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Gene at the Golden Globes

Cold Mountain which just came out Christmas Day is up for 8 Golden Globe awards including Best Picture, Best Director [Anthony Minghella]; Best Screenplay [deservedly so for Minghella who takes some surprisingly light touches]; Best Actor [Jude Law], Best Actress [Nicole Kidman] and Best Supporting Actress [Renee Zellweger].

The fact that some of its themes remind me of those found in one of the greatest westerns of all time, The Outlaw Josie Wales- i.e., the intolerable cruelty of both the Northern soldiers and confederate bounty hunters borne upon hapless Southern renegades- I wasn’t surprised to hear Nicole Kidman scream out in one scene about there being a reckoning. Which is what Josie Wales was all about. But there also had to be a reckoning in my mind for director Minghella who inflicted the intolerable cruelty of the pompously endowed The English Patient upon the movie going masses. Even if it had won an Oscar for Best Picture for reasons that I will never begin to fathom.

And, certainly, Kidman owes her fans more than an apology for The Human Stain which besides being a soap opera-ish ring around the bathtub features a God-awful, what could they have been thinking of casting of Anthony Hopkins as a black man.

And Zellweger wasn’t too far behind, either, in Down with Love, a thoroughly brutal and heavy handed sendup of a Doris Day comedy. And while on the subject of Doris, the L.A. Times’ very calculatingly snide, one-sentence dismissal of Zellweger’s wonderful performance in Cold Mountain as being a tribute to Day in Calamity Jane is totally without credence, intelligence or merit. As she did in Jerry McGuire, Zellweger basically walks away with the movie with her gun toting, do-it-all tomboyish character Ruby, who you might suspect is one step removed from walking into a 19th century equivalent of a dyke bar but in the film’s jump-ahead-a-couple of years ending is seen cradling a baby and having a rather pussy-whipped husband, which isn’t too surprising.

So much for the blunt suspicions of Ruby’s sexual preferences, Cold Mountain’s tantamount to a Civil War female Mutt & Jeff buddy picture with some uncommonly comedic lines and situations. The finely educated minister’s daughter Kidman pines for a rugged man [Law] she’s never technically made love to [even though she’s sent him all the messages as 1864 body language will allow]; while Zellweger, spouting droves of backwoods wisdom, serves as the ersatz guy in her life, capable of breaking heads off of roosters, at least until the soulful Law can find his way back through trial and tribulation into Kidman’s compulsive letter writing arms.

Much in the way of Gladiator, there’s a horrific mud and mayhem battle overture with Law and the other volunteers from Cold Mountain, North Carolina acquitting themselves admirably through shot and shell and the kind of riveting visuals guaranteed to bring the mindless brutality of war straight into your guts. But in an unscrupulous turn of events, Law is shot in the throat during a night maneuver and is consigned to an army field hospital. At this point you wonder what’s worse- Law gargling the bullet lodged in his esophagus or being subjected to a conceit straight out of The English Patient when a nurse begins reading him a plaintive letter sent from Kidman urging him to come back to her.

While Sting’s also nominated for a Best Original Song, I was half expecting to hear Lara’s theme being resurrected from Dr. Zhivago, as Law- now a fugitive- begins his long trek from Petersburg, Virginia, the scene of the battle, back to North Carolina. [Although the entire movie was shot in Romania’s breathtaking Carpathian Mountains, the home of the for-real Count Dracula]

Like Omar Sharif wading through half of Siberia in Zhivago, Law’s face assembles a bearded and sunken pallor descriptive of his trials. And by the time Law gets back and makes passionate, baby-producing love to Kidman who, I swear to God, is sporting a lustrous tanning bed glow through all the Scarlet O’Hara survival bullshit she’s supposed to have been through, Law looks like something the cat basically dragged in. As well he should because there’s also some rather graphic, body depleting moments that occur along the way.

During his Homeric odyssey, Law makes the [unfortunately] very short acquaintance of Philip Seymour Hoffman whose role as a preacher who can’t keep his dick in his pants nor his conversations about his fecal habits discreet, is way too brief. No pun intended, because Law and Hoffman are lured into a sexually compromising setup when they find themselves in a cabin full of lusty women ready to jump them. In one surprising turn of events- at least for a picture of this stature- one of the women pulls up her skirt and urges Law to ride her naked ass into the sunset.

Under most circumstances, this is a pretty welcome suggestion for a stranger with b.o. of the armpits and dirt under his fingernails, except for the fact that there’s a bunch of union boys with guns behind that too good to be true offer. Which is about the time Law turns into Josie Wales and initiates his body count among the blue bellies, not the least of which includes a widow who offers the stoic Law her bed for the evening. And, of course, Kidman who keeps her screen nudity streak intact by suggesting to Law that wars make some things, like sexual abstinence, rather pointless.



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