Full disclosure.I own an action figure of Gilderoy Lockhart from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for the mere fact that this character was played by Kenneth Branagh.It looks enough like Branagh if you squint, and he’s holding a wand in one hand and a sprung-open cage in the other as if to say nothing can contain my vast love for you, Cynthia Hawkins.Or rather it cannot contain the Cornish Pixie that flies out of said cage when you wrench the figure’s arm a certain way, but, whatever.He’s my very own tiny Kenneth, and I will love him and pet him and where were we?Oh yes.I love Kenneth Branagh.Despite himself.He was so good as Lockhart, in fact, because the character served as a sort of parody for the fantastically arrogant person he himself is rumored to be.

Most Branagh fans (including, I suspect, Branagh himself) can trace their diehard adoration back to Branagh’s film adaptation of Henry V. Here. Watch Branagh’s St. Crispin’s Day speech and tell me this scene doesn’t roll your socks up and down:


Henry V was so well done, in fact, that it triggered a resurgence in cinematically-ambitious Shakespearian film adaptations (most of which were also Branagh’s).Its awesomeness also spawned the sort of Branagh devotee who could remain so even after Dead Again and Frankenstein and the splitting from Emma Thompson.And who among us Branagh devotees could really blame Branagh for casting his too-old self as Hamlet, bleaching his hair in Laurence Olivier fashion, and having his Hamlet carried off in crucified-Christ pose in the end?He’s Branagh of Henry V!In all-caps!With exclamation marks!

And now he sits on my shelf, shaking his little wand at me and saying, “You better damn well give Thor a decent review.”Because Thor, in case you were unaware, is directed by the Kenneth Branagh, and I am, as I’ve been with so many Branagh projects since Henry V, conflicted.I’ve even dusted off my Holly Golightly costume (oh, who am I kidding – I wear it all the time) and made a nifty video for you to demonstrate this Branagh effect in action:

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TNB Arts and Culture Editor CYNTHIA HAWKINS teaches creative writing at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Most of what she thinks she knows comes from movies, including how to tango, how to take someone down with a ballpoint pen, how to curse in French, and how to catch a moving train. Her work, on movies and otherwise, has appeared in literary journals and magazines such as ESPN the Magazine, Parent:Wise Magazine, The Good Men Project, New World Writing, Strange Horizons, and numerous alternative weeklies and anthologies. You can find Cynthia on Twitter and at cynthiahawkins.net.

81 responses to “We Few, We Happy Few, We Band of Branagh Fanatics”

  1. Soooooo… nope? No Thor? Oh, wait. There! I put the glasses back on. All better. Netflix queue. Got it.

    I love this video of you with or without my Branaghvision/Kenevision glasses on, beautiful Cynthia. So funny. (:

    • Ah, thanks, Tawni!

      Yes, it will surely be completely eclipsed by other blockbusters in the next few weeks. However, with my Branagh/Kene/vision glasses on I did enjoy it. Though it’s possible I just enjoyed the muscles *giggles*. I’m just so proud of Branagh for realizing he couldn’t actually do this role himself. He did get hulked out and shirtless and long-haired for Frankenstein which was bad enough.

  2. pixy says:

    dear cynthia,

    i, too, wear branaghvision glasses. but i’ve been wearing mine only since “much ado about nothing”, you know, where kate beckinsale was 15 pounds heavier and EXPONENTIALLY prettier. he can do no wrong with my glasses on, but sometimes i’m too lazy to rifle through my stuff and find them for watching his more recent stuff so, it’s really hard for me to watch him anymore (or an less) for the reasons you, quite adorably, expel in your video.

    i really do hope you wear that holly golightly costume all the time.

    pixy.

    • I liked her so much better in Much Ado in every way! The thinner she’s gotten, the crappier her movies have become.

      Have you seen any of the British Wallander series? I think even people w/out their special glasses like him in that. Also, the guy who plays Loki in Thor is in Wallander also.

      • pixy says:

        “wallander”?? no, i have not! my british tv viewing is limited to “red dwarf” and “east enders” when i just need something on in the background that i don’t understand so i don’t pay attention. i will deffo check it oot!

