What if the Ark were a Broadway musical?

From the Jerusalem Post:

Now, at 46, [Uri] Paster is ready for his Hollywood closeup.

His first project is the musical film Sold Out!, a contemporary take on the biblical story of Noah’s Ark, with a twist. Noah is presented as history’s first stage director, and he puts the animals through auditions before they are assigned places on the ark, or rejected.

The cast of characters gives new meaning to the word multiethnic, reflecting the roles of Noah’s three sons – Shem, Ham and Japheth – as the forefathers of all mankind.

And mankind, in this case, includes an Algerian musician, a Reform rabbi, a black rapper, a hassidic tenor, a Hungarian stripper, a Chinese opera singer, a French pop vocalist, Jewish kids and, for good measure, a bisexual producer. Everyone, though, speaks English.

The ark itself becomes the setting for a Broadway show, with Noah’s wife as the producer.

Paster wrote the script and the lyrics to songs adapted from popular operas and biblical themes, while Ori Vidislavski did the musical arrangement. Israeli actor Shahar Sorek, who starred in King of Beggars, is the coproducer.

Paster said that he received seed money for Sold Out! from the same British and American investors who backed King of Beggars.

Hat tip to FilmStew.com.

Canada’s politicians and the movies.


Following up my recent post on the favorite movies of John McCain and Barack Obama, I looked up the Facebook pages for the national leaders of all five Canadian political parties (there are more than five parties in the country as a whole, of course, but there were five with MPs in Parliament when the election was called last week), and here is what I found:

  1. Stephen Harper, Conservative Party:
    Raising Arizona (1987), Lost in Translation (2003), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989).

  2. Stéphane Dion, Liberal Party:
    Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
  3. Jack Layton, New Democratic Party:
    Star Wars (1977).
  4. Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Québécois:
    No favorite movie listed.
  5. Elizabeth May, Green Party:
    No favorite movie listed.

It is disappointing, of course, that two of these leaders do not list any favorite films at all — particularly in the case of Duceppe, who comes from a province with a thriving film industry.

It is also striking how, just as Obama gave a series of very “safe” choices, all of which had won the Oscar for Best Picture, the left-leaning Canadian candidates have opted for movies that are so universally loved that they could have been plucked at random from one of those meaningless American Film Institute Top 100 lists.

Don’t get me wrong, I love both Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars — anything with Alec Guinness and sand dunes gets my vote — but without any further explanation, I learn absolutely nothing about the candidates as a result of these picks, nor am I intrigued by these picks to wonder what it is about these candidates that draws them to these films.

And for that matter, which Star Wars film is it that Jack Layton likes? The first one? One of the sequels? One of the prequels? Is he a fan of the entire franchise? Does he have any thoughts on The Clone Wars? Questions abound — questions that demand answers.

That leaves Stephen Harper’s list — and it is striking how Harper, widely distrusted for his lack of support for the arts, and widely regarded as something of an all-business policy wonk, has picked three films that, by and large, were more popular with movie critics and the cult followings of their respective directors than they were at the box office or the awards ceremonies.

I would be very interested in hearing him flesh out what it is about these three films that he likes so much. And the same goes for the other candidates, too, of course — at least those that could be bothered to pick a favorite movie in the first place.

Newsbites: Claudius! Oz! Iron! Lantern! Aronofsky! Munich!

Time for a few quick updates.

1. Jim Sheridan — the Irish director of My Left Foot (1989), In the Name of the Father (1993), In America (2002) and the upcoming remake of Susanne Bier’s Brothers (2004) — is looking at another possible remake: a big-screen adaptation of I, Claudius, the Robert Graves novel that was previously turned into a famous BBC mini-series in 1976. Josef von Sternberg also tried to make a big-screen version of this story starring Charles Laughton in 1937, but the project was cancelled in mid-shoot for various reasons. Sheridan will write the screenplay for the new version with longtime collaborator Nye Heron. — Hollywood Reporter

2. Natalie Portman has directed a couple of short films so far, and now she has plans to make her first feature — in Hebrew! Portman, who was born in Jerusalem, plans to direct an adaptation of Amos Oz’s memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness, “set in Jerusalem’s war-torn streets of the 1950s and 1960s.” — Variety

3. Jon Favreau has plans for not just one, but two, sequels to Iron Man. He also has some thoughts on Marvel’s plans for an Avengers cross-over movie, and the “challenge” of ensuring that “tech-based” characters like Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk will feel like they’re in the “same world” as the more supernatural or mystical characters like Thor. — ComingSoon.net

4. Green Lantern is in rewrites. — MTV Splash Page

5. Darren Aronofsky, out promoting The Wrestler and celebrating his film’s recent victory at the Venice Film Festival, talks a bit about his plans for RoboCop and Noah. — SlashFilm

6. Former Czech president Vaclav Havel and director Milos Forman — a fellow Czech who won Oscars for directing One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Amadeus (1984) — are “working on a screenplay about the Munich Agreement in 1938 and Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland, a point in history seen by some as having parallels with Russia’s recent invasion of Georgia.” The screenplay will be based on Georges-Marc Benamou’s Le Fantome de Munich. — Variety

Ebert & McCain & Obama at the movies.


One more note of a politics-meets-pop-culture nature, if I may.

Roger Ebert did some snooping around to see what the favorite films of Joe Biden, John McCain, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin might be — and while he couldn’t find anything for either of the vice-presidential nominees, he did find some interesting stuff on the presidential ones.

