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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We're afraid Adam Levine has a long way to go before he's in Justin Timberlake territory. Or maybe it's just that the material he was given when hosting Saturday Night Live on Jan. 26 was particularly subpar. Though he did prove an uncanny Nev Schulman in a parody of Catfish and ably lent his pipes to the latest Lonely Island digital short, when it comes to singing or comedy, we'd have to advise Levine to stick with his day job. From his opening monologue, it was clear what kind of jokes Saturday Night Live was going to insist on giving him: jokes about how handsome he is! Yeah, you can stretch that out over 90 minutes.
Obama and MLK Cold Open
Gotta admire SNL for resisting the urge to do an MSNBC/FoxNews mash-up spoof about the cablers’ totally skewed coverage of the inauguration: “That crowd is so huge!” “That crowd is so small!” Instead they went with something a bit more daring to recognize the beginning of President Obama’s second term. The ghost of Martin Luther King Jr. (Kenan Thompson) came off the mountaintop and down to earth for a chat with Obama (Jay Pharaoh). Turns out he wasn’t here for inspiration, or to pass the torch or anything like that. One guy to another, Dr. King just wanted to talk about how easy on the eyes Beyoncé was at the inauguration and how wished he could tweet from beyond so he could use the hashtag #JayZIsALuckyMan. And, of course, like all of America, living or ghosts, Dr. King was obsessed with Michelle’s bangs: “When she gets those bangs cut, she’ll be like ‘I can see at last! I can see at last! Thank God, I can see at last!” But what about how far African-Americans have come since the good Reverend’s time? Well, yes we do have a black President, but "we’re still waiting on our first black magician." Definitely a creative take on what Obama’s second inauguration means for the country and the legacy of the civil rights movement. It also goes to show that after years of struggling, Lorne Michaels & Co. have totally given up on trying to make Obama funny. Pharaoh’s take on the Commander-in-Chief is completely that of a comedic straight man, with the funny happening around Obama, not because of him.
Adam Levine’s Monologue
Once the elfin Maroon 5 frontman took the stage, the jokes quickly became more obvious. Yes, Adam Levine is handsome. Yes, he’s a judge on a hit NBC singing competition called The Voice. Thank you for reminding us of it. Oh, I’m sorry. They’re not “judges,” they’re “coaches.” Almost immediately, Andy Samberg in a dressing gown pivoted in his swivel chair to offer some comedy coaching to Levine. After all he’s “been in over a hundred digital shorts and three live sketches.” Then for a blonde bombshell wearing a delicately askew miniature top-hat, a bombshell who could properly objectify Levine, Cameron Diaz swiveled around to ask him to take off his shirt. To round out the troika was Jerry Seinfeld! Though, sadly, Seinfeld was really only there to comment on Levine’s status as a Jewish-American heartthrob and to say Newman-style, “Helloooo…Adam.” The monologue ended predictably, with Levine sans shirt.
Those amateur linguists in the commercials for the Rosetta Stone language-instruction programs sure are earnest. Why Rosetta Stone? Because it offers instruction in Thai. Why is learning Thai exciting? Because Thailand is the sex tourism capital of the world! Thus began the obviousness that would dominate the rest of the night.
Obvious comedy is one thing. That’s been a major problem on SNL for years. But Levine’s hosting gig was also marked by some odd gay-baiting jokes. See the overlong parody of a public-access TV advice show, “The Circle,” in which two gay guys (Kenan Thompson and Levine) offer “gay solutions to straight problems.” Levine’s lispy, cockatoo-haired host, who says things like “You’re as gay as a gay goose in a gay pride parade,” was borderline offensive.
The best post-cold open sketch of the night riffed on The Carrie Diaries and imagined another beloved HBO show getting an ‘80s-set high school prequel treatment: The Sopranos. It’s 1983, so that means Tony Soprano (Bobby Moynihan) wears orange shirts with upturned collars and finds himself puzzled by the presence of Ewoks, or “bear people” as he’d put it, in Return of the Jedi. He’s also still prone to fits of combustible anger, like when the high school librarian tells him to be quiet: “Oh yeah? I’ll give you a book to read! ‘Call me Ishmael,’ you son of a bitch!”
The second gay-baiting sketch of the night featured Bill Hader as a closeted fireman who’s so determined to overcompensate for his sexuality that he explodes at a fellow fireman (Levine) who’s talking to a girl he dated…nine years ago. They dated for two weeks and then he threw hot tea in her face when she tried to kiss him. Worse still, he totally flips out when he learns Don’t Trust the B--- in Apt. 23 is cancelled. “Not the B! That’s bonkers! What? What? You’ve gotta be kidding me!” Shrill and obnoxious.