      • Irene Zion says:

        Cynthia,

        Branagh in the Wallander series plays someone so depressed that I find it hard to imagine how he solves any mystery. The books are pretty depressing also, but Branagh does clinically depressed better than almost anyone. Now when I read one, I see Kenneth Branagh in my head.

  3. Dana says:

    Yayy!! You’re adorable Cynthia. “Flash Gordon with a little more lipstick and rouge.” Ha!

    And since I won’t be going to see Thor this weekend, I’m going to watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s because 1.) I love your Holly Golightly getup and 2.) I’ve never seen it, and that just seems wrong.

    I appreciate your Branaghonesty, as I know it isn’t easy when an idol fails to deliver. There must be something else in the Shakespeare canon that could use his touch.

  4. Richard Cox says:

    The outfit slays me. Hahahaha. Although I must admit I still don’t understand the Kenneth Branagh thing.

    Can you make this a weekly feature, please?

    • Now that I think of it, I can’t think of one single guy I know who appreciates Kenneth Branagh. Joe hates him more than he hates Colin Firth, in fact. Huh.

      A weekly feature? Don’t even encourage me to inflict myself on people with that sort of regularity. I just might do it.

      • pixy says:

        yes please!

        • Richard Cox says:

          I am totally encouraging it. And please wear the same outfit.

          I don’t know if I’m supposed to admit to being a big Breakfast at Tiffany’s fan, but nevertheless I am. Audrey Hepburn was one of the most captivating women ever, and I love her role and personality in that. If I could go back in time, she’d be someone I’d like to meet. Besides, you know, Einstein and Newton and those guys. 😉

        • James D. Irwin says:

          How can anyone hate Colin Firth?! He got an honourary degree from my university, and gave a charming befuddled speech!

          I’m with Richard on Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Audrey Hepburn. There was a car advert recently featuring various icons which had a good five or ten seconds just focused on her face. I bought five of those vehicles.

          And I can’t even drive.

  5. Becky Palapala says:

    We watched a clip of the Branagh adaptation in my Shakespeare class, but not this clip.

    It was one with Christian Bale in it. Tiny, pretty Christian Bale.

    I noticed he’s flashed momentarily on screen on this one, too.

    I like any movie with Christian Bale in it.

    Palani likes any movie with Natalie Portman in it.

    No chance Bale’s in Thor, is there?

    le sigh.

  6. OK, keep making videos. They’re adorable.

    I liked Thor. And I say that in a way meaning I was entertained late at night chilling with my boys and laughing and having fun and throwing popcorn at each other.

    Otherwise, comic book movies bore me to tears. They’re all the same to me.

    Thor was hard to watch with my 3D glasses over my glasses cause it was so dark. Otherwise, what I did really like was the CGI outerspacey stuff and Thor’s planet. Cool eye candy.

    • Thanks Nick!

      OH, I hate 3-D. It gives me a big headache, and I don’t see that it does anything except maybe add some clarity. It’s a sham, a sham I tell you! So, I didn’t see Thor in 3-D. I did find it entertaining, and it was great fun to see with my daughter. As a comic book movie it was better than, say, the recent Incredible Hulk films and far and away better than The Green Hornet.

      • Your local newspaper should let you do video reviews. I think you’d be awesome on a larger scale. Yes, 3D is a sham. Especially the ticket prices. I agree with your take on the film compared to other comic book yawners.

  7. gloria says:

    I love Kenneth Branagh. For me, it started with Frankenstein. Him and Gary Oldmen. They both live in the same ivory tower in my heart. They’re roommates. They kind of hate each other, but the aggression died down after they each got their own full length mirrors.

    The video at the end is WONDERFUL.

    • Thanks Gloria!

      I think we’ve had a Gary Oldman talk, haven’t we? I adore Gary Oldman. And Oldman’s actually worse than Branagh about doing crap movies here and there. I don’t even care! I’ll still watch him. He and Branagh are on complete opposite ends of the acting spectrum I believe. Branagh was in the Royal Shakespeare Company and then started his very own acting company, etc., etc., and Oldman’s just a natural w/out all the formal training (pretty sure). I read some director discussing Oldman’s acting style, that he has a physical memory, that he’d ask him to do a scene again and physically he’d position himself and express himself in exactly the same way over and over again. The extent to which he can embody a role just fascinates me.

