ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Friday, November 27, 2015

HEAVEN'S GATE: 35 OBSESSIVE YEARS LATER

 
November 19th, 1980. Anticipation mounted for what would be the latest film from director Michael Cimino, who had only two years prior released the highly successful and Academy Award- winning THE DEER HUNTER. Funded and released through the already- then financially- crippled United Artists, the studio took a risky gamble and ponied- up an unheard $44 million dollars… far more than any major company would pay for a feature film’s production during that time. The stakes were high but UA believed in Cimino and his vision… surely it would be a great pay off, wouldn’t it? Within a matter of days from its release, UA pulled the film embarrassingly quickly from poor reviews and even poorer box office receipts. The failure of the film would go on to become a Hollywood urban legend of overly- negative proportions including the film becoming solely responsible for the destruction and bankruptcy of United Artists and the black- balling of Cimino as a director in Hollywood.

The legend of the harrowing experiences is never spoken of out loud… as though it might conjure some kind of hex or curse amongst Hollywood productions. It is the film that was never to have been mentioned again… but what did exactly happen? Over the years since, rumors had boiled- over to becoming accepting truths but actuality differs greatly from fabrication! What is fact and what is fiction? What went on behind- the- scenes? With a crucifix in one hand and a Criterion blu- ray copy in the other, I explore the myth and reality of the good, the bad and the ugly of Michael Cimino’s HEAVEN’S GATE on the verge of celebrating its 35 anniversary this year.
1978- 1979
Universal Studios surprised audiences and critics alike with a powerhouse film starring A-list actors Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep and Christopher Walken in a Vietnam- laced drama saga entitled THE DEER HUNTER. The film drew immense critical praise which bridged- over to gaining an impressive nine Academy Award nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Walken), Best Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Actor (Robert DeNiro),  Best Director (Michael Cimino) and Best Picture.

On Academy Awards’ night of April 1979, THE DEER HUNTER went on to win five Oscars including Best Director and Best Picture! Cimino became an over- night sensation with every studio clamoring to make his next feature film with him. Channeling the new star power bestowed upon, Cimino resurrected a script he had worked on back in his struggling days in 1971 entitled “The Johnson County War” and convinced United Artists to fund and release his latest venture. Needing a hit film fast, UA all too eagerly said yes, a re-write and a title change later and the project became HEAVEN’S GATE.
ORGINS
Invaders in custody from Johnson County, spring 1892
HEAVEN’S GATE is loosely based on the horrifically true incidents that occurred in Wyoming 1892 that became known as the Johnson County War.  The events circled around a band of privately hired gunmen who were brought in by a group of powerful cattlemen to ‘eradicate’ a number of poor immigrants who had worked for these businessmen.  The implicated “range pirates” were accused of stealing cattle to feed themselves and their families. The massacre would become a notorious piece of American history.
(l)Bridges,(r)Eastwood: THUNDERBOLT & LIGHTFOOT
Cimino became interested in the project when his focuses were that of a struggling screenwriter in the early 1970s’. He worked on and submitted a finalized script to studios, causing little if no interest due to the lack of A- list actors passing on the project and the script would eventually find itself shelved.

Having two directorial hits back- to- back with THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT starring Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges in 1974 and 1979’s THE DEER HUNTER, Hollywood was ready to pay closer attention to Cimino.
(l)Griffin,(cnt)Pickford),(sit)Chaplin &(r)Fairbanks
From the beginning, United Artists was a unique film studio originally formed by a number of Hollywood’s classic performers including D.W. Griffin, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks for the purpose of allowing its filmmakers complete artistic freedom. UA would become the ideal studio to which Cimino could create the bleak Western drama backdrop he envisioned.

PRODUCTION AND THE OBSESSIVE VISION
United Artists agreed to offer a generous 11.6 million dollar budget with written expectations for a projected release date before Christmas of 1979 to meet eligibility for Academy Award consideration.   
Director Michael Cimino
In the midst of exchanging hands and contract finalizations, Cimino managed to create a complex list of agreements that would free him of potential problems. In the final documentations, the director stated that he would make every effort imaginable to complete production for the projected winter release, in exchange, UA would pay for any overages incurred to bring the production in on time and those costs would not be regarded as going over budget. Furthermore, Cimino would not be held responsible if the film didn’t meet the hopeful release date. In addition, the director required full artistic and financial control of the project. Before anyone knew what exactly transpired, the contracts were signed and the film was green- lit for a go.
The infamous skating sequence
As pre- production slowly got on its way, stories were coming into fruition regarding the perfectionistic eye of Cimino’s, which included a number of unusual practices and requests. Before a single frame of HEAVEN’S GATE was shot, the entire cast had to undergo a number of rather extensive training courses to keep the characters as authentic to the period. Some of these, as Jeff Bridges jokingly referred to as “Camp Cimino”, included horseback riding, the use of firearms and the practice of Yugoslavian accent coaching. One particular sequence required a number of cast members, including Kris Kristofferson, Jeff Bridges, Brad Douriff and Isabelle Huppert to dance on skates. It was estimated that most of the actors needed up to six weeks to perfect the abilities for the scene.
(l) Cimino and (r) Kristofferson on set
Full production began on April 1979. Cimino’s directorial approach and obsessive vision would quickly become all too familiar around the set for both cast and crew. One such behavioral result from the director would be his requisition for a minimum of 32 takes of certain shots. His eye for detail had all the actors deliver their lines in different emotional plights to best capture the acceptable scene. Some actors recognized the minimal take request placed by the director, which once led to a whopping 57 takes for one scene. One entire day was spent shooting just a particular scene with Kris Kristofferson, which involved him cracking a whip in a hotel room while intoxicated… it reportedly required over 50 takes alone.

