Category Archives: Movies

The End of Gibson’s Film Career?

Mel Gibson (Braveheart)

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UPDATE: Read Mel Gibson’s apology letter here. At least he is making no attempt to deny or diminish the seriousness of what he has done.

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Regarding Mel Gibson’s recent arrest, Mark Daniels writes in: “The End of a Film Career”:

At the time of [The Passion of the Christ’s] release, there were accusations of anti-semitism lodged against Gibson. I had no bases for judging those allegations, although I remember thinking at the time that the charge seemed like one of a long string of abuses to which he was subjected for making a film that focused so tightly and overtly on Jesus Christ. I also wondered if Gibson was being convicted of guilt by association, owing to his father’s well-known ferocity as an anti-semite.

Now, however, comes apparent confirmation that the film actor and director spewed all sorts of anti-semitic remarks to a police officer after being pulled over for allegedly driving while intoxicated. … While there have been anti-semites within the Christian Church through the centuries, it’s unfathomable that anyone who confesses Christ as Lord could harbor such notions. Jesus was Jewish, after all.

I think Gibson has made some excellent films. I thought Passion was an amazing achievement. I also think Braveheart and The Patriot are excellent movies. It has struck me that those three films are all extraordinarily violent. Roger Ebert said Passion of the Christ is the most violent movie ever made. Of course, in all three cases, an accurate depiction of the subject matter required violence.

I do not know if Mark is right that Gibson’s film career is over. The American people are a forgiving people. Many people were denouncing Johnny Depp for his politics a few years ago, but all seems to be forgiven, and he is the box office’s most popular star right now. It will certainly be interesting to see how Gibson’s next film fares. Apocalypto, about the decline of the Mayan culture, is scheduled for release on Dec. 8, 2006.

Americans are forgiving, but there are two sins that are especially hard to forgive — particularly in our public figures, leaders and celebrities we admire. One is racism. Mark is right that anti-Semiticism is repugnant to Christians. Jesus is a Jew; to disparage a Jew for his Jewishness is to insult our Lord. Beyond that, Jesus is the Creator; to despise any human being for his ethnicity is to insult that person’s Maker.

When Gibson undertook the remarkable project of making The Passion, it became well known that he was motivated by his faith, which he expresses in the traditionalist Catholic church. It is painful to the Body of Christ when a man who makes such a public profession of Christ, then makes such a public demonstration of racism and hatred. That is the second sin — hypocrisy — that is especially hard to overlook.

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ADDITIONAL NOTE: Mark Shea raises an interesting theological / psychological point regarding how we interpret the Gibson incident and his subsequent apology. Do we assume that since Gibson was drunk at the time of his arrest, his pathetic anti-Semitic slurs were “the real Mel Gibson” coming out? That drunkenness prevented him from concealing his true self? Yes, it has always been my assumption that such comments made under the influence reveal what is really inside. But Shea says such thinking is based on Freud and Calvin; as a Catholic, Shea rejects the teachings of both. Interesting thoughts. Shea’s comments are summarized well at DaveTown.

25 Most Controversial Movies Ever

Entertainment Weekly has listed the “25 Most Controversial Movies Ever.” No. 1 on the list: The Passion of the Christ. Other Christ-related movies on the list include The Last Temptation of Christ (No. 7) and The Da Vinci Code (No. 13).

Many of the movies are listed because of their X-rated sexual content (Deep Throat, I Am Curious Yellow, Last Tango in Paris, Caligula) or their extreme violence (Natural Born Killers).

Other movies on the list include: A Clockwork Orange, JFK, Aladdin, Fahrenheit 9/11, United 93, and the 1915 silent classic, Birth of a Nation.

Final Post on Da Vinci Blah Blah Blah

As I speculated, The Da Vinci Code’s second weekend at the box office didn’t hold a candle to Weekend 1. Even with a Monday holiday boost, The Code brought in $43 million on its second weekend out, which is a lot of money, but certainly not the kind of results producers were hoping for from the year’s most anticipated film. The Code held the No. 1 spot at the box office for a single week, knocked down to 2nd place last weekend by X-Men: The Last Stand, which took in a whopping $120 million in the U.S.

The Da Vinci Code is certainly not a flop. In its first 12 days in theaters, the movie made more than $140 million U.S. and more than $300 million worldwide. A total of 42 movies have made more than $500 million at the box office, led by Titanic ($1.8 billion), Lord of the Rings III ($1.1 billion), and Harry Potter ($1 billion). Although Da Vinci Code: The Book is the best-selling hard-cover fiction of all time, Code: The Movie is not headed for those heights. The movie cost $125 million to make, plus millions more to market.

When The Code was screened at the Cannes Film Festival two weeks ago, movie critics in the opening night audience reported that the movie, at 2-1/2 hours, is long, sometimes tedious, and its complicated plot is hard to follow. Those reviews didn’t stop the first wave of movie-goers, but when those people passed the word that the critics were right, attendance dropped off sharply.

Yes, I saw the movie last weekend, and the critics are right. Nothing about this movie merits all the advance buzz it generated (and was so generously provided by market-conscious churches). The story boils down to nothing more than a treasure hunt, and at some point you find yourself thinking, “Oh, no! Not another clue! Please just get to the end of the trail and be done with it!”

Surely many of the non-church-goers who saw the film must be wondering, “So that’s what the churches were making such a fuss about? What’s the big deal?” I predict The Da Vinci Code will continue to fade fast. And it certainly will not be back on center stage at next year’s Oscars. This film will not be nominated for any major awards, certainly not for best picture, best director, or best actors — although Sir Ian McKellan’s performance as Sir Lee Teabing has received some notice.

The next time most of us will hear about The Da Vinci Code is when its prequel, Angels and Demons, makes its way to theaters two or three years from now. Sony Pictures announced last week that it has given the green light to Akiva Goldsman, who wrote the Da Vinci script, to adopt Dan Brown’s earlier book for the screen. Obviously, Sony is hoping for a series of Robert Langdon blockbusters, ala Indiana Jones. That may be wishful thinking. And I’m willing to bet Sony will not be able to persuade Ron Howard or Tom Hanks to get involved in the next project.

Da Vinci Code Panned by Movie Critics

Da Vinci Code: The Movie had its international debut today, opening the Cannes Film Festival. The book is the biggest-selling adult hardcover fiction in history, but the movie is not getting a pass from reviewers.

There are lots of good reasons to expect this film to be enjoyable. It is directed by Ron Howard (Parenthood, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) and stars Tom Hanks (2 Best Actor Oscars for Forrest Gump and Philadelphia, and 3 more nominations). Good book, great director, great actor – how can this film miss? But the first round of reviews are running lukewarm to worse.

CNN reports that “critics largely panned” the film, and that “response was highly critical.”

One scene during the film, meant to be serious, elicited prolonged laughter from the audience. There was no applause when the credits rolled; instead, a few catcalls and hisses broke the silence.

The BBC describes the movie as “confusing,” “convoluted,” “long and dull,” “clunky,” and “cringeworthy.” Ouch! Hanks’ performance is “dry and uninspiring.”

Hollywood Reporter calls The Da Vinci Code an “unwieldy, bloated puzzle,” and says Hanks turns in a “remote, even wooden performance.”

The movie really only catches fire at the midway point…The movie is so drenched in dialogue musing over arcane mythological and historical lore and scenes grow so static that even camera movement can’t disguise the dramatic inertia.

Only Fox says The Da Vinci Code is “a good movie.”

No review filed so far from Roger Ebert, the critic whose taste I have learned to trust over the years.