For the love of Bill

I’ve been indulging my Shakespeare obsession lately. There have been so many great opportunities to enjoy the bard and our upcoming outdoor theater festivals promise more fun to come. I’m also really looking forward to seeing Joss Whedon’s take on Much Ado About Nothing which will be out in theaters here on Friday.

Like any good relationship, my acquaintance with Shakespeare becomes more rewarding the more I get to know his work. I am sad that many people were scared off from this pleasure in school or because they are intimidated by the language. Today I’m sharing some of my favorite Shakespeare on film for your enjoyment.

If you want something with more modern language:

  • Scotland, PA (2001)Macbeth set in a fast food restaurant. “Out, out, damn spot” gets a whole new unforgettable meaning, and Christopher Walken is charmingly funny as Lieutenant McDuff. It’s also hard to resist the cheesy Bad Company soundtrack that goes with the 70s setting.
  • She’s the Man (2006) — When I think of Shakespeare, Amanda Bynes does not leap immediately to mind, but she was really fun in this modern adaptation of Twelfth Night. She masquerades as her brother to try out for the boy’s soccer team, gets a crush on her male roommate and all kinds of hilarity ensues based on the original play. I particularly enjoyed comedian David Cross as the overly supportive principal and love the homage to Malvolio. If you want a more traditional version of the play, try Sir Trevor Nunn’s 1996 version starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Kingsley. It’s delightful.

If you want the Shakespearean language:

  • Titus (1999) — Julie Taymor directed this engaging study of the beauty of violence, and be warned, it is violent. Anthony Hopkins is riveting in this innovative adaptation, and I was glad I saw it even though I may never see it again.
  • Much Ado About Nothing (1993) — Sir Kenneth Branagh has done so much for the cause of Shakespeare. I often revisit this film and its setting in the Tuscan sun. The cast of notables is too numerous to mention. Michael Keaton’s humorous performance is particularly amazing, and Keanu Reeves has a small part which is the only blight on the film.

It’s hard to stop there, because so many other great films come to mind, but I don’t  want to add to the voices making Shakespeare overwhelming. If you’d like a recommendation on a particular play, ask me in the comments. So much is out there, and I have so much yet to see, so if you have a recommendation please share that, too. “The play’s the thing”!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
246. If you love Shakespeare, see a film you haven’t yet seen or a live performance. If you’ve been scared off, try one of the films above and give it another try. You may just see what all the fuss is about.

Your references, should you happen to be in Seattle:

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