21 April 2014

Go Forth And Multiply

Of all the big questions that humanity has pondered, the most important must of course be what species Piers Morgan is and how do we kill it? After that I suppose the next issue down the list might be ‘is there a God?’ and ‘if so, why is he such a twat?’ I should point out that I'm an agnostic and don't completely deny the possibility of the existence of the magical sky man. It would be arrogant of me to say there's no such thing as there's currently no chance that I can prove or disprove the concept either way. Having said that though, nor can I prove that in his spare time, God isn't a blacked up drag Queen called Sweet Latisha with diamond encrusted nipple tassels and a skull-shaped ivory cock ring. I can guess that, that is probably not the case in, as much as I can guess, he probably doesn't exist either but for now I suppose I just can't know for sure. Sadly however, a lot of the world is ironically a lot more closed minded than this, electing to instead believe a gut feeling or childhood indoctrination over something as silly as the freely available facts. Not only that but if you even attempt to point out the obvious ridiculousness of blind faith then they tend to get a little pissy for some reason. I don't know why this is the case but I'm going to guess it's possibly the result of an underlying insecurity that suggests they're worried we non-believers are probably right. Call a sensible skinny person fat and they'll just look at you as though you're stupid. Call a sensible fat person fat and they'll go crying to the ice-cream trough because secretly they know you might be right. 

In 1979, the geniuses that are Monty Python dared to make a comedy which had the nerve to take place around the same area and time as when Jesus was allegedly performing his magic tricks. Despite The Life of Brian making fun of the fictional title character and actually treating the real words of the Bible with surprising respect, the religious folk unfortunately failed to see the funny side. In fact, many of them failed to see the movie at all instead deciding once again to just believe what they'd heard and wrongly protest the film on the assumption that it ridiculed their faith. Had they  actually bothered to see it then they would have realised that in reality it depicts a world that validates their beliefs and instead makes fun of people who act irrationally in the name of religion. By protesting the The Life of Brian without having watched it, the Bible-bashers inadvertently became the exact thing the movie was taking the piss out off. Imagine the 'don't worry about the vase' scene from The Matrix but played out between a bunch of hilarious but mischievous comedians and a gang of humourless God Botherers and that's basically what happened here... and now it's happening again.

Today is not a washing day...
Darren Aronofsky's Noah is the latest film to get a religious kicking from that vocal minority of brainwashed fuckwits with some countries even going as far as simply banning the film outright. The movie tells the story of Noah who lived in that first half of the Bible where God is portrayed as being a great angry cunt who, like an evil dictator, punishes those who defy him. He's basically a bit like Hitler but without even the redeeming feature of a funny moustache. Anyway, God doesn't actually appear in this film with Noah instead suffering from a series of hallucinations that suggest to him that he needs to build a big old boat before the world floods and kills everybody. Rather than putting this down to too much cheese before bed and not enough schizophrenia medicine in the morning though, Noah does as he thinks he's told and decides to make a floaty wooden box for every single animal that he can find... as you do. Anyway, this is all going quite well thanks to a fair bit of help from some giant rock monsters until, of course, King Ray 'I'm the Daddy now' Winstone finds out he's going to be drowned and doesn't quite fancy the idea. On top of that, Noah's three sons have started to worry that they might not have anything to fuck whilst on the ark whilst somehow forgetting that they'll be surrounded by a boat load of mostly sleepy animals. 

I should say at this point that, although I'm still yet to see his debut film Pi, I am a huge fan of Aronofsky's films and so was really excited to see this movie. However I'd also say that I was probably left feeling a tiny bit disappointed by it in the end which isn't to say that it's a bad film at all but simply that it just doesn't quite hit the extraordinary heights of Black Swan or The Wrestler. As the film went on, and I tried to work out why I wasn't quite connecting to it, I think I came to one ironic point. Despite all of the controversy from Gods angry cult, the reason that this film doesn't work quite as well as a masterpiece such as Requiem For A Dream does is simply because of the batshit stupidity of the original source material. Aronofsky can do his absolute best with this story but at the end of the day it's a morality tale in which every single animal on the planet hides in a boat as God punishes the naughtiness of man with a merciless global genocide. The irony of this being that for me, the biggest criticism is the ridiculousness of the Bible story that the film is based on, but for everybody else, the controversy centres around the looseness of the adaptation. 

Due to the fact that the original Bible story is a relatively short one, Aronofsky has padded it out with strange mutant animals, Helms Deep style battles and an environmental message that surely nobody could take issue with…? Well, issue with it they did take as some braindead church goers seem unable to understand the definition of the word 'adaptation'. Apparently in his mission to roll a turd in glitter, Aronofsky decided to combine several Noah-esque tales from various different cultures in an attempt to create a more cinematic and believable story. As a result of this, the religious obsessives have been throwing their shit out of the pram in anger because he dared to make some logical changes to their original holy text. However for me, this is the same argument that people make whenever any book is adapted into a film and the fans get all pissy about it. 

