During a Norah O'Donnell report, on Friday's Today, about how well books written by the likes of Sarah Palin, George W. Bush and Glenn Beck are selling, the New York Times' Jenny Schuessler rationalized the only reason conservative books are outpacing liberal ones is because "conservatives have some really strong media personalities" like Beck and Bill O'Reilly " that have a platform that they can promote their books from."
There's just one flaw in that piece of logic, something O'Donnell failed to point out, liberals including her fellow NBC colleague Keith Olbermann, who has a nightly "platform" on MSNBC, routinely put out books that flop. At the time of publication of this article Olbermann's Pitchforks and Torches, just released in October, is currently ranked at 3,997 on Amazon.com.
O'Donnell began her piece highlighting how both Bush and Palin's books are competing with each other on the New York Times Bestseller list as she hyped: "Call it Bush versus Palin, and the winner? President Bush is number one" and then later added that it wasn't just right leaning politicians that were burning up the book charts, but that conservative radio and TV talkers were holding their own as well, which led to a soundbite from Schuessler suggesting they were moving book sales simply because they were on the airwaves.
I was stunned to read on Life Site News that a new movie is being planned about Our Lady of Guadalupe, so-named for an appearance of the Virgin Mary near Mexico City in 1531 that’s credited with converting nine million indigenous Mexicans to Christianity. The film, still untitled, will be produced by Mpower Pictures, the company that was launched with the pro-life movie "Bella" in 2006 and founded by "The Passion of the Christ" producer Steve McEveety.
That a movie would be made about Our Lady of Guadalupe is amazing, but that wasn’t half the surprise. The movie is being written by Joe Eszterhas. Yes, the same Joe Eszterhas responsible for screenwriting filthy movies like "Basic Instinct" and most infamously, "Showgirls," a movie so pornographic even the late Jack Valenti condemned it.
What I didn’t know until now is the story of the conversion of Joe Eszterhas in 2001, powerfully captured in his 2008 memoir entitled "Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith."
When the conglomerates behind the viciously anti-Catholic book "The DaVinci Code" were looking for a director, Newsweek reported Ron Howard had a secret weapon: his aw-shucks child-star Opie Taylor likeability. "Ron is not a polarizer," said one. "We all knew the book was quite controversial, and we were ready for that. But we didn’t want to add to it."
In that same article in 2006, it became clear that Howard wasn’t going to make the film less vicious (or less filled with historical lies and distortions) than the book. There would be "no placating. It would be ludicrous to take on this subject and try to take the edges off. We’re doing this movie because we like the book." (Emphasis his.)
This is where the aw-shucks routine goes out the window. It’s one thing to say you like a good mystery with historical overtones. It’s another thing to say you like a fiction book that paints the Catholic Church as an evil nest of lying murderers conspiring to protect the lie that Jesus Christ is God.
On CNN's American Morning today, White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reported on Barack Obama's campaigning in Virginia. Afterwards, anchor Kiran Chetry had a question:
CHETRY: All right. And Suzanne, what's on tap for the campaign today? And please tell me it's not lipstick again.
MALVEAUX: Let's hope not. He's going to be in Norfolk, Virginia. That is in southeast Virginia, and it's home to the world's largest Naval base. It's one of the most competitive areas that the Democrats and Republicans are fighting over. It's a critical piece of property, piece of land there with folks in Virginia, and they want those voters.
On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez described the Catholic Church’s refusal to allow filming on Church property of a movie prequel to "The DaVinci Code," starring Tom Hanks, this way: "...the battle between Tom Hanks and the Vatican. You know he's in Rome filming the prequel to 'The Da Vinci Code,' 'Angels and Demons,' and the Church there is up in arms, they're barring them from filming in churches. They believe the film, like the book, is sacrilegious."
On Wednesday, ABC’s "Good Morning America" featured a story on the controversy in which correspondent Nick Watt declared: "When the might of Rome clashes with a literary behemoth, expect some colorful language. 'An offense against God,' is what a diocese of Rome spokesman just called this book." Watt then later proclaimed: "The Dan Brown express will not be stopped," to which GMA co-host Diane Sawyer replied: "Yes, Nick, I mean that's the irony, isn't it? The more the Church complains, probably the better it is for the business."
Meanwhile, on Thursday’s "Early Show," correspondent Allen Pizzey explained: "Fans of the book, 'Angels and Demons,' keep streaming into the churches in Rome where the plot unfolds. But the film crew turning it into a movie has been banned from them and any other Church property. The plot is not overly anti-Church, but some of the most graphic scenes are not something with which the Church wants to be associated."