      • pixy says:

        oh, i loves the gary oldman. the first thing i saw him in was “rosencrantz and guildenstern are dead” and he was so cute that i just wanted to hug him forever. as such, i can never see him the right way as a bad guy that he plays so well in some movies. he’s just that dude from RAGAD having fun playing someone bad, but he’s not REALLY bad.

        • Oh, oh, oh, RAGAD is one of my absolute faves! I was trying to get Richard Cox to watch it not long ago. I try to get everyone to watch it. And Tim Roth — he’s great as well. Have you seen Sid and Nancy, Pixy or Gloria? Highly, highly recommend for an Oldman fix.

        • pixy says:

          RAGAD is my number favorite 3 movie ever: 1. blazing saddles, 2. box of moonlight, 3. RAGAD, 4-10. robert mitchummmmmm… 10-15. the kurosawa/mifune films… “throne of blood” is sitting at home now waiting for me to watch it. the mifune waits for no (wo)man!

          and i HAVE seen “sid and nancy”! i love him so much in that! again, i just want to give him a huge hug.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          Gary Oldman is absolutely amazing.

          But I did not know that there was a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern film, or that he was in it.

          I’ll wait a while to see it. I’m supposed to be putting a production of it together next year with a friend of mine and I think we’d just get disheartened…

        • pixy says:

          it’s not only gary oldman, but tim roth too. i mean… it’s like a gooey british explosion of awesome. it’s so good i want to eat it.
          you should definitely watch it good sir. i feel like people are missing out if they don’t.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          Roth is alright, I suppose. I do love the play.

          Last year my computer broke so I just read all day, and that was one of the things I picked up at the library.

          It does sound too good not to watch.

        • AND it’s written and directed by Tom Stoppard himself. You must see it, James, or you’re going to get kicked out of England.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          They actually let a talented creative person adapt and direct their own work?! I find that hard to believe!

        • Gloria says:

          I’ve never seen it either. I don’t know how that happened. Also, I didn’t know this whole conversation occurred.

          Gary Oldman FTW!!! (is that still A Thing?)

      • Matt says:

        I’m going to jump in here and say that I think Branagh’s Frankenstein is a genuinely underrated flick. It’s not great by any means, and sometimes struggles with being too Gothic (not to mention Branagh’s tendency to shoot himself like he’s on the cover of a romance novel), but De Niro’s performance as the Creature deserves praise, and there’s a nice use of subtle Christian symbolism in the set design and camera set-ups.

        Roger Ebert needs to hire you to do the weekly DVD round-up for his new review show. In that outfit, of course.

        • It would have to be in this outfit. I don’t wear anything else.

          Yes, yes, and huge props to Branagh for making a Frankenstein adaptation in which the creature isn’t a bolts-in-the-neck, animalistic simpleton but rather the intelligent, articulate, philosophical creature that he is in the novel.

  8. Hilarious. If only all film critics wore Holly Golightly costumes and delivered reviews with this kind of wit.

    Kenneth Branagh always strikes me as someone who gets a capital E for effort, whether being truly impressive as in Henry V or whether trying very hard to do a spot-on Woody Allen imitation in Celebrity.

    And then it made me laugh out loud to see the youtube related video pop up after you uttered the words “Netflix queue” with the heading “Branagh talks about the new Marvel movie.”

    • Thanks Nathaniel! Ha, I’d forgotten about Celebrity. So, my husband Joe hates both Woody Allen AND Kenneth Branagh, so Branagh in Celebrity is his absolute nightmare. I think Branagh and Allen both have that in common as writer/directors, that if they themselves aren’t in a film there will be another actor playing Branagh/Allen playing a character.

  9. pixy says:

    cynthia! side note: have you seen “the boat that rocked” (known as “pirate radio” here in the states)? the branaghnator is in that being all conservatively stuffy and angry, but in a very brananghy way. i liked not liking him in it. if you haven’t seen it, you should.
    i suggest finding the european “the boat that rocked” over the “pirate radio” because they cut PR weird and they deleted some awestastic scenes that aren’t even in the extras section! boogers. it’s a cute, lovely movie for a music lover.

