“We start with the message and build the story around it.”

In the past, I have sometimes said that, at the risk of oversimplification, there are three basic kinds of film: entertainment, propaganda, and art. Entertainment serves the selfish desires of the audience, and propaganda serves the selfish desires of the artist, but art, ideally, draws the artist and the audience out of themselves and into something other.

That may not be the best way of putting it — “selfish”, in particular, sounds a bit harsh — but I’ve never quite figured out a better but equally pithy way of phrasing it. In any case, the point here is that art, in its ideal form, is what happens when a filmmaker is intrigued by something and explores it, tries to see where it goes, and takes the audience along for the ride.

Most films are a mix of these things, of course, but some tilt in one direction more than the others. And sometimes, as we have seen with certain recent Christian films, audiences are actually entertained by propaganda; they want someone to preach at them, telling them what they already believe. And so the selfish desires of artist and audience alike are served by those films, and both sides are left unchallenged, which is the exact opposite of what art does within the definition above.

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The Leftovers: “The birth of religion in the face of mystery.”

The Leftovers — the HBO series about a community coping with the Rapture-like disappearance of many of its members — premieres this coming weekend, and while I haven’t been scouring the internet for coverage of this series the way I sometimes do for films like Noah etc., a few things have popped up in my regular news feeds, including a new video, a new interview with the show’s creators, and a handful of reviews.

The interview, with novelist Tom Perrotta and series producer Damon Lindelof, is up at The Daily Beast, and it’s a bit of a frustrating read for me, as I find myself nodding along at some points and wanting to argue with the interviewees at others. Here’s a sample:
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Exodus: Gods and Kings footage sighting!

Heads up, anyone who’s interested in Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings: a trailer for the upcoming Moses movie exists, and it has been seen by foreign theatre owners meeting this week at CineEurope 2014 in Barcelona.

Not only that, but the exhibitors in question also got to see “the opening reel of the biblical epic,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. I’m not sure what an “opening reel” is supposed to mean in this day and age — Exodus was shot with digital 3D cameras, and most theatres showing the film will get it on a hard drive rather than as several reels of celluloid — but it sounds substantial, at any rate.

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Box-office update: Alone Yet Not Alone fizzles in its first week, Noah comes to Japan, and more

Before Heaven Is for Real, before God’s Not Dead, and before Son of God, the year of the religious movie began in January with the Oscar nomination — and the subsequent rescinding of that nomination — for the title song to the independent Christian film Alone Yet Not Alone.

The film itself had not been widely seen at the time; it was shown in only one theatre in Los Angeles last year to qualify for the Oscars. But the filmmakers had plans to release the film in June, and the Oscar controversy gave it lots of free publicity. And that was before the films mentioned above proved that there was a lot of gold in them thar “faith-based” hills.

So, on Friday, the film finally came out, and… it barely made a ripple.

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Ridley Scott’s Moses movie not quite done filming yet

Ridley Scott started shooting his Moses movie Exodus: Gods and Kings nine months ago, and there was so much buzz about the film earlier this year — from the first official pictures released around New Year’s Day to the coverage it got in the foreign press in March — that I’d kind of assumed that he had finished shooting it by now, and that all he had to worry about, between now and the film’s release in December, was the editing, the visual effects (the 3D parting of the Red Sea, etc.), the music and so on.

But apparently the cameras are still rolling. An article posted yesterday at Albawabh News, an Egyptian website, claims that Scott will finish shooting some scenes in and around the temples of Aswan “next Sunday” — at least as translated by Google.

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Watch: New Leftovers trailer, plus vintage Rapture movies

HBO has released a second trailer for The Leftovers, the Rapture-themed series that premieres June 29.

The most striking thing about this trailer, to me at least, is the fact that it begins with people praying for the return of those who vanished a few years earlier.

I honestly can’t recall if I have ever seen that in a Rapture movie before. Most Rapture movies work from the premise that those who vanish have left this world for good — and the people who make those films tend to assume that all of the characters would share this belief. The possibility that the Christians and others who are “left behind” might not share this assumption simply doesn’t occur to them.

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