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Josh Reviews Noah — Part Two!

Yesterday I began my review/analysis of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.  Let’s dive back in!

At the end of part 1, I was talking about how I enjoyed that Darren Aronofsky didn’t shy away from depicting the presence of God and miracles in his film.  In talking about miraculous things in the movie, I have to talk again about the Watchers.  I love the Watchers so much.  They’re hugely unexpected, easily the most fantastical aspect of a movie that is filled with miraculous goings-on.  The Watchers represent a hugely creative, original way to depict these divine beings.  The combination of the story-telling with the great visual effects meant that I truly believed in these creatures, and I loved the way Mr. Aronofsky created distinct, different personalities for several of the Watchers.  These creatures felt real, and I cared about them.  I felt sympathy for them when the story is told of their harsh punishment by God (one of several times in which the film impressively does not shy away from allowing us to question God’s harsh judgments), and I was quite invested in their final fates.  I also thought the creatures had a wonderful visual “look” that really impressed me.

In the film, as in all of Torah, there are no easy answers, and this elevates Noah far beyond most ordinary Biblical films and other historical/fantasy epics.  That’s another reason, by the way, that I often have no patience for the re-telling of Biblical stories in movies or on TV, because I find people shy away from the complexities and instead present a simple, one-dimensional understanding of the story.  The world was evil and so god destroyed it, end of story, there’s no question that was the right thing to do.  But if you believe these events happened (and even if you don’t, but still think of the Bible as a central religious text), you MUST wrestle more deeply with this story.  Was the death of all life on the planet truly necessary?  Were there no innocents whatsoever outside of Noah’s family?  Did all the children really have to die?  What about all of the animals other than the two-of-each species that were saved on board the ark?  Why did they all deserve to die?

These are deep, troubling questions, and ethical, thinking people must wrestle with these questions.  Even if all of the Bible was total fantasy, I would argue that these stories would STILL have value, as stories that must be wrestled with in order for each of us to find our own moral values, and our opinions of right and wrong (whether our conclusions be an understanding of the actions God is depicted as taking, or a … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Noah

Holy cow I was absolutely blown away by Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.  Settle in and get comfortable, because we have lots to discuss as I attempt to dig into my reactions to this film.  I thought my previous post, my analysis of the ultimately disappointing The Amazing Spider-Man 2, was voluminous, but this review got so lengthy I decided to split it into two parts, with part 2 coming tomorrow.

I wasn’t that impressed with the bombastic trailers for Noah, which made the film look like a superficial attempt to cross the Bible with The Lord of the Rings.  But I think Darren Aronofsky is a very talented filmmaker, and I had been reading for years how Noah was his passion project, so I was interested in seeing it. I must admit that I’ve never seen Pi, though it’s been on my must-watch-soon list for years.  But with The Fountain, The Wrestler, and Black Swan, Mr. Aronofsky has written & directed an impressive series of films, each of which is visually stunning and thematically complex and engaging.

Having now seen Noah, I can understand why this was a film that Mr. Aronofsky has wanted to make for years.  I can understand how, once he began to develop this very particular interpretation of the famous story from the Bible, he felt he just HAD to get it on screen.

I have never, ever seen anyone approach a filmed version of a Bible/Torah story (whether for movies or TV) in this fashion.  Religion has an important place in my life, but I find that I have zero patience for the usual depiction of Bible stories on screen.  They tend to have a boring sameness and schmaltzy piety that doesn’t capture my interest.  But with Noah, Mr. Aronofsky has shattered the usual the usual approach to depicting these stories.

First of all, he has approached the texts from Torah with great reverence and attention to detail.  Nearly all of the most surprising and unusual aspects of the film are taken from actual p’sukim (verses) of Torah.  Take, for instance, the Watchers, arguably the most fantastical element of the film.  These are enormous rock creatures that are revealed to be fallen angels who, as punishment for disobeying God, have been encrusted with the muck of the Earth.  I believe this is Mr. Aronofsky’s way of explaining Genesis 6:4, a verse immediately before the beginning of the flood story that refers to Nephilim, divine beings who existed on Earth.  Even more interestingly, there is the entire last third of the film, which is structured as an elaborate way to explain Genesis 9:20-27, a bizarre and enigmatic epilogue to the Noah story in … [continued]

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The Top 10 Movies of 2010 — Part Two!

Yesterday I began my list of my Top 10 Movies from 2010.  Here now are numbers 5-1!

5. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work — This documentary totally took me by surprise and completely changed the way I look at Joan Rivers.  As the cameras follow Ms. Rivers for a year of her life, we see the struggles of this aging comedienne who wants, above all else, to keep working, working, working.  The film gives one ample opportunities to analyze just why Ms. Rivers is so intent on remaining in the public eye, whether that be by doing stand-up in clubs, hawking merchandise on the Home Shopping Network, or appearing on Celebrity Apprentice. But whatever one’s conclusions, positive or negative, I found it impossible not to be astounded by this woman’s endurance and stamina.  The film is well-crafted, and presents what I felt was an extraordinarily well-rounded picture of this iconic and polarizing figure.  (Click here for my full review.)

4. Toy Story 3 — One of these days the folks at Pixar are going to make a bad movie (I’m afraid it might be Cars 2, but we’ll see…) but for now I can only relish in their unparalleled recent win-streak of amazing films: Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, and now Toy Story 3. This movie is simply deliriously entertaining.  It’s incredibly funny and also extraordinarily poignant.  While the ending certainly isn’t tragic, I nevertheless found it to be devastatingly sad.  It’s a wonderfully emotional climax to the story of Woody, Buzz and the gang, and pretty much every note is exactly perfect.  The voice cast is stupendous, and the animation is absolutely beautiful (as are the 3-D effects).  Pixar, my hat is off to you.  (Click here for my full review.)

3. Black Swan — I’ve been an admirer of Darren Aronofsky’s work for a while now, but this film made me a fan for life.  I couldn’t believe I’d ever go see a film about wrestling, let alone love a film about wrestling as much as I did Mr. Aronofsky’s last film, The Wrestler (click here for my review). And I DOUBLY wouldn’t have believed I’d ever go see a film about ballet dancers, let alone have been as head-over-heels in love with one as I am with Black Swan. The film is magnificent.  Natalie Portman dazzles in the lead role of Nina Sayers, the young dancer cast in the lead role of Swan Lake, who just might be losing her mind as she struggles to take her dancing to the next level.  The film is viscerally intense, with an escalating what-is-going-to-happen-NEXT mania that builds to a … [continued]