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Britannia rules TV comedy at the Globes, Frodo and Gollum both get rings, and Bush has groupies? Plus: RIP, King of Kink.

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Afternoon Briefing:

OK, one last Golden Globes moment before we move on to the next awards show: Since no one else mentioned it, my favorite moment was when “The Office” won for best comedy television series and the co-creator and star, Ricky Gervais, got up to accept. Obviously an inherently witty man, he seemed genuinely surprised at the win. He ended by quipping, “I’m not from these parts … I’m from a little place called England. We used to run the world before you.” (BBC)

Fidel Castro and the Sundance Kid: Robert Redford was in Cuba over the weekend for a screening of “The Motorcycle Diaries” — a film he produced about Che Guevara — and got a surprise visit from Castro at the Hotel Nacional. Seems this is their second date; Redford went scuba diving with Fidel in 1988. (Reuters)

They get the rings: In a nice ending to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, both Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis were given the rings used in the film to take home with them. Director Peter Jackson divvied up the loot and everyone lived happily ever after. (UPI)

Presidential groupies? There’s a fight going on between Web sites — a cleavage-filled BabesAgainstBush and a self-described “cute” (no cleavage in sight) BabesForBush version. Whether you are a Bushie or not, let’s try to keep the word “sexy” and the name George W. Bush in separate sentences, OK? A sensitive electorate can only take so much. (U.S. News.com)

Two greats left us over the weekend: Photographer Helmut Newton, 83, died in a way that seems as if he planned it for effect. The king of kink crashed his Cadillac near the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. (British Vogue) And Billy May, arranger of swinging standards in the ’50s, died of a heart attack at 87. Frank Sinatra said, “Recording with Billy May is like having a bucket of cold water thrown in your face.” And he meant it in a good way. (Washington Post)

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Karen Croft

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As the criticism of Mel Gibson’s not-yet-released movie “The Passion of the Christ” mounts — Anti-Defamation League director Abraham H. Foxman asked in Friday’s New York Times, “Will it strengthen and legitimize anti-Semitic feelings?” before answering: “Yes, it will” — Gibson shouldn’t be surprised. Regardless of whether “The Passion” is offensive, history shows that biblical depictions on film have, historically, usually led to holy outrage. A few notable highlights from the past:

1916: “Intolerance” Director D.W. Griffith is forced to reshoot the scene in which Jesus is crucified in response to complaints from the Jewish organization B’nai B’rith that Jews were depicted poorly.

1923: “The Ten Commandments” Audiences are alarmed by the orgies and sex and danger in this biblical story, which includes a wildly debauched golden calf scene, though no actual nudity. Director Cecil B. DeMille takes pains to depict the punishment of the sinners, but only after they’ve had their fun.

1927: “The King of Kings” Another DeMille scorcher — Jacqueline Logan discomfited primmer audiences by dressing particularly provocatively (for the time, at least) as Mary Magdalene.

1932: “The Sign of the Cross” DeMille again. Includes a titillating scene in which Claudette Colbert bathes naked (well, OK, she’s not actually naked) in ass’s milk. The director insists that he’s depicting on-screen wantonness merely “to demonstrate the biblical triumph of virtue over temptation.” But a group called the new Legion of Decency that rates films for Catholic viewers and for the industry objects — and the Hays Code is born, leading to a dearth of Hollywood Bible flicks for the next 15 years, then to a string of uncontroversial, church-approved fare like “I Beheld His Glory” (1952), “Day of Triumph” (1954) and “The Power of Resurrection” (1958).

1959: “Ben-Hur” Although the film garnered a record 11 Academy Awards, controversy eventually caught up with the cast and crew when screenwriter Gore Vidal claimed he had written into the script a scene filled with homosexual innuendo — without star Charlton Heston knowing about it. The rumor, which has resurfaced repeatedly over the years, was blasted by Heston in a 1996 letter to the Los Angeles Times, in which he said that the suggestion of gay overtones in the film “irritates the hell out of me.”

1961: “King of Kings” This version, directed by Nicholas Ray, didn’t cause much of an uproar, but its Jesus, a dashing blond Jeffrey Hunter, inspired film wags to derisively dub it “I Was a Teenage Jesus.”

1977: “Jesus of Nazareth” This NBC two-parter, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, stirred up much controversy before it aired on Palm Sunday and Easter. General Motors pulled its sponsorship after the religious right, spooked by Zeffirelli’s comment that one of his goals was to portray Jesus as a normal guy, threatened a boycott. NBC gathered support by screening the film for other religious leaders and eventually aired it to impressive ratings and reviews.

