First, I use the term
"Jesus movies" kinda loosely cause some of my choices might
not be your typical movies about Jesus. Right now they're all
pretty traditional, but that could change. Godspell
has its own page. That's not to say I like the following
necessarily more or less than Godspell, it just has its own page.
However, I did end up adding a portion to this site about it
since my site for it doesn't really say much about my
feelings. I don't really know much about movies and
technical stuff but here's my opinion, anyway... Also, while
this page was once supposed to be critical reviews of these
movies, it's turned more into a way in which I hope to be able
to keep all these movies separate. So just because a movie is
here does not necessarily mean I like it nor does a short
description mean I disliked it. I wrote just enough to keep
things straight in my mind. Also, I added a sort of awards
section. This, again, is just a means for me to remember what
happened and what I particularly liked from each movie.
Update March 2011- To
be blunt, Autumn 2010 through these first three months of
2011 have been really difficult for me. I feel like
I've grown and changed a lot, though. This Lent, I
have opted not to give anything up. I think it's a
great practice but it just isn't cutting it for me any
more. Instead, I'm going to try to do more for others
and even for myself. So as part of developing my
spirituality, I'll be watching a Jesus film every week
during Lent. Because I'm nearly out of movies, in some
cases it'll be one I've already reviewed here. I will
then reflect on my experience of the movie *now*... with a
life that seems very different than the one I had when I
first started this page.
Update April 2015: So I'm doing *much*
better than when I wrote the above. However, I've
not been doing so well with the Jesus movies. I've
kinda entered a "if you can't say anything nice, don't say
anything at all" mode with a lot of the latest
offerings. But now it's almost Easter and a new lot
has been rolled out. I feel like I can't really
proceed with this page until I've said my piece. So
check out the entry below entitled "How Not to Make a
Jesus Movie" for explanation, if you wish. Then I'm
going to go watch Killing Jesus and hope that, if
I do have the desire to throw things, it'll be from
genuine on-screen frustration and not because I'm
irritated with the movie-makers.
This is the movie CBS
played in May of 2000. Three hours long and if not my favorite
version then very close (I say that every time I see a new
version.) I know some points were considered kinda
controversial but I can't say I was shocked by anything. I
just really liked seeing Jesus dancing, having fun, *smiling*.
(Smiling is a big thing with me.) I also liked how Pilate was
portrayed. Why does he always come off so pitiable? How do we
know he didn't know what he was doing? In this movie, he is
portrayed as the true villain and at least one scene is taken
from a historical source outside the Bible, it demonstrates
what Pilate actually did. In short, the supporting cast of
Armin- Mueller Stahl, Jacqueline Bisset, Debra Messing and
others is wonderful. Jeremy Sisto as Jesus depicts every
emotion from delight to sorrow to empathy beautifully.
(Disclaimer: Mr. Sisto is one of my favorite actors so I can
hardly be expected to give an unbiased opinion. Still, I
thought his was a very human Jesus, with out downplaying the
This was a movie about a
man who truly loved life and people. My one complaint? CBS
didn't show the original ending! Apparently, Jesus in jeans
was too much for them. But if we're gonna see Satan running
around in modern suits to show that he's ever present
shouldn't Jesus, too? This starts with Jesus already around 30
and shows his previous years via short flashbacks only. Keep
an eye out for some foreshadowing.
This was my favorite for
a while, too. Christian Bale (Jesus) is one of my two favorite
actors (Colin Firth being the other one, just FYI). Favoritism
aside this had its good points. It was nice to see the story
through the eyes of one who was there when Jesus took both His
first and last breathes. Pernilla August portrays Mary and
does an excellent job, in my opinion. Unfortunately, this also
had some drawbacks. Since the movie is through Mary's eyes we
don't get a lot of the usual Jesus movies' staples
(Gethsemane, the Last Supper). Also, if you're like me and
prefer a Jesus who seems happy then you are forewarned, Bale
manages to smile only around 4 times. That aside I'd still
recommend the movie. When we see Mary's grief at losing her
own son, the child she raised, we are reminded of how much
love it took for God to sacrifice His Son for us. This also
does a good job of depicting Jesus' life from birth 'til
death. It also has really good attention to detail in what
props they use. (What I mean by this is meaningful objects
used early on reappear later in the movie so naturally your
mind wonders to the first time you saw the object and the
juxtaposition of the two scenes is often emotional.)
This one once topped my
list of favorite movies. What a surprise! Time's gone by since
then and I still love it. However, I've gone a little bit more
in the realist direction since I first saw this. It has served
as a really good way for remembering verses from the Gospel.
Story-wise this is fairly late in Jesus' preaching career and
He seems a bit cynical. Of course, later when I saw it
performed live with Ted Neely starring again it didn't seem
that way so much, who knows. In any case, it managed to
attract its fair share of controversy. Maybe being born at the
time I was I just don't grasp it as much because I've been
watching this since I was a kid. In any case, I love this
music. It just never quite leaves you. ("Superstar" is running
through my head right now and it's been months since I last
heard it!) It's definitely a different way of looking at the
story! I guess you would expect that from a rock opera about
Jesus that seems to be through the eyes of Judas Iscariot. It
also features a highly pitiable Pontius Pilate. However, if at
all possible, I'd recommend seeing a live production. While
the scenery is fantastic here, nothing beats seeing it live.
I'm not even talking about a big touring production. I saw it
at a small, local theatre and was extremely moved.
I guess this was ABC's
answer to "Jesus" and "Mary, Mother of Jesus". And it was a
good answer. This time we see the story unfold through the
eyes of a young girl, Jairus' dying daughter. Generally, I'm
not a claymation fan but this story can succeed almost
anywhere. Actually, it's not entirely claymation. Flashbacks,
parables, and dreams are depicted in animation. It's pretty
amazing how complete this seems even though it only lasts 1.5
hours. Also amazing is the voice of Jesus (Ralph Fiennes). It
amazes me that the same voice that drives such horror into a
person ("Schindler's List") can be the voice of Jesus. This is
probably one of the best versions for kids. If you really
enjoy this and have a DVD player, I'd suggest getting the DVD.
It has a documentary on how they made it that was completely
amazing. It seems to have been painstakingly and lovingly
Update 2011- So this
is my first Lenten movie. I actually wanted to watch Jesus Christ Superstar
but had a sense this one would be better for me to see
tonight. It was. I needed to see a
resurrection. This version offers three.
First, I'm really glad this take on Jesus' story depicts
Mary Magdalene as mentally ill... not a prostitute.
Scripture supports the former much more than it does the
latter. Few movies would give you that impression,
however. Also, for some reason, I love that after
Jesus heals Mary; they do not speak. You see them
embrace and then part and that's it. It's beautiful
and somehow perfect. Dialogue would have ruined it.
I still really love how flashbacks and altered states and
the parables are rendered in cartoon animation. I
think the most effective one for me comes when Jesus enters
the tunnel leading to the Temple and flashes back to Himself
as a boy. Suddenly, His anger takes on a new
dimension. I've no doubt His outburst was largely due
to the moral compromises being made there. But it's
also easy to relate in the sense that, as we grow older,
disenchantment can really hurt. How many of us have
entered a place that once had such intense meaning to us and
found it wholly unlike what we left behind? That's
This is such a small thing but sometimes Jesus' clothing
looked patched and threadbare. It's wonderful because
His clothes probably weren't immaculate and whole as they
often are in film. For an animated movie, sometimes
this one seems more real than life action ones.
I don't recall many Jesus movies including the scene of the
paralyzed man lowered through the roof. This one does
and it's really great. The hemorrhaging woman is also
left out often but here she is! That's really an
amazing part of the Bible and it's good that it gets its due
here. That woman would have been regarded as extremely
unclean. I mean think about how grossed out guys get
about women's health issues even now sometimes. And
here Jesus doesn't rebuke her or act offended. He
praises her. It's brilliant.
I come to this film still kind of in a place of grief.
In this past year, two people who were to varying degrees
part of my life died suddenly and far too soon. Prior
to this period, I'd only experienced one other death of a
young person. Everyone else was into their seventies
and beyond. I certainly grieved when my grandfathers
and others died. But the evidence of their long lives
was everywhere. This has been wholly different.
It's tragic and heartbreaking to see parents mourn their
I think this accounts for my first emotional reaction to
this. It comes right before Jesus leaves behind his
carpenter gig and sets out. Mary sits nearby as He
sleeps and strokes His hair. As she does, she flashes
back to the Nativity. It's such a beautifully sad
moment. How many parents, facing saying good bye to
their children, have similarly retreated into memory?
I think sometimes we get so caught up in the (albeit very
important) religious meaning of Jesus that we forget He was
someone's son, friend, role model, etc. This film
doesn't let us do that. It's a film about Christ but
also about a very loved man who, eventually, is grieved
intensely by real people.
Jesus Himself is shown grieving. His body racks with
sobs after He's told John has been killed. That really
got to me this year. Jesus truly did become one of us
with all our heartbreak and sorrow. He, too, could
only weep and cry out to God as those He loved passed
on. We've all been there and, because of the
Incarnation, we have a God who has been there, too.
When Tamar (Jairus' daughter) is taken aback by Jesus
failing to go to Lazarus, He tells her "There is a purpose
to our grief." I felt like He was speaking to me cause
I feel like I've spent all these months trying to find a
purpose and wondering if there is one.
The final moment that just wrecked me was after Jesus had
died and they do a short montage of Mary Magdalene
grieving. At one point, she goes back to the cross and
is clinging to it and sobbing. That moment seemed so
intensely human and real to me. She went back to the
last place she saw Him. In a way, it seems
perverse. Why would you go back to a place with such
painful memories? Why go back to a place that you know
will make you think so overwhelmingly about them? I
don't know. But I find myself going back, sometimes
only mentally, to the last places I saw those I've loved who
have gone to Heaven. The connection is so intense that
even in its pain, it's somehow comforting.
Then, of course, Jesus rises from the dead. And there
is immense joy and laughter. I've no doubt His
followers kept that joy in their hearts their whole lives
and that it remains there still in the house of His Father
that He's shown speaking about so often in this film.
And yet, where I am now, I'm left to wonder: were there
times they still mourned the loss of His physical
presence? Did Mary miss stroking His hair? Did
Tamar ever reach out for a hand that was no longer
tangible? Something tells me they did. And, in
that, we can find in them kindred spirits. They knew
grief and longing, too. Now they don't. And one
day, we won't, either. We'll be in His Father's house,
too, surrounded by love.
Life of Jesus: The Revolutionary
I'd never seen this
before but it was on sale so I figured why not? I didn't
really expect much but surprisingly this version was very
good. At not quite two hours it covered more parables and
healings than any of the others. The one thing I was a bit
confused by was the organization of the scenes. The DVD was
split into two programs. Side 1 seemed more concerned with the
teachings of Jesus and Side 2 the miracles. Side 1 had a
crucifixion scene and Side 2 the trial and a crucifixion
lasting maybe 1 minute. As to why they didn't put the two
together for just one movie I have no idea. All I can guess
was that Side 2 was supposed to be geared towards younger
audiences. This rivals "Jesus" as most representative of how I
view Jesus' personality. It also has some haunting
foreshadowing. (Yes, I love foreshadowing.) Watch what game
Jesus plays with the children. While not depicted on screen it
reminds one of a later "game". John Kay Steel as Jesus does an
excellent job and proves a very dramatic storyteller.
