Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Here's a feat: taking what is likely the oldest, most well-known story in the world, and making a retelling feel inventive. Over the course of its two-and-a-half-hour runtime, Darren Aronofsky's Noah takes many forms — Tolkien-esque fantasy, trippy psychological thriller, merciless dissection of the dark points of abject faith — never feeling too rigidly confined to the parameters of the familiar tale that we've all experienced in the form of bedtime stories, religious education lessons, and vegetable-laden cartoons. As many forms as the parable has taken over the past few thousand years, Aronofsky manages to find a few new takes.
The director's thumbprint is branded boldly on Russell Crowe's Noah, a man who begins his journey as a simple pawn of God and evolves into a dimensional human as tortured as Natalie Portman's ballerina or Jared Leto's smack head. Noah's obsession and crisis: his faith. The peak of the righteous descendant of Seth (that's Adam and Eve's third son — the one who didn't die or bash his brother's head in with a rock), Noah is determined to carry out the heavenly mission imparted upon him via ambiguous, psychedelic visions. God wants him to do something — spoilers: build an ark — and he will do it. No matter what.
No matter what it means to his family, to his lineage, to his fellow man, to the world. He's going to do it. No matter what. The depths to which Aronofsky explores this simple concept — the nature of unmitigated devotion — makes what we all knew as a simplistic A-to-B children's story so gripping. While the throughline is not a far cry from the themes explored in his previous works, the application of his Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan ideas in this movie does not feel like a rehashing. Experiencing such modern, humane ideas in biblical epic is, in fact, a thrill-ride.
Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Although Aronofsky accesses some highly guttural stuff inside of his title character, he lets whimsy and imagination take hold of the world outside of him. Jumping headfirst into the fantastical, the director lines his magical realm with rock monsters — "Watcher" angels encased in Earth-anchored prisons as punishment for their betrayal of God — and a variety of fauna that range in innovation from your traditional white dove to some kind of horned, scaled dog bastardization.
But the most winning elements of Noah, and easily the most surprising, come when Aronofsky goes cosmic. He jumps beyond the literal to send us coursing through eons to watch the creation of God's universe, matter exploding from oblivion, a line of creatures evolving (in earnest) into one another as the planet progresses to the point at which we meet our tortured seafarer. Aronofsky's imagination, his aptitude as a cinematic magician, peak (not just in terms of the film, but in terms of his career) in these scenes.
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With all this propped against the stark humanity of his story — not just in terms of Crowe's existential spiral, but in character beats like grandfather Methuselah's relationship with the youngsters, in little Ham's playful teasing of his new rock monster pet — Aronofsky manages something we never could have anticipated from Noah. It's scientific, cathartic, humane. Impressively, this age-old tale, here, is new. And beyond that feat, it's a pretty winning spin.
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Birthday girl Lupita Nyong'o and her movie 12 Years A Slave were the toast of the Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California on Saturday (01Mar14). On the eve of the Oscars, the stars braved torrential rain at the beach and watched Steve McQueen's movie adaptation of Solomon Northup's slave drama pick up five of the biggest awards, including Best Feature, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress (Nyong'o).
Otherwise, it was an afternoon of favourites - Cate Blanchett and Dallas Buyers Club co-stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto picked up the rest of the acting prizes.
But the big talking point was Paula Patton, who made her first red carpet since announcing her marriage split from Robin Thicke.
