[Written while flying home Sunday night.]
Ah, Butt-Numb-A-Thon, thy name is really hard to explain to friends when they ask you where you’re going for the weekend. It’s all worth it, though.
I think rather than do the strict chronological rendition, I’ll talk about the two insane surprises first.
Yes, we saw Return of the King. It was absolutely unquestionably magnificent. It was head and shoulders above Fellowship. It’s not perfect; in my eyes, Peter Jackson didn’t quite resolve the Eowyn/Arwen/Aragorn triangle cleanly. But that is quite literally my only caveat. Everything else was perfect, perfect, perfect. At the time I write this, I still haven’t slept. I’m sure there are better words for this movie. I just don’t have them, right now. I counted seven ovations during the movie, and as it wound to a conclusion, all you could hear in the theater were people crying. Perfect.
Then Harry brought out Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Phillipa Boyens.
Yeah, no shit. The minds behind the trilogy, right there up on stage in a little 250 person auditorium. This surprise was met with serious approbation. The three of them answered a few questions and then settled down with the rest of us to watch The General with a live band providing music. That was pretty awesome too. Afterwards, Peter Jackson gave Harry the smoke grenade that Robert Armstrong uses to take down King Kong, and the New Zealanders all flew off to Berlin for the next stop on the press junket.
For the record, Peter Jackson thinks Bombadil fans are dumb. He also regrets leaving out the barrow-wight scene. He thinks the extended versions and the theatrical versions are both valid, and he doesn’t prefer one or the other; he cuts the theatrical versions for movie theaters and the extended versions for DVD viewing, because he thinks the experience is different. He appears to be kind of tired of talking about leaving out the Saruman death scene. And some goob asked if Peter did the battle scenes while Phillipa and Fran did the emotional stuff. The women explained pretty gleefully that Peter’s really a chick and is the most emotional of them all.
OK. About sixteen hours after that, for the final movie of the evening, we got our other huge surprise. Everyone in the theater was convinced we were gonna finish up with Kill Bill Volume 2. Tarantino’s a friend of Harry’s, it’d been a night of revenge movies and gore, so what else could Harry show?
Answer: The Passion of the Christ, by Mel Gibson. I believe we’re the first secular audience to see the thing. It’s a work in progress; he has special effects to add, and the music was temporary, and so on. Still, it was the complete story.
I’n not really competent to judge the accuracy of the controversy swirling around this movie. I was falling asleep all through it, waking up and seeing Jim Caviel as Christ being scourged on the screen, wounds covering his body. Surreal experience. He certainly depicts the Jewish leaders as cruel and merciless. I don’t think, based on what filtered through my brain, that I’d call it anti-semitic. You can’t tell that story without the corrupt establishment and the suffering of Christ. Gibson didn’t, in my eyes, use that corruption as evidence that the Jewish religion is corrupt. It’s not a preachy movie, either. It’s very much a movie about his faith, and I admired it’s honesty and conviction more than I thought I would.
After Passion, Harry brought Mel Gibson out to do a Q&A. 250 person theater, right there up on stage, yeah. I’d been more or less awake for 24 hours, and I’d just seen a brutal unflinching picture of the suffering of Christ on the cross. And Mel Gibson was up there answering questions. Surreal doesn’t begin to describe it.
He seems like a really nice guy. He’s really religous, and he’s not afraid to show it, but he didn’t preach. He talked about how everyone’s been wounded sometime in their lives, and he’d certainly been wounded, and he healed his wounds through meditating on the wounds of Christ. Passion is his meditation. He didn’t want to preach, he just wanted to talk about things that matter to him, and his God happens to matter to him a lot. And he can afford to talk pretty loudly.
Someone asked if he felt like he was getting too old for this shit, and he grinned and said it sure felt like that sometimes. I gotta say, for a deeply religious guy who’s finishing his core statement of belief, he did a great job of connecting to a pretty cynical atheistic crowd. It took balls to show us an unfinished print of his movie, but he did it.
There’s a lot more to be said about this movie and Mel Gibson. There’re plenty of things about him that disturb me. However, I am damned well going to give him credit for bringing his unfinished movie to a skeptical secular audience and volunteering to answer our questions about it. He wasn’t there to push his views on us and I can’t help but think that talking is one of the most important things we can do to bridge the gap. If Gibson has anti-semitic beliefs, he’s not going to change his mind because of the ADL. He’s more likely to change his mind because of honest conversations. OK, my preaching is done; I may write more about this later.
A while into the Gibson Q&A, me and Jamie had to sneak out to get to the airport on time. The sneaking didn’t quite work, so now I can say that Mel Gibson has made a wisecrack on my behalf.
Hm. This is intensely long, so I’ll move my play by play of the night into a separate post.