The Vancouver Sun posts its list of the best Jesus movies

Douglas Todd, the religion and ethics reporter for The Vancouver Sun, has an article in today’s paper looking at the top five films about Jesus, the top five films with a “metaphorical Christ”, and the top five films “with Christian themes.” I was one of four people he consulted — the others include my friends Ron Reed and Darrel Manson, as well as theologian Marjorie Suchocki, who I have never met — and Todd quotes two of the blurbs I’ve written on Jesus films, including this one on Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) and this one on The Miracle Maker (2000). You can read the print edition of Doug’s article here, and the blog version here.

Review: God’s Not Dead (dir. Harold Cronk, 2014)

Warning: This review will discuss several major spoilers, including the ending.

Christian films have a bad reputation, and it is often quite justified. But as one who has been involved with church-drama ministries and the like, I have never been able to dismiss the genre entirely. And that’s why I have made a point of trying to look for the positive elements in films like, say, the ones produced by the Kendrick brothers (Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous).

As I have argued before, there is nothing wrong with a Christian “niche”. Christians, like other groups of people, have special needs and interests, and sometimes they require special kinds of films that people outside our community won’t “get”.

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Ethnic diversity, or the lack thereof, in the new Bible movies

One of the issues that some people have had with Darren Aronofsky’s Noah — it was never a big-enough deal to become a full-fledged controversy, per se — concerns the ethnicity of the actors.

The film depicts the annihilation of the entire human race, except for one family that will go on to produce the entire human race as we know it today — so it seems a little odd to some people that pretty much every character we see in this film fits into a single ethnic category, i.e. Caucasian.

It seems even more odd when one considers that the human race originally had dark skin and then evolved lighter skin as some population groups “migrated away from the tropics . . . into areas of low UV radiation” and “developed light skin pigmentation as an evolutionary selection acting against vitamin D depletion.”

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The silence, justice, mercy and love of God in Noah

Questions of personal taste aside, most of the problems that people have had with Darren Aronofsky’s Noah don’t stand up to all that much scrutiny. Does the film reflect a Gnostic theology? Not at all. Is the snakeskin worn by Adam and his descendants necessarily evil in the Jewish tradition? Not at all. Were the righteous people who lived before the Flood vegetarian? Actually, yes. And so on, and so on.

The one complaint that arguably does have some merit is the one that says God does not speak in this film. God talks a lot in the biblical version of this story, but in the film he is silent, communicating through visions and signs that are open to more than one interpretation, and leaving some pretty crucial decisions to Noah himself.

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Box office update: Noah slips in N. America but stays strong overseas, while God’s Not Dead sets a new record

As expected, Noah is faring quite better overseas than it is in North America.

The film, which opened two weeks ago, is estimated to have earned $7.5 million in North America between Friday and today, bringing its total up to $84.9 million.

That represents a slip of 56.3% since last weekend, which is a steeper drop than Son of God had in its own third weekend last month. Both films dropped about 60%, give or take a percentage point, in their second weekends; but Son of God dropped only an additional 46.7% in its third weekend.

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Watch the trailer for short-film anthology Words with Gods

Last summer, I passed along some news about an upcoming short-film anthology called Words with Gods. Produced by Guillermo Arriaga and featuring music by Peter Gabriel, the anthology consists of several short films about religion directed by filmmakers like Hector Babenco, Mira Nair and Emir Kusturica. The film sounds interesting as it is, but I am especially intrigued because Israeli director Amos Gitai is contributing a short film that will be based in some way on the Book of Amos.

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