The full list of winners is:
Best Feature: 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Best Screenplay: Bob Nelson, Nebraska
Best First Feature: Fruitvale Station
Best First Screenplay: Bob Nelson, Nebraska
John Cassavetes Award: This Is Martin Bonner
Best Female Lead: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Male Lead: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Supporting Female: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Cinematography: Sean Bobbitt, 12 Years a Slave
Best Documentary: 20 Feet from Stardom
Best International Film: Blue Is the Warmest Color
Robert Altman Award: Mud
Piaget Producers Award: Toby Halbrooks and James M. Johnston
Someone to Watch Award: Shaka King, Newlyweeds
Truer than Fiction Award: Jason Osder, Let the Fire Burn
As the winds of award show nominations pick up, you won't be surprised to find 12 Years a Slave at the top of every list. But the Academy, the Golden Globes, and the various other captains of the circuit are inclined to overlook some of our smaller, more personal favorites in lieu of the big, grand, and wholly unavoidable awardable pictures like Steven McQueen's American slavery epic. That is not to rob 12 Years of Slave of its due credit — the film absolutely deserves as much awards attention as it is getting. It's simply the sort of movie that you know will get awards attention right out of the gate... whereas pictures just as pristine such as Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's Frances Ha, likely won't be the center of attention come Oscar night. But that's what the Independent Spirit Awards are for: to recognize the movies that we cherish with intimacy rather than with grandeur. Among them are Frances Ha, new release Nebraska, Robert Redford's nearly wordless All Is Lost (also a viable candidate for the Academy, due to its own dezzling veneer), the Coen Bros' upcoming Inside Llewyn Davis, and, yes, of course, 12 Years a Slave.
Check out the full list of nods below.
BEST FEATURE 12 Years A Slave All Is Lost Frances Ha Inside Llewyn Davis Nebraska
BEST LEAD FEMALE Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine Julie Delpy, Before Midnight Gaby Hoffman, Crystal Fairy Brie Larson, Short Term 12 Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now
BEST LEAD MALE Bruce Dern, Nebraska Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years A Slave Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club Robert Redford, All Is Lost
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE Melonie Diaz, Fruitvale StationSally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years A Slave Yolanda Ross, Go For Sisters June Squibb, Nebraska
BEST SUPPORTING MALE Michael Fassbender, 12 Years A Slave Will Forte, Nebraska James Gandolfini, Enough Said Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club Keith Stanfield, Short Term 12
BEST DIRECTOR Shane Carruth, Upstream Color J.C. Chandor, All Is Lost Steve McQueen, 12 Years A Slave Jeff Nichols, Mud Alexander Payne, Nebraska
BEST FIRST FEATUREBlue Caprice Concussion Fruitvale Station Una Noche Wadjda
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD Computer Chess Crystal Fairy Museum Hours Pit Stop This Is Martin Bonner
BEST SCREENPLAY Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater, Before Midnight Nicole Holofcener, Enough Said Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, The Spectacular Now John Ridley, 12 Years A Slave
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY Lake Bell, In A World Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Jon Bob Nelson, Nebraska Jill Soloway, Afternoon Delight Michael Starburry, The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister & Pete
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHYSean Bobbitt, 12 Years A Slave Benoit Debie, Spring Breakers Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis Frank G. Demarco, All Is Lost Matthias Grunsky, Computer Chess
BEST EDITING Shane Carruth & David Lowery, Upstream Color Jem Cohen & Marc Vives, Museum Hours Jennifer Lame, Frances Ha Cindy Lee, Una Noche Nat Sanders, Short Term 12
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM A Touch Of Sin Blue Is The Warmest ColorGloriaThe Great Beauty The Hunt
BEST DOCUMENTARYThe Act Of Killing After Tiller Gideon's ArmyThe Square Twenty Feet From Stardom
PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARDToby Halbrooks & James M. JohnsonJacob JaffkeAndrea RoaFerderick Thornton
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARDS Kalyanee Mam, A River Changes Course Jason Osder, Let The Fire Burn Stephanie Spray & Pancho Valez, Manakamana
SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARDS Aaron Douglas Johnston, My Sisters' Quinceanera Shaka King, Newlyweeds Madeleine Olnek, The Foxy Merkins
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARDMud
Mini-series have long been a great way to while away a summer. The form had largely disappeared, but Under The Dome, an adaptation of a Stephen King novel of the same name, has seen a revival.The 1980s had the best ones, though. Part of it may have been the fact that we had a lot fewer distractions then, with many fewer channels, no cellphones or internet. Here's five of the best Miniseries from the age of shoulderpads and Swatches.
