Skip to comments.THE BEST PICTURE: WHY NO CHRISTIANS NEED APPLY
Posted on 02/25/2005 11:22:14 AM PST by jbemis
THE BEST PICTURE
BY JAMES BEMIS
When this years Academy Award nominees were announced, many were shocked Mel Gibsons THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST was not nominated for a single major award. The movie, which chronicled Jesus last twelve hours, took the cinematic world by storm.
BREAKING AN UNSPOKEN TABOO
Because the movie was filmed in Latin and Aramaic with no big-name stars, Hollywood insiders figured producer and director Gibson was throwing away his $30 million investment. However, upon general release in February 2004, it was obvious something extraordinary had occurred: THE PASSION was not only a box office smash but the film succeeded brilliantly as cinema.
Gibson expertly puts us at Ground Zero of the last twelve hours in Christs life. In his wisdom, the director played it straight, letting the gripping Passion narrative unfold just as it has been passed down through the ages thankfully, theres hardly a modern touch found anywhere in the film.
In taking Christianity seriously, however, The Passion broke Hollywoods unspoken taboo. Controversy raged about whether the film was anti-Semitic. But whether people loved or hated the film, most agreed it was extraordinarily powerful cinema. The question was not if the film would be nominated for major awards, but how many.
Then came January 26s startling news: THE PASSION was nominated for three minor awards but no major ones. Few imagined Hollywoods bias against Christianity was so big and its elite so small that THE PASSION would be virtually snubbed when the Academy Award nominations were announced. Was 2004 such a stellar year for the movies that a great cinematic achievement like THE PASSION could be ignored?
THE SECOND-RATE COMPETITION
Hardly. The five films nominated for 2004s Best Picture are at best second-rate, forgettable as last weeks leftovers. RAY, for instance, is simply a mediocre bio-pic of the sort albeit seamier Hollywood used to churn out by the dozens: THE GLENN MILLER STORY, THE BENNY GOODMAN STORY, THE GENE KRUPA STORY, THE EDDY DUCHIN STORY, etc. (None of these including RAY holds a candle to YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, though.) You never forget youre watching a movie about Ray Charles: Despite all the acting accolades, Jamie Foxx seems far too delicate and insubstantial for the role of a tough, complex giant like Ray Charles. As one who loves Charles music, I wanted to like the movie but found it trite and unmoving. Most viewers would better understand The Genius by listening to a greatest hits CD rather than watching this anemic film.
It says much about the corrupted state of our culture that Clint Eastwoods MILLION DOLLAR BABY is considered mainstream. The story involves the freakish sport of female boxing, an activity that would be unthinkable in a civilized society. None of the athletes exhibit even the faintest hint of feminine virtue, but instead talk, act and think like undersized men with mammeries. Worse, the film smiles upon the mercy killing of an invalid by the nominally Catholic hero. The message: Once youve lost the ability to earn big bucks pulverizing women in a boxing ring, then life just aint worth living. This is deep thinking, Hollywood-style.
Finally, director Eastwood cant resist taking cheap shots at the Catholic Church. As in last years MYSTIC RIVER, a priest is disparaged: This time, hes made to appear immature and so ignorant he cant explain the doctrine of the Trinity or the Immaculate Conception to a pesky parishioner. In short, MILLION DOLLAR BABY is a thoroughly repulsive film.
Martin Scorseses THE AVIATOR is similar to Howard Hughes Spruce Goose: so overblown it hardly gets airborne. This leaden biography of Hughes (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is a cartoonish, indulgent, almost amateurish production. DiCaprios hair looks like it was dyed with shoe polish. In the second lead role, Cate Blanchetts caricature of Katherine Hepburn is uproariously incompetent. Like every movie Scorsese has made since 1980s great RAGING BULL, this film is too long, too loud, and too lumbering. Nothing in it rings true. Put another way, THE AVIATOR, as they say, must be seen to be disbelieved.
Critically acclaimed SIDEWAYS reveals more about its admirers than it does about human nature. The story revels in degradation - of marriage, friendship, courtship, family, etc. You name it, SIDEWAYS demeans it. Ostensibly about two friends on a week-long wine tasting binge before ones wedding, the wretched SIDEWAYS is a sort of upscale PORKYS, replete with foul language, naked fat slobs, animal-like carnality and juvenile high-jinks by two thoroughly unlikable male leads. If this is the cultural landmark many are saying, conservatives must ask whether American society has much left worth conserving.
FINDING NEVERLAND, a story about Peter Pan creator J. M. Barrie, is a thin but rewarding film, featuring an excellent performance by Johnny Depp the first role Ive seen in which he doesnt grossly overact. Another highlight is the extraordinary performance by Freddie Highmore as a member of the family that inspires Barrie to write Peter Pan. NEVERLAND is an enjoyable and touching movie, but ultimately is rather insubstantial.
