Monday, March 15, 2004

Cash Wednesday

Who says Hollywood has no values? What's the biggest movie out there right now? It's Mel Gibson's new biopic The Passion of the Christ. I just read today that Mel stands to make $350 million on this baby. You don't get more value than that. It's about time someone in Hollywood got rewarded for taking a real risk and making a movie that dares to buck the trends and tell a story that's original and inspiring. Kudos to Mel for being a real Braveheart in a world of Chicken Littles.

Like many great masterpieces, Mel's opus has endured its share of scorn and ridicule. Apparently some people of the Hebraic persuasion don't appreciate Mel's historically faithful depiction of the Jews as bloodthirsty Christ-killers. They can't understand how it took real guts for Mel to defy the "politically correct" fascists and make a strong statement that totally reinforces the type of negative cultural stereotype that has led to the oppression of Jews for centuries. That's Oscar-bait sweetheart! Sure he could have portrayed some of the Jews as sympathetic to the main character. Or given the guy a "wacky" Jewish best friend. But that would have been taking the easy way out. And "Mad" Mel don't take the easy way out.

Another criticism of Mel's gospel has to do with the relentlessly mind-numbing violence. I guess some people think that brutal beatings, sadistic torture and gruesome murder are not suitable for younger viewers. But Mel realized that in order to truly understand his film's message of love, hope and redemption, one would necessarily have to witness two hours of blood-spattered agony and merciless abuse. You don't reach spiritual enlightenment without a little suffering, people. The more sickening, disgusting and painful the experience, the more you will get out of it. Kind of like watching the Oscar pre-show.

Another brilliant gamble on Mel's part was to have all of the dialogue spoken in the original ancient languages. It draws the audience into another place and time and creates a vivid tapestry of sense and sound. Using the actual dialects heightens the reality of the world Mel has created and lends authenticity and gravity to the words. Besides, Costner scored big time with the critics when he did the same thing with the Sioux Indians in "Dances With Wolves."

Of course people will continue to try and chip away at Mel's vision, that is only natural when someone is so successful. But they can never take away the message of this powerful and important work. Because in the end it isn't really about historical inaccuracy or inappropriate violence or socially irresponsible characterizations or shameless profit-making in the name of spirituality. It's not a question of whether those who don't like the movie are actually going to burn in hell or simply bear the crushing burden of a miserable and hopeless life here on earth.

What it's about is weekend grosses.

And Mel has proved, in the only arena that really counts, that all you need is a good story, a main character that the audience will root for, and the unquestioned loyalty of nearly every Christian female in the free world and you will get the asses into the seats, my friend. Someone once asked "What profit a man if he gain the world and lose his soul?" Well, Brother Mel has shown us that it is possible to gain the world and save your soul at the same damn time.

Now that's what I call show business.


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