Sunday, February 3, 2013

Battle Of The Oscar Stars: Best Picture 2000

Before the slobbering drunk kids partying at the Jersey shore were taking up the airwaves, the most real of reality entertainment was, if it can believed, much worse.

Many have a lot of trouble with the ways of modern television, but at least we aren't still cheering in arena's and watching as sword wielding fighters are killing each other. We haven't sunk that low...yet.

No matter what you're thinking TV executives, even with the crazy popularity of The Hunger Games, this is not a good idea-don't even think about it.

Being Super Bowl Sunday and all, we have definitely evolved into much more athletic/non-killing endeavors for entertainment and I say that is one giant plus for society.

When watching movies like Gladiator, these internal thoughts are continually running through my head. "I can't believe people used to actually do this!" is often exclaimed out loud.

At the point when I am able to focus on the story and the movie at hand, there is quite a lot to enjoy and loathe about the Best Picture winner of 2000.

Looking back, 2000 was a tremendous year at the cinema (just to name a few: Chocolat, Billy Elliot, and Almost Famous), but continuing with the tradition of Oscar's love of epics, it doesn't take long to figure out why Gladiator beat out all the rest. The only other best picture nominee that matches its grandiose scale was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Taking place in ancient Rome, with the main character being a mighty general turned gladiator (played by Russel Crowe), the film excellently portrays the bloody war battles and intense duels in the famous Coliseum. These are the types of films that people look to from director Ridley Scott. Action is his thing, and he knows how to make every detail perfect so they play out realistically.

This isn't just any old action movie though, with the historical setting each of the scenes are filled with detailed period costumes, or set in extraordinary recreations of coliseums and the gorgeous Tuscan country side. Just like Titanic, Gladiator will continue to be remembered for its impressive visuals.

There is also quite a soapy and heartbreaking story involved, but with some frustrating plot points.

Maximus (Crowe), the leader of the Roman army, is much adored by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. On the verge of death, Aurelius tells Maximus he would like him to be the next Emperor, which would then surpass his son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Before this information can be passed on to anyone, Aurelius dies, and, by birth right, Commodus takes over.  In a jealous rage Commodus wishes vengeance over Maximus, which kicks off all of the drama to follow.

This is all well and good, and makes for an exciting movie, the problem is that the story relies too heavily on us all believing that within a second the entire army turns their back on Maximus. They heavily depended on his leadership for years and with one word attempt to murder him, without any further explanation. A single, "hey, sorry dude", would have sufficed, but apparently, that's just the way it was in ancient Rome.

I guess everyone got caught up in the action sequences and didn't notice that the script lacked some necessary details.

It is not surprising then that the movie didn't win for Original Screenplay, but several of the actors were nominated for their roles and Crowe even walked away with Best Actor.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for Tom Hanks in Cast Away (Wilson!), but Crowe's win might be the most puzzling of all the awards it received. Not to say Crowe isn't great, because he is actually fantastic in exuding all the qualities needed for playing a commanding and powerful figure.  He does have a few moments for his character to show raw emotion, but otherwise his character often falls flat.

The real acting performance worthy of awarding goes to Joaquin Phoenix. He does have a lot more interesting stuff to work with (daddy issues and questioning mental stability), and rightly so Phoenix steals every single scene with each intense stare, emotional breakdown, and creepy manipulation. His character and performance single highhandedly makes this entire movie worthy of checking out.

Gladiator fits in well with the company of many other epic films that walked away with numerous awards at the Academy Awards. There may be some problems throughout, but on a pure enjoyment level, this film will still keep film fans actively engrossed. 

Next Up: Russell Crowe again! This time around there are no battles, except for those within the mind A Beautiful Mind that is.

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