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Best and worst movies of 04
Entered on: January 3, 2005 10:42 AM by Swerb
Here's the link to my article, which ran in Sunday's paper, if you're interested in reading it...:

NEWS 248 - 13 Comments
From: Swerb Entered on: January 3, 2005 10:45 AM
...and here are some of the responses:  
John Douglas and John Serba once again proved how much they are out of touch with the Red State's and Counties across this great land, when both of them rated "The Passion of the Christ" in their recent 2004 Movie reviews as the worse of 2004!  
Like millions of Believers around the world, I saw this movie and was touched deeply. To have not been affected in some way other than both Johns rating it the worse movie of 2004 and calling it "one of the most overrated films ever made" and "Mel Gibson's extreme religious zealotry translates onto the big screen in a nearly pornographic display of spattered blood, broken bones and shredded flesh" is incredulous and ludicrous to say the least. This sounds more like they are coldly reviewing the Texas Chain Saw Massacre movie.  
Come on guys, the worse film of 2005? Give me a break. I went to some you rated high over the past year and sorry, you can be wrong like on this one.  
As a former film and video producer, I know Mel Gibson captured and portrayed the realism of the events of Jesus like the Bible tells us it happened in his screenplay, casting, directing, photography, editing etc.  
Certainly Mel Gibson interjected some of his own interpretations of what happened where the events may not have been totally clear, but the fact remains, John Douglas and John Serba owe us all an apology for taking a cheap shot at a great film because they never understood it. I will fight to my last breath to defend their right to write what they did. And hopefully the Grand Rapids Press will publish my words to counter theirs.  
....Repulsive, the word that came to mind while reading John Douglas' and John Serba's take on the best and worst films of 2004.  
John Douglas had the audacity to rate "The Passion of the Christ" as the worst film of 2004, but lines ahead of that he praised the movie "Vera Drake" as being one of the best. He claims The Passion to be one of the most overrated films ever made, that's a pretty lofty claim, since there have been hundreds of thousands created. But I'm sure John Douglas has seen them all and knows what he's talking about. Who am I as a college age moviegoer to question his sheer intellect? Maybe I don't have my priorities straight. Maybe I should hold a movie about an abortionist killing innocent lives for the god of convenience over a story based on history and fact of a Savior who was brutally crucified for you and I.  
John Serba went on to give his "theological" opinion in a movie review; it was quite entertaining. He says, "Silly me, I thought the story of Jesus Christ was about a peaceful man's noble sacrifice." Maybe he should read the story as in depth as he watches his movies, and then get back to us.  
What has Hollywood come to? Movie critics who praise films that project abortionists as heroes, but mock one film that realistically portrays the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Actually, I really don't know what I'm all worked up about. I should expect such things. Asking a film critic to analyze a movie is like asking a toddler to analyze a Picasso. The end result is sheer ignorance and mumbo jumbo that fills a lot of wasted space; space that is hopefully used in the future for something enlightening and worthwhile.  
Of course, any critic's rating of best and worst films is a subjective  
exercise and everyone's entitled to his opinion. But it still amazes me  
that two of your local critics would rate "Passion of the Christ" as the  
worst film of the year. They must be aware that:  
1. Some of their better known colleagues (i.e. Roger Ebert, etc.)  
gave this film four stars  
2. Already ranks among the all-time top ten domestic U.S. box  
office blockbusters  
3. This market is one of the most notably church-going in the  
country. That it's obvious that many readers hold a strongly favorable  
view of the film  
In the face of all this to rank "Passion of the Christ" as the worst of  
2004 while "Kill Bill 2" is best or second best speaks volumes and is the  
height of in-your-face antagonism against one's customers (i.e. readers of  
the Grand Rapids Press). Most any negative repercussions will be  
self-inflicted and richly deserved, in my opinion.  
To not like the film or rate it among the best is the critic's  
prerogative. But to rate this particular film as worst will outrage many.  

From: Swerb Entered on: January 3, 2005 10:49 AM
And one more:  
Hello, I would like for this to be forwarded to John Serba in regards to his comments on 'The Passion of the Christ.'  
