I quite liked Children of Man, though I’m not sure I would give it top nods (of course, I’m not entirely sure what I would put at the top of the list, though I do make a suggestion below). I am still not convinced about The New World, though the fact that it made both of CT’s lists means that I probably should view it again. I was a bit surprised that there were no documentaries on the list. What about An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) or Jesus Camp (Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com)?
In terms of movies released in 2006, my vote for best movie of 2006 would be The Departed (Martin Scorsese; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). This is a great gangster film and all of the actors had great performances, especially Jack Nicholson. Second runner up would be Casino Royale (Martin Campbell; IMDB), which did for Bond what Batman Begins did for the Batman franchise last year. Honourable mention goes to Thank You for Not Smoking (Jason Reitman, 2005 [I watched it in 2006]; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). In addition, I found Blood of My Brother: A Story of Death in Iraq (Andrew Berends, 2005 [I watched it in 2006]; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) to be quite interesting for its portrayal of life in Iraq.
I watch a lot of kidâ€™s films with my children, so I thought I would pick a best kid’s movie. I haven’t seen Charlotte’s Web or Lassie, so I can’t pick either of them. It would be easy to pick Cars(John Lassiter; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), Over the Hedge (Tim Johnson; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (Carlos Saldanha; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), or evenCurious George (Matthew Oâ€™Callaghan; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).
Instead of any of those movies, Iâ€™m picking Hoodwinked! (Cory and Todd Edwards; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) as my favourite kidâ€™s movie of 2006. I found this deconstruction of Little Red Riding Hood quite amusing. While some have slammed its animation as cheap, I kind of like the minimalist CGI animation â€” after all, it is supposed to look like a cartoon isnâ€™t it?!
All in all, however, I don’t think 2006 was as good as last year for movies.
It’s important to note that these are not necessarily the best films of 2006, but the most “redeeming.” And by “redeeming” this is what they mean:
They’re all stories of redemptionâ€”sometimes blatantly, sometimes less so. Several of them literally have a character that represents a redeemer; one even includes the Redeemer. With others, you might have to look a bit harder for the redemptive thread, but it’s certainly there. Some are “feel-good” movies that leave a smile on your face; some might leave you uncomfortable, even disturbed, and asking, “How should I process that?” But you won’t be able to shake it from your memory, either.
4. Joyeux Noel (directed by Christian Carion; Buy DVD from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). This one sounds similar the 1992 film A Midnight Clear (directed by Keith Gordon; Buy DVD from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com ), though it is set during WWII.
3. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (directed by Marc Rothemund; Buy DVD from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com)
I just received my copy of Adele Reinhartz’s new book, Jesus of Hollywood (Oxford University Press, 2007; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). I have always been a fan of Reinhartz’s scholarship on the Bible and film, and it looks like this book will not disappoint. (Her other book on the Bible and film, Scripture on the Silver Screen [WJK, 2003; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com] is also worthy of perusal.)
This book has five major sections. The first section, “The Genre: Jesus Movies as Biopics” includes an introduction where Reinhartz orients the reader to the nature of biographical films and Jesus films in particular, deals with some methodological issues, and offers a brief survey of Jesus movies. She distinguishes between traditional Jesus films that portray significant portions of the life of Jesus, peplum or “sword and sandal” movies in which Jesus appears briefly within the story line of another character, and “Passion play” films that cover events surrounding the production of and actual clips from a Passion play. Her survey is not exhaustive, though she covers the most significant films between the Passion Play at Oberammergau in 1889 and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004/2005; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). One Jesus film absent from her survey was Denis Potter’s Wednesday Play: Son of Man (UK 1969), though this may be due to the fact that it was produced for television. Understandably, recently released films such as The Nativity Story (Castle-Hughes, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) and The Color of the Cross (La Marre, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) were also absent.
The first section ends with a chapter dealing with the thorny issue of the relationship of Jesus films — and the gospels they are ostensibly based on — to history. Here Reinhartz’s background as a biblical scholar comes to the fore. While many filmmakers have claimed to present the “reel” Jesus in their films, i.e., a Jesus who is faithful to both the Scriptures and history, Reinhartz questions these claims. She deals deftly with the complicated question of the relationship of the gospels to history and how screenwriters have negotiated between the divergent portrayals of Jesus in the four gospels., focusing on the iconoclastic films Jesus of Montreal (Arcand, 1989; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) and The Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese, 1988; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). Her conclusion that more recent fare such as The Gospel of John (Savile, 2003; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) and The Passion of the Christ mark a “return to the reverential norms of the biopic genre” (p. 40) in contrast to the more provocative films of the 1980s, is correct up to a point, though The Color of the Cross demonstrates that there is still much controversy to be raised by the Jesus film genre.
