City of Roses
Here's my take here on this debate.
First of all, I believe that Hollywood is a little out of touch here, I just feel that those setting up the debate are looking at it the wrong way.
Some say the reason Oscar ratings have continued to go down, people stop going to the movies, etc. is because many feel these movies they release don't represent themselves or their values. Actually, the reason I don't go to the movies as much as I want to is simple; ticket prices. Many I know say the same thing. I don't know if that is representative of a national opinion, but I think it's safe to say movies would be making more if the ticket prices were adjusted a bit cheaper.
Look, I absolutely agree that though I believe our media, overall, leans to the right, or is at least fairly intolerant or neglectant of progressive views, Hollywood is one strong liberal-leaning market. I actually believe Hollywood has long leaned that direction. Maybe the "extremity" thing can be argued here, but this gets right into the second question.
I certainly don't think Hollywood is anti-religious. There hasn't been a Best Picture winner with religion serving as a themed centerpiece since 1959's "Ben-Hur", but faith, whether religious or secular-oriented has played a theme in many Best Picture winners since then. Particularly in the dramas centered on war or in "Titanic". In explaining why movies centered on religion don't seem to get Best Picture attention, religion indeed is a lifetime education and commitment. I just find it's difficult to convey religion at whole in a concise form in three hours or so, and abridging something of sorts like that usually leaves much vague, or unquestioned. And indeed, from what I've learned thus far, the truth indeed can be blinding and it just takes time for your eyes to adjust to it. But some just perceive the process differently than others, and it is shocking to many, and I guess to many, religion is just a lot to swallow in the form of a film.
Besides that, take "Joan of Arcadia" for instance. I find it to be the best drama on television in years, and is very religion-friendly and full of moral backbone. This CBS dark horse has ended up becoming a huge hit on Fridays and both liberals and conservatives are enjoying it.
Now, about "The Passion of the Christ".
No doubt it is a powerful, striking, gripping film, all great elements to a great film. It bears a strong message that unquestionably has resonated to many regarding its huge box office gross of $370 million domestically, the most ever for an independent film, and second only to "Spider Man 2" for the greatest-revenue film of 2004.
However, it also must be noted that the film didn't exactly get reviewed enthusiastically. According to Rotten Tomatoes, a web-site which averages up all reviews and labels each film with an average percentage approval of 60% or below as a "rotten tomato" and any film 60% or above as a "fresh tomato", "The Passion of the Christ" received a 51% average, marking it as a "rotten tomato". In addition, the average grade given to the film was in the B-/C+ range.
And if you insist the critics shouldn't be taken seriously, etc, though the film did receive a much better score (77%) among regular fans, it still falls well short of other average user scores for other films, including "The Incredibles", "Maria Full of Grace", "Hero", "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", "Shrek 2", and "Garden State" (that last one absolutely deserved a nomination).
With that said, I absolutely don't believe the Academy Award Committee of 5,800 intentionally left out "The Passion of the Christ" out of spite or because it ran against their beliefs, etc. The fact is, there have happened to be even better movies than "The Passion of the Christ" released last year, and some conservative groups upset by the film's lack of Oscar attention should understand that. I absolutely respect Mel Gibson as both a person and an actor, and admire him for this bold, cinematic effort, but box office success just shouldn't always expect to translate into Oscar domination. After all, "Spider Man II" hasn't got any either. "Shrek II" didn't get any besides Best Animated Picture. "E.T", "Jurassic Park", "The Lion King" and all the Star Wars saga never won Best Picture.
Now, onto the next question.
I absolutely believe Hollywood releases a lot of dark-themed movies. Of course, it's nothing new in my mind either. "All's Quiet on the Western Front", the Best Picture Winner for 1929-1930, which is also the thid movie ever to win Best Picture, was very dark, with its chilling horror of war message. We had "Mutiny on the Bounty" in 1935, "Gone With The Wind" in 1939, "Mrs. Miniver" in 1942, "The Lost Weekend" in 1945, Gentleman's Agreement" in 1947, all movies themed on struggles during war-time, alcoholism and racism.
"The Bridge on the River Kwai", "Tom Jones", "Midnight Cowboy", "Patton", "The French Connecton", "The Deer Hunter"...the history of the Academy Awards is loaded with Best Picture winners with dark themes. It's nothing new, and neither is the year or years in-between when a more uplifting film takes the golden statue.
In final word, I feel when you look beyond the politics of Hollywood, which I feel have always leaned to the left somewhat there, Hollywood is unquestionably a cornerstone of American culture, in which, regardless of your political, cultural or social background, everyone is influenced by.
As an American liberal, I too agree that Tinseltown is not perfect by any means. I believe there is too much violence and sexual situations in our programming that is so easily accessible to children everywhere, and that is a problem that needs to be handled one way or another without encouraging broad censorship. It sees one way or another our youth will be surrounded by these themes or hear it from their friends anyhow, but I believe we should be asking Hollywood to put more heart in, if not exactly more moral programming, just simply more clean-fun programming.
Also I think Hollywood could use some sort of face-lift. I've been there myself a few times and indeed it appears rather plain to visitors, totally apart from the kingdom or palace many imagine Hollywood as. It should appear to its visitors more as a place of magic, not a little plastic castle. I don't know exactly how it should be done, but the place has a dark side to both visitors and the stars themselves.
That's just my take there. With that said, allow me to share my predictions for tomorrow's Oscar evening:
"Million Dollar Baby"
Martin Scoresce (Clint Eastwood shouldn't be ruled out, but he'll win and I think Scoresce deserves it.)
Jamie Foxx (but it deserves to go to Don Cheadle, which I do hope he earns a suprise win.)
Hilary Swank (She's good, though I was impressed with Catalina in "Maria Full of Grace")
*****Best Supporting Actor*****
Morgan Freeman (no complaining here)
*****Best Supporting Actress*****
Cate Blanchett (But it deserves to go to Natalie Portman for her wonderful performance in "The Garden State" and I'd love to see her make a suprise win here.)
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other"