- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

The District is home to a citywide Shakespeare Festival the first half of this year. “Shakespeare in Washington” will feature plays, ballets, operas, art exhibits and more, all written by or inspired by the Bard of Avon.

Film is well represented in the festival. From the industry’s beginnings, filmmakers have looked to the greatest writer of all time for their screenplays — or even inspiration. A number of venues will be exhibiting Shakespeare on the screen over the next few months:

The American Film Institute Silver Theatre presents “Shakespeare Cinema” from now until June. The Silver Spring movie palace will screen some of the best Shakespeare film adaptations, including Laurence Olivier’s classic “Hamlet,” Julie Taymor’s stark “Titus” and “Richard III,” starring one of the best living Shakespeare actors, Ian McKellen.

The theater will also present an interesting mix of films inspired by the Bard: Akira Kurosawa’s takes on “King Lear” (“Ran”) and “Macbeth” (“Throne of Blood”), Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead,” Orson Welles’ “Chimes at Midnight” (inspired by that great comedic creation, Falstaff) and Gus Van Sant’s reimagining of “Henry IV,” “My Own Private Idaho.”

There’s a special event this month as part of the festival. On Sunday, Jan. 28 at 4:30 p.m., a “Looking for Richard” screening includes a conversation with AFI Silver Director Murray Horwitz and Shakespeare Theatre Artistic Director Michael Kahn. The 1996 film directed by Al Pacino is a novel documentary featuring the actor lecturing on Shakespeare, interviews with other actors such as John Gielgud and Kenneth Branagh, and man-in-the-street interviews.

Schedules and tickets can be found at www.afi.com/silver. The theater is located at 8633 Colesville Road in Silver Spring.

The Library of Congress’ Mary Pickford Theater has a Shakespeare series with some of the same films, such as “Ran” and “Throne of Blood.” The program from February until July also features the 1952 version of “Macbeth” starring Orson Welles, as well as eclectic picks including “Strange Illusion,” a 1940s film noir version of “Hamlet,” and “Shakespearean Spinach,” which is billed as “Romeo and Juliet” meets “Popeye the Sailor.”

Showings at the Library, at 101 Independence Ave. SE, are free. Reservations can be made by phone at 202/707-5677. The schedule will soon be online at www.loc.gov/rr/mopic/pickford/pickford-current.html

The National Gallery of Art’s “Filming Othello” series starts today. The East Building Auditorium theater will host three different film versions of the dark play. Orson Welles’ 1952 “Othello: The Moor of Venice” is just 91 minutes long and stars the director in the title role. The 1965 “Othello” stars Laurence Olivier as Othello and Maggie Smith as Desdemona. Finally, the 2001 “O” sets the play in a contemporary high school. The complete schedule is at www.nga.gov/programs/filmothello.shtm. No tickets are required.

The University of Maryland’s Hoff Theater in College Park is screening two Shakespeare-inspired films. The Tom Stoppard-penned “Shakespeare in Love” won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1998; it’s showing on Valentine’s Day. Richard Eyre’s “Stage Beauty,” a 2004 film set in Restoration times, when women were finally permitted on the stage, screens on April 18. Tickets are $5.50 for the public, $3 for students.

Kelly Jane Torrance

Disc of ‘Sunshine’

“Little Miss Sunshine” isn’t letting a lack of critics group awards hinder its home video receipts.

The indie sleeper hit, which earned $59 million during its 2006 theatrical run, is making another impressive showing on the DVD charts.

The trade publication Home Media Magazine reports that “Sunshine,” which hit DVD shelves Dec. 19, debuted in second place among renters, behind “The Devil Wears Prada.” That’s $8.8 million in rental money to add to the film’s coffers.

“Sunshine” also opened at No. 6 on the DVD sales chart for the week ending Dec. 24, ahead of big budget fare like M. Night Shyamalan’s “Lady in the Water,” according to Reuters. The film clawed its way there amidst some stiff competition from summer hits like “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and 2006’s box-office titan “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”

Oscar favorites like “United 93,” “The Queen” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” have gobbled up most critics awards so far, with “Sunshine” getting a little love from the American Film Institute’s top 10 list (the AFI doesn’t rank its selections).

The Academy Awards are supposed to be about artistry, not commerce, but economics can add to the momentum that sweeps some pictures into the winners circle — or leave some early favorites in the dust.

Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of our Fathers” was supposed to be a can’t-miss, best-picture nominee, until we learned precious few people beyond the critics actually saw it. The advance word on last fall’s “Running with Scissors” was that Annette Bening’s performance would land her an Oscar nomination.

When “Scissors” played to largely empty theaters, such talk vanished.

“Little Miss Sunshine” remains the darkest of dark horses for a best picture nomination, but if the DVDs keep selling, those odds could improve.

Christian Toto

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