Posted (late) in honor of the third anniversary of the first episode on March 26th.
Nothing Much To Do has been the gold standard in literary-inspired webseries for close to three years. The series won eight out of ten awards (best supporting actress, best costume and set design, best ensemble cast, the honorary award, best script, best actress, best actor, and best LIW) at the first-ever literary-inspired webseries awards in 2015.
NMTD was created by The Candle Wasters, a group of four young women from New Zealand who decided they’d like to create a Shakespeare adaptation. They chose Much Ado About Nothing and set it at Messina High School in Auckland, New Zealand, where Beatrice Duke has moved to stay with her cousin Hero while her parents are in Australia. Bea decides to take up vlogging, and that’s where the story starts.
Beatrice Duke’s parents move to Australia, and she chooses to spend her last year of high school at Messina High with her dear cousin Hero, her old friend Pedro, her arch nemesis Benedick, and the rest of the gang. Hero has a crush on soccer goalie Claudio, and when it starts looking like things might be on track for the pair of them, the characters decide, led by Pedro, to get Beatrice and Benedick together. The result is a romantic comedy musical of Shakespearean proportions, with the occasional flamingo or bathtub thrown in, just for good measure.
The series takes place across three YouTube channels, all of which are essential for understanding the entire story. The main channel is Nothing Much To Do, home to Beatrice and Hero’s weekly vlogs. Once he sees Beatrice doing it, Benedick decides to take up vlogging as well. His channel is called benaddicktion. The third channel, Watch Projects, is home to Ursula’s film projects, Verges and Dogberry’s detective show, and Balthazar’s music videos.
NMTD was the first webseries in which all of the content on all YouTube channels was equally important to the plot. The description boxes on every video were written in character and were often as important as the content of the videos themselves (see “An Ode” and “one foot on sea one on shore one in the boiling hot lava”). The titles of the videos also reflect the personalities the person uploading them (Benedick, for example, gives all his videos one-word titles that are thematically linked in his mind to the contents of said video).
The Candle Wasters stayed up late to upload videos when the characters would have. The characters interacted with the audience (and once with each other) in the comments section. Beatrice also had a Twitter account, Hero had an Instagram, and Ursula had a Tumblr, and the transmedia supplemented the story but was not necessary for understanding it.
Also, these people act both like the characters in the play and like actual high schoolers, which is rare in any sort of adaptation, much less one with no budget.
The only non-white character is Ursula, who is of Asian descent, but the LGBTQ+ representation is strong, especially for 2014. Hero and Leo have two moms, who are off on their belated honeymoon for the duration or the series. Balthazar is openly gay (though he never actually uses that word). There’s also another semi-surprising and very satisfying coming out in one of the final episodes.
Astonishingly good for not having a budget, because The Candle Wasters put in the extra effort to borrow good film equipment and to edit skillfully.
My three favorite things about NMTD:
1) Benedick’s bathtub vlogs
2) The music. Seriously. These people deserve many awards for the music in this show.
3) “one foot on sea one on shore one in the boiling hot lava” – you have to watch it to know why.
While I personally don’t find any faults in this webseries, there are a few things about it that are difficult for other people. The Candle Wasters have a hatred of exposition, so a lot of background information is late, vague, or nonexistent. It can also be hard to understand all of what’s going on if you don’t read the video descriptions, which is an extra step not required by many other webseries. Racial diversity, as I said, is low, but considering the resources The Candle Wasters had at the time, I can’t fault them for that. Besides, every last one of their casting choices was perfect.
NMTD takes a famous Shakespeare play and, while staying completely true to the story, manages to bring in discussions of slut-shaming, create queer representation that doesn’t even go against canon, AND make the whole thing a musical. They explored the vlogseries format almost to its limits. And the characters are just so loveable.
I would recommend this webseries to anyone and everyone with any interest in Shakespeare, feminism, musicals, literary-inspired webseries, or a whole load of other things. My love for NMTD is eclipsed only by my love for the sequel, Lovely Little Losers, so stay tuned for that review soon.