The frightening reports coming back to United Artists were not good- in its first week of shooting; only one and a half minutes of film had been inventoried… the cost was an estimated $900,000. The film was not only racking up spending dollars, but had already begun to fall behind schedule- within its first six days of filming, the production was already five days behind its targeted date.
One of many 'extra'- heavy scenes
Stories would continue to come forth about the perfectionist attention placed upon during production. Cimino would spend many hours planning and creating every single shot. He went as far as to personally hand- select extras to fill the background of certain sequences. These choices were based off of looks, costuming, size, weight or other distinctive traits he felt suited the scene.  Even more time was spent than the average within the production- due to its scale. Cimino would spend hours selecting up to 50 extras for one scene alone. He was the painter and the extras were his paints to place on his cinematic canvas.
A crew member on the film recalled beginning work at 4 in the morning with a dawn shot. Filming would abruptly cease when clouds rolled into a scene and caused overcast while blocking out the sun. Cimino would halt shooting until the clouds would roll out of the scene. Hours would go by and the entire production was in a freeze… because of the clouds. The standard time for lunch would come and go as well. Cimino was allegedly quoted as replying, “Lunch? This is bigger than lunch” when a crew member finally asked when they could have their meal break.

July 1979. HEAVEN’S GATE had now gone over 200 percent from its estimated budget and the bosses at United Artists were losing their patience. Knowing what kind of repercussions the production would face if the studio fired Cimino, another option was clear in order to deliver a message- UA decided to fire producer Joann Corelli instead. The studio placed itself in the field of producer to regain a sense of control. The word went out to Cimino: stick to the budget and schedule for the remainder of the production or lose the right to final cut.
Journalist Les Gapay
Bad publicity during production is no stranger to Hollywood films and can, by its own reputation and fault, be the cause for a film to fail before it even opens in theaters. Anything ranging from an actor’s tantrum rant to a difficult director to production woes can be the downfall and become the right kind of feeding ground for the press. As one can only guess, Cimino demanded a closed set- meaning that the press was definitely shunned from a welcome or coverage to his very private production. That, however, didn’t stop a freelance journalist named Les Gapay from getting on the set as an extra in the film for two months. Gapay experienced the disaster and turmoil occurring on a daily basis from within. One reported story focused on the chaotic shooting of the final battle scene, where he mentioned that extras had been subjected to perform actions only professional stuntmen should do with an accounted 16 injuries that resulted from the aftermath.
Article that appeared in the L.A. Times
Gapsay wrote: “because of the mad rush, there are several injuries as the scene filmed over and over for several days. Some of the immigrants, mostly extras, are brushed by horses and knocked into the mud. One minor actor has both feet stepped on by horses. Several persons tumble out of lurching wagons.”

This was one of many stories Gapay wrote and sold to publications. HEAVEN’S GATE production suffered dearly from the leaked stories that soon, thereafter, became news. If rumors hadn’t been bad enough, actual published news reports would definitely do substantial damage. Before production was completed, the film would have to fight for its reputation and defeat pre- judged opinions.
The injury- induced battle finale 
The production continued to be plagued by the difficulties overseen by Cimino. The finale’s battle sequence, mentioned by Gapsay, was one of the largest set pieces that required dozens of horses, specially made wooden wagons, extras and explosions. A field chosen by Cimino was located nearly three hours from his base production camp. Cast and crew would load- up into vans at 3:30 in the morning, some actors even still clutching pillows to try to catch some more sleep. Once arriving to the set, the director would demand long hours of planning and filming of sequences while surrounded by dust, horses and gunfire.

United Artists’ execs David Field and Steven Bach took it upon themselves to visit the production- they arrived to the climactic battle sequence. Red flags went off once again… not only was it costing a fortune to rent the field from a local tribe of Native Americans, but it was also costing a fortune to irrigate.
The Cimino- created green grass battlefield
Cimino visualized his battlefield covered in lush, green grass. The land had to be cleared for rocks and an irrigation system was installed to grow the needed landscape… costing the production more money.

Bach was quoted as saying, “He’s talking about hundreds of people and horses and wagons and explosives. Who the hell is going to see grass?”
Cimino continually defended his choice by saying it was “part of the poetry of America.” In defense of Cimino’s postponement of lunches, for example, assistant editor Penelope Shaw summed up his creative eye by saying, “He thinks, there’s this beautiful cloud. That’ll be there for an eternity if I get it on film. Nobody will care about lunch 20 years from now, but they’ll be able to see that visual I created forever.”
1980: POST- PRODUCTION BEGINS:
(l) Director of Cinematography: Vilmos Zsigmond
Now a year behind its original schedule, cameras finally stopped rolling on production in 1980 as principal photography came to a close. Filming was supposed to have been over by June 1979 with a final cut submitted by September that year. Not only had Cimino gone greatly over budget and production time, but now his need for perfection would carry over to the editing room as he had to go through an unbelievable 1.3 million feet of film.
(l) Christopher Walken, (r) Cimino
The problem was now in hand- Cimino and his editing team would now have to review a staggering 220 hours of film in order to piece an appropriate cut to present United Artists with. As stated in his contract, Cimino had to present a cut of no more than three hours in length, preferably shorter.
A visually tired Cimino was quoted as saying, “it’s a little long” when he finally brought a work print to UA’s executives clocking in at an unbelievable five hours and 25 minutes! He then said,” I can lose maybe 15 minutes…”

Having viewed the incredibly lengthy cut, United Artists wanted to remain very clear about two things: one, they wanted a version short enough to be commercially visible, and two, they wanted the film ready for a Christmas 1980 release.
Editing of HEAVEN'S GATE
Cimino was equally eager about delivering the final cut he envisioned, so he would spend 18 hours days held up in the editing room. He went to great measures to ensure that his precious film would not fall into the premature viewing of the executives.
Assistant editor Penelope Shaw recalled that Cimino had bars put on the cutting room windows and had the locks changed so that no one could come in. One report even mentioned that Cimino had hired an armed guard to block the entrance.

By the fall of 1980, a cut of HEAVEN’S GATE emerged now clocking in at three hours 39 minutes in length. Although it was slimmer than its five hour predecessor, it still wasn’t the cut UA had anticipated. An executive decision was made… no more time could be spent with toying in the editing room and so UA went with the lengthier version they hadn’t anticipated. Time couldn’t afford not making its Christmas deadline to hopefully make Oscar consideration.