Dear John Serba,  
I understand that I will probably not be the only email or letter you receive, but I still feel that I should send this anyway. As I was reading your picks for the best and worst of '04 I was delighted to see 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' on there as I thought that was a very well done movie. 'Spider-man 2' was also an excellent film and I really wanted to see 'Sideways' but haven't had the chance.  
When I saw that 'The Passion of the Christ' was your first pick for worst movie of the year I was bummed cause I loved that movie, but I understand that people are allowed their opinions. However your reasons for why it was the worst movie, well they were just ridiculous. The part that got me the most was when you said "Silly me, I thought the story of Jesus Christ was about a peaceful man's noble sacrifice."  
Here I want to pause and ask if you've ever read about the last days of Jesus? Have you picked up your Bible and read about what they did to him? The Roman Guards were well known as the most ruthless tormenters of their time, going to great lengths to bring pain to others. The story of Jesus is not a peaceful one, all his life he was persecuted and those that followed him were persecuted. Jesus himself was peaceful, that was his message, love one another. This movie was not about Jesus' life but about his death. About all the pain and torment he went through for us, to die for our sins. I know that this is not an entirely accurate depiction of his death, but it is biblical.  
Jesus Christ was a peaceful, loving man and he is a peaceful and loving Savior. The things that happened to him on the day that he died for our sins where not peaceful or noble. Mr. Gibson wanted to show us the reality, in a time where reality TV is such a huge thing. Mel Gibson gives us the closest thing to reality in his film and we bash him for it. Never before have I sat in a movie theater that was so quiet as I did when I saw this film, and it was a packed show. I worked in a movie theater when this came out and EVERY showing that sold out people would walk out with tears in their eyes. Not a word would be uttered as they left the theater, got in their cars and drove home. I saw this happen almost 8 times a day (there were multiple prints) never before have people been moved to silence by a movie. It is said that sometimes people attack things that make them feel inferior or convicted. Jesus came in the! flesh to set us free from sin, this should make us feel convicted. Convicted enough to change, not to ignore the truth which is shown in this film. Every single one of those lashes from the whips of the guards was for another one of my sins, of our sins. All the blood he shed was for us, this is not a story you can tell without blood shed.  
One last thing, I also saw that you picked Kill Bill vol 2 as one of your favorites for '04 and I would just like to know how you can refer to the 'Passion' as "...a nearly ############ display of spattered blood..." and then not say the same thing about Kill Bill? To even use the word "############" just seems a bit overzealous.  
I would love to talk with you more about the life and death of Jesus if you would be interested in listening. Thank you for taking the time to read this.  
God Bless
From: Creeko Entered on: January 3, 2005 11:11 AM
Lets get this last guy signed up on JA. That oughta spice things up a little!
From: Ross Entered on: January 3, 2005 11:57 AM
Swerb, I love you. I wonder if you could get the same reaction from the zealots just by going "Bawk bawk Passion bawk bawk CRAP!"  
I could pick apart all the hate mail point-by-point, but there's no real reason to. Suffice it to say, not one of them presents a valid defensible reason that Swerb and Douglas are in any way unjustified in nominating the Passion as a shitty film.  
That said, these are my favorite passages:  
I love how "most any negative repercussions" will be "richly deserved"! How very Christian. That sounds to me like a call to incite violence.  
I also like how it seems that the conventional wisdom among these ignoramuses is that the responsibility of a newspaper writer is to say things that the readers want to hear.  
I do love this one though:  
"I know that this is not an entirely accurate depiction of his death, but it is biblical."  
Also, not knowing the difference between "worse" and "worst" only serves to strengthen my smug feeling of intellectual superiority over the faithful masses...  
I think this has finally inspired me to watch the damn movie...  
Keep it comin', man!
From: BigFatty Entered on: January 3, 2005 12:55 PM
Ha! Great job Swerb! I too like the response  
"I know that this is not an entirely accurate depiction of his death, but it is biblical."  
His was a nice letter though :)  
I have another review - not to be out-done by Swerb! I rented 'Kent Park' last night. It was my understanding that it was banned from the US market because of sexual content. Thats all I needed to see it! It is playing in theaters here, but renting it was easier.  
