Like most of his fellow critics, the Times A.O. Scott gives a ho-hum thumbs down to "The DaVinci Code" (in which a mortal Jesus is at the center of an elaborate fraud, with the Catholic Church as a murderous conspiracy) but doesn’t see anything to get offended by:
"In any case Mr. Howard and Mr. Goldsman handle the supposedly provocative material in Mr. Brown's book with kid gloves, settling on an utterly safe set of conclusions about faith and its history, presented with the usual dull sententiousness. So I certainly can't support any calls for boycotting or protesting this busy, trivial, inoffensive film. Which is not to say I'm recommending you go see it."
After a couple days in which the only people offered the opportunity to comment on the controversy surrounding the Da Vinci Code were the movie's director and cast members, this morning's Today show finally gave an outside expert and Catholic officials their shot. The result was an oddly ambivalent reaction in which the movie was simultaneously praised as offering an opportunity to teach about the Church - and condemned as filled with lies.
A quick recap on the state of play at Today. Matt Lauer has been "On the Road with the Code" this week. On Tuesday, as reported here, NBC reporter Melissa Stark timidly raised the matter of the controversy with Code director Ron Howard. Stark didn't bother informing viewers just what all the fuss is about - which is none other than the movie's premise that Christ wasn't really divine, that he was married to Mary Magdalene and had children with her, that the true religion is the "feminine divine" and that the Roman Catholic Church has perpetrated a murderous patriarchal plot to suppress the truth. That's all!
When Mel Gibson introduced "The Passion of the Christ" into the public conversation, Hollywood had a lot to say about it. Now Hollywood is offering its response with the upcoming release of "The DaVinci Code," inviting commentary not on that movie, but on Hollywood itself.
Three years ago, Mel Gibson gambled his own personal fortune on a great creative risk, going completely outside the established Tinseltown system to produce a horrifyingly realistic reenactment of Our Lord’s crucifixion, and resurrection. It took not just sacrifice but also real courage to make this. The studios all scoffed at the idea. The reviews were horrible – before anyone had seen a frame of it.
It's not enough for "DaVinci Code" star Ian McKellen to make cracks about Bible disclaimers. MRC's Michael Chapman passed along that in an interview with Reuters, he took his wisecracks directly to the Catholic Church:
“When I put the book down I thought, ’what a load of potential codswallop .That’s still going on in my mind. But I’m very happy to believe that Jesus was married.”
Sir Ian, who came out as gay in 1988 during a Radio 4 discussion programme, continued: “I know that the Catholic church has problems with gay people and I thought that this was absolute truth that Jesus was not gay.”
If "The Da Vinci Code" was already feeding the flames of controversy with its challenge to the basic tenets of Christianity, actor Ian McKellen managed to pour a refinery tank's worth of gasoline on the fire on this morning's 'Today' show, asserting that the Bible should carry a disclaimer saying that it is "fiction." Video: Windows Media or Real Player, Plus audio MP3
Matt Lauer, in his second day "On The Road With The Code," was in Cannes for the film festival, where the Code will have its debut. It has already been screened to some critics, who have given it decidedly mixed reviews.
Today's starters-- Media: Reacting to Muhammed cartoon controversy, student newspaper prints offensive Jesus toons, nothing
follows. Popular blog web presence provider Hosting Matters is down at
the moment, taking a number of popular blogs down with it. Tonight is
opening night of "Flight 93;" in it's scoring 94 percent positive in Rotten Tomatoes online reviews (HT Roger Simon.)
On Tuesday's edition of "Fresh Air," the daily one-hour interview show on National Public Radio, airing on hundreds of NPR affiliates across the country, host Terry Gross interviewed Paul Weitz, director of the new Bush-mocking movie "American Dreamz." Gross helped Weitz to explain his point that "dreams are sometimes delusions," like democracy in Iraq. Weitz expressed sorrow that John Kerry lost to Bush in 2004 because "he was able to look at both sides of an issue, which seems to be the hallmark of intelligence."
