You gotta give Mel Gibson what he deserves—a Hall of Shame award for having the temerity to spend $25 million dollars to buy five Oscars (including best makeup!) for a movie that, thrice at the box office, only collected a domestic total of something around $70 million, the same amount spent to make his blooded-up epic poem, one that’s progressively more gruesome and childish to sit through as the minutes turn into almost three hours. Braveheart looks like it was no picnic to make, and, for all but his beer guzzling, bloodthirsty compadres, it’s not a whole lot of fun to watch. It’s a militia instruction manual—directed by Rambo of Scots. The movie’s structure has Spartacus branded all over it. On more than one occasion we’re reminded of Kirk Douglas, only here he’s updated to Sylvester Stallone: when shouting from atop his horse, Gibson sounds like him, packing the same fake butch frenzy. This is where the movie gets into trouble: borrowing his hair from the prairie rat in The Road Warrior and his war paint from Rambo, something phooey is being dispatched—a Village People’s “Macho Man” gung ho. A more discriminating director, even if claiming historical precedent, would scale back the cheap plugs, steals and infantilism; is there any other box office idol more in love with his own bare ass? A pitch for the virtues of sodomy? Yet the bloody, painted bod is a new criterion for barbarous sensuality—he’s a primer for a Stallone course about T.E. Lawrence as warrior of darkness. It’s repulsive, but considering the currency for carnage, it’s partly what those Oscars represent. Lifting the “let my people go” from Spartacus, appropriating the gallantry of El Cid, foisting itself off as a darkened, humorless Lion in Winter, Randall Wallace’s script concocts scenarios more fitting a rigger than legendary liberator: the ladies disrobe quickly, a ghostly wife relieves martyrdom’s pain, an unwilling Judas becomes Braveheart’s champion. Wallace manages to work in “fock,” the original Scottish spelling and pronunciation of the now ubiquitous four-letter expletive. One problem: though the Scots were probably the first to use the slang, it wasn’t in use until the 15th Century. Another problem: GLAADers were up in armed purses again over Gibson’s homophobia, this time protesting the treatment of Edward I’s son Edward II. They’re onto something: Gibson, quick to flaunt his pumpable buns, has stereotypic views on gays—he’s the kind of Roman Catholic who notices not the priests ogling the alter boys but only the flaming hairdressers—and he’s brought his prejudices to Eddie 2, played by an actor who could be Rachel Ward’s swishy brother. Would Edward II have betrayed his arranged-for bride (wearing a headdress that, under the crown, looks like white cerebra) at the very point of taking wedding vows? In front of his father? Absurd. Very clumsily, Gibson gets swept away by masochism: the Christ-like torture sequence is obligatory Inquisition—complete with its own combo of Basil Rathbone and Vincent Price. But the crowd’s reactions are mood-alteringly inappropriate: there are too many “Look, Ma, I’m in this here movie” grins. What angers many about Gibson’s choices of movies is that he so frequently retreats from humanity. As if he’s afraid of losing his kinship with his buddies in the audience. Hardly a theory, Gibson’s popularity among men isn’t based so much on his comic lunacy and sport but on tantalizing solicitation, resembling a subliminal communal desideratum. Gibson elicits these feelings, he knows it, and his public denials are disguised conceit. But this doesn’t legitimize the Oscars. 1995 is mocked as the smell of Bravefart. (A 2005 survey on the movie newsgroups concluded that the worst selection ever made by Oscar voters for best picture is Braveheart.) concluded that

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Text COPYRIGHT © 2005 RALPH BENNER  All Rights Reserved.