Cold Mountain

Not rated yet!
Director
Anthony Minghella
Runtime
2 h 34 min
Release Date
24 December 2003
Genres
Adventure, Drama, History, Romance
Overview
In this classic story of love and devotion set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, a wounded Confederate soldier named W.P. Inman deserts his unit and travels across the South, aiming to return to his young wife, Ada, who he left behind to tend their farm. As Inman makes his perilous journey home, Ada struggles to keep their home intact with the assistance of Ruby, a mysterious drifter sent to help her by a kindly neighbor.
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VJ Morton2
Right Wing Film Geek



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  • Bad in all the ways that’ll help win an Oscar

    Bad in all the ways that’ll help win an Oscar

    COLD MOUNTAIN (Anthony Minghella, USA, 2003, 3)

    About 30 minutes into this big fat hunk of Miramax Bestseller-Adaptation Oscar-bait, I had completely lost interest in it as a work of art, as a movie in itself. But what makes COLD MOUNTAIN interesting, and not in a good way, is how I saw it from then on — as a collection of signifiers for modern audiences to pat themselves on the back about what a Much More Enlightened Time we live in and how the past was a collection of retrograde attitudes. Except for the characters who are Just Like Us.

    Seven years ago, director Anthony Minghella hit Oscar gold with THE ENGLISH PATIENT, an overheated chick-flick romance for people who thought CASABLANCA should have ended with Rick turning Victor Laszlo over to the Germans and making off with Ilsa and the letters of transit to Lisbon. Lest anyone think that boinking Kristin Scott Thomas not a good worthy of turning a Resistance fighter over to the Nazis, since “we lovers are the only countries,” the film thoughtfully began with Victor Laszlo finding Rick in Lisbon, bent on revenge. But once he hears in flashback about What A Great And Beautiful Love existed between Rick and Ilsa, he overlooked his missing thumbs and smiled his benediction on This Great And Beautiful Love.

    Minghella has done something similar here with the other contender for most famous American film ever made. COLD MOUNTAIN is basically GONE WITH THE WIND had Margaret Mitchell been a late-20th-century artist with An Appropriately Raised Consciousness — a white person’s WIND DONE GONE. If only there had been more Howell Raineses around, 19th century Southern literature and history would have been like this. Here, Scarlett (Nicole Kidman) makes it through the war by releasing Mammy and Miss Prissy, and hooking up with Rhett recast as a wisecracking butch woman (think Corky and Violet in BOUND … and insert subtext) who says “t’ain’t no man better than me” at labor. She/he, as lustily played by Renee Zellweger, teaches her practicality and They Build a Home together. But the Massachusetts Supreme Court comes to the rescue. (OK, *that* part I made up.) Ashley (Jude Law) becomes an abolitionist multiple-adulterer anti-hero who knows War Is Hell because “I lived it” … oh … and is kind to the African-Americans. He deserts the Army to be with Scarlett since “we lovers are the only countries.” Half the intercut scenes in the film come from his Odyssey-like picaresque to return to Penelope; the other half from the homefront, where the primary threat to Scarlett and Rhett (and Ashley too though in a different way) is the Racist Yahoos Who Want To Make Us Fight This War. The film finishes with a family-meal scene together, only it’s a matriarchal extended family, and the one husband-character ends it by leaving the table saying “I best fetch it. I got my orders.” Up and out, happily.

    It’s not that anything in the movie is unthinkable or anachronistic, exactly. It’s more that the assignment of virtues and vices, *in terms of what appeals to modern audiences,* was so predictable and overdetermined that I stopped seeing human beings or even period characters, but instead registered bowling pins being set up for the movie to knock over later. Practically every scene has some element I saw in one or another way as a sop to the temporal chauvinists among us — which is to say, the American art-house audience and Oscar voter. I so often dislike Hollywood period pieces for this reason — i.e. they flatten conflicts into easily-digested contemporary categories. Comparison to a great film like GANGS OF NEW YORK, where the Irish immigrants led by Leo who have been the audience identification figures throughout, are shown to be racist, lynching draft-rioters, shows just how thoroughly COLD MOUNTAIN stacks the deck. Even opposition to the war and secession sounds like Alan Alda on MASH, with characters saying things like “I’m not gonna get shot again for some cause I don’t believe” and “every fool got sent off to fight with a flag and a lie.” There was opposition to the Confederacy and secession, certainly, particularly in the Appalachians (it’s why there is a state called West Virginia today). But a Confederate nostalgist friend told me that things were a little more complicated than that. Here’s what he wrote me:

    “When the first Confederate conscription law was passed in 1862, it included a provision that any man with 20 slaves could be exempted from service. The idea being that someone had to supervise the slaves, who might otherwise run rampant. In the army, of course, some soldiers groused it was ‘a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight,’ and this policy became known as ‘the 20 nigger rule.’ Anti-Confederate sentiment, you see, was just as racist as pro-Confederate sentiment.”

