February 1, 2005

OF COURSE IT DOES:

Does Oscar's Passion Snub Imply Religious Prejudice? (Jeffrey Overstreet, 01/31/2005, Christianity Today)

One was a movie about an American filmmaker and aviation pioneer who ambitiously and recklessly became a multi-millionaire; the other was about the Son of God.

One was directed by a legendary filmmaker; the other came from an Oscar-winning director. One film's protagonist descended into madness and died from syphilis; the other's was murdered, buried, and rose from the dead, bringing hope to humanity.

One is a moderate success; the other a $370 million blockbuster that rocked Hollywood's expectations and perspective.

These two films—Martin Scorsese's The Aviator and Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ—earned a total of 14 Oscar nominations between them last week. Eleven went to The Aviator, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett), and Best Supporting Actor (Alan Alda). Only three—Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, and Best Original Score—went to The Passion.


The easiest way to think about the question is this: do you have any doubt that if you took the two pictures and just swapped the directing credits that both Mr. Scorcese and Mr. Gibson would have been nominated?

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 1, 2005 8:52 AM
Comments

If Scorcese had directed The Passion of The Christ, the film would not have made $370 million. Scorcese would have had Leonardo DiCaprio playing Christ, and it wouldn't have sold. You are correct however, that it would have had more nominations. I'm not sure what part Alan Alda would have played, but he would have also been the Best Supporting Actor.

Posted by: AllenS at February 1, 2005 9:25 AM

Alan Alda would have played Herod, of course.

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 1, 2005 9:36 AM

Imagining Alan Alda playing Herod reminds me of that fat goof who played the character in Jesus Christ Superstar - an amusing performance, but wrong considering the temperament of the rest of the movie. And that film was rather flawed to begin with...

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at February 1, 2005 9:58 AM

The big artistic problems with the Passion is that it did not actually tell a story in the traditional sense - it was not the life of Jesus or an explanation of the historical reasons Jesus died; it was simply the Passion. Also, the plagiarized filmscore was just bad (although for some reason it was nominated on its own merit - crazy.) It was an art film, and art films rarely get nominated for Best Picture. However, Gibson should have been nominated for Best Director - it was an enormous effort and should be acknowledged for it.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at February 1, 2005 10:27 AM

No, no--identical movies, just switch the credit.

Posted by: oj at February 1, 2005 11:15 AM

Some of it comes not from bias but from the Academy's bias against any film that lots of people like. That itself is considered prima facie evidence that the film isn't any good.

Posted by: Brandon at February 1, 2005 11:34 AM

OJ,
This is my third sentence: "You are correct however, that it would have had more nominations."

Posted by: AllenS at February 1, 2005 11:57 AM

I freely concede that the absence of "Passion" from the Best Picture nominee list is due to religious bias; it's a quintessential Hollywood film of its time, and lousy in all the right ways. I'm not sure it would have made the list with Scorcese's name on it instead of Gibson's, but I suppose it's possible.

But it's more interesting to imagine Scorcese's version, had he worked from the same screenplay. Gibson's "Passion" has enough blood and gore to pass for a Scorcese film, anyway. There's a bit of a difference in perspective between the two of them, though: Gibson always seems to want the pain inflicted upon him, while Scorcese seems to enjoy dishing it out. In that light, actually, I think Scorcese might have done a better job of eliciting a "My God, what we did to him" reaction, as opposed to "My God, what they did to him."

But Scorcese already had his shot at this story, for whatever it was worth.

"Some of it comes not from bias but from the Academy's bias against any film that lots of people like. That itself is considered prima facie evidence that the film isn't any good."

That's just wrong. Explain Titanic, The Lord of the Rings, Forrest Gump, or The Silence of the Lambs. All blockbusters, all best picture winners. None of the other winners are terribly obscure.

Posted by: M. Bulger at February 1, 2005 3:31 PM

M:

& Scorcese's version is rather brutal and bloody, just not as good a movie.

Posted by: oj at February 1, 2005 3:48 PM

Actually, I've never managed to see more than about ten minutes of "Last Temptation," so I have no basis for comparison. Not being any more a Scorcese fan than a Gibson fan, I can imagine my own opinion going either way.

"If Scorcese had directed The Passion of The Christ, the film would not have made $370 million."

Scorcese wouldn't have undertaken the rather unique evangelical marketing campaign that Gibson did. You will probably argue that he wouldn't have had to, but Gibson was going that route whether a major studio was backing him or not.

Here's a counter-question: if Scorcese had made an identical movie, would evangelical Christians across the country still have hailed it as the greatest film ever made of the Greatest Story Ever Told?

Posted by: M. Bulger at February 1, 2005 5:10 PM

M:

Yes, in all likelihood. Recall that the fuss over Last Temptation did not surround the equally bloody crucifiction scenes, but the portrayal of Christ as having wedded and bedded a whore version of Mary Magdalene

Posted by: oj at February 1, 2005 5:21 PM

M. Bulger,

Thank you for acknowledging my first sentence on this topic. You then said: "Here's a counter-question: if Scorcese had made an identical movie, would evangelical Christians across the country still have hailed it as the greatest film ever made of the Greatest Story Ever Told?" I say no, here is my second sentence: "Scorcese would have had Leonardo DiCaprio playing Christ."

Posted by: AllenS at February 1, 2005 5:24 PM
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