Mel, O Mel, Why, Why
Director: Peter Weir

TIM . 1979
Director: Michael Pate

MAD MAX. 1979
Director: George Miller

Director: Roger Donaldson

Director: Richard Donner

Director: Mel Gibson

HAMLET. 1990
Director: Franco Zeffirelli

Director: John Badham

Director: Roger Spottiswoode

RANSOM. 1996
Director: Ron Howard

Director: Roland Emmerich

Hey Zeus!Would I have seen The Passion of the Christ (2004) if it's writer-producer-director weren't a rabid anti-semite? Probably not. It had been out some while before he went ballistic on Jews, & I was already annoyed to hear him swearing on a stack of the New Testament that the Holy Spirit assured him everyone spoke Aramaic & Latin in Jerusalem in the time of Jesus, & his film was one-hundred-percent historical fact.

If the dumb turd didn't even know that the common languages of Jerusalem in Jesus' day were Mishnaic Hebrew & Greek, then anyone who wanted a dose of truth instead of religioius cult fanaticism probably would bypass what sounded like a great film for sadomasochists & bigots but not for anyone interested in history or faith or even good fantasy fiction.

I almost decided to see it so I could informatively deconstruct the damned thing, but seeing others do it so well, I had no desire to waste my time. So I can't review a film I'll never see & will editorialize, instead, on that good-looking but creepy drunken sod, Mel Gibson.

Mel's father, a lifelong & notorious nazi sympathizer & holocaust denier, is someone Mel hugely loves & respects, including respecting his opinion of Jews. Unlike his father, Mel personally denies only the immensity of the Holocaust, not that it occurred. For him I guess that constitutes a "happy balance" between raging nutcake & history buff.

The precise quote made by Mel in 2004 was ""Yes, of course. Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps." Hey, no biggie.

Regretting his half-hearted half-holocaust-denying became public record, & following his 2006 antisemitic tirade when arrested as an angry drunk, Mel donated funds to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., indicating that he now believes it was a very big tragedy indeed for the very few Jews who experienced it.

GallipoliBut getting drunk in public & revealing his deep abiding hatred of the killers of Mel's lord pretty much squashed the public's need to support his projects. I know I've entirely lost interest in his work, & I'd been a fan from back when only Ausies had heard of him, when I saw Gallipoli (1981) at a Seattle film festival.

Though I've never that I recall watched it a second time, nevertheless images from Gallipoli remain in my head, & of that tragic injustice that ends the story, the grimmer for being by & large a true story & a revealing underscoring of Ausies' second-class status in the Empire & Commonwealth.

Mel's response to being outed as a rabid antisemite has been to become loonier & loonier & begin construction of a private Christian cathedral built on his own property, because how better to keep filthy christ-killing Jews from despoiling holy ground that to have that ground among his personal possessions.

His famous "niceness" turns to amazing rage & blaming of others every time he's again given opportunity for authentic apology & every time has self-pity in his words & smouldering hostility in his expression.

Now & then he does give another half-hearted apology because it's politic & he does have to work with Jews to be in the entertainment industry. But that sweet glint always vanishes from his eyes, & he always adds an excuse or two.

Fact is, Mel did say, clearly & simply, "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world"; filmed a masochistic paeon to Jesus killed not by the Romans but evil Jews; named his beloved dog Katuysha in honor of Hezbollah's use of Katuysha rockets against Israel; & defends his father's adoration of Hitler by trashing whoever he perceives as disrespecting the repugnant old fart.

So that's the real Mel. We all know it now. And we each have to decide whether we can support with our dollars the "art" of a man of angry bigotry, even though he has been so kind as to allow that the Jews didn't start the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, confessing he may have exaggerated just a hair.

Even before he cast in cement exactly who & what he is at heart, a panel of three Jewish & six Catholic scholars went over Mel's script for The Passion of the Christ & as reported in The Guardian concluded there was no question but that the work was antisemitic.

Mel though purporting personally to be a Catholic traditionalist gives money regularly to an obscure & fanatical California Catholic sect not recognized by the Holy See, which does not accept the Second Vatican reforms, & rejects the papal apology to Jews for centuries of specifically Catholic persecutions of Jews.

Mel has at different times alleged his belief in evil Jews is founded on 100% historical authenticity of the events he presented in The Passion. At other times, when confronted with the fact that Catholic scholars assert as strongly as Jews that he got it wrong, he claims his personal "authenticity" is direct from the Holy Spirit (evidently his pet name for his nazi daddy), & that wouldn't be history at all.

