Skip’s Quips: A Skunk Cabbage By Any Other Name

Blog Sketch 082813Wherefore art certain schemes to market the Bard so silly?

Taketh Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, for instance. Or rather, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet.

That’s William with a “W.” Shakespeare with an “S.”

And dopey with a “d.” C’mon, who else’s Romeo and Juliet would it be–Irving Berlin’s?

I’m not sure why such a prestige picture needs the added prestige of the famous author’s name in lights above it. It’s different,  methinks for a film like Fellini Satyricon, where the source material’s not as well-known, and the director’s the selling point. But R&J?

I don’t think anyone’s gonna come up to the theater and say, “Drat–I was hoping for Christopher Marlowe’s version.”

In reality, this is just a modern way to tout a vintage, though hallowed, brand. But I think there’s a double standard. You don’t see movies touting Homer’s The Odyssey. Or Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Or Madonna’s Sex.

Thank goodness is what I’ve got to say.

It’s obvious the cachet of Shakespeare’s name lends itself well to movie titles … or so Hollywood may think. Yet his lilies don’t need the gilding. The Bard’s greatest works speak for themselves and lack the pretension artificially ascribed to them by application of marketing nomenclature. Frankly, if the studios want to reach a new audience with R&J every decade or so, they should concentrate on casting it better and giving it a less-flashy director. (It remains to be seen how Carlo Carlei’s Romeo & Juliet will fare, though I suspect it can’t be worse than Luhrmann’s iteration.)

My concern, then, isn’t whether a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. It’s whether today’s filmmakers think so.

I hope they do.

Skip’s Quips: The (Rarely Filmed) Play’s the Thing

Once upon a time, I was excited that Julie Taymor came out with a film version of Shakespeare’s gore-o-thon Titus Andronicus.

It wasn’t because it’s a good play. In fact, it’s kinda lousy–possibly Will’s worst: a mix of cheap thrills and cardboard characters. I think we can safely say he did a lot better later in his career.

No…the reason I was excited is that you hardly ever see Titus Andronicus staged, let alone put on the silver screen. And that brings me to a question: Why do we keep getting deluged with movie versions of the same old playsMuch Ado About Nothing comes to mind immediately–when there are numerous other, less-frequently filmed Shake Specials that are as good or better waiting to be made into movies?

I mean, where the heck is the latest cinema spectacular of The Winter’s Tale, hm? Or The Comedy of Errors? Let’s freshen the stew a bit, can’t we?

Not that I don’t dig Much Ado…though I have to confess Joss Whedon’s foray into this frothy comedy is a dish I love not. But do we really need two cinema versions of the same play within a span of 20 years–especially when the Kenneth Branagh iteration, despite some awkward casting choices, provided the definitive Beatrice and Benedick?

Guess I should sigh no more–we’ll always sway toward the well received, and there’s no doubt both Hamlet, Macbeth and the like fit the bill. Still, who’s to say there wouldn’t be an audience for a new film of The Taming of the Shrew? My feeling is, we should take advantage of Mr. Shakespeare’s infinite variety. I say: Give me excess of it.