NEW YORK — After months of rumors that had cinephiles predicting the end of the world, art appears to have triumphed over business. Jewish-American director Darren Aronofsky (who brought us gun-toting Kabbalists in “Pi”) and Paramount Pictures had been in a back and forth over final cut for “Noah,” his cinematic adaptation of the story of Noah’s Ark.
The suits saw a financial slam dunk mixing big budget Hollywood spectacle and Middle American “faith-based” pandering. But Aronofsky, whose previous example of spiritualist filmmaking includes the unusual, box office-resistant “The Fountain” offered up something that didn’t quite meet their expectations.
I should say that this is what I think he’d done, as I haven’t yet seen the Russell Crowe vehicle. The studio tested a reported six different cuts of the movie, but in the end threw up their hands decided to stick with Aronofsky’s version. This either means their tweaks weren’t that different to begin with, or the movie (which is rumored to feature sequences with six-armed giants) is so far from what mainstream audiences will accept that there’s nothing that can be done to change it.
The film, which costars Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman (a MOT) and Anthony Hopkins, rains down on us on March 28.
From Mount Ararat we travel to Los Angeles, where Jewish-American actor/shonda Shia LaBeouf continues to frustrate the public with his immature behavior. But one has to give him credit for stick-to-itiveness, I suppose.
After getting caught redhanded plagiarizing his 2012 short film “Howard Cantour.com” from a Daniel Clowes comic, LaBeouf has been on a downward spiral, attracting negative publicity on Twitter, at the Berlin Film Festival and even in the sky. His last move, however, is surprising. LaBeouf rented out a gallery space for a performance piece called #IAMSORRY, where anyone who lines up can sit across from him while he wears a paper bag over his head and cries.
By his sheer, intractable chutzpah and refusal to back down, I can’t help but change my opinion from one of disgust to (very, very, very) slight admiration.
New From Hollywood
RoboCop: In 1987, Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven took what seemed like a dumb B movie and turned it into great satire as well as a next-level action picture. Now, years later, the vulture-like movie studios have seized upon its good name for a lifeless – although not terrible – remake. It’s the same story with some minor tweaks, like Samuel L. Jackson as a Glenn Beck-like TV host and Jewish-Canadian comedian Jay Baruchel as a whiz kid marketing genius. To quote the film, you can buy this one for a dollar – but I wouldn’t spend much more!
Winter’s Tale: Jewish-American screenwriter Akiva Goldsman makes his directorial debut adapting New York-born Israeli citizen Mark Helprin’s magical realist novel “Winter’s Tale.” The result is a disaster, one of the worst movies in years. Colin Farrell plays a thief with a bad wig and a flying horse and Russell Crowe is the minion of Satan off to destroy him. Jewish actress Jennifer Connelly plays a food critic who doesn’t blink when confronted with time travel, and a 108 year old woman is the editor of the New York Times. When I summarize it this way it sounds like it might be so-bad-it’s-good, but, believe me, it isn’t.
Jimmy P: Franco-Jewish actor Mathieu Amalric stars as an ethnographer/amateur psychiatrist in this strange, true story about a Native American World War II vet’s march toward mental health. Benicio Del Toro is James Picard, a Mojave Indian whose blinding headaches aren’t cured by traditional medicine, but by conversations about racial injustice.
The LEGO Movie: Wait, so they’re expecting us to pay to watch a giant toy commercial? Well, a little, yes, but you’ve got to trust me when I say that this is one of the funniest and most clever kids’ films – strike that, film of ANY stripe – to come out of Hollywood for quite some time. It isn’t just loaded with zings, but the design work, which blends state of the art computer generated images with handcrafted stop motion, is absolutely top notch. Jewish actors like Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie and (again!) Jonah Hill provide voice-over work alongside Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman and Will Arnett.
Generation War: The miniseries that gripped Germany is now playing as a (very long) feature film in both Israel and the United States. As we’ve reported another title for the film could be “Just Following Orders: The Movie.” The lengthy tale follows five young German friends (one Jewish) from the beginning of the war through the end – detailing how circumstances slowly chips away at their ethics and humanity. It isn’t an easy film to sit with, but is still recommended.
The Monuments Men: George Clooney honors the men who risked their lives to protect the noble works of Man against Nazi theft and destruction in this mild, slightly-good film. It’s a little desultory and one can’t help but wonder if all this action to save paintings is kinda besides the point as the extermination camps are still operating, but the characters, like the film itself, feel called to a higher purpose. Hey, any excuse to see Bill Murray, Bob Balaban and John Goodman in Army uniforms isn’t that bad.
Bonnie & Clyde: This bedrock film of “New Hollywood” made Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway stars and fashion icons, pushed the envelope of acceptable violence and repositioned just what it meant to be a hero. What you may not remember is that between the bullets and Bonnie’s androgynous outfits, the legendary Jewish screen icon Gene Wilder – yes, Gene Wilder – has an important scene. Every time I’ve seen this movie with other people they gasp when he shows up. “Bonnie & Clyde” is playing at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Tuesday February 18 at 6pm.
Together: Swedish director Lukas Moodysson made a name for himself with this 2000 comic drama about the comings-and-goings in a left-wing 1970s hippie commune. The patina of peace and love is chipped away by personal conflict, but never in a cliché manner. I usually like to make repertory recommendations based on some sort of Jewish/Israeli connection. I’m stumped to think of any, except, perhaps, that people who have idealistic memories of living on a kibbutz may get a special kick out of this one. It plays at the Tel Aviv Cinematheqe on Friday February 14th at 7:30 and Sunday February 16th at 6:30.