Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Romeo + Juliet still does it for me

When I was 13, Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet was that teenage crack that Twilight is now. We all saw it multiple times in theaters and hung posters up and squealed and listened to the soundtrack so much that we actually gave the Cardigans a mega-hit.

The film was also an awesome tool when I taught the play in my public school classroom (which was the first of four years in a row I taught the play as a teacher/tutor... the exact number of years I've been in the game!).

But this teen sensation really holds up as a film, as I just reaffirmed once more while watching the last hour tonight on HBO. Shakespeare's plays are so robust and perfectly-worded that modern and innovative adaptations endure and never seem weird or blasphemous to me. That's why they tend to be my personal favorites, my deep appreciation for Kenneth Branagh's gorgeous film-making (and ability to commune with Will Shakes' spirit) notwithstanding.

Here, in no particular order, are my personal most-adored onscreen Bard adaptations. This isn't about objective quality AT ALL, or which adapt my favorite plays , but rather about which Shakespeare films I'd gladly sit down to watch for enjoyment like a favorite TV show. Which are your favorite Shakespeare films? Feel free to leave in comments.

Romeo + Juliet '96--perfect.

Hamlet (2000)--a re-imagining of the tale in modern day NYC, which is cool. But what really intrigues me about it is the re-imagining of Hamlet himself from angry, talky, thwarted heir to existential 20-something in a goofy ski hat whose moribund thoughts are his madness.

Much Ado About Nothing '93-- Back when Branagh and Thompson were a pair. Sumptuous, hilarious, emotional: it reminds us that the Bard's comedies have a depth and profundity which are sometimes hard to pick up from a straight read.

Throne of Blood. Kurosawa's dark, black and white version of Macbeth in Japanese is devastating, even without the poetry of the original text. I hear "Ran" (Lear) is even better.

10 Things I Hate About You. Ridiculous, I know. But if you've seen the film, you understand.

Honorable mention goes to the very mixed-bag Midsummer Night's Dream, only because it features a lovely, amorous Christian Bale before he got SO SERIOUS, and a perfect Michelle Pfeiffer + Rupert Everett pairing as Titania and Oberon.

Previously: song adaptations of R+J (appropriate now that Taylor Swift has this big hit)


  1. I loved R + J too. Leo and Claire, what could be better?

  2. I'm old school.

    It's Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussy in Romeo and Juliet, with Michael York as Tybalt.

    Much Ado is also one of my faves.

    For Midsummers, it has to be the 1930s production with Mickey Rooney as Puck.

    Never liked Hamlet much. Whiny brat. But the Gibson...Well, Glen Close carried it.

  3. Can't remember how I got here, but love your blog. =)

    Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet is fantastic. I remember the first time I saw it, my dad and I were trying to find a movie to watch and were completely, thoroughly confused when we saw Leonardo diCaprio in Venice Beach, speaking Shakespeare's lines. Once I sat through it though -- phenomenal. Can't argue with the genius of the original Zeffirelli, though.

    Kenneth Brannaugh is unspeakably talented. Henry V is just outstanding.

    And yes, 10 Things is one of the funniest movies. Love me some Heath, haha.