Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Tuning Into Cable News

For the first time in a long while, at least since the November elections, I tuned into the primetime cable news shows. I was greeted by the oh-so important issue of Oscar nominations. Of course, the “snubbing” of The Passion of The Christ and Fahrenheit 9/11 just cries out for the justice of major media coverage. After all, there aren’t more important things to talk about.

These films certainly did very well from a financial angle (Passion and 9/11). They were both controversial and each drew incredible attention for varied reasons. No doubt they will both be remembered for many years to come. However, these hardly seem as if they are the real reasons for this “snubbing.”

Fahrenheit 9/11 is easy to exclude, as it is an easily lampooned piece of propaganda posing as a documentary. Lauding this film even with nominations glorifies something the many believe played too large a role in the recently concluded elections. As one talking head stated tonight, “Michael Moore got too big for his britches.’ One need not look beyond this explanation to see why Moore is left out in the cold.

For The Passion of The Christ I suspect that things go much deeper than what the talking heads hit on as they opined on this. The prevailing TV theory I heard tonight are that The Passion lost out on religious grounds, from the right-wing attachment to the film to the charges of anti-Semitism. While religion provides a convenient excuse and is tough to argue against two reasons look more important. First, the entire movie is in Aramaic. The nomination of such a movie is most fitting in some sort of foreign language category. Of course, having been funded and made by American companies this would be a bit odd, to say the east.

The second reason, I think, gets more to the point of why the 3rd highest grossing film of the year was passed over. By nomination, and potentially awarding, The Passion of The Christ for awards like Best Picture the Hollywood establishment is elevating Mel Gibson to an ever more powerful position. Hollywood, like any other capitalist subset, is insular at its upper echelon. Those with the power in Hollywood, naturally, are reluctant to share it. With an Oscar nomination for Best Actor or Best Picture, Gibson can set himself apart, in the most legitimate way, from other independent filmmakers. Gibson has become an incredibly appealing option for those wishing to make movies that other Hollywood studios will not make.

On many levels, The Passion may be a great film. Certainly, its financial success speaks volumes for it. Not even the most ardently left wing advocate can argue that a worldwide gross of over $600 million is indicative of a bad movie. Personally, I haven’t yet seen the film and cannot speak to whether I think it is good or bad, but it is undeniable that there is something considerably more compelling about the film than anything Michael Moore has ever envisioned.

With The Passion of The Christ, Mel Gibson may be a victim of his own success. The more great films he makes, the harder he will be to snub as a powerful Hollywood producer. Alternatively, Moore may have created the ultimate excuse for snubbing him for some time.


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