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Interview With Father Jonathan Morris, Fox News Analyst

ROME, MARCH 19, 2006 (Zenit) - Hollywood still doesn't get it -- judging by the recent Academy Awards.

So says Legionary Father Jonathan Morris, a news analyst for the Fox News Channel. He offers the U.S.-based television station ethical perspectives on current events.

The Ohio-born priest, stationed in Rome, shared with us his views on what the recent Oscars say about the state of the U.S. film industry.

Q: Were the recent Academy Awards in line with the type of movies people are actually watching? Could you cite examples? And what do those figures indicate?

Father Morris: There has been a disconnect between Hollywood and American values for a very long time. This year it just became more obvious.

If we look at the list of movies which received the most Oscar nominations and their corresponding ranking in box-office ticket sales, it's evident that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences thinks differently than the average American about what movies are worth seeing.

For instance, "Brokeback Mountain," a homosexual-themed movie, received an impressive eight nominations, and won three Oscars, yet it ranked only 27th place in box-office sales. "Crash" garned six nominations, but ended up 49th place at the box office.

"Good Night, and Good Luck" picked up six nominations, but was 90th at the box office. And then there's "Memoirs of a Geisha" which also received six nominations, but only managed 45th place in receipts.

"Crash" ended up with the coveted Best Picture award, but theater owners didn't share the Academy's enthusiasm. It played mostly to empty theaters.

Likewise, "Capote" was honored with five nominations, including Best Picture, and an Oscar, but it didn't even make the top 100 at the box office.

Q: And the movies that did do well in the box office?

Father Morris: The top four movies for gross ticket sales, in this order, were:

"Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith," which grossed $380 million gross, but received only one Oscar nomination;

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," which collected $288 million -- but only one nomination;

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," collected $288 million, but only three Oscar nominations;

And "War of the Worlds," which brought in $234 million and also managed three nominations.

A telling piece of information is that "March of the Penguins," nominated in Best Documentary category, actually grossed more money than any of the Best Picture nominees.

Q: Hollywood is a business. So why is it giving awards to products that aren't working?

Father Morris: Yes, Hollywood is a business, but it is more than a business.

It is an elite group of highly intelligent and wildly creative people that have been steeped in a subculture that has been sick for a very long time.

I know people in Hollywood. I've worked on Hollywood sets. The people are good, their talent is superb. But they are steeped in a sick culture and it has its effects. It changes the way we think and what we value. The Oscars reveal what Hollywood values.

It isn't a coincidence that the big moneymakers were devoid of big propaganda.

They didn't glorify homosexuality -- like "Brokeback" and "Capote." They didn't squeeze in 182 expletives -- like "Crash"; gratuitously bash America -- like "Syriana," which got two nominations; or feature subject matter unmentionable in this interview -- like "Geisha" and "Transamerica."

Q: Some might argue that the "best" movies aren't necessarily the biggest moneymakers, since they might demand more intellectual rigor to appreciate them. Could that be the case this year?

Father Morris: You are right to point out box-office revenues alone don't determine artistic worth. Pornography, for example, is a profitable industry, but it is bad in every way.

In the movie industry, however, people think twice about what they see. Going to the movies is an investment of time and money, and their investment is a reflection of what they value. The numbers show Americans don't think propaganda is worth their while.

On the one hand, people want to see movies which will help them relax, escape momentarily from the hardship of life. I think it's a legitimate desire. That's why science fiction movies like "Star Wars" have always been so big.

But there is more to film than escapism. We are attracted to learning something new about the world and about ourselves. The "Chronicles of Narnia" and Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" are just two examples. When Hollywood unites great art with great ideas the result is a blockbuster.

Q: What could you suggest to parents who are raising their children in an anti-Christian media environment?

Father Morris: Our mission is to be in the world without being of the world. We love to complain about the media. It's an easy target.

But there is a danger in spending our limited energy on criticizing and tearing down, without ever daring to build up. We need to shield our children from evil, but first and foremost we need to teach them the beauty of God and their faith. Children can't love what they don't know.

In the past, parents relied heavily on healthy environments to teach their children what is good and what is bad. The advent of the Internet age has changed all of that.

The new challenge represents a new opportunity: Be with your kids, teach them with your own example that the truth of the Gospel is the source of real joy.

* * *

Father Morris hosts a regular editorial column, a blog, for Foxnews.com, giving his perspective on top news stories. See www.foxnews.com/fatherjonathan.

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Hollywood, Media, Oscars, Morris, Film

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