Weitz began by suggesting his movie was a way of dealing with how America has been paralyzed by irrational fear since 9/11, so paralyzed it's almost impossible to have a rational thought in George Bush's America:
Liberal movie critic Manohla Dargis continues to mix popcorn and politics in her Friday review of "American Dreamz."
"But what gives the film its gleam of topicality, its suggestion of relevance, is that it directly sends up both the Bush presidency and 'American Idol,' those twin pillars of contemporary homespun populism. The problem being that, as Jon Stewart, among many others, habitually reminds us, both surrendered to self-parody some time ago."
See Times Watch for more New York Times bias, including Times Watch's just-released study on the paper's fawning coverage of Sen. Hillary Clinton as she prepared for a presidential run in 2008.
Just when you thought Hollywood had reached the limit of things they could blame on President Bush, along comes the director of “Hostel”, Eli Roth. Roth was a guest on Friday’s “Your World with Neil Cavuto”. When asked why horror movies were resurging in such troubling times, Roth pointed directly at the Bush Administration (video link to follow).
Roth claimed that people wanted to scream because of the “things going on in the world” and the government’s failure to help after Hurricane Katrina. He explained that horror movies offered a safe environment which allowed people to scream. Roth went on to say the seemingly “never ending war”, fighting people that do not care about our money, our “disorganized army” with “scared kids” for soldiers and the generals calling for Rumsfeld’s resignation were specific reasons for the need of an emotional release offered by horror movies.
On the front of Monday’s Arts page stands Felicia Lee’s “Gay Moms And Dads Can Bring The Family,” based on Rosie O’Donnell’s new HBO special on “the first-ever cruise for gay families.”
The piece reads more as pro-gay mainstreaming than a news item, leading off with unusual criticism by a reporter of a question from another reporter.
“Rosie O'Donnell, the former talk show host, actress, lesbian mom and a candid blogger, can certainly duck, weave and bob her way through a conversation. But she was caught off-guard by a reporter at a press event for ‘All Aboard! Rosie's Family Cruise,’ a new documentary about the first-ever cruise for gay families. Did she intend to raise her children to be gay?, the reporter asked.
This one wasn’t hard to predict: With the box office failure of newly released “erotic thriller” called “Basic Instinct 2,” Hollywood elites are blaming the slumping interest in such films on Conservatives and the recent return to Christian values rather than the poor quality of the movies. According to Reuters (hat tip to Drudge):
“Paul Verhoeven, director of the first ‘Basic Instinct’ (which scored $353 million worldwide) as well as the widely ridiculed ‘Showgirls’ (now regarded as something of a camp classic), attributes the genre's demise to the current American political climate.
"‘Anything that is erotic has been banned in the United States,’ said the Dutch native. ‘Look at the people at the top (of the government). We are living under a government that is constantly hammering out Christian values. And Christianity and sex have never been good friends.’"
Let me clue you in, Paul: People didn’t go to see “Showgirls” because it was a derivative piece of tripe with a bad script, bad acting, bad directing, and bad editing. Other than that, the film was absolutely fabulous. Regardless, another holier-than-though elitist that most readers have never heard of agreed with Verhoeven’s sentiments:
In my latest article up at FreeMarketProject.org, I take a look at some movie reviews which praise Ice Age 2: The Meltdown for raising the concept of global warming to kids. You can find it here.
My colleague Geoff Dickens recorded Gene Shalit's similar take on NBC's Today show.
Doing some research for the story, I also found some far-left Canadian review which thought that the new cartoon feature was too conservative. For your amusement:
What could have been an interesting opportunity to educate kiddies about the sorry state of our planet and the dire need for all of us to preserve it is instead, incredibly, a fatalistic reaffirmation that, somehow, God will prevail.
