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Last weekend I went to see an all-naked production of Macbeth (check out the Washington Shakespeare Company) which was actually really good considering one could not look anywhere onstage without getting a load of penis, vag, and butthole. Then this week I get a call from The Shakespeare Theatre Company (achem) to audition for Taming of the Shrew and another audition Much Ado About Nothing. So it only seemed natural for me to write about one of the world’s most famous playwrights and the movies he inspired!

This week in my queue, the greatest love story ever told gets all 90’s, Rome’s “dread general” is master chef and master murderer, and Mel Gibson has some serious issues to work out.

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Romeo + Juliet (USA, 1996) So everybody knows the story of the ill-fated lovers whose lives ended tragically because of some seriously bad timing, read Juliet wakes up from her drug-induced sleep only to find that Romeo has harikiried himself to join his love in the afterlife. But it took Baz Luhrman’s vision to make this story more timeless than that dusty old Shakespeare could have ever imagined. Instead of swords we have guns, and instead of tight-clad rebels we have tattooed thugs. Most notable is that soundtrack, which includes music penned specifically for the movie by timeless (or not) acts such as the Cardigans, Radiohead and the Butthole Surfers (remember them?). With the serious update though, one very important aspect of the play remained, thanks Baz, and that is the beauty of The Bard’s words. Romeo + Juliet may not have been everybody’s favorite movie in 1996, but seriously guys, did you ever think that Shakespeare could be understood? By the way, Leguizamo is the sh*t, so is the wheelchair dude from HBO’s Oz.

IQG, I hear you’ve seen some good remakes or takes on Romeo and Juliet. Try, Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo & Juliet (UK/Italy 1968), West Side Story (USA, 1961), and Shakespeare in Love (USA/UK, 1998).

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Titus (USA/Italy 1999). So Shakespeare wrote this awesome play called Titus Andronicus in which Rome’s most famous fictional general goes on a mad awesome revenge binge whereabouts not only does he grind two teenage boys into minced meat and feeds them a la tasty pie to his mother, but also cuts off his own hand. I know, seriously, Shakespeare wrote this! At the time of its original 17th Century debut, the bloodiest of Shakespeare’s plays was along the lines of what Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Scream would be considered now, a bloody fun gore fest. Julie Taymor, who you may or may not know as the writer/director of Frida, created a film that is both visually stunning and seriously disturbing. This movie has absolutely everything you would want in a film, good music, design, directing, acting, sex, sex, sex, sex and orgy sex. For those of you who find Anthony Hopkins a bit annoying (aye), I challenge you to not like his performance as the revengeful General Titus. And by the way, Jessica Lange IS a MILF and this film proves it!

IQG, are there other movies with effed up Shakespeare kings and generals? Try, Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (Japan, 1957), Othello (USA/UK 1995) and The Last King of Scotland (UK, 2006).

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Hamlet (USA/UK/France, 1990). Would anybody argue that Mel Gibson is a shameless drunk bigot? There was a time when he was turning in some decent performances though. I guess that’s up for argument too. But this Zefirelli film, like Luhrman’s pop love story, manages to make the story of Denmark’s conflicted spineless prince as accessible to popular audiences as any Shakespeare-to-film adaptation has been. Will’s most famous tragedy makes for some real entertaining drama, and Mel Gibson’s bowl-cut haired Hamlet actually conveys the psychological meltdown that causes a bloody sword fight, a suicidal drowning, and a royal death by poison. The best performances though come from the supporting players, including Ian Holmes’ Polonius and Alan Bates’ Claudius. This Hollywood send-up of The Most Lamentable Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark gave new meaning to the phrase, “I’m gonna get medieval on your ass!” And, by the way, Glenn Close IS a crazy bitch and this film proves it!

IQG, aren’t there some other movie versions of Shakespeare’s tragedywith some dudes? Try, Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet (UK/USA, 1996), Ethan Hawke as Hamlet (USA, 2000) and Laurence Olivier in Hamlet (UK, 1948).

Next week on I, Queue Genius, William Shakespeare can suck it cause I’m gonna get contemporary on his ass!

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