Starring Mel Gibbous in an American Revolution setting. I happen to be reading a bio of George Washington by James Flexner, so when I saw this nugget on Netflix, it seemed to fulfill a chord.
Mel, the guy who gets the close ups, plays a widower with a brood of shiny kids, including Heath Ledger as the eldest. While revolution foments around him Mel wants no part. He suffers guilty for actions taken during the French and Indian War. Heath wants to his part and joins the militia, or maybe the Continental Army.
I won’t pretend that I paid close attention. There is a skirmish on Mel’s property and tho his family cares for wounded British soldiers, there are American soldiers there, including Heath.
The British officer takes Heath away. I don’t know who the actor is but I am pretty sure he is a product of dna hijinks. I mean the gimlet eyes and general bearing of evil incarnate, Hollywood needs a steady supply in any number of movies. Shuffle a few chromosomes to ensure a futurity of cinematic villains.
One of Mel’s younger sons attempts to prevent Heath’s removal and is shot. The odious officer orders the house burnt. Just maybe Mel will want revenge.
The children are sent to live with Mel’s sister-in-law and Mel somehow prevents Heath from being hanged, or hung. I honestly can’t remember how this occurred, some low level buckling of swash, but it got done. Now Mel’s angry.
Mel commits to the cause. The cause is revenge, by the way. So let’s see, glinting-eyed psychopath goes after families of insurgents. They track down Mel’s sister-in-law, caring for his brood. We have already seen Mel in bed with her, and the children, but he is staring at her and she at him. Molto creepy. Let the substitution begin!
The Brits arrive at night but a boy stood watch and warned everyone. Sister-in-law guides the children to the cellar while the guard boy hides beneath a table. I believe it is Mr Evil himself who enters the room. He even hears the click when the boy draws the hammer of his musket, but Mr Evil doesn’t open the door, the DOOR, behind which is the trap door to the cellar. Crisis averted. The family trod off to a safe place: a community of happy, free, black people. Well that’s nice. The two thirds citizen men and zero thirds citizen women. I didn’t mench that the SIL’s home was burned down. That will probably call for revenge.
There’s been action and sad face from Mel and his gang of desperados. One militia man kills himself after discovering his wife and child dead in reprisal. That may have been after Mel visited Cornwallis to bargain for the lives of 18 captured militia. He gives the esteemed British lord a spyglass to see in the distance 18 captured redcoats. Cornwallis affirms the trade, only later to discover that it was just uniforms tied to the stakes not soldiers.
The psychotic British officer visits a village where lives Heath’s newly-minted wife and others. He gathers them in the church then fires the it. That would be considered an atrocity, worthy of revenge.
On discovering this, Heath races off ahead of dad and the militia. He even finds, somehow, the very miscreant. A skirmish in which twice the number of redshirts as was in either party succumbs to righteous or evil endeavor. The reverend gets plugged just as Heath is about to get shot. That bad officer is loading his pistol but the reverend has just enough righteous pizzazz to toss his musket into Heath’s hands, and Heath plugs the heinous officer. Rather than check on the reverend, or do anything quickly, Heath stands over the fallen officer, readying to apply a coup de grace with his knife. Surprise! The officer isn’t dead enough, and stabs Heath to almost dramatic death with a sword. The officer ambles away, shaking off the musket ball in the torso. Mel arrives and swears a bit of vengeance. At the same time, he is not sure he wishes to carry on with this shit, tho his militia and nascent country need him.
Now Cornwallis is cornered. Mel offers the strategy of placing the militia in the front line, to soon scramble back drawing the Brits into contest with the Continental Army. And blah blah blah, Mel has to pick up a flag to inspire the payoff. The ever so tiresome final battle between these arch rivals. Mel looks sliced and diced but whoa, surprise, the bad guy dies. Freedom and stuff.
Mel’s performance struck me as overly thought. Evident moving of the gears. The tediousness of revenge here makes me think on this country and its current trials. The righteous anger bubbling so obviously here and there swollen by revenge’s call. Simplistically it is why is something something and I am not? My inalienable right to be free of face mask, my birthright as asshole, my god-given directive to be free of clear topic sentences. Mel can go on to drunken anti-Semitic rants because that’s what’s called birthright. Shitty movie if you kinda look at it. Last scene shows the cozy family together except two sons dead and the dead mother replaced.
When I went to Franconia College, my view of poetry broadened. No surprise to that. In high schooI I had two friends who also wrote poetry. We were the extent of each others' audience. I knew of a handful of poets but hadn’t read much in school or on my own.
I didn’t even like poetry. I wrote it because I had no interest in writing fiction. I liked reading stories but making that shit up seemed too formidable. I never thought about writing non-fiction.
I became aware of e. e. cummings’ inveterate rule-breaking in high school, I suppose. His example served as a safe house for me to scribble and type the serious whatevers that I so earnestly wrote. I made effort to read but I hadn’t a clear trail. I really didn’t get poetry.
At Franconia, then, I read much more of other people's work, the published and the unpublished (other students). I was dutiful about this but I still didn't really enjoy much poetry.
