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CNN says Christians "defeated" by Academy

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May I just say that the use of the word "Christian" in this article does not apply to a lot of believers I know, including myself?

I wish somebody in the mainstream press would acknoweldge there is a vast spread of opinon about the film amongst Christians.

Internet Christian soldiers are admitting defeat in their battle to win a best picture Oscar nomination for "The Passion of the Christ" -- but their campaign to influence Hollywood goes on.

Web sites supporting Mel Gibson's movie about Jesus' final hours -- the eighth-highest grossing American film of all time -- failed to convince enough Oscar voters that it deserved a best picture nomination.

Well, maybe if those Christians understood how the Oscars work, they'd know that petitions have little to do with anything. And that box office and popularity are not the sole determining factor about whether a film is great art or not.

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Are these "Christians" unaware of the fact that the Academy Awards are chosen by Hollywood peers? These aren't the people's choice awards for crying out load. Unfortunately, by their petitions they have only made their ignorance that much more apparent.

Besides, why would we want The Passion of the Christ nominated because of petitions and pressure? This doesn

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However, the following comments quoted in the piece seem rather disingenuous:

Both Giroux and Hynes accuse the academy of snubbing "Passion" simply because of its Christian theme. But Oscar scholar Tom O'Neil, host of awards handicapping site Goldderby.com, said Christianity had nothing to do with it.

"The faulty premise here among the disciples of 'Passion' is that the movie was worthy," O'Neil said. "The vast consensus of American film critics said it was not worthy -- beginning with The New York Times, which called the movie a 'serious artistic failure.' " (See critics' takes.)

"A movie that got far, far better reviews and made even more money as the seventh-ranking movie of all time -- 'Shrek 2' -- wasn't nominated for best picture either and nobody's outraged about that," he said.

In fact, O'Neil said, "Christian movies historically have done very, very well at the Oscars, going back to best picture winners, 'Going My Way' and 'Ben-Hur.' In recent years, a top Oscar went to somebody portraying a nun in a respectful way -- Susan Sarandon in 'Dead Man Walking.' "

First of all, going back to Going My Way and Ben-Hur is a pretty sad argument. To be sure, he might have gone on to cite A Man for All Seasons and even Chariots of Fire, but after that the argument falls apart, and Sarandon's Best Actress award for Dead Man Walking (which was NOT nominated for Best Picture) is hardly persuasive evidence of open-mindedness toward religion in movies, for several reasons.

The idea that there is this "vast consensus" of American critics who find the film unworthy is ridiculous. The truth is, critical opinion is sharply, and almost evenly, divided. The film has a 51% Tomatometer rating and a 47% from Metacritic.com.

The comparison to Shrek 2 is really ridiculous. The Passion of the Christ is a film of enormous ambition and conviction about which reasonable opinion runs the gamut from "This is one of the year's biggest disasters" to "This is one of the year's most amazing achievements." Shrek 2's ambitions are far more modest and the range of reasonable opinion is correspondingly narrower (I would put it somewhere between "really boring" and "really funny").

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It also seems to me that truly great films (and I'm not saying "Passion" is that, though I liked it very much) don't always please everybody. Sure, a lot of people liked Shrek 2, but I doubt that in 20 years, anybody will watch it except out of nostalgia.

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It also seems to me that truly great films (and I'm not saying "Passion" is that, though I liked it very much) don't always please everybody.

I actually think that a big part of the reason The Passion is off-putting to people, looking past the violence and the charges of anti-Semitism, is the same reason that films like 2001: A Space Odyssey are off-putting: We come to films with certain expectations rooted in the dramatic conventions of our age, and it's hard to know how to respond to a film that's doing something ELSE.

The Passion is almost completely uninterested in ordinary narrative conventions of character development, plot-driven storytelling, and so forth. It doesn't do any of the things Gospel films typically do -- doesn't try to fill in the gaps in character motivation, psychology, historical setting, etc. It offers iconic images (e.g., the bag of coins flung to Judas) without any regard for modern dramatic issues (WHY did Judas agree to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver?). It not only looks like a painting, it has about the same level of interest in characterization and critical concerns. Like 2001, or even Koyaanisqatsi, it's more interested in creating a particular sort of experience than in relating or explaining a certain sequence of events.

I think that if the same filmmaking technique had been used to tell a story without the religious baggage, it would be much more widely hailed by critics (and of course much LESS widely hailed by conservative Christians!).

