Thursday, October 4, 2012

Battle Of The Oscar Stars: Best Picture 1995

One man with flowing brown locks took on freedom and never looked back.

We'd like to say that was George Michael circa 1990, but he can't get credit for everything.

All thanks should be extended to Scottish hero Mr. William Wallace, and Mel Gibson for bringing him to our attention.

Braveheart, roughly based on the life of said bad-ass legend, is yet again another epic scale Best Picture winner.

It's all there really; passionate love story, intense battle scenes, a gorgeous James Horner bag pipe score,  and the setting is a sprawling European landscape.

Not a ton of information was recorded about Wallace through time, so the level of historical accuracy found in some of the details of the script have notably been reported as iffy and controversial. Even back then Mel was raising eyebrows, especially from those who found the film to be homophobic.

While this adaptation should not be taken word for word, enough of his legacy was passed down where Wallace remains a figurehead to his country folk and is the perfect makings for a major motion picture.

The film fits right in with the American tradition of movies about impassioned people fighting against any various oppressors. They are stories that are always exciting and riveting, because how can you not admire those who sacrifice everything, while we sit back and watch Honey Boo Boo, or whatever the entertainment was for folks in the 1200's. Oh, right, that was probably public hangings...

For Wallace there was only freedom and fight is what he did.

Not the first Best Picture winner to demonstrate intense life on the battlefield (Lawrence of Arabia and All Quiet On The Western Front come to mind), but this passion project for Mel Gibson took the realism up a notch. Walking away from watching this movie all the way through for the first time, the immense battle scenes are the most impressive.

Wallace and the Scots were fighting to escape England's rule, so much of the dramatic turns of the film are found in these extremely violent interchanges.  If you are deciding to settle in for this flick, get used to the idea of blood spattering, even on the camera lens, and in one case a head flying off. All of this is direly essential to hammering down the point; men gave their lives in the name of simple rights.

All Wallace wanted was a wife, family, and the ability to enjoy it in peace without the British patrolling villages and raping women. Seems like an easy thing to ask for, but when it is denied, he has nothing left to do but wage war.

While watching I could only wonder if this is the first, or only, grisly film to win big at the Academy Awards. This seems to either suggest a shift in what was accepted in our culture, or that filmmakers, with ever advancing technology, were more capable of capturing a realistic war setting. All of which also holds true for a Best Picture contender a little farther down the road; Saving Private Ryan.

Senseless violence is one thing, but in these two examples there is nothing negative about these battle scenes as they are entirely critical to the film.

The man behind all the warfare, Wallace, and his passion unites the others and brings them together on the battlefield, which makes for riveting watching.

Mel Gibson carried this entire movie from on screen and behind the lens; with his Best Director win he can take credit for the films eye popping visual shots, but this whole movie wouldn't have worked if Gibson wasn't able to perfectly exude Wallace's emotion and passion. We are reminded that before all his off screen drama, Gibson was a huge movie star for a reason; he's so charming it pops off the screen, and, as seen in Braveheart, he completely commits to every role and succeeds amazingly at it in the process.

Honestly, if this film didn't have such a standout character to work with, we probably wouldn't be talking about this movie. It is based in history, but it was formed together by a great story. The story is everything, which really takes Braveheart from being just a beautifully filmed movie, to a quite excellent one from top to bottom.

Upon research for this post, it occurred to me that 1996 was a great year for movies. Really, I just love the idea that a talking pig and Mel Gibson were up against each other.

I didn't even know Sense and Sensibility was nominated for Best Picture! I take all that nice stuff about Braveheart back, Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet for the win!

Just kidding, there's enough room for them all.

Next Up: The Burned Guy.

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