Gratuitous movie bashing: Alexander, updated
I stopped watching Oliver Stone’s movies a while ago, back when he bored me into a nap during JFK, but then, that’s just me. His latest creation, Alexander, sounds like a hoot, though.
There are bad movies (an indie called Judas Kiss with Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman comes to mind) that aren’t worth watching, and then there are bad movies that are worth watching because they’re so bad they’re funny. Lots of toga-and-sandal epics fit the latter category, and it sounds like Alexander might be at the top of the toga so-bad-you’ll-laugh class. Just take a look at the NYT article, where Stone says
Alexander to me is a perfect blend of male-female, masculine-feminine, yin-yang. He could communicate with both sides of his nature. When you get to modern-day focus groups, to who’ll get offended in Hawaii or Maine, you can’t get out of it.”
The real-life Alexander, of whom has been said, “When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer” (if that line sounds familiar it’s because you heard it from the bad guy in Die Hard — another Rickman movie — “the benefits of a classical education”) was not quite a yin-yang guy. To give you a for instance, Plutarch described
But when the Macedonian [Alexander’s army] garrison sallied out upon them from the citadel, they were so hemmed in on all sides that the greater part of them fell in the battle; the city itself being taken by storm, was sacked and razed. Alexander’s hope being that so severe an example might terrify the rest of Greece into obedience, and also in order to gratify the hostility of his confederates, the Phocians and Plataeans. So that, except the priests, and some few who had heretofore been the friends and connections of the Macedonians, the family of the poet Pindar, and those who were known to have opposed the public vote for the war, all the rest, to the number of thirty thousand, were publicly sold for slaves; and it is computed that upwards of six thousand were put to the sword.
(more Plutarch here.) Alexander could communicate to all sides of his nature, alright, and clearly communicated a lot to the people he trod upon. He didn’t need focus groups. The old Cool Hand Luke line, “What we have here is a failure to communicate”, was not what the conquered would have thought about Alexander. You could say that they were up to their yin-yangs in communication.
Then there’s the big to-do as to whether Alexander was gay. Back in Old Macedonia I don’t believe people worried much about that — as The Husband puts it, ancient Greek culture was essentially mysogynist — but, as Ann Althouse points out, “I love the way Stone is lecturing us, as if we are too backward to tolerate homosexuality, when he’s relying on the stereotype that men who have sex with men are feminine.” On the other hand, Richard Roeper declares,
Having seen the film, I can categorically state that Stone does not in any way suggest Alexander was bisexual.
He suggests Alexander was absolutely, fabulously gay.
There’s also some reluctant heterosexuality, but Stone leaves no doubt about which team he thinks Alexander played for.
In “Alexander,” the proclamations of love and the most intense and passionate hugs are between Colin Farrell’s Alexander and his best friend Hephaistion, played by the long-haired, dewey-eyed Jared Leto, who’s photographed as if he’s appearing in Elton John’s wildest dreams.
As Larry Ribstein (via Professor Bainbridge) notices, gay relationships deserve better treatment, and they have been better treated on film (Sunday, Bloody Sunday, for instance). By now Stone’s expecting better reviews in Europe (no s**t, Sherlock, considering how the movie’s been dubbed a work of artistic suicide by most [American] critics), but at least Gore Vidal liked the movie. The critic from the UK’s Telegraph calls the movie Alexander the grating, not quite the better review Stone was looking for.
No bashing of Alexander at The Bad Hair Blog would be complete without mentioning the hair. The Hindustan Times: “‘Alexander is full of brilliant highlights, and they’re all in Colin Farrell’s hair,” said the Boston Globe. Other descriptions of Farrell’s hairdo ranged from “dreadful-looking blond pageboy,” to “epically bad dye job.” The Telegraph guy says,
although to judge by his hair – a golden, peroxide quiff that calls to mind a mid-period Bee Gee – you could be forgiven for thinking his mission was to set up a chain of Middle-Eastern hair salons.
However, while this might be an unfounded rumor, I felt a need to report it:
Unreliable sources say Stone can also expect to pick up support from the Mullet Anti-Defamation League for Colin Farrell’s frank depiction of bi-level hairstyles.
Not to be outshone, the NYT mentions “Colin Farrell, upstaged by an epically bad dye job”. Hair or not, Colin’s been comparing acting to a malodorous dog (“I’m here because I like the work! The work intrigues me. It annoys me. It (screws) with my head and it’s like a dog that I’m never going to catch. I do want to stroke it once and see how bad it smells. But every time I get close to the dog, he’s gone again”), but maybe we shouldn’t go there.
The Packet reviewer’s husband mentioned another minus,
When some of Alexander’s men mutiny after years on the march, complaining that they’re sick of fighting and want to go home, my husband moaned, “I know just how they feel”.
Sounds like the conquest of the box office will be left to Sponge Bob instead.