Winner: Computer-animated movies. "Shrek 2" was the king of the box office in a very hot year for movies, raking in a cool $438.4 million at last count. "The Incredibles" was dazzling, a thrill for adults and children alike, and is closing in on the $250 million mark. "Shark Tale" has grossed $160 million; "Polar Express" stands at $125 million, and climbing. "SpongeBob SquarePants" chalked up another $75 million or so. Once again, Michael Medved's annual question demands an answer: If Hollywood cares only about money, and "G" and "PG" movies are the big money-makers, why isn't Hollywood making more of these films?
Loser-Winner: Howard Stern. The shock jock is no longer "King of All Media" as he flees FM radio in the wake of growing national outrage over his brand of filth over the public airwaves. On the other hand, Stern has announced a $100 million deal with Sirius satellite radio, beginning in 2006, which will make him personally a big winner -- assuming he doesn't bankrupt his employer in the process.
Loser: Viacom. In 2004, Viacom gave us a) the CBS Super Bowl scandal, and contrary to its very public, apologetic statements when hauled before Congress, CBS is appealing the FCC fines on the legal grounds that there was nothing indecent about a woman being stripped topless in front of tens of millions of children; b) the "F" word live on prime time's "Big Brother"; the Victoria's Secret underwear show, which angered millions; and c) an entire year of Howard Stern-MTV-Comedy Central filth. Oh, almost forgot, d) the announcement that it is launching a gay MTV spin-off network in 2005.
Loser: Planet Toys, the makers of "CSI" toys for kids. "CSI" is an adult TV hit in three different versions, each featuring forensic-scientist heroes solving crimes. Planet Toys, however, is marketing its "CSI" products directly to children -- if they're over 8 years of age. What can these little kids get under the Christmas tree this year? How about the CSI Facial Reconstruction Kit, complete with skull, eyeballs, ear holes and modeling clay, where you reconstruct some long-decayed head for identification purposes? "Ho-ho-homicide" was the appropriate headline in the St. Petersburg Times.
Winner: The audiences for "The Passion of the Christ." Mel Gibson deservedly prospered handsomely for his heroic cinematic labors, but the biggest winners were the moviegoers themselves. They came in droves, and then came again, and left quietly, moved to tears, bowed by their humility, inspired to seek greater holiness. Hollywood never embraced Gibson's masterpiece and is already snubbing it at the awards ceremonies. Someday, however, it will just have to accept that it created a masterpiece.