But I DON'T think that it would have gotten an Oscar nomination. It still would have been too adventurous a film for the Academy voters.

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I ain't surprised and I ain't trippin...nor am I gonna boycott Hollywood over this non-issue!

I agree with Jeff. The media does tend to lump sum all of us into the same category. IMHO, that has more to do with how some of our Christian pastoral leaders have made a mockery of us as a whole when a microphone is shoved in their faces. Christ may not have come to condemn the world, but Jerry Falwell, Ted Baehr, and a host of other characters have a different set of plans!

Their behavior and the behavior of their many followers has turned Christ's message of life, love and freedom into a message of fear, panic, and resentment...almost rendering us, the ones who are not as condeming and maniacal as them...powerless to truly represent His message in American culture.

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I don't think so about the Passion. In some ways, the "new way" of doing things worked (THE SCENE with the BVM running to her Son), in others they didn't (the Sermon on the Mount flashbacks Zzzzzz).

I don't say that there are no missteps in the film at all. But I doubt if the Sermon on the Mount flashbacks were deal-breakers for anyone. (Myself, I don't think they work especially well in themselves, but I like what they do for the crucifixion scene. OTOH, the flashback images from the story of the woman caught in adultery are just overwhelming cinematically.)

I love it that you just said BVM. biggrin.gif

I ain't surprised and I ain't trippin...nor am I gonna boycott Hollywood over this non-issue!

Nor am I... but I ain't exactly going to be hanging on these Oscars either. I'm with Russ... think I'll catch a movie.

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SDG, your words about TPOTC in that earlier post are some of the most concentrated and true I've read about the film. I wish it made me like the film more. It doesn't. But it is excellent language for defending what the film is.

Utley, you are painfully right about Falwell and the lot. But Jesus knew that would happen. "Many will come in my name and deceive many." Fortunately, the work we do of revealing God to men by turning them toward Christ cannot be stopped by what label they put on us. We've just got to continue doing the work, even if "our own" cast us out as "un-Christian." They're seeking to separate the name from the man, and exalt merely the name, so that it becomes a talisman they can employ to their own benefit, to give themselves the illusion that they can stand as judge and jury. We must insist, through action more than words, that the name and the man are one and the same, and live in relentless contradiction to that blasphemous premise.

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Alan Thomas wrote:

: In some ways, the "new way" of doing things worked (THE SCENE with the BVM

: running to her Son) . . .

I agree it worked as an example of emotional manipulation. But the flashback in that scene was almost comically melodramatic -- as I've said before, what mother gets THAT anxious over a child's skinned knee?

SDG wrote:

: Nor am I... but I ain't exactly going to be hanging on these Oscars either. I'm with

: Russ... think I'll catch a movie.

I'm going to be at my Oma's 90th birthday bash that night. And I'll be getting back from my honeymoon just a day or two before. So I might have to set the VCR. smile.gif

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I agree it worked as an example of emotional manipulation.  But the flashback in that scene was almost comically melodramatic -- as I've said before, what mother gets THAT anxious over a child's skinned knee?

Which just proves my point: The flashback carries tremendous emotional power, because of its relationship to the scene in which it appears. Everybody chokes up at that scene, even though separated from the context of Christ on the Via Dolorosa it might seem over the top. It's brilliant filmmaking.
I'm going to be at my Oma's 90th birthday bash that night.  And I'll be getting back from my honeymoon just a day or two before.  So I might have to set the VCR.  smile.gif

(blink) And you would watch it? Goodness, after it was all over, I couldn't possibly care enough even to fast-forward to the highlights.

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SDG wrote:

: Everybody chokes up at that scene, even though separated from the context of Christ

: on the Via Dolorosa it might seem over the top. It's brilliant filmmaking.

It might have been even more brilliant, though, if the film had played up the DIFFERENCE between Mary's empowered status when Jesus was a boy and her lack of power when he's an adult.

: (blink) And you would watch it? Goodness, after it was all over, I couldn't possibly care

: enough even to fast-forward to the highlights.

Well, this wouldn't be the FIRST Oscar ceremony I watched after the fact ... I'd rather not just HEAR about, say, Gwyneth Paltrow's blubbering when I could watch it for myself ...

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Doesn't anyone find it odd that no one's mentioning how rare it is for a film with a early Oscar year release to be nominated for ANYTHING? I'm surprised it was remembered at all.

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I've watched them once, but I can't remember the year (early 90s) or anything that won! (But then they're on about 4 in the morning over here)

Matt

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