Wednesday, February 29, 2012

F This Movie! - Braveheart

Patrick and Mark Ahn would gladly trade their freedom for another Mad Max movie.



Download this episode here. (33.6 MB)

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Also discussed this episode: The Third Man, That Obscure Object of DesirePunch-Drunk Love, Wanderlust, Blitz

33 comments:

  1. Happy Christopher Plummer Day to you too gentlemen! :-P

    Seriously though, if historical inaccuracies are going to be taken into account when assessing their worth then almost every 'based on true facts/people/events' Hollywood movie is out the window. I never took "Braveheart" to be nothing more than a glamorized, enhanced-for-blockbuster-template Hollywood action/romance Mel Gibson vehicle based on ancient characters that may or may not have existed as portrayed. On that level alone it's an entertaining flick, although I'll grant you Gibson's Scottish accent is laughable and the carnage is a little OTT.

    I don't love or watch "Braveheart" often enough to be bothered by Patrick and Mark taking it to task for its inaccuracies and noticing its good parts (equal weight given to romance and action, great battles, good photography, etc.). I'm just saying, going with the legend (or making one up) at the expense of accuracy it's par for the course with this type of movie as far back as the silent era. From "Ben Hur" and "Cleopatra" to "The Ten Commandments" (B&W silent versions as well as their color remakes) Hollywood has taken wild liberties with facts or even source material (The Holy Bible, hello?) in order to make history more fun and exciting for the two-four hours the filmmakers had to tell a story compelling-enough to get paying butts in theater seats.

    Except for the obvious talent Mel has composing shots and staging CGI-free action scenes (for those alone he more than deserved his Best Director Oscar) the Gibson of "Braveheart" is no different than Tom Cruise. Both are (were?) huge stars counted on to open expensive movies on their name/persona alone. So, in the movies they star in, both Cruise and Gibson are awesome and everyone else in their flicks (men, women, children and even seeing eye dogs) constantly act and say how awesome Gibson and/or Cruise are. Cruise is smart-enough to stick to just producing his movies while Mel is skilled-enough to direct them, but the same principle applies. Does "Bravehart" take the self-masturbatory glorification of its star/director with those mountain views and loving close-ups to previously-unheard of heights? I don't think so, it's a William Wallace action/romance movie so of course the vanity shots have to stand out. At least Gibson, unlike Cruise, has made movies in which he lets other people (Jim Caviezel, the no-name actors in "Apocalypto") be heroes and the center of attention. Just not the one in which Mel's playing the larger-than-life national hero that is awesome and men/women adore.

    As a window into Gibson's soul you're half-right that it's a fascinating peek at the mindset of "The Passing of the Christ" taking shape. But again, to me "Braveheart" is interchangeable with "Lethal Weapon" or "Mad Max" or "Signs" (where Gibson actually wore priest clothes!) as a made-up entertaining movie. I easily forget about 'Mad Mel' and his personal demons while I'm watching men chop each other to pieces or Sophie Marceau swoon over Wallace's manhood. And "Gladiator" is less/more of a sinner... exactly how?

    BTW, you guys are sooooo whipped it's not even funny; THE FRENCH PRINCESS over the SCOTTISH PEASANT WIFE, anytime and twice on the Sabbath! Also, Wallace is widowed... it's not cheating when your significant other has passed away through no fault of your own.

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    1. Of course it's not cheating. I was just suggesting that the movie really wants to make the case that Wallace's heart is forever faithful to Catherine McCormack, and having him GET DOWN with the French princess undermines that. It so doesn't affect my enjoyment of the movie.

      I also think a movie that's directed by, produced by and VERY MUCH starring an actor should maybe be read differently than a Lethal Weapon or a Mad Max -- the same way Kevin Costner's The Postman should be read differently than Tin Cup or even Waterworld. There is a personal connection to the film that bears examination beyond just an actor taking a job, if that makes sense. What Gibson chooses to do in Braveheart reveals more about him than what he does in Conspiracy Theory; maybe it just comes down to artistic control.