    In other words, exactly as in GANGS OF NEW YORK and even (to an extent) the racist whites in GLORY. It’s THAT kind of complexity, ambivalence, and *serious* challenging of the contemporary audience is exactly what’s missing from COLD MOUNTAIN. Pauline Kael was complaining about art-house films stroking the prejudices of liberal, educated audiences before I was even born … plus ca change …

    Even the things COLD MOUNTAIN does right are tainted by this rottenness in its soul. There’s a scene of singing in the church on the day secession is declared. (I couldn’t help but compare it to the barbecue scene in GONE WITH THE WIND). The church space is re-created lovingly and the actors sign authentic shape-note Gospel songs. But I noticed a circular establishing shot at the start of the scene, and it seemed to emphasize the way the church seating was segmented, and made me notice one other thing about how this segmentation was used — to segregate men and women (sexism … booooooo!!!). And much of the congregation leaves to celebrate the news of secession and hostilities (warmongering yahoos who’ll get theirs; wait till they bring back the bodybags from Iraq … er … Petersburg … booooooo!!!). I know the church layout is accurate and there are justifications for this or that particular detail. But COLD MOUNTAIN is so aggressively uninterested in period accuracy in terms of psychology and soulcraft that I don’t trust its intentions even when it gets right the details of the physical-plant.

    For example, consider the two main preachers in the movie — the Good Fatherly Donald Sutherland and the Wicked Hypocrite Phillip Seymour Hoffman. They are viewable only as audience marketing packages. Not only is Sutherland the father of the heroine, but he sternly says that “I have no plays to preach war.” (War … booooooo!!!) His daughter’s gentleman caller — personified by Law — then says “the Almighty don’t like being called in on both sides of an argument.” Sutherland then nods in sage, avuncular agreement: “Why, I *don’t* think He does.” His owning slaves is played down, and we are shown how he has obviously taught his daughter to serve them traysful of iced tea during parties.

    In contrast, virtually everything we learn about Hoffman is meant to show us, in one or other way, that he’s a hypocrite underneath his showy surface religiosity, a gap Hoffman’s overripe, hammy performance emphasizes. The very first time we see him, he’s getting ready to drown a slave girl whom he had made pregnant (just a double exercise of his Right to Choose in my opinion), but when Law stops him and sets him up for a lynching, he suddenly finds Jesus and talks forgiveness. Ho ho ho. When circumstance forces him to join Law later, he describes suddenly getting the shits as “the Israelites evacuating Egypt.” And a scene involving finding a saw unattended in the forest hacked me off no end. Asked by Law how could a Christian steal something, Hoffman says in his fruity, showy manner “the Bible is flexible in matters of property.” Big yucks from the packed Friday night art-house audience. Except … that … the Bible and the Church have always put limits, or as PSH puts it “been flexible,” on the right to property and in ways relevant to the context of that scene. Anyone with more than a smidgin of knowledge of Christianity knows that, so why did the audience find that line funny? And why did the director and actor play it to be funny? To ask the questions is to answer them.

    UPDATE: I posted a comment at Barbara Nicolosi’s site, where she mentions another example of the film’s annoying presentism — in her words, “the ridiculous acrobatic sex that Nicole and Jude had to go through for the cameras … pulling a strip tease at their hardwon reunion just like they stumbled off the set of Sex in the City. Minghella obviously sensed that there would be nothing in the film for the viewers if he proceeded to kill off Jude Law’s character immediately after the reunion WITHOUT first letting his two leads demonstrate the most mind-blowing Kama Sutra techniques the planet has ever seen.”

    But there was another element to the sex scene that annoyed me even more. Jude and Nicole are finally alone, while Corky sheds a few tears outside. They struggle against temptation manfully (if Wilt Chamberlain is your idea of “manful”) and whether they should wait until marriage or go ahead since, well, life is short during waw-uh. Nicole assures Jude that “my preacher father would understand.” We’re solemnly told by Nicole that in some religions, you just have to say you’re married three times. Jude goes ahead and says it. Then Nicole says “I’m not sure, that may have been divorce.” They snicker together. And fall into each other’s arms. (insert emoticon of Victor gagging).