RELISHING RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY
By any artistic standard, THE PASSION is far superior to any of the films nominated as Best Picture. Why the cold-shoulder? First, part of the wailing over the movie was veiled envy from an embarrassed Hollywood establishment, those makers of infantile comedies and seductive trivialities who saw what a real filmmaker could do. Watching THE PASSION is an unforgettable experience: It demonstrates the heights that cinema is capable of but rarely achieves, especially these days.
Second, THE PASSIONS snubbing puts the lie to the Hollywood establishments reputed tolerance. In fact, a hostile blacklisting of Gibson and other Christians now occurring is far more hideous than anything happening during the supposed Dark Ages of the McCarthy blacklisting era because it is done out of religious intolerance. Over the years, observers have noted how Hollywood executives relish producing films that undermine, demean, and ridicule the Christian faith. This year the mask is ripped off and we see the bared fangs of religious bigotry in all its grisly and vivid ugliness. In a year when a great film like THE PASSION so obviously should have been honored, Tinseltowns elites instead chose five forgettable films as the finest they had to offer. Faced with an opportunity to rise above their prejudices for a change, the Academy to its everlasting shame - took a flyer.
The 2004 Academy Awards forever will be remembered as when the years best picture wasnt nominated as Best Picture.
Blanchett gives probably the best performance of any kind in the last year. Scorsese is still one of the greatest living directors. If this is an indicator of this guy's taste, his opinion doesn't mean much.
Agreed. Anybody that dismisses Scorsese's work out-of-hand like that is not very credible as a film critic.
Glad to see someone call it like it is.
Slamming all the other films nominated for Best Pic isn't the best argument for Gibson's film.
That being said, I won't be watching the Academy Awards again for the thousandth year in a row. They've become boring and repetitive and trite and predictable.
It wasn't too long ago that H'wood was promoting Der Bingle and Ingrid in "The Bells of St. Mary's" (and wasn't himself in St. Mary's JHS at the time?) and 'Duke' Wayne and Maureen O'Sullivan in a couple of other award-winning flicks.....and Barry Fitzgerald was the epitome of H'wood Irish-Catholicism for decades.
Eastwood was my anti-hero hero in the 'spaghetti westerns' and the 'Dirty Harry' flicks.
It must be the CA smog that makes guys like him decide that a Tonya Harding look-a-like film is worth making.
I haven't set foot in a movie theater in 20 years; (1) because there was nothing worth paying $10 to see and (2) nobody in charge seems to want to tell the a**holes that they're not watching TV and "keep your mouth shut."
I gambled on "Master and Commander" at the video store last year and since then I have rented it three times, read all 21 of Patrick O'Brian's novels and was blessed with the Collectors Edition DVD from my son for mybirthday last month.
Thank God the Sisters of Mercy taught me to love reading!!!!!
"Slamming all the other films nominated for Best Pic isn't the best argument for Gibson's film."
Agreed. "POTC" might've been an inspiring movie for religious movie goers, but watching a guy get beaten, bloodied, and stuck up on a cross for 2 hours isn't great cinema. I guess since I grew up Catholic, was an altar boy who helped with Stations of The Cross every Lent, and read the accounts of the Crucifiction literally, I just wasn't that in awe nor surprised or shocked by "POTC".
Guess after seeing The Passion, mobs ran out to destroy Jews. But Hollywood and the pundits would admit they were wrong if they recognized The Passion.
Do many consider The Passion to be entertainment?
So? It's their awards show. They can award it to anyone they want for any reason, good or bad. Witness the fact that they "honored" Michael Moore a couple of years ago for a very poorly made piece of hideous propoganda.
But it's still THEIR awards show.
Now don't get me wrong, I 100% agree with and applaud what this author wrote (I even agree with his reviews of the other films, down the line). What I disagree with is the unstated assumption that Hollywood ought to behave any differently. We get to criticize them, but we shouldn't expect them to change who they are.
Now, if we want to we can have our own awards show. We've had plenty of threads about "best picture" and other such categories (I liked the "best guy flick" the other day). But I bet there are FReepers out there who could actually organize an alternative film awards process that would represent the views of real people and not Hollywood robots.
So, any takers? Anybody think they have the organizing skills to get something like this off the ground?
I bet if we did it we could get the folks at the Liberty Film Festival interested in at least looking at what we come up with. Maybe an alternative to the Oscars (the Ronnys?) given 6 month's off cycle, around the 4th of July.
The last movie I enjoyed was Sixth Sense. That's about six years old now?
Well OK if all you saw was just 'a guy'.
They'll just settle for their stupid "Jesus is my homeboy" T-shirts and their red Kabbalah bracelets and Kabbalah water because religion to them is an accessory, like a new handbag or new yoga position.
I really don't care about "The Passion" getting accolades from Hollywood or not. They've (Hollywood) left their "containers" behind ages ago...
Not nominating could be seen as a slap to the Christian community.