Well, I could see why it will never play in theaters.... It was very graphic, borderline porno at some points. In a nutshell, there was no story. Instead the movie tried to shock viewers with somewhat predictable situations. It was pretty much a series of 'shocking' scenes linked only by a circle of friends in a small California town.  
Two scenes are worth watching, but not worth watching the whole movie. The first is every teenager's dream. This teen has sex with this super-hot MILF! It was quite graphic with him going downtown. This kid barely looked 14 - I have a hard time believing he was over 18 in real life. She was super hot - bonus note - the MILF was his girlfriend's mom!  
The second scene is every teen's nightmare. Imagine your hot girlfriend tying you up for a little bondage. Things are are getting pretty steamy, when her crazy, bible-thumping dad comes home and catches you. He then procedes to whoop your ass while you are tied up!  
One of the last scenes is good too - a threesome with 1 young hottie and 2 young punks.  
All in all the chicken says - BAWK BAWK CRAP!!! But if you just watch the listed scenes - it is a entertaining short of sorts.  
Back to you Swerb!
From: The Bone Entered on: January 3, 2005 4:32 PM
I didn't realize John Douglas listed Passion as his worst as well. Bravo!  
Although Ross already pointed this quote out, I love it so much I must revisit it:  
"I know that this is not an entirely accurate depiction of his death, but it is biblical."  
Godamn this one cracks me up.
From: Swerb Entered on: January 17, 2005 2:05 PM
Here's another letter I received. This guy is nuts:  
Dear John (Douglas and Serba), Mr. Jefchak and Ms. Craker  
RE: The Best and the Worst Movies in 2004  
You guys do a pretty D-Cent job of reviewing movies, keep it up. First, so you know where I am coming from, I am a practicing Roman Catholic. To paraphrase from one of my favorite lines-spoken by one of my favorite movie heroes (SFPD Badge # 2211); You should ask yourself one question--why did millions of people go to see "The Passion of The Christ," some of them more than once--likes me? With all of that negative publicity why did they go see it in the first place and then after seeing it spread the word to their friends and neighbors? World sales are over $600 million. Doesn't that cause you to wonder how this could have happened with such a violent and bloody movie?  
Yes, a few of my best friends, confidants and "spiritual" advisors thought it somewhat bloody or because of the publicity did not even go see the movie. Those that saw it, however, I don't think, they would go so far as to say that it was ". . . a nearly pornographic display of spattered blood, . . ." (Serba, Press, 1/2/05) Pornographic ??? Did you guys say that about "Reservoir Dogs," "Pulp Fiction," or Kill Bill 1 and 2? Let's be consistent. A well known secret--for the record, I loved the first two movies but refused to see the "Kill Bill" movies. Kinda keep that to yourselves as it might ruin my reputation of being a lovable, warm, "sensitive" kind of guy.  
From all the reviews I have read, and I read a lot of them, from the Internet, magazines and from articles dealing on the subject, I have come to one inescapable conclusion: the more secular (or anti-Catholic) or politically correct the authors were the more they hated the movie. Present company, of course, excluded.  
No other movie has come close to bringing together such disparate groups of Christians to truly engage in meaningful dialogue about Christ and our relationship with Him and his relationship with us. I deliberately highlighted the word "meaningful" to distinguish these dialogues from the usual conferences of different religious persuasions (or whatever) where the participants are the usual groups and the same "politically correct" individuals mouthing the same old mantras and accomplishing nothing much of significance except making themselves feel really good about each other and sometimes giving annual awards to each other; but, when challenged will say: ". . . at least we're trying to do something about (this or that problem). . ."  
William F. Buckley Jr. recently wrote: " . . . The opposition to nativity scenes at Christmas time, or to the singing of songs that focus on the manger and the stilled star that hung over it, embraces a wide group of people. Among them are secularists who have drunk deep of ACLU doctrines over the years and have convinced themselves that any theological exercise in public circumstances is both a deprivation of their right to [a] seamless agnosticism, and a personal affront to believers in competing doctrines. In such language you can't say a Christian prayer without offending the Jew or the Muslim." [ National Review on Line, December 21, 2004, Anti-semitism? Passion vs.Fahrenheit, for starters.] I would add that this is another excellent definition of a Liberal or what tries to pass as a "Progressive" these days.  