    I mean, how can one parody the shibboleths of the day when they’re presented this straight-facedly? A bit of half-understood anthropology used to justify sophomoric cultural relativism (nobody was *actually* thinking of converting to Islam and submitting to any of its other rules … Nicole in a burkha, hmmmm). Then the admission that the premised data might not be true, but the blunt admission that it doesn’t matter. Even if it’s false as Rigoberta Menchu’s biography, it’s still true because it justifies what they want to do anyway. So they go ahead without another thought. When Allen Bloom said American souls have no basements, this scene is what he meant.

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    January 15, 2004 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

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    1. […] masters (and “nobody likes The Boss” is true of most civilian vocations as well). I alluded to griping Confederate soldiers in a review of COLD MOUNTAIN and there’s the famous Willie and Joe cartoons from the World War II […]

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  • Love and hate about the Oscar nominations
    (”Cold Mountain” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    Love and hate about the Oscar nominations

    Having trouble with my phone line at home (cursed ice storm), so I couldn’t write up my reaction to the Oscar nominations until now (the complete list is here.)

    Good surprises:
    The year’s best film IMNHO was CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS, which was unfortunately was a documentary and therefore in years past its quality and critical popularity would have guaranteed that it would not get a nomination as Best Documentary. But not this year. Not only was FRIEDMANS nominated, but the other candidate for the year’s most widely-praised documentary, THE FOG OF WAR, was picked too. Though I’ve expressed my doubts and crushed high expectations about FOG, it’s also good that finally the Academy acknowledges the existence of the country’s most important documentarian — Errol Morris. And all three of the others were films that I have heard of, that played in theaters, and that was generally well-liked by the few critics who saw them. The documentary branch for years had a nearly perfect record of ignoring the one film that year that *had* to be on the list — Morris’ own THE THIN BLUE LINE, ROGER & ME, CRUMB, HOOP DREAMS, HEARTS OF DARKNESS. But this year and last, they seem to have gotten their heads screwed on straight. Last year, four of the five nominees were BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, WINGED MIGRATION, SPELLBOUND and DAUGHTER FROM DANANG — all films that, regardless of my varied particular opinions of them, were strong enough *as films* to get substantial critical praise and to win (with the exception of DANANG) a very broad and hugely popular commercial release by documentary standards.

    Some major nominations going to foreign films. THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE scored a nomination for best animated feature nomination and one for best song. And then there was all the love for CITY OF GOD — four nominations, including two major ones (script and director). I’m under no illusions that either is likely to win anything — for a foreign film, it is really true that the honor is just being nominated (some exceptions duly noted, including last year’s script win for Almodovar’s excellent TALK TO HER). According to the Associated Press, when director Fernando Meirelles heard of the nominations, he asked “Has the Academy gone mad?” No, Fernando: you just did good. I’ll have more to say here about this great film, which will be out on home video in a couple of weeks, when I do my Top 10 essay this weekend.

    The near-shutout suffered by COLD MOUNTAIN in the major categories — film, actress, director, script (yes … adapted script). I don’t begrudge Renee her nomination (and likely win), but what exactly was distinguished about Jude Law? Have I mentioned that I don’t care for this fantasy for the art-house audience? One Southerner of my acquaintance high-fived me, and told me that when he had heard of the film’s Oscar flop, he was dancing on the toilet bowl.

    Finally, a Best Actor nomination for Bill Murray, and he might even win, though my money would be on Sean Penn (insert this rant from yesterday about the Academy giving short shrift to comedy and comic actors).

    While I’m not crazy about most of the particular choices, it is good to note that the Academy actually acknowledged that films get released in the first 11 months of the year. Last year, all five nominees were released Dec. 18 or later. This year: LORD OF THE RINGS 3 on Dec. 17; MASTER AND COMMANDER on Nov. 14; MYSTIC RIVER on Oct. 8; LOST IN TRANSLATION on Sept. 12 and SEABISCUIT on July 25. Perhaps the shortened awards season this year (and the screener ban) made the end-of-year booking strategy not viable. Or maybe the voters just didn’t care for MONSTER, HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, 21 GRAMS, THE COMPANY, COLD MOUNTAIN, IN AMERICA, BIG FISH, GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING and CALENDAR GIRLS.

