Al Pacino spent four years making this film, the purpose of which is to share his feelings about Shakespeare, and to make one of the Bard’s most difficult plays accessible to a modern audience.
And what are Pacino’s feelings about Shakespeare? He loves him, he’s passionate about him, because the plays are all about human emotions, which are the same no matter the time or place. Pacino believes the legacy of Shakespeare’s plays belongs to actors, who must find the feelings in the words of their characters and transmit them to the audience.
And so he assembles a troupe of American actors to discuss and parse and act out scenes from Richard III. He talks about the relationships among the characters–the Yorks, the Lancasters, the brothers and nephews and wives who all have their own ideas about who should wear the crown. He talks to British actors like Derek Jacobi and Vanessa Redgrave and Kenneth Branagh about whether Americans can do justice to Shakespeare, whether we have perhaps become estranged from the language, or lack the knowledge of British history. He does man-in-the-street interviews to find out whether people think Shakespeare is relevant to them, and why or why not. He explores various settings, and films scenes from the play, and the entire film becomes an experiment in Shakespeare.
Sometimes described as “video Cliff notes,” this film can reawaken a passion for Shakespeare, or introduce the reluctant student to his timeless revelations about the human condition.
For more Shakespeare films and adaptations, click here.
It’s Awards Season, culminating in the big Academy Awards ceremony on February 28th.
In keeping with the season, we at the Portland Public Library have put on our finest clothes, walked the orange carpet, and selected a few of our own favorites to receive the following awards:
Presenter: Elizabeth H
Category: LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR BEST VOICE
Winner: This award is presented posthumously to Alan Rickman. RIP
Category: BEST MOVIE ABOUT THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE
Winner: The Madness of King George
This movie won three BAFTA awards (the British equivalent of the Oscars) including Best Picture and Best Actor (Nigel Hawthorne as King George.) Videoport owned this as part of their collection, and soon it will be circulating at the Library.
Category: BEST THING IN A BOX
Winner: “My prestigious award for “Best Thing In a Box” is from the 2008 movie Se7en, with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. Pitt plays Detective Mills, a brash, passionate crimesolver who is roped into working on a serial killer case with weeks-from-retirement Detective Somerset, played by Freeman. Someone is killing people who have committed the Seven Deadly Sins, and is always one step ahead of Mills and Somerset as they follow his clues to an ultimate, gut-wrenching showdown. The brilliant movie is full of twists and turns and an intensity that has been lost on more modern thrillers, and comes to a heart-stopping climax when Mills, near the end of his sanity, screams to Somerset “What’s in the box?!” that the killer had delivered right to their feet. And what is in the box? Why, the winner of my award.”
“The international film critics got it right when they began to award The Palm Dog Award during the Cannes Film Festival. Begun in 2001, this award goes to the best performance by a canine (live or animated.) Look at all of the great performances that came before that date!”
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A CANINE (live): Nikki in Nikki, Wild Dog of the North
As a Teen Librarian, I have heard many an adult dismiss works of young adult fiction without having read them. My hackles go up, my feathers get ruffled - how can you criticize something you haven’t taken the time to experience? So, it is with just a tiny bit of shame that I say to you that I have never and will never watch the movie City of Angles starring Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan BECAUSE IT SHOULD NOT EXIST. There should be a law about remaking films this good. You know you agree with me.
I have an undergraduate degree in German (long story). In 2001, I was going to school in Berlin, and there was a movie theater in the center of the city that played Wings of Desire on a continuous loop throughout the day. This made total sense since the film was shot in Berlin just a few short years before the Wall came down, and captures a divided city in flux and decay. What an amazing experience it was for me to (1) skip school and sit alone in a dark theater watching this masterpiece, and (2) then be able to walk through the historic and changed city I saw so beautifully captured on film.
One of my favorite scenes shows an elderly gentlemen, Homer, wandering through a deserted field on the site of Potsdamer Platz near the Brandenburg Gate. In 2001, Potsdamer Platz was once again a thriving, modern business and shopping center. In the film, it is an abandoned wasteland around the Wall. Through the medium of his guardian angel, we hear and see Homer’s stream-of-conscious thoughts and memories of this place. This and many other scenes in the film will leave you hollow and aching with the solitude of the human experience.
Bonus awards: as if this film isn’t excellent enough in it’s own right, Wings of Desire wins extra credit for featuring the following: Colombo (Peter Falk), Nick Cave (performing! hot!), a traveling French circus, and the amazing interiors of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (State Library), where every reader is watched over by invisible angels.
“The car was a first in its stylishness and form, despite being dropped off a cliff.While these types of car mash-ups were happening across the globe, no movie has done it in a way with such class and style. Sadly the car truly was one of kind and was actually destroyed during filming.This car paved the way for all other car mash-ups including the whole fleet of mash-up cars in Mad Max: Fury Road, all of which had multiple clones as the cars kept getting destroyed during that movie’s filming.”
Category: BEST PERFORMANCE IN A MOVIE THAT OTHERWISE WOULDN’T BE WORTH WATCHING
Paul Greengrass directed this account of the ill-fated flight of United 93, using people who were actually working at the National Air Traffic Control Center to reenact events as they happened. On the plane, there are no recognizable stars to root for, just ordinary-looking people who reenact events as best we can reconstruct them. What makes the film so compelling and heartbreaking is that we in the audience know how it will end, and the passengers don’t.
“The summer I killed my father I was ten years old.”
From this intriguing beginning, our narrator, Eve Batiste (played as a 10-year-old by Jurnee Smollet-Ball) weaves a dream-like story of memories and visions from the summer of 1962.
The story begins at a party at Eve’s home, hosted by her parents, the charismatic Dr. Louis Batiste (Samuel L. Jackson) and his wife Roz (Lynn Whitfield), “so beautiful men fought for the privilege of saying her name.” They are clearly the It couple in their community, and while Dr. Batiste dances with his older daughter Cisely (Meagan Good), Eve runs away in a snit and hides in the carriage house, where she falls asleep. When she wakes up some time later, she witnesses something she was never meant to see and does not fully understand. She reports this experience to her sister, who persuades her that she has, indeed, misunderstood the situation. From here on, doubts, mysteries and misunderstandings abound, and these are exactly what make the story so compelling.
There’s also some voodoo, and some psychic visions, and a possible curse, all of which may or may not be real, and all of which contribute to the exotic atmosphere of the Cajun bayou. The story is dark, although not without humor, and the movie itself is beautifully shot–the landscapes are beautiful, the actors are beautiful–and while some critics have seen this as a black version of a family drama, I would simply say it is a good family drama, and a refreshing change from movies about pretty white people.
Other recommendations for Black History Month can be found here.