Passion for Fairness:
New York Newsday ran a “best of” list. No Passion mentioned. The Detroit Free Press? Nope. The Associated Press? Uh-uh. The Rocky Mountain News? Not even close. The New York Post? Nada. The American Film Institute? Zip. NEWSWEEK? Heck no.
While Chirstmas shopping (or is that “Xmas shopping”?) the other week I noticed something interesting in the DVD section at Target. AMERICAN BEAUTY winner of the 1999 Academy Award for Best Picture sat one slot removed from SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, the film that (then and now) I felt deserved the award. Which film has demonstrated more staying power? Which film has proven itself to be more meaningful and important? Which film has had a greater effect on the way movies are made and thought of?
Never mind that I read and was told that AMERICAN BEAUTY represented the way things were and what was going on in society. I never bought that at all, since it seems so plainly false.
Voters agree with me, apparently, since AMERICAN BEAUTY was $9.99 and SPR was $19.99. No more better indicator than votes cast with those little green ballots.
That obviously doesn’t really prove anything much, but it does support my belief some.
I don’t expect THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST to win much. But the fact that it isn’t even registering on most radar screens is a little troubling. After all, there are those little green ballots:
Moreover, from a merely crass commercial point-of-view, the film was remarkable. The Passion is the third highest grossing film of the year, the ninth highest of all time. It is the highest grossing R-rated film ever, and the top grossing foreign language film ever. Rumors abound that it has forced many in Hollywood to rethink their well-worn formulas for success.
I think, by and large, that we get the movies we deserve. With very few exceptions, no project will get the green light unless the suits think it will make money. Now, look at the typical movies that play at the local cineplex. They might suck, but they only get made when the decision-makers think they can take our money. And even though they’re often wrong, they’re right often enough to keep the ball rolling.
Hollywood is certainly capable of making good films. They have all the technology and talent and money to make any damn film they want to. And if THE PASSION has really made them rethink their formula for success a bit, that’s a far bigger award than an Oscar. But I’m skeptical.
Maybe the fear is that if THE PASSION does win some major awards, there will be a push to re-think the formula for success. But as long as it stays below the radar, the pressure to change will be minimized.
Just like I hope THE LORD OF THE RINGS will help make other films better, I hope THE PASSION has a positive impact on movie-making and the way Hollywood looks at things. But while THE LORD OF THE RINGS is widely acknowledged as being a masterpiece, THE PASSION is in real danger of being dismissed as an aberration only enjoyed by the same freaks who re-elected George W. Bush.
Maybe I’m off-base. But I’m beginning to think that maybe this is more important than I’ve thought it was. Even if only to the future of movie-making.