    • I have not! This reminded me that many, many, many months ago I’d put it in my Netflix queue. I just checked, and it is no longer there! I sense a sabotage. We’re going to have a little family meeting tonight in my house me thinks ….

      Also, Branagh has played a Nazi more than once. This disturbs me very much. It was bad enough Ralph Fiennes played a Nazi.

      • pixy says:

        i thought he was very “clipped”, i guess would be a good word, when he played the nazi in “swing kids” but in this one, he’s really an unjustifiably grumpy old man who is conservative simply for the sake of being conservative. you know, like they did in the 60s.

  10. ARgh, You disabled ratings and comments. Will you go and ‘like’ mine?

    • Of course, of course, I will! Sorry — there are so many trolls on youtube, and I’m afraid of them. I’m pleased to know you would have “liked” mine if you could have though 😀

  11. D.R. Haney says:

    Inside Joke [TM]: Do you think, Cynthia, that eyebrow grooming, sans Branaghvision, could turn the Thor dude into Branagh?

    I must say that Branagh’s St. Crispen’s Day speech is pretty damned good, even though the moving-camera thing is contrived (but finally effective, to be sure). Oh, and Hamlet was, and is, played by actors far, far older than Branagh at the time he made his Hamlet; and Hamlet is — what? — twenty-nine, and twenty-nine in 1600 looked older, I’d be willing to bet, than Branagh’s thirty-five when he shot Hamlet in 1995.

    • Eyebrow grooming is everything, you know. Maybe the only thing that matters.

      Yeah, 29 or 30. It didn’t really matter to me how old Branagh was at the time, but, boy, did he get ripped apart for it. I think by that point critics had decided he was too absorbed in elevating himself rather than telling a story. Of course, I’m biased, as explained, but I loved it anyway. I’d driven all the way from Tulsa to Dallas to see it because it wasn’t on in Tulsa (where I lived at the time). It’s one of the only cinematic productions I’ve seen that included the entire Fortinbras storyline.

  12. James D. Irwin says:

    It’s always weird hearing a TNBers voice. The video started playing before I muted the radio and for half a second it sounded like you had a British accent…

    I loved your video review. Although I don’t have access to Branaghvision so I only see the less enhanced aspects.

    Actually this has just reminded me of a TV series called Shackleton that I watched. Branagh played Shackleton, who led an expedition to the North Pole in the 1900s. I think he may have directed as well. I was relatively young when it was on, but I remember it being one of the first pieces of television that actually impressed me…

  13. Art Edwards says:

    How sick is that video! Jesus, I have a year anniversary post coming out on Monday, and now I feel like I have to go buy a projector. (Are they called projectors?)

    Cynthia, take this wonderful act to some newspaper or blog or something that actually pays people. It’s so good it seems unfair we get you all to ourselves.

    But we’ll take you.

    • Ah, I remember we started here around the same time! And here we are. A year later. Survivors.

      Oh, I don’t think anyone in their right mind would pay me for this. But if they did, I’d also like for them to pay me to play Johnny Cash songs on my toddler’s toy xylophone ’cause I’m really good at it.

  14. Can this please be a twice-weekly feature? Please?

  15. Elizabeth says:

    A) Please patent Branaghvision immediately and make it available everywhere. The movie-going public needs you, Cynthia Hawkins.

    B) I share your appreciation for Wallander (haunted, pale, doughy Branagh), I can vouch for Shackleton (haunted, sexy, frozen Branagh), and can recommend a little known gem that you will love if you haven’t seen it, How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog (bearded, funny, paternal Branagh).

    C) Between this and our shared love of Jeff Bridges and Emilio Estevez, I’m beginning to think we might be sisters. Though there’s no way I could pull off the Breakfast at Tiffany’s look with as much aplomb as you.

    • I think we must be! Cinema sisters at the very least. Oh, I have not seen that. A Branagh film that escaped my attention!? And I’m thrilled to find that it’s on Netflix streaming, hooray! What a good sister you are, making sure my Branagh viewing is complete 😉

  16. Zara Potts says:

    You are adorable.
    that’s all.
    Adorable.