5/5 stars. And I probably won’t be giving out many of those.
Wow, that got long. I wouldn’t have written a review this long for anything else, I swear.
I can’t believe that the same studio/franchise that made X-Men: Apocalypse and Wolverine: Origins also made Deadpool and Logan. Like, just the absolutely whiplash (whiiiiip…laaassshhhh) in tone and quality is mindboggling.
The DC Cinematic Universe: Basically everything is pretty shitty and the stories make no sense and never quite resonate emotionally, but there’s some cool action sequences and overall good casting decisions (I mean, Ben Affleck IS the best live-action Batman of recent memory, and Gal Gadot is a treat to watch as Wonder Woman.) And I do kinda like Zach Snyder’s action directing. I mean–he really gets that these characters are larger than life and basically mythical gods. I don’t mind that Wonder Woman looks like she stepped off the set of 300.
The MCU: You’ll never leave the theater wanting your money back. Marvel is always up for a good time, and they’ve done a great job developing multiple characters over many movies and sub-franchises. Definitely the best ensemble-cast of any active superhero franchise. It’s been a treat to watch Chris Evans grow as Captain America.
The Fox/X-Men Cinematic Universe: Never as consistently good as MCU, and when it’s bad, it’s about as bad as Man of Steel (*shudders*). BUT WHEN IT’S GOOD. DAMN, SON!!!!! The best Fox/X-Men cinema far exceeds MCU in terms of emotional gut-punches. X-Men is still the only active superhero franchise that has made me actually cry a few times. (Goddamit, Charles, Erik, and Logan. Leave me alone!) And Deadpool was probably one of the best comic book adaptations of all time.
Last year, I made my first video top ten (which you can see here), and while that was fun, as it so happens I’m a bit too busy right now to go through all the trouble of making a video at the moment. So here we are, back to the old way of doing things.
On an interesting side note, I found an unintentional theme in my list this year. Many of my films are in some way about the creation of art, as well as the price paid to be a great artist. Also, many of these movies could be seen as “coming-of-age” films. Once again I find myself astonished at how many great films came out in a single year (and I haven even seen all of them yet). So as usual, you can find my long list of “honorable mentions” at the end.
Like always, this is just my personal top ten films of the year. Even if we share the same tastes, I guarantee you that my list would be different than yours. It’s just too subjective.
So starting at number ten and counting down… here we go!
10. Mr. Turner
As far as pure craftsmanship goes, “Mr. Turner” is perhaps the most well made film of the year. Mick Leigh is a master, and every shot is purposeful and completely stunning. The film itself looks like an old beautiful painting. Timothy Spall sinks deep into his role as J.M.W. Turner, and it’s probably his best performance to date. The deliberate pacing and lack of traditional structure might turn away some viewers, but “Mr. Turner” is nevertheless a great work of art, and a portrait of a fascinating man.
I knew very little about this film before seeing it, and I think that’s a good thing. From the opening scene, I instantly fell in love with this darkly funny film. At it’s core, there’s some rather deep subject mater, and yet “Frank” cleverly offsets this with some truly hilarious moments that keep the film entertaining throughout. Domhnall Gleeson is outstanding here, but of course, the real star of the show is Michael Fassbender, who gives an incredibly expressive performance despite the fact that we can’t see his face. I enjoyed nearly every moment of this picture, and it’s definitely one that you need to see.
Some films just belong in the Critrion Collection. Ida is one such film. It’s haunting and artful and features the best black and white photography I’ve seen in years. The sharpness and contrast of every shot is remarkable. The narrative is beautifully simplistic. In fact, the minimalistic nature of the film as a whole is part of what makes it so special. “Ida” is sparse, gorgeous, and masterful. Certainly one of the best foreign films of the year.
