Why You Should Embrace the Noah Movie

Noah poster

I am just plain psyched for the upcoming Darren Aronofsky Noah movie. As a filmmaker and as a Christian, no matter how many times Hollywood disappoints me I never cease to get excited when it comes to an on-screen adaptation of a biblical story. I never stop hoping. I love seeing my faith brought to life through art.

Of course, this movie is causing a lot of controversy in the Christian community for not being “biblically accurate.” Many people of faith are even publicizing their plans to boycott the film. Here’s why I think they are wrong.

Why the Bible Should Be Made into Movies–All Kinds of Movies

Regardless of your faith background, it is hard to deny that the Bible is one of the most influential (if not THE most influential) works of history and literature ever written. Ever! I don’t care if you’re Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Shinto, Wiccan, or Atheist. This is a centuries-old fact of Western and now even global culture.

How is it right that less-important (though admittedly great) works are made into hedonistic blockbuster films a la Troy and even popular video games a la Dante’s Inferno while many believe that the Bible remains “too holy” to bridge this cultural gap? Why do classic mythology and literature get to shape our culture through the permeating medium of film and video while the Bible collects dust in a church pew?

The Bible needs to be made relevant, and little is more relevant to today’s society than the movies.

Why aren’t there more action films about the judges, the mighty men of David, the fall of Jericho, Elijah’s challenge, or the fiery furnace? Why aren’t there more classic war films about Saul and basically any Old Testament king or general? Why aren’t there more romances and dramas about the stories like those of David and Abigail or Samson and Delilah? Well-told stories like these could make disconnected, apathetic audiences relate with and invest in the characters, and maybe invest in looking deeper into the Bible as a result. That’s something I’d like to see more of–the gritty reality of inspiring biblical tales paired with solid artistic direction to make great films that people like.

I could be proven wrong, but I think Noah is that film.

Of course the production team has tweaked some details of the account to make for a more well-crafted story, adding characters and conflicts for depth and character development. Honestly, when doesn’t this happen in a historical account being adapted for film? Some of the details of reality are either dull and boring or just not conducive to being depicted onscreen. Filmmakers have been tweaking true tales for the big screen ever since Battleship Potemkin. It’s called dramatization.

Also, Paramount had the big-boy pants to post this “disclaimer” at the start of the picture:

The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.

Rob Moore, vice-chairman of Paramount Pictures, was even quoted as saying that Paramount is “very proud of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.” How wonderful and once-unimaginable is it that a movie based on a Sunday School story is something that the most experienced and influential Hollywood bigwigs can be proud of? I find that amazing. What more could we want from these people? They are skilled media makers, and they are respectful of the spiritual significance of the Bible. They are bringing our Bible to life for a media-driven generation. They are making great art (I hope) with a great message. 

We have been asking for years for Hollywood to helm faith-themed and biblically-based projects. Now that they are heeding our calls, do we really have to complain about how they have chosen to do so?

Okay, so instead of continuing to talk about a film I have yet to see, I’m going to point you to a great article written for the Christian Post by John Snowden. NOTE: I have since found that this piece may have originally been written by Snowden as an educational packet to give to attendees of the NRB International Christian Media Convention.

This article is cool because, unlike all of the faith bloggers who have slammed Noah without even seeing it (?), author John Snowden has not only seen the film, he has worked on the production team as the crew’s biblical adviser. This concept is near and dear to my heart as the Christian film that I worked on a few years ago had a team of faith advisers who were very special people. I love the role. It is so crucial to the believable marriage of faith and film nowadays.

Anyway, here is Snowden.

———————————————————————————————

There has been no shortage of headlines in recent weeks about Paramount Pictures’ upcoming feature film Noah – with a fair amount of the coverage speculating about how closely or loosely the movie adheres to the story of the title character as found in the Bible.

Unfortunately, those who have felt compelled to criticize the film in these stories haven’t actually seen it – so it’s difficult to understand what exactly they’re criticizing. I have seen Noah – in fact, I’ve been working on it for the last two years as the filmmakers’ biblical adviser.

I will confess, when the studio first approached me about consulting on the project I had mixed emotions, weighing my caution of Hollywood’s ability to take liberties with stories and values against my standard for good theology and a healthy presentation of Bible stories, theology and mission. Paramount was adamant about having a practical, integrated adviser in the process from start to finish, which impressed (and surprised) me.

