Will You Be One of the Unfortunate Zillions Who Misses "The New World"?

The New World‘s lack of Oscar nominations shows how utterly blind and unqualified Academy voters really are.

This is nothing new, I know. But just because the Academy members make a habit of shoving our faces in their ignorance and susceptibility to hysteria and political hype doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt each time they insult and misguide the many who think their judgments are actually meaningful. Some of you have told me I shouldn’t care about this. Do I care much about the Academy? No. But the Academy does influence how many people see a film, and when they pass by the chance to introduce people to something truly beautiful and nourishing, it is a crying shame. And I care about beauty. I want people to discover it when it happens. It’s happening here, in a big way.

Perhaps if Malick had found a way to spin it as a red-state-bashing film, then it would have suddenly been interpreted as “important.”

Listen to this:

Terrence Malick does not cut his conscience to fit the pattern of the day. No matter how many times he re-edits The New World, it remains outside current trends, obstinately politically unfashionable. Malick’s movie asserts a revisionist’s historical affirmation. Instead of delighting in the superficial, modern negativity of Syriana, Lord of War and The Constant Gardener, Malick offers agape.

I’m telling you, if you want to see a film that, twenty years from now, will be spoken of with reverence and awe, and people will shake their heads over the fact that Oscar didn’t appreciate it… you’ve gotta see The New World on the big screen.

On the desk beside my keyboard lies one of my most prized possessions: a ticket stub from the January 21, 9:30 p.m. showing of “The New World” at BAM-Rose Cinemas in downtown Brooklyn.

At this showing of this movie, at this time on this day, in this theater, in this borough of this city, I bore witness to American commercial cinema’s ability to astound, move and inspire masses of people – an ability that reached its fullest realization during the heyday of the blockbuster art film, the 1970s, but has rarely been exercised since.

The history of American studio blockbusters includes a handful of indisputable high watermarks, moments when entertainment and art merged to create not just a hit, but an origin point for new ways of thinking about, and making, popular cinema; a rallying point for anyone who still believes in the blockbuster’s ability — and responsibility — to deliver more than escapism; a secular house of worship for anyone who prizes ambition, mystery, and beauty over familiarity and neatness; a transformative experience that can be had for the price of a movie ticket, and that anyone who ever called him or herself a movie lover must seize now, or forever regret having missed.

“The New World” is a new watermark. It is a $50 million epic poem made with Time Warner’s money; it is an American creation myth that recontextualizes our past, present and future as fable, as opera, as verse. It is this era’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” — a musical-philosophical-pictorial charting of history’s slipstream and the individual’s role within it.

I also agree with this comment posted at the end of Seitz’s rave:

“Bitching about the Oscars is like complaining about the weather, but man, did Q’Orianka Kilcher get robbed. (I’d already made peace with Malick getting the shaft.) If Falconetti arrived today, she’d lose her nomination to Natalie Portman.”

Amen.

GreenCine is listing the other film lovers who are falling in love, one after another.

My boss greeted me when I came back to the office yesterday, telling me she’d just seen the best movie of the last several years. She had that look on her face that people have after they’ve just come back from a vacation touring New Zealand or Australia. I smiled. And then she said, in exasperation, “So… what… I don’t get it!” And I knew she’d just seen the nominations list.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • Bubba

    When a major studio releases a movie like V for Vendetta, which is (at best) ambiguous about acts of terrorism, I think I have good reason to doubt whether the wounds from 9/11 really are still too fresh to remind ourselves that there truly are people who want to butcher us by the thousand, and that we may have to do really hard things to stop them.

  • lbrodine

    I will be interested to see how the film is received, critically and comercially. My Hebrew Professor had the opportunity to fly to California a few weeks ago for a special screening with other experts on Middle East issues, and his reaction was difficult to discern. He was interviewed for the DVD extras, so I will most likely wait to see this on DVD. I did get the sense that he thinks it raises some good questions about the clash of Islamic thought with Western thought, but that the answers weren’t always very clear.

  • RC

    I think it is an interesting comparrison you make to Grizzly Man, and I can see the conenction you’re making…

    I agree I don’t want to see this in the theaters, but i could very conceivably seeing myself renting this and watching it in an enviornment I would find appropriate…especially if it is generally well received.

    –RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

  • Matt Page

    Hmm it was meant to be released over here last week, but no-where round here (like a 30 mile radius) seems to be showing it at all. V. Annoying.

    Matt

  • Anonymous

    One can almost literally see God’s hand guiding this film at every step. Theological questions are almost irrelevant, or in the very least secondary. There is an infallibilty here of authenticity and honesty. Seitz is only being reasonable to take this as his new ‘religion’. All sides are somehow treated fairly, and so the human condition is reflected perfectly, and therefore able to be overcome.

  • Tim Frankovich

    I’m not entirely sure how much of a role this plays, but talking to people I know, I get the following attitude:

    “Oh. Isn’t that another one of those movies showing how pure and perfect the Native Americans were until the evil Europeans showed up? I’m tired of being told my ancestors were evil.”

    Not that they believe the Europeans were pure and perfect, either, but over the last ten years or so, it’s been soooo emphasized, with people trying to get rid of Columbus Day, etc.

  • Sara Z.

    I have signed up. I’m doing Father Dave’s seminar. Congrats on finishing AC!

  • Anonymous

    I dislikedThin Red Line so I really didn’t know if I would like The New World. I loved it! It is a great film. It is a shame that the Academy overlooked it.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    By the way, Sara, have you signed up for the Glen Workshop yet?

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Heh. Thanks Sara.

    I’m in an office where I can’t work on my book right now. But as soon as I get home, we’re making the last edits and mailing the thing away.

  • Sara Z.

    Um. Don’t you have a deadline? :)


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