No not even reviews of kids movies are free from a tinge of liberal bias at the Today show. During Gene Shalit's Critic's Corner the dorky mustached film critic couldn't help himself:
Gene Shalit: "Good morning and welcome to the Critic's Corner. Think global warming isn't real? Ask Manny the Mammoth, Diego the Tiger or Sid the Sloth. They first met in the animated hit Ice Age and they formed an unlikely herd. Now in Ice Age: The Meltdown they're fleeing floods of melting ice and the results are joyous.... Carlos Saldahna's direction and the smart three-scribe script makes this Ice Age very cool. The herd's happy 88 happy minutes will melt away your out-of-theater cares while attesting that global warming is no snow job. Audiences everywhere get ready! Here comes Ice Age: The Meltdown starring the herd shot 'round the world. And that's the Critic's Corner for this morning."
Time magazine celebrates an exclusive interview with Mel Gibson, described as an "ultraconservative Roman Catholic" with a Holocaust-denying Dad, as he prepares his new film, "Apocalypto," based on the Mayans and performed in the old Mayan language (more subtitles). Gibson says he doesn't give a "flying f---" about his critics, but the comments Time highlighted suggested he may be trying to get back in the good graces of the people living inside Hollywood's liberal bubble, attacking President Bush and sounding an environmentalist alarm:
Gibson and his rookie cowriter on Apocalypto, Farhad Safinia, were captivated by the ancient Maya, one of the hemisphere's first great civilizations, which reached its zenith about A.D. 600 in southern Mexico and northern Guatemala. The two began poring over Maya myths of creation and destruction, including the Popol Vuh, and research suggesting that ecological abuse and war-mongering were major contributors to the Maya's sudden collapse, some 500 years before Europeans arrived in the Americas.
The CNN Headline News show "Showbiz Tonight" led Monday night with controversy over the movie "V for Vendetta," and stomped hard on the idea that it was directed at the Bush administration. Host A. J. Hammer began with a promo: "On ‘Showbiz Tonight,’ the war in Iraq, the war on terror and the hottest movie in America. The shock and awe over 'V for Vendetta.' And the controversy. Is art imitating life? A political thriller where the hero is a terrorist. Is that really such a bad thing?"
Is this a rhetorical question? Or is Hammer auditioning for al-Jazeera International?
MRC's Michelle Humphrey tipped me off to the story. Hammer explained: "All right, let me tell you what happened this weekend. America had a big choice of movies. Here's the one they made No. 1: 'V for Vendetta.' This is a movie all about terrorism. This is a movie that raises some serious and unsettling questions about who should really be called a terrorist. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. A movie that has chilling allusions to everything from September 11 to government spying to terror bombings to the war in the Iraq. It`s a movie that opened just as we crossed yet another disturbing milestone in the struggle to end the seemingly unending war in Iraq. It`s enough to make critics and Showbiz Tonight ask, what's going on here?"
While Jon Stewart and George Clooney have denied any disconnect between Hollywood and middle America, as reported by Tim Graham here, today’s American Morning aired a piece shortly before 8am that seems to disprove what these members of the liberal Hollywood elite were claiming. CNN entertainment reporter Brooke Anderson spoke to residents of small town Lebanon, Kansas, who expressed their view that Hollywood is not honoring or promoting the type of films that they enjoy.
Randy Maus, Lebanon resident: "Out here, at least in rural America, where it’s–you could say it’s the Bible belt, we’re still looking for movies that have creative substance and a storyline."
Unidentified Female: "We’re just not interested in all the sex and skin."
Brooke Anderson: "What kind of movies do you want Hollywood to make?"
Unidentified Female: "What about Sound of Music and some of those?"
On January 4, FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume aired a segment that discussed Hollywood’s portrayal of terrorism. The story, airing at 6:38PM, featured a quote from George Clooney, star and producer of "Syriana." The clip appeared to be from the movie’s press junket. Fox News reporter William La Jeunesse stated that "'Syriana' is based on the true story of a CIA operative sent to assassinate Saddam Hussein." He adds:
"But in the hands of actor/producer George Clooney, the story changes Saddam into an benevolent Arab prince. And Hezbollah saves the agent's life. Americans are shown to be greedy and corrupt, while suicide bombers are presented as freedom fighters." Real Player or Windows Media