May 28, 2024
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If I were in charge of Oscar nominations, I might consider “Napoleon” for special effects, costumes, music – the sort of thing that historical dramas are often nominated for.

Best Supporting Actress for Vanessa Kirby as the Empress Josephine? Maybe. I found her fresh and funny, a welcome relief to the six, count ’em, six lengthy and repetitive battle scenes.

As for Joaquin Phoenix, the emperor who ruled in films such as “Walk the Line” and “The Joker” –

Not so much. It was as though Marlon Brando in character as The Godfather had been resurrected and made to stand in as the loutish lover, overly ambitious general and self-crowned Emperor Napoleon.

I actually have to give the film some props for realism. Early in the movie we witness the beheading of Queen Marie Antoinette and are made aware that people about to be executed do not gracefully extend their necks to receive the favor of Madame Guillotine. Rather it takes a lot of clumsy shoving from behind to get the victim into place before her head is separated from her neck.

Through the miracle of CGI, no animals were hurt during the making of the film, but we witness Napoleon’s beautiful white, muscular steed taking a cannonball straight to the chest, creating a remarkable plume of blood. Ever thoughtful, Napoleon extracts the cannonball from the dead animal’s chest and orders that it be sent to his mother.

Later this formidable woman shows up with highly scientific ideas about how to determine whether or not Napoleon is capable of fathering a child.

Historians, both amateur and professional, point out that Napoleon was not present at the beheading of Marie Antoinette, that he never really fired into the pyramids and that, however rotten he may have been as a lover, he did not slap Josephine during their divorce proceedings.

A movie is more spectacle than it is history, and director Ridley Scott freely acknowledges that the movie’s story line does not always match what’s written in history books. With that, he advises historical fact-checkers to “Get a life!”

I am no expert on French history. I’m a simple reporter who enjoys seeing a good movie now and then.

However, at some point during the 2 hours and 38 minutes I spent watching “Napoleon,” I remembered that I still had a tree to decorate and Christmas cards waiting to be addressed at home.

In other words, a life.

Gail M. Williams

Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

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