1979: “Mary and Joseph: A Story of Faith” NBC proves itself either brave or a glutton for punishment with this Christmas season TV presentation, which raised the ire of two Catholic priests. Labeling it “anti-Christian,” they apparently objected to the fact that it portrayed Joseph as a murderous zealot and Mary as “ill-tempered” and “strong-willed.”

1979: “Life of Brian” Some people thought this Monty Python religious satire about a reluctant “savior” born in a manger down the street from Jesus was among the funniest films of all time — but others, including many religious leaders, were offended. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York called it blasphemous, bigoted and “a crime.”

1985: “Hail Mary” Jean-Luc Godard didn’t make a lot of friends by depicting Mary as a hoop-shooting gas station attendant, Joseph as a taxi driver, and the angel Gabriel as kind of a shabby guy. Its release in Italy raised such ire — Pope John Paul II called it blasphemous — that Godard asked the Italian distributor to pull it from theaters. Later that year, “Hail Mary” won a prize from the International Catholic Cinema Office at the Berlin Film Festival, but that may have been more a result of the controversy surrounding the film than its quality, which critics have impugned.

1985: “King David” With Richard Gere in the starring role, this flick portrayed King David as a guy who grows old and bitter and eventually frees himself from the shackles of his religious beliefs, abandoning his faith in God. Audiences voted with their feet (and their wallets), and the film, which cost almost $30 million to make, drew only about $5 million at the box office.

1988: “The Last Temptation of Christ” The mother of all religious-movie protests. Martin Scorsese got death threats for this movie, based on the book by Nikos Kazantzakis, which includes a dream sequence in which Jesus is shown having sex with Mary Magdalene. Before the film was released, religious leaders angrily denounced it (many without having seen it) and 25,000 demonstrators protested outside Universal Pictures. One fundamentalist even staged a reenactment of Jesus’ crucifixion outside studio bigwig Lew Wasserman’s home, in which an actor portrayed Wasserman himself nailing Jesus to the cross.

1999: “Dogma” Alanis Morissette plays God. Chris Rock is one of the apostles. Director Kevin Smith said he got scads of hate mail and bomb threats for his satirical take on Christianity before the movie was released — along with a note from Scorsese saying, “Get ready to spend a lot of time indoors” — but that the protests all stopped as soon as the film came out. “It wasn’t at all what people had imagined,” Smith recently told a Canadian newspaper. “In fact, the dude who did the protests [Catholic League leader William Donahue] actually invited me out to have a beer after making my life hell for six months.”

– Reported by Christopher Farah

Morning Briefing:

Bye-bye, Babs: Barbara Walters has announced that she’ll leave her role as co-host and chief correspondent of ABC’s “20/20″ in September after 25 years on the job. (ABC News)

Move over, Paris: Has the world been waiting for a Dr. J sex tape? Probably not, but someone has just seen fit to make public a video of basketball legend Julius Erving sinking more than a three-pointer. (N.Y. Post)

Get ready for Dennis: Dennis Miller’s CNBC show kicks off tonight, and he’s giving us all a taste of what’s to come, vowing to be really, really nice to President Bush: “I like him. I’m going to give him a pass. I take care of my friends.” (Associated Press)

Money Quotes:

A few good ones from last night’s Golden Globes:

Mary-Louise Parker, picking up her best supporting actress award for her work on “Angels in America”: “Janel Maloney [Parker's former "West Wing" co-star] told me she’d pay me $1,000 if I thanked my newborn son for making my boobs look so good in this dress. Get out your checkbook!”

Meryl Streep, who won a best actress award for “Angels in America”: “I just want to say that I don’t think the two biggest problems in America are that too many people want to commit their lives to one another till death do us part, and steroids and sports. I don’t think those are our two biggest problems.”

Charlize Theron, who won a best actress award for her work in “Monster”: “I’m from a farm in South Africa. This is insane!”

“Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson, picking up his best director award: “I never realized that seven years on this movie would turn me into a hobbit.”

Michael Douglas, accepting his honorary Cecil B. DeMille award from his “Basic Instinct” costar Sharon Stone: “Sharon, thank you for those kind words and those nine days in bed in ’91.”

Amy Reiter

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Karen Croft is the editor of Salon Sex.

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