By: Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –
This is one of the most controversial Best Picture winners. In one way, this film is a triumph because it won seven Academy Awards, and captures the essence of Shakespeare’s impact on the world with his profound plays. However, many would argue that this is one of the most overrated movies ever made. Still, hopeless romantics adore Shakespeare in Love (1998) because of its ability to blend Shakespearean drama with romantic and comedic elements. The overall merit of this film, though, is still very subjective.
Since this is a period piece, the film obviously looks very beautiful. The production designers brought to life the Shakespearean Globe Theater, and the film looks as if viewers are witnessing life in sixteenth century England when Shakespeare was still alive. The film also contains very clever references to Shakespeare’s plays, such as the skull from Hamlet. Since this is a romantic comedy, the film obviously contains references to Shakespeare’s greatest romance, Romeo and Juliet. Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman won the Golden Globe and the Oscar for their screenplay that is a clever re-imagining of that popular Shakespeare play. Stoppard also wrote Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which looks at Hamlet through the eyes of those two minor characters, so obviously Stoppard is well-versed in Shakespearean drama.
The film might have the style and grace of a Shakespeare play, but the acting awards and accolades that this film received leave much to be desired. It is ironic that a film about show business would contain two of the worst Academy Award victories of all time. The first mediocre performance is Judi Dench’s role as Elizabeth I. Dench won the Oscar for one of the shortest performances ever captured on film, and she did not even do much in order to win that award. A possible reason for this is because the Academy tends to favor portrayals of royalty, so maybe that is why they awarded Dench for her eight-minute performance.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s leading role as Viola De Lesseps is arguably the worst Oscar-winning performance. Her victory meant that Cate Blanchett lost the Oscar for a much more stunning interpretation of Elizabeth I in Elizabeth (1998). Paltrow’s acceptance speech at the Academy Awards is also painful to watch because of her hysterical sobbing while feeling undeserving in the presence of Meryl Streep. Some might even say that Streep should have received her third Oscar for One True Thing (1998). The Academy might have only given this film all of its Oscars because of Harvey Weinstein’s heavy campaigning.
1998 was one of the most interesting years in the history of the Academy Awards. That is because all five of the Best Picture nominees dealt with European history. Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love are set in Elizabethan England, while Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, and Life is Beautiful all take place during World War II. Many critics still argue that Saving Private Ryan is a much better film than Shakespeare in Love. However, all is fair in love and war when it comes to what audiences believe to be the best film in any particular year.
Shakespeare in Love (1998) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: during every reference to Shakespeare’s plays outside of Romeo and Juliet
Take a Drink: whenever the characters speak lines from Romeo and Juliet
Drink a Shot: every time there is a passionate and romantic scene