Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Passion of the Oscars

Ambra Nykol is upset about the non-reception of Passion of the Christ at the Oscars.
Tuesday morning, the much anticipated Oscar nominations were announced, and as was expected, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ", the 8th highest grossing film of all time, was overlooked in all the categories that count.
I understand her annoyance. I saw Passion of the Christ on the opening weekend. It was a good movie. Not great, but ok. Granted there have been plenty of other movies that aren't especially good and have won the Oscar. I'm reminded of when Shakespeare in Love beat out Saving Private Ryan. Or when American Beauty won over... umm... well frankly anybody else. But the Passion was honestly something of a mixed bag theatrically.

I've also seen the movie through other people's eyes at an ecumenical discussion group and I can understand why it didn't get a nomination for best picture or director. The portrayls of the Sanhedrin are like the ham-handed mustachio-twirling villians of yesteryear. "We'll get that Jesus..." I was waiting for them to tie Jesus to the railroad tracks ala Snidely Whiplash.

The violence was also graphic, over the top, and often unnecessary. And I'm a guy who likes violent movies. But Jesus is my buddy, as one friend put it, and I really don't like seeing my friends getting beaten up. Yes it was important but only to a point. Then it just became the Greatest Snuff Film Ever Shown.

On the other hand I thought Jim Caviezel's performance as Jesus was masterful. In a film about Christ's suffering, he portrayed him as a very human character. The audience could empathize with his Son of God and, if anything, the movie was about Christ's humanity. Maia Morgenstern (Mary) and Monica Bellucci (Mary Magdalene) also put in great performances that helped anchor this theme. I would have loved to see nominations for all of them, but unfortunately they will go unrecognized.

Had I not been a Christian, this movie would have had little significance for me. It would be like watching that Shiite festival where they ritually cut themselves. As it is I probably will never buy a copy of the film.

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