Is “God” missing from Darren Aronofsky’s Noah? Please.

Reviews of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah have been trickling out for a few days now — you can read my own first impressions here — and one of the more puzzling remarks I’ve come across so far is a bit from Todd McCarthy’s review in The Hollywood Reporter.

Specifically, McCarthy, who likes the film, asserts in passing that Noah “will rile some for the complete omission of the name ‘God’ from the dialogue”.

When I first read that, I wondered who McCarthy could possibly be referring to. Who, exactly, would be so easy to offend, so eager to nitpick the smallest detail, so ready to assume the worst about this movie that they would live up to the stereotype invoked by McCarthy and actually make an issue of this?

Enter Breitbart News.

To be fair, Big Hollywood — the Breitbart website that has been hostile towards Noah ever since it published a critique of an early draft of the script in October 2012 — devotes only a few sentences to this bit from McCarthy’s review. But devote them, it does, quoting that one line and commenting that the absence of this word “might make the movie a harder sell to its intended audience–faith-friendly viewers.”

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Bible films (and other ancient epics) and Oscar nominations

As I mentioned yesterday, Son of God is coming to theatres the same weekend that this year’s Oscar ceremony takes place. This got me thinking: with three different Bible movies coming out this year, might we see any of these films represented at next year’s Academy Awards?

This, in turn, got me wondering what kind of attention the Bible-movie genre has received from the Academy in the past. We all know about Ben-Hur (1959) and its record-setting 11 awards — a record that has never been beaten, though it has since been matched by Titanic (1997) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) — but what about all the other Bible epics (and not-so-epics) that have been produced over the years?

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Bible movie of the week: The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966)

The title speaks of beginnings, but the film itself marked the end of an era. The post-war Bible-movie craze — which began with Samson and Delilah (1949) and arguably peaked with Ben-Hur (1959) and its record 11 Academy Awards — petered out over the next several years, and The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966) was pretty much the last major Bible film to be produced by a Hollywood studio for the next couple of decades.

The problem was not that the film was a flop, per se, but that it cost so much to make. Reliable box-office figures are harder to find, the further back you go in time, but according to Wikipedia, at least, The Bible was the top-grossing film of 1966, with a domestic gross of $34 million. Then again, roughly half of that money would have stayed with the theatres, and the film is said to have cost as much as $18 million — and that probably doesn’t count the cost of prints and advertising. So whether the film made its money back would seem to depend on how well it performed overseas.

In any case, I recently revisited this film and noticed a few things that I thought were worth noting here. (See also my recent post on Abraham and the Three Visitors, which discusses one scene from this film that I don’t get into here.)

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History and tradition in movie depictions of the Cross.

Western Easter came and went last week, but the Eastern churches are currently only half-way through the Lenten season, so yesterday was, for us, the Sunday of the Veneration of the Precious Cross.

Thinking about this, I inevitably started thinking about Jesus movies, and I began to think about the fact that the recent mini-series The Bible has joined Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ in taking a step back from recent “historically accurate” depictions of the Crucifixion towards a more traditional sort of iconography.

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New version of Ben-Hur to feature more Jesus?

Big news for Bible-movie buffs today. Deadline reports that the once-moribund MGM, now flush with cash from the billion-dollar successes of Skyfall and The Hobbit, is thinking of making a new adaptation of Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

The film would be based on a script by Keith Clarke, whose only big-screen credit to date is the Peter Weir film The Way Back (2010) — and, according to Deadline, while the new film will of course focus on the rivalry between Judah Ben-Hur and his Roman ex-friend Messala, it will also place greater emphasis on the parallel story of Jesus than the famous Charlton Heston-starring 1959 adaptation did.

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Mary Goes to the Movies / How the mother of Jesus has been portrayed through a century of filmmaking.

Making a movie about Jesus is difficult enough. Anyone who would dramatize the life of Christ must strike a fine balance between his full humanity and his full divinity, and many filmmakers have erred on one side or the other. But at least the Scriptures give us ample data to work with, and at least there is broad agreement across church boundaries that Jesus was, and is, both divine and human.

But making a movie about Mary poses even thornier challenges. The Bible says little about her life, so dramatists who focus on her life — such as the writer and director of The Nativity Story, which opens Friday — must invent whole aspects of her story from scratch. Even more daunting, for filmmakers who want to reach as broad an audience as possible, is the fact that different churches have strongly different views on Mary.

Was she as fallible as any other human being? Or was she free from the stain of sin? Did she bear any other children? Or did she remain a virgin throughout her life? Should Jesus ever be shown correcting her, possibly even offending her? Or, as the mother of Jesus, should she offer him any guidance and possibly correct him?

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