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    2. I disagree that Wallace's trist with the Princess diminishes the perception of him being totally in love for his dead wife. It's totally within the realm of normalcy for Wallace to remain a character enamored 'till his last dying breath to the memory of Murron (!) while still being a man of integrity that has a one-night stand with Princess Isabelle (a scene that happens mostly so that Isabelle can stick it to King Edward in the end, an audience-pleasing moment letting us know the bastard didn't get away with it) during the time Wallace was free and not a prisoner. If the movie had showed Wallace sleeping around with women left and right then a case might be made he forgot or tarnished the memory of his dead wife. His getting it on with the princess are signs (a) Wallace is human (i.e. more relatable) and lonely (i.e. more martyrdom), (b) he's choosy (it's a Princess... how often do Scottish men from that era got to tap that?) and (c) he isn't a robot. ;-)

      I'm not married but, even if I were to meet and marry someone, the love of my life (the one that got away and it's the first face I see when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep) will be inside of me and will probably be the last name I utter with my dying breath. And that wouldn't make my love for my theoretical wife-to-be any lesser or inferior to the one I hold for the memory of my true love. Like Mark Ahn I too think the end of "Braveheart" works (even if the build-up to it hasn't been the smoothest) because we all, as love-lorn humans, have that special somebody that meant more to us than anybody else. And sleeping with other people between our lifetime and our moment of martyrdom doesn't diminish or tarnish our love for that special someone, especially on the split-second-before-death-extended-by-editing moment before we die. As a fan of romantic movies (usually comedies but still, key word being 'romantic') I'm surprised that you don't see how fucking powerful an emotional punch it is that, even though he's slept with royalty, William Wallace's heart is forever with his loved one... Murron (!).

      And I doubt, once they're reunited in the afterlife, that his wife will give Wallace shit for sleeping with the Princess. If anything Murron (!) would complement his hubby for holding out for so long and, when he did do it, he did it with as classy and strong a lady as the mother of a future king (thus carrying the Wallace DNA through centuries). Paraphrasing "MST3K," it's just a movie and I should learn to just relax.

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    3. This really isn't a discussion worth continuing at all, because you're right and OF COURSE a guy could sleep with a woman and still be in love with his dead wife. I don't actually object to that. I just think it steps on the toes of the overly-romanticized depiction of Wallace's love for Murron.

      And I don't really see it as trying to humanize the character, because there's very little about the movie that seems interested in making Wallace human. I think it's exactly what you said it is: a plot device so that the French princess can be pregnant, stick it to the king and ensure that Wallace's awesomeness will live on in future generations. And maybe that's what I was responding to -- that it didn't come out of the character, but was just a function of the screenplay.

      But, again, there is no right answer, and getting bogged down in this kind of detail ignores the bigger picture that Braveheart is a big mess with some good parts. On that, we can agree, even if we differ on the mess-to-good ratio.

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    4. ^^^ Cool... just sticking up for Murron (!) and love in general to prove, once and for all, that I AM NOT A ROBOT!

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    5. Thanks for sticking up for one of my favourite movies man! I couldn't have said most of those things better myself!

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  2. Braveheart is a film I haven’t seen or really paid much mind in years, buy your discussion has made me want to check it out again. I remember likening it, in particular the battle scenes, but I’d be curious to see if my opinion has changed much or at all with all that has happened in the intervening years. I must say that when I watched Apocalypto a year or so back I thought it was great. I didn’t really know what to expect going in and by the end I thought it was a great action film, albeit one with an unconventional setting. Also, bravehaert been close to twenty years old makes me feel like a dinosaur.

    Patrick, I’d be interested to hear your opinion of Boiling Point. When I was going through a Wesley Snipes phase I rented it (probably sometime in 1995) and had to turn it off after about half an hour as it was just too dull and plodding for me. I’ve never seen it since and have heard and read very little about it from anyone else.

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    1. Thanks, Stuart. If you do rewatch Braveheart, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts. I was in pretty much the same position: liked it enough when it came out, but hadn't seen it in awhile. Obviously, something in me has changed (since the movie is still the movie), but I saw things in it this time that I was less crazy about.

