Bible movie of the week: The Last Days of Pompeii (dir. Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1935)

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Bible movies were big in the silent era, which came to an end in the late 1920s, and they were big again in the 1950s, when pious spectacle was all the rage — but very few were produced during the two decades between those eras.1 Hollywood, in particular, seemed to lose interest in the genre entirely during this period. Nevertheless, a few films did at least touch on the genre, even if they did not commit to it fully.

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Hail, Caesar! and other movies about making Bible movies

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Hail, Caesar!, the newest film from the Coen brothers, opens this Friday. The film is set in 1950s Hollywood, and one of its central plot elements is a movie-within-the-movie — also called Hail, Caesar! — that depicts the crucifixion of Jesus. This got me wondering, how many other films have depicted the making of a Bible movie?

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Moses at the Movies / When we trace more than a century of movies about the Exodus, what do we learn?

tencommandments1956Ridley Scott isn’t the first filmmaker to tackle the story of Moses, and he certainly won’t be the last. There’s drama in the prophet’s confrontations with the rulers of Egypt, there’s spectacle in the miracles he performed to liberate his people, and there are lessons to be learned from the way he led the Israelites and forged them into a nation, not least by giving them the Law. And filmmakers have been turning to Moses’ story for inspiration since pretty much the dawn of cinema.

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Exodus will be a big movie. Not a small movie. A big movie. The studio really wants you to know that.

exodus-facebook-140909In case you haven’t heard, Exodus: Gods and Kings is going to be big. Huge. Epic. Immense. The most embiggened thing that was ever supersized.

20th Century Fox made that point in a featurette that came out last week. In less than two minutes, the filmmakers used words like “epic”, “massive” (twice!), “giant”, “immense”, “big”, “bigger”, “exponentially” and “biggest” to describe their movie — and now the movie’s Facebook page is posting photos with those size-emphasizing quotes.

Today’s photo is yet another brand new shot from the opening battle sequence. (If there’s one thing the studio has emphasized more than the bigness of this film, it’s the fact that the movie has an opening battle sequence.)

There’s Moses, and he’s got his bow out, and the group of soldiers beating up on each other seems appropriately multiethnic — and at the top of it all is a quote from the production designer, who declares, “It’s an IMMENSE production.”

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Here we go again: Ridley Scott’s Exodus and “accuracy”

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I’m no fan of the expression “biblically accurate”. It’s not that I don’t like analyzing biblical and historical epics to see where they deviate from their source material; I do that sort of thing all the time. Rather, the problem is the way that phrase has been turned into a weapon, signifying little more than whether or not a movie has earned the approval of the person who uses that phrase.

Just in the past year and a half, we have seen people call The Bible and its big-screen spin-off Son of Godbiblically accurate” even though that miniseries was full of embellishments and got many details wrong, and we have also seen people condemn Noah for its alleged lack of accuracy even though it tackled lots of obscure biblical details that many people never think about. One film was “accurate” because it gave the audience what it wanted, and the other wasn’t because it didn’t.

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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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