    • And you are so sweet, dahling! Mwa! (you’ll have to imagine the pixie-stick-cigarette raised and an air kiss)

      • Zara Potts says:

        P.S do you have any special glasses that will turn Clive Owen into Colin Firth??

        • Ronlyn Domingue says:

          Miss Z, what’s your objection to Clive Owen? Just curious. I’m neutral on him, but Colin Firth….swoon…. Mr. T and I LOVED him in the Pride and Prejudice series.

        • Zara Potts says:

          I don’t really know! All I know is that he totally gives me the goob. His smirky face makes me feel ill. Even his voice makes me want to scream.
          Colin Firth, on the other hand… absolutely swoon.
          He was so fantastic in Pride and Prejudice! Lovely…

        • Lovely lovely Colin Firth swoon swoon swoon. You ladies make me want to get out my copy of P&P again.

          Zara, I don’t know about glasses, but I’m wondering if beer goggles might solve your Clive Owen problem? Though in my experience (okay, they were margarita goggles) that only turned Clive Owen into Gerard Butler … 🙁

  17. Greg Olear says:

    First, the video is brilliant.

    Second, he directed THOR? Really? Does he still need to pay Emma Thompson alimony or something? He’s sort of like the British Orson Welles, in his way. All he needs is to gain 75 pounds and do voice overs for cheap wine.

    Too bad, because he was great in that Woody Allen movie a few years back.

    • He did! He really did! You know the old joke is that great Shakespearian actors from England are destined to end up in sci-fi movies. Maybe he’s starting a new trend. Maybe now they’ll be destined to direct Marvel adaptations.

    • Boom. A hit and run Kenneth link. I love it!

      • That’s how I roll.

        But also: Branagh’s the man. I’ve yet to see his Hamlet, though it’s definitely on the Project Matinee list. I just really, really wanted to be the one to link to Othello, because that was freakin’ awesome.

        I’d love to know what Branagh’s take on this piece of cash-in trash is:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXsLsQIpT38

        • What. Is. That. And it stars Richard Grieco!? I didn’t think anything could possibly star Richard Grieco anymore. I thought that was illegal. Until I saw what network it was on, I thought it *had* to be a parody trailer or something, ha! That’s far better than Kenevision for making Branagh’s Thor look like a masterpiece.

          Are you familiar with Chris Hemsworth, by the way? He’s Australian, so I figured he’s probably your cousin or neighbor. But seriously, was he a name in Australia before he was in Thor? The only other thing I’d seen him in was the Abrams’ Star Trek as Captain Kirk’s dad.

          Yes, yes, yes, awesome scene from Othello. He made a brilliant Iago. I’m guessing you’ll enjoy his Hamlet. It’s over the top, for sure, but if you already think Branagh’s the man over-the-top Branagh is generally a good thing.

        • That, ma’am, is the latest from The Asylum, a direct-to-DVD film studio that releases movies that are tweaked just enough in title and plot to not constitute a legal copyright infringement of recently-released blockbusters.

          The Da Vinci Code became The Da Vinci Treasure.

          The Day the Earth Stood Still became The Day the Earth Stopped.

          Perhaps my favourite, Transformers became Transmorphers.

          You have to see this:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaHvM9KVpcw

          So, Chris Hemsworth.

          We have two incredibly long-running soap operas over here, Neighbours and Home and Away. They’re responsible for most of Australia’s acting exports (Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, and Sam Worthington being notable exceptions.

          Home and Away: Heath Ledger, Naomi Watts, Guy Pearce, Chris Hemsworth, Julian McMahon, Ryan Kwanten, and Simon Baker.

          Neighbours: Guy Pearce (again), Kylie Minogue, Natalie Imbruglia, Radha Mitchell, and Jesse Spencer (who was a few years above me at high school).

        • I wonder if they’re hoping people rent those thinking they’re the other films. I can’t imagine watching them on purpose. Unless they’re so awful they’re funny. I’m totally intrigued now!

        • pixy says:

          dude! i was TOTALLY wondering what happened to richard grieco!

          he’s like carmen sandiego!