      You were TOTALLY CORRECT to bail on Boiling Point, which is BOOOOOORING. It has an interesting cast (Viggo Mortensen before he was much of anyone), but everything is SOOOOO DULL. Even Dennis Hopper isn't crazy or goofy enough to make it any fun. I stuck with it on principal, but if I had to turn it off for any reason there's a good chance I would have never picked it back up. Ridiculous as it is, Passenger 57 is the WAY BETTER Wesley Snipes movie from the same period.

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  3. Mark:

    Welcome (along with Patrick) to "The Third Man" appreciation club. It took me three viewings to like it after a first-viewing that left me totally cold and wondering outloud 'That's It?' because I didn't know anything about the movie's plot or characters. That first time I was trying to follow the plot so hard I wasn't paying attention to the technique and 'color' of the performances (i.e. when Harry Lime appears on that door the shock of seeing him in the flesh made me overlook Orson Welles' colorful performance), plus the music drove me freaking nuts. This is a rare movie in which NOT knowing the twists/surprises ahead of time actually takes away from the fun of watching it, because first-timers will miss the forest of awesome throughout "The Third Man" by trying to keep up with the trees (i.e. plot A transitioning to plot C minus plot B's backstory coming back, etc.). And the score? One word: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZZHq2JSnnE :-)

    If you liked "The Obscure Object Of Desire" Mark (which I'm ashamed to admit I didn't notice the switch in actresses playing the leading lady until more than halfway through the movie; I thought it was just two different women that the old man was in love with that he kept bumping into) you have to check out Bunuel's "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972). Both movies star Fernando Rey ("The French Connection"), who is one cool and suave motherfucker that knows how to wear an Ascott better than David Niven and is totally pimp playing elite rich dudes. "Bourgeoisie" is Bunuel's most accessible movie and a comedy to boot, but it's OOP (like "OOOD") on Criterion DVD and I don't know about Netflix Instant. Worth tracking down/keeping an eye for (Sundance Channel runs these Bunuel movies a lot in sporadic bursts of scheduling) if you thought "OOOD" was good-enough.

    Never seen "Punch Drunk Love" but that's OK, nobody's perfect.

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    1. JM-

      I agree that "The Third Man" would reward multiple viewings. Orson Welles is awesome.

      I was ok with "That Obscure Object of Desire"; as I think I said on the podcast, I wasn't totally sure if I bought into the double casting of the female lead, but the idea was intriguing. I felt better about the movie after reading about it a little after viewing, but not sure if I want to venture re-watching it. I found the rather arbitrary (as far as I could tell) switching of the woman jarring, and it took me out of the story a little too much. I'm reading Faulkner right now for class, and even he has indicators for when he shifts in his stream of consciousness; I didn't notice a trigger for the shifts here.

      Thanks for the recommendations on the other two; I'll keep an eye out for them.

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  4. I think Warrior Poets should be the name of the two guys with acoustic guitars playing at Doug's Beanz.

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    1. It's almost writing itself. And I think someone just snagged himself an executive producer credit.

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    2. Mike is an executive producer? That's awesome. Warrior Poets sounds like the lie we would make up to meet girlz, as in "What do you do for a living?" and we'd say "We were adopted and raised in Scotland, where we learned to warrior poet."

      This show is going to be awesome.

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  5. GASP! You bah-stahrds!

    What an evil English F'ing you just put on one of my ten 5 Favourite Movies! I am going to warrior-poet the shit out of both of you and then make sweet foresty love to your wives, you little podcast faeries!

    Firstly, I would like to defend the notion of the Warrior Poet, and it goes a little something like this:

    Roses are red,
    Violets are blue,
    I'm a Warrior Poet,
    I'll bash your fucking skull in with my nunchuks.


    Secondly...ah, forget it. I'm sure most people would agree that, as with many things, with movies sometimes love is blind. I never thought of the historical inaccuracies or the lack of character arc or the ambiguous motives or the homophobia or any of the other completely valid points you both raised, but I see them now and I pretty much agree with everything you said. And in spite of that my love for the movie remains intact - I'm interested to watch it again (it's been a couple years) with these flaws in mind, but I'm sure it will remain dear to this old Warrior Poet's heart - I just love the shit out of it for all the great reasons you did acknowledge and some others that are probably impossible for me to qualify. Oh, and to answer Mark's question:

    Roses are red,
    Violets are blue,
    I'd rather nail the French Princess,
    I mean, are you serious? That's fuckin Sophie Marceau, man!