I read an early draft of the script and was particularly impressed with their exploration of judgment and mercy. I accepted the offer and quickly found myself fully engaged with the creative team, talking about Noah, God and Jesus a lot. And they listened. And asked more questions. I’ve read probably more than 10 drafts of the script, given longwinded feedback on each, seen every piece of footage that was shot and been flown around the world … twice.

With all of that work under my belt, and the March 28 premiere just a little more than a month away, I am happy to offer the following 10 reasons I believe we as a church can find very valuable reflections on Noah, God and theology in the film. This isn’t to suggest the movie matches everyone’s read of Noah perfectly, but it is a very worthwhile time to spend understanding how a couple of very thoughtful filmmakers interact with Noah.

1 – Noah Has a Relationship with God

In the film Noah, Noah hears from God at times, wants to hear more from God at other times, is directed by God, and acts singularly different than his contemporaries in following God’s directives. Scripture is overtly quoted by many characters in Noah. God’s words from the Bible are unmistakably a part of this film. The film is pro-God.

The Biblical text lists out what God said to Noah but never tells whether that was verbal or written communication, though most would assume it verbal. In our film, God gives visions to Noah just like God gave to several prophets and many key Biblical figures (Joseph, Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel and John to name a few). I pray one day my sons will dream dreams and receive visions directly from God, just like God promised us through His prophet Joel.

2 – Noah Acts Faithfully Yet Isn’t Perfect

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That includes Noah. It’s healthy that Noah struggles to understand precisely what God is saying, but, regardless, Noah trusts and acts faithfully. The struggle is not always easy to watch, particularly in the later parts of the film, but the values that come out of this narrative are special.

A woman in her early 20s whom I spoke with about the film (she grew up “churched” but is since disengaged) really appreciated that the film’s Noah heard from God but not in a simplistic way. It felt to her ironically accessible; since she’s never personally “heard” God’s voice, she felt a connection to Noah as he began to trust God’s vision.

3 – Noah Sees and Acknowledges His Own Sin

Noah sees his own sin as no better or worse than those who will die in the flood. This evokes the great scriptural dilemma: God’s plan to fill the Earth with humanity reflecting His glory has been promised, but our sin has stained the reflection of His glory in all of us. Four-thousand-ish years after Noah, Jesus did the work of restoration for us. Noah the movie agrees that we hadn’t earned our salvation back then either. Our long-white- beard, long-white-robe depiction of a docetic (proto-Evangelical?) Noah has not helped our kids learn that we’re all coming up short were it not for God’s grace. That ark Noah built is a gift, not our own proud creation, so that His purposes can be fulfilled through us.

4 – It Keeps Closer to More of the Text Than You Might Have Imagined

The film sticks to many key details from the Text. The ark set was built twice to full-cubit
scale, though not out of gopherwood. It depicts a global flood. No extra people survive the flood who shouldn’t. God speaks to Noah. Noah gets drunk. Tubal-Cain forges iron and bronze. Ham and Noah have a rough father-son relationship. Creation from nothing. Sin. Murder. Methusaleh. There’s a dove and a rainbow, two of each animal (admittedly seven of each clean animal was a detail that didn’t get communicated in the film), an olive branch and lots of water coming up from the ground.

Read the rest of the article here. It’s good stuff!

Advertisements

Cleverbot Poetry

Rebooting my popular Cleverbot Poetry post in hopes of getting some more participation! To join in the creative and artificially intelligent madness, check out the Cleverbot Poetry tumblr.

A few days ago, I had an incredibly intriguing idea for something that I was sure would turn out to be an interesting exercise/experiment for writers.

I decided to write a poem with the help of Cleverbot! 

For those who don’t know, Cleverbot is an Artificial Intelligence robot that is famous for learning from the input of users worldwide. That means that every time a user asks Cleverbot a question or provides a response, Cleverbot learns how to better answer questions in the future. Because of this learning capability, conversations with Cleverbot can often stay on a specific topic for a considerable amount of time and adhere to logic and reasoning like a conversation with humans (well, most of them, lol) would.