Christ Superstar (2000)
This was certainly a
surprise! I'm used to waiting months from the time I first see
a preview to the actual airing of the movie. Here I saw a
preview for JCS before "Meet the Parents" (I had no idea they
were making this version) and two weeks later I was sitting
down to watch it for the first time! Of all the movies on this
page I prolly started this one with the most trepidation. For
one I still liked the old version and for another I'd heard
the old one called "the Disneyfied version" in comparison to
this one and I already thought the 1973 version was dark!
Apparently the idea
behind this one was how would we react if Jesus came today?
The answer? The same as our ancestors 2000 years ago. Well,
except for some added paparazzi, cargo pants, and machine
I guess the best way to
explain this one is how it rates compared to the 1973 version.
I still like the singing better in the original but found this
version's acting to be more realistic. Granted, some of the
facial expressions are over-emphasized (these are mostly stage
actors). The changes in Judas' (Jerome Pradon) character I was
especially impressed with. He comes off as being the one who
most loved Jesus and even most recognized His true message
(which didn't entail going after the Romans, heavily armed).
But he's not made to look like a trapped saint either (witness
his interaction with Mary). I felt the interaction between
Jesus and Judas in this version was more meaningful and
Now as for Jesus (Glenn
Carter)... I've read several opinions of the movie and Carter
seems to be most criticized. I'd definitely disagree. In this
version I found Jesus to be far more personable (His
interaction with the lepers is a lot more patient and loving
than in the 1973 version.) He also seems a lot more vulnerable
to some of our more unwelcome states (tiredness, distress,
loneliness, etc.) I suppose that's either a plus or negative,
depending on your viewpoint, but I thought it stressed how
dear His sacrifice was.
In any case this version
is like its predecessor in that it is most definitely not your
typical Jesus movie!
Update 2011- I'm surprised
at how little I referenced Mary Magdalene in my original
review of this. Huh.
So I watched this again last week and here are just a few
aspects that I especially found myself focusing on this time
1. I really like JCS but am still bothered by the
transformation of Pilate. The dude was not nice.
He was not sympathetic. Further, this piece has only
one female role with any substance. It woulda been
nice to retain Pilate's wife as the dreamer. It's the
dream itself that I found myself focusing on. What did
she see in it? How did she cope when, even in telling
her dream, the inevitable still happened? I've had
dreams that have come true and it's just so devastating when
you feel like you may have been able to stop harm from
occurring but didn't. I wish we knew more about her.
2. I feel really, really bad for Mary Magdalene.
She's left with a ghost and a dead body. Nonetheless,
she faintly smiles up at the sky at the end. It's
beautiful and inspiring.
3. The close-up on Jesus' death warrant still hits me
hard. It's just so systematic and awful.
4. Jesus looks very peaceful in death. Like He
knew exactly where He was going. I guess I needed to
see that so I'm glad I watched this version.
5. I feel so bad for Mary when Judas kisses her after
she's bared her soul for Jesus as He slept. You can
tell she wants Jesus to do something. He does
This telling of Jesus'
story comes from the Roman tribune who crucified Jesus and won
His robe. The tribune, Marcellius, is sent from Rome to
Jerusalem and arrives, with his slaves, in Jerusalem on Palm
Sunday. He is briefed on the story of "the Fanatic". His newly
acquired Greek slave, Demetrius, makes eye contact with Jesus
and knows there's something to this claim of His Messiahship.
Demetrius learns of the plot against Jesus and goes to warn
Him. Unfortunately, he arrives too late and the next time he
sees Jesus is on the path to Golgotha. When Marcellius wins
Jesus' robe, Demetrius honors it for what it is, the robe of
God. Marcellius demands Demetrius give him the robe to cover
himself when the heavy rains start after Jesus' death. The
minute Marcellius touches the robe he cries in pain and
Demetrius grabs it back, cursing Marcellius for killing Jesus
and running away.
Marcellius returns to
Rome and is unable to go on with his duties because he
believes the robe bewitched him for he finds himself unable to
remember Good Friday with out losing his mind. Therefore, he
is sent back to Jerusalem by the Caesar to find this cursed
robe and destroy it. Along the way Marcellius finds himself in
Cana, a small Christian community. He grows to love its people
but harbors the awful secret that he killed their Lord. He
also finds Demetrius and learns that the robe has no power,
only his guilt does. Simon Peter visits the village and tells
Marcellius his own story of denying Jesus and teaches him that
Jesus' cry "God forgive them." was meant for all of them. He
joins Peter and Demetrius in their mission and finds himself
back in Rome where he faces the ultimate test: Deny his new
faith and live or die as a martyr.
I thought this was a
really interesting movie. I'd expected the typical staples of
miracles, parables, the Last Supper and the rest. This movie
only showed Jesus twice (and never His face) and He only had
two lines. Obviously it had some historical inaccuracies but
if you can get past that there's some excellent teachings like
what does it mean to be healed and the beauty of giving and
the power of God's forgiveness.
This is not the same as
the CBS version. The version is a lot more "by the Book", in
fact it tells the story as related in the Gospel of Luke.
Jesus was well portrayed, smiling and laughing, sad and angry.
There was also some foreshadowing (!). Prolly what struck me
most was how idyllic and peaceful the many scenes of Jesus and
His disciples walking around were. They just generally looked
like a group you'd want to hang around with. Unlike the other
versions this one also had a narrator which was kinda
interesting. It also had a bunch of scenes that I'd never seen
in any other movies like the near-assassination of Jesus in
Nazareth, the angel's appearance in Gethsemane, Simeon's
blessing on baby Jesus. Those scenes were interesting to see.
It did an excellent job
of depicting Luke but I really missed the other Gospels. Gone
was Lazarus, no wine into water, etc. But naturally when you
make a movie you have to make choices about what to keep and
what to take out so that's okay. It was really hard to not
have Mary at the Crucifixion, though. The Crucifixion itself
was very reverent but it seemed to be missing something. It
just didn't have the impact the others generally do. It almost
looked too easy. The Resurrection scenes seemed more complete
than usual, however. In general, I liked it mostly because it
featured events often ignored by the other movies.
What do you get when you
take a beloved book, Patrick Swayze's traitor-friend from
"Ghost", Salieri from "Amadeus" and put them together? It's
the movie version of Fr. Joseph Girzone's book "Joshua", which
became an entire series. If you're hoping for a very
by-the-book dramatization, this is not for you. The Jewish
characters that were plentiful in the book have been narrowed
down to one guy. Large sections of the book are skipped, new
parts are added, and all flashbacks have been excised.
However, I think the spirit of the book remains intact. Joshua
still stands up against the church hierarchy. He stills
changes the lives of the citizens of Auburn and, naturally,
does the whole carpenter gig.
Some of it's corny, some
of the minor characters aren't exactly Oscar-caliber
performers but it's a good film. I was concerned when I heard
Tony Goldwyn (Carl from "Ghost" and Creepy Rapist Guy from
"Kiss the Girls") would be playing Joshua but it works. He
comes off as really sincere, really human, and by the end of
the movie really something beyond human. F. Murray Abraham is
interesting as Fr. Tardone. He reminds me of way too many
actual priests... It's a good performance that could have
easily turned cartoonish but is kept real.
Okay, in short, "The
Cotton Patch Gospel" seems to be "Godspell" gone South. Not
that I have any real reason to believe "Godspell" was composed
and/or conceived in the North but I tend to associate it with
Broadway and Canada so... They're both really minimalistic as
far as props and scenery. CPG takes it one step further making
it a one-man show plus a four man chorus. The story is
basically what if Jesus had been born in modern Georgia
instead of Israel 2000 years ago?
Jesus is born to Mary
and Joseph Davidson (haha) on their way to an IRS tax audit.
He's born in an abandoned trailer. Three scholars visit
leaving him a Gold Mastercard, peach scented candles, and a
fancy bottle of cologne. Word gets to Governor Herod who has a
bomb thrown into a nursery, hoping to kill the baby. By this
time Joseph and Family have fled to Mexico. The show then
follows the family on their trip to Georgia with young Jesus,
his departure to start his ministry, and finally his lynching
This gets the Best
Massacre of the Infants scene. A macabre award, for sure. You
don't actually see anything since this is just a stage with
five guys on it. But the Narrator (who turns out to be Matthew
but who plays everyone) talks about the doctor explaining to
women that their children died and Harry Chapin wrote two
really good pieces of music that are sung against each other.
One is "I Did It" sung by Herod and Crew which talks about the
dirty deeds carried out in the name of political glory. At the
same time a lone guy sings "Mama is Here", a lullaby. It was
really poignant for a scene that is often glossed over in
The next "award" is the
Best Wine into Water scene. The story is Jesus is at a wedding
where the bride is the daughter of a man who supports Joseph's
carpentry shop. They run out of wine Joseph suggests that
Jesus might... get some. So Jesus goes off alone and asks his
Daddy to help. It was cool that he used Daddy in this one
cause Abba is usually translated into "father" but most
everything I read said it was a more familiar term like
"daddy" or "papa". He tries snapping his fingers, he tries
concentrating really hard, he tries doing a jig in front of
it, finally he relaxes and gives up and... it changes. It was
just cool to see Jesus' own surprise at his abilities.
Generally he seems really cool and collected in other
depictions of this scene.
Okay, next was the Best
Raising of Jairus' Daughter Scene. I might actually have to
check on that one, though. "The Miracle Maker" is the story
told through the eyes of Jairus' daughter so you'd think that
might be better. Then again, since I don't remember that scene
maybe not... Anyhow, Jairus informed Jesus he was returning to
his home and was going to bring his four year old back to
life. He was very definite. So Jesus went into where the girl
was lying and started to sing "Love the Lord, your God, with
all your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbor as you love
yourself." Jesus sang the first part and then you heard this
smaller voice join in, the little girl (although it was
actually a grown guy). The whole time the camera was
positioned so that you were seeing what the girl would have
seen. It was a really beautiful scene.
Then there was what I
think was one of the best depictions of the first prediction
of the Passion. I have a vague feeling there's another movie
that I also think does a great job here but I can't recall
right now. Anyhow, Jesus announces they will be going to
Atlanta for a Bible Convention thing. Where he will be
lynched. The song "Going to Atlanta" is part the disciples
celebrating with a loud, happy song with a much quieter, sad
Jesus singing "What does Atlanta mean to me?" The two parts
just really added potency. That was the end of the first act.
My first favorite part
in the second act was the song "You are Still My Boy" sung by
Mary and Joseph after Jesus has turned away from his hometown
which has rejected him. It's just a really sad and beautiful
song. Probably my second favorite Jesus Returns Home scene.
It's edged out only slightly by "The Greatest Story Ever
Told". What I liked about the CPG version was that it dealt
head on with Jesus' apparent abandonment of his family but
with out either party looking bad.
And there was the best
Who Do You Say I Am? scene. Peter struggles with the answer.
Doesn't know... doesn't know... keeps repeating it and then
has a moment of clarity and says "You are the Son of God!" and
Jesus answers "You are beautiful!" It was funny and sweet at
the same time.
The betrayal scene was
very sad. I thought all the "villains" were well
characterized. Judd aka Judas was pathetic with out being
totally acceptable. Pilate originally appeared to be nice, as
proven by the song title "Thank God for Governor Pilate". That
was another instance of great government-related irony as
happened with "I Did It". Pilate chooses to send Jesus to a
prison, just until things quiet down and he can get a fair
trial. This makes everyone happy. The chorus sings about all
the great things Pilate does while, secretly, Pilate is making
a call to his uncle. He gives him the exact route Jesus'
Matthew explains what
happened on Friday, when they got the news of what happened.
Thursday night the tires of the truck had been shot out. Jesus
was being transported by only 2 guards. They were easily
over-powered by several members of the Klan. He was whipped 39
times and lynched.
