James Horner, RIP

Remembered here mostly for his soundtrack for Braveheart, that least historically-faithful but nevertheless well-intentioned movie about Sir William Wallace: one of Scotland's greatest heroes, and the world's.

The soundtrack had strong moments.

The gentleman died piloting a single-engine aircraft, which is an honorable passtime just because of the danger and glory of flying on one's own.


Texan99 said...

Mel Gibson is a bit of a sad case. His recent movies show an unseemly fascination with torture, which is more and more indulged to the degree that he has control over the production. I expect him to graduate to snuff films if he stays in the business at all, now that he's so thoroughly broken down publicly. It's a shame, if you remember some of his earlier work in movies like "The Year of Living Dangerously" and "Mutiny on the Bounty," when he combined an incredible physical gorgeousness with a subtle range of expression. I'd have enjoyed "Braveheart" more if they'd edited out perhaps 90% of the last half hour.

Shame about the composer, but there are a lot worse ways to go. We've all seen them. "Death smiles at us all, but all a man can do is smile back."

MikeD said...

Your mileage may vary, of course, but I disagree. I think far too often we candy coat history in an effort to avoid unpleasantness, and it is to our great detriment. One symptom of which is the unfortunate (in my opinion) modernizing of morals in historical pieces. Case in point, the acclaimed movie Unforgiven. Pretty much the pervasive theme of the film is how difficult it is to actually take another man's life, and how even the most hardened of killers must force themselves to overcome it. Yet this is an absolute load of hogwash. Life was cheap, and was treated cheaply because of it. William Wallace WAS drawn and quartered. This is historical fact. And the people there to watch him be drawn and quartered included children who were taken to his execution by parents as entertainment. So to with hangings in the American West. This was Sunday afternoon family entertainment. Not some great horror that the spectators could not bear. People thought differently than you or I. And we do a disservice to them and ourselves when we pretend otherwise.

Texan99 said...

My problem with Gibson's approach is that he lingers a little too lovingly, to the point where the message I'm getting is no longer "wasn't this awful" or even "imagine what a time it was when people took this kind of barbarity for granted." It's not even "this is what courage looks like." I may be imagining things in believing it's starting to resemble a fetish, but contrast, for instance, the amazing Hitchcock scene in which a couple is forced to kill a guy in their kitchen by sticking his head in the oven (I forget the name of the movie). Hitchcock lingers for the clear purpose of showing how hard it is to finish such a job, and what a terrible toll it takes on the couple. He's clearly not getting off on it, even though his purpose certainly is to force us to watch it past a point of comfort. It's very far from sanitized or euphemistic, like an old-fashioned Western or war movie where people are gutshot and die quietly after a few seconds, with time for a few well-considered last words.

MikeD said...

But it's not about "isn't this awful" or "imagine what a time it was when people took this kind of barbarity for granted", or even "this is what courage looks like". It's about "this is what it was". People were drawn and quartered. And while we cannot view this dispassionately, they viewed it with admiration and glee. When we look at our forbears through the lens of modern sensibilities, we cheapen both ourselves and them. The scene you're describing where the couple murder the guy in their kitchen is EXACTLY my problem with the film Unforgiven. It's fine if you're setting it in the modern age where those sensibilities exist. But to place it in a time when an executioner's big concern was getting the boots off the guy's feet before he voided his bowels (cause, hey... free boots) and not the fact that he was killing someone (deservedly or not aside) is false.

And I'm not saying we need to pat ourselves on the back because we're so much better than those people (I am reminded of Grim's "myth of clean hands" when I consider ourselves in relation to our forbears), nor do we need to hold that they were braver, stronger, or anything else. We are as we are, and they were as they were. My grandmother killed chickens with her bare hands to put dinner on the table. I doubt most Americans have killed anything larger than a rat in their lives save by accident (much less by hand). But that was the world she lived in. And I feel there's a trend towards candy-coating history. Sure, it's not nearly as bad as the westerns on TV in my youth were, and I DO get your point about lingering on it. But you cited the Hitchcock scene as lingering for a good cause. I cite realism in a historical piece as a good cause. Drawing and quartering is horrible by pretty much any standard of today (I suspect even the Daesh folks might find that a bridge too far, but who knows, maybe not). But it wasn't to our ancestors. It was a terrible punishment, for sure (as the intent was to discourage those who would act likewise, so it was as painful as possible), but again, people brought their kids to watch, because they also viewed this as entertainment. Our morals and standards cannot be laid upon them, because they lived in a different world than we do. And I re-iterate that we do them (and ourselves) a disservice by pretending otherwise, and by shying away from the fact.

Texan99 said...

I can't see any part of Braveheart as a dispassionate laying out out of difficult historical truths. It was adventurism and eye candy. I think the extended torture scene was meant to entertain and titillate, not to open our eyes to different truths from different times. But I take your more general point, and there may be many other movies that would embody it for me perfectly. I'm seeing Braveheart in the broader context of "The Passion of the Christ" and "Payback"--just a few too many movies in a row with Gibson lingering on the torture a tad too eagerly, almost as if the rest of the story were an excuse to get to the torture.

Grim said...

I can't see any part of Braveheart as a dispassionate laying out out of difficult historical truths.

I have to say that Tex is right about this one. Take their presentation of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, for example.

The great kilt is deployed hundreds of years too early and inaccurately made so as to closely fit the body. The woad is off by hundreds more years in the other direction. The princess used as a love interest, with the suggestion that Wallace fathered her child, would have been a child rather than a grown woman.

One could go on at great length -- I'm sure someone has, if you look around.