FF132 - Gladiator

Intro by John Roderick

You know, every once in a while Hollywood makes a movie that justifies the whole sordid enterprise, all the crazy money and soulless fame and exploitative sex and crashed cars and smeared mascara and various other smeared things and nose jobs and boob jobs and penis augmentation procedures that were billed as foot surgeries and prop rental places and Chateaus Marmont and wasted sushis sitting by the pool and Ayahuasca ceremonies where nothing was learned and overpriced monkey adrenal glands and what Venice Beach used to be and what it has become and Robert Evans's house that he lost and Jack Nicholson bought back for him and Marlon Brando's house that Nicholson bought and tore down and the neglected dogs of every aspiring comedian in Atwater Village whose newly retired parents are about to cut them off and every car chase that somehow finds its way into the LA River even though the LA River is not on the way to anywhere and it isn't between any two places that anyone would ever chase a car from or to and especially not in the way you always see it where one driver seems to know where every pile of trash is and the other driver didn't even know there was a river in LA and most of all that particular way the production people have of making you feel that they could kill you with a hammer right there on the sidewalk in front of your own home and never be prosecuted for it just because they are getting paid to put gaffer tape where Scott Baio's stunt double is supposed to stand. The whole gyre of human misery turns suddenly and briefly to triumph with the production of a single film.

I am not saying Gladiator is that film because this is just the intro. The whole point of this podcast is that we review it later. Sometimes in these intros it is hard for me not to just say: "This movie is worse than acne, and I don't even remember what we said about it, but I am sure Adam loved it. One eyepatch!", or whatever. I don't want to spoil the show. It is a good show!

What I will say about Gladiator is that it makes you think, leaving the theater, that you are pretty much an expert on the Roman Empire now and also pretty good at hand-to-hand combat and maybe, if you talked a little less, people would take you more seriously, and from now on you are going to talk less and be more intense and see how people like it.

What you won't learn in Gladiator is anything good or useful about sex. It is a major rapey perv-fest full of palpable malice and even Maximus's chastity is weirdly scary, and that is not even counting the little figurines in the leather pouch. But on the plus side, there are more tunics and baby oil biceps than a stack of 1970s weightlifting magazines, but it all feels smart and historical and important, so the beefcake is cloaked in virtue.

I am not going to sing the praises of Russell Crowe either, because it is not on Brand for me to earnestly appreciate the intense commitment of some dumb phone-throwing actor from a far-off desert planet, but I will say that every once in a while God winds up one of these human wolverines and sets them loose on the world as a prank, and in this case we were lucky that Russell Crowe stumbled into acting instead of collecting bounties on kangaroo poachers or training falcons to hunt cats or working in a semi-official capacity for an unlicensed casino.

Well, this is a war movie, or at least it is a war movie enough for me. It is a Ridley Scott film from the year 2000. It won best picture at the Academy Awards for that year, Crowe won best actor, plus Oscars for costumes, sound, and effects. "There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper, and it would vanish. It was so fragile!" Today on Friendly Fire: Gladiator.

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