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  6. Dear Sol,

    Keep on loving it, dude. Warrior poets need their inspiration from somewhere.

    The best part of the "Ginger v. Mary Ann" is that you don't lose either way. Interestingly enough (putting on my DOUCHEBAG hat), out of the handful of movies I've seen of Catherine McCormack or Sophie Marceau, I think they are both at their most stunning in Braveheart.

    Random note: favorite other Sophie Marceau movie = Anthony Zimmer (on Netflix instant)

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    1. Thanks Mark and you're absolutely right - Sophie just fits "my type" a bit better than Catherine, but I certainly wouldn't kick her out of my kilt either.

      Damn you Netflix Canada - e-hanging out with you Yanks is making me painfully aware of just how much selection we are missing out on up here - no Anthony Zimmer for me.

      One of my favourite Sophie Marceau movies is a 15-second short entitled "Sophie Marceau's Boob Falls out of Dress at Red Carpet Event" - she nails the "OMG my boob just fell out of my dress" look perfectly - what an actress!

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  7. why did you feel the need to apologize to fans of the movie if you accidentally insult their favorite picture? why are you afraid to insult the picture at all? Patrick danced around a lot of easy targets reviewing this film....isn't the TITLE of the blog F this movie? taking a movie to task, good bad or indifferent is the goal. I find the movie outrageously over the top and offensive on every level and i paid to see it a theater. you should have no problems saying what you actually think, instead of preediting your reactions. Just my 2 cents.
    i dial in to hear you go for it. don't start wimping out.

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    1. As a huge fan of this GREAT movie, I felt like Patrick insulted it PLENTY, thank you very much! :)

      If he softened his approach at all, which I'm not saying he did, it may have been because I (his favourite F-Head, I assume) had specifically told him it was one of my FAVOURITE movies just last week, so he didn't want to specifically take a dump directly on my face. If that's the case, I would also say to him to never hold back, because I'm kind of into that sort of thing.

      I think the more likely scenario is that he F'ed it as hard as he wanted to - just because you found it outrageously over the top and offensive on EVERY level, doesn't mean he did. Let's face it, it's kind of a dude's movie, dudette. Or more specifically, a Warrior Poet's! ;)

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    2. Dear EraserGirl and Sol-

      Speaking just for myself, it's easy (and so it happens often) to rip a movie to shreds just because the negatives are easy to spot and harp on, and I always to be as fair as possible with a movie, about both what is good and what is bad about it. I don't think anybody just wants to hear only good or bad reactions, right?

      That said, thanks for being ok with us letting loose! Thanks for hanging with us.

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  8. BTW, want to see more young Orson Wells find a copy of "The Stranger" which co-stars Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young.

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    1. Thanks, Kathy! Just put it in my Netflix queue.

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  9. ok ok i agree just shredding something would be easy and it is indeed harder to point out the not awful parts.. and i like plenty of guy stuff and plenty of bad stuff... i guess i am in the camp that now considers his work retroactively through a different prism.

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    1. I think we ultimately see the movie in pretty much the same way. If I tempered my comments at all, it's only because I don't think the movie is objectively terrible and don't want to come off as being critical of the people who like it -- just the movie itself, if that makes sense. When a movie is, say, The Boondock Saints, I have less of a problem saying that no one should really like it. Which is also unfair, I know, but come on.

      At any rate, thanks for all of your comments. It's nice to get a little estrogen up in here. It's been smelling too much like DUDE lately.

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    2. I can appreciate that, EraserGirl, and I definitely shouldn't have played the sex card - to say it's a "guy" movie is a poor defense.

      As far as Mel goes, I have a hard time being too critical of him as a person because the man is obviously dealing with mental illness, you know? In the 90s it was almost endearing - you look back at talk-show interviews or that sort of thing and he is about the most NERVOUS superstar mega-celebrity world's sexiest man you've ever seen. Someone you'd think would have all the confidence in the world and he just seems terrified. It used to make me kinda like him - at this point it just makes me want him to check into an institution.

