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Noah (2014)

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I enjoyed her list of extremely improbable occurrences but the rest of the review depressed me a lot.    

Having just returned from the movie, I can say with confidence that she omits other plot elements that explain most of the items on that list.

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Ari Handel is being interviewed right now on Michael Medved show.  His[*] review will be at the end of the hour.

 

[*] His connotes Medved's review, not Handel's review.  (But I suspect Handel would give it an unqualified rave).

 

Livestream comments:

1) At the beginning of the first hour, he said Noah was 'strange' film.

2) At the beginning of this hour (the 2nd), he said Noah was for film lovers of Biblical movies.

3) In the interview, he states that he greatly enjoyed Crowe's performance, thought it would be hard to separate the Noah of Scripture from the images of the movie.

4) He asked AH about what the most radical creative departure he did; AH said making Noah "complicated."

5) They also talked about Noah as an action figure.

6) They touched upon (but without spoilers) about how come all three of Noah's sons' wives weren't on the boat.  AH hinted that, yes, they were on.  MM immediately caught on and said he never saw it that way.

 

more to come...

...

Edited by Nick Alexander

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I've actually been taken aback by some of these negative reactions to Noah.  Over the last week, I've heard one person at church point out that it's a film made by an atheist, and another friend point out that the film was unBiblical.  (This is the same church, where, because they know I write film reviews, I've already been asked twice if I've seen God's Not Dead.  Both of them had seen it and thought it was a wonderful rebuttal against atheism.)

 

So far, over the last two days, I can also count 3 Facebook friends who have declared (on Facebook) either that they are not seeing the film or, even worse, they repeated some of the same errors about the film ("it ignores God") that Peter and Steven have both been so reasonably trying to expose.  I sent links of both Peter's and Steven's reviews to the two of them that I know best.  The responses I got back were unreasoning, entrenched and, in one case, almost bitter.  There is simply no reasoning with them.  In their minds, this film is simply Hollywood distorting and warping the Word of God and distorting God's word is, of course, the oldest trick of the devil.  It appears that nothing I can explain to them will make any difference.

 

The thing is, I don't want to have this argument right now.  I'm not expecting Noah to be a masterpiece.  It sounds interesting and creative but I'd have preferred not to have this fight right now over this film in particular.

 

The fact that Peter and Steven have both felt compelled to write multiple pieces that have had to go into such detail defending the film is depressing.  You guys are trying to refute what is, essentially, nonreason.  It's frustrating to argue with.  But hats off to both you.  You are both doing a tremendous job.  I expect that many of the responses you might be getting may be very frustrating, but keep up the good work anyway.  Still, in spite of my misgivings, it appears as if I've now got to work through some interesting and slow conversations about church, art and film with a few of my more fundamentalist friends.  When those conversations happen, your essays are going to be of great assistance.

 

Edited to add:

(For example, this is being shared on Facebook now.)

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Barbara's piece — note the URL: "the-utter-embarrassing-mess-of-noah-and-why-everybody-is-lying-about-it" — has well over 13,000 shares.

 

13,000.

 

That's 13 times the number of shares on the most popular film review I've ever written.

 

"Just ignore her," friends say. Okay. Sure.


 

Godawaful.

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Barbara Nicolosi is now the Catholic Armond White.

She isn't content to bash Noah, which would be totally within the pale. I love a good nasty review too, even of movies I like. But no. Barbara has to be the one righteous voice among liars and whores. This "review" makes her the Catholic Armond White. And as with the real Armond White, I have nothing more to say to her or about her, until/unless she apologizes.

 

At the risk of straining Steven's and my very fragile friendship, may I say that if there is anything I can do to assist you in doing a better job at holding to that pledge than you have done in holding to its predecessor, I stand ready to help. 

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Barbara's piece — note the URL: "the-utter-embarrassing-mess-of-noah-and-why-everybody-is-lying-about-it" — has well over 13,000 shares.

For anyone who didn't see the post earlier: that URL was her post's original title.

