Flash: USCCB *withdraws* its Golden Compass review
ph/t: Insight Scoop.
Today the U.S. bishops withdrew the review of the film “The Golden Compass,” which opened in theaters in the United States Dec. 7. The review was written by Harry Forbes and John Mulderig, the director and staff reviewer respectively of the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The review was released and posted on the CNS Web site Nov. 29. The USCCB gave no reason for withdrawing the review.
Since CNS is a distributor of media reviews of the OFB, it must respect the office’s withdrawal of its review. Effective Dec. 10, the review of “The Golden Compass” will not be available on the CNS Web site. It will not be included in subsequent listings of USCCB film reviews and classifications. - CNS News Hub
From that comment thread: "One shoe has dropped. The other would be either to replace Forbes or to issue a statement from the USCCB about the problems with THE GOLDEN COMPASS and why the USCCB doesn't appreciate the deceitful use of its review, as lame as the review was."
It's hard to appreciate how significant a change this represents. Back when the USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting released a positive review of Brokeback Mountain, there was scattered protest but the story didn't get all that much traction (at least, as I remember it). This time, however, New Line Cinema took the positive review of The Golden Compass that they issued and ran with it. New Line's ill-advised decision to use the endorsement of the "U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops" along with widespread criticism of the review from Catholics conspired to create a perfect storm of embarrassment for the USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting.
[As an aside: I do have to note that I remain continually surprised how many positive adjustments have come about as a result of the protests mounted in the Catholic blogosphere and elsewhere throughout this story. First New Line pulled their most-offensive online advertisements (though they still made it to the newspapers). Then they gave up on their efforts to have similar ads run in Catholic Publications. Now the USCCB is removing the offensive review (instead of tinkering with it a la the Brokeback Mountin example). Let's hope we haven't see the end of this little chain of victories.]
Frankly, without sugar-coating the mistakes that led up to the USCCB's Office for F&B releasing the faulty review, it's a rather gutsy move on the part of the USCCB to pull the review, because it essentially pulls the rug out from under an already-struggling movie. By the same token, however, perhaps the near-universal panning the movie has received by the mainstream establishment provided the USCCB with the "in" they needed to yank the review: i.e., Forbes and Mulderig not only ignored the film's anti-Catholic background, but also represented a pathetic lack of artistic sensibility - the prime quality professional movie reviewers are supposed to possess.
I've intentionally refrained from calling for the firing/resignation of Forbes and Mulderig over this controversy. I recognize that this review (especially when combined with Brokeback Mountain) seems to show a grave lack of responsibility on their part, but on the whole I've tended to see the USCCB reviews as mostly harmless. However, when those same reviews are taken almost at face value to mislead the faithful, that is far more serious. And sometimes, stupidity and ineptitude should cause you to lose your job as quickly as malevolence.
I would certainly join the many, many folks who have been saying that Stephen Gredanus of DecentFilms.com would do a far superior job. For one thing, he's already demonstrated good taste and firm orthodoxy.
And wouldn't that be a wonderful example of good things coming from bad circumstances? Consider: long after New Line's unfortunate foray into anti-Catholic fantasy has been relegated to the DVD sales rack, the USCCB might actually be running a functional, relevant, informed, respected and Catholic movie-reviewing service!
More on this developing story as I see it .... let's see if/when the other shoe drops.
In the meantime, I've been covering this topic (seemingly ad nauseum) here if you need to catch up.
update: This development puts me in mind of something I pointed out last Sunday:
"Awkwardly and ironically, Harry Forbes and John Mulderig of the USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting appear to have been left holding the bag by the mainstream reviewers."And what do you do with a bag when you're left holding it? Well, if you're smart, you drop it.
update 2: the Washington Times notices:
update 3: CNA chimes in, and LifeSiteNews demands an explanation for the USCCB.
The poor box-office performance and indifferent critical buzz — just a 44 percent share of favorable reviews at the popular site Rotten Tomatoes — put the church in the unexpected position of being one of the film's highest-profile champions. The original USCCB review, written by Mr. Forbes, has been cited in the film's ads.
"Secular critics were panning the movie as a poor piece of art, while Catholic critics were concerned with Pullman's underlying agenda," Mr. [Pete] Vere said. "Thus the USCCB review was out of touch with both the secular culture and the Catholic subculture. The bishops need to revisit how that office is run."
Meanwhile, Chris Kaltenbach of a Baltimore Sun blog provides a classic example of why this review needed to be withdrawn. Besides calling Bill Donahue "apoplectic", and confusing CNS for the USCCB's Office for F&B, he spends the rest of his time admiring Forbes and Mulderig's take on things. Oops.
update 4: Since several folks have asked: "Comments on the review of 'The Golden Compass' or its withdrawal by the USCCB can be sent to CommDept@usccb.org." - CNS News Hub
update 5: LifeSiteNews, which has a long track record for success in these types of initiatives, recommends contacting Cardinal George, the USCCB president, or his secretary:
From what I've heard, the best way to be noticed is a physical letter, followed by a phone call.
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Archdiocese of Chicago
155 E. Superior Street
Chicago, IL 60611