Digital Short: YOLO
It was only a matter of time until Levine joined Andy Samberg for a Lonely Island digital short. This one was an anthemic pop take on the acronym YOLO, or “You Only Live Once.” But Samberg and Levine read that expression as literally as possible. Rather than live in the moment and embrace the here and now, they live in abject fear of anything even remotely dangerous and their mantra is “There’s no such thing as too much Purell.” The funny thing about hearing Levine’s soaring pipes on the chorus was to realize just how similar in form this kind of pop parody is to the real thing…and especially Levine’s own repertoire. A repertoire much more easily parodied than that of that other Lonely Island mainstay, Justin Timberlake. Samberg’s ongoing digital shorts still deconstruct contemporary pop with startling insight.
By any standard, this was another weak Weekend Update. Following in the wake of those earlier, gay-baiting jokes, now came...women-baiting jokes. Arianna Huffington (Nasim Pedrad) made an appearance and ended up saying stuff like “There’s nothing women like less than other women. There are only two types of women women like: Oprah and women Oprah like.” Really?
One remarkably brilliant bit of casting was to have Levine play his semi-doppelganger Nev Schulman from Catfish. “Catfish: The Movie was about me. Catfish: The TV Show is about you. But it’s still really about me.” He helps a woman who’s been in a 10-year online relationship with a man who’s supposedly been placed on a “Do Not Fly” List for being too handsome and lives in the Jetsons’ apartment. Again, pretty obvious. But Levine’s take on Nev—“As always I just woke up and the cameras caught me disheveled and cute”—was pretty genius.
Come down to the Dover Speedway for Joe Biden’s Biden Bash! He’s gonna play the National Anthem as an electric guitar solo, Hendrix-style. And he’ll compete with you in that classic game, “Can you jump higher than me?” Any opportunity to see Jason Sudeikis play the VP is welcome, but nothing here really felt thought-out.
Adam and Janet
Lately SNL’s final sketches have been better than average. Not so with Levine playing himself. He’s just finished a concert and has gone home to the Yonkers apartment of one of his groupees. Because the only thing funnier than gay- and women-baiting jokes are “ugly women” jokes! Yep, Bobby Moynihan was the groupee and (s)he was given to saying stuff like, “I look like when they dressed up E.T. as an old lady.” Sigh.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
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I believe family members of the celebrities who are competing for the Mirror Ball trophy on Dancing with the Stars are allowed to root for their loved ones in any way they can. Usually this means going on Twitter, encouraging their friends to vote as many times as they can, and maybe even attaching a little figurine to the antennae of their car. And I'm pretty sure the celebrities' families are not allowed to bash each other on Twitter for no reason, then pretend like they've never heard of the family they've just bashed and then apologize for bashing them. But oh right, I forgot -- Cher is the one kid in the class who isn't forced to hold onto the railing as she goes down the stairs because she's left handed.
But that's what happened. Perhaps still angry that people in America continue to voice their disapproval of how her son, Chaz Bono, is competing in this season, Cher took to her Twitter account and decided to voice HER OWN disapproval of something, and then proceed to explain that there's no reason for her to feel the way that she does. More specifically, she expressed her distaste of the Kardashians, which just happens to be the family of Chaz's DWTS competitor, Rob Kardashian. First, Cher said, "I don't watch reality ! Never saw a Kardashian but these Bitches should b Drop kicked down a freeway! Not Kidding!" Then she said "feel like I live in a cave !Once watched J&Kate they were sweet! This shit is HARD CORE! Is true Kardashian did Porno ! I'm so Fkn outa it !" And once her followers started tweeting at her and asking her why she hated the Kardashians, she replied "Let me be clear ! Am not Hate'n Kardashian Fam.Don't know them! Bridezilla's crazy Bitches! Saw Brother on DWTS & my friend told me bout girls." After a few more tweets replying to her followers, Cher finally decided to turn it in for the night and said "By lovelies! Seems I put mySize8 1/2's in my mouth again! Isn't the 1st time Won't b the last !Sometimes I should run my words by my BRAIN."
So that's a lot to digest. But since Dancing with the Stars airs on Monday and Tuesday nights AND since Cher was tweeting on Sunday night, it's more likely the onslaught was the result of her getting caught up in a Keeping up with the Kardashians marathon... which is a good thing because at least we know she's not typing malicious statements in hopes of generating more votes for her son. And now that she's revealed she plans to go watch Chaz dance next week if he isn't voted off the show tonight, perhaps she'll summon the courage to actually repeat some of the statements she made in her tweets. It would certainly be more exciting than watching David Arquette do yet another interpretation of sincerity.
Click the photo below to view more pictures of Cher!
Sources: Cher Twitter, Celebitchy