May 15, 2007 | Comments ()

By Daniel Carlson | Trade News | May 15, 2007 |


In my former column, Theophilus, I brought you news of religious goings-on in and around Hollywood. My original intent was to round up disparate bits of faith-based entertainment news out of sheer curiosity, and also so that you might be better informed about the difference between the good and bad types of Christian entertainment. (Like every other film/TV genre, 90% of religious entertainment is pretty awful. Surprise.) The whole thing seemed to go over pretty well, with only a few of you deciding that playing nice isn’t nearly as fun as, well, not. But the feedback was overall on the supportive side, and what with the positive reception it got last time, as well as the fact that I want to, it’s time once again for Jesus, Etc. For those of you who are just now realizing that this column deals with religion in pop culture — and I know some of you suck at context clues, and so are just now actually figuring this out — and who don’t feel like sticking around, that’s cool. Check out the reviews and news and such. Everybody else: Let’s God it up.

From Ass-To-Ass To Arky Arky: Darren Aronofsky knows a thing or two about impossible journeys. His entire oeuvre is dedicated to paranoid freaks being beaten down and swallowed whole by a life that refuses to make things easy. Or anyway, it was until The Fountain, when Aronofsky tempered his dark vision with a tender-hearted romantic fantasy about the same souls finding each other through the power of love three times over the course of a thousand years. On one hand, drug-fueled insanity; on the other, fluffy bunnies. Aronofsky is out to combine the two again with his latest project, a spec script about Noah. Yeah, that one. With the ark. No, not that ark. The other one. The giant boat in which Noah, per Genesis, loaded up his family and two of every kind of animal to survive 40 days of torrential rains that flooded the earth and another year on the boat just looking for land. (And you better believe there’s a kids’ song about it.) Aronofsky has apparently been interested in the tale since he was 13, when he composed a poem about it for school. And, in a completely unsurprising twist, he seems more than willing to psychoanalyze the story through modern pop constructions, reducing a potentially complex story to something that seems like a bad “ER” rerun: “Noah was the first person to plant vineyards and drink wine and get drunk. … It’s there in the Bible — it was one of the first things he did when he reached land. There was some real survivor’s guilt going on there. He’s a dark, complicated character.” (Emphasis added.) I don’t know, but tacking the phrase “survivor’s guilt” seems to somehow lessen the whole thing, you know? It’s not like Noah wrecked his Mustang after prom and wound up killing his girlfriend; the entire planet was drowned by a vengeful creator. It seems that Noah’s vineyards and wine-drinking were more, I don’t know, celebratory, as he offered up a drink in thanks that he actually made it, and of course poured out a shot for his fallen homies, the unicorns. No telling when Aronofsky’s film will actually get made, but given the preproduction debacle of The Fountain, I’d say we have a while to wait.

Plant a Tree, Go to Heaven. I Think. Man, this is quite the day for Noah news. I’m not quite sure how I feel yet about the upcoming Evan Almighty, a spec script that was shoehorned into a sequel to 2003’s Bruce Almighty and will feature Steve Carell as a modern-day guy picked by God (Morgan Freeman, again) to build another ark. The premise is just a tad more disconcerting than that of the first film: While God just wanted to teach Bruce a lesson in gratitude and make him a better person, one assumes that in the sequel Evan is building an ark because another flood’s on the way, which doesn’t bode well for humanity. Anyway, what with the environment now experiencing the social and political vogue it hasn’t felt since the heyday of the ozone-layer brouhaha, Universal Pictures and the Conservation Fund are teaming up to bring the “Almighty Forest” to the interwebs. For $5, you can plant a virtual tree, which represents the real tree that the $5 is actually going to purchase. But hey, it’s not just a great way to be environmentally proactive without going outside: Donors who buy a virtual tree before June 22, the film’s opening day, will have their name placed in the DVD’s credits. So go plant a tree, kiddos. Who knows when global compassion will be this hip again?

Show Me That Smile Again, You Nutjob. So, for those of you who didn’t hear, perhaps because you were busy with jobs and lives or else just didn’t feel like watching crazy people argue on TV, Kirk Cameron recently appeared on “Nightline” as part of a debate about the existence of God. The whole thing started when “Nightline” did a piece on the Rational Response Squad, which operates a site where people can upload video of themselves denying the existence of God so that they might receive a sticker or a pin or something. (You think they’d at least take into account how poorly this worked out for Bart Simpson, but whatever.) For a few brief seconds — for I am, dear reader, pretty stupid on occasion — I wondered if the debate would actually touch on subjects of importance or deal with knotty issues in mature, nuanced ways. After all, the moderator was Martin Bashir, the in-no-way creepy British guy who got Michael Jackson to open up on camera, so things had to be on the level, right? But of course the entire thing was stupid. Stupid stupid stupid. Cameron and his business associate, Ray Comfort, come across as shady snake-oil salesmen, trading in half-truths and eerily dulcet tones that don’t do anything but weird out their opposition. What’s more, I’m a Christian, and I found Comfort’s arguments to be patently ridiculous when it comes to “proving” God’s existence. The problem is that he isn’t attempting to prove the existence of a/the God, but rather laying out a three-point call to salvation that’s based in the shoddy theology intelligent design. He said he could do it without appealing to the Bible, only to use the Ten Commandments as the second of three weak propositions to support his case. Their rebuttalists were a pair of dour twentysomethings who weren’t as polished at public speaking but were infinitely more honest in their intentions. They said they weren’t there to disprove God’s existence, merely to refute the claim that Cameron and Co. could scientifically verify God’s existence. The whole thing was lamentably one-sided, usually in favor of the atheists. I realized after watching the clips (which can be found in part here) that ABC has no interest in hosting a peaceful or intellectual debate. There’s no money to be made by calming everyone down and promoting a grudging pluralism, which is why they didn’t recruit smart, moderate speakers from the different sides of the argument. They simply picked Kirk Cameron and his wingnut wingman and let them stand in as the voice for all believers. Needless to say, this is offensive to me and just about all my Christian friends, who think Left Behind is indicative of a horrible, short-sighted, antagonistic brand of faith, a brand we don’t want to be associated with at all. I wish ABC would have enough respect to actually engage people in legitimate discourse and have enough courage to deviate from the dialogue seemingly cribbed from moronic Chick Publications tracts that they walk through every time. Cameron and Comfort tried to argue for God with bad science, when no one ever comes to the faith because of the numbers, but because of their society, their family, their changing beliefs, their personal lives, or any one of a hundred other areas that can’t be quantified by hucksters hawking Bibles. To put it another way, I can’t prove God exists; I feel it.

Well, that’s all the awkward confessional time we have for today. I’d like to reiterate the standard warnings and encouragements for the comment thread below: Any and all opinions are welcome, but if you’re gonna be a dick about something, at least try to back it up with some half-assed proofs, OK? None of this “FIRST!!! God sux k im going to defamer” stuff. See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand. Until next month, I leave you with the fantastic stand-up comedian Mike Birbiglia, and his awesome take on Christian rock:

Daniel Carlson is the managing editor of Pajiba and a low-level employee at a Hollywood industry magazine. He’s just a bus driver, so what does he know? You can visit his blog, Slowly Going Bald.

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A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

Jesus, Etc. / Daniel Carlson

Trade News | May 15, 2007 | Comments ()



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