7. Only Lovers Left Alive
Vampires are cool, but Tom Hiddleston and Tida Swinton bring it to a whole new level. These old lovers have seen it all, and while they still appreciate art, science, and philosophy, they’ve grown tired and indifferent while mankind continues to make the same mistakes. Jim Jarmusch’s film is a special kind of vampire story, because it may be the first one to really capture just how lonely, dangerous, and exhausting being immortal really is (or would be). "Only Lovers Left Alive" has a deliberate pacing that glides slowly along with it’s characters. Along the way, we learn how they live and what they’ve grown to appreciate, and it’s all quiet fascinating. It’s my opinion that “Only Lovers Left Alive” ranks as one of the very best vampire films ever made.
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel
A Wes Anderson film can always put a smile on my face. His last few films have been some of his best, and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is certainly no exception. This film is so beautifully stylized, and so hilariously funny, I find it hard to believe that there’s anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this film. The cast is fantastically entertaining (especially Ralph Fiennes), the colors are vibrant, the humor is clever, and the filmmaking is flawless. When I saw “Moonrise Kingdom”, I said it might be Wes Anderson’s best film yet…. when I saw “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, I said the same thing.
5. The Duke of Burgundy
Captivating and visually arresting, Peter Strickland’s “The Duke of Burgundy” is one of the most compelling films I saw all year. It’s beautifully shot, colored, and textured with elegant pacing and precise direction - I really can’t say enough positive things about this film. It’s surreal and challenging while retaining a soft and gentle nuance of love and tenderness. “The Duke of Burgundy” certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it extraordinary and deeply inspiring.
I know many cinephiles will probably place “Boyhood” as their number one film of the year, and I wouldn’t fault them for that. Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” is one of the most innovative and uniquely profound films ever made. Shot over the course of 12 years, we literally watch Mason grow up before our eyes. It’s a remarkable experience unparalleled by any comparisons I could make. We owe it to Linklater for having the guts to push our medium forward in such a beautiful way. This will probably win Best Picture at the Oscars, and it’s easy to see why.
3. Birdman: (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Simply one of my favorite cinematic experiences in a very long time. In the first scene, I made a mental note that we were in a long take, but to my wonder and astonishment, that long take never ended. There are, of course, cuts and interludes (this isn’t a “Russain Ark” situation) but the effect is very much thatAlejandro Iñárritu’s film is one singular shot. It’s remarkable, but could be called nothing more than an impressive gimmick if the film itself wasn’t so strong.
This is the best cast ensemble of the year, and the cinematography is gorgeous (made more impressive again by the long takes). But “Birdman” also has some interesting things to say about the creation of art, as well as the criticism that always accompanies it. It’s an intriguing film, and one with something to say. I loved every minute of it.
2. Vi är Bäst!
Every year, there are films that just seem to come out of nowhere and surprise me. Before it was released, I knew nothing of “We Are the Best”, nor was I familiar with Lukas Moodysson’s previous work. However, this film was perhaps the most enjoyable film I saw all year.
If you know nothing of this film, it’s the director’s adaptation of his wife’s graphic novel “Never Goodnight” (by Coco Moodysson). It centers around three young teenage girls living in 1980s Stockholm who start a punk band - despite two of them not knowing how to play an instrument. While the band plays an important role in the film, some of the most interesting scenes are when the girls are simply hanging out. The performances from these three young ladies are perhaps the most natural I’ve ever witnessed from anyone their age. At times, it seems that they’re not even acting at all, as if the cameras just happened to be there to catch these authentic moments. These girls are so funny, enduring, and most importantly, real. This film understands what it really means to be a hardcore punk. And that is a rare thing. I really can’t say enough good things about “We are the Best”. You just need to see it.
And my number one film of the year is…
This is not the most ambitious film of 2014. It’s not a space epic. It wasn’t shot over twelve years. It doesn’t give the illusion of being one continuous shot. It’s not even by a famous director. Yet, “Whiplash” was the single most thrilling piece of cinematic art I saw all year.
