The Reelist: Poetry in Motion
President Barack Obama.
It's finally official, folks! Barack Obama has been sworn in as our Commander-in-Chief. After all the months of preparation and speculation, millions tuned in and turned out to witness what all the hype had been leading up to. What was Michelle going to wear? How many millions were going to pour down on DC? Which celebs were going to the balls? What inspirational assurances would Barack have to offer?
What so many people fail to realize (or just happen to overlook) is that once in a blue moon, a presidential inauguration grants a genuine POET access to a worldwide stage! Robert Frost in 1961, Maya Angelou in 1993, and in 2009 it was Elizabeth Alexander's time to shine. In honor of her, we decided to take a gander at some highly memorable bard-centered films....
Mike Myers plays dual roles in this San Fran-set comedy about a poet with epic commitment issues. But after meeting the new neighborhood butcher, Harriet, the "hard-hearted harbinger of haggis" (a taste of his poetry for you) he falls head over heels. Everything is hunky dory until Harriet's peculiarities surface and our paranoid poet begins to suspect his perfect gal of being a serial killer. Hilarity and the potential promise of bloodshed ensue in this prime example of awesome 90's filmmaking. Nancy Travis plays the buxom butcher after Myers' heart.
Starring Gwyneth Paltrow and based on the life of the famously depressed poet, Sylvia Plath, Sylvia focuses on her marriage to poet Ted Hughes (played by a pre-Bond Daniel Craig), their turbulent relationship, her establishment as a writer, and her struggle with inner demons. The movie delves into the origin of her troubles as a result of her philandering husband, and immerses itself in her poetry. Director Christine Jeffs' latest film, Sunshine Cleaning, debuted at Sundance last year, and is set for a Spring 2009 release.
Controversial filmmaker Ken Russell (director of Tommy, 1975) tries his hand at a heavily-fictionalized tale of the night in 1816 when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Starring Gabriel Byrne (Lord Byron), Julian Sands (Percy Bysshe Shelley), Natasha Richardson (Mary Shelley), and Timothy Spall (John William Polidori), the infamous historical figures come to life under a drug-induced and sexually-charged haze. For anyone who thrives off the weird, the hallucinogenic, the erotic (and anything Julian Sands), there really just aren't any excuses—you pretty much need to see this movie.
It's hard to believe that a truthful biopic could be this fascinating and well-made. Schnabel's cinematic version of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas's autobiography transcends all expectations with a stellar performance by Javier Bardem as Arenas. (Bardem was nominated for an Oscar for this role, but lost to some Australian Gladiator.) Cameos from Sean Penn and Michael Wincott, and Johnny Depp in dual roles (as a homophobic army Lieutenant and a tranny inmate) add even more color to the film.
Brian Gilbert (whose filmography also includes the poetic nod to its namesake, Wilde, 1997) directs this beautiful film about the romance between T.S. Eliot and his first wife, Vivienne Haigh-Wood. As the epithet "first wife" would suggest, their marriage was fated for doom from the start, but worth every dramatic minute. Nominated for multiple Academy Awards, Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson play the title roles.
Have other iconic "poet" movies in mind?
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