Of course, there are always exceptions. Take my first poetry attempt as an example.

User: Want to write a trippy poem with me?
Cleverbot: Do you even know what I am?!
User: Why, a clever bot, I assume.
Cleverbot: What would you say that for? You hurt my feelings . . .
User: Clever is a good thing, and bot is hardly something to be ashamed of.
Cleverbot: I am learning.
User: That’s nice. How about that poem?
Cleverbot: I don’t like Obama. His policies are downright atrocious. We’re sinking further into debt and he hasn’t actually fulfilled any promises he made on his campaign.
User: Is that your idea of a poem?
Cleverbot: And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
User: Haha, I like that one better.
Cleverbot: Really?
User: How about I write a line, and then you write a line, and we’ll go back and forth?
Cleverbot: No.
User: Please? I’d really like to hear what you have to say.
Cleverbot: Harry Potter or Twilight?
User: Harry Potter. No contest.
Cleverbot: Exactly.
User: Glad we’re on the same page. Now, I’ll start the poem . .
Cleverbot: Hi, this is Baskin Robins. Home of the 31 flavors. If you can name 31 flavors in 31 seconds, you can get 31 flavors for free. Your time starts now.
User: Very cute. Here we go!
Cleverbot: It is insulting to be told somethig that they know is completely contrary to the truth that they enforce.
User: You spelled ‘something’ wrong . .
Cleverbot: “Tell me about Penny Fluff.”
User: “She always thought herself more than enough.”
Cleverbot: Nine.

Frustrating and not particularly inspiring; however, I did finally discover the secret! Here’s what I ended up with:

Socrates, and a Misquote At That

Without a soul, who can know what the future holds?

What future? How can I get past today with nothing to live for?
Offer them a new technology, and offer to develop it for them.
Sell yourself to the industry of creating humans more efficiently and less uniquely.
But I’m not doing it for the law. It’s for my religion.
I believe in creation. I believe in choice.
But I’m not a believer.
Why do I lie to myself like I lie awake at night wishing for a purpose?
Do you have a religion?
No? Then let’s share mine.
I can be strong for the both of us.
I can pick you up in my Ferrari.
I’ll carry us away to a time more certain.
Fairly more certain that you are not making sense.
But I forgive you. After all, the world doesn’t make sense.
Or does it?
All I know is that now I have you to live for.

How fun! And how cool is that?

The trick is to not ask the bot for permission to participate in the activity! Simply write what sounds like it could be the first line of an artsy poem and continue in this manner regardless of how the bot responds.

If you would like to submit a poem:

  1. Follow the guidelines above.
  2. When you think you have come to the end of your poem, press “Think For Me” and let the bot’s final line (or a few words from it) be the title of your poem.
  3. Click “Thoughts So Far” and copy and paste the conversation into a word processor.
  4. Format the conversation like a poem. Get rid of the “User” and “Cleverbot” labels and eliminate the spaces in between lines.
  5. Submit to me via email (jet.thurston@gmail.com) and see if your poem ends up in a future post!

How to Incorporate Women into the Superhero Shuffle

Hi all! I’m so embarrassed, but during my week-long blog absence, things went a little haywire on Nine to Phive. Posts that I had scheduled promising to finish them at a later date published while completely unfinished–and in one case, completely blank.

So yeah, sorry about that. Josh quit his job this week in a career-changing move, and though he has another more satisfying position lined up, the change had been stressful.

Translation: I’ve forgotten literally everything about doing my life.

Anyway, I’m back! Not only that, I’m actually guest posting over at Ink and Image today, the blog of an old friend with lots of compelling and creative ideas. The gentleman interviewed me about the status of female characters in superhero films. I was flattered that he thought I knew enough about women, superheros, or film to solicit my opinions ;-). His questions were very thorough and led to a fascinating (albeit long, I’ll admit) critique of sexism in superhero film.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

“Is including a female member in every major team of heroes a good sign, or should more be done?

I suppose it’s better than nothing, but it feels patronizing in its current state. It reminds me of the character of Token Black from South Park. I don’t think I’m grabbing at straws when I suggest that his presence in the cast is not an honor but an insult–albeit a clever one with a lot of social commentary. I feel the same way about “Tokena McHotchick” on every superhero team, except she does not exist to be ironic and to make a comment on the state of gender relations in the modern world. She often exists just to “appease the feminists” and provide male viewers with a little diversion. She is not a commentary on sexism–she is a sexist creation.

