Tag Archives: Emma Watson

“Noah” Folds the Entire Old Testament into One Film

Noah lead

How do you adapt the story of Noah’s Ark into a movie? Whose version do you use? The Jewish version came before the Christian one, which came before the Muslim one, but in each broader religion there are dozens of sects who dispute everything from the size of Noah’s ark to the type of wood used to build it. There are even Middle Eastern religions that predate the other three and regard Noah, not Jesus or Muhammad, as their prophet.

Most agree that Noah is warned by his creator that a great flood is coming to wipe humanity from the face of the Earth. This is due to mankind’s wickedness. Noah and his family are to build a great ark, a ship that shall endure the flood and carry two of every animal so that these innocent species will survive the cataclysm.

Director Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is not one religion’s Noah story or even all of them put together. This film is the entirety of the Old Testament, its challenging and lasting philosophical ideas using the narrative structure of Noah much as the animals use the ark – as a housing in which to survive.

Noah birds

Aronofsky creates a striking environmental parable, includes heroic giants from the Dead Sea Scrolls, and tells the entire story through the lens of a post-apocalyptic action fantasy. It is a self-assured, visionary, feverish, and schizophrenic achievement. Aronofsky always has you exactly where he wants you, and that’s not knowing where you’ll be next.

Don’t go into this thinking you’ll see anything resembling a straightforward Noah’s Ark narrative. If you know the Old Testament, be prepared to see a dozen stories told at once. If you don’t know the Old Testament, that’s OK – enjoy one of the maddest, most intriguing movies you’ll see in a long time.

Aronofsky is known for the low-budget Pi, a gritty sort of Book of Job-retold as horror movie, and the stately magical realism of The Fountain. In Noah, he dashes from straightforward narrative to metaphysical interlude to family drama at the drop of a hat, occasionally taking the scenic route through Lord of the Rings to borrow a battle sequence.

Noah storytime

Noah’s visions from God are chilling. Aronofsky may only show about 30 seconds of the wickedness for which mankind is being punished, but he’s better than any other director at putting images in your mind that simply don’t leave. Similarly, when Noah (Russell Crowe) tells his family the story of Creation itself, it is beautiful and touching and inspiring. When he moves on to the history of mankind, it is intense, points the finger directly at the audience, and makes you squirm. Perhaps the most memorable moment comes when God collects the animals of the world two-by-two. His word spreads as a river in a unique and artistically overpowering montage.

Noah crosses paths with grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) and the warring King Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone). Emma Watson is also very good as Noah’s daughter Ila. When the actors who played Maximus, Hannibal Lecter, Beowulf, and Hermione Granger are stomping around, it can be very easy to forget the true powerhouse of the cast. Don’t worry, Jennifer Connelly – as Noah’s wife Naameh – will remind you. No giants or battle scene or CGI flood can compare to the moment when she lets loose.

Jennifer Connelly Deserves Another Oscar

Noah is ludicrous and accomplished. What’s on-screen will seem insane one minute, and gut punch you the next. Nothing can be taken literally, even if it’s told that way, and even less can be taken personally, even though we’re all possessive of our religions.

By the end of the film, Noah simultaneously acts out the Book of Job and the Binding of Isaac to the point where Ila begins playing out Exodus. All this while son Ham re-enacts Cain’s murder of Abel because he earlier repeated the temptation of Eve. This is conceptually thick stuff made easy to swallow only through effects, fantasy and sheer, audacious artistry.

Noah conflates these many narratives to show the cyclical nature of mankind’s tendency toward corruption. In this Noah, humanity’s rebirth is precluded by the same old sins that got us into trouble in the first place. It’s a stark look in an unforgiving mirror. Like many things that make us uncomfortable, some will laud it and others will dismiss it. Some will say it isn’t their Noah, but this film’s challenge to its audience is in accepting Noah wasn’t yours or mine or Aronofsky’s to begin with. This is every Noah, every Job, every Abraham, every Old Testament lesson bound into one story and asking you, point blank: “Now what do you do with it?” It’s up to us how to answer.

Noah gaze

Noah is rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing images.

A Whole Lotta Christian Bale: The Films of 2014, #10-1

The Missing Picture

10. The Missing Picture

March 19 — Rithy Panh tells his memoir of the Khmer Rouge massacres in 1970s Cambodia, using clay figures to fill in for the archival footage that’s missing from one of the most forgotten genocides in 20th century history. It’s an idea that sounds like a student art project gone wrong, but it’s one that in its simplicity becomes overwhelming even in a 2-minute trailer. The Missing Picture is currently up for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. You can watch that trailer here.

Gone Girl

9. Gone Girl

October 3 — If Se7en, Zodiac, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo have proven anything, it’s that David Fincher is the greatest modern director of the movie mystery. Gillian Flynn, who wrote the bestselling novel, is handling the screenplay solo, and it’s rare for a first-time screenwriter to be given that kind of carte blanche for a major release. Rosamund Pike joins Ben Affleck, Tyler Perry, and Neil Patrick Harris in what has got to be the strangest cast Fincher’s ever lined up. This last gives me pause enough to not rank this higher, but Fincher’s track record is just too strong to keep it out of the top 10.