The rest of the volume looks at the film portrayal of the primary characters in Jesus films: Jesus of Nazareth, Mary, Joseph, God, Mary Magalene, Judas, Satan, the Pharisees, Caiaphas, and Pilate. Each of these characters are the focus of a chapter in which Reinhartz shifts between the presentation of various aspects of their characters in the gospels and their portrayal in the movies. It is in these chapters that Reinhartz offers some close analysis of the biblical text and a wide variety of Jesus films.
The book closes with an afterword where she sums up her study of “Jesus of Hollywood” with the honest assessment that “it is unlikely that the Evangelists would recognize their own particular Jesus in any of the films we have discussed” (p. 252). Furthermore, while there are many similarities between the Jesus of the silver screen and the Jesus of Scripture, “the biopic Jesus is fundamentally different from his historical and scriptural counterparts” (p. 253). The “reel” Jesus is, according to Reinhartz, the Jesus transformed by “two thousand years of art, theology and interpretation, into Jesus of Hollywood” (p. 254). This Jesus is ultimately the product of a combination of history, theology, contemporary concerns, and — let us not forget — the entertainment industry.
All in all, this is an excellent study of the Jesus of Hollywood. I highly recommend it.
Welcome to the Third Annual Ralphies — Second Annual Codex Edition. Following the example of Ed Cook (see his posts on music, film and books), traditionally a number of other bloggers follow suit and offer their own “Ralphies.” This year Mark Goodacre and Chris Brady has thus far compiled (or at least started to) some of their favorite music, books, and films of 2006.
What follows is my own list. While I have tried to honour Ed’s template, I find it difficult to narrow lists like these down to one top pick, so I have includes some runner-ups.
Best SONG of the year: Hmmm.. this is a tough one. I, like Ed, quite like Gnarls Barkley‘s Moby-esque song “Crazy” (From St. Elsewhere; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), though I’m not sure it is quite “Song of the Year” material. The same goes for the new U2 song (with Greenday), “The Saints Are Coming” (From U218 Singles; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), as well as The Killers song “When You Were Young” (From Sam’s Town; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).
While this may surprise some, my best song for 2006 is KT Tunstall‘s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” (From Eye to the Telescope; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). This is a very catchy song, though what makes me pick it as my best of 2006 is my respect for her musical abilities. Make sure to watch the live version.
The best Canadian song of the year is the Barenaked Ladies, “Easy” (From Barenaked Ladies Are Me; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).
Best CD of the year: While all of the songs noted above are on good albums, I would probably have to vote for The Killers, Sam’s Town as my best of 2006 (Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) since there are a number of excellent songs on the CD.
Best MUSIC VIDEOof the year: I really like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers video for “Dani California” (From Stadium Arcadium; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). Watching it is a flashback through all the rock and roll fads from the 50′s to today — and the song isn’t half bad as well!
Best MOVIE of the year: This is always tough one for me. Like Ed, there are many movies I enjoyed (e.g., Nacho Libre,Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, X-Men: The Last Stand, Mission Impossible III, Flags of Our Fathers, and even Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was worth watching just for the â€œDear Lord Baby Jesusâ€? scene!), but they’re not really “Film of the Year” material.
In terms of movies released in 2006, my vote for best movie of 2006 would be The Departed (Martin Scorsese; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). This is a great gangster film and all of the actors had great performances, especially Jack Nicholson. Second runner up would be Casino Royale (Martin Campbell; IMDB), which did for Bond what Batman Begins did for the Batman franchise last year.
Honourable mention goes to Thank You for Not Smoking (Jason Reitman, 2005 [I watched it in 2006]; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). In addition, I found Blood of My Brother: A Story of Death in Iraq (Andrew Berends, 2005 [I watched it in 2006]; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) to be quite interesting for its portrayal of life in Iraq.
Instead of any of those movies, I’m picking Hoodwinked! (Cory and Todd Edwards; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) as my favourite kid’s movie of 2006. I found this deconstruction of Little Red Riding Hood quite amusing. While some have slammed its animation as cheap, I kind of like the minimalist CGI animation — after all, it is supposed to look like a cartoon isn’t it?!