 

 

Serious question: was there a time when Barbara actually engaged questions of art in film making, because as long as I've been reading Christian movie reviews, she's been getting increasingly extreme and nasty in her mentality of "I am the only person who knows anything about film making, and all who disagree with me are lying idiots who have sold their souls for popularity."

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I appreciate that, Ken. I won't deny sometimes I've needed help. Already five minutes after posting the above comment on FB I posted a follow-up which I immediately deleted. 

 

Still, I think you take these things more seriously than I do, and I will be the arbiter of when exceptions may be warranted. 

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Serious question: was there a time when Barbara actually engaged questions of art in film making, because as long as I've been reading Christian movie reviews, she's been getting increasingly extreme and nasty in her mentality of "I am the only person who knows anything about film making, and all who disagree with me are lying idiots who have sold their souls for popularity."

Bawbwa (used to? still does?) lead workshops on screenwriting, which I'd think would have to constitute some sort of positive contribution. I have some vague memory of either attending a talk by Bawbwa along with my wife, or at least dropping my wife off there and hearing the beginning of the talk, and noting that Bawbwa seemed pleasant enough in person. 

Edited by mrmando

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I appreciate that, Ken. I won't deny sometimes I've needed help. Already five minutes after posting the above comment on FB I posted a follow-up which I immediately deleted. 

 

Still, I think you take these things more seriously than I do, and I will be the arbiter of when exceptions may be warranted. 

As well you should be. (And I mean that sincerely.) Thanks for taking what could be misconstrued as a barb in the spirit it was offered pooh_on_ball.gif 

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Barbara's piece — note the URL: "the-utter-embarrassing-mess-of-noah-and-why-everybody-is-lying-about-it" — has well over 13,000 shares.

For anyone who didn't see the post earlier: that URL was her post's original title.

 

 

Serious question: was there a time when Barbara actually engaged questions of art in film making, because as long as I've been reading Christian movie reviews, she's been getting increasingly extreme and nasty in her mentality of "I am the only person who knows anything about film making, and all who disagree with me are lying idiots who have sold their souls for popularity."

 

 

I really think she did. The first time I can recall her doing the "HOW DARE YOU DISAGREE WITH ME!?" bit was back in 2006, with Bella. It wasn't just that she hated it, it was that she pretty much refused to acknowledge its right to exist at all, and thought everyone who disagreed with her was insane.

 

I remember being startled by her attitude at the time, because I hadn't seen her write that way before. Or if she had, it was so subtly that I hadn't noticed.

 

Sometime prior to that, I think, I had heard her give a lecture and thought it was very good.

Edited by Gina

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I vaguely recall that one of the reasons Barbara was so negative towards Bella had something to do with the aggressive promotional tactics that were used on her behind-the-scenes. There may be similar -- or dissimilar! -- extratextual factors influencing her response to Noah, too.

 

In any case, I'm a little... unsure... of how to respond now that *both* Nicolosi *and* Godawa -- both of whom I think I'm on friendly terms with -- have written that "Christian film critics" who defended this film after seeing it are "tools" (and Godawa's "Shame on you because you knew when you were saying it, that it wasn’t true and I was right" isn't that far off from Nicolosi's "everybody is lying about it" headline). I'm not saying that either of them had me personally in mind when they wrote that (just as I'm sure God didn't have Methuselah in mind when he decided to wipe out the human race in the Flood), but I do fall into the general category under condemnation here, so.

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I'm pretty positive on Noah overall--the explanation for the Watchers/"Rock People" was quite satisfying, and I enjoyed how Aronofsky developed that part of the movie. The latter part (once they're on the ark) bugged me a bit, though. I thought

the fact that Ila got pregnant should have been enough of a miracle/sign from God to convince Noah that humanity shouldn't go extinct. And it would have made the Tubal-Cain on the ark subplot even more unnecessary than it already is.