But this movie had a
Resurrection, unlike the "Godspell" movie. That was really
cool. I mean there weren't any special effects or anything. It
was just really well-written. Then they ended with Harry
Chapin's "I Wonder What Would Happen to This World" and a
medley. I was kinda worried when I first popped in the tape.
I'm not a country music fan. And I'm really not a bluegrass
fan. But maybe I've been converted... The songs are all ready
Update 2011- I really
don't have much to add as my original review was pretty
thorough. But I'm really glad I watched this
today. All in all, I think this is the Jesus movie
that makes me happiest.
First, it's a recording of a live performance so ya kinda
feel like you're there. (In 80s gear!) And live
theatre is such an invigorating experience for me. So
if I can't actually be at a live performance, this is the
next best thing.
Second, "When I Look Up" was the stand-out number for me
this time. As I wrote when I started these updates,
I'm going through a rough patch and this lil song is so
filled with hope.
Third, I really love how much Jesus does NOT know in
this. He's depicted as a man of incredible faith who
very much believes in His Father. But he has his
doubts. Which also means he's incredibly and rather
sweetly amazed when miracles happen.
Fourth, I'd been trying to remember what version it was in
which Jesus repeated variations of "Live my life!"
It's this one. Such a beautiful idea. We
continue to live the lives of those who touched us.
If someone was feeling down, I think this is the version I'd
be most apt to recommend.
Traditional story line, only an
hour long so some things were dropped, obviously. Johnny Cash
narrates the whole thing and had the only speaking role save
his wife, June Carter Cash, who was Mary M. So instead of
Jesus saying "I am the Way", Cash would say something like
"And Jesus said many beautiful things like 'I am the Way'". At
first this was kinda boring but I got the point later. I think
maybe he was trying to maintain the fact that Jesus did not
speak English. This become clearer during the "Cast the first
stone" scene. During the part when Jesus is writing in the
sand, he was writing in either Hebrew or Aramaic.
While the movie was only
an hour long but it didn't really feel like any *major* events
were sacrificed for time, any more so than other movies. It
probably would not be a good movie for people trying to get an
in-depth understanding of the Gospels, though. The highlights
of his teachings were covered but there weren't actual
teaching scenes. There were a couple interesting "crowd
scenes". During Palm Sunday and the Way of the Cross you could
hear crowds but only see Jesus wandering down abandoned
roads.I'm not sure what to make of that. Maybe it was trying
to say that mentally Jesus had to walk those roads alone. I
don't know, it was just kinda jarring to first see when you're
so used to huge crowds.
I did like that the
movie respected Jesus' culture and religion. Cash outright
states that "Jesus was born a Jew." That seems like a stupid
thing for me to harp on but it is true and too often
forgotten, IMO. If everyone really seriously thought about
that then maybe anti-Semitism would die out, or at least take
a major hit.
The music was pretty
good, I don't particularly like the style but that considered
there were some down-right catchy tunes.
First, best use of
flashbacks in a Jesus movie. This was particularly effective
twice. First, when Jesus was playing with kids and there's a
flash of Jesus as a little boy. Second, when Jesus was being
crucified and again their was the flash of him as a boy and
another of him as a man, a nonbeat-up man. Flashbacks always
make me cry...
Second, this wins for
grooviest camera work. Triple takes, changes in perspective,
Third, best scene of
Jesus making sandcastles. Okay, well, maybe the only scene of
Jesus making sandcastles but that makes it cool. It was during
the scene of Jesus and the children. I liked that a whole
segment was devoted to that aspect instead of a brief "Oh
look! Jesus is holding a baby, aww!!"
Fourth, best scene of
guy getting his sight back. I just really liked the song
Johnny Cash was singing during that part.
Passion of the Christ
I guess it only makes
sense I should pipe up with my take on this much-talked-about
movie. So here goes...
I liked it. Didn't love
it. Didn't come out feeling like I'd just had a life-altering
experience. It was what it was. Which is a movie. As for the
violence... crucifixion is violent. It was bloody, it was
disgusting, it was degrading, it was painful. I went into the
movie expecting that, having read several articles looking at
crucifixion from social, anatomical, and faith perspectives.
So I was not shocked. As for charges of anti-Semitism, I can
see where that comes from. I do think it was a poor decision
to have the Temple destroyed. However, I can't say I think it
was any more anti-Semitic than you could say JCS is. At least
in this version Gibson depicts a high priest protesting the
treatment of Jesus. JCS doesn't even have that. I think it's a
case of seeing what you want to see. I believe anti-Semitism
is a sin so this movie did not cause any of those feelings in
myself. If others did take that away from the movie I think
that's very, very sad.
I thought the movie was
beautifully acted. Though, gotta say I was most captivated by
the actress playing Mary of Nazareth (Maia Morgenstern). I
only cried once during the movie and that was during the scene
where Jesus falls and she flashes back to him falling as a
boy. And her eyes as she held his dead body are haunting. This
is not to say I thought Jim Caviezel wasn't great. He
definitely was. I give credit to anyone who takes on such a
physically demanding role and learns a dead language! But what
I tend to focus on with movies is what sets them apart. And I
think what we got here is a very real Mary which isn't all
that common, I don't think.
I do think the demonic
stuff was a lil... Stephen King TV movie-ish. No one I know
has yet to satisfactorily answer for themselves what the heck
Satan was doing holding a demonic baby. It seemed random and,
I thought, distracting. As for Satan, I thought that character
was very well done. Very creepy but also more "natural"
looking than the demons. I guess one would hope an actual
actress would look more natural than animatronics or computer
animation or whatever the heck the demons were. :-)
There was one point that
I'm still unsure of what I think. That's the role of women.
The women in this movie almost seemed to be magical. Which I'd
like to think women are, personally. Mary knowing where Jesus
was. Pilate's wife gliding in to comfort the two Marys.
Veronica gliding in... But there was something about it that
didn't quite strike me as right... Maybe it's just that with
Jesus incapacitated for much of the movie, the women were
really the only positive characters. And that's more than a
lil scary to think about. Anyway, it's been a month since I've
seen this movie and will maybe revisit this if I ever see it
again. So now, the awards:
First, best use of
psychic connection. While the other "magical women" elements
may have bugged me, Mary sensing Jesus' presence in the cell
beneath her really got me. I loved that.
Second, best use of
flashbacks *sometimes.* I was really moved by the one of Jesus
as a lil boy, as mentioned before. Others I thought were more
distracting and seemed randomly placed but that was really
good. I also liked the flashbacks to Jesus meeting Mary
Third, best attempt at
linguistic accuracy. Whatever else may have been wrong, I
gotta give Mel Gibson credit for putting a lot of the movie
into Aramaic! Yikes! The whole Greek-Latin confusion I'm not
sure about so I'll let that slide. That being said, I wish
he'd extended that accuracy to hiring actors that looked more
appropriate. But it was well-acted and I suppose we can only
ask for so much realism from Hollywood.
Wow... What can I say?
I'm sure there was a lot of love that went into this and I'm
sure they were really trying to do something moving and
interesting. But I started to get curious the minute they
started showing promos for this. The only movie told from
Judas' perspective? Definitely not true. "Jesus Christ
Superstar" anyone? Or there was a slightly older Judas movie
that aired on Pax. But promotion problems aside...
I thought the guy
playing Judas was pretty good. And I wish he'd played Jesus.
Or that someone else had! No offense to that actor but... Good
gosh! In my opinion, it's never a good sign when you're
watching a Jesus movie and feel the need to "Awww, poor baby!"
Jesus repeatedly. Jesus was a leader. And apparently a pretty
strong one to have inspired so many people to the point they
would later die for him. But this guy... I'm not sure I'd feel
confident following him to the grocery store. He completely
lacked confidence! And apparently the followers he drew to him
were much the same. St. Andrew... Good gosh. I wanted to sit
that guy down with a blankie and some cookies and milk.
I was just...
dumb-founded. Anyway, in an interesting note: I think some of
these sets were from the 2000 Jesus movie. I'd heard this
movie had used sets from a previous Bible movie and I'm
thinking it was definitely that one. In a way, that made the
movie even worse. I mean the 2000 version may not be the most
accurate or greatest thing out there but this movie did not
benefit from the comparison.
Best Jesus movie to
watch if you just want to go "Ummm, what the heck?"
Before I get into this
I'm gonna clear up a couple misconceptions I had about this
that others may also. First, the press seemed to suggest
this was Jesus' story as if he'd been born today. I
didn't find that to be true. Cause last I checked there
wasn't a worldwide government and New York was not a police
state. I think the point *may* have been that the world
might have come to that with out Jesus' influence 2000 years
ago. I guess when I heard the phrase "If he came
today..." I envisioned a story with a more realistic
setting. This came off as futuristic which was
fine. I'm just saying the press I read/saw didn't give
that impression. Second, I always thought a rock opera
(which is what "!Hero" is called) consisted of only sung
dialogue. Like Andrew Lloyd Webber's "JCS", "Evita", and
"Joseph". "!Hero" has lots of spoken dialogue.
Which, again, I had no problem with. It's just didn't
fit my definition of a rock opera which, I admit, may be
Anyhow, now that that's
done the basic plot is thus: a child is born to Mary in
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She names the boy Hero (and
Jesus, I didn't entirely follow whether Hero was his nickname
or his name was Jesus Hero or something). Hero grows up
and at some point moves to New York City. It's there he
begins to spread the message of God's love. He first
tells Petrov and Judd who become his followers (think Peter
and Judas). From there he travels to Spanish Harlem
where he meets a prostitute named Maggie (Mary Mag, of
course). And we get running commentary through all of
this from a spy, Hunter, sent by ICON (the global
government). The typical Jesus movie staples follow with
modern twists (Hero shoots food out of those hot dog guns at a
stadium instead of multiplying fish on a hillside, Hero raises
a drive-by victim from the dead). Judd falls in with
ICON. Hunter and Maggie fall for each other (a plot line
I found grating and distracting). But mostly Hero does
cool stuff and rocks out.
Best scene of Jesus addressing
the AIDS crisis- I'm a total sucker for this part.
Best Gethsemane song
since "Gethsemane"- I went through a period where I'd listen
to "I Am" several times a day cause it made me feel good.
Temptation of Christ
Boy, I really put off watching
this one! Not because I thought it was immoral. I
suspected there wasn't gonna be any thing in it that would run
against my religious beliefs. Basically I just didn't
want certain mental images. But, alas, the temptation
(ha ha) was too great after I saw the 2005 film The Heart of the Beholder
which was about the onslaught of abuse video store owners
faced for carrying this film. And also, truth be told, I
figured if I could watch John Dye (portrayer of my nearly
decade long crush, the angel Andrew)
in a loveless sex scene, I could probly handle Last Temptation. So
when it came on the Sundance Channel this week I taped it and
viewed it over the course of a few hours (had to go to sleep
about a third in since it was nearly 2 AM). Here's my
thoughts for whatever they're worth!
First, I gotta admit this was the single most difficult movie
for me to watch and see characters, not actors. I'm
willing to admit that's probly a deficit in my imaginative
powers but, to be honest, I think some of the casting and may
be even acting was just plain off. I kept expecting
Judas (Harvey Keitel) to pull a tommy gun from his robe and
start offing people. Similarly, sometimes when Jesus
(Willem Dafoe) smiled it took every ounce of will power to not
giggle and cry "It's the Green Goblin!" But other than
that strange impulse, I enjoyed his performance (though Dafoe
looks about as Galilean as my pasty Irish self but I've
learned not to expect realistic appearance).