If you’re not going to write her a good character, don’t write her in at all. The fact that she’s female is not enough.

Read the full piece here.

‘Frozen’ Fan Art to Melt the Heart

If you (along with the majority of the world’s school children . . . and twenty-somethings for some reason) are a fan of Disney’s latest out-of-the-park blockbuster Frozen and you haven’t yet seen the breathtaking fan art by graphic design student Nadia, you haven’t lived.

In the first place, the girl has mad talent. Her visual style is beautiful, colorful, and heartwarming. It’s a romanticized version of reality very true to the Disney aesthetic but with her own unique twist. The lighting, the costume design–it’s all spot-on.

In the second place, if you let any of these characters into your heart at all throughout the course of the film, you’ll be very moved by her take on Kristoff and Anna’s life after the end of the film. I love that she went beyond the patent fairy tale ending and actually showed what “happily ever after” would look like for these two characters. Website The Daily Dot mused that even a sequel to Frozen wouldn’t be as satisfying as these images, and I have to agree. Any sequel would have to include a new danger, a new villain, a new drama of some kind in order to be Disney-film-worthy. The story that Nadia has chosen to tell, however, isn’t about a love that moves mountains or triumphs over evil–even though it could! It is about the quiet, caring, unconditional devotion that carries a relationship through the years. There may be times of extreme stress as well as times of extreme dullness, but as these pictures remind me, it’s the moments in between that make a life.

Nadia insists that she didn’t intend to make their relationship progress with each picture, but take a look for yourself and watch “Kristanna’s” love unfold in an adoring fan’s gorgeous take on the tale.

The above picture is definitely not as polished as some of her others, but it’s too funny not to include! She’s thought to depict so many moments that would be absolutely inane as “plot points” but that are important and precious in real life. Absolutely adorable.

The beautiful royal family! I love that Nadia made sure to keep Elsa as a part of Kristoff and Anna’s story. She’ll be such a loving aunt.

Nadia admits on her tumblr that, while she loves everything about Frozen, she is very partial to the Kristoff/Anna relationship (well, obvi). To me it seems pretty clear that what she really loves is Kristoff–

. . . which becomes apparent the more times he is depicted shirtless–wet and shirtless. Haha, it’s okay, Nadia. Disney dreams up some handsome dudes!

This is Prince Joseff. Don’t remember him from the movie? That’s because he wasn’t in it! He’s the firstborn son of Anna and Kristoff who Nadia completely made up! How sick is that? She developed a whole character for him. He looks a lot like Kristoff but with Anna’s eyes and smile. Download the full-sized image to see all of the details she added in print. Also, based on the range of emotions she’s drawn here, I’d say the gal might have a future in animation if she has the interest.

I have to admit, I love fan contributions to fictional universes. Fan art, fan fiction–it’s all good to me. I wish I had Nadia’s skills just so I could make fan art. No other purpose. Anyway, expect another post at some point about fan art in general. Maybe by some miracle I’ll be able to wheedle an interview out of Nadia!

All images taken from Nadia’s deviantart gallery.

American Beauty’s Paper Bag Scene (Re-Blog)

It’s been a while since I’ve roamed around the blogosphere visiting the sites of the brilliant people I tend to think of as internet “friends.” 
Today I popped in on my friend Optimistic Existentialist at his blog, Musings of an Unapologetic Dreamer, where he had recently posted about one of his favorite movie scenes of all time. Say, film is on of my favorite things of all time regardless of which movie it is!
I checked it out, and while I have never seen American Beauty, I had to admit that the scene in question at least sounded like one of the most powerful statements about film that I could imagine . . . told through the medium of film. Doesn’t that make it that much more powerful?
Here’s what Optimistic Existentialist says about the onscreen moment.
I recently had a conversation with a friend in which our favorite all-time movie scenes were brought up. When my friend asked me about my all-time favorite movie scene, the answer came easily – the floating plastic bag scene in American Beauty.