 

One question about the end:

Did Noah still think God wanted humanity extinct (making Noah's sparing of the twins defiant or sinful) or did he think the Creator looks at them with the love Noah felt in that moment?

Edited by Tyler

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Okay, I listened to the entirety of Michael Medved's review.  In short, he was mixed to it, which was an improvement as to what he thought he was going to be (he is not an admirer of Aronofsky).  He loved the acting, and he admired a lot of the cinematic risks, while others he felt were just "stupid." 

 

But the big takeaway was that, he recognizes that he helped create the meme that "Hollywood vs. America."  He had protested against "The Last Temptation of Christ."  He kept admonishing Hollywood to make films to serve a church-going audience.  And he feels that this film, is different.  It's not "Passion of the Christ", but it's not "Last Temptation" either.  And he felt that it is dishonest to say that the filmmakers had intentions to mock religion or make a film that was contrary to the spirit of Scripture.  He felt that even though this film has flaws, none of the flaws were such that they changed the essence of the story, which, ironically, is often changed when the children's Bible Studies tackle Noah (cute animals and all).

 

I can accept that people, going in, not properly preparing themselves for what may happen, and having the rug pulled out from them with "rock people," among other things.  But then I read a lot of weird passages in the early chapters of Genesis.  And here is a director that attempts to treat this material seriously.  Not because he is a man of faith, but because the story has resonance, even for today.  I can respect that.

 

I can only wish I can get to see this film, but time is verrry tight for me, and there are two movies that take precedence over this, both of which are sequels.

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Tyler wrote:
: One question about the end . . .

 

Do you mean the end-end-end, or something earlier? Because it's pretty clear that Noah and God are on the same page in that final shot.

 

*** FINAL-SCENE-IN-THE-MOVIE SPOILERS ***

 

One of the interesting things about the epilogue is how it rearranges the events of the Bible. In the Bible, the Flood comes to an end, Noah kills an animal to sacrifice it on an altar, God makes his covenant with Noah (and thus with all of humanity; the Noahic laws are binding on *all* people, not just Jews, and the early Church recognized this in Acts 15), and *then* Noah goes and gets drunk and curses his grandson. But the movie wants to end on a happier note than the Bible does, so it places the covenant (or its equivalent) *after* the drunkenness episode, thereby allowing the film to end on a note of hopeful reconciliation... but if you think about it, this does seem to suggest that Noah and his family were lacking in communication from God long enough for Noah to grow some grapes and make some wine, and long enough for Ham to grow that first attempt at a beard. Which could arguably be kind of unsettling in a whole *other* way.

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The snakeskin is the skin of the Satan snake in the movie. I think it represents both Free Will and the responsibility that comes with the age of accountability for choosing between good and evil. Nice touch. I like it.

 

great movie. more thougts on it in my review when I write it.

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I'm a little disappointed Ken Ham's post doesn't even mention the old-Earth theistic evolution montage. Based on some of his observations, I'd question if he even watched the whole movie, but he does reference a scene that comes after the cosmology part.

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Ryan H wrote:
: I wish its world-building was stronger . . .

 

Me too. From my review:

 

There are a few other details like this that flit through the film without much explanation, such as a brief flashback in which Noah’s grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) wields a flaming sword against an army. I learned afterwards, from reading the production notes, that this moment was inspired by a passage in the midrash in which Methuselah slays thousands of demonic beings with a sword that has the name of God inscribed on it. That’s a fascinating bit of back-story, but without it, and without a more developed connection to the rest of this universe, the scene comes across as just a random bit of cool imagery.

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I meant to write a short collection of thoughts (250 words or so), and the next thing I know, I've written an 800 word review, which barely gets to all the things I wanted to discuss.
 
My letterboxd review
 
EDIT: I tried hard to avoid spoilers, but there might be some mild ones, so I'm going to spoiler text the review.
 

Darren Aronofsky makes dark brooding films about morally compromised characters that are not everyone's cup of tea. Noah is most emphatically a Darren Aronofsky movie, and I would not hold disliking it against anyone.



However, I thought it was grand and poetic, visually stunning, and it preserved the essence of the Bible story while introducing new twists, a couple which stretch its fidelity as a Biblical adaptation and a couple which strengthen that fidelity.

Aronofsky and Ari Handel have said that they wanted to portray Noah as a character initially obsessed with detached, cold-hearted justice who gradually comes to understand the will of the Creator involves mercy and love. While Noah's transformation is believable, especially the plot elements that serve as catalysts for his transformation, I did think Noah's change of heart happens a little too quickly.

What might concern more pious Christians is Noah's severe misunderstanding of the Creator's will, which preoccupies his notion of justice. That misunderstanding relates to another Bible story, albeit one that would not occur until hundreds of years later. That second Bible story also reveals more knowledge about God, knowledge that Noah in no way could have had privilege to. Along with his misunderstanding of his calling, Noah also omits a crucial detail of the creation narrative, which makes dramatic sense given his limited understanding of God as well as his state of mind at the time; however, Noah's transformation would have been even stronger had that omission been corrected. Noah's dark preoccupation is fine by me, mostly because it epitomizes the dangers of cold-hearted, emotionless justice and why mercy must be mingled with justice. And to those saying the film defends Noah's horrific idea: the end of the film clearly shows that God never desired such an act; He withholds His blessing until Noah understands the first mandate that God gave to Adam and Eve.

Another change that could upset more pious viewers is an additional presence on board the ark, which is not outside the realm of possibilities given the little information that scripture provides, but it is a significant re-imagining of the traditional Noah story. Although the change should have made for good drama - the conflict between Noah and the additional character would have been cut short had that character died in the deluge - the film does not use the character other than to aggravate Ham's inner conflict, which is a good idea, but the execution could have been slightly less predictable. However, I don't think the change is extra-Biblical enough to be of that much concern, and it provides a reasonable setup for an event often glossed over in the Genesis narrative.

Much has been made of the angels who came to earth after the Fall to help mankind learn how to live. The Watchers (or Rock People, as some of the more disappointed critics have referred to them) are definitely reminiscent of the Ents from Jackson's Lord of the Rings, and the scene of them defending the ark from the wicked descendents of Cain reminded me of the storming of Isengard. Aronofsky's sweeping camera movements during that battle, notably the 360 degree pans, allow the stunning visual effects to be fully appreciated, and the action is thrillingly choreographed, especially the incorporation of the rain and geysers into the fight. To be honest, the last time I enjoyed a fantasy action sequence that much was probably when I was thirteen and first saw Return of the King in theatres, or possibly when I was fifteen and watched a CGI Andy Serkis battle three T-Rexes.

The story arc for the Watchers also concerns justice and mercy, and like Noah, the Watchers struggle to follow the Creator's will. Unlike Noah, who is confused about what he is supposed to do, the Watchers disobeyed a clear command. However, through that disobedience the Creator brought good: the Watchers were able to help Noah build the ark and fulfill their initial purpose. And after their lengthy penance, the film reveals a merciful Creator who still offers them a chance for redemption, which also involves a display of colored lights.

I loved the quick cuts to the garden of Eden; they created a dreamlike recollection of a lost world that functions as it was intended. Clint Mansell's score is, although it is a bit heavy-handed in places, is appropriately solemn, and it has some very nice flourishes; I really liked the opening sections which had some similarities with The Rite of Spring.

Finally, I loved the chronological shifting of the rainbow. I don't care that it changes the time of the rainbow's appearance from the Biblical narrative. The new location that Aronofsky gave it perfectly underscores the themes the film explores, and it brilliantly reinforces the Creator's love for mankind.

Edited by Evan C

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Ryan H wrote:

: I wish its world-building was stronger . . .

