Shakespeare in Love (Winner, 1998/71st Annual Academy Awards)

28 Apr

So before I had the idea to blog my way through the winners of the best picture academy award, I thought it would be fun to try and watch all the best picture winners.  My boyfriend gave me an awesome reaction with “That sounds stupid, I don’t want to watch a bunch of old movies.” I promptly ignored this, and our adventure began.  Out of the 82 best picture winners, I’d seen 18.  Of the remaining 64, I plan to borrow from friends, use Netflix and request movies from my local library to complete the list.

In no particular order, we decided to start with Shakespeare in Love. I kind of just found out about Joseph Fiennes, thanks to my new favorite show FlashForward. For those of you also living in the dark, he’s super hot and does a mean Will Shakespeare.  Besides being the 1998 best picture, Gwyneth Paltrow took home the best actress statue and Dame Judi Dench won for best supporting actress. Besides all the award wins, SiL has a bunch of people that will immediately send you to IMDB, saying things like “Is that Captain Barbosa? (yes, Geoffrey Rush), “Is that Dolores Umbridge? (yes, Imelda Staunton), plus Rupert Everett, Colin Firth and Ben Affleck (!) in supporting roles.

After wading through the star-studded cast (I wonder if this will be a recurrence in these Oscar winners?), the plot shines after you become acclimated to ye olde English dialogue.  The main story follows William Shakespeare in the writing of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ from his begining writer’s block, through his forbidden affair with Viola (the superb Gwyneth) that inspires much of the play.  Will is originally supposed to be writing a comedy, “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirates Daughter,” which eventually evolves into the dramatic story that is mirrored by the movie’s plot.

Viola, a fan of Shakespeare’s plays, secretly poses as a man and auditions and wins the main role of Romeo (women weren’t permitted to act on the stage in the 1600’s, hence the disguise).  After some absurdity during which no one, including Will who is already pursuing Viola, can tell “Thomas Kent” is actually Viola, even though it’s pretty clear he’s a woman, the two begin a love affair during which they quote significant amounts of poetry (take note boys—though a bit of poetry may be good, the amount here is a little intense for most of us gals) and sneal around a lot more then you’d think possible for the times, especially since Viola seems to be under lock and key by her nurse and future husband.

Without giving anything away, the ending is quasi predictable—their secret affair is exposed and their love follows a Romeo and Juliet-type course (no daggers or poison involved.

Did SiL deserve the Oscar in ’98? Eh, this isn’t as clear cut as I think I’ll see with some years, but from a field that included Saving Private Ryan and Elizabeth, I think SiL was a deserving pick—if only because the comedic elements it contained made this more romcomish and widely appealing, making this a significantly more lighthearted pick than its dramatic counterparts.

Fun facts (courtesy of IMDB and Wikipedia)

  • Technically a comedy, Shakespeare in Love was the first comedy to win the Best Picture award since Annie Hall (1977).
  • Counting this film’s win for best picture, it has the most Oscars ever won (7) without winning the best director award.
  • Ben Affleck took a part in this film to be near then-girlfriend, Gwyneth Paltrow.
  • Budget: $25 million. Gross revenue: $289.3 million worldwide
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One Response to “Shakespeare in Love (Winner, 1998/71st Annual Academy Awards)”

  1. Eric January 2, 2013 at 2:21 am #

    Way to spoil the ending.
    Also, it’s more than technically a comedy because everyone get’s what they want: Shakespeare gets 50 pounds so he can join Burbage’s group and a muse, Wessex gets a fortune and a wife, Fennyman gets his money and more, Viola gains status for her children and, more importantly, Shakespeare and Viola fall in love- everything ends well with the large exception of Shakespeare and Viola’s future; but that too ends happily after all that Twelfth Night stuff at the end and the use of the one of the recurring motifs of the movie, that being what Henslowe says early on in the movie, “The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster….Strangely enough, it all turns out well.” you might agree with Fennyman’s comment of, -“How?” to which he replies, “I don’t know, it’s a mystery.”

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