Story by: Jack Foley
MEL Gibson's biblical epic, The
Passion of the Christ, and Michael Moore's documentary, Fahrenheit
9/11, have been hailed as two of the most significant cultural
milestones of 2004 by film professionals in America.
The American Film Institute (AFI) praised both films for inspiring
national debate, stating that they had 'tossed Hollywood convention
out of the window'.
In film terms, both movies were among the talking points of 2004,
extending their reach into religious and political circles.
Gibson's movie, which marked a labour of love for the actor-turned-director,
provoked the wrath of Jewish groups, who claimed it was anti-Semitic,
but was embraced by many religious leaders for helping to turn
people's attentions back to the story of Jesus.
The movie chronicled the final 12 hours in the life of Christ
in frequently graphic detail, becoming criticised for its high
levels of violence as well. But, despite struggling to find a
distributor while being made, the film broke box office records
in America, where it emerged as one of the biggest grossers of
Likewise, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 had to fight to win
a release, before going on to set a new record at the box office
for a documentary, as well as earning Moore the coveted Palme
d'Or at Cannes.
His film, released deliberately to coincide with the US elections,
took a look at America, post September 11, 2001, and alleged business
links between President Bush and the Bin Laden family. It also
claimed to feature the first footage of American soldiers abusing
Iraqi prisoners, and put the political system under the microscope.
It was embraced by Americans upon
its release but did not have as much sway with the voters as Moore
would have liked.
In its round-up of 2004, the AFI also cited the death of actor,
Marlon Brando, as a significant
cultural milestone, as well as the changing landscape of TV news
Referring to Brando's death on July 1, at the age of 80, the
13-strong jury concluded that the art of screen acting would not
have two chapters - Before Brando and After Brando.
The jury went on to make note of Brando's 'raw hypnotic energy'
and his ability to create characters 'that will live forever in
the annals of film history'.
Turning its focus onto news coverage, the AFI picked out the
final broadcasts of veterans Tom Brokaw, Barbara Walters as incidents
of note, as well as the impending retirement of CBS news anchor,
Dan Rather, noting its fear that the news landscape might change
to a day where newscasters are 'more personalities than journalists'.
The AFI also questioned the long-term viability of evening news
broadcasts, which faced increasing competition from 24-hour news
channels and the internet - a changing landscape which is also
beginning to affect the UK media, given Sky's emerging dominance
on cable channels, as well as the growing force of the Internet.
Also worthy of note by the judges this year was what they perceived
to be the growing influence of US broadcast regulator, the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC), which was beginning to have a
'profoud effect on television'.
Citing Janet Jackson's breast exposure during February's Super
Bowl as a prime example of how the creative community had begun
to self-censor itself, the judges also criticised ABC affiliates
for refusing to air Steven Spielberg's critically-acclaimed and
Oscar-winning World War Two epic, Saving
Private Ryan, uncut for fears of possible fines.