Steven Spielberg at the top of his powers as one of the most successful and creative film directors of the past century is the best reason I can think of to get off your duff and head for the cinema on Christmas Day. You will not believe the epic splendor, sweeping drama and heart-stopping passion he brings to War Horse. It’s a rare and genuine movie masterpiece that deserves the label in a thousand ways.
Turning a beloved play into a movie is a job for either a fool or a daredevil. Mr. Spielberg is neither, but he is a visionary with unflinching faith in his own instincts.
Who really wrote William Shakespeare’s plays? Theories abound as scholars, dramaturges and researchers have accused the Bard of Avon of perpetrating a massive hoax through the centuries and boiled down the suspects. Now a lavish but somewhat tedious costume epic called Anonymous investigates each and every culprit in what often seems like double the time it must have taken to write the 37 plays, 154 sonnets and numerous collected poems of the Shakespeare oeuvre in the first place. It’s an exhausting film, but worth your stamina.
Shakespeare may be the most performed playwright in the history of letters, but in 400 years not one original script has been found in his own handwriting. When he died at 52, survived by an illiterate wife and daughter, he left behind in his will no mention of a single manuscript. In Anonymous, an obvious labor of love for director Roland Emmerich, the culprit is identified as Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, a wealthy aristocrat who could not attach his real name to works of lusty romance, tragedy and political intrigue because they lampooned prominent members of the court.