Gladiator ★★★★½

Ridley Scott's sword and sandals re-imagining of Being There takes us on an epic journey through the violent and vulgar Roman empire circa 180 CE, mostly framed from the perspective of one dimwitted yet determined killing machine Maximus Decimus Meridius, as he fights his way from General of the Felix Legions, to disgraced pit-fighter, to national hero, to martyr. His foil is the pusillanimous and media-savvy Commodus, whose wrongful assumption of power sets in motion the plot and provides Maximus his motivation.

It's hard to miss the (obviously unintended) parallels to our current situation, where a media-savvy pseudo-dictator acts with impunity unchecked by a feckless Senate. It's also hard not to feel despair that there is no geriatric lunk waiting in the wings to save us from our downfall (no, I'm sorry, Mitt Romney does not qualify).

We mortals are but shadows and dust.

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