'Noah' hits rough religious waters on-screen

Thoughts on religious controversy on the Noah movie?

Darren Aronofsky's 'Noah' has found ardent admirers and louder religious criticism before its March 28 opening. Will it survive the storms at the box office?

Director Darren Aronofsky has seen his share of controversy in a body of work that has included uncompromising films such as Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan.

But there hasn't been anything quite like the storm that has erupted over his treatment of the Old Testament tale featured in Noah, out Friday. The maelstrom has battle-tested studio heads reaching for appropriate biblical comparisons.

"It's been a unique journey," says Rob Moore, vice chairman of distributor Paramount Studios. "I actually feel like some combination of Noah preparing for the storm, or Joseph, where you feel like you're in some foreign land and you're trying to figure out how to make it all work."

The story of Noah's construction of a massive ark to save Earth's animals from God's flood-borne wrath is sacred text in the Koran and the Bible, and is one of the most popular stories with children.

Yet no filmmaker has fully taken on the tale for Hollywood until Aronofsky's quest, which actually started when, as a 13-year-old student, he won an award for his poem about the tale. It continued to inspire him as an adult.

"It seems strange to me that one of the greatest stories ever told had never been made into a feature film," says Aronofsky, 45. "In some ways I have been working on this for 32 years. When I first pitched the film, I didn't think there would be much controversy.''

He was wrong on that last point. Noah, which stars Russell Crowe in the title role, along with Jennifer Connelly (as Naameh) and Anthony Hopkins (Methuselah), has become a lightning rod. Aronofsky and screenwriter partner Ari Handel's leaked script was first called out by a movie blogger in October 2012 for depicting Noah as an "environmental wacko."

Aronofsky insists the comments refer to an old draft of the script. But criticism of Noah's depiction and the environmental themes, has continued.

Representatives of Muslim-dominated Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Indonesia have made clear their countries will not distribute the film. Conservative radio talk show host Glenn Beck, who initially criticized the film based on a review that he read, saw Noah over the weekend.

"It was awful," Beck said on his radio show Monday, calling it "pro-animal" and "strongly anti-human."

Paramount has worked with religious organizations such as the American Bible Society After viewing the film, chief communications officer Geoffrey Morin urged debate about the topic "and digging into God's word for yourself" in a positive op-ed piece in USA TODAY.

After discussions with members of the National Religious Broadcasters, Paramount and the NRB made a joint announcement in February to change Noah'smarketing materials to stress that it was an interpretation of the biblical story. "The film is inspired by the story of Noah," the marketing wording now reads. "The Biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis."

NRB President Jerry Johnson posed the all-important question in a series of articles on the organization's website: Should Christians organize churches to see Noah, or boycott it?

While taking issue with some of Aronofsky's vision, Johnson wrote many would "enjoy" the "quality production."

"Most importantly, you can have healthy gospel discussions about some of the positives, and even the negatives," Johnson wrote. He also made clear it was not a "buy up a block of tickets" moment for churches.

How will the controversy play out at the box office? Movie industry publication Variety reported robust tracking at $35 million-plus for this weekend. Further, Noah opened strong last Friday in South Korea and in heavily Catholic Mexico ($1.4 million, matching Gravity's opening in the market).

Former ambassador to the Vatican Raymond Flynn and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, have also seen the film and praised the educational possibilities it presents.

Rodriguez says Noah "occupies positive space" even if it deviates from the Scripture.

"There were elements that made me feel uncomfortable. I won't deny that," says Rodriguez. "But I will have no hesitation recommending it to my churches. This is not Noah 101 from the book of Genesis. But it's a pro-faith movie, a pro-God movie, a pro-family movie. Without a doubt."


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Given that one is an employee, how can one make it a healthier, happier, more productive place to work? 

I had an appointment the other day for a mammography. When I walked in the door, no one was smiling and treated me as a digit. I made some silly remarks to try to lighten the air and all they returned were frowns. I went into the room with a technician and she was as somber as that silly cat with a frown built in. I asked if she liked her job, if her job provided health care and retirement and how was her boss to work for. 

Well, there was no good news coming back. I wonder what it would take to turn that office around and make it a friendly, supportive, encouraging place. Cancer Care Northwest is positive, bright, compassionate from the first receptionist to the janitor who cleaned up dirty spots on a rug. 

I know, I can write a letter to Providence Medical Group and let them know about my experience and see what happens. 

Daniel, is there a way you can reframe your experiences with your group so that you can feel joy, pride, compassion with your staff, patients and others in your part of the group? 

My process when dealing with an unhealthy environment is to reframe my thinking. Nothing changes around me, but things that are around me change. 

Good luck. And remember to vent your frustration here. 

Joan, in a lot of workplaces, if someone starts to make waves, there is a good chance they will be discriminated against, and there is a fair chance their job will go into a death spiral.  Managers do not like employees who complain.  A lot of jobs end because of people who "just aren't 'team' players".  

It's better to just do one's best and quietly do the job.  To do otherwise, one winds up with a Work Improvement Plan.  Which makes for an interesting acronym.  If we could insert a 2nd word that starts with an "h" it would spell out nicely.  I have not had that happen - actually I always perform well, but it takes a toll.

There is a Chinese saying, the rooster that crows earliest (or loudest), makes the best soup.  In many workplaces, it works that way for employees too. 

There's also this old gem.....

FA, I want to post that for my secretary. Her and her husband are good friends, and she has a great sense of humor. Funny as hell.

that is funny

Carl, years ago I had that up over my desk.  Got me into trouble.

I also had a desk calendar from despair.com stating "Sometimes the best solution to morale problems is just to fire all of the unhappy people".  Unfortunately, that actually was what they were doing.  I learned to be much much much more discrete.

Sentient, you are more courageous than I am!  Actually, I only worked in one office (for 2 years) where we were required to have everything off our desktops before leaving for the day.  Most of us just shoved whatever we were working on into a drawer....and then tried to figure out what went with what the next morning.

"If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk? "
Albert Einstein

Sounds all too familiar!

Excellent old gem FA, but I've never seen it before.

It points out a truth about how many bosses think.  Too true to be funny to me.

I would laugh, except it is all too true! This is going into my training file with attribution to The Flying Atheist.


Sadly, Daniel, I know you are correct. Employees pay a heavy price for working in a dominator organization. Obedience to authority is the opposite of teamwork. Building a team does require coordination; the best team leader has the loyalty of team followers. 

Also, if one person "crows" first or loudest, he/she is in a vulnerable position and not a good strategy for successful improvement of an office environment, even in the best of circumstances. 

If an entire department joins in the effort to improve office morale, the individual is less vulnerable. No one benefits if one or a few make complaints. Group solidarity works as well as the weakest member ... that WHIP scares the timid off and group cohesion crumbles. So, each situation needs different strategies. 

Having been a consumer of medical care, and seeing how much difference staff can make in a patient's experience, it seems the best care is the one that focuses on a healthy staff environment. It is one of my desires to see improvement in this aspect of health care delivery.  

Every challenge is an opportunity for improvement. It is a cliche, and true. 

Noah was six hundred years old when the flood started.  Probably didn't have much hair. 



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