A while ago, my boss mentioned to me a docudrama series he'd seen about the Roman emperors where he'd seen "the guy who played Tony Blair in The Queen playing Nero" and how good it was.
Well, after the Who episode the other week about Pompeii and again reading Robert Harris' book about the eruption, it got me on a Roman kick again, so I went to hunt out the series.
Turns out to be a join BBC/History Channel production called Ancient Rome: The Rise And Fall Of An Empire.
One look at the cast list and I thought, "hmm, this should be worth picking up."
For, in addition to Michael Sheen (aka 'Tony Blair in The Queen') as Nero, the series also has Sean Pertwee (who I have an unnatural love of) as Julius Caesar, James D'Arcy as Tiberius Gracchus, Peter Firth as Vespasian, David Threlfall as Constantine, and a huge host of superb British character actors including David Warner, Catherine McCormack, James Wilby, Michael Maloney, Alex Ferns, John Shrapnel, Tom Bell, Geraldine James, Richard Harrington, Alastair MacKenzie and Philip Jackson, to name a few.
I watched the Julius Caesar episode first and it was excellent, fosucing on his rise to power and eventual victory over Pompey to become ruler of the Roman Empire.
I wasn't prepared for just how good the Nero episode was going to be.
Michael Sheen puts in a stunning performance. It starts as the great fire of Rome savages the city and Nero rushes back from Antium to organize a relief effort to aid those stricken by the fire, far from fiddling while Rome burnt. However, Nero's plans to rebuild the city after four of the fourteen idistricts were destroyed and seven more damaged is what prompts his descent into madness. Advised to "Rule as a god would rule over the people", Nero takes that advice too much to heart. Starting as a noble attempt to restore Rome to even greater glory, Nero's desires to see no matter what the cost is what forms the heart of this dramatization of his life and death.
Although it uses the more controversial elements of his story, that may be true or false, it's Michael Sheen's mesmerizing performance than means that the story is utterly believable, even when events seem far fetched. For example, after kicking his wife to death for criticizing a public performance he gave (notably described in the commentary "as if Queen Elizabeth II took up pole dancing"), Nero has her body embalmed and brought with him to the Senate. It's a scene that's both horrific an seemingly unbelievable, but Sheen's performance is both shocking, horrifyingly excessive, but masterful, wonderfully judged and throughout the whole programme had me on the edge of my seat, my jaw dropped, but believing every second. John Hurt as Caligula in I Claudius now comes a close second in the crazy Emperor stakes.
If you get the chance to see this programme, do so.
May. 10th, 2008
Usually I post a spoiler-freeish review on the latest Doctor Who episode, but I realize that anything I post here this week, including the episode's title, will be a spoiler, sooo... this one's under a cut. And will be more spoilery than normal, so you might want to wait until you see the episode before clicking.
( You have been warned. )
1.If you knew that you had only one day left to live, what would you do for the 24 hours?
Well, trying to get laid is traditional, but, of course, since I haven't managed that in some considerable time, I think the chances of me suddenly managing it in under 24 hours is unbelievably remote. I think geather my father as best I could and spend time with them. No particular activities in mind, I'd just want to use what time I had with family.
2. Do you think that life has meaning?
Yes. Life IS meaning.
3. What was your favourite childhood toy/object, or some of your favourites?
The thing I was most into was Transformers, as a lot of people have gathered, but when I was actually a kid I had very few, simply because my family couldn't really afford them. We never really got expensive toys, as such. I had a few (cliffjumper, Runabout, Swerve, Thrust), but most of my Transformers I used to make myself out of Lego, so Lego was undoubtedly my favorite toy mostly because I could create what I wanted out of it.
4. When you clasp your hands, do you put your right thumb over your left thumb, or your left thumb over your right thumb?
Right over left, apparently.
5. If you had to teach the most ignorant person on earth the most difficult thing you have ever learned, how would you go about doing it?
Patience, a pen and pad and a big stick.
The Comics Reporter's Five For Friday #119 -- Name Five Characters From Comics Whose Blogs You'd Read
1. The Hulk - And do.
2. Doctor Doom (seriously, he needs one.)
3. Paige Guthrie (because she's the one X-men character I could imagine having a blog. She had a diary, back in the day. If not her, Kitty, I guess).
4. J. Jonah Jameson (It'd be nothing if not an interesting read)
5. Desolation Jones (I guess reading WarrenEllis.com amounts to the same thing).
I would have said Ben Urich, but since he's been turned into a character I hate, I'll pass.