This cabal of secularists, anti-Christian, and Anti-Catholic bigots did their best to prevent this movie from ever being exhibited. Early on in this controversy I called a well known local Rabbi and asked him why these [names of persons and organizations omitted] were spending so much of their time, their resources and their energy attacking this movie because of its "alleged" anti-semitic theme or portrayals of Jews and worrying over possible violence towards Jews if this movie was given wide circulation? I said all they had to do to find real vile, vitriolic, venomous anti-Jewish bigotry was to go to any "liberal" institution of "higher" learning (such as the one in Ann Arbor) and those "elitist" East Coast colleges and universities to find the real threats to Jews. I concluded by telling him that if these folks looked under their beds tonight, they wouldn't find "Right-wing", conservative Republican ev! angelical dunderheads but members of the extreme radical left which has been increasing its influence and power within the Democrat Party.  
I believe the very small number of Christians who thought the movie was too violent had not given very deep thought to The Passion of "Their" Christ nor were they familiar with punishments that have been meted out since the beginning of recorded history. Had they seen Braveheart, (Directed by Gibson)--all they had to do was to recall what those "civilized" Brits did to William Wallace (Mel Gibson) prior to his death and what they did with his body afterwards, they would have had a better understanding of what happened at crucifications.  
You should be asking yourselves why did all of these folks purchase a video for their library? Are they on to something that you should be exploring more throughly? I think a lot of these secularists (or neo-pagans, as I sometimes call them) are truly afraid to investigate this Christ because to do so might force them into having to make some serious changes in their beliefs and quite possibly the direction of their lives. As The Man said: "Seek and you shall find." He wasn't referring to material things--of that I can be certain of.  
A final comment or two--or three or more! To Mr. Serba, who ranked "Kinsey" in a tie with "The Incredibles": "Kinsey" budgeted at $11M, opened on November 14, 2004 and as of January 2, 2005 has grossed a whopping $6,734,321! I agree with you on "The Incredibles"--I think I enjoyed it more than did my 8 year old grandson.  
And, to you, John Douglas, my long time acquaintance, who rated "Vera Drake" [a movie about "a woman who secretly helps women out when they have problems with a pregnancy." 3# on your Best of 2004, I quote Film Journal International reviewer, Lewis Beale: " . . . [Vera Drake] comes off as didactic and outdated. It's almost as if a propaganda film made by Planned Parenthood had resurfaced after decades in storage." For another viewpoint as to why "Vera Drake" bombed at the box office, read Richard Cohen's review on another bomb, "Alfie," which appeared in the December 15, 2004 Grand Rapids Press. Since "Vera" opened 14 weeks ago it has grossed a grand total of $2,162,855! To put this "block-buster" into perspective-- assuming an admission price of only $5.00 this means only 432,570 tickets were sold. It appears that even hard core feminists and Planned Parenthood types refused to attend this "wonderful"! movie about a "brave" abortionist. And, last but not least, let us not forget poor old Oliver Stone who has been blaming the cloud of "fundamentalism" that covers America for the box office bombing of his "Alexander."  
I confess to truly feeling the pain of liberals and the radical left. I must further confess that I revel in these feelings--the shrinks tell me that I suffer from schadenfreude--but, that it is not my fault that I suffer from this malady. They think it is probably because I am a victim for not having a male teacher until the 7th grade!!!!  
As the final curtain finally comes down on this email, may I wish each of you the best of God's blessings upon you and yours in 2005.  
Very truly yours,  
Don "Zeke" Zerial  
January 16, 2005  
PS: This was planned as a short email but the more I got into it the more I couldn't stop myself; and, then I decided to cc this to the other GR Press entertainment columnists. A special thanks to Ruth Butler whose column, years ago,turned me on---"To Brisco County Jr." Thanks a million, Ruth.  
Congratulations to Mr. Douglas and Mr. Jefchak for listing "Hero" in your top 5. You fellows were absolutely correct on that one. You're right because you agree with me! Where were you Mr. Serba on that one? And, to you Ms. Craker, nice going with "Collateral" at #3 for best picture. Where were you other guys on that one. Ok, I know, I know-- that shoot-em up in that nightclub scene was beyond ridiculous, but . . .  