The author needs to understand that since the Passion is not in English it doesn't qualify for best picture. Since it is not in any language currently spoken on the planet, it doesn't qualify as a foreign film.
Why does everyone have to go into spasms when their favorite film isn't nominated. Big whoo. Most of the Best Pictures of the past 20 years really sucked.
The Passion was one of the best movies I have ever seen.
To fail to acknowlege that brings shame to the awards themselves.
"Well OK if all you saw was just 'a guy'."
Yep. Just an actor, like I see jsut about every movie. Sorry - I just wasn't blown away by watching Jesus get beaten and killed.
Let's face it, the people who select the winners don't get the Passion much less the movie which depicts it.
Aramaic survives as a spoken language in small communities in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran. Aramaic Language. Do not know how dissimiliar it is to Biblical Aramaic (the Aramaic used in the film?).
Vatican City uses Latin to some degree, no? But I wasn't sure if the film used a Classical Latin pronunciation or not--it sounded different, but didn't necessarily sound like Church Latin either.
My guess is the film is predominantly "Aramaic", but it is in fact bilingual. For the academy to discriminate against a polylingual, mostly dead language film, is the height of intolerance.
It didn't meet the criteria. It's not intolerant, it's the rules. Movies don't have to win Oscars to be popular movies, usually the Oscar movies are boring.
....'For the academy to discriminate against a polylingual, mostly dead language film, is the height of intolerance.'....
Why is this the height of intolerance? Polylingual, mostly dead language speakers, are probably one of the smallest groups on earth, and I haven't heard any of them complain.
Wasn't my sarcasm obvious?
Someone must represent "them." They probably don't have TV, and definitely don't have access to the internet.
How would we know if they are offended and feel the need for representation? Maybe they like their anonymity..
I would never categorize Johnny Depp as an overactor. He just isn't. His portrayal of the Jack Sparrow in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN was meant to be over the top and he was brilliant. Finding Neverland was a beautiful movie and I recommend it to everyone.
OK. What's this got to do with my post about Scorsese?
We can ask them.
As to their anonymity: Some linguist(s) must have payed them recent visits, and identified their spoken language. They probably couldn't care less about the Acadamy. However, they might want know there is now a film made in their native language. They may have trouble with the Latin, and subtitles may need to be translated into Aramaic. I don't recall that menu option.
Another point they need to consider: only the top 5 vote getters in the preliminary voting qualify for the final ballot. For all we know, "Passion" could have made the top 10 in the preliminary voting.
I apologize, I didn't realize your sarcasm. Too many people beating this to death that I am numb.
I thought they hated Christians. As for how they treat or portray Catholics, I can be open minded; but, I have a large collection of movies and am more than a little taken aback at the notion that Hollywierd gives Catholicism a raw deal. It would be interesting to see a list of the people in Hollywood that are Catholic and portray Catholics preferentially as a result. How many Pentacostal ministers can you remember on the screen? Horror movies always seem to have the Catholic priest dragged in to pose as a hero or hero wannabe. Without commenting on the reality of that, I'd love to hear what such a charge is based upon. I may agree or disagree - don't know. The charge just doesn't seem to square with the portrayals I've seen on screen. Perhaps you're still ouching from Braveheart? I know Catholics tend to paint the picture that anyone mentioning the inquisitions is by definition intolerant, anti-catholic and a bigot for bringing it up. Somehow, I don't get the feeling that Germans feel hated and reviled by the world because of Hitler or the mention of World War II. Just an insight.. but, please, proceed...
It still amazes me that "The Passion" was not nominated for Picture (or Director, Actor) when that overlong sappy bore-fest "Return of the King" was nominated and WON last year. "The Passion" had me on the balls of my feet with chills on my neck from start to finish. ROTK had me falling asleep for the last 90 minutes. Will be skipping the irrelevant Oscars for the first time this year.
Which was robbed for Best Picture by the thoroughly detestable "Ordinary People" (watch it now and marvel at how it ever won).
Correction: Scorsese WAS one of the greatest living directors. He's done nothing worthwhile for decades.
He's right, though. With the possible exception of "GoodFellas" (which I think is grossly overrated and has a dreadful ending), Scorcese has not produced a single substantial film since "Raging Bull" (for which he should have clearly won over the ridiculous choice of "Ordinary People" and it's director Robert Redford).
No correction, please, that's your view, not mine. In the past two decades I've loved After Hours, Goodfellas, The Age of Innocence; Cape Fear and Gangs of New York were greatly flawed but still better than most of Gibson's works.
I am a Jew and was very moved by "The Passion" and consider it one of the finest films ever made. I railed against so-called "Jewish" leaders like that fat socialist creep Abe Foxman.
And watching a three-hour film about an eccentric millionaire who once dated Katherine Hepburn is your idea of important cinema? Somebody's values are perverted--and it's not Gibson's.