      Anyway, yes, he's said some vile, disgusting things, but I'm going to plead insanity on his behalf, and still enjoy the good things he's managed to accomplish in spite of his problems.

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  10. Wow, this thread is freaking heated! Hold on, I'll be right back.

    *exits, then returns wearing football helmet*

    Who knew this was such a hot button flick? I loved Braveheart when it first came out in theaters, and bought it on VHS, then DVD, and eventually Blu-Ray. Oddly, though, I could never bring myself to watch this movie on Blu-ray, and I still haven't. I think this episode shed some light on some things that I had swirling around in my head but couldn't quite put my finger on. Looking at it from the point of an action movie, it really impresses, and has some good pieces that really blow your mind. But as a drama or a character piece, that's where it slips for me. I agree with A LOT of what was said in this episode about Mel Gibson and his true self coming through, and this movie is not a fun watch for me. In fact, it's kind of exhausting because it takes itself very, very seriously. It's so long and so full of blood, guts, torture, murder, and double crosses that it just wears me out thinking about it. You're right, all those close ups of Mel Gibson's eyes, his far away stares, and his grandiosity and messiah complex do reflect on the movie. I still enjoy it, but I do not go back to it often. Think of what Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (an excellent, 19 Oscar winning movie that is eternally in the top 10 on the AFI's greatest films list) would have been like without Alan Rickman practically winking at the camera and having fun. What if Kevin Costner's dour, sourpuss expression and self importance were all we had? Granted, that's not exactly a straight level comparison, but you know what I mean. Braveheart is a sledgehammer of self righteousness that never lets up, and as Patrick said, subtlety is not on its mind. But you know, to each his own. It's just opinions, not facts. I think it's a pretty good movie with some pretty great parts here and there, and when I was a teenager I thought it was the best thing in the world. Looking back on it 17 years after the fact, there's some stuff that kind of rubs me wrong, but I still have things about it that I like. It's just interesting how time changes one's perspective.

    Last year I read a great book "Outlaws of Medieval Legend" which presents historical facts and traces the origins of 5 British folk heroes, among them Robin Hood and William Wallace. The book was very dry and written academically, but it had some excellent information in it regarding the social and political landscape in which they each saw rise. There's also a much easier to read one written by Tony Robinson called "In Search of British Heroes" which is the companion to a BBC 4 documentary, also available as an audio book, read by the author. I recommend both for an equally compelling look at this kind of story, without the Hollywood flourishes.

    And this episode saw the mention of my favorite pizza topping when referring to the movie, which was uttered by Mark: Testeroni. Nothing beats an extra large testeroni pizza, especially when watching Braveheart, The Fast and the Furious, or anything associated with Frank Miller.

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    1. Heath-

      My love for Braveheart stems from my youth, as well, so I totally hear you on the time changing things. Like my waistline.

      What if we could add testeroni to other movies that needed it? I'd like "This Means War" with some more testeroni, please.

      "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" left me feeling pretty dry, actually, for a number of reasons. It might get F'd in a future installment.

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    2. Oh also, Heath, those books sound awesome and I am going to look for those immediately.

      Sorry for talking about BOOKS on a movie blog, everybody.

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    3. I can totally understand feeling like Robin Hood was dry. What did you think about the Russell Crowe version? I thought that one was okay, but also really self serious and dour. Regarding my love of the Costner Robin Hood, it's weird, isn't it? It's just strange how you see a movie and you totally connect to it for whatever reason. I'm honestly a little afraid to go back and watch it, as it's been many years. It's such a subjective thing, and so many factors can change your opinion of a movie. I'm a little afraid of losing what it was I loved about it. Do I love Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, or do I love what Robin Hood Prince of Thieves meant to me in 1991?

      By the way, regarding the books (I was thinking about this at work today): the first one I mentioned, Outlaws Of Medieval Legend, is super academic, to the point that I don't know if should be recommending it. I was/am a History education major, and even I found it to be slogging at times, but the information it left me with was really good. But the Tony Robinson book is far less tedious, and actually a great read without tedium. Tony Robinson was an actor in Black Adder, if that means anything.

