One of my favorite vacations as a kid was when my Dad took us to Gettysburg. We visited The David Wills House where we saw the little desk where President Lincoln finished writing his historic address; and the Round Top Museum’s Electric Map of the battlefield, obsolete even then. But the high point was the tour of the actual battlefield. I remember our tour guide, Cassius, saying, “On this day, we reach back to hallowed history to bring you a reenactment of the 7/1-3/1863 battle which would cause the fall of the Confederacy!” You’ll see it all: From the 1st shot on the Chambersburg Pike, south to Cemetery Hill; to Little Round Top on Day 2; culminating with Pickett’s ill-fated Charge on Cemetery Ridge. “Across the barren field of Gettysburg pushed the armies of General Robert E. Lee: Ferocious warriors bent on secession & conquest. Has anyone here been in the army? Then you know that no matter what comes through the gates, you’ve got a better chance of victory staying together, defending higher ground. And so General Meade did. Less than 6000 Union troops defeated more than twice that number on that hill. In all, there were 46286 casualties at Gettysburg. But I will not believe they fought & died for nothing.” For our Union was preserved & slavery abolished!
Today’s Classic Movie Blog is also about battling for the freedom of slaves: For that is what gladiators did; they were slaves who battled to the death for the enjoyment of the masses & the Romans in power, including the Emperor. A great gladiator would occasionally be granted his freedom by the Emperor. Ridley Scott’s 5-time Oscar-winner, Gladiator, released in year 2000, stars Russell Crowe as Maximus, “The general who became a slave. The slave who became a gladiator. The gladiator who defied an emperor”: Emperor Commodus [Calm-uh-diss], played by Joaquin Phoenix. The film is a fictionialized Commodus is in line to be the heir to the throne of his father, Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), but Marcus chooses to turn the crown over to Maximus & have him transition the Empire back to a republic under the control of the Senate. When things don’t goes as Marcus planned, Commodus becomes Emperor, the Senate remains a powerless body, and Maximus is enslaved & later sold to Proximo (Oliver Reed), who turns him into a magnificent Gladiator. Reed died of a heart attack during filming, before all of his scenes were shot. They were completed with a body double & a 3D CGI mask of Reed’s face. Reed, then 61, hated Crowe, and wanted to fight the star, 36 years his junior. Apparently, filming was challenging & Crowe had his physical problems, as well. He broke a foot, a hip, hurt both biceps; and needed stitches to his face from a spooked horse.
Gladiator won 5 Oscars in 2001 at the 73rd Academy Awards: Best Picture; Actor; Visual Effects; Costuming; and Sound. It was nominated for another 7: Supporting Actor (Phoenix); Director; Original Screenplay (David Franzoni, John Logan & William Nicholson); Cinematography; Editing; Art Direction; and Score. The score, which is original music written for the film’s background, to complement the action & set the mood, was composed by arguably the best film composer alive today, Hans Zimmer. Zimmer, who is 56 & has composed the score to 124 features, won the Original Score Oscar in ’95 for The Lion King, and has 7 more nominations for his scores, including: Rain Man in ’89; As Good As It Gets (’98); and, most recently, Inception (’11), a score which is critical to understanding the plot. Perhaps his best is the Oscar-snubbed score to 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. So watch the trailer below, then get Netflix streamin’ to hear Hans Zimmer’s great score & Russell Crowe’s Oscar-winning performance as Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.