Februrary 23, 2013
Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth
Paltrow, and Judi Dench
When I first sat down to create this countdown, one of the
first things I did was go through the list of movies that I picked and
marked which entries were going to be the ones that would get
the most criticism.
Because just by looking at the titles that I picked, it was
to tell which entries were going to be well received and which
ones were going to be landmines.
Forrest Gump. Forrest Gump was a HUGE landmine. In
that one was such a big landmine that there was a reason it was the
second entry that I posted. I wanted to put it very early in
the countdown so that
I could get it out of the way, and so that I could show you that I
afraid to praise a movie that millions of people out there will
vehemently argue is overrated. Basically I wanted you to
expect the unexpected when it came to this countdown.
Like the fact that I might actually include a Ben Affleck movie
well, now we come to the second big landmine on my countdown.
fact this one is arguably an even more dangerous choice to write about
Gump. Because with this one I am not just pissing off the
Forrest Gump crowd (who are passionate enough and obsessive enough on
their own). No,
this time I am taking on an even bigger foe, I am taking on
the Saving Private Ryan crowd. I am practically
anyone who is either A) a male, B) enjoys war movies, or C) has ever
had anything to do with
Yes, I can only be talking about Shakespeare in
Love. One of the single best movies of the 1990's.
movie that upset Saving Private Ryan and won Best Picture in 1999.
And a movie that, to this day, MILLIONS of people will tell
VERY ANGRILY is so overrated that I am likely to get punched in the
face because I even suggested that it is underloved at all.
is nearly impossible to talk about Shakespeare in Love without also
mentioning Saving Private Ryan, so let's get that elephant out of the
way early. If you are not familiar with the Best
Picture race from 1999, here is how it basically went down.
in Love is a romantic comedy/period piece that came out in late 1998.
It mostly appealed to English majors and theater types and
females. When it came out, it was considered cute and
But it was also mostly just considered a fluff piece.
time, Shakespeare in Love was one of those movies that people who loved
Shakespeare really liked, but ultimately didn't make a huge
in the world of moviedom. It just wasn't mainstream enough to
ever be a big super-loved megahit.
Ryan, on the other hand, well that one was different. Because
Private Ryan was a movie about World War II. More
specifically, it was a movie about
the invasion of Normandy. And it starred TOM HANKS.
was directed by STEVEN SPIELBERG. And it was a very important
movie about a very important American war. There are very few
movies I have ever seen in my life that were a bigger deal when they
originally came out than Saving Private Ryan. They
handed the Best Picture award to that movie the minute it ever appeared
on a movie screen.
I mean, prior to Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks had just won two
Oscars in a row for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. And now he
played a war hero in the definitive movie about World
War II directed by Steven Spielberg. Oh, and then Tom Hanks
died at the end of the movie. To say that Saving
Private Ryan was the favorite to win the Oscars in 1999 is like
saying that the Harlem Globetrotters are the favorites when they play
Washington Generals this Saturday. It wasn't even supposed to
be a contest.
anyway, Saving Private Ryan was something like a 200:1 favorite to win
Best Picture that year. It wasn't even supposed to be close.
But then Miramax took out this huge ad campaign at the
last minute touting Shakespeare in Love as a darkhorse critics'
favorite. They started pimping it all over the place as an
underdog to win Best Picture. They started (correctly)
out that a lot of critics had actually (blasphemy!) preferred
Shakespeare in Love over THE BIG IMPORTANT STEVEN SPIELBERG WORLD WAR
II MOVIE, Saving Private Ryan. In fact, if I recall, the ads
praising Shakespeare in Love were
pretty much relentless. They were basically the only things
you saw on TV in the
weeks leading up to the 1999 Oscars.
But then? Surprise surprise. The 1999 Academy
Awards aired on TV, and
sure enough, there was an upset. It happened to be one of the
upsets in Academy Awards history. Shakespeare in Love, the
fluff movie that only English majors really cared about, beat Saving
Private Ryan, the biggest baddest most important American war movie
that had ever been made.
Shakespeare in Love was named the best movie of 1998.
And it has basically been called "overrated" and "a worthless piece of
shit" ever since.