“Whiplash” tells the story of a young ambitious drummer who dreams of being one of the great jazz musicians of our time. He soon finds himself under the mentorship of a cutthroat teacher who is willing to do whatever it takes to push his students to the limit. The film shows painful abuse and heartache, but then just when you think the film will find contentment in an obvious solution, it aggressively charges forward into the single most intense, passionate, raw, violent, and beautiful final scene of the year. A scene that made my heart race until it finally cut to black, and the credits rolled. Then, and only then, did I finally catch my breath. This film bleeds with a passion that’s visible in every aspect, from its photography, to its editing, to the stellar performances. Enough can’t be said about Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. They both give 100% to their roles, and it’s both beautiful and heartbreaking to watch.
I found “Whiplash” to be painfully relatable at times… and I’m sure that contributed to my fondness for the film itself. Nevertheless, I think everyone should see this amazing work of art. Damien Chazelle has crafted a challanging look at what it truly means to be a young artist with high ambitions. The road to greatness is filled with suffering, pain, loss, frustration, blood, sweat, and tears… and it seems the filmmakers here understand the price that is paid.
So there you have it - My top ten films of 2014. Please let me know what your favorite films were! Now, some of you may have noticed that a certain favorite director of mine not on this list…. so please see my honorable mentions below.
Inherent Vice - I know! I know! I can’t believe it either. P.T. Anderson is my favorite director, and I do love this film…. it just didn’t move me like his other work as done in the past. “Inherent Vice” is great. I just like 10 other films more.
Gone Girl - Yet another one of my favorite directors. David Fincher is to the point where he really doesn’t make bad films anymore. The craftsmanship is just too good.
Calvary - This is a touching and somewhat heartbreaking portrait of a priest genuinely trying to live a good life. A thankless job to be sure. It’s bleak but Brandon Glesson gives a wonderfully tender performance.
The Babadook - Rich with metaphor, this is easily one of the best horror films in years. Love it so much, and you really need to see it.
Under the Skin - Who could forget this surreal work of art from Jonathan Glazer? Scarlett Johansson does wonderful work here.
Jeune & Jolie - “Young & Beautiful” was an underrated French film from François Ozon. I really loved it a lot, though I might be in the minority.
Snowpiercer - Joon-ho Bong is a crazy good director, and “Snowpiercer” is a thrilling sci-fi action movie far more worthy of your time than most summer blockbusters.
Top Five - Chris Rock made an excellent film with a deep Woody Allen influence. I really hope he will continue this style into future projects.
Foxcatcher - A remarkable film. Bennett Miller is on a roll. There’s really nothing to complain about with this film. See it.
The One I Love - A fantastic little gem from Charlie McDowell. Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss are great.
The Imitation Game - A very sharp screenplay, and a brilliant performance from Benedict Cumberbatch.
A Most Wanted Man - The last leading performance from my favorite actor.
Guardians of the Galaxy - Finally, Marvel made their finest MCU film yet. It’s fun and fast and a really great watch.
Unfortunately I did not get the chance to see “A Most Violent Year”, “Winter Sleep”, “Goodbye to Language 3D”, “Leviathan” and serval other foreign films. I’m sure they all could have made my list if I had seen them.
Ben Edlund is the ONLY spn writer who understood how wonderful and majestic Cas was 😭😭😭 Misha obviously understands that and misses it bc the current crop of writers suck donkey balls and we ALL KNOW this hence the utter shitshow that was 12x23
Hey Lilly! Yeah, I agree, besides Ben is a very good writer, he not only wrote Cas almost perfectly, but the stories were good too. It was a time when spn had a good team behind the scenes. Now, is a show stuck in the mindset of “only two mains”, which is a rather old premise. Now almost all the best series, have an ensemble cast, and all the characters contribute to the development of the stories. And that doesn’t mean that you have to give full time to only one, and make the other one disappear. Look at Got for example, and I’m naming it because is the most successful show right now. The series has lots, lots of characters and less than half the number of episodes of spn. But all the actors on got had their time to shine, because every story is important. And not only got, how to get away with murder, westworld, sense8, brooklyn 99, you may like some of them or not, but the thing is that when the writing is good, it shows, and it doesn’t need to bury characters behind a tree.
