Houston in Love: Shakespeare's Best on Screen

For more than 35 years, the University of Houston has taken on the Bard in Houston's own version of Shakespeare in the Park. This year's Houston Shakespeare Festival will bring to life two of the playwright's most famous works, "Othello" and "The Taming of the Shrew." HSF productions are always free, which makes them accessible to a larger audience, something Shakespeare himself would have been proud of.

It's always a wonder to us that even 395 years after his death, Shakespeare's work is still being produced quite regularly; the guy is that good. William's writing hasn't been restricted to live theater either. There are at least 420 film and television versions of his plays that have been produced over the years.

Feeling overwhelmed by whether to rent Gnomeo and Juliet or Romeo Must Die? Art Attack has done the work for you and put together a list of some noteworthy film adaptations of the Bard's best.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Do you remember the Disney Shorts? They were often aired prior to Disney theatrical releases, sometimes based on famous pieces of literature or simply related to the movie they preceded. In 1999, Micky and the gang took on one of Shakespeare's most beloved comedies, A Midsummer Night's Dream. While it is bizarre and creepy that Donald plays the part of Demetrius trying to wed Minnie's Hermia, Goofy as the mischievous and un-Shakespearean-speaking Puck is, as always, brilliantly cast.

The Taming of the Shrew Oh Katherine, why do you hate men so? The film industry has been obsessed with Kate's bitchy ways since the 1908 film version, staring silent beauty Florence Lawrence. Of course, there is also the musical Kiss Me Kate, featuring songs such as "Tom, Dick or Harry" that should not be funny, but are. Of course, you can't forget the 1967 version staring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, which changed the ending to remove some of the sexist-taming out of the picture.

However, we are going to get super '90s on your asses and say one of the best adaptations is 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) simply because of Heath Ledger singing "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" with a high school marching band.

Hamlet There are so many movie versions of "Hamlet." The conflicted, oedipal momma's boy is one of Shakespeare's best characters, IOO (In Our Opinion - yeah, we just coined that). It is difficult to pin down who portrayed him the best, but we have to go with Sir Laurence Olivier. You thought Mel Gibson and Kenneth Branagh were too old to play the Danish prince? Think again. Olivier was 47 when he starred in "Hamlet" (1948) and the part won him an Academy Award.

Ponder it, yo!

Julius Caesar Brando as Mark Antony=mind blown. Never forget that Brando was once the greatest actor of all time.

King Lear OK, we will wholly admit to poor journalism on this one. We have never actually seen this film version loosely based on King Lear. It was stumbled upon in our research and after reading the line up and watching the trailer, we decided that we would throw caution to the wind. 57% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes be damned! With the script by Peter Sellers, directed by Jean-Luc Goodard and starring Woody Allen, Burgess Meredith, Molly Ringwald and Julie Delpy, how in the world can this movie be bad? Although the clip is sort of weird...

Romeo and Juliet Ha, ha! You thought we were going to stick with our love of '90s alt-rock films and go for the Clare Danes/Leo DiCaprio vehicle. No way! Thinking about the star-crossed lovers reminded us of 7th grade English class. They were screening Romeo and Juliet, the Franco Zeffirelli (1968) adaptation, and we would all have to get letters signed from our parents allowing us to watch it. What? Why? Oh! Because R & J are lying around in the buff on their wedding day! That was a fun/awkward day of middle school.

Aside from the childhood fondness, Zeffirelli's film depicts the young lovers' blissful naivety in a way that no other version has. It's a stunning film both visually and emotionally, and one of the best versions of this story made for the screen.

Macbeth "Scotland, PA" (2001) is an irreverent, off-the-wall version of "Macbeth" but it works on various levels. "Scotland, PA" takes the hard-working but misguided Joe McBeth and his overbearing wife Pat (the fabulous Maura Tierney) who rob and murder their boss to take over his business. Like most evil doings, the McBeths' trail of misadventures is sniffed out by the law, played by none other than Christopher Walken. While it's not the most well known of films, it is definitely worth checking out, plus Bad Company does the soundtrack.

Othello Fine, we're lame. Call it like you see it, but in an attempt to convince you otherwise, have you actually seen "O?" (2001). It's violent, drug-fueled, deceptively hateful and not all that poorly acted (save Julia Stiles). There are scenes where Mekhi Phifer is honestly frightening as "O," the Othello character. The movie was produced as a part of that resurrection of Shakespeare plays put to film in the late 90s early 2000s, but oddly enough it got a lot of heat due to its mixed-race content. Hello? The play was written in 1603, in 2001 we still have an issue with mixed races?

The Houston Shakespeare Festival will be held at the Miller Outdoor Theater beginning July 29 through August 7 with a rotating schedule.

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