Gibson Rambles, 'Nightmare' Recurs, 'Queen' Reigns
by Scott Holleran
Mel Gibson
October 19, 2006

Burbank, California—Two poorly integrated business decisions last week included the ramblings of Mel Gibson, who, in a bid to recover his reputation—in time for his tribal movie, Apocalypto—granted his first post-tirade interview to Disney-owned ABC's Diane Sawyer.

The choice of venue was bad form. Disney, scheduled to release Mr. Gibson's latest display of primitivism in December, gave the director a platform to equivocate about his anti-Jewish views, essentially blaming the outburst on those who criticized his commercially popular religious picture, The Passion of the Christ.

Another off moment in so-called corporate synergy came when Chris Matthews, a bright, thoughtful broadcast journalist who hosts MSNBC's crackling political program, Hardball, had both Robin Williams and director Barry Levinson on to promote NBC Universal's clunker, Man of the Year. They appeared during a college tour visit to Georgetown University, with Matthews probing the Mrs. Doubtfire star's views on political science.

There is nothing inherently wrong with cross-promotion, but these appearances were a stretch. With communist Korea testing nuclear weapons and threatening to use them against the West, and with the ongoing sacrifice of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, two top network anchors covering movie stars with clear conflicts of interest underscores the sorry state of journalism and the warped priorities of the powers that be.

Screen Notes

Disney got it right with a three dimensional release of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Having seen the 3D version at Disney's El Capitan, it is safe to say this animated feature about a skeletal pumpkin king who naively decides to take a break from Halloween and commandeer Christmas from "Sandy Claws" is visually improved in this format. The glasses are part of the deal.

The transformation is technically impressive, with ghost towns and goblins—including that maggot-infested Oogie Boogie creature—popping off the screen until Jack, Sally and Zero the ghost dog find their way in Mr. Burton's twisted fable, which is set for re-release at 168 theaters. While not for everyone, and certain scenes definitely belong in the horror genre, it is similar to the director's superior live action movie, Edward Scissorhands.

A few more thoughts about Miramax's The Queen; it's positively brilliant the way Stephen Frears captures what made Princess Di hugely popular—has it been that long since she died in that awful tunnel collision?—and then make the audience care one whit about the queen after she blanked out in those early days after Diana's shocking death. Michael Sheen as Tony Blair is really key to the movie's success, playing a range of emotions, seizing the political opportunity without coming off oily and buying time for the crown to act appropriately.

Helen Mirren in The Queen
Though monarchy is not consistent with a free republic, it is possible for kings and queens to reflect the spirit of a nation. That happened with this particular Queen Elizabeth in the wake of the 9/11 attack on America.

In the difficult days that followed the assault (and details are admittedly blurry on this point), the usual statements of support poured in from around the civilized world, including kind words from France and from our friends in Japan. But it was the swift, simple gesture from Queen Elizabeth of England that left this proud American deeply moved when she ordered—for the first time in Britain's history—that "God Bless America" be played at Buckingham Palace. That signal from across the pond meant so much—and it is the perfect postscript to this distinguished motion picture's sympathetic portrait.


Scott Holleran's Past Columns

Review - The Queen

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