Anyhow, so here's the plot as I interpreted it (there are
varying thoughts). If you've not seen the movie and plan
to, you should probly bow out now. Cause if I'd known a
certain thing about this movie that I intend to talk about
here, I certainly would have felt cheated going in. So,
now's your chance...
Okay, so the movie starts with Jesus building a cross.
Freaked the heck outta me. Turns out he's commissioned
by the Romans to do so. (More on this later).
Enter Judas who is livid that his old buddy is aiding
them. So we have a very troubled Jesus. He sets
off first to seek forgiveness from Mary Magdalene. What
I understood was that they were childhood sweethearts and
possibly betrothed at some point. Jesus broke it off
because he was starting to get the idea he was the
Messiah. Mary M. was hurt and angry and became a
prostitute (don't entirely get her train of thought there but
let's move on). So Jesus does all the typical Jesus
stuff. Goes into the desert, seeks out the Baptist,
works some miracles, causes a near riot in the Temple, goes to
Gethsemane, is arrested, tortured, and crucified. Then
this movie goes where (to my knowledge) no Jesus movie went
before. While on the cross, Jesus looks down and sees a
young girl. She tells him she was sent to guard him,
that God says his work is done, and that he can get off the
cross if he wants. Here starts the eponymous "last
So he's off the cross, comes to a gorgeous valley, and marries
Mary M. And we all get to watch the honeymoon. It
was a lil weird watching that but, IMO, tastefully done.
I didn't feel like I was watching porn in other words.
Mary gets pregnant and... dies. Jesus mourns and gets
angry. I sit there and go "What the heck is going
on?!" So that's all very sad and then the angel says
something to the effect of "There's only one woman in the
world just with many faces." So off Jesus goes and seems
to marry Mary of Bethany and her sister Martha. That's a
lil hard to take and you have to keep in mind polygamy was
accepted then. Children follow and Jesus lives the life
of a carpenter and family man. Then when he's on his
death bed, in come the apostles including an angry
Judas. Judas decries him for being a coward. He
was supposed to be the Messiah and now here's the ancient,
dying man. Further, Judas tells him his "angel" is no
angel but Satan. Jesus' eyes are opened, he pulls
himself off the bed and begs for forgiveness. And
Jesus is on the cross. He cries "It is accomplished"
triumphantly and dies.
So what happened? My personal thought (and what I've
heard Scorcese says) is that a dying Jesus basically becomes
George Bailey. He sees life as it might have been had he
chosen the easy (and wrong) path. By the end of his
vision, he knows he was on the right path and returned
to it. So, I do not believe Jesus got to live two lives
in this film any more than I believe I'm pals with Det.
Stabler from Law and Order:
SVU just because I dreamed I was last night.
Basically, I don't believe the Jesus this film portrays sinned
in any way. I believe he was tempted many times and
didn't succumb to any. That's my take. I'll probly
return to this if I get a chance to see the DVD and hear the
commentary. There's lot's more I'd like to say but this
will suffice for now.
However... I do, like Judas, have issues with his building
crosses. That, to me, seems an example of social
sin. Taking part in a sinful societal system. Yet,
I don't know enough to know whether he was compelled to make
the crosses under duress or the wider political
implications. Quite possibly had he refused to make the
crosses, that would have made him a zealot and by extension
part of a social structure that embraced violence as a
political tactic also. In any case, I thought this was a
thought provoking movie. It made me really appreciate
the sacrifice Jesus made.
Best Jesus movie to watch if you want to have an existential
crisis. Seriously, I have no idea what I'm doing with my
life. Watching this I kept thinking "Ah! In 10
years I'll be 33 like Jesus there and I haven't done anything
important!" But that could just be me at this stage in
Best non-singing music in a Jesus movie. Really, I liked
the Peter Gabriel soundtrack even if it seemed really 80s-ish
at points. And the world music was awesome.
Film ending most likely to lend itself to myriad
interpretations and discussions. Sorta reminded me of American Psycho (another
Dafoe vehicle) and One Hour
Photo insofar as both left me thinking "Did that
really happen or was it in his head??"
Jesus movie that most lends itself to sudden, unwarranted
memory flashes of Jimmy Stewart. No seriously, I kept
thinking of It's a
Wonderful Life. In fact, I almost dug the movie
out of our Christmas movies box to watch it afterwards.
This had sat on my
bookshelf, unopened, for far too long. Seeing as
today is Palm Sunday, I wanted to watch a Jesus movie and
went with this one. I should say right off the bat
that this was not an ideal movie-watching
experience. I got interrupted and distracted
numerous times (not by choice). So what I say may
not be 100% accurate.
First, I really liked the actor (Henry Ian Cusick) they
got to play Jesus. He was very personable and smiled
a lot. He seemed to really like people. I know
it probably seems like those should be no-brainer
qualities for Jesus but in some films he seems too serious
and emotionally distant. But this guy interacted
really well with the other actors, I thought. His
smiles seemed downright contagious. Sometimes he
even smirks which was pretty endearing, especially in the
scene with Mary, his mother, at the wedding.
Jesus also seemed to passionately believe and even love
his own teachings. This may also seem like a "duh"
thing but here he was so fired up and excited during some
of his longer monologues. Sometimes Jesus comes off
as a little too low key in movies. I also think the
actor hit the right notes with the not-so-pleasant
emotions of Jesus. He seems genuinely disappointed
that people don't believe him, hate him, and want to stone
him. I'm gonna guess most people watching this movie
already feel an emotional bond to the real Jesus.
But if not I think this depiction might aid that more than
I also really loved some of the technical aspects of this
film. At times the lighting seemed like it came from
a magical realism sorta film. I'm thinking
especially of the fig tree scene with Nathaniel.
Other visual tricks I thought were cool were just random
shots like falling coins, horses' hooves, etc. I
also liked how a few times they'd start with a full body
shot of someone, then close into their face, then close in
even further to just their eyes. This happens in the
Temple destruction scene and was really effective.
Another good use of imagery was Lazarus' healing.
Showing his shadow first really built up the anticipation.
The sound editing seemed really strong, too. The
swooshing of the whip and the falling coins in the Temple
really stood out. Of course, sometimes it was really
unpleasant. I actually jumped when you heard them
break the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus.
I'm a little torn on the Narrator. Christopher
Plummer did a great job and it was cool to bring in the
more lyrical, beautiful passages that don't really lend
themselves to visuals. But at times the narration
seemed redundant. I don't think we needed to hear
"he straightened" or "he spat and made mud" when we either
already saw it happen or very soon will. I also
really, really disliked that instead of seeing "Jesus
wept" we only heard it.
Because this was based on the Gospel of John, we get to
see a lot of scenes that are often left out of Jesus
movies. Here are a few that stood out for me:
I liked the way Jesus and his brothers were depicted
prior to the festival. Just something about them
buzzing around, another behind him also working on
carpentry touched me. And it also made me think: did
Jesus not go to the festival with his family because he
was trying to distance himself from them for their own
- Jesus' exchange with Nicodemus
about being born again. As much as the phrase
"born again" gets used, you'd think this discussion
would make it into more of the Gospel-inspired films.
- Jesus' meeting with the
Samaritan woman at the well. The eagerness she
had to hear him and her enthrallment with what he was
saying was compelling to watch. (And seeing
Jesus later holding her child was a nice bonus.)
- The soldier whose son Jesus
heals. It seems like more films show the healing
of Jairus' daughter than this. I like including
this because it demonstrates early on that Jesus'
message will go beyond the Jewish community.
- All the angry
crowds. In most films you don't get much of a
hint of Jesus angering anyone but TPTB until right
before his death. Here we see many of the times
he angered random people, even nearly getting stoned.
- The arrival of the
Greeks. This so seldom gets mentioned that I'd
completely forgotten it even happening. Guess I
should go reread the Gospel of John.
- Jesus comparing the
feelings of his followers regarding his death to
childbirth. I've just always liked that
- Jesus questioning Peter
3 times about if he loves him. I've always been
partial to this scene as I see it as Jesus giving
Peter the opportunity to set aside his guilt for
denying him. It's really beautiful.
I couldn't help but compare this to The Passion of the
Christ since they were released so closely
together. I have to say I prefer how this film
showed the beating and crucifixion. For the
scourging you only see the Roman, not Jesus. So when
he reappears it's shocking and horrifying. When last
you saw him he looked normal, then suddenly he's torn
up. To me, *this* is more effective than the
uber-violence of The Passion.
The dividing of Jesus' clothes is always a macabre part of
the story. But for some reason it seemed even more
so in this film. Grotesque, really.
I was a lil bummed by Mary Magdalene's silence up until
the very end. But given this is going right from the
Gospel of John they couldn't have rightly given her more
Great visual interpretation of the
healing of the man born blind. One of the older
movies also has a version of this I love though right now
which one it is escapes me. But I really like this
one. First, I think it's good to show that Jesus
didn't equate illness or disability with sin. Even
today some people still do. Second, I really like
the reaction of the blind man. He shakes. He
shuts his eyes. I think this is far more realistic
than him immediately rejoicing. After all, the man
*never* saw. I would think for a while
overstimulation would be an issue.
Another great use of flashbacks. I'm a sucker for
them. And sepia is a good hue. The ones they
show during the final dissertation made me all
emotional. And I thought that was the extent of it
but then they did the "May they be one" montage and that
Most "Tour of Duty" like image. There was a shot of
Jesus and Co. going over a hill and it was from far away
and you could pretty much just see their
silhouettes. It made me expect to hear "Paint It
Okay... maybe this is a weird thought to
even have but how did the crowd of 5,000 eat that
fish? When they pan out I didn't see any fires
going. Did I just miss them or was the fish already
cooked (didn't look like it to me)?
Has anyone else seen a lot of Jesus movies and started to
think some of the same actors are involved? I can't
decide if some of these people were also in the CBS Jesus or if
after a while bearded, long-haired men in white robes just
start to resemble each other to me.
Is it just me or did this movie kinda make Caiaphas out to
be a sort of prophet? I just thought it was a little
odd how they explained his "it's better that one man die
for the good of the people" line. I think Caiaphas
was being pragmatic but not necessarily any more than
This is sooo not important in the scheme of things but why
make the robe the Romans put Jesus in red when the
narration is saying purple?
I saw this years ago and
remembered liking it though I didn't recall much about
it. So when I saw the entire "Close to Jesus" set
on sale on Amazon.com, I ordered it. I can see
what I liked about this movie although some parts of it
grated on me this time around. But first... the
I appreciated that the film went a route completely
different from the usual Mary-as-prostitute story.
Right off the bat we see her as a rich man's loving
wife, working on her lands, and healing people (as a
doctor, not a miracle healer). However, they've
not had a child and so her husband divorces her and
sends her away. She departs with a Roman soldier
who she comes to love and conceives a child with (guess
the barren one wasn't her). At this point my
feeling that this was rather like a biblical Lifetime
movie (of the "men are evil" variety) really grew.
In the course of the next thirty minutes the following
occurs: Roman soldier beats Mary, she's then gang-raped
by his men, she miscarries, and then she attempts
suicide. (This film is not for kids!) So it
is somewhere in between a Lifetime movie and a soap
opera. But if you can make it through that then
things do get interesting on a less violent and
overwrought level... after the (yes, I'm totally
serious) makeover scene.
The movie covers Mary's rise through the ranks as a
servant in King Herod's home, her romance with a second
Roman soldier (this one infinitely more promising), her
friendship with John the Baptist, her devotion to
Salome, and, of course, her eventual meeting with
Jesus. I was not overly struck by Jesus in
this. However, right towards the end when he
smiles up at Mary and holds his hand out to her... the
actor won me over. So I look forward to seeing him
in at least 2 of the other films, I believe. Just
a heads up, though: after the feet washing scene the
film fast forwards in a huge way to about 10 seconds of
the crucifixion so don't watch this film if you're
looking for much on Jesus' ministry.