My first year, I took a writing course. Creative writing, as they say. People presented poetry and fiction. The teacher didn't feel qualified to teach poetry, however, tho I found his critiques both thoughtful and credible. He wanted someone to teach poetry. The school instigated a search.
I remember three poets who gave readings (separately) as part of the search process. There may have been more. One was this forthright guy, comfortably named Joe. I liked him. He was hip but friendly. Another was more professorial, less hip than the first guy. He probably hoped for a more 'serious' school. Franconia was a loose place. I still refer to it as a hippie school. Sometime later, I saw an anthology edited by the guy. He must have made it to a more secure school. His wife joined him at the reading. As I recall she had what we would now call a goth presence. I recall a black dress, in contrast to the hippie boutique of the school community. An author photo for the anthology I mentioned shows her in the background in similar dark gothness.
I watched Robin Hood with Kevin Costner. Well, that’s a bit misleading, he never showed up so I watched alone. But Costner was in the movie. I initially saw it when it came out. I recognized that the movie was a bit sunny in its outlook the first time thru. I would now say that it presents a debauched sunniness.
Robin Hood, the character, endures. Costner's mid-Western niceness seemed a stretch in the role but Costner was really Costner at the time. You could shoehorn him into anything. And he had a larger than life aura, even if of an ordinary variety. Not exactly a preening Errol Flynn but Costner could carry the movie.
The tale begins with The Crusades. You know, Good versus Evil on the geo-political plane. Costner is imprisoned by the heathens but manages to escape. In the process he aids Moorish Heathen Morgan Freeman to escape, as well. Freeman thus pledges his life to Costner. This gets another A-Lister into the production, fannies in the seats. Hood returns to England with his Moor.
Robin's father is killed by you know who and Robin loses his inheritance. Robin gets on the wrong side of the law, we know the story. He meets Little John and they fight in a ford rather than on a log bridge. This shows Robin as a regular guy. He laconically takes leadership of the people of the forest, who didn’t seem to need the leadership. All this is prologue to the action.
The Sheriff of Nottingham is played by Alan Rickman. I believe this role put him on the map. His Sheriff is flamboyant, histrionic, and hilarious. Only thing is, he's a monster. The Sheriff's cousin reports to the Sheriff that Robin and his band have stolen the treasure the cousin was supposed to protect. The Sheriff casually, almost jokingly, stabs him to death. At another point, in a rant, the Sheriff declares that there will be no more humane beheadings. Again the jocular manner sounds heinous next to the idea of an inhumane beheading. Folks back then knew how to play inhumane.
The folks of Sherwood Forest already had a village in the trees, one such as Tarzan might have devised. This village had nothing to do with Robin, yet the credit draws towards him. They already enjoyed communal bliss but Robin gave them leadership.
Lady Marian, cousin to King Richard, quickly shows she has salt of the earth in her veins. Also a spark for Robin. She attempts to send word to Richard concerning dirty business by the Sheriff. False priest ruins that and puts her at risk, plus the good folk of Sherwood.
The movie gets out of hand when the Sheriff sends a force against the no longer secret enclave. First a wild crew of Highlanders attack the good folk. It resembles a battle scene in Braveheart. They cause much slaughter but eventually run away. The Sheriff then unleashes archers with flaming arrows and catapults of burning matter. It looks like devastation, and mostly is. All available red shirts go to their reward except the small cadre of main characters and a few surviving red shirts who can be killed later, as needed. Looks kinda hopeless.
By rights the whole forest should have been burned down but at least the Sheriff had all known survivors to hang publicly. The unknown survivors, all six or so, worked out a plan. It is a convoluted plan dependent on perfect timing and luck. Of course it worked, but not before the scimitar-wielding Moor gives a rousing speech about freedom to the crowd that assembled to watch the hangings. He has spent his few moments onscreen showing the virtues of Arab culture (spyglasses, gun powder). He convinces the crowd to join Robin’s insurrection.
But wait! The Sheriff has to rape Lady Marian so that his blood mixes with royal, and thereby... Rickman plays this scene almost for laughs, which is very an off note. But Robin battles with the Sheriff. Here Rickman shows some physical grace. I mean not on the level of Flynn vs Rathbone but he moves really well. Costner does not so the filmmakers must accept a lucky win for Robin. And Friar Tuck gets to push the evil priest out a window with due righteousness. Freeman scores a late round victory over the outre crone who influenced the Sheriff, and we’re about done.
The final scene offers the marriage of Robin and Marian as the King and Queen of May, which is consistent with some of the ballads in the cycle. To this festivity arrives Sean Connery as King Richard. History says he returned by way of ransom money, he having been captured during his merrie jaunt to Jerusalem, but okay. Connery maintains a consistent smile, knowing he just made easy cash for dressing up like a Crusader and looking like Sean Connery.
So how does all this socialism of Sherwood Forest not get booed? Everyone should pull themselves up by the bootstraps. The big Red Cross on the backs of the king and his men proclaims a righteousness and victory, tho of course further Crusades piled up in the history books. Let’s pretend they all meant something good. We are left to wonder where all this communal unity and virtue went in years to come. Um, Brexit...