THE AFTERMATH OF THE RELEASE:
HEAVEN’S GATE was finally released on November 19, 1980 only to face the rather icy critics and their reviews.

N.Y. Times critic Vincent Canby
New York Times critic Vincent Canby’s review fatally wrote the phrase “unqualified disaster” which soon became the coined term used by other critics and television anchors in their summed up analysis of the film.
Canby’s review went on to further state that HEAVEN’S GATE “fails so completely that you might suspect that Mr. Cimino sold his soul to obtain the success of THE DEER HUNTER and the Devil has just come around to collect.”

As quickly as Michael Cimino became the overnight success story, so too quickly did his success became stripped away from him. His perfectionism was regarded as arrogance by reviewers. The allowance of artistic freedom also angered fellow filmmakers.
United Artists was faced with one last option: HEAVEN’S GATE was pulled from theaters after only one week from its release date and cancelled its wider release. 

As a final attempt to grasp some sort of recovery, Cimino openly wrote a letter that was published in trade papers promising a re- edit of the film with a new release of a tighter form. The newly- edited two hours and 29 minute cut was released in April 1981 with no change in audience interest.
Shortly thereafter, United Artists saw its investment corporation Transamerica sell UA to MGM with the results left echoing in the hallways as the singular example of poor management in Hollywood. No studio in its right mind would think about collaborating any future projects with Cimino.

It would take five years before Cimino would make his directorial comeback with 1985’s YEAR OF THE DRAGON with Mickey Rourke.

Cimino would now dive into the underground world of the Chinese mafia in New York Chinatown.

Mickey Rourke plays the decorated officer, Stanley White, who has been assigned to bring order to the Chinese community while keeping a watchful eye on Joey Tai (John Lone) who recently became the Chinese mafia leader of New York.

The film opened to mixed reviews and only grossed about $18.7 million from a budgeted $25 million. YEAR OF THE DRAGON was considered a box office failure.

(l) the restored version for Blu-ray (r) the sepia-tinted DVD release
Fast- forward to present date and HEAVEN’S GATE would, in time, finally find an appreciative audience. The film would even get a coveted restoration make- over by the Criterion Corporation, a video distribution company that specializes in “important classics and contemporary films.” The newly restored edition featured Cimino’s original 217 minute cut of the film using the original 35mm YCM color separation masters and scanning each separate element with a 2K resolution, digitally recombining them to reproduce the color of the original negative. The Criterion edition was released to the public in November 2012 in both DVD and blu-ray editions.
(l) Cimino 1980- (r) Cimino 2014
Director Michael Cimino, being the obsessive perfectionist he is, personally supervised the transfer. As a filmmaker obsessed with the personal project of his film, had now come full circle within 32 years to finally see his vision offered in a pristine and visually breath-taking edition he personally held himself solely responsible for and could be extremely proud of.
FINAL THOUGHTS
At- a- glance, it is abundantly obvious to now take the time to appreciate the broad spectrum of production time and funds spent on HEAVEN’S GATE. Every shot is gorgeous and well- executed. Every landscape painted perfectly and every scene teeming with beauty and detail. The film itself is not flawless by any means, but as someone who appreciates the art stemming from the visual artist, one can forgive the weaker moments for the overall splendor of the presentation.
Imagine what film makers could do with an unlimited resource of financial availabilities. What would most films look like if the creative team had the time they felt was necessary to truly create a masterpiece? What if budgets were not a consistent worry, but rather a generous financial gift to the director to fund the dream project in the imaginary’s eye?

Film making, for better or for worse, is a business; an industry that relies on putting out a product and expecting the invested product to create money on its returns. A shiny object that can be dangled, though briefly, in front of the audience to overt the attention span and shell- out the money to make it successful.
For everything that allegedly occurred on the set, the point is clear. No one can see through the eyes of the beholder, in this case the director. Cimino envisioned the great American movie… but couldn’t the same be said of other films that were also infamous for wild spending on production costs and extended film scheduling? Films like Elizabeth Taylor’s CLEOPATRA, director Francis Ford Coppola’s APOCALYPSE NOW, Martin Scorsese’s NEW YORK, NEW YORK or even Steven Spielberg’s 1941 are guilty of putting the visual before the studio as well. HEAVEN’S GATE may have marked the end of an era of producer- driven films.

It makes no excuse for the over- blotted budgets containing fabricated, computer- generated backdrops and characters we have been seeing in access since the new century kicked- in. Humanistic stories are a thing of the past or considered the needed material for independent films these days. The human spirit doesn’t even take a backseat anymore, as much as it now rides in the trunk of the compact, storytelling vehicle. 
Film is long- lasting and marks eras, trends and lifestyles of the timeline it captures. HEAVEN’S GATE, for better or worse, lives on and has risen from the ashes of its failed original release. Enjoy cinema for it is and support films… and watch movies. There is a difference!

A lot can and has been said about HEAVEN'S GATE but film- watching is a personal and some-what private experience.
What are your personal thoughts about films like HEAVEN'S GATE?
Do you recommend or denounce HEAVEN'S GATE?
Please feel free to post your thoughts here! All are welcomed!
Thank you for visiting...more to come soon!
 

Monday, June 29, 2015

LET'S VACATION IN JURASSIC WORLD! (Before It Went To Hell!)

