1. “Hollywood ’Noah’ is kosher, says celebrity rabbi.” Shmuley Boteach tells our film critic the Russell Crowe epic is impressive and important, but also poor entertainment.
“Is the purpose of religion to be the sword of God? The blade of morality which condemns the wicked and the unrighteous? I have written two books about why innocent people suffer. And what I say is this: there are people who believe that the explanation for human suffering is straightforward. You see it in the Flood, in Sodom and Gommorah and with Moses and the Golden Calf. And yet, the principal distinction between Noah on one hand and Moses and Abraham on the other is that Noah accepts God’s judgement. The film does a good job of showing this. Noah is not a hero in Jewish lore. The Bible says that Noah was a righteous man ’in his generation.’ He was only a righteous man compared to the others who were far worse than he.”
2. “You Can’t Always Want What You Get.” Sarah Nicole Prickett on Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac.
“Maybe it’s fresh to show a mother refusing to be maternal. The problem is that genitals, no matter how bloody in close-up, do not a woman make. By the time Joe insists on saying ’Negro,’ assuring us that any woman (by which she means white woman) who is not turned on by ’Negroes’ is lying, and assumes that because she hears black men speaking a language that isn’t English they do not speak English at all, it’s obvious von Trier is shoving his own dated, reactionary views inside a modern female body and hoping we’ll find it subversive.”
3. “Hardbodies and Soul.” The Professional Wrestler as Actor.
“[Dwayne] Johnson’s wrestling stardom was predicated on the post-kayfabe recognition of his own ridiculousness: decked out in gaudy suits and sunglasses, shamelessly spouting catchphrases in between boasts, the character nodded to Thunderlips et al while raising one skeptical eyebrow at the entire show. That same self-awareness pervaded Johnson’s performances in kiddie flicks (The Tooth Fairy, 2010) and auteur works (Southland Tales, 2006) alike, but in Pain & Gain he touches on comic genius by inhabiting Doyle’s perplexed anguish rather than mocking it. He’s a straight arrow bent so grotesquely out of shape as to become (lethally) weaponized, and while Michael Bay’s oddly Coenesque comedy is hardly an exercise in empathy—for its characters or its audience, which it all but piledrives into submission—one wonders if Johnson isn’t in some way pouring one out for all his predecessors and peers consumed by their appetites. At the same time, his indelible acting in a movie with its share of critical champions will hopefully serve to remove some of the stigma from the history of wrestlers-turned-actors—a minor but refreshingly unpremeditated victory.”
4. “The Action Hero Championship Belt.” From Steve McQueen to Liam Neeson, Bill Simmons determines who ruled the box office.
“Imagine the scariest dude on the planet (say, Nikola Pekovic after being fed a 32-ounce Red Bull/cocaine/stanozolol cocktail) beating up an entire bar, and then eventually he comes after our beloved hero. If I am not 100 percent convinced that my dude is winning that fight—OR, if I find it far-fetched that he’s winning it as he’s winning i—then he can’t capture the belt. This rule disqualifies A-listers like Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise, Paul Newman, Keanu Reeves, Robert Redford, George Clooney, Will Smith, Ben Affleck and Tom Cruise a second time, as well as everyone who ever played James Bond, Ethan Hunt, Jason Bourne, Iron Man, Batman or any other manufactured studio hero.”
5. “Ready for My Haircut, Mr. DeMille.” Cecil B. DeMille’s ’Samson and Delilah’ Comes to Blu-ray.
“Exaggerated physical types are accentuated by monumental, pre-CGI sets, fabulous costumes and an ethos of conspicuous consumption. Lamarr, whose get-ups are artfully contrived to bare her limbs and conceal her navel, makes one grand entrance in a gown of peacock feathers (supposedly harvested from the flock of birds DeMille kept on his ranch). The Saran of Gaza (George Sanders) amuses himself playing God with an elaborate ant farm; his soldiers are identified as Philistines by the inverted gold spittoons that serve as their headgear. Nothing can reproduce the garish sheen of original three-strip Technicolor, but Paramount’s ’meticulously restored’ transfer provides a reasonably modulated approximation of the movie’s riotous chromatic arrangement.”
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