    Bad surprises:
    The absolute shutout suffered by THE SECRET LIVES OF DENTISTS. That’s not so much a surprise, I guess, as a disappointment about what I think was the best American fiction film of last year. I well realized it wasn’t gonna be a major player, since it was released in August and did poorly at the box office. But it still hurts that there was no room at the inn for its script and that Campbell Scott has nothing to show for the two of the best performances by an American male of recent years (this one and ROGER DODGER — so amazing because the characters in question are nothing like one another). Grrr … oh well: DENTISTS came out on home video last week and I heartily recommend it as one of the most realistic and dry-eyedly romantic depictions of family life I’ve ever seen.

    The nomination of Tim Robbins and his collection of gestures masquerading as a performance in MYSTIC RIVER for anything other than a Razzie. Have I mentioned here before that I *hate* that performance. I suppose I can see the logic … that’s Acting. In fact I’ve never so *much* Acting in a noncomic performance in my life. You see every twitch and halt, and all the blood, sweat and tears that went into this, The Ultimate Performance. It’s discouraging that even professional actors are again mistaking playing a handicap (or someone of the opposite sex, who ages 100 years, etc.) as acting.

    No Scarlett Johansson. She gives two of the year’s best lead female performances — in LOST IN TRANSLATION and GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING — and gets shut out. And not because neither film was up the Academy’s alley — LOST was one of the big winners and PEARL was a December prestige release that did get several (very deserved) nods in the technical categories. Maybe the two performances canceled each other out. Or maybe the Academy just prefers telegraphed collections of body-language tics to using your eyes and face and just *existing* on camera.

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    January 29, 2004 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

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PJ Media Staff2
PJ Media



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • 10 Movies Stolen Right Out of The Odyssey
    Lifestyle Homer’s epic poem about homecoming and adventure, The Odyssey, is one of the great action stories of all time. For the ancient Greeks it had the same white-knuckle thrills and intensity as Die Hard. It’s also a pillar of the Western canon, and its influence is so pervasive that it gets copied and replicated in every corner of pop culture almost without our noticing.1. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'Spongebob - Bag of Wind', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); As the great EveryMan (EverySponge?) of our time, SpongeBob was destined to reinvent Odysseus’ archetypal hero quest for a new generation. On his journey to rescue Bikini Bottom from the evil Plankton, Spongebob battles a giant “cyclops” (a deep-sea diver), makes a royal mess out of a magic bag of wind, and negotiates a nasty vendetta from the sea-god, Neptune. That’s all lifted right out of books 9, 10, and 11 of the Odyssey. Legend has it Homer strongly considered opening with, “Tell me, muse, / Who is the man who lives in a pineapple / Under the sea?” class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/8/6/10-movies-stolen-right-out-of-the-odyssey/ previous Page 1 of 10 next   ]]>
    ...
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National Review Staff1
National Review



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • From Books to Movies and Back Again
    (”Cold Mountain” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    A good story endures, not just through time, but across media, no matter how bumpy the crossing.
    ...
    (Review Source)

The American Conservative Staff1
The American Conservative



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Many War Movies Are Antiwar
    (”Cold Mountain” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    foreign policy politics film Calum Marsh makes a ridiculous generalization: But it’s important to remember that despite their moralizing, war films are still essentially action films—blockbuster spectacles embellished by the verve and vigor of cutting-edge special effects. They may not strictly glorify. But they almost never discourage. This is a somewhat strange argument, since it is quite easy to come up with a fairly long list of movies that are explicitly and in some cases deliberately antiwar or at least have the effect of discouraging its audience from supporting most wars. There are the obvious examples, such as Grand Illusion, All Quiet on the Western Front, Apocalypse Now, Gallipoli, and Breaker Morant, and there are also less famous films such as Cold Mountain, Bang Rajan or even the recent propaganda film Five Days of War. Those are just the few that came to mind, and I’m sure that a more complete survey would find many more. Not all of them are good movies, but there are quite a few of them out there. One frequently hears complaints from hawks in the U.S. that filmmakers no longer make enough straightforward pro-war movies as they did in the years following WWII, because there really are relatively fewer war movies that are unabashedly trying to celebrate war than there used to be. It’s also worth noting that there are two very different kinds of antiwar movies. One kind tries to demonstrate the futility or injustice of a particular war or war in general, while the other engages in an almost cartoonish oversimplification of a conflict in order to portray war as something forced on the good side by an implacable, evil foe. Both want to reject war and condemn it for its horrible effects, but in some of them the responsibility for the conflict is identified (sometimes accurately, sometimes not) as being entirely on one side. I haven’t seen Lone Survivor, but based on what Marsh tells us about the plot it could easily be an antiwar movie that falls into this second category. ]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)

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