Ah, how the imagination can just expand its wings and take flight! No encouragement necessary… it leaves all sense of reality behind and it can take you anyplace you want to go… be anyone you want to be! It doesn’t cost a thing, you can stay for as long as you would like and you can use your annual passport for unlimited fun and exploration!
Summer 2015 is in full effect… pounding us with massive waves of heat! Heat is not the only thing the general public is being pummeled with as we are also receiving a relentless weekly dose of sweltering summer films! The scorching releases are definitely upon us and the biggest and fastest trail- blazer this early in the game is not THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON… but JURASSIC WORLD!
Actual ad from MARVEL's congrats to UNIVERSAL
Wait a minute… JURASSIC WORLD?!? It could have arguably been said that the film would churn a nice bit o’ cash… it has the name brand and a box office reputation to live by, so why not? A film, to which some might say, is a ‘tired’ franchise that might have worn out its welcome (and possible fresh ideas) having followed in the T-Rex- sized footsteps of the colossal 1993 blockbuster JURASSIC PARK directed by Steven Spielberg. 
The recent numbers, however, are staggeringly real! Let’s visit those for a moment… JURASSIC WORLD was released on June 12th, 2015. Domestically (within the United States), the film pulled an unbelievable total of $204.6 million dollars and another $307.2 million Internationally. That combined figure, for an opening weekend, brings in the tallies at $511.8 million globally! It also sets a record for the largest worldwide opening weekend. As of June 28, 2013,the film becomes the fastest-grossing film to date... now totaling in aw hopping $1.3 billion worldwide!
It would seem as if every living human soul is out to see this film with their own intentions in place… curiosity, skepticism, intrigue or simply the love of the franchise or even just to see big CGI (computer- graphic illustrated) dinosaurs wreak havoc on the lesser! You know that ‘imagination’ thing I was talking about in that first paragraph? I was sitting in the theater, 3D glasses on, watching and admiring the film for everything it was… when it hit me… what if JURASSIC WORLD was a real place? Who would go? How much would it cost to get in? How much money would I need to plan my trip? So I propose the fantasy role- play option... let’s pull out our paycheck stubs, our wallets and a bit of that ol’ imagination and LET’S VACATION AT JURASSIC WORLD (before it went to Hell, of course!)
JURASSIC WORLD: THE SYNOPSIS
Sir Attenborough as Hammond
Billionaire visionary John Hammond (Sir. Richard Attenborough) laid out the blueprints for his dino- themed JURASSIC PARK in 1993, only to have been met with catastrophic results. Now, twenty- two years later, on the remote island of Isla Nublar off the coast of Costa Rica, the park is now open to the public! Re-named as JURASSIC WORLD, the dino- themed family vacation spot has now been open for a decade and visitors want bigger and badder dinosaurs! To help boost attendance, the Jurassic scientists heard the pleas and concocted a mixed- bag of dino DNA to create the largest, smartest and most menacing creature to roam the grounds: the Indominus Rex
With her two nephews, Gray (Ty Simkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) coming to the park for the first time, Operations Manager Claire Dearing (Dallas Bryce Howard, daughter of Ron Howard) has her hands full running the park with no time for social interacting. As their Aunt, she gives the boys VIP passes for all- access throughout the resort to keep occupied with.
Irrfan Khan as Simon Masrani
At Hammond’s passing, the responsibilities to continue the vision of the park were willed onto fellow billionaire and friend, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), who happily makes the dream a reality! Flying in by helicopter, Masrani arrives to personally evaluate the Indominus Rex and her habitat before preparing her first public appearance soon. After some scrutiny and uncertainty, he requests that Claire contact the park’s Velociraptor trainer, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who seems to have a knack about dino- behavior.