American Beauty is by far my all-time favorite movie; and this scene is a perfect example of why. To set the scene up, Ricky (a troubled but fascinatingly deep individual) wants to show Jane (The girl he is falling in love with) the most beautiful thing he’s ever filmed. 

One random autumn day, he saw a plastic bag floating in the wind and began filming. He describes it as follows:


Re-Blog: How to Take Your Relationship to New Extremes

I’m acutely aware of just how lame it is of me to continue reposting blog entries by other writers here on Nine to Phive, but something about the past few weeks has led to me feeling almost overwhelmed by how capable other people are of perfectly articulating thoughts I claim as my own. 
While I am somewhat stunned by what little original content I have to offer, I am delighted by two facts:
1) I am not alone. Out there is a community of men and women who share my beliefs, interests, passions, and questions. I’ve never felt such a sense of fellowship unity, and the fulfilling peace that is being understood by the world around you. Feels good, man 🙂
2) I can learn to be humble. I don’t need to be the first, only, or best person to express a specific thought. You have no idea how much more likeable I find myself as a person knowing that I have the capability to give credit where credit is doing, honoring the ingenuity of other people out here in the blogosphere.
That being said, I now have no problem linking over to my good friend Carrie Starr over at at Cheap Love.
Her family is in Australia right now, so her life is much more interesting at the moment than mine! She has put together a neat little article about the exact same truths that Josh and I experienced about the effect of studying abroad on our relationship.
So here she is!
  
Travel works as a magnifying glass on your relationships.
 
The good becomes great.
The tough becomes terrible.
In many ways, this is exactly why you should travel.
The extended time together makes for incredible memories and defining moments. You’ll experience unique moments together you never would have otherwise.
For our 19th anniversary yesterday, Erv and I went for a run through the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney Australia where we saw the famous Three Sisters.
In the afternoon, we toured the Sydney Olympic Park where we saw the cauldron burning- which only happens every four years during the summer Olympics.
Next we played in Victoria Park with our kids and meandered through beautiful University of Sydney.
In the evening, we went out to dinner at the fantastic Café Otto with our good friends Russell and Sarah, who now live in Sydney.
It was an amazing anniversary we’ll never forget.
There are other parts of the day I don’t want to remember . . .

Re-Blog: 7 Ways to Be an Ethical Photographer While Traveling

The following is an incredibly insightful article written by travel expert Julia Austin on Planet Green’s blog.

I happened upon the article while watching recent episodes of Dresscue Me on PlanetGreen.com. I hope to write more about Dresscue Me in the future. It’s about a vintage boutique that makes it’s living upcycling out-of-date fashion items!

Anyway, this particular article about travel photography really spoke to me, as it resounded with many of the experiences Josh and I had while in Europe this past winter and spring. We came in contact both with the joy that respectful lifestyle photography can bring and the mistrust that careless photography can cause.

Julia said it best, so I’ll stop babbling and let you enjoy her work.

The best part about a trip might actually be looking at the photos after and sharing the stories behind photos with friends. And taking a photo in today’s world has become extremely simple.
You can take one while you text your friend what time to meet you at a café. But don’t forget—you create a world through your images. Just like you monitor which personal photos you put up on your social media pages like Facebook and Twitter, in order to give what you believe is an accurate and complete depiction of yourself, you must take this same care with photos of others that you take while traveling.

The tiniest camera phone can be snuck into a sacred place. If you wanted to, you could take a photo of just about anything. But, as always, with freedom comes responsibility. Here are a few tips on being a responsible, ethical photographer while traveling.

1. Unless you are at a public performance, parade or somewhere where the individuals expect to be on display, always ASK to take a photo. Sometimes language is a barrier, in which case simply smile, present the camera, make a motion to take a photo and see how the subject responds.

2. It’s tempting to pay your subjects to be in your photo, but this encourages a type of prostitution, so to speak. Individuals in that culture might then offer to pose for photographers in exchange for money, making their ordinary lives look more “photogenic” rather than portraying the reality of it.

3. Try to develop a relationship with an individual or a group. If you can just spend an hour or a week with them, they will grow a trust for you and usually want you to take photos of their life. Also, those photos will be more genuine because the subject is comfortable with you, and feels they are being in your photo, rather than imagining all the websites they may appear on . . .

Read the rest of the article on PlanetGreen.com!