The gladiator returns to the coliseum…


Paul Giamatti stars in “Gladiator 2: Cinderella Man”

I haven’t seen Cinderella Man yet, but man, the hype around this movie is building, and the momentum it’s gaining looks likely to guarantee it a spot as an Oscar favorite.

Think about it: It’s the Oscar-winning team of the vastly overrated A Beautiful MindRussell Crowe and Ron Howard, together again. But THIS time, Crowe is reprising his role as the Gladiator:

  • a thoughtful family man working hard for a living during tough times
  • forced to deal in violence in order to hold on to what he loves
  • the burden of a nation on his shoulders as he steps into the coliseum
  • faced with overcoming impossible odds and dealing with foes whose evil deeds ensure that they deserve the sensationalized violence we’ll see delivered
  • and all of this in front of an astonished crowd.

This time, though, Paul Giamatti, who has TWICE had sensational performances overlooked for Oscar nominations, will finally get that nomination. But it’ll be for the wrong movie. He’ll get it this time because he’s agreed to be part of a big glossy Hollywood movie where he’s playing a handsome hero’s sidekick. The Academy would much rather praise him for appearing in a big crowdpleaser than for doing stronger, more complicated work in something independent and less popular (American Splendor, Sideways.) And with THAT out of the way, you can bet that Giamatti won’t win a Best Actor Oscar anytime soon. His integrity, and his lack of celebrity ego, seems to disqualify him from being recognized in the ranks of Sean Penn and Russell Crowe, where he belongs.

At his blog, Peter Chattaway comes close to damning the film with faint praise.

 

…my wife and I saw the film not too long ago and we both liked it, but overall I find it as disposably entertaining as most of Howard’s films; indeed, much of it has already faded from my memory.

One thing that does kinda got on my nerves, actually, is the way pretty much all of the boxers Crowe meets in the ring are basically unsympathetic characters, to one degree or another. Everybody wants Crowe to win … the film has to make sure that we really, really won’t mind that he beats these people up.

Meanwhile, Chattaway also notes a report at The Revealer, where they’ve discovered that the film is being heavily promoted to the Christian audiences. It’ll be interesting to see what makes this film a hot choice specifically for the Christian market.

I want to like this film. I really really do. I want to see a Ron Howard film that makes me think I don’t have to approach his work anymore with that sense that I’m about to waste two hours of my life on crowdpleasing, challenge-free, predictable entertainment. But this smells like a movie designed by a committee, a product carefully calculated to win big box office and Academy Awards.

In less than a week, I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • raymond

    i also netflixed Firefly on your recommendation, and I’m glad I did. I haven’t gotten that far into it, but I haven’t stopped laughing since it started. The humor is spot on. And it at least has one thing the star wars prequels we’re missing…substance. thanks for the recommendation.

    Can’t wait for Serenity…can’t wait for the rest of my netflix discs.

  • The Cubicle Reverend

    mMan, and here I thought I was obsessed with Doctor Who!

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Jared,

    “Juvenile?” Well… the premise is not much more than “Star Wars, but with a Western twist!” So I wouldn’t say “juvenile” so much as “whimsical adventure.” It’s for fun, yes.

    It’s for folks who still like to watch Star Wars, Episodes Four and Five. It’s for folks who wanted the “prequels” to be more fun than dull, more smart than solemn, more humanly reckless than CGI indulgent.

    If you haven’t laughed yet, well, we’re on very, very different wavelengths. I laugh all the time watching this show, and I laughed harder at the movie than anything I’ve seen in a long time.

    No, it’s not an “art series.” No, it’s not going to be deeply challenging to your heart and soul. But as far as comic book fun on the big screen, I prefer watching the “Serenity” gang to any superheroes. They’re nobodies, people who have no business being in an epic, dropped into the middle of one, and choosing to fight rather than flee. May the force be with them.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Peter’s right. Check out the comics. Yes, Shepherd Book *is* in the movie, but it’s a small role, as he’s busy “shepherding” a new community and only deals with Mal and Company when they need him.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    FWIW, Jared, I wasn’t too impressed with the first half of the show either — and I think “juvenile” is an interesting way to describe the show, given that Whedon got his start writing about a high-school-based vampire slayer — but I found the second half began to grow on me.

    Timothy, rumour has it that the Serenity comics, co-written by Joss Whedon and published by Dark Horse, reveal what has become of the Shepherd.

  • Timothy Grant

    So Shepherd Book is in the cast list, but none of the pics, and I don’t think I’ve seen him in the trailers I’ve seen. Is he in the movie?

  • trent

    Hey Jeff:

    Regarding this answer to your question:

    “The most important thing to me is finding everybody’s voice very specifically. I build shows and movies on what I refer to as “the Golden Girls model,” which is, very simply, everybody’s gotta come from a different place, so that everybody’s reaction to something is different and equally valid and equally fun.

    Never having anybody say anything that isn’t the next thing they’d say, that isn’t their point of view, that isn’t their perspective… that’s where the humor comes from. Jayne’s perspective on the situation will be different than everybody else’s, and when he speaks, that makes it funny. But at the same time, that’s what makes it valid. “

    You live in the “Pacific Northwest”, which is where David Eddings lives. Could you track him down and tattoo this to his forehead?

  • Jared Wilson

    on your recommendation I Netflixed “firefly”. I’m on episode 6 now and, I’m sorry to say, I’m still waiting for it to get to that “wow, this is really good!” part.
    For all the hype about its wit,I find it rather juvenile. I’m not sure I’ve laughed yet – after five episodes. Maybe some time you could do a post on what you (and others) see in this show – because I just don’t see it.

    ANOTHER SUBJECT – KINDA. I bought “a soldier of the great war” by Mark Helprin on your recommendation. I don’t like it either!

    I bought Sam Philips “boot and a shoe” on your recommendation and I’d give it 3 stars out of 5 – a decent recommendation.

    I DO like your blog. Thanks for all the effort and thought you put into it – I check it daily and almost always find a new post to spark some curiosity.

  • Neb

    That man is so witty and engaging and skilled…it’s disgusting.

    Good questions, BTW.

  • Chris Durnell

    A Beautiful Mind might be overrated, but only because it’s been gushed upon. Still an enjoyable movie. I liked it much better than Gladiator, whose appeal I have yet to understand. Outside its first 15 minutes, Gladiator is just terrible outside of Joaquin Phoenix scene-chewing.


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