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The Top 10 Movies of 1996


Release Date: November 1st

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Pete Postlethwaite, Paul Sorvino, Diane Venora, Harold Perrineau, Paul Rudd, Jamie Kennedy, Dash Mihok.

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Why I Love It (Josh Sarnecky): Long before he was a bear-wrestling, Oscar-craving frontiersman with a penchant for crawling and grunting, Leonardo DiCaprio was Romeo. And his acting alone in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet is worth the price of admission, as he delivers an incredibly sincere rendition that truly gives life to the Shakespearean dialogue. When adapting one of the Bard’s works, actors run the risk of reciting their lines rather than truly delivering them, but DiCaprio never falls into that trap and successfully captures the many nuances hidden in the Elizabethan language pulled from the source material. The same can also be said of Claire Danes, Pete Postlethwaite, and Harold Perrineau, who match DiCaprio’s emotional authenticity in every scene they share.

Romeo poster

This film also marked one of the world’s earliest introductions to the distinctive style of director Baz Luhrmann. The lavish scenery, breakneck cutting between shots, emphasis on strange sound effects, use of fast and slow motion, and inclusion of contemporary music that Luhrmann featured so prominently in Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby are in full effect in Romeo + Juliet’s earliest scenes, and (love them or hate them) these elements combine to form quite the spectacle. Luhrmann brings such energy to the movie that the quieter, more intimate scenes between the two star-crossed lovers are actually heightened by how subdued they are relative to the rest of the film.

While the movie’s extravagant visuals and editing appropriately garner much attention, such quiet scenes between DiCaprio’s Romeo and Danes’s Juliet are what make this picture more than a quirky twist on a classic. Danes and DiCaprio allegedly failed to get along out of character, but the two appeared to have incredible chemistry whenever the cameras started rolling. They perfectly capture the naivety and passion that define Juliet and Romeo, such that every scene they share (especially their first encounter at the party and their impromptu swim later on) feels tender. Ultimately, this touching mixture of innocence and sensuality solidifies this movie as one of 1996’s greatest romances and most dramatic tragedies.

Best Line: “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight. For I never saw true beauty till this night.” (Romeo)
Though this may not be the most quoted line from the original play, this powerful aside captures just how deeply Romeo has fallen in love and how tragic the events soon to unfold will be. This line illustrates that the “meet cute” just witnessed by the audience is more than a chance encounter, that the fates of these two strangers are now inexplicably linked even as they discover that they come from rival houses. Many viewers may question the concept of love at first sight and reject the notion as cliché, but these words represent a mysterious connection between these characters that is beautiful to behold.

Best Scene: The lovers reunite in the crypt
As much as I love seeing the relationship between the titular characters blossom, their (spoiler alert for one of the most well known endings in history) deaths at the end of the movie are so heartbreaking and well executed that I have to choose this scene as my favorite. One of the things about the play that always bothered me was that Romeo died before realizing Juliet had faked her death; the sequence of events felt too segmented to me and somewhat disappointing because the characters did not realize the mistakes they had made. In Luhrmann’s version, however, Juliet regains consciousness just as Romeo drinks his vial of poison. The result of this altered timing is that the lovers are allotted a few seconds to say goodbye but also understand that their plans have horribly backfired, which is (sorry, Shakespeare) even more emotionally devastating than the circumstances in the source material.

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Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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