It's been a big week for religion for me, at least on film. I started by seeing Prometheus, the Alien prequel (sorta) by Ridley Scott and starring Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron and Idris Alba and followed it up with its antithesis, a documentary about the recent traveling production of Terrence McNally's so-called "gay Jesus play" Corpus Christi.
I'm a sucker for space movies and count the original Alien as a favorite, but I am at a loss to explain how the latest installment in the series relates to the others. I'm actually not all that confused regarding the mythology (despite many potential questions or outright black plotholes) so much as confused why the tone of Prometheus is so 2001: A Space Odyssey when the original couple of movies were much more character-driven. The fun of the first Alien was relating to the regular but quirky, flesh-and-blood people who were trapped on that godforsaken ship in the middle of nowhere. In Prometheus, the characters are bloodless, humorless (even when cracking jokes) or, in the case of Charlize Theron's head honchette, a Metropolis Mary so robotic she's suspected of being less human than the ship's resident machine, the eerily effective (and HAL-like) Michael Fassbender. (No, there are no scenes of the actor's legendary penis bursting out of anyone's tummy, but his performance is stunning.)
The basic plot is that two researchers (Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green, scientist lovers with no chemistry) have discovered ancient symbols across all known cultures pointing to a galaxy far, far away where they believe the human race was engineered by another sentient group. A trillionaire with a desire to live forever (Guy Pearce in atrocious old-man makeup, even though he's never shown young in any scenes) funds an expedition to the planet where he hopes mankind can meet its maker, but it's a trip clouded by the conflicting agendas of those on board. The captain (Idris Alba, exceedingly unnatural in a role meant to mirror the sort of flip attitude of Harrison Ford's Han Solo) cares only about his job, some of the crew just came along for the money, the scientists are driven by a need to answer life's greatest questions. And then there is that damned android, who's not supposed to have emotions yet who seems hellbent on ignoring commands and hastening what's bound to be a troubling outcome.
I did like the movie and was consistently interested in where it was going. However, Rapace is no Sigourney Weaver (she barely registers on screen and sports a weird 'do reminiscent of Janet on Three's Company once she grew her hair out) and some of the film's biggest twists are easily guessable early on. In many ways, the film is an atheistic masterpiece. But as a movie, it's only heavenly in stretches, including some truly chilling scenes toward the end and one scene that is a terrific PSA against unsafe sex.
In direct contrast, Corpus Christi: Playing With Redemption, is the type of film that could make even the least spiritual among us have flutters of faith. If not in God, then in the power of a group of people taking on a sore subject not for wealth but for the greater good.
The documentary, directed by Nic Arnzen and James Brandon, touches on the original, tumultuous Off Broadway debut of Terrence McNally's play Corpus Christi, which was targeted by the religious right as sacrilege for presenting the son of God as a gay man, but spends most of its time chronicling Arnzen's recent production of the play. His version casts many women in the otherwise all-male play and has been on the road to places as far-flung as Scotland and as uncomfortably close to home as Texas, which one man of the cloth refers to as "the heart of darkness" in the film.
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Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a New Yorker who shuns intimacy with women but feeds his desires with a compulsive addiction to sex. When his wayward younger sister (Carey Mulligan) moves into his apartment and stirs up memories of their shared painful past, Brandon's insular life spirals out of control.
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I was knee-deep in Madonna recapping this morning when the Oscar nominations were announced—some real surprises in there, including only two nominees for song (suck it, Elton John), a full five nominees for animated feature (but no Gnomeo & Juliet, so...maybe David Furnish & Elton John can 69-suck it!), no recognition for Bill Cunningham New York, no Leo DiCaprio (yet STILL no space for Michael Fassbender) and quite a few more.
Via Sticky (NSFW): It's not surprising that this group chose Michael Fassbender as actor of the year, though I'm not sure how his brilliant Shame performance furthered the particular kind of visibility they seek to reward.
Michael Fassbender submits to questioning from People (January 16, 2012), joking that he had "a lot of sex" after shooting Shame. It's encouraging when straight actors answer questions about their love lives using the pronoun game—it makes me feel appreciated.
Just caught Shame, British filmmaker Steve McQueen's icy, gripping portrait of sex addiction, and found it moving and mysterious in a way that few films are. Though it has a story and an arc like a conventional film (unlike McQueen's early, Warholesque experiments), its literal documenting of the main character's sexual addiction and all of his interactions make it a profound statement on life in general with surprisingly little moralizing. In short, it's a work of art rendered in the medium of film more than it's an artistic film.
I still think Reeve Carney's buns should've been one of the Entertainers of the Year, but at least Entertainment Weekly (December 23—30, 2011) pictured them in their new ish, above. Below, the same mag offers some sexy Michael Fassbender he-vage. I hope it's okay to get hard over a guy who's fast becoming famous for a movie about sexual addiction:
And finally the same mag has his nice shot of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, whose name begs the question of whether SAG should relax its rules about duplicate monikers...people are clearly running out!