Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
Even without having read Mark Helprin's novel Winter's Tale, I have the unshakable feeling that Akiva Goldsman's film adaptation does not do the story justice. Speckled throughout the moreover colorless movie are hints of an intriguing idea — a fantasy epic about an angel-demon bureaucracy coexisting with the human race throughout the span of 20th century New York City, operating within the parameters of a didactic miracle-granting system — an idea that doesn't come close to its full potential. In 118 minutes, we barely scratch the surface of the world in which an apparently immortal Colin Farrell finds himself. We see him cavort with Russell Crowe, a malicious gang-leader with netherworld origins, seek guidance from a mystical Pegasus, and carry out his destiny as the savior to a mysterious red-haired girl. But we never truly understand why any of this is happening. Not that it gets particularly confusing; on a plot level, it's all quite simple. But that's the problem — it shouldn't be.
The central conceit of the film is that everyone is put on this Earth with a divine "mission" to uphold. Farrell's gives us the narrative of Winter's Tale, introducing the various rules and officers of the supernatural regime along the way. Abandoned as a baby and brought up under the criminal regime of a Manhattanite from Hell (Crowe), Farrell ascends from orphan to petty thief to horse whispering renegade to whimsical lover of a dying Jessica Brown Findlay to ageless messiah... all without much clarity on the nature of the story (or stories) he's occupying, save for two ham-fisted scenes of exposition — one with Graham Greene (not the dead author) and one with Jennifer Connelly, who shows up halfway through the movie for some reason.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
The world that Farrell is woven into has so many bright spots: we're on board for miracle quests, a magic-laden New York City, flying horses, and one of the biggest stars in Hollywood giving a cameo as the epitome of evil. Everything we see is fun, but it all flutters away as quickly as it arrives. We don't want quick bites of the way angels and demons do business with one another on the streets of Manhattan, we want the whole meal. A more thorough exploration of Helprin's world wouldn't just be doubly as interesting as the thin alternative we're offered in Goldsman's adaptation, it'd also fill in all the comprehensive gaps in Farrell's emotional throughline
We don't really understand so much of what happens to Farrell. Even when we're offered tangible explanations, we have no reason to understand why the Winter's Tale world works in such a way that Farrell might survive a 300-foot fall, develop amnesia, or sustain youth for a full century. What's more, we don't understand why Farrell's tale as a cog in this mystical machine is any more important than anyone else's. Or, if it's not, and we're simply asked to watch him carry out his quest as a glimpse into the vast, enigmatic system that Winter's Tale is ostensibly founded upon, we ... we don't understand enough of that world itself.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
We're never invited close enough to any of the movie's attractive features for them to matter. So even when the movie does offer entertaining bits — in its fantastical elements, its detail of New Yorks old and new, or Farrell's admittedly charming romance with Findlay — we're not engaged enough to really connect with any of them.
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Still, the flying horse is pretty cool.
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David Bowie has incurred the wrath of officials at America's Catholic League over his religious-themed new video. The Ziggy Stardust legend's promo for new single The Next Day was temporarily removed from YouTube.com due to its graphic content, which includes self-flagellating monks, topless nuns and gruesome images of stigmata.
Bowie appears in the video dressed in Christ-like robes, while Gary Oldman plays a beer-swilling priest and Marion Cotillard is a hooker who transforms into a saint.
The video has riled Catholic League president Bill Donohue, who brands the clip a "mess".
A statement on the organisation's website reads, "The switch-hitting, bisexual, senior citizen from London has resurfaced, this time playing a Jesus-like character who hangs out in a nightclub dump frequented by priests, cardinals and half-naked women.
"The video is strewn with characteristic excess: one priest bashes a homeless man, while others are busy hitting on women; self-flagellation is depicted; a dancing gal with bleeding hands makes a stigmata statement; and a customer is served eyeballs on a plate... In short, the video reflects the artist - it is a mess.
"Bowie is nothing if not confused about religion... Not sure what he believes in today... but it's a sure bet he can't stop thinking about the Cadillac of all religions, namely Roman Catholicism. There is hope for him yet."
The Sports Illustrated cover girl, who plays Sister Bernice in the film, strips down to a lacy black 'nun-kini' swimsuit and wimple for a pool scene in the new Farrelly brothers film - and religious leaders are not amused.
A statement from Catholic League president Bill Donohue reads, "In the 1950s, Hollywood generally avoided crude fare and was respectful of religion. Today it specializes in crudity and trashes Christianity, especially Catholicism.
"Enter The Three Stooges. The movie is not just another remake: It is a cultural marker of sociological significance, and what it says about the way we've changed is not encouraging."
Defiant studio executives at Fox have struck back, stating, "The movie, in keeping with the spirit of the original TV show and its stars, is a broad, slapstick comedy.
"As the Stooges have proved over time, laughter is a universal medicine. The nuns that Mr. Donohue alludes to, are in fact, caring, heroic characters in the movie, albeit within the framework of a very broad comedy.
"And as far as the nun attire, I think we did the audience a favor by letting Kate Upton wear the nun-kini rather than (co-star) Larry David - it could have gone either way. We invite you to see the movie and decide for yourselves."
Although Lady Gaga is usually the one known for pushing the boundaries of creativity, Nicki Minaj took things a step further at the Grammy Awards last night after performing her new single, "Roman Holiday," in a display filled with religious undertones. Aside from the fake confessional booth, the performance also involved an odd homage to the film The Exorcist and watching Minaj's limp body levitate above a demonic choir singing "Come All Ye Faithful". Sounds pretty controversial, right? In fact, when you watch the performance you can almost hear all the religious groups crying out for justice -- which is exactly what's happened (as we all knew it would).
The anti-defamation group, The Catholic League, has famously opposed films like The Passion of Christ and The Golden Compass, and now, they're claiming that Nicki Minaj's performance was both vulgar and meant to blatantly make fun of the Catholic religion. However, the group isn't just going after Minaj herself -- they're pointing the blame at the Recording Academy as well for allowing such a performance to take place on the highly-watched awards show. Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, wrote about the group's concerns in an article on their official website, which reads: "It's bad enough that Catholics have to fight for their rights vis-a-vis a hostile administration in Washington without also having to fend off attacks in the entertainment industry." (It probably didn't help that Minaj was also escorted down the red carpet by a fake Pope before the show even started).
The religious group also didn't appreciate the sexually explicit choreography during the majority of the performance. Donohue makes note of this by writing, "Perhaps the most vulgar part was the sexual statement that showed a scantily clad female dancer stretching backwards while an altar boy knelt between her legs in prayer." This is not exactly the kind of attention the Catholic church wants to be receiving. Undoubtedly, they're expecting an apology of sorts from both Minaj and the Recording Academy, but will they get one?
What do you think? Did Minaj's creative ambitions go a little too far this time or is it all just being blown out of proportion? And in case you missed it, check out the video of the controvercial performance below.
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Source: CBS, Catholic League