Worst MOVIE of the year: This is an easy one for me this year. I mistakenly rented Black Dahlia (Ulli Lommel; IMDB) thinking it was Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia(IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). Never before have I appreciated the significance of a definite article! Lommel’s film was a B-film at its worst. Calling it a “B-film” is an insult to other B-Films! This straight -to-DVD movie truly was one of the most vile, disgusting films I have ever (partially) viewed. I didn’t finish watching it and was quite appreciative when the video store let me exchange it for a different video free of charge.
Best TV SHOW of the Year: Since we are talking about the entire year, I have to include 24 (Fox) as one of the best shows on television. I am looking forward to January 14, 2007 when this year’s season begins. That being said, top honours goes to Battlestar Galactica (SciFi). I love science fiction and I find this new series quite well-written.
Best NONFICTION BOOK of the year: This is a tough one since I have read quite a few non-fiction books this year. My top pick is by fellow Canadian, William S. Morrow. His book, Protest Against God: The Eclipse of a Biblical Tradition (Hebrew Bible Monographs 4; Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) is a fascinating study of why the biblical tradition of lament or protest against God was suppressed and marginalized.
While I can’t say that I have read it cover-to-cover, the top biblical commentary in 2006 is Ralph Klein’s commentary, 1 Chronicles (Hermeneia; Fortress, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). This is a superb commentary on this often neglected biblical book.
If I look outside my primary areas of research, then I would pick U2 by U2 (HarperEntertainment, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) as one of the best of 2006.
Best FICTION BOOK of the year: I haven’t read a tonne of fiction this year, but I would say that Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel (Knopf, 2005 [I read it in 2006]; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) was one of my favourites (see my post on it here). I also read a number of novels by Dean Koontz, which I found to be guilty pleasures.
Well, that’s about all I can muster right now, so I’ll see you at next year’s Ralphies!
Nothing like a bit of human sacrifice to get you in the mood for Christmas! I saw Mel Gibson‘s latest film, Apocalypto last night. While I am still ruminating on the meaning and significance of this film, I can’t say I liked it, nor can I say I didn’t like it (similar to my reactions to Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ). To say I found the film “intriguing” is probably the most accurate. (Spoiler Alert)
If you take the opening quotation from Will Durant (“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within”) as a hermeneutical lens through which to view the entire film, then Gibson is perhaps providing a commentary on the decadence and spectacle of modern western civilization. Of course, if this was his point, Gibson is complicit by making such a violent and gory film. Perhaps the irony was lost on him as it often is on much of Hollywood.
Others have took the film as an apology of sorts for Catholicism, seeing the coming of the Spaniards at the end as a sign of the coming of Christianity and a better civilization. This to me makes no sense. If anything, the end provides an ironic reversal as the hunter now becomes the hunted (this of course raises questions of the role — if any — of the colonial powers in the decline of Mayan civilization). If anything is elevated in this film it is the notion of the noble savage: Jaguar Paw and his forest dwelling clan are presented as an ideal (this seems to me to be the meaning from the last line of the film where Jaguar Paw says to his wife that they shouldn’t go to the Spaniards, but “we must go to the forest. To seek a new beginning. Come, Turtles Run….”).
Peter Chattaway provides a similar interpretation when he reads the film through an oracle given by a little girl near the middle of the film. According to Chattaway, the girl says to the violent Mayans,
You fear me. So you should, all you who are vile. Would you like to know how you will die? The sacred time is near. Beware the blackness of day. Beware the man who brings the jaguar. Behold … [something about the man rising from the mud]. For the one he takes you to will cancel the sky and scratch out the earth. Scratch you out.
And it is the Catholic Spaniards who bring an end to the violent Mayan civilization.
Whatever its meaning, this film is violent and gory. Of course, many would say that the violence and gore is all in the name of verisimilitude and historical accuracy, so it is acceptable. I am not so sure any more. It seems to me that the film industry is caught up with the spectacle of violence and that such extreme violence and gore in film can not help but degrade all who watch it.
At any rate, those are my initial thoughts on the film.
UPDATE: You may want to check out Loren Rosson’s review here.