We gotta face it, he's a Jew-hating son of a bitch. Except in his own deluded self-justifications, there's just no other explanation for his "art" & his behavior & his words.

Mad Mel But now I want to reminisce about What Mel Has Meant To Me. I liked some of his films & won't be a Mel Has Entertained Me Denier. I doubt he ever will again, but who knows.

I enjoyed the Peter Weir film Gallipoli a lot & at a time when I was seeing lots of Ausy films because so many of them were so darned good, this one was a stand-out as better still. It was emotionally manipulative, sure, but when those beautiful brave soldiers were strapped in chairs & executed by their own side of a war, I was absolutely horrified, & the beauty of Mel's character didn't hurt in making it seem oh so pitiful.

I'm fairly certain that was the first time I was aware of Mel. I remember worrying about the possibility that I might not see him often, as how many Australian films could he be in that'd make it to Seattle? I even remember hoping he would, like Errol Flynn before him, come to Hollywood abandoning his roots just so I could see him in more stuff.

The next film I saw him in was The Road Warrior; aka, Mad Max 2 (1981), & being a big-time science fiction buff, among other foolish things, this was hot-cha-cha time for me.

So when the repertoiry cinema played it in second run together with the original Mad Max (1979), I found myself seriously annoyed that the earlier film was dubbed to remove the Ausy accents.

TimI liked Mel's voice as well as his face & it was just annoying not to hear him properly. Still, fun stuff, & the token inclusion of the woman warrior (Virginia Hey) in each film was a delightful addition, even if her role wasn't nearly large enough.

And somewhere in here there was a revival of Tim (1979) at the repertoirie cinema & I got to see Mel miscast as, but making the most of, being a retarded labourer with budding feelings for Piper Laurie. A somewhat silly film that poses the pressing query "If a retarded man looked like Mel Gibson, would you screw him?" Well hell yeah.

The more insulting assumption of the film was that a hunky young man would have had to be "slow" to fall for a much older hot momma like Piper.

Year of LivingAs a fan of both Peter Weir & Mel, I was at the very first showing of The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) in Seattle. This was the film that made me a major fan of Linda Hunt, who absolutely stole the show away as Billy Kwan.

And, being that sci-fi nurd, I'd been a huge fan of Sigourney Weaver since Alien (1979). But Mel, too, shined in Year of Living Dangerously & I was beginning to get the idea that he had a real talent beyond just being such a hunk.

That sense of being a talent wouldn't last, but of being a hunk would. By the time I saw Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) it was getting a little obvious that he sometimes just walked through his films relying on his looks contributing nothing else. And if not for Tina Turner as the ferocious Aunty Entity, it would've been a boring film.

BountyAnd that hadn't been the first revelation of Mel being more bod than thespian. The absolutely awful remake The Bounty (1984) was a double-dose of failure in that Mel as Mister Christian was lousy compared to Clark Gable, & Anthony Hopkins as William Bligh was a scenery-chewing dullard compared to the brilliant Charles Laughton.

Critics at the time blamed Mel for the failure but Hopkins is not half the actor assumed by idiot critics easily bowled over by British accents.

The script wasn't as bad as the film it became, as it attempted a surprising "balance" in understanding Bligh & Christian -- no longer good Christian vs bad Bligh, both men are written to be complex & credible. But they're played by a doe-eyed beauty vs an absurd ham & the actors, even if not the scriptwriter, have rendered it good vs evil.

The badness of The Bounty may have been in great part the director's fault, rather than the actors, though they certain seem miscast; & remaking films as great as Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) is just asking for trouble. But it was my first realization that perhaps I didn't need to see all Mel's films as they were issued.

Lethal Weapon 2A few films of Mel's vanished from memory & though I saw them, no lingering impressions remain. So somewhere there in the '80s I stopped thinking of him as a talented as well as handsome star, but handsome was enough, & I certainly wasn't going to pass his films by.

Then he made the first Lethal Weapon (1987) & while many will laugh at me for saying so, it was a first-rate performance. Sure it was a commercial action film with an inconsequential story, but Mel created a character that was suprisingly complex for a mindless action film.

Not to deny that Danny Glover was the better actor, Danny came off as straight-man to Mel as commedian. And that combination of nervous suicidal nut, & jibbering comic, deserves considerable praise, harmonizing opposite traits.

I really felt that Mel had created in Riggs a cinematic hero of considerable & even lasting potency, & certainly proved he had comedy chops. I didn't expect a sequel to be anything but an overblown remake cashing in on an unexpected success, yet Lethal Weapon II (1989) was good as pure entertainment, with the stand-up comedy team of Riggs & Murtaugh still having bits of character worth exploring.

