Praise The Lord And Pass The Popcorn

The Arts



Every few years biblical movies come along – I missed the great wave of postwar religious films like ‘The Robe’ although I saw and loved ‘Ben-Hur’. Chariots! Lepers! It was so much fun I forgot Jesus was in it.

Then came John Huston’s ludicrous ‘The Bible – In The Beginning’, with a painfully literal Adam and Eve, and comedy-Noah getting his foot stuck in a bucket of paste. The strand died away through the cynical seventies, only to be revived as a series of horror films, from ‘The Exorcist’ to ‘The Omen’ and eventually ‘The Passion of the Christ’, Mel Gibson’s virtually unwatchable gorefest which sold most of its tickets through churches.

There were some comic takes along the way, with Peter O’Toole playing a mad lord who believes he’s God in ‘The Ruling Class’. ‘How do you know you’re God?’ asked Coral Browne, not unreasonably. ‘Simple,’ O’Toole replies. ‘When I pray to him I find I’m talking to myself.’

The new DC Superman films positioned him as a Christ-figure and under performed because they were boring. But now we have a new cycle, and this time it’s creating a new genre, the faith film, a particularly lukewarm, beige sort of movement aimed at refuting science. We can hardly count ‘Noah’, which retools the biblical fable as a fantasy epic plotted in the head of a mental patient, but then into the Top Ten came ‘Son of God’, treating Christ as a sort of surfer dude who spends his time filling lakes with fish.

Next, ‘God Is Not Dead’ snuck into the charts with its tale of a poor student oppressed by his atheist teacher. Too risible to be pernicious, it creamed off some healthy box office in the run-up to Easter. Now there’s ‘Heaven Is For Real’, with its bestselling account by a minister called Rector Burpo, (doesn’t that sound like a vulgar clown?) whose little boy believes he’s been to Heaven because the town prayed for him to get well. The boy claims to have left his body, gone to heaven and met rainbow-colored horses, his miscarried sister and Jesus himself while on the operating table.

Pastor Burpo (I’m sorry, I’m having trouble typing that) says he was a sceptic until this happened (which wouldn’t make him a very good man of the cloth) and only wanted privacy, which is presumably why he then wrote a book and sold the movie rights. What’s shocking is that a reputable actor (Greg Kinnear) stars in this tendentious sputum.

This time, the cycle’s here to stay, as established for Easter as the Valentine rom-com or the Halloween horror flick. The plots deal with simplistic absolutes and carefully avoid data of any kind, preaching, if you will, to the converted.

The photo seems to show Jesus meeting Snow White in some kind of Midwestern wet dream. Me, I’m off to watch something blasphemous, heretical and thought-provoking.

6 comments on “Praise The Lord And Pass The Popcorn”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    Had to see Heaven Is For Real due to a granddaughter who was interested. if not at all religious at 13. There were a couple of brief moments in the film that were fine, but the rest was…. well, it just was. It was funded on the cheap by a Mega-Church, so viewer beware.
    They tried to balance the message, but that wasn’t really what they wanted to do. However, granddaughter was very wise and saw the film on an excellent level of adult understanding. And nailed the wrongness of a gratuitous “miracle.”
    What I found interesting – if not a tad amazing – was the long list of coming attractions which were all of the same persuasion. Only exception was Train Your Dragon, Part II (that’s the correct title, I believe) and a family acceptable film. I never realized there was such a market for this “uplifting” genre. You could almost spend six months watching the promoted selections
    Ben-Hur was good! Slap those blades on the chariot wheels and we out of here.

  2. Vivienne says:

    When I.come upon such things, I find myself saying, ‘Good God!’ ‘Jesus Christ!’ As a sort of reflex. Thank God – there I go again- blasphemy laws aren’t strictly enforced.

  3. J. Folgard says:

    Several days ago I treated myself with a rewatch of ‘AD/BC’ -twice in a row!

  4. Terenzio says:

    The Ruling Class is a hilarious film. Peter O’Toole’s character goes from being Jesus Christ to Jack the Ripper. What a performance with an ending that has his lordship ranting in the House of Lords while being applauded by other Lords. Totally priceless. And what a cast including Arthur Lowe, Alastair Sim, William Mervyn and of course the lovely and delightful Coral Browne. I still can picture her under the deadly hairdryer in Theatre of Blood. What a shame I never had the opportunity to meet her. I bet she would have been fun to hang around with.

    I shall retire to the boudoir with a before dinner kir and peruse the weekend newspapers…looking up every now and then to look out the window and partake of a rather splendid and sunny spring day. À bientôt…the one is the gorgeous purple dressing gown and lovely velvet slippers.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    The Last Temptation of Christ might restore your faith in the movie industry(sorry about that.) It was not warmly received by some churches but has been critically acclaimed. I suspected what Heaven is for Real would be like and haven’t been evenly faintly interested. It’s public performances of that sort that give faith a bad rep.

  6. Dan Terrell says:

    The Last Temptation of Christ was a fine novel and one of the only ones of the sort I’ve read. (I have not seen the film.) Really fine nuanced first opening paragraphs in the novel.
    In sum, outside of Bethlehem/Jerusalem (?) at night the shepherds are doing their sheep herding under the stars and elves are quietly moving about, too. I thought this a fine way of showing the “old/new” concepts of thought when I was in high school. Many touches like that in the book and of course the book – before the film – disturbed the heck out of the calcified and the “true believers”.Good shading of events, too.
    Thomas Jefferson prepared his own edition of the New Testament by cutting out and leaving only that which he could actually believe in. It ended up about a 1/4″ thick and very pithy and for a U.S. president: a good guide for use in human guidance, generous administrative oversight, and sheepherding a multi-ethnic and multi-religious growing population.
    Someone once wrote Faith/faith gone “wrong” or applied by one group, or ruler, to it/his/her advantage can be a powerful plague with little remedy.
    Hey, there’s a great sunrise outside; many trees in bloom, flowers beds colorful. I’m getting the first cup of coffee and a breath of fresh air and I’ll try to shake the viruses and scales of winter. To renewed health and creativity.. .

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