Monday, March 15, 2010

Yes, Really with Wilde.Dash #5: Braveheart

Believe it or not, for someone totally obsessed with movies, I do a lot of selective editing, snubbing, and ignoring. That is to say: there are a whole lot of well-known movies I've actually never bothered to watch. I've spent a lot of time hunting down obscurities and not quite as much time seeing the movies you've probably been watching since you were 10 years old (for example: I decided maybe I should watch Saving Private Ryan in Winter 2008). Because of this, in conversation I frequently have this interaction. Me: "I've never actually seen that movie" You: "What? I've seen a movie you haven't?" Me: "Yes" You: "How have you not seen that movie?" Me: "I never wanted to" You: "Really?" Me: "Yes, really." Thus: Yes, Really with Wilde.Dash a near weekly feature in which I fill in my pop culture education, watch all the boring basics, and let you know whether or not I decided they were worth my time. Get it? Got it? Good.
When I started with this feature, one of the films I immediately had in mind was Braveheart.  Here was my excuse to finally force myself to watch the three hour Best Picture winner without diverting my attention or taking up some menial task if I happened to get a little bored.  I would have to watch it.  Have to.  It would be like taking my cinematic medicine.  Yet, I can't pretend I didn't do a bit of organizing during Braveheart.  I did.  Not because it's particularly boring or bad, no, it's a perfectly decent epic with its fair share of brutality. It's just...that drawer full of papers had hit capacity. 

Admittedly, part of me really wanted to be a contrary little person and search for a reason not to like it.  It's just, eh.  Braveheart, you know?  Epic, been there done that jazz.  I was sort of turned around.  It's a good film.  I can't say I loved it, but it's perfectly decent.  Then I started to have a problem, after a certain point, somewhere between the unjust slaying of William Wallace's beloved and his sentencing by King Edward I and the Brits, I realized that Braveheart wasn't going to be any fun to write about.  I can't gush.  What's more?  There's just nothing much to poke and prod at.  No massive criticisms, nothing to repeat about how it's the prototypical Oscar selection, no snarky remarks to make about it being the only battle-centric film I can recall in which one side commences taunting the other (armed with many a sharp arrow) with a display of the fleshy property under their kilts (oh those Scots).  No.  There's none of that.  The only thing I can talk about is how I had a small epiphany while watching Braveheart; I realized that I found myself dwelling on the omnipresence of director/star Mel Gibson and trying, really trying, to displace the smug dislike I was projecting in the direction of the television.

Yeah, Mel Gibson.  I mean, geez did that guy screw it up or what?  Remember when people liked him?  Like, actually liked him as a crazy pseudo-Aussie nice guy who made fun buddy cop movies and harmless romantic comedies?  I can't really.  Apparently it was in 1995, but I'm pretty sure it continued at least through the release of What Women Want (say what you will, but the cheap scene of him sampling lady products in his bachelor pad was a fun time).  That Mel Gibson, the Mel Gibson of the 90's, feels like a different animal.  That Mel Gibson became endangered during the production of The Passion of the Christ, then extinct with his grand DUI incident; let's all recall "Fucking Jews...Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" [source].  Basically, it would be a tough sell these days to reconvince me that Mel Gibson is just a kooky bloke who gets caught up in the fervor of filmmaking.  We have to call an asshole an asshole.  The Gibson who made Braveheart and traveled beyond Thunderdome is gone, only the zealot Gibson is left.
This may change with The Beaver, in which Jodie Foster directs Gibson as a man who communicates via a beaver puppet.  If there was ever a way to try to prove that you're not entirely serious business, it might be that.  Between now and then, though, Gibson is a public personality too complicated for me to try and understand.  He likes falling into the middle-aged actor trap of making movies where he has to save his kids from certain doom.  He likes to crack wise with Danny Glover.  He likes to flog Jesus Christ and up the whole "he died for your sins" thing.  He likes to drink to excess and then climb into his car to ask police officers about their religious and ethnic heritage.  Sometimes, he puts on his leathers and confronts Tina Turner and her hair of the future.  These are the many faces of Mel Gibson.

I once had a roommate who came from a very Christian upbringing.  She was dating, rather seriously, a boy of a different religion (Hindu, if you must know).  When the boy went to dinner at her parent's house, my roommate's father presented the boy with some gifts: a Bible and Mel Gibson's "masterpiece" The Passion of the Christ.  This relationship did not last.  Mel Gibson?  Are you to blame?

I'm tempted to do as Ellen Copperfield did for Tom Hanks over at This Recording.  For example, I could summarize Braveheart like so: King of England walks up to Scotland and says "all your virgins are belong to us". William Wallace does not want.  William Wallace can haz ninja battlez skillz.  William Wallce is show u many pale moons.  Englandz does not want.  Scotlandz is slits Englandz throat.  Bond Girl of the future thinks ninja battlez skillz are hot.  Too bad for Bond Girl of the future, William Wallce still does not want.

Or, What Women Want: Lesser Don Draper of the future gets magical powers from a blowdryer.  He learns that what men want is Helen Hunt.  Helen Hunt does not age well and no one understands why.  Lesser Don Draper of the future wishes he never met the blowdryer.

Look at him. Flanked by guards. Mel Gibson, it's hard to watch Braveheart without thinking about Jesus in a very superficial and embittered way (insert sidecomments here).  Oh, Mel Gibson, this is why you can't have nice things.   

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