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Shakespeare in Love: Undeserving of love

posted by Paul on 3/19/01

Winning the best movie gong in the prestigious Academy Awards usually signifies something. It suggests that your movie was the leader of the pack for that year. THE best movie. Rich in character, plot and textured with intelligence. While there's always debate amongst film geeks as to what deserves to be deemed best movie, the final choice usually has the odds stacked in its favor. Last year, "American Beauty" predictably cleaned up, offering a controversial look at the American Dream gone sour, and a kick to the nuts of the stagnant output of Hollywood. Some felt that " Magnolia " was more groundbreaking and visionary, but few argued that Sam Mendes' surburban masterpiece deserved no lofty plaudits. That hasn't always been the case. The Academy, with its own agenda and twisted logic, has occasionally got it so wrong - awarding mediocre, middling movies and turning a blind eye to original, credible works. Basically, you could fill three books with a list and description of Academy Award screw-ups, but I won't do that ( tempting though it is ). I'd rather just point out one of its most recent and flagrant errors.

Awarding "Shakespeare In Love" best movie.

Shakespeare is a curious beast. The toffier members of society will proclaim him a genius, reciting his long-winded, pretentious verse as though it was really a reflection of their intelligence. But I'm not a toff, and I don't feel that pretending to appreciate some vain glorious, antiquated fanny does me any justice on the intelligence front. I despise the guy. D-E-S-P-I-S-E. I don't use that word lightly or often, but Shakespeare gets my hate vote for he had no business torturing us with his laborious plays and self-righteous pontificating. With his feathered pen and leprachaun slippers, it would be hard to argue that Shakes was anything other than a flaming homosexual - with a freakish ( yet intriguing ) phallus fascination. Upon reading his hopelessly constructed lines, I had the overwhelming compulsion to stick a feathered pen in his rotting corpse. How dare he make Drama so lackluster, so TEDIOUS for me! His was the only play I've ever watched and wanted to stab other members of the audience in the throat. Bastard can't even censor himself.

That's Shakespeare right there. Not a very attractive man, I'm sure you'll agree. He'll never be Brad Pitt, but he ought to do something with that fucking hair for a start. It has to go, girlfriend. I've seen chimpanzees with better grooming ( and probably superior writing skills. ) I'll have to do something with William's mop, in fear that you readers will vomit over your keyboards in disgust.

There we go. MUCH better. It's amazing how Shakespeare gets transformed from a cretin to a stud muffin via the magic of Hollywood liberty. And that's only one of the reasons I despise this movie. Here's a few more.

1) It won Gwyneth Paltrow an Oscar - Great. Just give this sickeningly smug, pasty, overrated, Hollywood-bred brat another reason to boast. Paltrow can act. She's one of the best currently plying her trade. However, she's far from excellent, and while she can slip into accents like Courtney Love can slip into comas, that's about the height of her abilities. She has a swan-like beauty, but so does a Swan, and I don't see many swans sobbing as they pick up Oscars.

2) The jokes are really bad- These are the sort of shady, obvious one-liners Johnny Carson might crack as he assumed the golfer pose. Yes, THAT bad. The jokes are really easy and incredibly cheesy. Par Example..

: HENSLOWE: It's a crowd tickler-mistaken identities, a shipwreck, a pirate king, a bit with a dog, and love triumphant.
LAMBERT: I think I've seen it. I didn't like it.
HENSLOWE: This time it's by Shakespeare
FENNYMAN: What's the title?
HENSLOWE: "Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter."
FENNYMAN: Good title. :

Tee-hee. That is so funny, because we, the literate audience, know that the play is better known as "Romeo and Juliet". Oh, the sheer hilarity of it all. Such incisive wit. Doctor, better stitch up my ribs, they're a-hurtin'. The sort of joke at which a middle-aged guy in cords might chuckle. And that's only out of sympathy.

3) Judi Dench won an Oscar for her ten minute role - Yet another Hollywood injustice. Judi Dench is made up to look like a clown, utters a few lines and not only gets an Oscar nomination, she wins the damn thing. Hmm, is that favoritism I smell? She's not bad in the movie, because quite honestly, she's not in the movie long enough to be much of anything. She plays her limited part well, but then a classically trained actress like her is expected to do that. That she accomplishes that is no surprise, that the Academy thought she did anything outstanding is.

4) Men in tights - In essence, this movie is just a chance for elitist English actors to look accomplished. There's a terrible snobbery with regards to Shakespeare in the acting world. Many say that you're not a " real " actor until you've tried your hand at saying age-old dialogue in plays that are 3 hours too long. I thought acting pertained to embodying characters and inhabiting personas with conviction, not wearing frilly neckties and ballerina pants. But then, Roger Ebert would probably disagree.

