Classic Film Re-watch - Shakespeare in Love (1998)

There was a backlash at the time that Shakespeare In Love won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was deemed too light and inconsequential to have won. It was up against Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, and there was a lot of Hollywood support for that boy’s own adventure and less support for the award campaigning that went on this year. Especially by Miramax. Knowing what we do now of Harvey Weinstein and Gwyneth Paltrow, you cannot feel that most movie watching is now tainted. My personal opinion is that the opening 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan is one of the best war movies I have ever seen. The rest, however, is a bit rote. But this is not about Saving Private Ryan, this is about John Madden’s Shakespeare In Love.

I picked this film to show to my family for our weekly classic movie re-watch, because it is a movie that is a lot of fun, romantic and very difficult to get right. I have seen many a film try and fail, but this movie is really great. It is so well written by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman, and he performances are well done. Twenty years later, this film holds up. I think even more so due to the fact that we do not have many movies like this made any more. This is not a film that is championed for a re-watch when the cinema chains are marketing Valentine’s Day or Classic Movies on the big screen, and I think they have overlooked a gem. Give it a go and play on.

Classic Film Re-watch - Heathers

My family's weekly dinner and a movie over the last three years has covered off many a classic, and by classic, I mean something I watched that I want to share with my younger family members. A 20 year age gap separates us so some of the movies are new to them and some are in the zeitgeist. One of the movies we watched is still very much present. Heathers (1988).

Directed by Michael Lehmann, who also directed Hudson Hawk and is now helming a lot of peak tv, and written by Daniel Waters, who worked with Lehmann again on Hudson Hawk and also wrote the screenplay for Tim Burton's Batman Returns, this cult classic is definitely dark. I had forgotten how dark and absurd teenage movies from the 1980s could get. There were gasps and mutterings of disbelief from the room. The family had not experienced storytelling that was not clearly signalling the next emotional beat and they had to sit with it for a bit once the movie ended. 

As for me, I loved it. Winona Ryder and Christian Slater are just brilliant in it. The subject matter is still relevant and I know there was a stage musical and there is also a TV show that is a remake airing this year, but I do not think either of them could shake a mullet at the original. 

Classic Film Re-watch - Pulp Fiction

In the last three years, nearly every week I have been re-watching a ‘classic’ movie with some younger members of my family, who are at university. We catch up for dinner and we take the opportunity to watch a movie that they may not have had any other access to. My definition of classic is something I enjoyed and think that they should check out. So, some of the movies were by request from my family members and some of them are ones that I think they may enjoy. One of the ones we watched was Pulp Fiction (1994).

Our hot take is that this movie does not hold up. It is bloated. The whole Bruce Willis story line is unnecessary and boring and do not get me started on the manic pixie dream girl played by Maria de Medeiros. I initially thought that I enjoyed this when it first came out because I was in my 20s and this was how I understood cool, but my younger family members did not enjoy it. It is the ultimate mansplaining film and thankfully we are now acknowledging this rampant macho posturing filmmaking for what it is. Quentin Tarantino can frame a great shot and he knows how to use music, but this movie is the beginning of his man-child phase, a phase that he is unfortunately still very much in 20 years later.

Classic Film - Witness (1985)

Peter Weir’s sixth movie, Witness, is often studied as part of the High School English Curriculum as a Comparative Text so there is a whole generation who have seen it because they needed to write an essay in school and not just for fun.  It is about an Amish boy who sees the murder of an undercover police officer in a Philadelphia train station bathroom and has to be hidden away in his Amish community along with an ‘English’ cop to protect him.

It is a studio film in the sense that the script had been green lit and was sent to Peter Weir for him to choose for his first American movie.  It earned eight Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Weir’s first nomination as Best Director.  Witness starred the leading man of the time, Harrison Ford (also nominated as Best Actor for this performance), Kelly McGillis, who was just about to enter the stratosphere with Top Gun in 1986, and child star Lukas Haas, who received wide praise for his debut film performance.  There was some controversy at the time of its release from the Amish community did not believe the film showed their culture correctly.  However, for most audiences, this was the first time the Amish had been shown in any significant way in a movie.  

I watched it this week for the first time in about 20 years and it is wonderful.  I am not sure that films today would be allowed the pacing that Witness has, which is a shame, because the pacing of this film is everything.  It has great performances, a tight script, fantastic direction and cinematography, and a slow build story with moments of quiet decisions and unspoken communication. Witness is a classic film from story tellers at the height of their creativity. 

Rent it, stream it or pop your copy of it in your DVD player (if you still have one) and watch it again.