VIFF capsule reviews part three: Leviathan, The Fool, Still Life and Men, Women & Children

Today is the last day of the Vancouver International Film Festival, and I regret to say I didn’t catch as much of it as I’d hoped. Of the sixteen days that the festival ran, there were six when I simply didn’t make it into town, and on a few of the others I was lucky to catch a single film. But no matter. Here are a few more capsule reviews, one of which is for a film that will get a “repeat screening” over the weekend.

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Patti Smith talks to various Oscar bloggers about her Noah song ‘Mercy Is’ and why it no longer mentions horses

noah-pattismith5Noah may have come out seven months ago, but the people who worked on it are still talking about it — and in one case, they are doing so with a definite eye towards the upcoming Oscar season.

Patti Smith, who co-wrote a lullaby sung by Russell Crowe and Emma Watson in the movie, gave a few interviews this week to discuss the theme song ‘Mercy Is’, which plays over the film’s end credits. It was the first song she had ever written for a movie — so it is also the first song of hers to be eligible for an Academy Award.

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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 it had some striking things in common with The Fountain in particular. But Noah 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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