, was the final flush of the toilet on Anonymous. The latest figures from boxofficemojo.com, which include this weekend’s estimates, reflect a gross of $4.15 million for a $40 million film. The Armada (which de Vere singlehandedly destroyed, but Emmerich and Orloff couldn’t quite squeeze that in) put in a better showing. You may object: “But Diamond Jim, it never played in more than 513 theaters, so what do you expect?” I expect a better per-theater gross than the peak of $1,547 reached on Saturday, October 29, its first weekend. Why is this pathetic? Suppose that there are only two shows on Saturday that account for most of the box office, the after-dinner and late evening shows. (Contrary to fact, of course; but including, say, two afternoon shows and one midnight show will lower the numbers even more. Exercise for any readers who actually care.) Then the per-show gross is $774 (rounding upward). Assuming a movie ticket is $12 a pop these days (I wouldn’t know; I haven’t been to a movie theater since the Bloor Cinema closed for renovations, and my cost as a member was $5), that’s 65 people per showing (again rounding upward). It’s hard to generalize about movie theater sizes, as common experience attests, but this thread indicates that on its peak evening Anonymous would not have filled the smallest theater in Riverdale, Georgia (population 12,478; see Mike Spaeth’s comment for theater sizes).
So the lingering question raised by Anonymous, not that I give a flying fig about the answer, is: will John Orloff ever find work again? As the PR mill lumbered along, Orloff, at first in Emmerich’s shadow, emerged as a more and more despicable figure, the twisted henchman to Emmerich’s genially cynical Bond villain. That figures, since Orloff was the one who had the real investment in this film, as a matter of belief and of craft. But as pretty much every non-Oxfordian has noted, Orloff wants to have it both ways—to have Anonymous taken as both an Oxfordian tract and a Hollywood movie whose most bizarre, exaggerated choices are justified in terms of their greater entertainment value. From his obstreperous public performances (no, I am not going to link to his and Emmerich’s “debate” with Alan Nelson, the world’s leading de Vere scholar) to the evasive, hypocritical Wall Street Journal article linked to above, Orloff’s blithe disregard for truth at least has the virtue of consistency.
So I’m going to leave you, and this dreadful little excuse for a movie, with two items. First, this wonderful bit by Eric Idle in a recent issue of The New Yorker: Python FTW! And second, there’s this from one Bob Ellis, an Australian whose de Vere–friendly piece is only worth reading for this quote:
And I was, as well, I must admit, in the room when Ian Richardson said to Sir Derek Jacobi, the fanatical Oxfordian, “Derek, you came from the wrong side of the tracks, and were under-educated. But you crossed the Thames, and began to perform, and within very few years you were the toast of the town. Acclaimed. Unstoppable. If you could do it, Derek, why couldn’t he?” And the irritable, wet-eyed twitching of Jacobi’s face was a wonder to behold.
Ian Richardson, as I hope I don’t actually need to tell you, was one of the great Shakespeareans of his generation, but probably the only one best remembered for a commercial—those Grey Poupon ads where two Rolls-Royces stop next to each other, a window rolls down, and a voice asks to borrow some Grey Poupon. In the United Kingdom, though, Ian Richardson is remembered as having created one of the greatest characters of British television: Francis Urquhart, the scheming Chief Whip who weasels, schemes, manipulates, and murders his way to the office of Prime Minister in the serial House of Cards (with its sequels To Play the King and The Final Cut). The echoes of Richard III in the House of Cards trilogy are way too obvious to miss. Just look at how Urquhart addresses us at the beginning of the trilogy: winter of our discontent, anybody?
But there are many, many other allusions to Shakespeare in the trilogy; her’e a clip that is crawling with them:
Urquhart is the role of a lifetime for any actor, and Richardson is more than up to the task. He portrays Urquhart so beautifullythat the character is still widely remembered in the UK and his catchphrase is still actually used. I think there are no better words to leave the discussion of Anonymous and indeed the whole authorship controversy. Here it is: