Hooray for Hollywood!

I am a lifelong devourer of movies with more than 2,000 titles, collected since 1985, in my home film library.

My tastes range from my all-time favorite, David Lean’s “Doctor Zhivago,” to Tod Browning’s chilling “Freaks,” from Rosalind Russell’s tour de force “Auntie Mame” to Giuseppe Tornatore’s loving tribute to the movies, “Cinema Paradiso.”

I know movies. I know what makes a film great. Naturally, my big TV night of the year is the Academy Awards.

The highlight of last night’s ceremony, for me, was Martin Scorsese’s “best director” win - after seven nominations.

I am livid over the right-wing’s attempt to demonize all things Hollywood and recall the rabidly religious’ attempt to bury one of the greatest stories ever put to film.

That movie was directed by Scorsese and, in the late critic Gene Siskel’s words, was “one of the 10 greatest films ever made.”

“The Last Temptation of Christ,” Scorsese’s film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel, had everything that makes a film great – direction, acting, editing, cinematography, screenplay, costume design, special effects and even a hauntingly beautiful musical score by Peter Gabriel.

Yet, few people actually saw this masterpiece.

The film was boycotted by the Religius Right with Jerry Falwell on Oprah telling his followers not to bother with watching it, because he had decided they shouldn’t.

Word went down from the RR leaders to local preachers, who passed it along to their congregations, that the movie was an evil attack on their faith and must be boycotted.

Even Blockbuster, one of the nation’s largest video rental chains, blackballed it.

A memory: while riding along the main drag here and stopping for a red light in front of Pic-A-Flick, the only rental store offering the film, I rolled down the window and asked a female protestor, “What is wrong with this movie?” “They made Jesus a homosexual” was her reply. Having secured and seen the movie for myself, I concluded she had not seen it and could only be referring to the scene where “the Judas kiss” fell on Jesus’ lips. Everything about this brief conversation summed up the mentality of a nationwide movement of persons who did not bother to see Scorsese’s film and judge it for themselves.

That is the power of the right.

Scorsse and Kazantzakis told a “what if” story – what if Jesus had abandoned his mission, come down from the cross and led a normal life - man’s pursuit of happiness and contentment?

That he did not, that he made the ultimate sacrifice was the powerful message of this film’s closing moments and was for me, a Christian, one of the greatest sermons I’d ever experienced.

At the time of its release, I remember the words of a movie critic (although I don’t recall his name):

“Scorsese has sparked more spiritual thinking with this film than he could have by going into the priesthood.”

That is the genius of a great director and the spark the right-wing wants to snuff out.
Congratulations to Martin Scorses on his win and on a body of work that has, undeniably, contributed to our entertainment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Despite the fact that Frodo has his own self-aggrandizing perspective on the cinema, he has long believed that movies are not entertainment. Rather, they are an expression of our times. Our movies, and our music are the "Impressionists," the "Cubists," and in them we see the "baroque" and the "rococo." The artists themselves display as did Van Gogh and Durer, and they bid for clients as did Titian and Michelangelo.
I just hate it when the narcisstic bastards stand around and pat each other on the back.
--Frodo (completing his 60th consecutive year of watching something other than the Oscars).