For McCain, Ebert found this exchange at Entertainment Weekly:

We read somewhere that Viva Zapata! is your favorite movie of all time…
Elia Kazan made three movies with Marlon Brando. One was A Streetcar Named Desire, one was On the Waterfront, and the third was Viva Zapata! Many people think Brando’s performances in Streetcar and Waterfront were his best. I think Zapata! was his best. I’m in the minority about this. But go back and watch the scene of his wedding night, with [Brando] and Jean Peters — the actress who later married Howard Hughes, who made her give up acting — when she teaches him to read by taking out the Bible and reading it with him. That’s a poignant scene.

Ebert comments:

Now what do we learn from these answers? First of all, we are impressed that McCain names three great Kazan-Brando movies. He even knows which title he’s in the minority on. How many people know who Kazan was? Conclusion: He knows his movies.

Quite so. Of course, McCain was in his teens when those three films came out between 1951 and 1954 — so for him, knowledge of Kazan may come as naturally as knowledge of current filmmakers comes to teenagers today. It’s not something he had to study or learn about decades after the fact, as it was for people like, say, me. But it’s still an impressive answer, I think.

Ebert also notes that McCain lists two other films among his favorites on his Facebook pageLetters from Iwo Jima (2006) and Some Like It Hot (1959) — while Obama lists five films on his: Casablanca (1942), Godfather I and II (1972-1974), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975).

Now, I certainly can’t quibble with any of these picks, at least where the ones I have seen are concerned. (The odd one out is Viva Zapata!, which I have not yet seen.) But my gut reaction is that McCain’s list feels rather personal, even eccentric — an impression bolstered by his recognition that he is “in the minority” on at least one of his picks — whereas Obama’s feels pretty generic, almost poll-tested. I mean, couldn’t he have picked at least one film that wasn’t an Oscar winner for Best Picture?

That said, Obama’s picks are certainly interesting in their own way. For example, Lawrence and the Godfathers both concern characters who are caught between cultures, just as Obama, the bi-racial son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from the United States, has been caught between cultures.

T.E. Lawrence, like Obama, was the illegitimate son of a man who already had a wife and at least one child somewhere else, and the film draws an explicit link between Lawrence’s illegitimacy and his uncertainty regarding whether his primary cultural allegiance should be to the British or to the Arabs. The film also concerns Lawrence’s frustrated efforts to unite squabbling tribes, as well as the tension between Lawrence’s romanticism and the realpolitik practiced both by his British superiors and by the Arabs with whom he works.

Michael Corleone, on the other hand, is a second-generation Italian-American, the son of an immigrant, who has Americanized his family yet remains an outsider to mainstream American society. He has ties to the old country, and he can speak his father’s language when he wants to, but on a certain level, he has lost touch with what “the family” was supposed to be all about. And while he has sometimes tried to assimilate himself into American society — most notably through his military service during World War II — he is still subject to racial or ethnic prejudice.

So it’s not too hard to imagine why these particular films resonate for Obama, who wrote an entire book about how he has grappled with issues of “race and inheritance”.

I haven’t seen Cuckoo’s Nest in years, so I wouldn’t want to begin to guess what the significance of that film is for Obama. And as for Casablanca, I will simply note that the film is essentially an argument against American isolationism — which may or may not be at odds with Obama’s own stance — and that the words “casa blanca” are Spanish for “white house”. Hmmm.

Anyway, after offering his own analysis, Ebert concludes:

For me, the important thing is that they both attend movies and care about them. As I’ve written many times, the movies are an empathy machine, drawing us into other lives, allowing us to identify with those of other races, genders, occupations, religions, income levels or times in history. Good films enlarge us, and are a civilizing medium. Bad films narrow us. No films at all impoverishes us. There is a splendid projection room in the White House. I hope the next president uses it a lot.

Amen to that.

Final thought: Canada is in the middle of an election right now too. I’ll see if I can find any info on the favorite films of Stephen Harper, Stephane Dion, Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe and Elizabeth May.

Paglia, Palin, and the Seven Brides.

The always interesting Camille Paglia wrote an article a couple days ago on Sarah Palin and the “frontier feminism” she embodies, and along the way, Paglia makes an historical point that I don’t recall ever hearing before:

The gun-toting Sarah Palin is like Annie Oakley, a brash ambassador from America’s pioneer past. She immediately reminded me of the frontier women of the Western states, which first granted women the right to vote after the Civil War — long before the federal amendment guaranteeing universal woman suffrage was passed in 1919. Frontier women faced the same harsh challenges and had to tackle the same chores as men did — which is why men could regard them as equals, unlike the genteel, corseted ladies of the Eastern seaboard, which fought granting women the vote right to the bitter end.

Coincidentally, the day before I read this article, a certain song from a certain movie came up on my iPod:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyrYBXuz5YY]
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

I’m not saying the song above, from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), is a precise echo of what Paglia is talking about — and I certainly don’t want to downplay the sexism that is reflected in the Howard Keel character, here and elsewhere throughout the film — but still, it seemed like a fun coincidence.

And for what it’s worth, note the wedding-night conversation between the Keel and Jane Powell characters in this clip, starting at the 6:40 mark — especially the bit about the “hard life out here in the forest and wilderness”.

Make of all that whatever you will.

Yet another movie not screened for critics?


Studio Briefing says Tyler Perry‘s The Family That Preys “was not screened for critics“, but if that’s the case, how was The Screengrab able to post a review of a “screener” it received two days ago? And while Variety didn’t post its own review until a few hours after the film opened today — something they normally do when they haven’t had a chance to even see the film until opening day — this particular review was apparently based on a screening that took place weeks ago, on August 18. So while it’s common for Tyler Perry movies to shun the critics in general, there would seem to be some exceptions to that rule here. For what it’s worth, I can’t comment on the presence or absence of any local, Vancouver- area screenings, because the film isn’t even opening here. The only Canadian cities getting it are Toronto, Halifax and Windsor.