I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Monday, February 13, 2012

Shakespeare in Love, 1998

Rated PG-13

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and I was in the mood recently to watch something romantic. I had never seen this film before and I have to say, I was a little disappointed. I must be in the minority though because the critics raved about this film and it rates high on viewers’ polls online. It’s a light-hearted romantic “dramedy” which are few and far between in the Oscar race. I equate it to “Ever After” winning the Best Picture award (you know, the sappy one where Drew Barrymore plays Cinderella), which oddly also came out this year. “Shakespeare in Love” is entertaining and is clever and even funny at times, but it is just not at all Best Picture material in my opinion, especially seeing its competition (keep reading).

This is the story of young Shakespeare who currently has writer’s block. He seems to be unlucky in love and writing lately, and apparently they go hand in hand for him (inspiration, I guess). Not much later, he meets and instantly falls in love with Lady Viola who happens to be his number one fan. He is suddenly inspired to write “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter”. Viola decides to disguise herself as a man in order to snag a role in his play, her new name being Thomas Kent. Will confides in Thomas and shares his intense feelings for Viola. (At this point, I literally asked my husband if we were supposed to believe that he didn’t know it was her. I was to assume the shorter wig and stick-on mustache was a brilliant cover. Gee whiz….)

They embark on a passionate love affair and Will is further inspired to write his new NON-comedy “Romeo and Juliet”. Viola is required to marry Lord Wessex and sail for America, but not before she escapes to the theatre to find that she is the only person who can fill in, last-minute, for the role of Juliet. I’m a sucker for happy endings, but in this case, I was satisfied that the two had to part ways. If they had unrealistically ended up together, I would have called this whole story rubbish. Instead, we are content with Viola forever being Will’s muse, who becomes the inspiration for his next play (and comedy), “Twelfth Night”.

The relatively unknown Joseph Fiennes (brother of Ralph Fiennes, aka Voldemort) plays Will. He is a good actor in this film who, ironically, is also in this film’s competitor, “Elizabeth”. He’s much nicer to look at than the pictures that adorned our high school English classrooms, so that was a plus for the casting department.

 I was not a fan, however, of Gwyneth Paltrow as the lead female… and she WON Best Actress! C’mon Academy… over Ms. Blanchett or MS. STREEP? Were no British actresses her age available to play this part? Geoffrey Rush (oddly cast but perfectly acted), Colin Firth, and even Ben Affleck also star in this film and make it more bearable.

Another matter of frustration… not only do we have to sit through about twenty minutes of the actual performance of “Romeo and Juliet” at the end of the film, we have to endure the rehearsals of it as well. I love “Romeo and Juliet”, but that’s not what I expected to watch when I put in this DVD.

Call me a prude, but I think this film should’ve been rated R for its several sexual scenes, nudity, and innuendos. I understand Will and Viola’s love affair was quick and passionate, but it almost seemed unbelievable because of its intensity. There was a cute line after the lovers’ first scene of passion though that I chuckled at: Viola is laying in bed in wonderment and says to Will, “There is something better than a play… and your play.”

I can’t be the only person surprised this film won because it was considered a “major dark horse upset”. It amazingly won seven of its thirteen nominations including Best Costume Design, which it certainly deserved. It was up against “Elizabeth”, “Life is Beautiful” (which is a lovely film that won for Best Foreign Language Film but I don’t think it should have been eligible for both categories), “The Thin Red Line”, and…. wait for it…. “Saving Private Ryan”. Yeah, I know. I shouldn’t have to say more. I mean, I haven’t even seen that movie, and I’m sure it should’ve won. Before the nominations for Best Picture were announced, “Shakespeare in Love” grossed about 1/6th the amount “Saving Private Ryan” did. Granted, the money came rolling in after the nominations and even more so after it won, but even then, the total gross was less than half of that of its main competitor. (Box office receipts are good predictors of Best Picture winners, FYI.)

“American History X” also came out this year… I’m not sure it should have been a contender, but I remember it being hard to watch but powerful. “The Truman Show” was another good one made this year. But my personal favorite film that came out this year though was “Stepmom” starring Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, and Ed Harris. I watch this touching film every year (because the striking autumn foliage in New York gets me in the spirit for fall). Susan’s and Ed’s characters are divorced and have two children. The new girlfriend (Julia) will soon become the stepmom and discovers she will be their only motherly figure now that the children’s mother is dying of cancer. Hardly anyone I know has seen this film (aside from one of my besties who saw it in the theatre with me)… Please go rent this film- I think it is beautifully done.


I do think it’s important to see Shakespeare’s work brought to life… whether in film form or on the stage. One of my favorite movies is Baz Luhrmann’s film “Romeo + Juliet” from 1996 starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. I especially enjoyed his cinematography and ability to modernize the story while keeping the original dialogue. This enabled him to reach out to students and viewers who may not have understood the language but now had a way to make it personal.

Casting against type can sometimes be a breath of fresh air for a film.

When having “writer’s block”, find inspiration in life.


  1. I don't think you're alone in your confusion about it winning. I remember English teachers really discounting this film in high school and others talking about it as subpar. Thank you for your shout-out to Stepmom; I totally agree. In addition, I am so surprised that you, the movie buff, have not seen Saving Private Ryan...but I haven't either.

  2. I liked this movie, but I'm a hopeless romantic and am usually pretty entertained by the lamest of romantic movies. :) Not sure it deserved to win Best Pic though.

    Love Stepmom. TEAR-JERKER!

    And I finally saw Saving Private Ryan a couple of years ago. Didn't see what all the fuss was about.