Ben Edlund understands this, he is a character writer, that’s why he got Cas so perfectly. And because he cared of course. Spn today has shitty writers that, besides being bad, are told what to write: they only have to write about two leads, the rest doesn’t matter. I can’t think of a show like that atm, with only 2 mains and that’s it, really. I guess that being an actor and working with that shit of a material must be very hard and tiresome. Of course Misha misses Ben, I really hope he can find something better than spn soon or Ben rescues him somehow.
Sorry it got so long, I have no edit button on my brain U.U
I’ve marinated in the emotion spawned from TWD S6 finale for a little under a week. 6.16 won’t be an episode I will watch again. It got to me. Honestly I felt like I was with TF the entire time. Let’s not even talk about the POV shots from the van. Maybe I am being over the top. Maybe I am being a baby. I just felt like I was kneeling on the ground waiting for Negan’s bat like everyone else.
The entire cast deserves an emmy nomination for best ensemble cast. I didn’t see weakness from any of the actors. In fact I forgot that they were acting. We know that the nomination won’t happen, however. Andrew Lincoln needs an emmy nod. He is easily THE most underrated actor on television today. The way he was able to convey those emotions of fear and defeat throughout the finale was unreal. His eyes scared me. He went to another place. His face transformed right before my eyes and I am hard-pressed to find an actor who can take it to the next level like that. I can’t look at the pictures of Rick in the lineup. It’s just too disturbing.
Now onto that ball of twine that is the cliffhanger.
DAMN YOU SCOTT GIMPLE!!! I am so annoyed with you right now! I HATE YOU! But not for the reason you think. You see, I’m a child of the 1980s. I grew up in the decade that made the cliffhanger what it is today. I sat through the original Red Wedding that was the royal wedding on the nighttime drama “Dynasty”.
For those of you who weren’t around back then Dynasty was a drama that chronicled the life of oil tycoon Blake Carrington and his family. They lived the lavish life in Colorado. When Blake wasn’t making billions of dollars, there were cat fights in pools, shoulder pads gallore, and of course sex, sex, sex.
Blake’s youngest daughter, Amanda marries a Moldavian prince. There is a junta during their wedding and everyone is sprayed with bullets. The audience has to wait until the fall to see who survived. When the show returned later that year, only two or three minor characters were killed.
Next up of course was the century’s most important question:
“WHO SHOT JR?”
I cannot tell you guys how crazy the summer of 1980 was with this cliffhanger. When my mom took me to the playground that’s all the parents were talking about. Even the fathers had lost their minds. I remember people almost cussing each other out because of disagreements over who actually tried to murder Mr. Ewing. In Kindergarten my classmates and played out this storyline in our dramatic play area.
So getting back to why I hate Scott Gimple. I don’t hate him for the cliffhanger. Hell, it may not have been his decision. AMC probably pulled this trigger on this one. I am sure TPTB were thinking back to the infamous Dallas cliffhanger and the hoopla surrounding it. To say that the first episode of the following season was a ratings bonanza is an understatement. You have ComicCon coming up during the summer which would have been insane anyway. Then there are the TWD marathons, promotional interviews, etc. On paper this strategy looks perfect.
Now we have to endure oodles of crazy conspiracy theories and diagrams THE ENTIRE SUMMER! That’s why I hate Gimple! Map out Negan’s order and prove to us the genius that you are. Guess what? It doesn’t make a difference! The show runners can do whatever they want! Screw your diagram! Think that the POV shot in the van reveals who the victim is (Btw- I think that this is the best theory and IT’S NOT Michonne, Richonne haters)? That could be a red herring too. The point is these people are already driving me crazy and we haven’t made it one week!
Gimple I’m looking at you!
I get the logic behind all of this. I do. The show doesn’t owe me anything. I’m a veteran of this nonsense. I was fully prepared. Don’t think I’m kissing ass here because if Aaron is revealed to be Negan’s victim when the show returns in October I will flip my lid.
Benedict Cumberbatch poses for photographers as he arrives for a private pre-BAFTA reception hosted by The Newport Beach Film Festival to award The Imitation Game with two of the Festival’s highest honors: Best Picture and Best Ensemble Cast, on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015, in London. (x)