Of the further sequels, well, they've blended in memory into one blobby mass, & I wouldn't care to see any of them again except perhaps the first & original.

Man Without a FaceHaving regained some of my interest in his stardom, however, Mel seemed too soon to lapse as an actor even as he tried to prove he was one.

The worst film I ever saw him in was his big attempt to be actorly, The Man Without a Face (1993). Despite a pompously serious tone & some excellent cinematography, as a story it fell flat on its face (or lack thereof), tumbling somewhere between the maudlin & the phony.

It's loosely based on an Isabelle Holland novel about a disfigured man who lives a dark, lonesome hermit's life until he ends up mentoring a boy who has been traumatized in his own home.

Casting a beauty like Mel as disfigured was potentially brilliant, but nothing about it worked, as what was required was a great piece of acting, unlike Mad Max or Lethal Weapon type roles that required a hunky dude. He's good at action or posing in soldier outfits. He's good at comedy. But he's lousy at drama, & being his own director wasn't the best way of providing some potential for good work. Plus the story was completely phony.

The disfigured man in the original novel was fairly obviously a child molester & why Mel would take a character like that, clean him up as a "good" guy, & play who was originally a pedarast for his directorial debut -- well, bad choice all around. The ickiness of the character's "mentoring" never completely washed off the performance.

As if to reconfirm that drama was never going to be his forte, Mel made the daring move of starring in Hamlet (1990). How could casting be more obviously wrong? Mad Max doing Shakespeare!

How well I remember arguing with myself whether or not to go see it. It was daring of Zeffirelli to cast Mel; it was certainly stretching for Mel to attempt the role; & who could question but that Mel would look nice in a Hamlet haircut & period costume. For a Zeffirelli film, looking nice is sometimes all it takes.

HamletI was hoping, perhaps, it will come off as a lighthearted swashbuckler instead of like Shakespeare, in which case critics would make light of it, but I'd be inclined to like it anyway. So I went. I paid my bucks. And never did Mel look sillier.

When he drew sword to hop around on stuff, gads, how could he have convinced himself you didn't need to know how to hold a sword & use it well in order to be filmed flashing one about? He sure wasn't going to win any brown points for the acting, but he couldn't even pull off just being a hunk.

And surrounded by finer actors, he looked like a duck at the swans' ball. And the saddest, most tragic, gutwrenching moments from play were transformed into comedy by default.

Still, I put the shame on Zefferelli, who had no earthly reason to believe Mel could actually act when he chose him. It was totally in Zefferelli's hands to make him look good if it were possible.

The director should've planned from the start to construct the film in such a way that acting didn't matter, as it didn't matter in such pretty-pretty films as Brother Sun, Sister Moon (Fratello sole, sorella luna, 1972) or even his take on Romeo & Juliet (1968), which the director indeed designed so that extreme pictorial beauty rather than theatrical skill made it a success.

Bird on a WireBy this time in my film-fan & Mel-fan history, I was thinking I would probably skip anything he did that attempted to be dramatic, but to keep seeing anything in which he was supposed to be an action hero or comedic. Mel apparently felt the same way about roles he took; it was a good move to avoid trying to pawn himself off as a dramatic actor ever again.

He was, instead, making some dopy throw-away films. Bird on a Wire (1990) unfortunately cast him opposite the stomach-turning Goldie Hawn. It struggles to be funny, but never is. It struggles to be romantic, but even more definitely lacks sex appeal. And yet, had he had a much more appealing leading lady, it might only have been half bad.

Air AmericaAir America (1990) attempted to give Mel another try at being the Lethal Weapon sort of action comedian. But Robert Downey, Jr., completely stole the show, being much more the the Riggs character from Lethal Weapon than was Mel.

Then there was Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) which failed to recapture the magic between Glover & Gibson or Murtaugh & Riggs but was (like Air America) passingly entertaining.

Some of the Murtaugh/Riggs relationship was recaptured in Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), except for the annoying presence of Chris Rock, whose antics upstage Mel's antics & just detracts from everything. Plus the return of the equally annoying Joe Pesci made it all more offputting than funny.

RansomIt was as if director Donner simply forgot the comic of the piece was supposed to be Mel. Jet Li ended up being the character I waited to see; the action was better than the comedy.

But if Mel was not up to snuff in these films, he wasn't completely misfiring in the '90s.

The magic he lit upon with the Riggs character in the very first Lethal Weapon was recaptured in Conspiracy Theory (1997) with the addition of an effective romantic comedy imbedded in the action comedy, & some real moments of worry for the safety of hero & heroine.

Ransom (1996) was a throw-away film that played like a remake of something starring Harrison Ford.

MaverickAnd yet for all its generic qualities, Ransom delivered what anyone would expect from a "father saves his kid by means of extreme violence" flick. It remains that Harrison plays that one better.

A guy who looks so good in costumes should've been great as Maverick (1994), & the director had worked with Mel enough it should've been a perfect combination.

But neither star nor director had any comprehension of what makes a western convincing, & they made a horrible movie. It didn't help that Jodie Foster as the pallid runty leading lady also drags it down.

It was some of the worst primary casting ever to burden a western. Lesser casting was better, like getting James Garner on board the riverboat -- although his presence just underscored how bad Mel was in James' first signature role.

The film is riddled with references to past films (like recreating a stunt from Stagecoach) & even worse at shameless referentiality to Richard Donner's own films. For its plethorof of minor "ha-ha I get it!" moments, the best are the many geezerly character actors with momentary cameos, these yanked out of retirement because they had been former stars of sundry television westerns of the 1950s & 1960s.

So Maverick can be watched as a "guess the references" puzzle, which would be more rewarding than trying to watch it as a fan of westerns.

BraveheartWhatever awe I had for Mel from Gallipoli, Mad Max up to the first Lethal Weapon had undergone a lot of pummelling over time.

So I began to figure he really couldn't do a good job unless he had the right director getting the performance out of him. I was patient, however, & not until Hamlet did I give up on any lingering delusion that he could actually act. But then he shocked the hell out of me with Braveheart (1995).

Not to say Braveheart is perfection. The torture sequence & the cry of freedom at the end was garbage. I figured out right there & then he had a Christ fixation even though at the time I had no idea he was a religious nutjob with bizarre-cult associations through his dad.

Still, as director & star of this thing, he seemed truly in control, & its weaknesses & strengths solely his doing. And the strengths far outpaced the weaknesses. I regained a sense that here was a talented guy, who could direct as well as project screen charisma.

PatriotI was mesmerized by the epic feel, the wonderful battles, the heroic posturing. In spite a few turkeys along the way, Mel had won me back!

He held me, I suppose, until The Patriot (2000), the film that showed how nice a slave owner can be, how happy slaves could be to be owned, & by such a good family man, a true patriot not only capable of wearing a silly looking costume with conviction, but to sneak up on people & kill them very gracefully.

The reality is that slaves were fleeing the "Patriots" left & right, were badly abused by them, & the little slave enclave we encounter which the film suggests were trying to avoid the evil British -- history assures us they would've been hiding from the slave-holding Patriots.

Well, I liked the sneaking up behind part. It was sneaky rather than heroic, perhaps, but that's indeed how America won its Revolution. Still, overall, the film was so thin, so full of very comical historical errors if you know even a tuppance worth of history, so excruciatingly boring overall, that this was in fact the last film I eagerly went to see with Mel in it. I figured I was through.

But when I caught by accident What Women Want (2000), it sure wasn't my kind of film, but considering that it was comedy without the action relying entirely on comedic skill, he did right well.

The miserable sci-fi-horror failure that was Signs (2004) was clearly the fault of the director not to be blamed on Mel who went through his paces fine, to no memorable conclusion.

And a very miserable remake of The Singing Detective (2003) is one of the worst films for the very likeable Robert Downy, Jr., & I really disliked the film overall. But Mel pops up in it as a hideous physician, almost invisible under bald & ugly make-up, & he was a hoot. It was cool he subjugated whatever vanity he may have to play such an ugly bastard.

So that's "what Mel has meant to me" over the years. It's only slightly sad that I can no longer look at him without seeing the villainous antisemite whose only apparent regret is that he outed himself as a complete fuck. But as his films had been very uneven anyway I probably won't be missing much to have lost interest in his work.

When his South American epic Apocolypto (2006) arrived from Disney, I felt not even the slightest urge to see that, & have no sense that I might've missed out on something good. I don't even know what he's up to now; my eyes skim right past his name when I'm reading about films, I've just totally lost any sense that his films are news.

The same happened to my former delight in Woody Allen who I can no longer look at without seeing a guy who would pork his own daughter -- well, veritably his daughter -- one of the few things I put on par with holocaust deniers & klan membership.

That I cannot bare to see Woody is much more tragic than not caring about Mel anymore. Not caring about Mel means skipping a few commercial films starring a chap who is by now a bit old to be the leading man anyway. But skipping Woody could well mean missing the occasional bit of art.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

[ Film Home ] - [ Film Reviews Index ]
[ Where to Send DVDs for Review ] - [ Paghat's Giftshop ]