Religion and comedy in the Sam Kinison biopic

Five years ago, I wrote a short blog post noting that HBO was developing a biopic on Sam Kinison, the Pentecostal preacher turned politically-incorrect stand-up comic.

Now, today, comes news that this project, which already had a few producers attached to it, finally has a director and an actor — and it turns out nearly everyone involved has mixed religion with comedy in one form or another in the past.

First, one of the producers is Tom Shadyac, director of Bruce Almighty (2003) and its sequel Evan Almighty (2007); more recently, he has documented his own personal spiritual quest in a film called I Am (2010).

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Black Nativity — the teaser is now online

Fox Searchlight has posted its first trailer for Black Nativity, the upcoming Kasi Lemmons adaptation of the Langston Hughes musical. As with the pictures that were released two months ago, the focus here seems to be on the modern-day scenes, but we do get what appears to be a taste of the “dream sequence” that re-tells the story of Jesus’ birth. See the trailer and a couple key images below.

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Christmas musical Black Nativity releases its first pictures

Four years after I first mentioned that a film version of the Langston Hughes musical Black Nativity was in the works — and three months after cameras finally started rolling on the adaptation — we now, at last, have some images from the film, courtesy of USA Today. Alas, all four of the pictures in question seem to be set pretty firmly within the real world, so we’ll just have to wait to see the “dream sequence” that re-tells the story of the birth of Jesus. The article that accompanies the new images does describe at least one part of that sequence, though:
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The naked Christ in film: birth, death and resurrection

“The Word became flesh,” according to John 1:14, but that flesh has been hidden, for the most part, in movie portrayals of Jesus. At certain key points in his life, history and even tradition would dictate that Jesus ought to be depicted nude — and there are good theological reasons for doing so. But films have tended to shy away from nudity in their own portrayals of those parts of the Jesus story.

There are some obvious reasons for this reticence, of course, starting with the fact that film, for much of its history, has been forced to skirt around images of nudity in general, and images of male nudity in particular. Plus, when a film does show someone’s nudity, it does not merely show you the character’s nudity; it shows you the actor’s nudity, as well, and the knowledge that you are seeing an actor’s naked body can sometimes distract you from the character. This is especially true when the character is meant to be an embodiment of divinity like Jesus.

There have been at least three significant exceptions, though — three films that each depict the nudity of Jesus at a different key point in his story.

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Samson and the upcoming Bible mini-series

For just over a month now, the History Channel has been releasing a series of clips and trailers to promote their mini-series The Bible, which premieres March 3. The promotional campaign started, appropriately enough for mid-December, with a couple of Christmas-themed ads, and it has since moved on to clips and images from other parts of the Good Book.

Today my fellow Patheos blogger Rebecca Cusey posted one of the first images of Samson, who is played by British actor Nonso Anozie. And, as you can see, this Samson looks a little different from the Samsons you might have seen in earlier films or TV shows.

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Saints, Sinners, and Salvation

The Terminator franchise — including the new Terminator Salvation — is full of religious imagery, much of it ultimately embracing hope for mankind.

Whenever people ask me what my favorite Christmas movie is, I tell them it’s The Terminator — and I’m only half-joking.

The film, which celebrates its 25th anniversary later this year, is not exactly a religious movie or even a holiday movie on any obvious level. It’s an R-rated sci-fi action film with plenty of violence, a fair bit of profanity, and a sex scene that was standard fare for modestly-priced B-movies of that time. And yet, there is something about the storyline, written by director James Cameron, that has always brought the Nativity to mind.

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