      I also realized that I misspelled my favorite pizza topping. It's not testeroni, it's TESTOSTERONI. I left off the "tost." Clearly I needed more testosteroni in my diet or that wouldn't have happened.

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    4. TESTOSTERONI will be part of the TESTOSTERONE Lover's Pack from Pizza Hut, no problems.

      Totally ok to love something for your own reasons, obviously. I really disliked the Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe incarnation, mostly because it felt like such a dour, joyless ride. Patrick and I talked about it a little in the Dune podcast. With both that version and the Costner, they were so different from the Robin Hood I had fashioned in my head from the books I read as a kid, so I couldn't connect to it. Maybe I should have held my preconceptions a little more loosely, or enjoyed what was in front of me some more, but ultimately I had a hard time.

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  11. ^^^ You nut, get outta town. Books, who needs them? We have Nooks and Droids now to do our "reading." ;-)

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  12. In regards to comments that Mel Gibson is glorifying himself in this film, I don't think that's accurate, simply because I do recall reading that Mel Gibson read Randall Wallace's script, loved it and wanted to direct the film ONLY but the studio refused unless he agreed to play William Wallace as well so Mel reluctantly stepped into both roles because he wanted so much to make the film.

    Also, in regards to comments that Wallace's desire for freedom comes from nowhere, I'm not sure how you came to that conclusion. As a boy, Wallace witnesses the murder of many Scottish nobles at the hands of Longshanks. When his father and brother go off to avenge them, they both return dead. Then his uncle takes him away and educates him in languages and battle (which is how he returns "fully formed", as you say). He witnesses the cruelty and oppression of prima nocta, forcing him to marry in secret. And as the final straw, the English attempt to rape and succeed in killing wife, and the love of his life. I dont' know about you, but I'd bloody well want some serious freedom!
    My impression of the character of William Wallace is one of a reluctant hero, forced into his role as a freedom-fighter. As a child, he's clearly eager to fight and to avenge, until his father dies doing just that and then he loses that impulse. When he returns he refuses an invitation to be involved in the conflict - he wants to live in peace. When his wife is killed, he is compelled to avenge her and once he kills the magistrate he becomes a rebel and after that he really has no choice but to fight or be killed for his crimes. But the film constantly reminds us that if he had a choice, he would choose not to be a warrior. He tells the first Scots who wish to join him and his rebels to "go home", but they refuse. He has that dream of his wife in the woods - "I don't want to go back. I want to stay here with you." (paraphrasing). There's that scene with Hamish before he's captured at the end where Hamish says "I don't want to be a martyr" and he responds, "Nor I. I want to live." I'm not sure if I'm making a good point here - I just found that part of the story fascinating - that his destiny and his desires were in opposition. Yes, he's fighting for Murron, his wife, but she's dead - there's nothing he can do for her - all he can do is fight to put an end to the oppression that caused her death (and his father's). Plus, did you really want "MURRRRRONNNNN!" to be his last word? That's only serves himself.
    I also don't think the vision of his wife cheapens his sacrifice. I think that's why that scene with Hamish exists, to explicitly tell us that even though his wife is gone, he himself does not want to die. She only appears to him AFTER his sacrifice is complete, almost as a reward, you could say.
    Sorry for the rant! I'll shut up now. Thanks for the podcast!

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  13. So... this is way late but the "boyfriend" getting thrown out the window by Longshanks is kosher, to a degree. The act is known as Defenestration and was common in the Middle Ages. But the scene was kind of played to show how unmanly both the boyfriend and Longshank's son where. Keep up the good podcasting!

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  14. Judging by these comments, I don't think I want to listen to this podcast. Normally differing opinions on movies doesn't bother me, but there's something about 'Braveheart' bashing that makes me very sad. I'm not sure why. But I'll just say I think there's room for movies where the hero is incompromisingly good and noble. I don't need every hero to be deep and complex. I like William for the mythic type hero that he is. And I think the action in this film is insanley brilliantly directed and the emotion very powerful. That's all I'll say!

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