Oscar’s 90th birthday is just around the corner and to celebrate, every other day from now through March 4th, I will be taking a look at each and every film selected for his top award – some good and others that are . . . well, like Gladiator.
The new millennium did not open with a great year for movies. Oh, there were some gems like Almost Famous, Traffic, Best in Show and Memento, but the Academy voters overlooked all of them in order to reward one of the dumbest and most ill-conceived movies ever to be bestowed the Oscar for Best Picture.
What’s wrong with Gladiator? You name it. The story is inane. The performances are laughable. The production design looks like cut-scenes from a bad video game (I’ve never seen an uglier sky). The Oscar winning visual effects look like they aren’t even finished. The movie has an unhappy tone that makes Schindler’s List seem jolly by comparison. Every character seems to wallow in misery and/or vengeful hatred which wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t as dull as a bag of hammers. And on the level of Roman history this movie falls on its face; if a high school student turned this screenplay into an essay for history class they’d end up in detention.
The movie’s defenders claimed that it was a throwback to the forgettable sword and sandal epics of the 1950s like Ben-Hur and Spartacus, but I believe that had it been made at that time it would have been forgotten today and laughed into the dustbins of history by critics and filmgoers alike. Gladiator lacks any real passion or joy. I realize that the film made $187 million at the box office and it has a legion of fans but I am not the film’s only detractor. I recently read the comment index for the film at the Internet Movie Database and I find that I am not alone. I’d prefer to spend my evening watching Almost Famous, a nostalgic drama with heart, pathos and a lot of a great music. Gladiator can go salire in lacum.