(l) Pratt as Owen and (r) Howard as Claire
Owen arrives to the Indominus Rex’s compound and realizes that its surroundings and lack of interaction has geared her nurturing in the wrong direction! She is getting too smart for her containment and successfully escapes her quarters. Questions flair as to how to best contain her before she makes it to the main center where visitors are enjoying their day! Being the first genetically- created dinosaur of its kind causes many open- ended inquiries to what she is capable of doing! It is up to Claire and Owen to think faster than its prey before the day’s visitors become the hunted!
THE HISTORY OF “JURASSIC”:
Before we begin our Imagin-o-trip, let’s begin twenty- two years ago to establish events leading to the present. It is the year 1993 and we are the midst of one of the worst decades for music! (That can be argued, but anything past the 80’s went to crap, in my book!) Analog phones are all the rage, it is a world of no texting, I-phones or tablets, no X-Box, no Facebook or Twitter… remember simpler times? Yeah, those were the days. Suddenly, news breaks and begins to circulate of a disturbance occurring in North America somewhere… did they say Costa Rica? A Walt Disney- like entrepreneur named John Hammond has created a theme park after investing some large sums of cash into an experimentation of sorts that went wrong… the news is fuzzy and not specific. Maybe someone is investing large sums of cash to keep things on the hush… but why? What could they have possibly cooked up over there to cause such a ruckus?
The alternate timeline would have us, the reader; live in the world inhabited by those in the films JURASSIC PARK, THE LOST WORLD, JURASSIC PARK III and JURASSIC WORLD. This is a fantasy role- play exercise, so don’t get all technical with details… this is for funnsies! Now, where were we…
T-Rex in San Diego from THE LOST WORLD
Fast- forward to 1997 and we, the reader, know of events that occurred in THE LOST WORLD, what with a T-Rex terrorizing San Diego, CA for crying out loud! Then there are the lesser- known events that occurred in JURASSIC PARK III. Obviously, the general public has learned to forgive and forget (?) actual casualties and damages that have ensued between the stretch of films and are impatiently ready to see and experience the newly- named dino- themed JURASSIC WORLD! What gluttons for punishment! I mean, we know what we know because of news leaks and the fact that both Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) wrote books about their personal encounters within JURASSIC PARK… (Again, suspending reality…suspending reality…)
ESTABLISHING TIME-LINE:
Brothers (l) Zach and  (r) Grey
According to the film, WORLD had been opened for about a decade… putting its potential Grand Opening somewhere in 2004. The film opens in a wintery scene where brothers Gray and Zach are preparing to leave for the airport to visit Aunt Claire. So let’s say the time of year is winter of 2014… agreed? Why don’t we plan (planned, since we are talking past-tensed winter of 2014) our trip for what would have been September- October of 2014… right before disaster hits! Follow along with me here. I know this past- tensed talk can be a little confusing but we want to go to JURASSIC WORLD before the Indominus Rex disaster erupted! If you can’t follow along, feel free at any time to hop into a DeLeorean and go back to make the time line match!… moving along.
SETTING UP TRAVEL:
So, unbeknownst to us, the traveler, we are looking to scrounge our pennies for this once- in-a-lifetime opportunity! One can go onto the Internet and see clips of the shows and exhibits on YouTube, read reviews on Trip Advisor and plan your entire vacation around Expedia! Let’s face it; I plan on milking this trip for everything I can, since this vacation is not as economically friendly like maybe visiting one of the many theme parks in and around Los Angeles! Even at best, I cringe at the idea of having to pay upwards of $95 dollars for admission… this trip is gonna break me!
I am only about two hours away from Los Angeles, CA and I can fly out of LAX, so I will depart there. Investigating flight costs and airports in and around the Costa Rica terrain, I realize that planes do not land there because it is an island. In WORLD, visitors are ferried from the airport docks to their location on its ocean. The capital of Costa Rica is San Jose and flights arrive and depart from that airport, so looking at a decent airline, a round- trip ticket would cost approximately $1,081 with stops or First Cabin starting at $2,100. Air travel can be expensive, so this comes as no surprise. Reservation is confirmed and I am set to depart on Friday in September with a scheduled returned flight for Monday. Why September? I will take every degree of coolness I can take, but we are traveling to North America. In JURASSIC WORLD, we see tourists dressed in the coolest of casual attires, fanning themselves and buying frosty beverages… it will be hot, regardless! Sigh!
FOOD AND LODGING
Basing the daily costs on what one can easily spend on food alone at a typical theme park is a small fortune in itself! I try not to eat the little tempting morsels that beg for your consumption! Those items can add up to astronomical totals and I would much rather concentrate my dollars on a sit- down meal at an establishment instead of gnawing at a $10 turkey leg! I also wonder what kind of snacks JURASSIC WORLD would offer and the goofy, dino- related names they would brand them with? Instead of turkey legs to feast on, would it be in poor taste if they called them pterodactyl legs? A T-Rex- sized meal replaces the average super- sized request? I am probably looking at about $35- $50 for a decent meal and drink at a one- shot deal. Multiply that by your optional breakfast and dinner selections as well… wait a minute, are those raptor eggs being served alongside my sausage patties?
The combination of Costa Rica and its newly- found tourist attraction of JURASSIC WORLD definitely has a hold on the food industry and the same would be said for lodging options!  The island is isolated and not necessarily open for typical tourist exploration. Name brand hotels have set up a comfortable place to stay… thank you for being so considerate, fellas! Having recently been employed through the Hospitality industry, it is a known fact that prices can be based on location, location, location! You had a five- star resort overlooking the grand JURASSIC WORLD, then it would be safe to say that you are looking to pay anywhere between $250- $300 for a basic King room… don’t expect a view! If available, possible upgraded options would now run you anything between $500- $700. This would also depend on what side of the hotel you would want to be facing… something facing the Resort, maybe? Let’s not ever talk numbers during their high season!
ADMISSION AND THE PRICE OF FUN:
Director's tribute to the late, great STAN WINSTON
What would it cost to go into a place like JURASSIC WORLD? The park looks to be extremely well equipped with exhibits, rides, attractions and a City Walk filled with shops and a food court (note: a steakhouse appears in the film aptly named WINSTON’S in tribute to the departed Special Effects Make- Up artist Stan Winston (TERMINATOR, PREDATOR) who created the dinosaur effects in the original JURASSIC PARK). The day- to-day operation would have to be compared to running a larger- sized Disney Resort. JURASSIC WORLD’s annual operational cost would have to be in the billions! One must consider the construction and containments needing to meet very specific requirements and safety regulations. You also need to keep account of pay rolling security, workers, scientists, lab operators, researchers, trainers… $ $ $ is all I can see before my eyes! So, the bottom line… what would it cost? Hammond’s vision was that he wanted to keep it affordable so that everyone can come and enjoy the PARK for what it had to offer. Would park’s current owner, Simon Masrani respect the wishes passed on to him? I believe the answer is yes. Masrani, throughout the film, clearly states that he is not worried about numbers but rather asking if the guests are having a good time.
JURASSIC WORLD’s admission price would definitely not be the now- standardized $95 for an adult to enter a theme park… no, no, no. I think we are probably looking at about a $1,000 ticket… wouldn’t you think? This is a very unique opportunity and the price needs to fit the product offered! But that figure can also be argued… families were going to WORLD and affordability has to be considered for a typical traveling family. So then, could it possibly be a lower more affordable amount then? $750, $500… even $250 a person? I think this will be a clouded subject and cannot be nailed to a specific number. All speculation and for fun. We are now in… “Welcome to JURASSIC WORLD!” (The musical theme swells at this point)
WHAT ‘WORLD’ HAS TO OFFER:
Believe it or not, you can actually log onto their web-site: www.jurassicworld.com for a variety of different items to look for. There is an actual list of exhibits and attractions to ‘see’ at JURASSIC WORLD… where do you wanna go first? The various options are as follows: T. REX KINGDOM, TRICERATOPS TERRITORY, MOSASAURUS FEEDING SHOW, GALLIMIMUS VALLEY, CRETACEOUS CRUISE, PACHY ARENA, AVIARY, EGG SPINNER, BAMBOO FOREST, GYROSPHERE and GENTLE GIANTS PETTING ZOO. The park also offers the Innovation Center, the Hammond Creation Lab, an Aquatic Park, a Botanical Gardens reserve, an Underwater Observatory and a Golf Course! From what we, the viewer, saw in JURASSIC WORLD, there is plenty to see and do and there are long lines for everything! What, no FastPass?
For my money, I would want to do as much as I can in a day! I am sure there are two and three- day passes available as well. The excitement of finally being there would generate the energy and enthusiasm to do as much as possible!
Seriously, if you knew you were in the safest of environments, with a history of protection and guest satisfaction spanning a decade… I would most definitely want to be around as many species as I could. Put your imagination to work… have you ever stood close to an elephant or a giraffe? Maybe just seeing one up-close at a zoo or animal reserve? Now, imagine having to multiply that by the actual size of a full size dinosaur! Look at the size of a tree… how tall is it? Look at a building… look at the dimensions and imagine teeth and it breathing down on you! Just imagine the awe that is watching an orca like Shamu, if you have ever gone to a Sea World park… that still wouldn’t equal a T- Rex or the shark- eating Mosasaurus!
The Gyrosphere is a must! Judging by the long lines, you know it has to be a park favorite. You are amongst the dinosaurs in the natural habitat… so close, that you could almost reach out and touch them if it isn’t for the glass ball you sit in and maneuver about in. I’ll stop at the Gentle Giants Petting Zoo to actually reach out (safely) and touch a dino in person!
The distant surrounding roar of dinosaurs makes one feel very small, as if we don’t belong here. It is overwhelming to think that only a few feet of metal, or the thickness of glass are the parameters set forth between what could be absolute safety or periless danger! What am I thinking? We are safe as kittens, right? They wouldn’t actually build something and invite the general public knowing the potential harm that could ensue. No, many man hours, research and development goes into the planning of such a colossal taking.
I mean… the park has been safe for over a decade; no fatalities or casualties made public or reported… what am I worrying about?
FINAL THOUGHT:
After having had a wonderful, adventurous and educational visit to this incredible place called JURASSIC WORLD, it is incredibly desponding and very unnerving to discover that a newly- created, forty- foot beast known as the Indominus Rex escaped from captivity and wreaked havoc amongst the park and its visitors! Amongst a number of casualties and even larger of injuries that occurred, included was the assault made by a pack of pterodactyls that attacked and attempted to carry a number of guests off the resort. The escaped pterodactyls’ release was traced back to both the Indominus Rex crashing through the aviary and a plummeted helicopter that crashed in from the top.  It was later discovered that the T- Rex was also released from its habitat later that evening as well as four raptors. Fatalities are also being reported, but an actual number has not been determined nor confirmed!
Until further notice… the park is indefinitely closed. One can only assume that it may never see the likes of another tourist walking through its concreted sidewalks again, what with legalities erupting like a Fourth of July evening! To account for all of the major property damages that occurred within the interior and exterior of the park, the pain and suffering of the unfortunate visitors who elected the wrong day to partake in the day’s offerings. But what a visit it was for us, before it all went to hell, wasn’t it? An experience unlike anything that this planet had ever imagined! We went back in time, 65 million years to be precise, to walk amongst giants!
Yet, I cannot help but have one last aching thought… just one last observation that sticks out like a sore thumb… I can’t help but feel deeply sorry for those poor unfortunate souls who had planned their trip to JURASSIC WORLD the day after it all went to hell!!! (I would feel like the Griswolds arriving to WALLY WORLD only to find that the park is closed from NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION!)