People assume that because both books and films have the primary purpose of telling a story that the two mediums should be easily interchangeable.. but they're not. What might work in a novel might not in a film (for one of a million reasons) and as such will need to be adapted. Incidentally, that rule applies both ways but you rarely seem to hear people bitching about how shit the novelisation of their favourite film is! Anyway, my point is that a film has the right to tell the story that it wants to regardless of the content of whatever it's based on, and as such should be taken on its own merits. Note the use of the word 'adaption' as opposed to 'replication'. Blade Runner and The Shining are two prime examples of great films that took significant liberties with the books that they were adapted from and last time I checked they hadn't been banned in any countries, so why should Noah? Considering the believers are so fucking obsessed with sticking to the text, it's also worth noting that the ark in this film is built to the exact specifications as is laid out in their book. However despite this being the case, filming on Noah ran into some delays when Hurricane Sandy struck New York producing both storms and floods that the set was unable to cope with. So much for sticking to the 'facts’, hey?

I should re-emphasise too for the sake of fairness that it's not every religious person who is this narrow minded, with most, I'm sure, living perfectly social lives and having a good sense of perspective. In fact, according to the actual source of all information... I read on Wikipedia that the Arch-bishop of Canterbury referred to Noah as being, “interesting and thought-provoking”. It's just that the crazy ones tend to scream louder then the sane ones and it's easy to get pissed off by their manic and irrational hatreds. Not liking the film is one thing but banning it is something completely different. Just because they believe their bullshit doesn't mean anybody else should be dictated to by it as well. But like I say.. for the most part I'm sure religious people can see this film for what it is. It's just a shame for the odd nutcase, the American Bible belt, the worlds supply of creationists and the Governing censors of Pakistan, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Malaysia and Indonesia. It's also worth pointing out that in a few of the countries that it's been banned in, it wasn't banned because of a love of the Christian Bible but rather because they have their own different religion that this film seemingly contradicts. Like I mentioned above with my 'fatty and the trough of ice-cream' analogy, I guess you have to question the certainty of a religion that feels it has to deprive its members of an alternate perspective.

But ignoring all that, is the film actually any good? Well as I said, the story is a bit silly but by giving it a sense of timelessness, Aronofsky does a good job of making it fun. Set in a world that's kind of Star Wars-y and a bit Planet of the Apse-y this feels more like a sci-fi movie than it does any of those 1950's biblical epics that made a shit tonne of money and had a running time of about nine days. If there has to be a film about this story then I honestly think this is the best it's going to be although I kind of wish it had been more intense. Aronofksy is at his best when making a film that's just fucking brutal to watch and despite the apocalyptic theme of this, it didn't quite reach the horror of his previous efforts. However when things did come to a head, the film itself came into its own with Ray Winstone's character adding some much needed anger and Noah himself enduring a full on descent into guilt and madness. In fact when the flood does arrive, the film almost becomes a biblical remake of the previously mentioned film The Shining as the ark’s captain stomps about after his confined family with murderous intent. Before this however, the movie occasionally gets too close to taking itself a little too seriously considering the absurdity of the story. There's some scenes early on in which Anthony Hopkins obsesses over a quest for berries which was fucking hilarious and I still can't quite work out whether that was intentional or not. 

Speaking of taking-itself-too-seriously, people often slag of Russell Crowe for coming across as a bit up himself but fuck them because I think he's great. Although his Noah isn't exactly a sympathetic man, he's always watchable thanks to that mad ‘Travis Bickle’ glint in his eye that suggests he's kind of glad that a real rain has finally come down to wash away all the whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers and junkies. Perhaps more credit though should go to Jennifer Connelly who has the more thankless task of reminding the audience of Noah's hidden goodness by cowering from him and crying for an hour or so. Oh, and when she's not doing that, she's out preparing for the flood by trying to find a workable womb for her sons to impregnate whilst completely ignoring the option of simply taking one for the team. In fact, incest does seem to be another theme running through this film as in order to repopulate the world they only have one girl, Emma Watson, with them who’s not only been raised as a sister to the boys but also turns out to be barren anyway. Having not seen her in much else, it is nice to see Watson having a post-Potter career by competently portraying the anguish of a girl who has a Fault in her Chamber of Secrets. Still, the incest thing is again more of a problem with the Bible than it is this film with it here simply adding to the whole Star Wars-y vibe that I mentioned before.


Master and Commander: The Early Years
I suppose the real star of the film is, as is often the case with Aronofky's films, the composer Clint Mansell whose soundtrack is predictably phenomenal here. I guess I have nothing else to add to that point except that I recommend you check it out on YouTube... and then listen to everything else he's done whilst you're at it because his work is fucking amazing. Aronofsky himself too reminds us he's in charge here with the odd creative flourish such as a weird montage of birds flying and a cool scene in which cells divide and begin to evolve through time. It's kind of like that Fatboy Slim music video for Right here, Right now but here sadly ends just short of the creature turning into a short fat man in a T-Shirt saying, “I'm Number one so why try harder?” Anywho, as ever, I’ve waffled on for far too long so I'll end it here by saying that a lesser Aronofsky film is still a more satisfying prospect than a good effort from most other filmmakers. If you've not already seen Noah then my advice would be to ignore the religious criticisms and if anything, just make an effort to see the film if only to piss them off. But then what do I know? As I said in the opening paragraph, I'm not an atheist- I'm an agnostic, so maybe the fruitcakes are right all along. After all, God’s flood was designed to wipe out the evils of man and seems as the world is now run by such angels as the cuddly Putin, the maternal Mugabe and the self-deprecating Kim Jong Un, I suppose there must have been some divine help in creating our Utopian World of Peace. Ha then again... What a load of old shit. 


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