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The return of the Biblical movie?

The return of the Biblical movie? (photo)

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Over at the Guardian, Anne Billson traces how the Bible pops up repeatedly (if not always in a theologically approved manners) in apocalyptic/horror movies. Her argument is sometimes shaky — is Frank Langella in “The Box” really a Jesus figure? — but it’s a useful way of drawing together different strains of religious horror from “The Exorcist” onwards.

Oddly, Billson completely ignores the Biblical epics Hollywood pumped out like so many slot-fillers from the ’40s through the ’60s, movies like “David and Bathsheba,” “The Robe” (the first film to be shot in CinemaScope, no less), “Quo Vadis” and the literally titled “The Bible: In The Beginning” (not to mention the many efforts of Cecil B. DeMille — “The Sign of the Cross,” “Samson and Delilah,” “The Ten Commandments” and so on — that are practically a genre in themselves). In these films, the religiosity’s a special effect — a light to be brought out, a Jesus cameo, a parting of the Red Sea. The lines between secular spectacle (the Roman swords-and-sandals epic) and the religious film are erased — for practical purposes, they’re one and the same.

You can trace the complexity of America’s relationship to Christinianity where religion becomes the excuse for horror shocks and genre exercises. Meanwhile, evangelical Christian filmmaking, as “Nightmare Movies” author Kim Newman puts it, rely on a subtext of “paranoid justification of America’s tendency to demonise the United Nations, the Kyoto agreement or any other international body which opposes its interests.”

03122010_robe.jpgThere’s a reason why the Vatican’s much-ballyhooed list of great films almost entirely ignores the mainstream religious epic (aside from a nod to the inescapable “Ben-Hur”) — it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with religion. The religious films that the Vatican does gives the nod to tend to be on the ascetic, artsy side, like “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” or “The Flowers of St. Francis” — ones that makes more sense than the doughty Biblical epics of yore.

If, therefore, the news of a new 3D Book of Genesis film strikes you as a bit crass and absurd, it’s actually in keeping with Hollywood’s quasi-religious past, where the theology and morality are subsumed in favor of “woah” moments. It’s not that audiences want more religious movies, as some claim; they just want spectacle, and nothing’s more spectacular than that.

[Photos: “Jesus of Nazareth,” NBC, 1977; “The Robe,” Fox, 1953]

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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