Thomas Kent can taste your tears. Mmmm, they're so yummy and
Now let's get real here. It is
perfectly fine to like both Shakespeare in Love and Saving Private
Ryan. There is nowhere in the rule book that says you have to
love one and hate the other one.
However, don't tell that to
most people. In particular don't ever say that to any of the
members of Saving Private Ryan Nation. Like I said
before, I am only half kidding when I say that just by mentioning this
movie I am going to get myself punched in the face. This is
BY FAR the biggest landmine out of any of the movies I have picked for
entire countdown. In fact, just watch what is going to happen
when I post this entry. I am going to post it, and at least
of the feedback I receive over the next 24 hours will be people who
won't even read it.
They will just see the title of the movie, and they will
post some variant on my Facebook wall of "I HATE THAT
IT PUT ME TO SLEEP! SAVING PRIVATE RYAN WAS SO MUCH BETTER!!"
watch. I know it is coming. I know people, and I
know how the movie world
works. There is a reason that I held off on writing this
until nearly March. I know that the pushback is going to come
me particularly strong on this one.
you ask me, I happen to think that Shakespeare in Love is fantastic.
It has long been one of my favorite movies of the 90's, and I
remember just being entranced by it the first time I saw it.
fact I just watched it again a couple of days ago in preparation for
this entry, and I was entranced by it again. It is one of
movies that never gets old. It gets better every time you see
it. You appreciate it more and more (and
you catch more and more little inside Shakespeare jokes) the more times
you watch it.
By the way, this is
the point in the entry that I have to point out that yes, I was an
English major when I was in college (at least, I started out as an
English major.) So yes, Shakespeare in Love was tailor made
for a book nerd like me. But I don't necessarily
think you have to be
super familiar with Shakespeare or the plays of Shakespeare to enjoy
it. Yes, if you are a theater person, yes if you have studied
Shakespeare before, obviously you will get 150-200% more of the little
inside jokes in the movie than your average moviegoer will.
it doesn't really matter in the long run, because there are just so
many of them. Even if you only catch 1/3 of the little
jokes in the movie, that is still more jokes than you will find in most
Simply put, the Shakespeare in Love screenplay is
one of my favorite movie screenplays ever. It is just chock
of allusions, little inside Elizabethan jokes, random quotes
plays, subtle references to other plays, irony (both unintentional and
intentional), puns, references to famous sonnets... uh, let's see,
what else is in there? There are references to other
there are moments where the action in the movie perfectly parallels the
action in the play. I mean, just watch this movie a
times. Watch it after you study Shakespeare for a while.
See if you can catch how many little Shakespearean references
writers managed to cram into the script. It is really quite
And what is funny is that I have probably barely even managed to catch
half of them. And I still think it is awesome.
"Well, it's about a nurse."
in Love is one of those movies that you actually feel guilty saying
nice things about, because there are so many people out there who
just actively hate it. But I don't care. If there
is ONE movie
that doesn't deserve to be called "overrated", if there is ONE movie
that doesn't deserve half the crap that it gets in the movie
world, it is this one. There is no way it is the least
deserving Best Picture Award winner of all time (as it is routinely
called). I'm sorry. Saving Private Ryan is good,
think that Shakespeare in Love is good too. They are just
different types of movies. There is no reason you have to
trash one just because you like the other one.
Shakespeare in Love is the
movie that turned Gwyneth Paltrow into a star. It is the
movie that turned her from
"Hey wasn't that Brad Pitt's girlfriend in Seven?" to "Hey look that's
Gwyneth Fucking Paltrow!" She is really good in this movie.
she deserved every award that she got. I mean, shit, she
basically plays four different roles in this movie, and all four of
them are dead-on perfect. At one point she even plays a dude.
And yes, if you aren't
familiar with the 1999 Academy Awards, yes Gwyneth Paltrow did win Best
Actress to go along with the movie's Best Picture. And I
can't help thinking every time I watch
Shakespeare in Love, hey if they made this movie 15 years later that
role would have been played by Anne Hathaway.
The lovely miss Viola De Lesseps. Among other characters.
Shakespeare in Love is a movie that has a
ton of closet fans out there, and it has always had a ton of closet
fans out there. In particular, a lot of teachers love it.
