I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Gladiator, 2000










Rated R

“A general who became a slave. A slave who became a gladiator. A gladiator who defied an emperor… A striking story.” Those are the words of Emperor Commodus to Maximus the gladiator before his final fight- and those words sum up this film’s story. Taking place in 180 A.D., this movie follows the life of Maximus, a powerful and successful general who receives the Emperor’s blessing to become the heir, only to be betrayed immediately by the Emperor’s son. After finding his family brutally murdered, he is sold into slavery and quickly purchased to become a gladiator (which essentially, is still slavery). Maximus, who names himself “Gladiator”, finds himself performing in the awesome Coliseum in Rome in front of the man who ruined his life. Revenge becomes his driving force.

Russell Crowe masterfully plays the role of “Gladiator” and is well-deserving of his Best Actor award. I admire his work as an actor and his ability to play such different characters (this role vs. Professor Nash in “A Beautiful Mind”, one of my favorite films). Joaquin Phoenix plays the immature and evil Emperor Commodus so well that it is easy to hate him. I also applaud his scope of acting (this role vs. Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line”) as he is equally well-deserving of his Best Supporting Actor nomination. The gentleman who plays the elderly Emperor at the beginning of the film also plays Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films and stars in one of my favorite films, “The Count of Monte Cristo”. His voice is magnificent and he seems born to play those types of roles.

I like the cinematography in this film and the use of slow-motion during some of the fight scenes. I think that is something that can seem cliché but in this film, at those moments, it brings moments of clarity without being corny. I immediately recognized that Hans Zimmer was the score’s composer… it sounded way too much like the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.

I have to warn you that this is another film filled with brutality and bloody images, even more so than my recent watching: “Braveheart”. The film starts with a massive and influential fight scene and poetically ends with an equally massive and influential fight scene, but with different stakes.

The history of this “bloodsport”, as it’s commonly known, makes me queasy. The Roman people at this time had an insatiable thirst for blood with practically no regard for the sanctity of human (and innocent) life. Although, I could argue that audiences gathering to watch blood and violence/fighting is still common today: boxing, bull fighting, even out-of-control mobs at sporting events. I don’t understand the draw to those sports either.

After watching the special features on this DVD, I found out that the thumbs up/down sign came from this era. An emperor held the life of a triumphant gladiator in his hands and literally used his hands to communicate his fate. If the Emperor decided “You’re ok. You’ll live,” he’d give a thumb up. The opposite was true with a thumb down. We still use this gesture socially to say that everything’s ok. I also learned that the gladiatorial events were the only time when people could see exotic animals. These people were not traveling to Africa, so it was a treat to be able to see tigers, alligators, and gazelle in the amphitheatre.


I vividly remember visiting the Roman Coliseum in 2000 while I was studying abroad in college. I was awe-struck standing in a structure constructed in 72 A.D. imagining the horrors that took place there.  I think the CGI department did an incredible job “reconstructing” the greatest work of Roman architecture and engineering. To be able to see it in its complete form on screen is a treat.

   


This film was up against “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Traffic”, “Erin Brockovich”, and “Chocolat”. I own “Erin Brockovich” and think it’s a great movie. I was thrilled that Julia Roberts won Best Actress for her role in that. Even though I haven’t seen the other three competitors, I’m pretty sure the right film won. It walked away with five wins from its impressive twelve nominations including Best Visual Effects which I think is obvious.

MEMORABLE SCENE:

In 2000, my boyfriend (now husband) and I were in a bar in LA when the song “Bawitdaba” by Kid Rock came on the television (MTV? VH1?). I looked up and saw that playing with it was the coolest battle scene from “Gladiator” (the one with the tigers and the enormous masked gladiator). The song and the movements on screen were perfectly in sync and I still don’t know if it was edited that way or not. I remember being in awe and wanting it to play over and over again. I have exhausted every search engine and YouTube for this video and can’t find it; I only find other references to it (supposedly it was an early teaser trailer). I’m telling you, it was extraordinary. If anyone finds it, PLEASE let me know! Ironically, that scene is done in near silence in the film. It is very intense and Maximus sidesteps death every other second. It proves just how bada$$ he is. I can’t help but watch that scene and sing “Bawitdaba” in my head. J


LESSONS LEARNED:

There is a very interesting line near the beginning of the film. The dying Emperor is trying to comfort his son, Commodus (who he just told would not inherit his crown). Commodus emotionally admits that he’s never felt good enough or worthy of his father’s love. His father kneels before him and says, “Your faults as a son is my failure as a father.” At first, I thought it was selfless and endearing that he would take the blame for his son’s feelings of inadequacy. He recognizes that his parenting affected his son’s self-esteem… Perhaps he was too harsh or perhaps he favored others instead of his son. But then I started thinking, Woah buddy, don’t be so hard on yourself. You can’t be the sole influence in your child’s life. Parents, especially mothers I think, can’t help but feel guilty in their parenting: I didn’t do this good enough / I should’ve reacted this way instead/ Am I teaching him about this? / Am I setting the right example?, etc. What we need to do is try our best and be satisfied with that. There are times we feel we fail and times we feel we’re rock stars. Be aware that we (as parents/caregivers/teachers) heavily influence our youngsters’ lives, as do their peers and surroundings. Pray for guidance from the one and only perfect parent, Our Father.


A superb line (and lesson) is from Maximus himself, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”

6 comments:

  1. I think in this case Caesar was at fault for Commodus' faults. Caesar admits he was a bad father to both his son and daughter. Commodus was doing all he could to impress his father, but it didn't work.

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  2. Sure, Marcus Aurelius should've been instilling the traits he most desired and honored in his son in the first place, but we are all driven by free will and I believe Commodus chose a selfish lifestyle. Heck, instead of forgiving his father and renewing what relationship they had left, he chose to commit murder... which led me to believe there wasn't something quite right with him...

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  3. Amazing movie. Definitely one of my favorites. I didn't remember that it was up against Chocolat and Erin Brokovich. You HAVE to see Chocolat. That is probably one of my favorites too. At least, it was at one point. See it!!

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  4. "Chocolat" is on my list of movies to see when this challenge is over. :)

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  5. My girlfriend and I just re-watched Gladiator 16 years after it's release, (It still holds up as one of the best). I told her that I remembered a promo trailer with the Kid Rock song vividly and asked if she didi too. Of course, she did not. After many searches on YouTube, Wikipedia, and Google in general and coming up with nothing, I came across your blog entry expressing the exact same sentiment that I had.

    It was an amazing combination of Rally you up rock music and Badass action and fight scenes. Regardless of what your opinion of Kid Rock's music is, the trailer was great at the time, and memorable to this day.

    Thank you for writing your Blog, and not making feel like an insane person for being the only person that remembered that trailer.

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  6. I've mentioned to friends in the past about that trailer with Bawitdaba and they don't believe me at all. Every so often search for it with no luck. I wish someone would release that damn thing so I can prove them wrong after all!

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