Imagine that a "documentary" film-maker—whose most notable former credit was a work advancing the notion that extra-terrestrials did indeed visit Area 51—brought forth a new work suggesting that key elements of the Prophet Mohammed's story had been fabricated. What are the odds ABC would devote a segment of Good Morning America to a respectful interview of the filmmaker and discussion of his work?
But that's exactly what ABC did regarding someone who has produced a documentary ["Bloodline"] calling into question key aspects of the story of Jesus Christ. Here's how GMA weekend co-anchor Bill Weir introduced the segment this morning:
Well, here's a question, was Jesus married with children? Was the Resurrection a trick pulled off by his widow? The possibility, the world's greatest cover-up, was the basis of the smash novel and movie The Da Vinci Code. And though those ideas have been largely dismissed by academics as fiction, documentary film-maker Bruce Burgess believes he has now found evidence to advance that theory. Here's a clip from his new film.
The press releases of the Discovery Channel boast that its parent company, Discovery Communications, is the “number one nonfiction media company.” That identifier is now in shambles, and the paper it’s printed on fit only to be crumpled and thrown away. The folks at Discovery have rendered themselves carnival barkers peddling sensationalistic garbage, trashy money-making gimmicks dressed up as real journalism.
The Discovery Channel is hyping to the heavens its new documentary on “The Lost Tomb of Jesus.” James Cameron, the Oscar-winning director of “Titanic,” has joined filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici in publicizing claims that a 2,000-year-old tomb containing 10 boxes of bones belonged to the family of Jesus of Nazareth. It also echoes the dopey “DaVinci Code” novel by asserting that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, that the couple had a son. They claim the son was named Judah and that all three were buried together.
Human Events Online reports that "The Passion of the Christ" is in no danger of being passed up by "The Da Vinci Code" in ticket sales, even after 15 days.
As reported here earlier, The Passion of The Christ, which IMDb ranks No. 10 in U.S. box office sales for all time, continues to outpace The Da Vinci Code’s U.S. box office performance in head-to-head match-ups of day-by-day sales—a trend that continues to send Hollywood this unmistakable message: “Blasphemy doesn’t pay.”
Imagine it as a horserace between Passion and Code.
Passion, at the week three, Day 15 turn had sold $228,134,000 at the U.S. box office, while Code lagged behind at $172,656,000 in U.S. ticket sales....
Mary Claire Kendall writes in Human Events that the "Da Vinci Code," despite all the media hype, has not performed as well as Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ." "Passion" made it into the list of top ten all-time grossing films, while "Da Vinci Code" will not. "Passion" also had a fourth of the production budget of "Da Vinci."
"The Da Vinci Code" made $102,481,037 in the first week. But says Kendall:
Now, $102.48 million is not exactly chump change. But, when you consider Ron Howard risked $125 million of Sony’s money making the film and another $125 million marketing the film, it’s underwhelming.
The comparison to The Passion of the Christ, dramatically depicting the last three days of Christ’s life on earth—faithful to the Gospels—is illustrative.
Box Office Mojo estimates that the box office receipts for "The DaVinci Code" for this weekend will drop to $33.5 million, a 56.5 percent drop from last weekend's opening, and the biggest percentage drop among the top ten movies. One reason is the fourth-largest opening on record for "X-Men 3: The Last Stand," estimated to land $107 million.
If the blog seems too slow for you on the holiday weekend, there's always the opportunity to read our report on "The Trashing of the Christ," or how the networks rained fire on "The Passion" and gleefully went on the road for the "Code."
Kelly Boggs of Baptist Press surveyed how film critics were disappointed that someone sanded down the jagged anti-Christian edges of Dan Brown's novel.
In 2004, the networks showed hostility to a more orthodox vision of Jesus in the movie The Passion of the Christ. So MRC analysts compared coverage of the year before The Passion (March 2003 through February 2004) and the year before The DaVinci Code movie (May 19, 2005 through May 18, 2006) on the morning, evening, prime-time and late-night news programs of ABC, CBS, and NBC. Some key findings were:
Sometimes you just want to throw up your hands. Interviewing another big oil exec this morning, Katie Couric's proposed solution to high gas prices was to repeal the laws of supply and demand . . . just a little bit.
Whereas Matt Lauer took a while in his interview of another oil exec to get around to his price-cutting point, Katie wasted no time. Interviewing Shell Oil President John Hofmeister, Katie's opening salvo was
"I am just wondering, you and many other oil companies are posting record high profits, of course. And while the average consumer is hurting. I am wondering, Mr. Hofmeister, would it help the long term reputation and value of your company and shareholders if you could feel the pain that consumers were feeling and decrease the wholesale value of gasoline? Is that something you would ever consider?"
