Newsbites: Noah! Christ the Lord! Nazareth! A.D.! Clavius!

vlcsnap-2014-10-03-16h10m29s238Happy Monday. Here’s a round-up of recent Bible-movie news (with pictures!) to help you start the week.

1. Darren Aronofsky, whose films have received serious Oscar buzz more often than not (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler and Black Swan were all nominated for their acting, among other things, and the last of those films actually won), is still doing what he can to keep Noah on the Academy’s mind.

Last week he spoke to Variety about the excellent work that cinematographer Matthew Libatique, production designer Mark Friedberg, editor Andrew Weisblum, visual effects supervisor Dan Schrecker, composer Clint Mansell and, of course, Patti Smith contributed to the film; and tonight, Aronofsky and Smith will be hosting a screening of the film at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York.

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Newsbites: Women of the Bible! Ben-Hur! Noah! Clavius!

redtent-rt_061114_da_0142oIt’s been a big week for Bible-movie news. Here are a few of the highlights.

1. The Lifetime Network announced that Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are producing a two-hour special for them called The Women of the Bible, featuring interviews with famous pastors’ wives (Kay Warren, Victoria Osteen) and others who will tell the stories of Eve, Sarah, Rahab, Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary. The special will air right before the premiere of the two-part miniseries The Red Tent on December 7.

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Noah interview round-up: Oscar buzz, lessons learned, musical links between Aronofsky’s films, and more

Special Screening of 'NOAH'As far as I can tell, there have been three times in the Academy’s history when it nominated two different Bible movies for Oscars in the same year: in 1951, when Quo Vadis and David and Bathsheba received over a dozen nominations combined (neither film won anything); in 1959, when Ben-Hur won a record-setting 11 awards and The Big Fisherman also scored a few nominations; and in 1966, when arthouse favorite The Gospel According to St. Matthew received three nominations while the big-budget film The Bible: In the Beginning… received just one.

Could it happen again this year? It’s a sign of how strong the Bible-movie revival is right now that Oscar buzz has followed both of the year’s major entries in that genre. Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings comes out in December, right in the thick of awards season, and while it might not be a front-runner just yet, no one can forget how, the last time Scott made an ancient epic (i.e. Gladiator), it won Best Picture. And then there is Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.

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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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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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