 

Me too. From my review:

 

There are a few other details like this that flit through the film without much explanation, such as a brief flashback in which Noah’s grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) wields a flaming sword against an army. I learned afterwards, from reading the production notes, that this moment was inspired by a passage in the midrash in which Methuselah slays thousands of demonic beings with a sword that has the name of God inscribed on it. That’s a fascinating bit of back-story, but without it, and without a more developed connection to the rest of this universe, the scene comes across as just a random bit of cool imagery.

That bit didn't bother me. What did was the seeming lack of rhyme or reason to the aesthetic of this world, with the weirdly modern corrugated metal shields and welding helmets.

But I did love the first fourth or so of the movie (prior to the appearance of the magic forest), which gives us a glimpse of a strange, savage world that clearly has the remnants of some great magic left in it. It almost seems as though this might be a pseudo-Biblical Conan the Barbarian, with shadings of Tolkien and Lewis (I'm thinking of Merlin from That Hideous Strength, and the comments made in that book regarding old magic). I wish we could have seen more of the world and its ruins.

But alas, once Noah starts working on the ark, that's largely where we stay, and it's a little underwhelming, though it's the arrival of Tubal-Cain, one of the film's many underwritten characters, that really signals the film's loss of footing. Surely a more sophisticated brand of evil could be present here, one that could legitimately provide source of seductive power for Ham. But, no, Tubal-Cain is just a dumb brute. At least the flood sequence has some blockbuster-y appeal, with the Watchers doing battle against Tubal-Cain's men, and the creation sequence nicely suits Aronofsky's penchant for bombast.

But then the film becomes an entirely different movie, and it's a pretty dull one, at that. I don't have many serious issues on a conceptual level with Noah's character arc here, but it's not well executed.

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I'm still pretty dizzy after seeing it, but I don't think I've ever been so eager to write about a film. Specially, the part that took my breath away was

what was arguably the climax of the film, when Noah raises his knife over his granddaughter with grim-faced intent to kill. In that moment, I could have sworn that Darren Aronofsky took a page out of Soren Kierkegaard's Fear & Trembling: "By faith, Abraham..." A horrifying take on the moment of sacrifice, and the horrifying notion of paradoxical faith. "By faith, Noah..." No less horrifying, the main theme here being Noah's grappling with paradoxical faith. In the film, God's voice is subjective, and Noah is left to interpret God's commands. By all counts he's doing the best he can. I can't blame Noah for being a monster any more than Kierkegaard could blame Abraham for being one. Aronofsky's film grabbed the essence of faith by the throat and strangled it for several breathtaking moments. Then, God's angel [an overwhelming sense of love] stops him. After that, a ram [the dove with the leaf] appears as a sign of God's atonement.

Kiekegaard comparisons aside, I thought major chunks of the film (specifically the first twenty minutes and roughly the last ten) felt clunky and first draft-ish. But there's more than a fair share of mouth-watering substance in between.

Edited by Jeremy Ratzlaff

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Kiekegaard comparisons aside, I thought major chunks of the film (specifically the first twenty minutes and roughly the last ten) felt clunky and first draft-ish. But there's more than a fair share of mouth-watering substance in between.

I loved the opening and ending of the film; I wouldn't change a frame.  The part that felt the most first draft-ish and underdeveloped to me was the ]Tubal-Cain aboard the ark subplot.

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Ryan H wrote:

: I wish its world-building was stronger . . .

 

Me too. From my review:

 

There are a few other details like this that flit through the film without much explanation, such as a brief flashback in which Noah’s grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) wields a flaming sword against an army. I learned afterwards, from reading the production notes, that this moment was inspired by a passage in the midrash in which Methuselah slays thousands of demonic beings with a sword that has the name of God inscribed on it. That’s a fascinating bit of back-story, but without it, and without a more developed connection to the rest of this universe, the scene comes across as just a random bit of cool imagery.

That bit didn't bother me.

 

Given the film's

depiction of the Watchmen (and am I the only one who can't read that name and not think "Who watches the Watchmen?") and their origin, I'm not entirely clear who, in the context of the film's world building, those demonic beings would be or why Methuselah would be slaying them

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