Right up there with "dog bites man," the news that Mel Gibson doesn't like "The Da Vinci Code" should come as no surprise. The creator of the film "The Passion of the Christ" thinks it could mislead some.
Mel Gibson has slammed The Da Vinci Code for attacking his religious beliefs.
The Aussie actor is concerned that people may take both the book and the recently released film as fact.
"I'm not angry, per se, that it refutes everything I hold sacred, the foundations of my beliefs," Gibson said. "The Da Vinci Code is an admitted work of fiction but it cleverly weaves fact into maverick theories in a way that will appear plausible to some."
The New York Times seems to be quite confused by all this DaVinci Code stuff. All this focus on religion must be too much for them. The latest is a May 21st article by Laurie Goodstein titled “It's Not Just a Movie, It's a Revelation (About the Audience)” that claims, among other misleading things, that Gnosticism is said to be somehow new on the Christian religious scene.
Goodstein seems to imagine we live in “an era in which many Christian believers have assimilated a whole lot of new and unorthodox ideas, as well as half-truths and conspiracy thinking, into their faith, while still seeing it as Christianity.” She has decided to call it “Da Vinci Christianity.”
But, like too many in the media, Goodstein thinks she has discovered something “new” when she is merely seeing something that has been around for time immemorial.
If you would like to see the range of opinion among film critics on "The DaVinci Code," one very nice inventory of major-media reviews can be found at metacritic.com. It earned a 48 out of 100, well below this weekend's new cartoon, "Over the Hedge," which averaged out to 67.
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.”
Chris Weinkopf writes at American Enterprise Institute Online that if Hollywood had made a movie about all of Islam being a sham, with a murderous sect that kills all those who try to reveal the true secret, the media would have denounced the movie as hate speech, sure to inflame the terrorists and defame a major world religion.
Imagine, if you can, a major studio releasing a thriller in which the stars investigate the origins of Islam. Pursued by a murderous Muslim cleric, they uncover a series of shocking discoveries: Mohammed was no prophet! The Koran is a hoax, the work of self-serving hypocrites! Modern-day Muslims are dupes, if not deranged psychopaths!
Now imagine, in the unlikely event such a film were ever made, what sort of reception it would get in the establishment media. Given the categorical refusal of the American press to publish the Danish Mohammed cartoons, it's a safe bet that the talking heads and big newspapers would only mention the movie to denounce it.
Let's be clear: the Da Vinci Code portrays Christianity as a fraud and the Roman Catholic Church as a murderous conspiracy. As Archbishop Angelo Amato, the number two official in the Vatican doctrinal office which was headed by Pope Benedict until his election last year recently stated, if "such lies and errors had been directed at the Koran or the Holocaust they would have justly provoked a world uprising."
Yet the Today show has decided to offer the movie, scheduled for release this week, untold millions in free advertising by devoting hours of, um, worshipful coverage to it, going so far as to send Matt Lauer to Europe for the week to be "On the Road with the Code."
Matt Lauer's trip to Paris, to go "On the Road With the Code," included a stop at the Louvre art museum on Tuesday, where the novel "The DaVinci Code" begins. In his interview with the Louvre's head curator this morning, he asked if the museum staff would be bothered that people came to see "the spot where Sauniere was murdered," as if it was a real human being, and not a figment of author Dan Brown's imagination. Is this a "news" show, or just an unpaid publicity arm for Sony and Brown?
Lauer did note that it was preposterous for Brown to suggest that a 76-year-old curator in the book would be marching around with a painting that was in real life too large for him to carry, 12 feet by 18 feet.
The outspoken proprietor of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, had some extremely harsh words for senator and presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. In a Sunday post entitled “Cracking the Hillary Code,” Huffington used the occasion of the release of the film “The Da Vinci Code” to compare and contrast the recent activities of America’s former first lady: “Unlocking the latest Clinton cryptex, we find not a papyrus map but other kinds of symbolic clues: Making headlines with her warm assessment of Bush. Partying with a Who's Who of the GOP power elite, including Karl Rove, Karen Hughes, Tom DeLay, and Bill Frist. Planning a fundraiser to be hosted by -- wait for it -- Rupert Murdoch.”
Huffington was just warming up, although her next statement has been obvious to many Americans since Hillary and her prevaricating husband first rose on the national scene in 1991: “It doesn't take a dashing Harvard symbologist and a sexy French cryptographer to figure this one out. Hillary Clinton is determined to single-handedly remove every last vestige of authenticity from American politics.”
That’s like saying the sun sets in the West, Arianna. From there, Huffington continued stating the obvious, though it’s always marvelous reading the truth as written by someone from her current side of the aisle: