Oscar Directors: Gibson, Mel (Braveheart)

One of the weakest films to ever win the Best Picture Oscar, in a year that most handicappers predicted would see Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13” taking the award.

Though released by Paramount in May, the Academy voters, notorious for their short memories, didn’t forget the historical epic at Oscar time and honored it with ten nominations. The studio’s heart was brave, entrusting star-director Mel Gibson with $35 million for his second feature, though his directorial debut was also a disappointment.

There’s action, romance, gory violence and plnety of blood in this shallow thirteenth century tale of a Scottish hero who returns to his homeland after England’s cruel king assumes power.

“Braveheart” was a genre picture, a wannabe historical epic, but not a good or exciting one.  The critic Dave Kehr pointed out correctly that “Braveheart” is “a film that looks like an Oscar winner (in period detail and handsome cinematography), and even sounds like one (with the Academy’s prferred British accents, but it nowhere displays the spark and originality that defines a classic.”

“Apollo 13” notwithstanding, it was not a particularly strong year at the Oscars. “Braveheart” competed against  the charming animal feature “Babe,” the Italian entry, “Il Postino” (“The Postman”) and Ang Lee’s literary adaptation, “Sense and Sensibility.”

Opening to mixed critical reviews, “Braveheart” is also one of the least commercial of Oscar winners, grossing only $75.6 million domestically, though internationally the movie was more popular, accounting for a worldwide box-office of $202.6 million.

Fortunately, Gibson developed as a director in his future efforts, such as “Apocalypto.”