Cold Mountain (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Cold Mountain, according to some critics, is the Homeric tale of The Odyssey relocated to the era of the American Civil War.

This is the kind of thing that critics say when they want to impress you with their knowledge of classical literature. Personally, I don't much care for classical literature. When I was studying The Aeneid, I could never get past that part about singing of the arms and the man, because I wanted to know the tune. Should I sing of arms and the man separately, or together, and in which key? I would tell you that I tried to sing of arms and the man to the tune of The Whiffenpoof Song, but I'm afraid that you'd too soon determine that I just like to use the word "whiffenpoof".

So what does Cold Mountain have to do with The Odyssey? Well, a guy leaves a war to return to his faithful beloved. Along the way he has many distracting adventures, each of which is a separate episode only peripherally related to his trek home, and ...

Oh, let's face it, the Odyssey thing is just a red herring meant to distract you from the fact that this movie is The English Patient filmed over  again with different costumes. A guy fights against all obstacles to return to his true beloved. In fact, this one is like several English Patients, because Jude Law plays a Confederate soldier who gets wounded at Petersburg, and his wounds keep re-infecting. Therefore, he is tended not by one compassionate nurse, but by several along the way as he meanders home and keeps passing out. Jude Law feigns more unconsciousness in this one movie than Iron Mike Sharpe did in his entire winless wrestling career. No matter where Jude passes out, women want to nurse him back to health. Contrary to Dr. Kissinger's famous aphorism, it seems that fainting, not power, is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

Important lesson: you might think about a sling and a fake cast the next time you want to get laid.

Provided you look like Jude Law.

I did learn one thing from this movie. No matter how hard times got during the Civil War, even when there was money for neither food nor clothing, Nicole Kidman always had enough Confederate money set aside for make-up. She would never be seen without eyeliner and a little rouge. You have to admire that. A gal has to look her best when starving to death and shivering in the cold. Amazingly, Kidman looked perfect in every frame, except maybe for an occasional loose strand of hair which only served to make her seem more relaxed and beautiful. About 11 years pass between the earliest and latest scenes in this film, yet Kidman never ages one day, and actually looks much better after the war than before it. Man, I never guessed that the Civil War was the ultimate beauty treatment. Those guys who do Civil War re-enactments should consider supporting their costs by marketing the hardship as a budget alternative to a spa.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Commentary by writer/director Anthony Minghella and editor Walter Murch

  • "Climbing Cold Mountain" - documentary (70 minutes)

  • "A Journey to Cold Mountain" - making-of featurette (28 minutes)

  • 11 deleted scenes (about 20 minutes)

  • "Words & Music of Cold Mountain" Royce Hall Special concert (90 minutes)

  • "Sacred Harp History" - musical influences and roots

  • Storyboard comparisons (3 scenes)

  • Widescreen anamorphic format, two discs

Like The English Patient, this is a big retro romance which looks great, and goes on far too long. It is the kind of shamelessly corny romantic film that Hollywood made before the cultural revolution in the late 60s. The male star (Jude Law) has the looks for the job, but is lacking in the energy that old-time Hollywood stars would have brought to the role. Let's face it, Clark Gable simply shows more vitality and personality than Jude Law. And I'm talking now, after a forty year dirt nap, Gable still shows more life than Jude. Of course, I don't know how much life Jude could have shown in this movie when his entire role consisted of short bursts of wakefulness before passing out.

The best news in this film is that the supporting players are colorful and entertaining. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Renee Zellweger, and others provide some much-need relief from Law's tedious and oblique peregrinations toward Kidman. Even Natalie Portman delivers a competent performance, which is very good news indeed for those of us who had come to believe that her abysmal, wooden performances in those Star Wars pictures represented the true level of her adult acting skills.

If you liked The English Patient, or if you hated it, you'll feel the same toward this film. Great production values, old-fashioned love story, same writer/director. I'm not inclined to like that kind of film, but I might have enjoyed this one if it had been about 30 minutes shorter.


Nicole Kidman shows her nipples (while lying on her back), and her buns in a dark, modest sex scene. There is a very brief flash of her pubic area.

Jude Law exposes his buns briefly in the same scene.

Two women show their breasts, and one (Melora Walters) her buns as well, in a raunchy, drunken group sex scene.

Tuna's thoughts in yellow:

Cold Mountain (2003) is a remake of the 1943 classic Lassie Come Home, with Jude Law playing the part of Lassie, and Nicole Kidman taking the Roddy McDowall role. To modernize the story, they borrowed the ending from a much newer film, the 1957 classic Old Yeller. In addition to the true love and devotion in the face of huge obstacles themes, they added some revolutionary thoughts, such as:

1) War sucks
2) The Yankees sucked
3) The rebs sucked
4) The scallywags sucked
5) Men are ruled by their genitals, and suck
6) Women are ruled by their genitals, but don't suck as much.

I learned other important information from this film.

  • When a virgin has sex once with her true love and then he dies, she will always have become pregnant and have the perfect daughter. This child is never thought of as a bastard. 
  • During the civil war, homeland security was called the home guard.
  • Spoiled city girls don't know shit about farming.
  • When women shoot you, you always die instantly. When men shoot you, you survive for some time.
  • During the civil war, it was possible to keep a fiddle, a banjo and a bowlback mandolin in perfect tune while sitting around a campfire at night in the snow.

This film joins a personal list of infamy, which consists of films that were critical hits with huge box office figures that I personally think are a complete waste of what could have been an AOL free trial disk. There must be a hole in my makeup where an appreciation for epic snail-paced predictable travelogue romances should be.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4.

  • General UK consensus: two and a half stars. Mail 6/10, Guardian 4/10, Times 8/10, BBC 2/5

  • Nominated for seven Oscars, it won only one, for Zellweger's supporting performance.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.3/10, Yahoo voters call it a B.
  • Box Office Mojo. A mini-hit, $95 million or so, which is worse than the expectations generated by its $83 million budget and $25 million in distribution/promotion costs.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "This is a C+. Old-fashioned, cornball Hollywood romance. If you liked The English Patient, or if you hated it, you'll feel the same toward this film." Tuna says, " On a star scale, I would award this a 1, but on the Fun House scale, it is a C+. Those who loved Out of Africa, The Color Purple and the English Patient will also be orgasmic over this one.

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