This more than other Jesus films deals with
gender politics and the instability of power, I
think. Herodias is just a bundle of sadly
realistic bits of advice like "Love is power" for
women. By which she makes it clear she means
sex. She follows it up with a depressing
sentiment: "Love is a luxury. It's denied to
women." Makes a person realize how few options
women had. And sometimes men do no better...
More than one character in this film goes from riches to
rags or lives in constant worry of it.
I think, despite its soapishness, this
film really does have its good points. I like that
Mary's complex. She's angry at God for all that's
befallen her yet spiritually searching. She wants
desperately to be loved but she's also jaded. She
misses her wealth and power yet comes to see the horror
that can come from power.
I think this may be the best use of Salome. Who
knows what the girl was really like but it's not as if
she had an easy time of it. Her mother was morally
suspect and controlling. Her uncle's also her
lecherous step-dad. And, as this movie reminds us,
she was at a difficult age. I'm not convinced she
deserves the villainous role so often given to
her. I think it was interesting to have Mary
befriend her (first in helping her through her first
period and on through her desire to marry) and actually
see how badly placed this girl is.
I really like this John the Baptist. I was
impressed with the way he was presented far more than I
was with Jesus here. Although, to be fair, Jesus
is hardly in this. But something about the guy
playing John really grabbed me. And he has my
favorite non-biblical line in the whole film. Mary
asks him where God's love is in the midst of war and
misery. Moved, John answers: "God hides Himself
from us. So we find Him through longing."
That speaks so much to there here and now, I feel.
This film gives John's story more attention than Jesus'
which may disappoint some. However, as I have a
whole shelf of Jesus movies, I found it moving to focus
on John's sacrifice and struggles. The way he
tears up when he foretells his own death was stirring.
By focusing so much on the politics of the time,
characters from many different backgrounds are
introduced. I loved seeing so many different
I liked the Vitellio character (hope I got the
name right, he was the 2nd Roman soldier). I
thought he saved this movies from being a total "all men
but the holy ones are evil!" rant. Granted, he did
some bad stuff as a soldier but I think he really loved
Mary. At their parting he wishes that she finds
what she needs. Massive improvement over the first
lout. So I'll give an award for a compelling
I thought the apostles fishing Mary
out after her suicide attempt was a lil
unrealistic. But I think the scene does suggest an
interesting theory about the nature of the demon
possession so many people had. In this Mary freaks
out because she's surrounded by these men who make her
flashback to the rape (understandably). Makes a
person wonder how many of the "possessed" people
actually had PTSD, schizophrenia, etc.?
This came in the
same boxed set along with Mary Magdalene
and two others. When the set arrived, one disk
was floating around in the box. I couldn't
recall whether it was MM or this one. So I
basically watched this movie just to ensure the disk
worked. Given that less-than-thrilling
justification, I actually liked this movie.
IMO, it is leaps and bounds better than the 2004
telefilm of the same name.
First, this movie did at times call Jesus Christ
Superstar to mind which is probably not
surprising given JCS was the first movie I ever saw
to depict Jesus' story through Judas' eyes.
But it's more than that. The film starts on
Palm Sunday so it all takes place in that last week
of Jesus' life, as with JCS. However, it was
the electric guitar in the score that really put me
in mind of the rock opera. I wonder if it was
intentional? Because I really don't recall
electric guitar being featured in the MM film.
It was especially attention-grabbing right after
Judas kisses Jesus in the garden and there's a
riff. JCS all the way!
The plot is basically this: Judas have been cast out
of his family for joining Jesus. The trip to
Jerusalem brings them back to his hometown and Judas
tries to reunite with his family... and his
girlfriend, Rachel. Judas, a former Zealot,
fully embraces Jesus' message of non-violence.
The same cannot be said of Rachel and Judas' former
friends. Rachel tells Judas that her brother,
Disma, has been arrested and she needs 30 pieces of
silver to get his name on the list of prisoners
possibly to be freed on Passover. Judas
ultimately agrees though he struggles with the idea
of taking the silver from the money he manages for
Jesus and Co. Unbeknownst to him, Disma is
free and part of a plot to kill Pilate and that's
why Rachel needed the money. When Judas
realizes the betrayal of Rachel, his world shatters
and he loses sight of who he can trust.
Meanwhile, the Romans trace the silver to Judas and
think Jesus is somehow behind the plot. They
take hostages and threaten to execute them unless
Jesus is handed over. A now completely muddled
Judas turns Jesus over thinking it'll force his hand
and Jesus will, at last, take power.
Despite the rather money and political-driven plot
line, I thought these characters were rendered as
very human with their family concerns, romantic
entanglements, etc. The overall impression I
got from this was how intertwined everything and
Yet money is a big theme through out. Both the
Romans and Judas see the vital importance of the
merchants. The Romans try to force the
merchants to blacklist Jesus and Co. Judas, in
turn, tries to win their support. Reconciling
with his father (a merchant), Judas arranges for him
to get the merchants to support Jesus.
However, no sooner is this agreement made than Jesus
storms through the Temple, overturning tables.
And shortly after that display of anti-consumerism,
Jesus gets anointed with super expensive oil as
Judas looks on in dismay. You can kinda
understand why Judas starts to crack up.
Just come random thoughts:
First, if I ever make a Jesus movie, I'm dressing my
Jesus in something other than white robes.
Just because I somehow doubt that Jesus only ever
Second, if I had the crown of thorns and robe scene
in my film and a character said the robe was
purple... I would make it purple. Not
red. It makes me think there's something wrong
with my TV.
Third, while I think the whole hostage thing but
have involved taking excessive liberty with the
story, there was something stirring about seeing the
hostages freed as Jesus is on the way to
Golgotha. It was like a literal interpretation
of his freeing everyone with his death.
Fourth, at one point Peter assures Judas that "one
day we will understand him [Jesus]." I
couldn't help but think that it's been 2,000 years
and some of us are still arguing about what Jesus
meant. But I agree with Peter... one day we
I like that the people look at least closer to
Middle Eastern than they do in most Jesus
films. Glancing at the credits, I'd say the
bulk of the cast was Italian (not surprising for an
Italian film) so not truly accurate casting but,
again, less WASPy than usual.
This movie drips with irony. There's the
tragic irony of Judas, early on in the film,
uttering the sentence "Take my life. You won't
take the Messiah," to a Roman soldier. We
know, of course, that Jesus will be killed by the
Romans (with the help of Judas) and that Judas will
then take his own life. Later, Judas
emphatically tells Rachel that he cannot betray
Jesus by taking the 30 pieces of silver from the
community money. Yet he does... And
Rachel betrays Judas. Finally, Judas betrays
Jesus by taking the money thinking he's saving
Disma. However, that act then leads to Disma's
real arrest. And who is the criminal crucified
alongside Jesus in this film? Disma. The
whole thing kinda seems like a Shakespearean
I think this film does the best job of fleshing
Judas out. I still prefer JCS just because of
its style but my heart definitely goes out to Judas
at parts during this. And I think that's a
much more compelling story arc to explore than just
"He was a selfish, power-hungry villain." The
part where Judas goes back to his family home and
remarks that "every thing's just the same" in his
room was really touching, as was his cuddling up to
his dying mom. Which leads me to...
Judas' mom is my favorite non-Biblical character in
this. There's a part where she and Judas are
talking and Judas remarks that lately Jesus has
gotten things totally wrong. His mother says
"maybe he sees things you cannot see." So we
have the follower of Jesus distrusting him and the
non-follower better seeing Jesus' plan. I'm
not so sure that doesn't happen with some regularity
There are a couple shots of the cross taken from the
ground with the sun behind Jesus that are pretty
dramatic and stirring, IMO.
I think this is the most depressing ending to a
Jesus movie, at least that I've seen. There is
no resurrection scene, the last we see of Jesus is
dead on the cross. But it doesn't start or
stop there... This whole time Judas has gone
completely delusional. He grins through the
trail (still believing the people will support
Jesus) the scourging, Way of the Cross, and through
the crucifixion. Peter even comes to Judas and
tells him Jesus will die but Judas keeps on.
He believes the whole time that he's merely forced
Jesus' hand and that Jesus will rescue himself and
Disma and come to power. He even tells Rachel
that Jesus can't die... She insists that he's
mad and needs to ask Jesus' forgiveness before it's
too late. Judas remains steadfast in his
belief that all will be will. And then Jesus
Judas runs away with Peter (who was also at Golgotha
in this version) trailing him. Peter keeps
screaming for him. But Judas kills himself
just as Peter reaches the tree. So Peter not
only witnesses the suicide right after witnessing
Jesus' execution but also misses the chance to
intervene by mere seconds. He clings to Judas'
body and that, except for a view of three empty
crosses, is it. It's not exactly the most
uplifting of the Jesus films.
I'm a little shaky on how Judas
goes from thinking Jesus has betrayed their hopes
to, again, believing whole-heartedly that Jesus will
save them all. At points it was like sane
Judas started to surface and then would be taken
over by deluded Judas. Like when he was
smiling as Jesus was carrying the cross then stops,
starts screaming Jesus' name, falls to his knees,
and asks God to send an angel to free Jesus.
For a moment he seems to grasp the reality of the
situation but then at Golgotha is right back to
thinking all will be well. Is this an accurate
portrayal of someone losing their mind? I
dunno. It made for interesting viewing, at
The Nativity Story (2006)
Jesus pretty much
just gets a cameo in this movie...
obviously. Nonetheless, it's becoming one of
my favorite Jesus movies. Of course, this is
only my second viewing. I watched it for the
first time this past Christmas Day and then wanted
to watch it again sometime before the Christmas
season ended. That didn't happen! So
here I am watching it on Valentine's Day. I
thought that seemed weird but, watching it again,
it actually seems really appropriate. Joseph
and Mary are a really inspiring, moving couple.
Plot-wise, the film starts with the Massacre of
the Infants and then flashes back to Zechariah
learning of John's pending birth. Then we
meet Mary, her family, and the town of
Nazareth. The movie is very attentive to the
struggles of its characters: poverty,
powerlessness, and a brutal leader (Herod).
It doesn't take long for it to become apparent
that it's a very, very scary time. The scene
of Mary's young friend being torn from her mother
as payment for taxes due is heartbreaking.
Honestly, at parts this movie is way more
difficult for me to watch than Passion of
the Christ. While Jesus'
crucifixion was horrible and makes for
gut-wrenching viewing... He chose it. There
was a purpose. But it's hard to see much
purpose in murdered babies or enslaved young
girls. Not to mention all the other
crucifixions we glimpse in this film.
Yet, this is NOT a depressing movie. Nor is
it a movie that makes everyone pale next to
Mary. There are so many rich portrayals in
this film. Mary's parents, Elizabeth, and
Zechariah are all very nuanced, I feel. And
I really like that Gabriel looks like a Nazarene
and not the usual, polished, fair angel
stereotype. And the magi! I'm glad
they were in this because they lent some much
needed humor to the film. I especially like
when Balthasar laments leaving behind the comforts
of home. I also get a kick out of the two
magi assuring themselves they don't miss the third
when it's pretty obvious they do... and then he
shows up! And then there's Joseph... more on
From there, the plot's in the Bible. The
angel visits Mary, Mary visits Elizabeth, she
returns and the village is scandalized, Joseph has
a dream, the census is called, they journey to
Bethlehem, and Jesus is born. But the way
the movie shows all this... it's beautiful and
profound and somehow exciting even when we know
The socio-economic realism and fleshed-out
characters made this movie for me. As did
just random, tiny little things as simple as
Joseph's friend brushing paint from his face when
Mary's approaching. Quirks like that that
are just so universally human! In other
Jesus films, I find myself just sorta waiting for
all the Nativity stuff to be over so that the
real, dramatic, poignant story can begin.
