Friday, April 14, 2017

Easter movies

Only one of these five favorite Easter movies features Jesus as the central on-screen characters. Maybe I find the more compelling Easter stories show how the message of the carpenter from Nazareth affected others. Jeffrey Hunter was a Hollywood handsome Jesus in King of Kings in 1961, one of the more entertaining portrayals on film, IMO. The same year Anthony Quinn, not Hollywood handsome, starred as the criminal who was released by Pilate in exchange for Jesus. Although nobody knows what happened to the man after he was released, in Hollywood Barrabas, himself, would end up on the cross.
In 1959, Charlton Heston was still riding the wave for starring as Moses in The Ten Commandments three years before when he was cast as Judah Ben-Hur, in the film that included, according to some, a veiled gay subtext in the relationship between Ben-Hur and his boyhood friend, Messala, played by Stephen Boyd.
In 1953, Richard Burton played the ambitious Roman tribune who was ordered to oversee the Crucifixion and was haunted either by guilt or Jesus until his martyrdom, with Jean Simmons, in the last reel. I'm still not sure why she gets into heaven for just loving her man but ...
And one year after The Robe, Victor Mature reprised his role as the tribune's Christian slave in Demetrius and the Gladiators, in which Demetrius, who has inherited the robe from his martyred master, becomes a champion in the arena but falls away from the faith before realizing his error and returning to the fold as a choir of angels sings.

The Last Supper

Many Christians observe the Thursday before Easter as the day of the Last Supper -- quite likely one of the most painted (and parodied) events in Christian Scriptures. Here are a few of my favorites -- the traditional with an especially wan St. John leaning into Jesus' lap, a contemporary homies rendition, Anthony Falbo's cubist dream, the cast of Battlestar Galactica in an homage, and a most righteous gathering of brothers.

The Crucifixion

I believe for many in the Christian tradition, The Crucifixion is the central emblem of sacrifice and forgiveness (or expiation as I learned in Catholic school). Others might view it as simply evidence of human sinfulness or corruption. And others have used it to condemn Jews. (Using the Crucifixion to persecute others is ironic and tragic.) I'd only recently discovered George Bellows' striking painting but it has become one of my favorites. It contains the abjection of that sad day but other intangible qualities as well. I'm especially drawn to the purple figure at the foot of the cross. Such loss and despair. Peace

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


Daniel Espinosa’s Life has enough claustrophobic tension and alien weirdness to make it a diverting but not groundbreaking entry in that sci-if sub genre of film that warns of reckless poking and probing of things best left alone. They differ from those films that depict alien intervention in our destructive nuclear build up (The Day The Earth Stood Still) or nuclear experimentation (Godzilla). Life’s message seems to be that curiosity – in this case wondering about life on Mars – can kill a bunch of cats, especially if they are trapped in a $200 billion tin can orbiting the Earth. The cast playing the international space station crew includes Ryan Reynolds doing his glib alpha dog thing as project engineer, Jake Gyllenhaal doing his pensive beta male thing as the medical officer and Rebecca Ferguson as a lovely crew member with no discernible duties. Things go bad for the crew after they retrieve a Mars probe carrying soil samples and the project’s biologist (Ayrion Bakare) jumpstarts some dormant cells that develop an unhealthy attachment to the crew. The story might not be original but the alien is a pretty cool creation. The ending might be a bit too cynical for some however.


  Director Danny Boyle's hummably insightful morality tale, Yesterday, is a sure starmaker for amiable Hamish Patel, who plays ...