5) Mis-cast actors - Ben Affleck somehow managed to combine a bit part here with a shit part in "Armageddon". I'm all for variety, and Affleck is a convincing actor, but he has no business being in a yawn-fest, glorified Carry On back-slap like this. Looking like a mixture of a rabbit caught in headlights and Chevy Chase caught in a successful franchise, Ben fails to convince here. Not so much for the acting, as for the overall look - considering the rest of the male cast generally consisted of ugly Brits, Affleck's studly presence really stands out.

let's pretend I DIDN'T type that

I don't even know why anyone would want to make a movie about Shakespeare's fictional love affair. The guy has been six feet under ( there IS a God ) for about three hundred years and he wasn't exactly Wilt Chamberlain by all accounts. Not like there was a good club scene back on those days, and if there was, I'd love to see how people dressed as they boogied to flutes. Many critics have claimed that Shakes was actually gay, and judging by his photos, I'm inclined to agree ( that's all the proof I need ). I'm sure if he was alive today, he'd be a big fan of The Village People and NSYNC. He'd probably also have a dog and obsess over food coupons, as all stereotypical gay men are inclined to do.


"Forsooth I know not why I am so ugly"

I know I'm the minority by thinking Shakes was intensely overrated and would actually go as far to say that he was mediocre...but hey, call me different. The guy really needed to learn brevity. His plays most have stretched to about 6 hours each, yet he could have made the same points in about an hour. "Merchant of Venice" was just about a Jewish guy who was mean and his overblown relationships with his daughter and good friend. Lots of other shit happened, but I'd call it needless exposition. If Hollywood was making this sort of movie, it'd star Adam Sandler as a tightwad who has a hilarious flatulence problem and has a quirky relationship with his over-sexed daughter, who also happens to be looking for a beau. His embarrassing friend, David Spade, would be constantly asking for money, and this would present some humorous hi-jinks. Expect this one to open big, last about 90 minutes and feature some " hilarious " Jew gags. 90 minutes is all the play deserves, but of course Shakespeare had to go all Farrelly Brothers on us and insert a gratuitous hair gel scene. Bastard.

Here's a few of my tips on how Shakes can make himself more clearly understood, without using all that flowery, dated English. He just ain't hip enough for us mad skillz having MTV generation junkies

Shakes: " To be, or not to be, that is the question "
Alternative: " Yo, what the fuck are we doing? "

Shakes: All the world's a stage
Alternative: " Life ain't nothin' but a gizame, yo. "

Shakes: Oh, I am fortune's fool!
Alternative: " I'm a stoopid clown, dawg! "

Shakes: A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!
Alternative: " Looks like we're fucked, man. "

Shakes: But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?It is the east, and Juliet is the sun
Alternative: " Damn, bitch, you're hot! "

See? Works a treat. Honestly, who's impressed by Shakespeare? People boast about knowing his lines, but what use is it? It's not like you're going to go to the movies and say " forsooth, hath the finest emeralds of eyes have you, wanna shag I do. Like the rose petals of a dense orchard ". Well, not unless you're Yoda, have serious emotional problems or want a swift karate chop to the nose. Just don't play that game, dawg.

The biggest travesty was that this movie beat out "Saving Private Ryan" to win the best picture. Watch both movies. Compare and contrast. "Ryan"? Epic and intensely moving. "Shakespeare"? Pretentious and annoying. "Ryan" is far from a perfect movie ( the flaws scream at you towards the end ), and it degenerates from the visceral impact of the first twenty minutes. But, damn it, that gruelling intro, that haunting battle sequence earned "Ryan" the Oscar. There are a number of reasons why Spielberg's opus is better than "Shakespeare" ( better acting, better story, better editing, better writing, better direction ) and that conclusion is virtually inarguable. Two years later The Academy is sure to concede they made a mistake, obviously influenced by slimy fat-ass Harvey Weinstein's power plays.

I'm glad Shakespeare isn't alive, because I wouldn't want to take his life. I'm also glad, since it's patently clear he'd be yet another social reject with his own website, where he'd tell us in nauseating detail how sad his life has become while he tries to hit on some toothless granny claiming to be thirty years younger and herpes-free.

We don't need any more of those types, and I'm glad we have one less to worry about. But I'm not glad that this oversold luvvie get-together will forever be remembered as an Oscar winner - albeit a very undeserving one.

To be or not to be?

Paul
paul@whatever-dude.com

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