It's why it took me well over 2 years to finally
sit down and watch this. I really didn't
think I'd much like it. But in this movie,
the Nativity *is* real and dramatic and
I'm gonna hand this one the Best Joseph
award. Well, assumedly that would go to the
real Joseph but for fictional Josephs... I'm
giving it to this guy. He had me at buying
back Joachim's donkey and telling Mary to say it
was left behind in order to save the man's
pride. Not only that but... they were going
to kill the donkey! So Joseph saved him and
Mary's family and it was awesome. And then
later when he gives Mary most of their last bit of
bread and then shares his lil portion with the
donkey... seriously. I know I'm Catholic and
we have the whole perpetual virginity of Mary
thing but... if Joseph was really like that then I
really hope his descendants are still
around. And I really can't seem to get
myself worked up into a tizzy thinking they could
be Mary's, too.
All that being said, Joseph wasn't depicted as
some dreamy, ethereal paragon. He gets
angry. He gets bitter. He's not
initially inclined to take Mary back. But,
to me, that made him more relatable and
real. He was prone to heartbreak just like
any of us. He just didn't get bogged down in
it, he had faith, and he had enough love to not
care about all the wagging tongues or even his own
pain. One stand out part for me is when he
and Mary are headed to Bethlehem and that woman
tells him "To see yourself in a young face...
there is no greater joy." Even though Joseph
is totally behind Mary at this point and knows the
child is God's, the words sting. Joseph
wanted his own child. It's a complex and
Finally, I was really struck by Joseph lamenting
that the Temple is "meant to be a holy
place." Shades of You Know Who there...
I really, really thought the portrayals of Mary in
Mother of Jesus and Jesus
(1999) were well done. But I think I'm gonna
have to give this Best Mary, too. And not
just because Keisha Castle-Hughes was actually an
appropriate age and look for the part as opposed
to the other films' Marys. I was just really
taken in by this Mary. Again, she seems
real. She plays, she gets upset with her
parents, she worries about her betrothal, and she
can speak up for herself... and do it very
well. She seems like someone you could
know. Even more like someone you'd look up
to but not in a completely distant, untouchable
way. And the look on her face when she first
feels Jesus move in her belly... that's a moment
to stick with you.
But I think my favorite aspect of this movie is
watching her feelings about Joseph change. I
can honestly say I never gave much thought to what
Mary must have felt about him. But this
seems like a good hypothesis. She's
reluctant to wed him. After all, she barely
knows him. It's obvious he's in love with
her but it doesn't follow that she must
reciprocate. So she feels the unfairness of
it and voices that. I like thinking she
didn't just unquestioningly accept everything that
happened to her... even if she did have to abide
So I know this is probly just my modern mentality
showing but I liked that the film doesn't set this
marriage in front of us and just assume both
parties were thrilled. That's not realistic
to me. And it doesn't inspire much.
Instead, we actually get to watch Mary fall in
love with Joseph. We take that emotional
journey with her. And that makes it so
touching to realize these are the people that
raised Jesus: people who may not have had the best
start but forged a strong, deep, loving bond.
So we get these sweet little moments where Mary
smiles at seeing Joseph feed and talk to the
donkey. Or, my personal favorite, clasping
his hand when the woman's comment about their baby
hits him. Or when she washes his feet and
tells the not-yet-born Jesus that he'll have a
good man to raise him. Frankly, I want to
believe that Jesus was raised by two people that
loved each other an awful lot and this movie makes
ya think that just might have been how it was.
Best Use of Sarcasm in a Jesus Movie- Joseph
deadpanning "They're going to miss us" as he and a
very pregnant Mary depart Nazareth amidst
townspeople giving them the evil eye is just plain
Best Use of Christmas Carols- I like "O Come, O
Come Emmanuel" at the start but "The Carol of the
Bells" when Mary's contractions begin gives me
Best Shepherd- I cry when that fellow is so
reluctant to reach out and touch baby Jesus then
finally does at Mary's prompting. That guy
really did deserve an award.
I'd never thought of this before
but around Christmas I was reading a newspaper
column about the Gospels. The author
pondered why Zechariah was struck mute for
questioning God. Yet, Mary does the same and
is exalted. Why? I mean I actually
like that Mary questioned Gabriel. But the
different reactions the two get does make me
wonder. Perhaps it's because God understood
that a young girl was bound to be more frightened
and astounded than an old man... especially when
she's going to end up carrying the Son of
God. Pretty astounding and amazing when I
think that, at 14, I could barely handle
schoolwork and friends issues...
I think I just
need to ramble on this one. Weirdly, I
wound up choosing Godspell for this weekend
after discovering that I still remembered that
Victor Garber's birthday is March 16th. My
inner monologue went something like this: "It's
March 16th. I know that's somehow
significant but how... Wait... I
think it's Victor Garber's birthday!" And,
sure enough, it was. I can only assume
that bit of trivia got lodged in my brain when I
was watching Godspell so often during
high school. So... it only seemed right to
watch it this weekend after that experience.
is really its own thing. It's hard to
compare it to the other Jesus films here.
There's not really a great deal of character
development. It more glides from parable
to parable and song to song than tells a
cohesive story. And yet... I get sucked in
every time emotionally. I believe these
people care about each other. I want to
hang out with them! I share in their awe
of the hippie Christ. Watching this movie
makes me feel like a lil kid again... something
Jesus valued. There's such joy in
it! How can you not sing along with
"Prepare Ye" and "All Good Gifts" and, really,
all of them!?! And yet...
I found with this viewing that the experience
has become somewhat melancholy. Watching Godspell
is like getting a postcard from a simpler
time. I miss watching this and not feeling
a pang of grief when I see the Twin
Towers. I miss having no clue what the
apostles felt at the end: mourning a peer,
mourning the man who taught them about
From "By My Side" on, I was pretty
transfixed. And I still feel this
suffocating sensation when they return to the
park at the end and Jesus starts removing their
make-up. When Jesus says his "heart is
ready to break with grief"... My God. And
watching this I realized that seeing Jesus die,
even just fictionally, has actually gotten more
difficult the more deaths I've
experienced. It's become more real
somehow. And yet how much more grateful
I've become... If I didn't believe in
Heaven and Him, I think each death would have
taken a lil more of my sanity and I'd be far
gone by now.
There is no resurrection here. But when
they start up with the "Long live Gods"...
It's such a beautifully spirited moment.
That it's sung is so poignant, too. I turn
to music so often as a salve for my grief and an
expression of happiness.
Yes, He lives. And because of that we can
carry on with joy for the rest of our
I was particularly struck, this time around, by
the empty New York aspect. It's magical,
really. For a brief space of time there
are only 10 people in the whole city! It
just makes me think of those perfect moments of
connection with people when everything else
seems to dissolve. There is no stress, no
trouble, no job, etc. Only you and
them. I was told once that Godspell
isn't about Jesus at all but about connection
and community. I wish I'd said to them:
"And what's the difference?" God is love
and He's there when we truly meet each other
with love and compassion. This movie is
about Jesus *and* connecting with each other.
Anyhow, here are awards:
Best Non-standard Costuming- I love Jesus'
outfit. Classic. Victor Garber looks
adorable and Superman shirts would never be the
same for me.
Best Dual Role- The John/Judas dual role has
always intrigued me. When does he switch
over? Why did they decide to do it that
way? Why not cast two people? It's
just interesting to think about.
Best Nostalgia Trip- I can still remember
crystal-clear moments of watching this when I
was a teen: tucked away in bed with pneumonia or
the time I watched it in the evening and a wind
struck up just before Judas betrayed
Jesus. I truly loved this film. I
Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
I decided I
should cover one I had not yet reviewed
here. I know I saw this some years
back on TV so am not sure if this is my
first time viewing it uncut or not.
It's over three hours long so I'm breaking
it up over the afternoon, watching
approximately an hour in each sitting.
So for the first hour...
I have to be honest and say the first twenty
or so minutes are really boring to me.
They are so Herod-centric. You only
briefly see Mary and Joseph. But then
they get pretty quickly to Jesus' adulthood
so that's good. Cause outside of The
Nativity Story, I just don't
typically find film coverage of Jesus' birth
to be that compelling. Not sure why.
One thing I do like about the beginning is
the recitation of John 1. Also cool is
how often you hear prayers calling out for
the Messiah. It's particularly
stirring when you hear that over Mary,
Joseph, and Jesus returning home...
surrounded by crucifixions.
There are a few character moments I really
like. Peter's reaction to his stolen
coat actually made me laugh. Dude was
not letting it go! And "Little James"
is sweet. I like how he wanted to
follow Jesus just cause he liked what he
said then declared Jesus "a good
name." But other than that... I find
myself not really connecting with characters
and right when I realized that I also
noticed that this movie is shot a lot with
wide shots. There are times Jesus is
speaking and the camera is so far away that
you can't even see his lips moving.
I'd like to see his facial expressions!
One thing I will say for this version is
that it gives a lot more coverage to Jesus'
teaching than most others. There are
moments that I just don't think a modern
movie could pull off in which Jesus just
sits and talks. Nothing else
happens. It's quite great. But,
again, I wish the camera would move in
during these moments rather than staying
anchored several feet away.
I did get a lil emotional when Jesus is
departing Lazarus' home and Mary says
something like "I fear for him. He's
In the second hour, they hit more scenes
that make me emotional (although the
distance shots continue unabated...)
First, the blind man always gets me.
And when he's talking to an absent Jesus
about his childhood... Something about
that makes me really sad. I guess
because I realize that guy's gonna have to
get used to Jesus' physical absence.
Second, I think it's James (distant shot so
can't be sure) who asks Jesus if men are
like ripples in the water... just floating
away and lost. Then he mentions
John. You can tell he's sad about his
death (even without visuals). Jesus'
only response is to begin the Our
Father. Sometimes that's all one can
do in the face of grief. I've come to
understand that. I know some people
are against rote prayers. But
sometimes they are all that comes out.
I do love this version of Lazarus'
resurrection. I get goosebumps when
the "Hallelujah Chorus" starts up.
There are also plenty of close-ups in that
segment, starting with Jesus' "I Am the
resurrection" and a lot of beautiful
reaction shots. And a much happier bit
with the blind man.
Finally, in the third hour...
This movie doesn't do a great job of
fleshing Judas out. Nonetheless, his
speech about Jesus' heart and his love for
him is gut-wrenching. Although I've
never understood why this film has him
commit suicide by fire.
I love Sidney Poitier as Simon. He
doesn't simply carry the cross but seems to
actually carry Jesus. And that single
tear at the end... He never says a
word but it's just beautiful. He looks
like an angel.
The crucifixion pretty well verifies for me
that sometimes this film sacrifices emotion
for spectacle. The shots of the three
crosses are stirring. But for a long
while, that's all you see. I started
to doubt if Mr. Von Sydow was even present
for that scene or just doing voiceover work.
Jesus Movie Most Likely to Make You Think
Something is Wrong with Your TV- The first
30 seconds or so are just a black screen
with score music. Fair warning!
I was about ready to see if my TV had
died. They do it again at the start of
Best James- Okay, maybe not. I might
be forgetting other really good James.