A rare case of the TV show/movie being as good as the book. They did a great job of bringing James Clavell's massive tome of the same name to life. Richard Chamberlain excelled as a white man in feudal Japan. Also, anything with Toshiro Mifune, who was one of the greatest Japanese actors of all time, in it can't be bad.
The Thorn Birds (1983)
This was a sprawling story that covered 60 years in the lives of the Cleary Family and starred Chamberlain as a priest who falls tragically in love with a woman. He OWNED the mini-series market during the '80s. He wasn't the most dominant Chamberlain, though. Wilt was having his way with thousands of women during this decade.
V: The Final Battle (1984)
The original campy version in the '80s definitely outshone the recent remake. Marc Singer was great as one of the main protagonists in this battle for the planet Earth against aliens who definitely aren't friendly like E.T.. The warlike extra-terrestrial visitors in this mini-series would eat that Reeses Pieces-loving alien for lunch.
North and South (1985)
A mini-series about the Civil War with a young Patrick Swayze, well before his Roadhouse and Dirty Dancing days. No, he didn't become a ghost and begin dancing during the series. It also had Kirstie Alley, David Carradine, and Johnny Cash. Cash didn't sing "Hurt" during this either.
Shaka Zulu (1986)
Christopher Lee was in it. Enough said. Anything with a badass like him is automatically worth watching. Even his character's name, Lord Bathurst, sounds like someone you don't want to mess with. The funny thing is that most of the mini- series takes place during a time after the titular character was dead.
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Best of Seven
Finding something worthwhile on TV can be such a hassle. With all of your favorite shows having ended for the summer, you find yourself drowning in an endless sea of television programming; you gorge yourself, and yet are left somehow unsatisfied. And of course all those damn digital channels take just a half-second too long to load for you to channel-surf comfortably like you did back in the day. So: we are going to make things easy for you. Check in here each Monday with Best of 7, beginning this week, and we'll tell you what to watch, when, where, and why. Of course there's always the old standbys - The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, all of the other Late Night fluff - but each Monday we're going help you wade through the crap and get right to the good stuff. That's what TV should be about. The good stuff.
9PM: The Bachelorette, ABC. Nine bachelors will accompany Ali to Iceland - land of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano - and only seven will leave! Horseback riding, spelunking, spa-ing, and a poetry contest are just some of the frightful challenges the men will face.
9PM-11PM: It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Comedy Central. It's Always Sunny, FX's edgy comedy series, is getting a second home on Comedy Central. If you haven't seen it, check out this mostly hilarious show (the earlier seasons are considerably better) with a four-episode marathon from 9 to 11 Monday night, featuring some of the show's best episodes: 'Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody's Ass,' 'Dennis and Dee Get a New Dad,' 'The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby,' and 'The Gang Gets Invincible.'
10PM: The Hard Times of RJ Berger, MTV. This new half-hour comedy series from MTV, about a nerdy teen blessed with a large 'package', is actually pretty funny - which is surprising, since this is MTV. In 'The Berger Cometh,' RJ tries out for the school musical to get closer to his dream girl, Jenny, but problems arise when the two get too close for comfort.
9PM: Mean Girls, ABC Family. Remember Linday Lohan's halcyon days in this surprisingly funny comedy, written by Tina Fey (who also co-stars), wherein high school girls are mean to each other in every imaginable way. With Rachel McAdams, Lizzy Caplan, Amanda Seyfried, and some other people - but Tim Meadows is my personal favorite as the school's alternatively awkward and bad-ass principal.
10PM: Deadliest Warrior, Spike. Have you seen this show? A team of 'experts' line up behind two different 'deadliest warriors' (say, William Wallace vs. Shaka Zulu), test out their weaponry with tons of slow-mo cameras rolling, and then analyze the results to determine who is indeed, the deadlier warrior. This week: KGB vs. CIA.