 What are your thoughts of the JURASSIC franchise? Has it worn- out its stay or are you hungry for more dino- action? Moreover, would you plan a vacation to the magical place called JURASSIC WORLD?
 
I openly welcome your thoughts and comments, so please share them right here!
 
THANK YOU for stopping by and reading up on my  posting... please browse my page for other interesting film-related topics to enjoy!  
MORE TO COME SOON....


Sunday, January 11, 2015

EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS and THE HOLLYWOOD EMBELLISHMENT OF BIBLICAL STORIES

As an avid and devout fan of the cinema, there are many films I look forward to seeing throughout a new year. As we kiss- off the cinematically- mediocre year of 2014, cinephiles are already being treated and tempted to an array of celluloid treats for 2015 including JURRASIC WORLD, TERMINATOR: GENESYS and STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. Last year, however, there was one film that I kept a pulse on, waiting to hear more from and finally seeing it reach its theatrical release date on December 12th, 2014. That film was Ridley Scott’s EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS. Although much anticipated, my concerns fell upon just exactly how much of the centralized story would be kept intact and what kind of embellishments would I and audiences have to endure? Well, I saw the film on opening day, which inspired my new topic. This month’s article deals with the contrast between idealist and controversial viewpoints and the cinematic interpretations of religious/ biblical subjects in film for the purpose of storytelling… for better or for the worst.
The Bible: the oldest living collection of documented Judaism and Christian sacred texts and scriptures ever assembled. The human race has viewed this book with many interesting and widely diverse interpretations of its contents. To the believers, it is a book of proverbs, a gathering of true-life events, examples and lessons to which to live by and guide the faithful through a redeemed preparation into the afterlife. To others, it is merely a collection of mythical fables with interesting characters; all occurring in an era long since forgotten.
From a cinematic standpoint, Hollywood has oftentimes “borrowed” from the good book as a source of material. In some cases, the source pays off and other times it is considered a misfire in the box office. Studios have been taking, re-writing and interpreting their own versions of these biblical stories since film was invented. One such example was Cecil B. DeMille’s black and white silent classic THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Released in 1923, the film was considered not only a work of cinematic achievement but an awe- inspiring testament to its biblical presentation and interpretation. Mind you, the general audience of 1923 did not have any other films to compare THE TEN COMMANDMENTS with during its time, since it was a unique and a one- of- a- kind release. The ticket buyer went by their own generalized perception of the story by a number of different ways: from what they had heard, having read about directly from the Bible itself or by what they had heard while attending Sunday school.
Even DeMille would try to top DeMille, as he would remake his own film and present 1956’s lavish THE TEN COMMANDMENTS starring Charlton Heston as Moses. Storytelling within film making in the earlier decades was considered an art form and embellishing on historical text was considered a natural occurrence… all in the name of Hollywood presentations and for the sake of good film-making. Meaning, it was okay to doctor- up a “as- written” story, if it would help create more dramatic, action, suspense or even romantic outcomes to draw the audience into the film. Hey, it helps fill the seats in the theaters so producers didn’t have a problem finagling the stories.
Charlton Heston as Moses
Alright, you get the picture now, I hope. Many controversial takes have been met in the cinematic crossroads, when it boils down to religious truth or elaborated fiction to help create a biblical motion picture. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is a perfect example of a religious film becoming a victim of its own Hollywood creators within the marked time to which it was made in. DeMille, himself, went on record stating that his project’s researches took from the best and most detailed resources to help re-create the most accurate account of Moses and Ramses’ story. For that matter, all the talks with theologians, religious leaders and historians may be true; however, it is plainly evident that THE TEN COMMANDMENTS also presents itself, for the good or bad of it, as an exercise in good ol’ Hollywood cinematic work of interpreted art: blending melodramatic performances, a grandiose musical score and spectacular visual effects for its time. As a magician alters the real world to help create and demand its audience’s attention by creating a ‘mirrored’ reality, the cinematic showmen does the same by conjuring- up an embellished realism to the world of the biblical truth… to add flare and expand on the imagination of the audience.  
Max Von Sydow as Christ in GREASTEST STORY...
The “Hollywood embellishment”, as I will call it, has been a part of many films over the years. It is evident, respectfully in both 1961’s KING OF KINGS and 1965’s THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD. Both films take on the subject of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Both films fall into the comparative similarities of having been made in the early 1960s and also suffering from some of that “Hollywood embellishment” pixie dust as well. To help recognize the embellishment, one has to bring it forth by calling it out directly… here it is. Both films, respectfully, alters the common reality of the common by producing and presenting Christ with a number of now considered “cliché” points. Those points range from the Holy adolescent choir of angelic voices singing melodic scales every time Christ speaks or walks into a room to that overly- lit halo of light that hovers behind Christ like a new sunrise and the well- pressed linen of garments that remains perfectly clean despite Christ’s life in a desert are all part of the dramatic effect in presentation. This IS the Son of God and He will forever have a halo of light above Him, dressed to impress with the angelic chorus singing endlessly, as if set to ‘repeat’ on that Heavenly iPod.

