Written by: Chad Jarrah, Special to CC2K
One week ago. Inside my head: “…God there’s nothing on TV. I don’t know why I bother flipping through the channels anymore; I always end up on Food Network anyway. I wonder if anybody else has a crush on Paula Deen. Ok Chad, stop wasting time. Get back to writing. Well, let me just check my email first. Ooooh, five messages! Let’s see what we have here: Borders Coupon, lame; nephew pics, cute; grad class confirmation and receipt emails, boring; what do we have here? ‘Time for April Fool’s Week Nominations!’ I don’t know if I’ll have time to write a review this time around. So much to do – work, classes; I need time for my writing too. Ah, what the hell, why not. It was fun last year. Reply: I’m in.
The next day. Inside my head: “…I should’ve bought Captain Crunch. Why do I keep convincing myself I want to be healthy? Now I’m hungry for sugary cereal and I’m stuck with this whole-grain shit. Whatever. I gotta get back to writing anyway. No cereal now. I’ll check my email, then I’ll start writing. Whoa. These Cin City guys mean business. They replied back already. Let’s see what we have here. Can’t be as bad as that crap I had to review last year – Vampires vs. Zombies – that was a rough one. What?! Cleopatra? The Elizabeth Taylor “Epic”? Didn’t this win a bunch of awards? I thought we had to review a bad movie? It is what it is. This should be easy.
These were the thoughts, among countless, meaningless others, that floated in and out of my mind. I thought nothing of the movie I was commissioned to review. In fact, for a moment I thought there was a mistake in the selection. I did my research and indeed learned that Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor in 1963, won four Oscars and had a truckload of other nominations. Why would this be an ‘April Fool’s’ nomination? I researched further and found out.243 minutes. Let me write that again.
243 minutes. Now in a different way. 14,580 seconds. Now the worst way of all. The most grounding form of the number. 4 hours and 3 minutes. 4 HOURS! Who expects someone to watch a movie for four hours? Were there not editors involved in the making of Cleopatra? What the hell were they doing when it came time for the cuts? I find it difficult to sit through a half hour sitcom. It bothers me to wait three minutes for my Hot Pocket to congeal. That was nothing. 4 hours? The joke was clearly on me.
There was no backing out now. I already committed to the review. If I had to do it, I would do it my way; the least mind-numbing way of all. I would watch the movie in shifts. That would be the only way I could stand it, even if it was a great movie. With a deep breath and a few clicks on my Netflix account, my journey was set to begin.
Hour One: Going into this movie, I admit that my knowledge of Cleopatra was limited. I knew that she was Egyptian. I knew that she had some connection to Marc Antony and Julius Caesar. I also knew that if I was going to review this film I would have to learn how to spell Caesar correctly. C-A-E-S-A-R. It feels so wrong that way. C-A-E-S-A-R. C-A-E-S-A-R. Got it.
The film opens to one of Caesar’s overwhelming victories of war. He just defeated an army led by another general by the name of Pompey (also his ex-son-in-law) and is discussing the details of the victory with his military officials. Apparently Pompey snuck away and fled to Egypt. Caesar is not ok with this and follows him. In Egypt, there’s a beheading here and an epileptic seizure there and, eventually, numerous encounters between Caesar and Cleopatra. The two don’t exactly hit it off, but just like any third grade kick in the shin, love hides behind the insult. Caesar and Cleo attack each other like two ruffians on MTV’s subpar comedy show Yo Mamma. One major difference: Caesar and Cleo are the prizefighters of insult battling. Here are some of the more notable excerpts:
Caesar:You grow more beautiful each time I see you.
Cleopatra: And you grow balder.
Me:Oh snap! Round one. Cleopatra.
Caesar (to Cleo): Have you broken out of your nursery young lady to come and irritate the adults.
Me: Aww shit. That’s my boy Caesar! Round two. Caesar.
Caesar:You…a descendant of generations of in-breds, incestuous mental defectives, how dare you call anyone barbarian!
Caesar: Daughter of an idiotic, flute-playing drunk who bribed his way to the throne of Egypt.
Me:Boom, boom, pow! What a knockout punch. Round three and overall winner…Caesar. Your prize: Cleopatra.
