It's been said that history will teach us nothing, or that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In the case of 1995 Best Picture winner Braveheart, it can also be said that history doesn't have to get in the way of Hollywood storytelling. There has perhaps never been a more historically-inaccurate Best Picture than this one, and I'm not saying that just to nitpick. Randall Wallace wrote the screenplay with heavy influence from Blind Harry's 15th century epic poem The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace, Knight of Elderslie, which has long been considered in and of itself quite historically inaccurate. However, in writing about William Wallace, Randall Wallace (no relation, by the way) based very little of the screenplay on either actual history or Blind Harry's poem. Hell, even the title of Braveheart refers in the film to William Wallace when in reality, it was a nickname for Robert the Bruce. The movie depicts an affair between Wallace and France's Princess Isabelle, which surely did not happen since in the depicted time period of actuality, Isabelle was about 3 years old. Scotsmen also did not wear kilts, much less plaid with belts, in this era. Historian Sharon Krossa pretty much summed it up in a 2001 essay by saying, "The events aren't accurate, the dates aren't accurate, the characters aren't accurate, the names aren't accurate, the clothes aren't accurate—in short, just about nothing is accurate."
Evidently, history isn't important here. Just entertainment. So in that regard, I suppose Braveheart is a success. Let's take a look.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
General George S. Patton was a decorated war hero who came from a military family. He was a major player in both World Wars I and II, helping especially in the latter lead the Allied Forces to victory with his strategies and brilliance. He pulled very few punches and often spoke his mind without fear or saying the "right" thing. He was also confrontational and controversial, getting into trouble with his superiors because of his actions, including statements to the media that would at times criticize U.S. war strategy. It seems fitting that the 1970 film biography of the man was portrayed by a unique actor the likes of George C. Scott, who also had a reputation at times for being a bit against-the-grain, prone to moodiness on movie sets and having a complete disdain for the competitiveness of Hollywood when it came to such things as the Oscars. A perfect storm of circumstances, no? Patton winds up highly successful and racks up a slew of Oscar nominations, including for that of Scott's performance, which he requested to not be nominated for but was anyway. Scott wins the Best Lead Actor award and doesn't attend the ceremony. The award was never claimed by him either. He requested that the Academy donate the award to the George Patton museum in Kentucky, but he only made the request verbally. Since it was not in writing, it was never donated. To the best of my knowledge the award is currently on display at the Virginia Military Institute Museum, a military school that the real Patton attended. With all that said, Patton clocks in at nearly three hours but never drags. The film and Scott's performance are engaging, and the battle scenes are incredibly well done. I had planned on writing this blog during a recent trip to Seattle, as I had a laptop and my notes all ready. Unfortunately, my notes wound up misplaced, so I'll do the best I can on a synopsis from memory. Let's take a look at what was President Nixon's all-time favorite film, 1970 Best Picture Patton.