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FIRST-PERSON: Oscar is not so passionate

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–As many in the Christian community predicted, members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences have ignored Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ” for the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor categories in their nominations for the 77th Oscars. Why?

Pundits for both the secular and Christian press have acknowledged that Mr. Gibson succeeded in relaying the agony and ecstasy of the sacrifice made at Calvary. Beyond the countless articles written about the effect the film had on churchgoers and agnostics alike, the box office proved The Passion of The Christ was sending a message to corporate Hollywood that “If you tell it, they will come.”

As for the artistic merits of the picture, many reviewers found that Mel Gibson managed the behind-the-camera job impeccably. He orchestrated the proceedings with a deliberate slow pace in order to add tension. Aided by Caleb Deschannel’s superb Baroque-like cinematography, a potent score by John Debney and Jim Caviezel’s sincere yet muted performance, Gibson brought a mood and sensitivity never before captured on film when telling the story of Christ’s selfless mission.

One scene stands out as not only technically impressive, but emotionally electrifying: the end of Christ’s journey at Golgotha, a bird’s-eye view taking in the tableau, briefly becoming distorted, as if looking through water. Suddenly that optical illusion converts into a single teardrop falling to earth, signifying God’s pain. Many are referring to this episode as profound, claiming it gives a perspective of the Creator’s love for His Son and declaring what He was willing to sacrifice for mankind. An artistically original and spiritually truthful effect, it became a great movie moment.

Justly rated R for its graphic depiction of scourging, beating and crucifixion, The Passion of The Christ was meant to shock, unnerve and clarify the ordeal of Christ’s surrendering. But while the film showed the physical horrors Jesus endured, it wasn’t really about what mankind did to Him, but about what He did for us.

“I wanted the audience to feel like they were really there, witnessing the events as they had actually happened,” Gibson said in an interview this past year. “Once I started meditating on [Christ’s] passion, really going deep into it in my own mind and heart, then I began to understand it, to believe that’s the version I put on film,” Gibson added.

Snide, mocking remarks were found in several entertainment magazines concerning The Passion during the course of the year. Though many were made in jest, it became difficult not to interpret those remarks as downright hostile. Was this a signal that Passion would be shunned come Oscar time? Evidently.

Was the disdain aimed at the film or the filmmaker? Perhaps not, because Tinseltown is not a community that often slights a product or one of their own who manages to bring in $370 million.

Rather, this might suggest that the belittling was in response to something else. Perhaps, as many have suggested, it was spiritual blindness or rebellious pride harbored against not the artistry of Mel Gibson, but the Savior of the world. After all, to acknowledge Gibson’s Passion is to admit that there is validity to the greatest story ever told.

Earlier this month, it should be noted, The Passion of The Christ won the People’s Choice Award for Best Drama. The winners were determined by Internet voting — by we, the people.
Phil Boatwright, at [email protected], reviews film from a Christian perspective.

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  • Phil Boatwright