I have heard that a lot of teachers will actually show it in
class. But most people are too ashamed to come out
and admit that they love it because they know that their opinion
is going to get crapped on. Because this
really isn't one of those movies that you can come out and you can
publicly. Not if you don't enjoy a fight you don't.
Unless you are
a weird theater geek (or people just think you are odd in general)
praising Shakespeare in Love at any point after the 1999 Academy Awards
has been bound to
get you into trouble on the internet. Because there is no way
you can write "Hey
you know what, I thought that movie was actually pretty awesome"
without 80% of the internet
reading that as "I hate America and the military. Oh,
and World War II was
But hey, somebody has to come out and say it. And I guess
that person is going to be me.
am not a theater geek. I have never been a theater geek.
have never acted on a stage in my life. In fact I
switched away from being an English major in college because I couldn't
stand hanging around other English majors. Personally I have
thought the whole English major/theater world is kinda weird and odd
But I don't care. Because I am not a theater geek, and I
still think that Shakespeare in Love is FANTASTIC.
Overrated? Shouldn't have won Best Picture? Not as
good as Saving Private Ryan?
This movie isn't just good, it is fucking amazing.
Forrest Gump, I know that this entry is going to earn me criticism.
I know that dozens (if not more) of people are just going to
that title and they are going to instinctively think OVERRATED! and
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN RULES! and MARIO IS AN IDIOT! And then
they are going to post nasty feedback. But I don't
care. There are just certain things that you have to stand up
in the world. And this movie is definitely one of them.
in Love is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen in my
life. In my opinion, it was easily the Best Picture that
year. I mean,
just check out the IMDB user reviews below, just look at how many
teachers out there love this movie. Check out how
often this movie is
used by English teachers to teach Shakespeare in schools.
This is one of those movies that has not only held up amazing
well over the years, in my opinion it has actually gotten better.
I watch it now and I am just blown away that a movie this
smart and this clever and this well written ever could have won a Best
In short, some people out there (a lot of people) think that Saving
Private Ryan should have won Best Picture. I don't happen to
agree with that, but hey I can understand if you
do. Personally I think that Saving Private Ryan
starts strong, but after that it sort of gets kind of tedious and
repetitive. But hey, that is just me. I am just a
guy who has never really enjoyed a war movie.
My point is, just because you love Saving Private Ryan doesn't mean you
have to shit on Shakespeare in Love. It is perfectly
acceptable for both movies to sit at the top of the 1990's movie chain,
and for both of them to be loved. This isn't an either/or
type of situation, there is definitely room in the world for both types
of films. Especially because they were both amazingly good at
pulling off what they were attempting to pull off.
Hate me all you want for saying this, but Shakespeare in Love is not
overrated, and it has never been overrated. As matter of fact
I think it is hugely UNDERRATED.
There are far worse movies out there you could be focusing your anger
P.S. Send all hate mail to
favorite IMDB user reviews about Shakespeare in Love:
Oscar got it right after
all - 3 February 2004
Some day, someone will be able to review this movie without mentioning
Saving Private Ryan. Not today. In 1998, I couldn't believe that this
Gwyneth Paltrow romcom won the top honours. Today, this film has grown
on me while Spielberg's has not. It's clever, funny, dramatic and
romantic, so it hits all the right buttons. And a terrific ensemble
cast love every minute of it. Alright, so Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth
I is overrated, but the production shines from virtually every pore.
Shakespeare in Love - 28
This is a great movie, full of comedy, drama, love, you name it.
Unfortunately, due to the nudity, only the edited version is used in
the school at which I teach. Still, it is a wonderful teaching tool to
show students how costuming, screen writing, and acting SHOULD be. This
is a first-class production. What is particularly excellent in this
production is how John Madden incorporates so many of Shakespeare's
lines from so many plays into this production. Furthermore, my the
interweaving of the subplots helps with the teaching of irony, which
many freshmen have trouble understanding. Outside the classroom, I
highly recommend this film for a "couple's night" when people need a
good laugh or are in the mood for some top-notch drama.
A Great Movie - 4
When my English teacher told the class that we would be watching
"Shakespeare in Love" everyone groaned, me included. We all thought it
would be another boring movie, but I along with many others was
pleasantly surprised. Even though the movie didn't portray the actual
life of William Shakespeare, it is a very interesting interpretation of
what his life might have been like. Normally I am not a big fan of
Gwenyth Paltrow, but she fulfilled the role of Viola De Lesseps very
well. This movie, unlike many others I have been forced to watch in
school, has not been a waste of time and has informed us more about the
concepts and details that could not be seen just by reading the play.
Overall I think I have gained a better understanding of Romeo and
Juliet by watching "Shakespeare in Love".
Deserving of every award
received. - 2 June 2001
As a Shakespeare-o-phile I was blown away by the wit, imagination,
humour, the literate script and the outstanding acting, costume and
directing that sparkles throughout this film masterpiece. I can easily
see why audiences unfamiliar with Shakespeares biography, his works and
the everyday reality of Elizabethean life and the theatre would not be
especially impressed. After all, while they did watch all the film,
they really missed about half the movie. It would be like reading
Giulliver's Travels as just a voyage adventure without noticing the
fact that it's true genius and meaning lies on other levels entirely.
There are many, many instances in the film where dialogue or events
would seem to be straight forward but in fact allude to other known
facts or persons; and therein lies the real humour and appreciation
from what is in effect a continuing series of, "double entendres". What
especially impressed me was the way in which the love story between
Will and Viola is played out using many of the actual lines from Romeo
and Juliet and with John Madden, the director, seamlessly transitioning
the scenes from the bedroom to the stage and back again. I've never
seen that device used in a film before with such effect! Deserving of
every award it received and made it's main competition at the Oscar's
that year, Saving Private Ryan, look like what it really was: a
powerfully effective 15 minutes at the front end followed by an
unimaginative and franky unbelievable John Wayne type flag waver from
there on to the finish line.
Why bother comparing it
to any other film? It's great on its own right. - 25 August 1999
Lots of people don't like John Madden's "Shakespeare in Love," I think,
mostly because it beat out Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" for
the Best Picture Oscar. But I'm not going to talk about that. Why? I'm
not going to change anybody's mind, that much is obvious.
Well, if you want my opinion, "Shakespeare in Love" is a superb motion
picture. It is, from every standpoint, a flawless piece of
craftmanship. For starters, there is the acting, which is simply
top-notch. This is clearly Gwyneth Paltrow's breakthrough performance,
in which she truly delivers an Oscar-worthy performance. Her character
is rich, vibrant, and wondrously alive. As is Joseph Fiennes' take on
Shakespeare. Even though the Academy didn't see fit to honor him with
even a nomination, that is not to say that his performance is bad by
any means. I predict that Fiennes will become a leading man in his own
right, thanks to this film, because it is now completely obvious that
he is an actor of great depth and enthusiasm, which is something
Hollywood greatly needs today. And who could forget Judi Dench? The
lady is, I think, simply brilliant. Give her seven minutes of screen
time and she turns out a virtual instruction manual on screen acting.
Her take on Queen Elizabeth is witty, smart, daring, outrageous, and
yet, deceptively simple, that is, all the things the Virgin Queen was
herself. And, of course, there is also Ben Affleck and Geoffrey Rush,
among others, whose work here sparkles with originality and vitality.
But lets get to the real core of what makes "Shakespeare in Love" a
great film. There is John Madden's effortless direction, and, above
all, the amazing script by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. Seriously, I
can imagine people being left in the intellectual dust when they come
face to face with this film, because it is what so many films aren't.
It manages to be blazingly intelligent, romantic, exciting, funny,
serious, light, profound, historical, and farcical all at the same
time, among other things. The dialogue crackles with energy and
originality, and the writers are clearly playing a sort of mental
tennis match with the audience. In the end, both sides win, and it is a
Doubts at first, but....
