Tolkien's Epic Wins 11 Overdue Oscars; Passion "Grosses" Greatly
It's been quite a week for Catholic artists at the movies.
The box-office crown was won by a passionate Catholic for his film about Jesus saving the world from sin, while eleven Oscars were handed out to the makers of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (thanks to the not-so-Catholic director Peter Jackson.)
First, let's take a look at the Oscars.
Tolkien fans would like to thank the Academy …
"It's a clean sweep!" Steven Spielberg exclaimed when he opened the Oscar envelope and saw the name of this year's Best Picture winner—The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Throughout its history, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been notorious for choosing realism over fantasy. No fantasy film has ever won Best Picture.
That all changed when the third Rings film to be nominated for the award finally earned the appreciation of Oscar voters. To make the victory even sweeter, the Best Picture award was the eleventh Oscar given to the film that night, tying the record set by Ben-Hur and Titanic, and bringing the trilogy's Oscar total to a whopping seventeen—the most Oscars ever collected by a franchise.
With a sizeable crowd of the actors, crew, and the two screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens smiling and teary-eyed behind him, Peter Jackson accepted the award with his characteristic humility, gratitude, and sincerity. He joked about the broadcast "delay" that was in effect (in case of "wardrobe malfunctions" or inappropriate language) saying, "Fantasy is one F-word that the five-second delay won't do anything to." He thanked the Academy for "seeing beyond the trolls, wizards and hobbits."
For Lord of the Rings fans, there may have been a twinge of sadness as the program closed. This will be the first year since 2001 without a new Middle-earth movie that can qualify for competition, even though a DVD edition of The Return of the King promises to add another hour (!!) to the film's duration. (Jackson has reportedly completed a four-hour and twelve-minute cut.)
Peter Jackson's masterpiece is, for many Tolkien fans, a dream come true. Count me among them—I've been a fan of hobbits since I was eight years old. As a teen, re-reading the series, I hoped for an Oscar-caliber adaptation of the saga, even dreaming that Ian Holm would someday be cast as Bilbo Baggins, and wishing that somebody would make it look like Alan Lee's Middle-earth artwork. Holm was cast as Bilbo, Alan Lee was hired as a designer, and oodles of Oscars have been won. It seemed a ridiculous dream, but it all came true. It seems there really is "another will at work."
In my Oscar predictions article for CT Movies, I had guessed that Oscar's anti-fantasy bias would continue to hold and the over-the-top performances of Mystic River would give it the edge over Rings. It was the only major award I failed to guess correctly. I have never been so happy to be wrong.
To further explore the achievement of Peter Jackson and Company, check out this new article by Steven D. Greydanus of Decent Films.
For a summary of the Oscars, see this recap posted Monday at Christianity Today Movies.
This week, Mel Gibson's movie about Jesus became the top-grossing feature … in more ways than one.
Mainstream critics continue to scourge The Passion of The Christ with cruel and unusual punishment. One even called it "a Christian snuff film." While they try to convince the world that the movie is "religious porn"—too gross to merit any attention—the movie went on to become a box office champion par excellence, outrunning all predictions and stunning the movie industry.