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My review of Hamlet

April 28, 2014
Today, I watched the 1948 Best Picture Oscar winner, Hamlet. At the risk of seeming an uncultured swine I must admit that Shakespeare is not my cup o’tea. I struggled to stay awake. However, I cannot ignore the marvelous production design of this film. The sets were immaculately detailed, and if it wasn’t totally obvious that the movie was shot on a soundstage, they could have been mistaken for real stone castles and other structures. Being that this was a Laurence Olivier film, I hardly need to say that the acting was brilliant. Indeed, Olivier won an Oscar for Best Actor (as well as an Oscar for producing the film). There was also great support from the very young and beautiful Jean Simmons, Anthony Quayle, Esmond Knight, and Peter Cushing. The camerawork was pretty great too. The tracking transitions from one set-piece to another moved fluidly, almost as if the camera never stopped moving. There was one scene though where the camerawork was too obvious, and it took me out of the movie for just a bit. It was as if the camera had been lifted, moved across the set to follow an actor, returned to its previous spot, and put back down. Aside from that one scene, the camerawork was very good. The film was quite atmospheric with its near constant use of darkness, candles, smoke, and fog. Since I had trouble staying awake, and since its 2 & 1/2 hour running time made it seem even longer, I can’t say it deserved the Best Picture Oscar for 1948, especially since I know that The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Key Largo, and Red River also came out in 1948. Olivier’s Hamlet is still pretty good though. Next up, Henry VIII really, really wants a divorce in A Man for All Seasons, the 1966 Oscar winner for Best Picture.
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