Back in the day, a trip to my grandparents' row home in South Philly, for Passover or the Jewish New Year, was preceded by a family movie in Center City.  The theaters were huge and ornate -- not at all like your bare-bones cineplex; the movies were usually Biblical and always accompanied by chocolate covered cherries.

Of course, we saw Charlton Heston as Moses.  I think Ben-Hur got sneaked in there, as well as Israeli-themed movies like the heart-rending Exodus, with Paul Newman as Ari ben Canaan, the heroic freedom fighter/terrorist..  No Jesus movies, however.

And now: Noah

I dutifully watched all of these and more, munching my chocolate-covered cherries.  But now I see the trailers for "Noah," the cinematic version of God's mass murder...and I gag.  

One difference is that my secular/atheistic views weren't fully formed when Heston marched up the mountain.  It was a story, even if it wasn't true.  So a child's unquestioning mind never wondered how all the stuff in the Torah got onto those two little tablets -- or if it didn't, where did it come from, all those rules, regs, and legends in the holy scroll?

And BTW, how could Moses have written it, as some Jews claim, if so much of it takes place before he was born, and he's sophisticated enough to write of himself of him in the third person -- including after his death, as in the latter part of Deuteronomy?  Nah, I don't think so.

Crude and barbaric

Of course, I saw Heston long before I actually read the Torah and realized how crude and barbaric so much of it is.  And why not?  It's the product of a primitive society, and it reflects their values.  Peer beneath the surface, and the holy scroll is a house of horrors.  God strikes the Israelites with plagues, snakes, and other torments.  He torches Aaron's two sons, just burns 'em up.  

So Moses going humbly up the mountain to receive the all-encompassing laws of God is pretty pathetic. People can't figure out for themselves how to behave?   But the Moses/Sinai story effectively welded morality to religion and having it all come right from the top.

"My Dad's nuts!"

Another of my favorite examples is Binding of Isaac (Genesis Ch. 22).  There's a cartoon of Isaac in a therapist's office, saying "My father is nuts."  That about sums it up.  The story is an insane test of loyalty.  And it's held up as an example!  Some modern Jews like to conduct mock trials over this.  I don't get it.  What's there to say except that God's nuts?

And the "Noah" story proves it.  Now we will be treated to the greatest disaster movie of all time, brought to you in authentically dirty Biblical dress and stilted speech.  Oh, boy.  I can hardly wait to see Noah get all the animals on board.  Never mind all the millions of species - was Noah selective?  Or will the creationists argue that there were fewer species then?

You can laugh at the absurdity of it, as Bill Cosby did in his classic "Noah" bit, in which Noah gets all God's instructions, and his reaction is "Riiiiight.  Who is this, really?  Am I on Candid Camera?"  Noah's neighbor complains that the Ark is blocking his driveway.  It was outrageously funny back then, and it still is.

Lots of people drown.

So we're going to see it all in state-of-the-art cinematography, the waters rolling in, drowning everybody, even innocent children. The Noah legend is a pathological deity-gone-mad horror story. But in the current religious climate, when no avowed atheist can get elected to high office (though Obama probably is one), it's red meat for all the end-times/left-behind freaks.  Yeah, this is what God does when he's pissed, so don't piss him off.

I think bringing Bible stories to the screen, especially with advanced movie technology and authentic dress (and dirt) is a powerful form of belief-reinforcement propaganda, a setback to secularism and reason.   I'd love to see atheists picket the theaters.  But they'd have to wear body armor.  Religious people get angry when you challenge them.

As does God.  I won't be seeing Noah.  Will you?

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Comment by Alan Perlman on April 6, 2014 at 11:14pm

OMG, are you following the massive PR and critical blitz this movie is getting?  It's as if the sheeple are being told to love it. 

Comment by Alan Perlman on March 26, 2014 at 9:47am

Kudos to the commentators who noted that people are less concerned about real environmental catastrophe (despite the many movies on this subject) than an imaginary one.  Right on, Loren!

Comment by Loren Miller on March 26, 2014 at 6:47am

I'm afraid I have to agree, Pat.  The TV commercials are hawking it to the nines, with Rolling Stone's review leading the way, and I just saw Emma Watson (formerly known as Harry Potter's friend, Hermione Granger!) on David Letterman, promoting the film as well.  I smell a full-court press from the PR peeps here.

And Ruth, you could have your movie illustrating climate change, detailed and supported and the whole nine yards and it would probably make less splash than Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth did.  Belief remains easy; knowing and learning and understanding still require effort and engagement, which too many people can't be bothered with.  I just hope that it doesn't have to get to the point where people are wading in water on Wall Street before they can be bothered to wake up and smell the coffee.

By then it will be too late.

Comment by Pat on March 26, 2014 at 6:30am

I'm going with k.h. ky's prediction. The entertainment paper Variety is already predicting large revenues for the movie. Though banned in certain Islamic countries, it has already had a successful premier in Mexico, and looks as though it will rake in the dough in other predominantly Catholic countries as well. 

Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on March 25, 2014 at 10:18pm

I agree that such movies are effective propaganda. But many of the same movie goers who "buy" this flood story will deny ocean acidification, the Arctic Death Spiral, and other aspects of Climate Destabilization. The real threats to our world need such movie technology so people will "buy" them.

Comment by Grinning Cat on March 25, 2014 at 10:17pm

Haven't large churches been known to buy blocks of tickets, or even buy out entire movie theaters, for movies they've promoted?

Comment by kathy: ky on March 25, 2014 at 9:48pm

I predict the damned thing will make a fortune.  But only because someone else predicted it first..  The theaters were packed for the last big 'christian movie' (Passions) but only because the churches, in this area especially, were taking their Wed. evening church services to the movie instead. And I'm sure they'll do the same with this one.

After all, they can never be to thin, rich, and pious.  Read pious as stupid!

Comment by Alan Perlman on March 25, 2014 at 9:08pm

Richard,  Rest assured that there is no Bible story they won't make a movie of (including, someday, the rape of Dinah and the ghastly aftermath, Genesis 34; that would make a great slasher movie).

Rory...I'll be interested to see how Noah does at the box office.  There's always an audience of wackos that eats this stuff up - I just don't know how big.   

Comment by Richard C Brown on March 25, 2014 at 8:25pm

Hurricane Katrina would have sank the ark.

I am waiting for Jonah and the Whale.

Comment by Rory Pralow on March 25, 2014 at 4:17pm

With Bill Maher, it is always golden. This is a story that I heard all the time through out private school. As for your question, NO, I will be watching this film at all. Does Hollywood still believe that christian films a profitable? I think they may have to cash in there stock bonds on this one because it's a BUST! lol



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