Robert Powell is JESUS OF NAZARETH
Moving into the grittier years of the 1970s, director Franco Zeffirelli submitted the 1977 mini- series JESUS OF NAZARETH for approval. Although still suffering from a number of “embellishments”, it still didn’t seem to present itself with the kind of reflection or approach as the cinematic predecessors dealt with. The possible fact that the production consisted of Italian- British collaboration, may have fended some of that Hollywood overdo away from total ruin. NAZARETH would still present itself to be a little more accurate in a realistic viewpoint than its predecessors. Still, the definitive telling of Christ’s story was yet to come…
Compare any of these three entries with director Mel Gibson’s most accurate and realistic look at Christ’s last days in 2004’s THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Gibson, though a controversial individual and director, must be credited for his detailed presentation and  for  unveiling and focusing a large portion of the film on the truth behind the torturous scourging and abuse suffered by a man before being nailed to the Roman- created torture device known as the crucifix. In the spirit of keeping the realism intact, Gibson had all the actors learn their lines in the original combination of Aramaic, Latin and Hebrew dialects… not a single word is spoken in English. Much detailed was placed upon the authenticity of wardrobe, weapons and set design as well. Even at its best, even PASSION suffers from the slightest bit of embellishing, just for flavor. PASSION still forgives some minor detours from its original biblical telling to help ‘add- on’ some intense and emotion- provoking sequences to make its poignant message pierce through. Even at its best, Gibson was still blasted with controversy and even accused of being anti-Semitic.
Controversy of the highest degree can also plague a biblical film for not being biblical at all! Two fine examples include 1985’s HAIL MARY and director Martin Scorsese’s THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST.
Directed by Jean- Luc Goddard, HAIL MARY tells an updated tale of the Immaculate Conception, or the Virgin birth. In this contemporary telling, Mary is a typical student who plays on a girls’ basketball team and works for her father while Joseph, her boyfriend, is a dropout and drives a cab for a living. Mary, being a virgin, discovers that she is pregnant without having had intercourse and must come to terms and acceptance that she has been chosen as part of God’s plan. Believing that she had an affair, Joseph becomes furious with Mary, but comes in contact with a stranger named Gabriel who assists him in accepting Mary’s pregnancy. As one can only guess, HAIL MARY was riddled with much controversy for its modern take on the sacred telling of the Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception thesis believed by millions of faith- followers in the Christianity and other relatable communities. Being a foreign film opening in the States, the theatrical run was not big by any measure. Only playing in a minimal of houses, the film catered to the lover of foreign cinema, art-house followers and the curious. The film stirred a small amount of negativity and HAIL MARY quickly disappeared from its theatrical run before protesters could create any controversial strife. On the other hand, those naysayers would have their moment of picketing glory three years later with the highly- controversial THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST.
Picketers in New York for LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
Released in 1988, THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST makes no secret that it was adapted off of the fictitious written works of author Nikos Kazantzakis. The novel was first published in 1953 and immediately caused a large stir of negativity towards its interpretation of showing  very humanistic, oftentimes a ‘weaker’ version of Christ, complete with his internal struggles of hate, fear, confusion, doubt and depression towards the various temptations brought forth in his life. Director Martin Scorsese, being a huge fan of the novel, decided to take on the subject early on in his directorial career with no previous success. Although released some 16 years before THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, it might serve as a pre-requisite to what Gibson was looking for in authenticity within the story. Let it be said that Scorsese was determined to tell his tale. Back in the 1970’s, before the studios closed production down due to its controversial depiction, the project once had actor Robert DeNiro attached as Christ. In 1988, Willem Dafoe was cast as the Judean carpenter. The story’s most talked about points reflect not only on Christ’s struggles to accept God’s calling but more importantly the direction the story takes shortly after the crucifixion. Still struggling to accept his fate, Christ is nailed to the cross.
He gazed upon the onlookers who are present for the event when he suddenly sees a young girl, angelic- looking, sitting at the foot of the cross. She informs Christ that his Father is pleased with him and that he does not need to die on the cross after all. Christ is told that he has passed his ‘test of faith’ and comes off the cross. Because of the non- sacrificial turn, Christ expresses his true feelings to Mary Madeline, a former prostitute and now follower of Christ’s teachings, to which they marry and have children.
We now see Christ maturing into an older man and finally laying on his death bed as an elder. Judas, a former Apostle (follower) of Christ, is much alive since the turn of events wipes the feeling of guilt from betrayal away, informs Christ that the world around him is burning. God is most definitely displeased with Christ choosing to take his personal actions into place and not follow his Father’s bidding. Christ then realizes that the ‘angel’ was actually the Devil, offering and succeeding in that final “temptation”. As if dreaming, Christ is startled back into reality and discovers that he is still on the cross after all. It is within that moment that Christ accepts his fate and informs his Father that “it is done” and dies for all man’s sins.