My first prayer for 2005 is that Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" wins Best Picture at the Academy Awards. "Do you believe in miracles?" I do!
From: The Bone Entered on: January 17, 2005 3:26 PM
I have yet to see Passion so for all I know it may be a decent flick - although I doubt it. With that aside, popularity of a movie or idea or movement doesn't make it right or just or good. Think about the popularity of torturing and buring people at the stake during the dark ages just because some superstitous Catholics thought these people were witches or in some way in league with the devil. Or the popularity of Hitler in 1930s 1940s Germany. Not to mention Islam is the most rapidly growing religion in the world - fuck them too.  
Zeke takes a sarcastic little jab at liberals at the end. I'm sure he associates them with atheist or agnostics - not necessarily true. The point is, he and the others who contributed to the $600 million in sales of Passion would have no problem setting scientific thought back 500 years.  
He has the right to say what he wants about the movie and his opinions. I'm glad I live in a country where we have freedom of expression. The counter to that is if you are going to put out superstiotious quackery, you better brace yourself for an intellectual bitch slap.  
What needs to be done is to abolish the tax free status of organized religion . Like I said, you can believe whatever bullshit you want but you get no special treatment and if you are going to put out your ideas publicly then you should be subjected to a counter arguement.
From: Swerb Entered on: January 17, 2005 3:55 PM
On the flip side, Bone, aren't organizations like Americans United, FRFF and the ACLU technically not-for-profit? If so, they get tax exempt status too, right?
From: Ross Entered on: January 17, 2005 4:27 PM
That was quite the manifesto... what a rambling bunch of gibberish. I have to ask... what was his point? Bone makes a good point about popularity vs quality... though I'm not sure that was actually the guy's reason for writing. I'm not sure what it was. Needless to say the guy is clearly F'd in the A.  
Proud to be Neo-Pagan #1
From: The Bone Entered on: January 17, 2005 5:51 PM
Fuck the ACLU and FRFF - make em pay taxes too. Although their agendas are different, the ACLU, FRFF, and all religious organizations are basically promote their ideals. Just so happens ACLU and FRFF promote freedom and religious organizations promote "salvation" through oppression. Whatever, I think we ought to try out a new system of taxation anyway. National sales tax. I don't see why we should tax someone's productivity. I'd rather tax someone's yacht. It would be tough for rich bitches to get out of that one. It would encourage savings. If you are poor and too stupid to refrain from buying a $40,000 SUV on 20 inch dubs, you ought to be in the poor house. At least you are contributing to the treasury. Of sourse this is all simplified. You probably don't want to tax food and medicine and that type of shit. Where we talking about a response to a movie?
From: Swerb Entered on: January 17, 2005 11:52 PM
I dunno, I just see the guy's letter as a weak argument or rebuttal against our choices. The one thing I did manage to glean from his rambling prose - or maybe I'm just prompted to reevaluate my thoughts somewhat - is that I wasn't entirely fair to The Passion of the Christ. If there's ANYTHING good about the film, it's that, at least for myself, it prompted a lot of positive discussion. But that doesn't really have anything to do with the quality of the film - it was still fucking awful, whether it was Jesus getting whipped to shreds or some random asshole, on top of the fact that it's trying to present some kind of bullshit absolute, unquestionable Biblical truth.  
Neo-Pagans? It's amazing what one person deems an insult is completely benign to another.  
And Bone, I'm amused by your response. I do agree, though. Oh, and one other thing, just to reiterate my basic stance. I'm not anti-Christian. I'm anti-religion. Fuck them all. Christianity deserves the beatings it takes from you and I and Bert because we're surrounded by it every day. But if I lived in the middle east, I'd say F Islam in the A without impunity.
From: Ross Entered on: January 18, 2005 7:15 AM
...except you'd be dead in most middle eastern countries for saying so. But let's be clear: that's not because Christianity is better than Islam, it's because this country is a freak of nature that somehow happened to be founded during a narrow window where Enlightenment principles prevailed long enough to allow us to draft a secular constitution, much to the chagrin of today's wannabe-theocrats.

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