- 17 April 1999
When I heard that Shakespeare in Love recieved the Oscar for Best
Picture, I couldn't believe it. How can something be better than Saving
Private Ryan? But seeing that I never saw Shakespeare until just
recently, I took it upon myself to find out if Skakespeare was truly
better than Ryan. By the end of the film, I was well assured that the
Oscar went to the better film. I loved Shakespeare. I laughed, I cried,
and I found myself giving a little applause at the end. Who ever did
the casting did a superb job. Not only could these people act in a
film, but they could also do Shakespeare (which mind you is not very
easy). Not only was the film excellent but the performances of Romeo
and Juliet that appeared throughout the film were the best that I have
seen and probably will see. Sadly, I could only give this film a 10
because the voting scale won't go high enough. In my opinion the film
deserves an 11.
Keep in mind it is
FICTION - 3 November 1999
Like The English Patient, this is a FICTIONAL movie depicting real
people in a FICTIONAL tale. Don't over anaylize the historical accuracy
of it. It is not historically acurate, it is not intended to be. What
it IS, is a beautiful romantic story about a playwright and his muse.
The parallels they create between Shakespeare and Viola and Romeo and
Juliet are priceless and wonderful.
Also, I have to say, the performances of Romeo and Juliet in this movie
are the best I have ever seen. I would love to see all the players from
this movie do Romeo and Juliet the way they did in this movie. I have
never before seen anyone speak the lines from any Shakespeare play in a
way which conveys the feeling of them, as opposed to the meaning of
them. It is a pity that the only time it is done is in bits and pieces
for another movie.
This movie is great. Everything from the costumes to the acting is
One of the best of 1998
and deserving of that Oscar! - 9 July 1999
Every so often a movie comes along that is literate, intelligent, and
has magic and charm to spare. Movies like these affirm our belief that
film is a terrific art form. Shakespeare In Love is one such movie.
The movie chronicles Shakespeare's writer's block while trying to write
a play entitled Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter. In desperate
need of a muse, Shakespeare finds one in the beautiful noblewoman Viola
de Lesseps who has a desire to be an actor at a time when women are
forbidden from performing. Shakespeare and Viola fall in love thus
inspiring Romeo and Juliet.
As Shakespeare, Joseph Fiennes steps out of his brother Ralph's shadow
and proves what a dashing and charismatic leading man he can be.
Fiennes has a Peter O'Toole quality about him and should become a big
star. While his portrayal may be nothing like Shakespeare, he makes us
believe in romance Shakespeare's woes.
Gwyneth Paltrow is stunning as Viola de Lesseps. She throws herself
into the part and handles an English accent very well as she did in
Sliding Doors and Emma. Viola is the heart and soul of the movie, she
is the reason for Romeo and Juliet's existence and Paltrow truly makes
us believe in romance.
The supporting cast is all terrific. Geoffrey Rush is amusing as the
theater owner Henslowe. Ben Affleck is truly surprising a hammy actor,
with good material, Affleck is quite a capable actor. Judi Dench and
Queen Elizabeth and Rupert Everett as Christopher Marlowe round out the
cast with fine performances.
The story is quite entertaining. Screenwriters invest the script with a
healthy portion of Romeo and Juliet's dialogue and Shakespeare's
sonnets that only make the movie more amusing. The story of Romeo and
Juliet is familiar to us all, and the movie parallels the story in
surprising and charming ways.
The most ingenious aspect of the movie is how elements of Shakespeare's
plays have become so ingrained in our movies, television, and theater,
even though they were cliches in Shakespeare's time. This movie
actually manages to breathe life into all the old cliches thanks to a
wonderful exuberance and a fantastic cast.
An intelligent movie that actually rewards the audience for knowing
something about Shakespeare, Shakespeare In Love is a treat from start
to finish. It makes literacy look sexy and makes sexiness look mature,
a feat most movies only hope to accomplish Grade: A+
favorite trivia about Shakespeare in Love:
* Gwyneth Paltrow saw the script at Winona Ryder's office table in 1997
and asked her if she could read it.
* The street
preacher at the start points towards the Rose Theatre and proclaims
"The Rose, smells thusly rank and would by any other name," is an
adaptation of "That which we call a Rose would by any other name smell
as sweet," which is a line in Romeo and Juliet; the play at the center
of this film.
* Will is shown signing a paper, with six illegible
signatures visible. Several versions of Shakespeare's signature exist,
all of which are different. This has led to debate about whether
William Shakespeare may actually have been illiterate.
