The thematic and visual links between Noah and Darren Aronofsky’s earlier films: a gallery

vlcsnap-2014-10-03-16h13m51s23The six films made by Darren Aronofsky to date all tackle different genres and subjects, but they also have some striking things in common.

For one thing, they have generally been made by the same creative team, including composer Clint Mansell (who has scored all six of Aronofsky’s films), cinematographer Matthew Libatique (who has shot all of Aronofsky’s films except for The Wrestler) and a number of recurring actors (such as Jennifer Connelly, Ellen Burstyn and especially Mark Margolis).

But the films also have some thematic overlaps. As I mentioned in my review of Noah for Books & Culture, Aronofsky films often dwell on the notion that it is impossible to touch perfection and survive. They also tend to revolve around characters who are obsessed with something, often to the characters’ detriment. And more often than not, they tend to make references to the Bible, some more pronounced than others.

And that brings us to Noah. When the film came out, a number of critics (such as The Playlist’s Drew Taylor) noted that the film had some striking parallels with The Fountain in particular. But it actually harks back — visually and thematically — to pretty much all of Aronofsky’s earlier films to one degree or another.

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National Geographic unveils the cast for Killing Jesus

killingjesusThe National Geographic Channel’s adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus is now filming in Morocco, and thanks to The Hollywood Reporter, we now know who many of the actors are — and they’re an eclectic bunch, to be sure.

In keeping with other recent efforts to depict Jesus as something other than a blonde-haired, blue-eyed European, the part of Jesus will be played by Haaz Sleiman, an actor born in Lebanon who is perhaps best-known for playing a Syrian immigrant in Tom McCarthy’s The Visitor.

Herod the Great, on the other hand, will be played by Kelsey Grammer, who doesn’t seem like a particularly Middle Eastern kind of guy to me. (The fact that he’s best known for his comedic roles on Frasier and The Simpsons doesn’t help!)

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VIFF capsule reviews part two: Mr. Turner, The Vancouver Asahi, Clouds of Sils Maria and Maps to the Stars

MrTurnerMr. Turner (UK/France/Germany) — Oct 8 @ 1pm @ Vancouver Playhouse

Mike Leigh is known for his kitchen-sink realism and his improvisational approach to screenwriting: he hires the actors, gets them to know their characters in detail, and then he collaborates with them on the story, or at least on the development of individual scenes. But once in a rare while he decides to tackle an actual historical subject — and the two films he has made in that vein so far both concern artists who lived and worked in the 19th century. [Read more...]

Newsbites: A.D. and The Dovekeepers start production, the political uses of Noah, and more Clavius pictures

ad-twitter-011. It’s been a busy last couple of weeks for Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Two Mondays ago, they joined forces with MGM to revive the United Artists brand, but they were unavailable for comment at the time because — as we now know from the picture to the right, which was posted to the brand-new A.D. Twitter account yesterday — that was the very same day on which they started shooting the first season of A.D., their follow-up to The Bible, in Morocco.

Burnett did eventually grant a phone interview to Variety to discuss the MGM deal. But he didn’t say anything much about A.D. and, bizarrely, the series does not seem to have an IMDb page yet, so I have no idea who has actually been cast in it or which characters it will focus on. But I’ll keep an eye open for such information and pass it along when I find it.

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Son of Man: An African Jesus Film — the review’s up!

sonofmananafricanjesusIt was a long time coming, but I finally finished my review of Son of Man: An African Jesus Film — a collection of essays about Mark Dornford-May’s challenging reimagining of Jesus as a modern political activist — and got it published in Books & Culture.

If you subscribe to the magazine, you’ve had access to my article for about a month now, but today it came out from behind the paywall, so everyone can read it here.

Incidentally, this reminds me, I don’t believe I ever posted a link to my B&C article on Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. (It went online in May, and it may or may not be behind a paywall now; I clicked on the link twice today and got the full article the second time, but not the first.)

Because it can take a while for magazines to be edited etc., that article was one of the first things I wrote about Noah after seeing the film, and it was one of the last things I wrote about it that was actually published. Thankfully, despite all the controversies that erupted in the interim, I still agree with everything I wrote back then!

The second Exodus: Gods and Kings trailer: a shot-by-shot analysis (lots of swords, a prophecy, and a family)

vlcsnap-2014-10-01-12h49m26s72The first full trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings came out today, and to judge by what we see here, the film will have bits of Gladiator, The Prince of Egypt, Schindler’s List and even The Matrix.

That’s right, The Matrix. Or at any rate, that’s what I am reminded of when Ben Kingsley shows up and goes all Morpheus on Christian Bale’s Moses, telling him that he’s always felt something was wrong, that he has been deceived his whole life, and that he is the fulfillment of a prophecy regarding a deliverer.

It’s tempting to think that this “prophecy” business is just another movie cliché — it’s certainly not there in the biblical version of Moses’ story — but the first-century historian Josephus actually mentions such a prophecy and says the Hebrew babies were drowned in the Nile around the time of Moses’ birth because of it.

Cecil B. DeMille included this prophecy (and its consequences) in the prologue to The Ten Commandments — and although other characters refer to it later, there is no scene in which anyone actually discusses the prophecy with Moses. So Exodus is unique in having a mentor introduce the hero to his destiny like this.

Apart from that, the trailer mostly sells action, action, action — if the teaser had lots of horses, this one has lots of swords — but it also touches on Moses’ relationships with his “brother” Ramses, his wife Zipporah and his sons Gershom and Eliezer.

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