April 23rd, 2014: Romeo and Juliet (1968)

Cast and Crew: Franco Zeffirelli (Director);  Milo O’Shea, Michael York

What It’s About: In Renaissance Verona, the Montagues feud with the Capulets.  Romeo Montague (Leonard Whiting) goes to a Capulet party to cause trouble, but instead finds it when he meets Juliet (Olivia Hussey) by chance and the pair fall in love.  Their affair goes about as well as one might expect.

Why Watch it Today?: Tradition marks April 23rd, 1564 as the date of Shakespeare’s birth.

Other Choices: In the past we’ve celebrated Shakespeare with the unlikely kaiju epic King Kong vs. Godzilla and Julie Taymor’s excellent adaptation of Shakespeare’s first (and bloodiest) tragedy, Titus Andronicus.  You could also watch West Side Story, Henry V, Macbeth, Theater of Blood, or Forbidden Planet.

April 21, 2014: Ben-Hur (1959)

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Cast and Crew: William Wyler (Director); Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd, Hugh Griffith

What It’s About: Jewish nobleman Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) is falsely convicted of an assassination attempt on a Roman officer and sentenced to the galleys.  Escaping a slave’s death through his wits, honor, and athleticism, he seeks revenge on those who have wronged him while also trying to locate his lost family.  He serendipitously crosses paths with Jesus Christ and finds his life forever changed.  Based on Lew. Wallace’s 1880 book, one of the best-selling American novels of all time.

Why Watch it Today?: April 21, 753 B.C. is the traditional date of the founding of Rome, so why not celebrate with one of the most Academy-decorated films set in ancient Rome?  Ben-Hur abounds in Roman pageantry, with thrilling naval battles and chariot races, generals in full regalia, exotic imperial locations and all the epic pomp that would inspire Monty Python’s classic parody Life of Brian.  Ben-Hur might not be the most classical of Roman movies, because of the Christian themes, but on the day after Easter this is a good seasonal choice.

Other Ways to Mark the Founding of Rome: If you don’t feel like watching a movie, you could: stab Caesar; learn about Roman numerals; watch a play; sign up for a summer course in spoken Latin in Kentucky, Boston or Rome; or experience the craziness of the craziest of Roman emperors.

 

March 9, 2013: The English Patient (1996)

englishpatient

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February 28th, 2014: The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)

The Bad and the Beautiful

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January 20th, 2014: Roman Holiday (1953)

Roman Holiday

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December 5th, 2013: Amadeus

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March 25th, 2013: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

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September 22nd, 2012: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

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September 15th, 2012: Death on the Nile (1978)

 

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April 27th, 2012: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

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