  18. Liz says:

    I agree with Zara, you are adorable. But, because I’m me, that is not all:

    Why, why did you have to mention Dead Again? I try to forget that…

    To get ready for Thor, I rewatched “How To Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog” last week, which I think is one of those small Branagh moments of brilliance where he (again) lampoons himself (or rather, his reputed arrogance).

    I vote for a weekly video review! Although, maybe you should practice genres: Holly this week, Leia next week (her slave costume), etc. You could match your costume to the genre of the film.

    P.S. When are my Kenevision glasses coming in the mail?

    • I *own* Dead Again. That’s how well my Kenevision glasses work. I will send you a pair right away, and you can watch Dead Again anew!

      I am so psyched to watch How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog this weekend. I still don’t understand how I missed it. I mean, I’ve even seen A Midwinter’s Tale. Which is really good. I loved it. But that was in Kenevision, so who knows, really.

      Slave Leia! Ha, ha, ha! I would never! (I say as I do an Amazon search for costume pricing … )

  19. Jessica Blau says:

    “Kittens, rainbows, and Miss Thor . . . .” You are SO funny–I love this!
    And you’re very telegenic–you should be in a movie! Great voice, too. Sort of whispery but not in a dumb-girl way.

    • Thanks Jessica! You are too, too kind!

      Oh, no way would I try to be in a movie — I’ve read Duke’s Jennifer Bombs in Hollywood of the Failed Artists series. Also, making this two-minute clip resulted in a two-hour blooper reel.

  20. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    Oh, Kenneth Branagh! You’ve rekindled a tiny half-forgotten crush. I doubt I’ll see THOR–I’m not into megamovies–but I might have to pull out my copy of DEAD AGAIN. Yes, I am one of the few who liked it.

  21. Joe Daly says:

    CH-

    This is why I love TNB. Creative, incisive and well-formed pieces like this. You had me cracking up as you toggled between graphics, keeping a straight face in your best Holly G.L.

    I too, dig Kenny B., for the same reason that I dig Alex B. (Baldwin, that is)- both guys can do pompous with such over-the-top panache and oblivion that I can’t help but love them.

    Thanks for this. Made my Sunday.

    • JD-

      And your comment makes my Sunday. Thanks!

      Now that you mention Baldwin, I only ever like him when he’s playing pompous … kind of like how I only like Russell Crowe if he’s playing a jackass. Curious!

  22. Seth Pollins says:

    I LOVE that video and that outfit.

    Did you happen to read Anthony Lane’s review in The New Yorker? Hilarious.

    From what I’ve seen of the previews (I’m not a Kenneth fan) this film really does look like Flash: Ah-Ah! He Saved Everyone One Of Us! I wonder if Thor has an equally good soundtrack.

    Nothing can contain my vast love for you, Cynthia Hawkins.

    • Ah, thanks Seth!

      No, I haven’t read that one. Going to look it up now, though. I’ve read Ebert’s, who has quite clearly not been enchanted by Branagh in the least. Hilarious in its ruthlessness.

      Also, Queen’s “Flash Theme” is now in some commercial (for a new Blackberry maybe?), so I feel like it’s stalking me. But I can tell you indeed Thor does not have an equally good soundtrack. I mean, what’s The Darkness doing these days? They couldn’t have whipped up a decent rock opera sort of thing for the opening credits? Or Muse? That might have turned the whole thing around for me right there.

  23. Gregory Messina says:

    You’re hilarious! and spot on.
    it was nice to see you in video form.

    but you didn’t like dead again? this concerns me.

    • Thank you, Gregory!

      Oh no worries. I love Dead Again. I do, I do! I love it while recognizing that if I were to put my critic’s hat (tiara) on to honestly consider it, I’d think it was complete shite. But I refuse to. This is how much I love my Kenneth. So loyal.

      • Gregory Messina says:

        What a relief! I haven’t seen it in years, but in my mind, it’s one of my favorite films ever. I worry that I might think less of it if I go back and watch it now. For me, it was my first Kenneth/Emma experience and I got hooked straight away.

  24. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    I don’t know how I got here but I am so glad I did. This youtube makes my day, darling.

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