Soon after this exchange Caesar kisses Cleopatra, they argue a little more and then get down to the business of relieving sexual frustration. Cleo is pregnant with a son, Caesar is ecstatic (has up until now never fathered a son) and Cleopatra is named Queen of Egypt. The alliance between Rome and Egypt is solidified.
Hour Two: As the film progresses, the Roman Senate becomes disgruntled with Caesar’s growing desire for power and infatuation with Cleopatra. Cleo and her son come to Rome. Marc Antony is given more face time. It seems like there is a lot happening but already I am fading. I don’t care that the Senate discusses things at great length. I don’t care that Cleo’s head gear gets weirder and weirder. I don’t care that Marc Antony is being inspired by Cleo. The movie seems likes it’s wrapping up – the Senate plots Caesar’s murder – but I know there is so much left to sit through. I nod off a bit before noticing Caesar’s murder. That wakes me up. I feel bad for the guy. He literally gets jumped by a bunch of guys in dresses. The second hour ends with Cleopatra sailing back to Egypt and the word ‘Intermission’ appearing across the screen. One noteworthy item bears mentioning in this hour: Archie Bunker is one of the Senate members. Weird. I know that Carroll O’Connor was an award winning actor famous for many roles on film, TV and stage, but he’ll always be Archie Bunker to me.
Hour Three:I’m wearing down but at least there’s some new blood to watch. Marc Antony takes a bigger role in the second half of the film. Antony and Senate leader Octavian (played by Roddy McDowall – just like Archie Bunker, I can’t look at Roddy McDowall without thinking of Planet of the Apes’ Dr. Cornelius) are in the midst of some kind of passive-aggressive power struggle. They both share power over Rome but no one really seems to take over. Snooze. God, I am so bored. The thought of taking a shit right now seems exciting to me. Will this ever end?
Nope. Marc Antony takes a trip to Egypt three years after Caesar’s death to get help from Cleopatra. Egypt has all the wheat and gold (no explanation as to why this is so) and Antony needs to renew his alliance with Egypt to get a piece of the action. In Egypt, Antony is treated to a lavish celebration with food, drink and dancers. This is the perfect opportunity for Antony to show himself as a true leader. To act as one who is set to rule all of Rome and its vast territories. I could just picture Antony in the bathroom before the welcome ceremony, hyping himself up 8-Mile style: ‘Ok, I can do this, I can do this. Just shake some hands, kiss some babies and be appropriate. That’s all I have to do. Don’t fuck this up. Here we go. Ready…break!’
Epic fail. Antony acts like the biggest douchebag in the free world. He gets drunk, yells at Cleopatra, pushes the dancers and makes out with a random chick. What a fool. But just like any immature fraternity jock who drinks too much and is way too loud, he ends up with the hottest sorority girl. In this case, Cleopatra. Antony and Cleopatra consummate their coalition with some celebratory intercourse – in my opinion, the foundation of any respectable government. Antony stays in Egypt, the two fall in love (quite suddenly and without any buildup) and I struggle to keep down my bile for the last hour.
Hour Four: This movie is dragging out like one of Liz Taylor’s many divorces. Ok Chad. Deep breath. You’re in the home stretch here. This last hour was tough, because it was the least captivating and inspiring of the bunch. Even though the finale of any movie should be the most climactic and satisfying, this movie fails on both points. I’m just too worn out to pay attention anymore. Bullet points will have to do:
-Marc Antony engages in a Naval battle against Octavian and his native Rome.
-He loses. Cleopatra leaves him, thinking him dead.
-Antony returns to Egypt, feeling depressed and deserted.
-Antony stabs himself.
-Cleopatra poisons herself.
The last few minutes of Cleopatra were like the end of the New York City marathon. I felt exhausted, abused and for some reason, sweaty. I was happy it was over and promptly fell asleep. After regaining my composure the following day, I thought about the film and what I would say about it. In a time where instant gratification is not the main focus, this film may work. Alas, we are not which means that four hours is too long for even the greatest cinematic masterpiece. My recommendation? If you are a history buff, devoid of a social life, with a limitless amount of time and no responsibilities, you may want to give Cleopatra a shot. Otherwise, I give it a big loooooooooooooooooooooooooong pass