Noah

8. Noah

March 28 — Darren Aronofsky makes dark, disturbing films like Black Swan. His Requiem for a Dream, about the drug addictions of four New Yorkers, requires emotional recovery time after viewing. Noah is out of left field for him, though he says it’s been his dream project since youth. No one knows how accurate to Judeo-Christian interpretation his adaptation of the Biblical Flood will or won’t be. Previews make it look like he’s playing it straight. Some test screenings for religious groups resulted in criticism, some didn’t. It was enough to cause the studio and Aronofsky to fight publicly over final cut, which any Aronofsky fan could’ve predicted miles off. Let’s hope Aronofsky kept his vision intact. Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Watson star. You can watch the trailer in all its madcap visual glory here.

Inherent Vice

7. Inherent Vice

No date set — There Will Be Blood was a statement film that immediately took its place as one of the most important movies in America’s cinematic history. Director P.T. Anderson’s Inherent Vice, based on the Thomas Pynchon novel and starring Joaquin Phoenix and Jena Malone, earns a place based on the fact that Anderson has yet to misfire. Phoenix is already one of our best actors. Malone is overdue for recognition. They’re joined by Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon.

Exodus

6. Exodus

December 12 — Starring Christian Bale as Moses. If that’s not event viewing, I don’t know what is. The last time director Ridley Scott ventured back in time in the Middle East, it was for the Crusade-era epic Kingdom of Heaven. The theatrical release was a gutted mess that cut out entire protagonists, and it was only in the director’s cut that the film evolved from a middling action movie into a profound contemplation on faith, moral obligations, and one’s place in the world. That director’s cut is Scott’s best film by far, and most will never see it. It’s exciting that he’s finally returning to his favorite subject matter, and with Bale, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul, and Sigourney Weaver on board to boot.

Jiro and paper airplane_out

5. The Wind Rises

February 21 — I hit on this in my Godzilla preview, but the most important filmmaking in the post-World War 2 era was done in Japan. It was a country possessed by regret and a national shame for blindly following its fascist leaders into war, and traumatized by the dropping of two atomic bombs. Hayao Miyazaki is the director responsible for Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. His animated worlds are evocative and emotional, but in his swan song, he trades in the fantasy genre to tell the story of an idealistic dreamer, a Japanese airplane designer, whose creations are used for war. The Wind Rises is currently up for an Oscar as Best Animated Film. Watch the trailer here.

Knight of Cups

4. Lawless & Knight of Cups

No date set — Terrence Malick is one of the most enigmatic directors in history. He made only three films in 30 years, each more lauded than the last, and now he’s made four films in the last four years. Both Lawless and Knight of Cups star Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, and Natalie Portman. Knight of Cups is about a man’s celebrity and excess in Hollywood. Lawless, which will likely be retitled, is about two intersecting love triangles in the Austin, TX music scene. It’s the higher profile of the two and also stars Angela Bettis, Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Holly Hunter, Val Kilmer, and Rooney Mara. These aren’t to be confused with Voyage of Time, which is Malick’s upcoming film about…the universe?…and was filmed in Kenya, and may not arrive this year. Heck, it’s Malick, we might not see any of these films until 2029, but chances are we’ll get the Bale pairing this year.

Serena

3. Serena

No date set — Susanne Bier’s After the Wedding was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007. Her In a Better World won it in 2011. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are both nominated in acting categories this year for American Hustle. It’s Lawrence’s third nomination. She won Best Actress last year.

In Serena, Lawrence is Serena Pemberton, a depression-era Lady MacBeth to Cooper’s timber baron George. Serena is the single role I’m most excited to witness in the coming year. Based on its pedigree, if a man had directed this, it’d be on everyone’s top 10 lists. As is, it’s virtually nonexistent.

The Raid 2 e

2. The Raid 2

March 28 — The usual answer to, “What is the best action movie ever made?” is Die Hard. This is wrong. The correct answer is Raiders of the Lost Ark. Well, it was. In 2011, The Raid: Redemption complicated that answer. It was an Indonesian film by a Welsh director about an ill-fated police raid, and it combined the best of martial arts, gangster, horror, and Western action movies. The action was brutal, fast, emotional, and intelligent, but the tension that gave it its context was unparalleled. It wasn’t just a superb action movie, it was a superb movie, period. The sequel looks every bit as artful and intense while broadening the scope of its story. Watch the trailer here.

Interstellar

1. Interstellar

November 7 — Little is known about director Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to The Dark Knight trilogy. It’s about space travel and the discovery of a wormhole. A mysterious, heartbreaking, and inspirational trailer is our only clue, yet it doesn’t give a shred of plot away. The cast is a you-pick-’em of top flight actors – Anne Hathaway, Matthew McConaughey, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, John Lithgow. Nolan’s last standalone film was Inception, and that was worth the wait. Interstellar is the movie event of the year. Watch the trailer here. It’s worth it.