I haven’t seen The Nativity Story yet, though I am hoping to see it this weekend. I may post my impressions of the film after I view it, though there is an incredible amount of reflection and reviews of the film on the Internet, so I doubt I would add anything new.
I just came across an interesting article in the Independent Catholic News on the history of Mary in the Cinema. It’s definitely worth a read.
In addition, make sure to check out Matt Pages’s Bible Film Blog for many relevant posts on The Nativity Story.
According to a news release on CNW Group, filmmakers James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici (of The Exodus Decoded fame) have wrapped production on The Tomb (working title), a new biblical documentary-drama about the life of Jesus (at least that is as much as I could figure out from the press release).
Here’s an excerpt from the release:
The feature-length documentary uses present-day research to shed new light on events from the Bible. Drawing upon archaeology and forensics, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Jacobovici reveal facts that point toward a potential discovery of historic significance concerning the New Testament.
Mr. Jacobovici, the Emmy Award-winning filmmaker responsible for The Naked Archaeologist and Deadly Currents, directed the drama sequences, which will provide essential context for the documentary’s findings. He has described the Biblical recreations as some of the most historically accurate ever filmed.
Said Phil Fairclough, Executive Producer for Discovery Channel: “This is going to be a stunning documentary that confirms our commitment to telling the most important factual stories. We’re delighted to be working again with James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici, who between them bring an unbeatable combination of documentary rigor and cinematic gloss.”
Mr. Cameron has previously produced Expedition: Bismarck (2002) and Last Mysteries of the Titanic (2005) for Discovery Channel.
Added Chris Johnson, Senior Vice President, Programming for VisionTV: “As Canada’s multi-faith broadcaster, we are excited to be part of a project that promises to have profound meaning for Christians and non-Christians alike. We have been privileged to work with Simcha Jacobovici before, and look forward to the results of this new collaboration with one of the world’s most acclaimed filmmakers, James Cameron.”
Jacobovici is also co-authoring a book with Charles Pellegrino related to the documentary, The Jesus Family Tomb: The Discovery, the Investigation, and the Evidence That Could Change History (HarperCollins, February 2007; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com).
This looks to be another slick production of questionable historical and academic value, much like Jacobovici’s other efforts (e.g., his Naked Archaeologist series). At the very least it should be a conversation starter.
Cinema Blend is reporting a rumour that Paul Verhoeven, director and Jesus-Seminar member, is planning on making a Jesus film. I have heard this rumour before, but it seems that this rumour may have some basis in reality:
The rumor comes from the frequently unreliable guys at WENN, so donâ€™t believe it until someone else confirms it, but it is true that there has long been talk of Paul working on such a film. The working title once rumored for it was Christ, the Man, and apparently thereâ€™s now some movement on the whole thing again. The current incarnation is supposed tell Jesusâ€™s story as if heâ€™s not a god made man flesh but instead just a dude. Verhoeven plans to completely ignore all the superstitious mumbo jumbo surrounding him and focus on Big J as a guy navigating the complex political and social landscape of his time.
It seems that the boobs, guns, and gore director has an insatiable interest in the Christ figure. Heâ€™s a member of the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars who use historical methods to determine who Jesus was. One problem though. Heâ€™s afraid itâ€™ll get him lynched.
He reportedly tells Empire Magazine, “My scriptwriter told me not to do the movie in the United States because they (Christians) might shoot me. It’s not a joke at all. I took that very seriously. So I took his advice and decided to write a book about it first.”
I can’t find any corroboration for this rumour, but I don’t think Verhoeven really has to fear for his life.
The list doesn’t contain many surprises, though I probably would have made a few changes. For instance, I was surprised that Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976) wasn’t on the list considering John Hinckley’s assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. Also, Hail Mary (Je vous salue, Marie; Jean-Luc Godard, 1985) should get the nod. Others that came to mind include Pink Flamingos (John Waters, 1972), Straw Dogs (Sam Peckinpah, 1971), and Cruising (William Friedkin, 1980). Of course, there are many gory and exploitation films which could have made the list as well (such as I Spit on Your Grave and other such banned films).
This is great news… at least if you are a Tolkien fan. It appears MGM is planning to produce two (not one) films based on The Hobbit, and that their first choice for director is none other than Peter Jackson. Read the story here.
While I don’t like some of the liberties that Jackson took with LOTR (especially the Ents!), I think he would be a natural choice for the project. While they could probably make due with one film, I won’t complain.