9PM: Top Chef: D.C., Bravo. This season's Top Chef is in our nation's capital! The remaining chefs must plate healthy kid food at a local middle school to support First Lady Michelle Obama's national initiative to end childhood obesity. No word yet on whether Mrs. Obama will appear, but my guess is she will! Watch it and find out.
5pm-1AM: Stephen King's 'The Stand', SyFy. When 99.9% of the population dies after the accidental outbreak of a government-engineered Super-flu, the mysteriously immune survivors must help each other rebuild civilization, even as they begin to realize that they are involved in a struggle between good and evil of literally Biblical proportions. Loosely based on the novel by Stephen King, 'The Stand' miniseries has horror, gore, and - as in every Stephen King movie - a mystical black person who has all the answers (seriously - Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption, Michael Clark Duncan in The Green Mile, Scatman Crothers in The Shining, the list goes on).
Does that not interest you? There's not much else on. Go watch Toy Story 3!
7PM and 10:30PM: There Will Be Blood, FX. Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film, the story of a early 20th century oil prospector with a borderline pathological lust for wealth, is a hands-down masterpiece. There Will Be Blood came out in 2007 but is already considered a classic piece of American cinema. Daniel Day-Lewis stars, along with Paul Dano, in this epic study of American capitalism, religion, and greed.
11PM: Se7en, Bravo. This dark, satisfying crime thriller stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as two police detectives - one just beginning his career, the other retiring - who aim to hunt down a megalomaniacal serial killer whose 'work' is inspired by the Bible's 'Seven Deadly Sins.'
8PM: Edward Scissorhands, ABC Family. Hey, it's Johnny Depp in a Tim Burton movie. This time, Depp's got scissors for hands and the simple town folk don't take to kindly to that. This movie is actually a classic, and one of Burton's best, so don't be dissuaded if you hated Alice in Wonderland.
9PM: Dinocroc vs. Supergator, SyFy. Saturday's are the worst days for television. Dinocroc vs. Supergator. That really says it all, doesn't it? Your level of enjoyment of this film is going to be heavily dependent on your... 'state of mind,' let's say. Go watch Toy Story 3 again!
10PM: Khloe and Kourtney Take Miami, E! The Kardashian girls failed to take Miami in the first season, but they are back, and trying harder than ever. Watch, enraptured, as the glorious spectacle that is their lives unfolds before you. Bask in it. Savor it. Now spit it out.
10PM: True Blood, HBO. Are you watching True Blood, yet? You should. The deliciously trashy, sexy, bloody vampire drama is not your little sister's Twilight. Nor is it The Vampire Diaries or The Gates. So get over yourself and catch up with seasons one and two before jumping headfirst into the latest season, because this is great television. The upcoming episode finds Sookie scouring Mississippi for Bill with a werewolf escort, Jason struggling with his police exams, and Bud stumbling across some new gruesomeness. Spicy!
Late star Anna Nicole Smith's longtime companion/lawyer Howard K. Stern took photographs of her dead son's body for profit, it has been claimed.
Daniel Smith died from a drug overdose three days after his mother gave birth to baby daughter Dannielynn in September 2006. He was 20.
G. Ben Thompson, former companion of Anna Nicole, told the inquest into Daniel's death in the Bahamian capital of Nassau that Stern said the photographs "might be worth some money one day."
Thompson told the inquest, "I was totally shocked he was taking pictures of a dead child laying in that bed.”
Stern's attorney Shaka Serville hit back at the claims--insisting he took the photographs of Daniel's body to prove to Anna Nicole that her son was dead.
Witnesses have already testified that the late model was highly distraught after his collapse.
Meanwhile, Thompson's son Gayther alleges Stern appeared to dispose of two white pills he had found in Daniel's clothes after his collapse in the hospital room.
Testimony in the inquest was adjourned on Wednesday until March 17 while court officials seek testimony from witnesses, including Anna Nicole's ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead.
Police investigating Daniel's death have said there is no evidence of homicide, and an autopsy found the likely cause was a combination of drugs, including methadone and antidepressants.
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