But, seriously, I like this kid. Maybe
cause he's exactly that: a kid. It's
nice to think Jesus had a happy-go-lucky kid
around to cheer him up.
Best Resurrection of Lazarus- Seriously, I
really do like this take on it. It's
why I most wanted to rewatch this
version. That and Sidney Poitier.
Best Simon- See above.
Most Untrue Line- One priest tells another
"This will all be forgotten in a
week." I am writing this approximately
102,856 weeks later. :-)
Visual Bible: Matthew (1993)
this is so lengthy, I'm going to do what
I did with Greatest
Story and separate my thoughts
into hours. So, in the first
First, I was very glad when other
characters started speaking. There
was a moment of panic when I thought it
was going to be Richard Kiley speaking
the whole time with the other actors
Second, very nice to get a glimpse of
Mary's and Joseph's wedding. Yay
Third... I have to say that I think the
Massacre of the Infants was pretty
gratuitous. Because of it, I
probably would not let my kid watch this
movie which seems a shame. I
started to get really upset and I'm
28. People know what's going
on. There's absolutely no need to
show close-ups of dead children.
In general, I like how dynamically Jesus
speaks. Gestures, varied voice,
and even a prank (pouring water on an
apostle's head). For Jesus to have
maintained the following He did, He must
have been a compelling figure. I
can see that in this rendition.
Unfortunately, I find the bouncing back
and forth between the scenes of Jesus'
ministry and Matthew's retelling
jarring. Richard Kiley is a fine
actor and does his part well. But
the set-up is just really breaking the
spell and screaming "This is a film!" to
One of the better things about covering
an entire Gospel is that the resulting
film will highlight scenes many others
skip over. For example, the
demons-into-swines scene doesn't seem to
get much play. I don't know that I
think it's that vital but, still, it's
in the Bible so it's good to see someone
show it. What I'm really glad to
see is the centurion with the ill
servant. I love that exchange
between him and Jesus and think it gives
us all so much to think about. So
I was psyched to see it here.
The second hour brings us the bleeding
woman. She's another person who
doesn't often make it into the movies
but that story, too, I have a lot of
appreciation for. Both she and the
centurion show such faith. In
addition, Jesus was really taking a risk
by touching an unclean woman. So
it's really a shame that this scene
isn't included more often. At
least it's here!
This way of doing things also ensures
that the less... palatable scenes
remain, too. It's not easy
reading/watching Jesus going off on the
unbelieving towns. It's actually
pretty painful. But they're in the
Bible for a reason and so it just may be
a very good thing that at least one film
version retains them. They have to
be thought about and dealt with.
Otherwise the second hour didn't really
have any stand-out moments for me.
Just some general things: I like how
affectionate this Jesus is. I like
how he had the apostles recite lines for
a parable. Maybe Godspell
is more accurate than we know!
:-) I was kinda bummed that, by
sticking to the Bible, creativity is
kinda limited. This isn't gonna
show us some possible conversation
between Jesus and Judas, for
example. But there is still a
creative element in how lines are
performed. For example, I was
kinda startled when Jesus laughs after
Peter begins to sink after walking on
water. In Cotton
Patch Gospel this is portrayed
as a terrible disappointment for
Jesus. Who's to say? Maybe
He was crushed, maybe He thought His
friend freaking out when, really, there
was no danger was just kinda
hysterical. So, yeah, even without
newly crafted lines, there's definitely
creative interpretation at work here.
Highlights, for me, from the third hour
included the Canaanite woman, the
Transfiguration, and the healing of the
young man with seizures. The first
is depicted in the Jeremy Sisto version
but not, to my recollection, in many
others. It's such an interesting
scene to me because it shows that Jesus
(while sinless) didn't necessarily know
everything when He was here. He
could learn, too. Plus, that
woman's faith is just astounding.
I am less emotionally connected to the
Transfiguration but it's a very
intriguing element and seldom
depicted. Finally, as an
epileptic, I appreciated the scene of
the man with seizures. Most films
prefer to focus on the healings of the
blind and lame which are, of course,
stirring. The epileptics tend to
get forgotten. Not here!
In general, I am really appreciating the
look of this version. It seems the
most real to me visually. Nothing
yet has looked like a plaster facade
brought in out of storage. It all
looks like what I really imagine Jesus
and Co. seeing as they went to
Jerusalem, visited towns, etc. And
the scenery is just beautiful.
Also, Bruce Marchiano is probably one of
the more realistic looking
Jesuses. He's not blonde, he has
darker skin, and the hair is probably
pretty accurate, too. I've read
that Jesus likely did not have the long,
ponytail-ready hair we often associate
with Him but actually something more of
what we'd call shaggy. That's what
ya get here.
The fourth hour mostly revolves around
the walls closing in on Jesus.
This rendition of his speech against the
Pharisees is pretty upsetting to
watch. Jesus' agony is depicted
very well. That, coupled with the
Massacre scene, made me fear for how the
Crucifixion would be portrayed in this
one. I was shocked to see how bad
Jesus' eyes looked after the first
beating following his arrest. That
was jarring. But the Crucifixion
itself did not last long. It was
meaningful and well done but not
I am really glad that they let "the
other Mary" who sees Jesus after his
resurrection be his mother. At
least I thought she looked like
the same actress. Beyond that, I
found this to be a pretty stirring
rendition of the Passion and
Resurrection but I suppose I missed some
of the staples from the other
Gospels. I think it would be great
if someone did a truly faithful
rendition that blended the Gospel
Not really in an award type of mood but
I spose "Best Visuals" and "Most True to
the Book" will do!
How Not to Make
a Jesus Movie
Once upon a time, I got incredibly
excited whenever a new Jesus movie was
announced. And then I dunno what
happened... Part of me thinks
maybe my expectations have just gotten
too big. But the truth is when I
watch Jesus movies I used to enjoy, I
generally still enjoy them. So
I've concluded that there are some
elements in current Jesus films that
just do NOT work for me.
Meanwhile, I feel like I've actually
drawn closer to the real Jesus.
I don't at all feel like this... anger
almost... towards movie Jesuses is
some sort of misdirected anger at the
actual Jesus. I will admit that
I have grown increasingly wary of
Western-looking Jesuses and that
tinges even productions I love.
But that's just it... it tinges.
It doesn't account for outright and
overwhelming dissatisfaction which is
what I feel when watching some newer
films. With Easter 2015
approaching and the current biblical
movie craze, we're gonna have a lot
more Jesus films coming our way.
I'd like to have some hope of maybe
liking them. I feel like, to do
that, I kinda need to exorcise some of
my complaints and
disappointments. Thus, here are
some things I've seen in recent Jesus
movies that have driven me
batty. In no particular order
(and pretty tongue-in-cheek)...
--Editing that creates unfortunate
implications: Yes, I realize that
sometimes things need to be cut for
time. However, if you authorize
a DVD release for a film you created,
I think it's on you to ensure any
editing doesn't create situations that
makes Jesus or other morally
upstanding people look like
emotionally tone deaf jerks. So
you've decided to present Mary
Magdalene as less a prostitute and
more a woman who has been very
misguided and fallen on hard
times? Great. You likely
have history on your side.
However, if you've shot a sequence in
which a very, very drunk Mary
Magdalene is dragged into bed by a
man... you've now shot the
introduction to a rape scene. If
you immediately follow that up with
Jesus uttering "your sins are
forgiven," Jesus now looks like
victim-blaming scum. As I happen
to believe Jesus is a member of the
Trinity and not victim-blaming scum,
your movie is now ruined for me and I
have ceased to associate the
white-robed, bearded man with
Jesus. He is now Kevin or
whatever masculine name pops into my
head. And I will be emotionally
distanced from Kevin for the rest of
the movie and just consider him to be
a weirdo who is aping the off-screen
Jesus for reasons known only to
himself. Maybe I sound like a
jerk. However, I think a lot of
damage could be done by someone in
need of Jesus' mercy and compassion
watching such a sequence and seeing
that monstrosity play out.
--Inappropriate casting: I already
mentioned the ethnicity issue with
"white Jesus" but this goes beyond
that. Paying attention to the
ages your actors can reasonably pull
off is a good thing. We
Christians understand that the Son is
co-eternal with the Father and that
means Jesus is older than every other
human. However, He was also born
to a woman of about fourteen years of
age (likely). Therefore, Mary
should appear to be at least a solid
decade older than Jesus. If your
movie rolls around to the Passion and
Mary still looks to be in her twenties
and Jesus seems to have cleared the
big 4-0 years before... it's
distracting. Mother/son scenes
don't look like mother/son scenes and,
in fact, can come off as fairly
creepy. And, in the name of all
that is holy, please do not cast the
Holy Family and the apostles as mostly
white people and then have Satan be
the only darker complected fellow with
lines. It doesn't matter whether
he looks like an American president or
not. That just looks really,
really bad on a deeper level.
Also, "Hot Jesus" should never
happen. Go read Isaiah 53 if you
don't believe me. And I'll grant
that if the best actor just happens to
be very good looking, one should still
hire him over a less talented
person. However, I refuse to
believe this is happening virtually
every single time Jesus is cast.
--Jesus is scared of women: No,
actually He wasn't and isn't.
However, if your own wariness of the
Mary Magdalene rumors has made you
shove her to the side and forgo any
substantive scenes with Jesus and
women, I think you need to go reread
the Gospels. Jesus Himself
didn't keep away from women, even
women with reputations, just to avoid
gossip. He cared for them and,
yes, touched them and allowed them to
touch Him. If your movie's Jesus
doesn't interact with women, I don't
know who he's trying to portray but
clearly not the actual Jesus.
Maybe he's playing Kevin playing
--Epic fails when trying to solve a
problem like Maria: None of us knows
what exactly happened with Mary, the
Mother of Jesus. We can assume
she did, indeed, go on to live with
the Apostle John. What I never
thought someone would assume?
That she hitched a donkey ride back to
Nazareth on Easter morning. And
yet one recent film had her doing
exactly this. The
problems? 1. It hadn't
even been a full 48 hours since she'd
buried her son and she decides to go
on a road trip? Yeah, we all
grieve differently but geez...
2. Jesus predicted His own
Resurrection. Even if you don't
include this scene in your movie, a
lot of us viewers know it
happened. Maybe Mary wasn't
there to hear it. But no one
thought to mention it? Not even
Mary Magdalene? They just said
"Oh, okay. Well, been nice
seeing you. Err, umm... I
mean not nice cause... you know...
your son died but... umm...
Okay, bye"? Really? and 3.
Most modern mothers wouldn't even go
back to normal life after losing a
child only 48 hours before! And
most of us don't live with the
burial/mourning customs a first
century Jewish woman would have.
Apparently Mary, in this film, just
wasn't interested in sitting
shiva. (Not that I think that
phrase was used but apparently the
week long mourning period was a
thing.) There's a problem when a
modern Catholic cares more about
proper Jewish mourning customs than
the Jewish characters in your
film. This was such a
distracting moment of
out-of-characterness that I stopped
watching that film a few minutes after
that scene. It remains the only
Jesus movie that has left me liking
Judas better than... Phyllis... which
is what I'll call non-Mary-like
Marys. At least Judas was
consistent. And, yes, some folks
make very valid points that certain
other folks vastly overstress
Mary. She should never be
worshiped. Totally true.
But that doesn't change that she was a
woman chosen by God from among all
other women. Clearly she wasn't
a faithless screw up.