* Viola asks Will, "Are you the author of the plays of William
Shakespeare?" This is a hint at the modern day speculation whether the
works of Shakespeare were really written by him, or whether some
nobleman (or another famous author) used his identity as a pseudonym.
The film also manages to provide theoretical sources for the two
prevailing academic theories about Shakespeare's inspirations for many
of the sonnets: that they were written either for an extramarital
mistress or a male lover.
* Reference is made to Edward Alleyn on a promotional leaflet for one
of William Shakespeare's plays at the beginning of the film. Edward
Alleyn, an actor in Shakespeare's time, ('Ned' in the film, played by
Ben Affleck) was the real-life founder of the famous London private
secondary schools Dulwich College and Alleyn's School.
* The unpleasant little urchin John Webster, who is shown
playing with mice, grows up to be a big name of the next (Jacobean)
generation of playwrights. His plays are known for their blood and
gore, and his most famous title is "The Duchess of Malfi."
* Lord Wessex (played by Colin Firth) is the
villain of the film and is generally presented as none too bright.
Wessex's mistaken belief that it is Christopher Marlowe instead of
William Shakespeare who has slept with Viola is particularly amusing
given that it is the general historical and literary consensus that
Marlowe was gay; something that (the film implies) Wessex would have
known if he paid even a little bit of attention to the theater, arts,
or culture of his age.
* In an interview Judi Dench said she had to wear such high heels for
this film that director John Madden nicknamed her "Tudor Spice."
* The play being performed for the Queen at the beginning of the film
is Two Gentlemen of Verona.
* Judi Dench was so taken with the full sized replica set of the Rose
Theatre that Miramax gave it to her to take home when filming ended.
Variety reported in early 1999 that she was looking for a site and a
financial backer so it could be used as a working theater.
* In the beginning of the movie, when Henslowe asks Will if he has been
working on his play, and William Shakespeare answers "Doubt thou the
stars are fire, Doubt that the sun doth move" he is quoting from Hamlet
(Act II Scene 2). The lines are from a letter he wrote to Ophelia while
pretending to have gone mad, and are followed by "Doubt truth to be a
liar, but never doubt I love."
* The priest near the beginning yells "a plague on both your houses,"
which is a famous quote from Romeo and Juliet.
* Counting this film's win for best picture, it has the most Oscars
ever won (7) without winning the best director award.
* The sonnet Will writes for Viola which begins with "Shall I compare
thee to a summer's day?" is Sonnet 18. In reality, this sonnet, along
with Sonnets number 1 to 126, were written for a male friend of William
Shakespeare. Some speculate that this friend is either Henry
Wriothesley, earl of Southamption, or William Herbert, earl of
* In the first scene with William Shakespeare, we see him crumpling up
balls of paper and throwing them around the room which land near props
which represent or refer to other works by Shakespeare. The first lands
next to a skull - a reference to Hamlet and the second lands in a chest
- a reference to the Merchant of Venice.
* The boatman who rows William Shakespeare says, "I had that
Christopher Marlowe in my boat once." This is a reference to the
stereotypical remark of London taxi drivers about their famous
customers: "I had that [famous name] in the back of my cab once."
* Kate Winslet turned down the role of Viola after the success of
Judi Dench won an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a
Supporting Role for her role as Queen Elizabeth, although she is
on-screen for only about eight minutes in four scenes. This is the
second-shortest performance to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. The
shortest ever performance was by Beatrice Straight in Network, as she
appeared in only six minutes of the film.
* When Queen Elizabeth II was preparing to bestow a new noble title to
her son Prince Edward in 1999, she originally wanted to make him the
Cambridge. But after he saw Shakespeare in Love, he asked her
could instead be the "Earl of Wessex," after Colin Firth's character
"Lord Wessex," even though the character is villainous and unlikable.
He requested and received the "Wessex" title and is sometimes known as
favorite scene in Shakespeare in Love:
The last half hour of the movie is amazing. As some IMDB
reviewers have already noted above, the performance of Romeo and Juliet
by Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow is one of the best performances
of Romeo and Juliet you are ever going to see on a stage.
Again, there is a
reason that this movie won Best Picture.
at the IMDB
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Movies That Deserve More Love