-- Faithful observance of Viewers
Are Morons: No, actually, many
of us are not. But if TPTB
behind Jesus films get on the news
media and make claims about how
there's a lack of Biblical literacy
and yet their movies rely on that
assumption by playing fast and loose
with the Biblical text... they're not
helping. And, actually, they
look pretty hypocritical. "Read
the Bible more! But watch us as
we completely rewrite a
character!" Now, I'm all for
being creative. If you want to
completely make up a scene about
Joseph's death, I will support
that. If you decide to turn the
whole story into a rock opera, I will
watch that (a lot). But when you
completely obliterate a character and
change their very personality and
depth of faith just to better play
into some poorly conceived narrative
of your own, I will be extremely wary
of the rest of your film. Rahab
--TPTB have a persecution complex: So
you made a Jesus movie and not
everyone loved it. Yeah, maybe
some people were just being
trolls. But some people may have
had perfectly valid complaints.
You don't get to trot out "Well,
people are hostile to Christian faith
and..." I'm a Christian. I
am NOT hostile to my own faith.
But I also don't feel like I need to
indiscriminately dole out "Atta boy!"
and "Atta girl!" to every Christian
filmmaker. I have a right to not
like your movie without falling under
a blanket accusation of being
filmmaker does not equate to
infallible. Rather than be
defensive and dismissive, invite a
In closing, the movie makers have
every right to do what they
want. I'm not challenging
that. But we all have a right to
consider whether what they do within
those movies is morally okay.
Sadly, I have been very disenchanted
with recent offerings. That
being said, I haven't seen all of
them. For a while, I gave
up. It just seems like sometimes
people are so ready to trumpet the
latest Christian project that no one
within the Christian media wants to
take a critical look at those
productions. It shouldn't be
only secular publications that wonder
about certain choices TPTB behind
films make. In the years I've
had this page, I've gotten mostly
positive feedback. However, it's
disheartening to me how some people
equate dislike of a Jesus film with
one's devotion to Jesus. Jesus
is not the following people: Jim
Caviezel, Ted Neeley, Victor Garber,
Christian Bale, Max von Sydow, Jeremy
Sisto, Jeffrey Hunter, Diogo Morgado,
etc. The Trinity is not Andrew
Lloyd Webber, Roma Downey, Mark
Burnett, Mel Gibson, Bill O'Reilly,
Paramount, MGM, CBS, NBC, ABC, Disney,
etc. You can love or hate a
Jesus movie without that having any
reflection on how you feel about the
actual Jesus. And, yes, the same
Jesus movie that I abhor might be
deeply meaningful to someone
else. We all have
triggers. Probably some of what
I listed above would fly under some
people's radar or just be shrugged
off. But the Gospels tell a
story that has relevance and absolute
importance. Tinkering with that
story without an eye for unfortunate
implications and/or an openness to
constructive criticism, can lead to
marginalization. And that's
something that should never be in any
version of Jesus' story.
*My apologies to all people named
Phyllis and Kevin.
So with the above out of my system, I
started watching Killing Jesus.
Right now, I'm about halfway through
but decided to jot a few things down
because I'm afraid I won't remember by
First of all, he had me at the food
throwing. To be fair, I was
super excited when I heard Haaz
Sleiman was cast because I thought he
was awesome in The Visitor.
And, I'll admit, I was just incredibly
happy to see someone who could
conceivably resemble a Galilean in the
role. There's something stirring
about hearing Jesus' words in an
accent other than U.S. Midwestern or
European. (Don't get me wrong,
His words are always stirring but
delivery does matter and Mr. Sleiman
brought a lot of emotion and
power.) But back to the food
throwing. I like that this Jesus
is playful. When his
cousin/brother teases him, he smiles
and throws a nut or bread (couldn't
tell) at him... just as you would
expect a big brother to do. That
scene becomes more poignant later when
Jesus returns to Nazareth and James'
teasing has morphed into outright
resentment. I will admit that's
one aspect of this movie that's been
hard for me: the family
dynamics. Mary seems pretty
clueless. Or maybe just quietly
in the know. I can't tell.
There was a pretty enigmatic smile at
one point. I do wish her view
was a little easier to grasp but I am
only halfway through. And, to be
fair, the Bible does strongly suggest
that there was angst among the family
Before I move on from the family, just
a few words about Joseph. He has
only a very brief part. Three
scenes, really. But I liked
him. I liked that he referred to
"our boy" and "my son" and that he
kissed lil boy Jesus. He clearly
loved Jesus and considered him his
own, without reservation. I also
appreciate that he wasn't some super
old fellow with his teen bride.
The Massacre of the Infants was
wrenching to watch. I was warned
by two people about it, though, so it
actually didn't come to what I'd
imagined in my head... which I think
TPTB banked on. It was still
brutal and awful and struck a
heartbreaking balance between showing
violence and letting you fill in the
blanks in ways that probably made it
more terrible than anything they could
After only about ten minutes, the film
leaps ahead to when Jesus is thirty
and doing carpentry work. His
aunt/cousin Elizabeth comes to visit
and shares news of her son John which
seems to light a fire under
Jesus. I'm a lil shaky on
whether this seems at all plausible
given Elizabeth was quite old when
John was born and here she is thirty
years later but who knows.
Anyway, Jesus is baptized by John and
it's a moving, quiet scene without the
usual voice of God moment. I
kinda missed that but, at the same
time, the low key nature of this film
appeals to me.
And then this movie does something
that I'm surprised so few do.
Those of us who watch these movies a
lot are used to seeing certain
healings: the blind man, the man
lowered from the roof via a cot,
Jairus' daughter, and so on. We
all know how those stories end: Jesus
heals and all is well! But here
we have a distraught mother
approaching Jesus because her young
son is possessed. If this story
is in the Bible, I somehow missed
it. I gotta say, it was pretty
revolting when we saw the poor
boy. But Jesus just grabs him
and holds him in his arms (this is a
theme). And then the boy
convulses and... dies. And
watching it I'm just like "OMG.
A kid just died while Jesus was
holding him. What is
this!?" And the crowd on-screen
is horrified and the mother is crushed
and then Jesus prays. And I'm
still like "Wow... Are they
going the route of Jesus failed and
then had to learn to be more faithful
or what is this!?" And then we
hear a gasp... And the little
fellow asks for water. It was
stunning. Because we've grown so
familiar with the oft-seen miracles,
the drama and suspense are largely
gone. We know the crowd is antsy
but we know how it'll end. Well,
here I didn't know. It was this
great moment of feeling one with the
people in the movie, hoping that
somehow Jesus was gonna make this
right but not absolutely knowing he
Later, people are vying for Jesus'
healing touch when two lepers, a woman
and, I assume, her child,
approach. They head for the
animals' trough to drink because, of
course, they aren't welcome at the
well. Jesus hurries over and
stops them just before they drink the
disgusting water. He calls for
water to be brought over but none of
the apostles want to. Enter Mary
of Magdala. She takes the cup
and brings it to the lepers and then
she and Jesus tend to the two.
Without flinching, Jesus touches the
woman leper's face and dabs at her
boils and sores. I gotta say,
this was such a welcome scene for
me. Not only was the dialogue
between Mary and Jesus intriguing
(Mary seems like potentially the sex
trafficking opponent of her day) but
coming off two movies when I felt like
Jesus only cared about women when it
was convenient for him, this
rocked. The tender, grateful
look on that woman's tortured face as
he tended to her... *that* is the work
of Jesus. The real Jesus didn't
worry about getting his hands
dirty. He cared about people.
Just a small note: I had to pause this
movie to go pray because someone I
know had really major surgery
complications. After that, I
just really hoped this movie would
cover the Lord's Prayer. I don't
even know why. But I didn't
figure it would cause that's just not
really political. But, lo and
behold, there's a scene of Jesus
teaching the entire prayer. I
felt grateful for that. I'll
admit I cried... and then rewound.
Unfortunately, not too long after that
we had to visit King Herod's House of
Horrors. Poor John... They
were awful to him. But
Herod... I seriously wanted the
Special Victims Unit: Jerusalem to
come running in. Creepy, creepy,
creepy. Don't get me wrong,
Salome is presented as a devious,
selfish brat in this but no girl
should have to deal with a creeper
stepfather. If that's how Herod
really was (and I have no idea),
John's vitriol didn't even approach
what he really deserved.
I do like the way this one is handling
the high priests thus far. On at
least two occasions, they've made it
very clear that not all of the
Sanhedrin was against Jesus.
Nicodemus has a few scenes but it's
not even just him. Further, a
scene in which Caiaphas recalls being
young and seeing a mass crucifixion
makes him no more pleasant but does
suggest there was more to his actions
than just plain nastiness. And I
believe that. I do think they
honestly cared about their people and
worried that Jesus would lead to their
The last hour is pretty much a
blur. To be honest, I forgot how
emotional Jesus movies make me when
they haven't done something to majorly
annoy me. So just moments that
stick in my head:
- Jesus trying to get his brother
to take Mary home to Nazareth before
his arrest. Of course we knew
it wasn't going to happen but
still... just so sadly beautiful.
- Mary witnessing the
scourging... devastating. When
she said "My baby boy..." I lost it
and pretty much stayed that way.
- "God's glory is love... I love
you."... as Jesus looks like hell
and is carrying the cross and
talking to a Roman who is awful.
- Judas' exchange with the
shepherd boy. Up until that
moment, I found Judas to be rather
blah. But that scene was
- The Resurrection. I think
some people are probably not going
to like it. I did. Do I
want every Jesus movie to go that
route? No. But that's
Easter as I know it... believing but
not seeing. And Mary's
- Mary actually being there and,
you know, not on an ill-advised road
- The fish... That was an
awesome use of echoing a previous
- The kinda "suckers!" tone of
Kelsey Grammer's closing monologue
when he spoke of Caiaphas, Pilate,
Herod, and Herodias. They
deserved it. And, honestly,
after the creepiness of the last
three... I kinda needed that.
- "Jesus in art" slideshow.
I loved those! It was cool to
see that employed in a way opposite
to Superstar's pretty
There are some things I wish had
been different, of course. I
wish this had been a miniseries, for
one. So much was skipped.
I was mostly pleased with what I saw
but just wanted to see more, perhaps
especially with Mary of Magdala.
That being said, we did get to see a
lot more of Jesus' preaching than I
imagined going in so I can't
complain. Second, I think
Claudia was just a waste of
time. Without her dream, she
didn't really serve any purpose beyond
being annoying and, I guess, modeling
costume porn. But she had 2 or 3
scenes that I feel like coulda been
better spent. Thirdly, I do wish
Mary had seemed less clueless about
who and what her son was but even
that's superseded by my gladness that
she didn't bail like in a previous
version. Finally, there are some
dubious beards and hair but I guess I
just need to learn to deal with that.
Really, I was just so pleased to
watch a Jesus movie in which he seemed
like a real, actual, and, most of all,
loving person and not some paragon who
is just going through the motions.
Frankly, I'm just really happy
that there's finally a version, easily
available, that has a cast with Middle
Eastern people not relegated just to
background players and the occasional
supporting part but with lead roles...
including the lead role. Jesus
was Middle Eastern. That doesn't
mean every single person ever who
plays Him needs to be of Middle
Eastern descent... but I do feel like
it shouldn't have taken this long for
a Western-made movie to pull this off.
Beyond that, I think I'm done with
the "awards" thing. To say I
enjoyed this movie doesn't really seem
right but I feel like it restored my
belief in people's ability to produce
a Jesus movie in this decade that I
can get behind and consider
Well, that's all the movies
I've seen as of right now, at least those I've seen enough to
write about. I have loved all these different portrayals of
Jesus Christ and think the actors did wonderful jobs. However,
if anyone knows of a version in which Jesus is portrayed by a
man looking like one would think a Nazarene would look, let me
know as I would love to see that version. Thanks!