Author Nikos Kazantzakis
What Kazantzakis and Scorsese wanted to imply, whether by novel or film, is the complex struggle of man- that even the Son of God, although divine, was still a man of flesh and blood. He too, like the human race, would struggle with the acceptance of his Father and go through the everyday offerings of temptations and the choice to decide which path to follow. It should also be noted that director Scorsese and author Kazantzakis both grew- up in very strict religious upbringings, respectfully. At one time, Scorsese was ready to follow the priesthood. This then turns the topic onto an interesting ‘fork in the road’.
As humans, we are given a daily offering of which path to follow- good or bad, right or wrong. The Bible is, essentially, a collection of stories depicting a huge offering of human conflicts, paths chosen and, ultimately, the results from which the path was taken. When we take a closer look at the biblical telling’s, be it from the Good Book or from film, we can see where Hollywood’s interests are derived from. Film has merely become another chosen new format option to tell these stories as much as it would be man’s choice to pick up the Bible and read from it directly.
For example, the stories of Noah and Mary are not embellished in the fact that these two people were not born into or under the banner of supreme beings. They begin their lives as average human beings before God requires His will be done through them. Noah becomes a savior of God’s creations before drowning the world of sin and Mary is chosen to carry His only Son, Jesus Christ.
As previously mentioned, let’s talk about Noah. The story of Noah becomes one of the chapters told in director John Huston’s 1966 film THE BIBLE… IN THE BEGINNING. The film focuses on the first 22 chapters of the Bible’s Old Testament with John Huston, himself, portraying Noah. As 1966 goes, the film brims over with much embellishment… again, for the sake of grandiose storytelling. Biblical films had much to live up to, after director Cecil B. DeMille raised the bar fairly high with his entries of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, 1932’s THE SIGN OF THE CROSS and1949’s SAMSON AND DELILIAH. Huston was not an excellent director, but directed a well- respected submission with this film.
Fast- forward to 2014 with director Darren Aronofsky’s NOAH with Russell Crowe in the title role. The film suffered much controversy for his personal take on the biblical story by fabricating a fictitious backdrop into Noah’s life including Aronofsky’s creation of names for Noah’s wife and three sons. An antagonist was also created to give Noah a more humane struggle… this is a major contrast to anything mentioned in any previous scripture writings as neither family names or confronting characters were ever mentioned. It should be said that the only struggle Noah faced, biblically speaking, was the inner- struggle of faith towards a faceless entity (God). NOAH was released with a mixed- bagged of critical outpours. On one hand, it was recognized for its visual and dramatic approaches taken to an ancient tale and bringing it to a 21st century audience. The other hand presented a more conservative preview of bloated storytelling and unnecessary additionals to a sacred story. At the end of it all, Aronofsky stated that the film shouldn’t be viewed as a biblical film (filled with obvious embellishments) but rather as an epic tale. The largest embellishment to be held liable for is taking a well-recognized story and writing a new “spin” to it altogether.
Now, with all that said, let’s go back to where we started… bringing us back to EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS. How does it live up to its predecessors on two different avenues: 1) Is it far to compare it to DeMille’s THE TENCOMMANDMENTS because of the obvious plot? 2) How does it stack- up to previous biblical films… embellishments and all? Let’s begin.  
To start, let us question what we might already know from either the written word (the Bible) and/ or what we have seen on film: Could Moses turn the Nile red with blood by simply dipping his walking staff into it? Did the Red Sea part into a near- perfect division because God willed it? For that matter, did the fiery finger of God blast the words upon rock to write the sacred Ten Commandments? If you are a believer of faith, then you undoubtedly believe that the answer is “yes”. So, returning back to my earlier statement, as humans, are we not allowed to question and ponder so that we can better understand what we question or doubt? An interesting viewpoint for any individual to discover personally.
Director Scott (l) with Christian Bale in EXODUS
EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS is directed by Ridley Scott. Over the years, I have had my own personal dilemmas with the man and his choice of subjects and approach in his unique storytelling. Side one, a well-respected director with an overly impressive resume of titles: ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER and GLADIATOR… to name a few. Side two: a sometimes over- careless director who under- performs the obvious creative side we come to love about his works: MATCHSTICK MEN, KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, A GOOD YEAR, AMERICAN GANGSTER and ROBIN HOOD. Admittedly, I was slightly concerned as to the direction Sir Scott would take. As previously mentioned on this blog site, I rank DeMille’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS as my all- time favorite film ever. I also grew up in a strong religious home and even danced around the idea of becoming a priest in my latter teenage years.
Much like devout novelists are passionate about how their precious written words are going to be translated and imprinted onto film, I request conscientiousness when interpreting valued material… the Bible and its contents being strong contenders to that treatment.
If you are not entirely aware of the storyline involved, the basic structure is as follows: Moses (Christian Bale- THE DARK KNIGHT) and Ramses II (Joel Edgerton- ZERO DARK THIRTY) are men who were raised together as brothers by Ramses’ father Seti (John Turturro- TRANSFORMERS). Believed to be born Egyptian, Moses lived his life in the shadows of Ramses, said to be the next king upon Seti’s passing through the bloodline. When it is discovered that Moses is actually son to be Hebrew slaves, he is immediately cast out of Egypt and left to die in the deserts outside the illustrious city. By God’s will, Moses is the said “chosen one” the slaves have waited years for to free them from Egyptian bondage and return to face Ramses, the newly appointed king after years have passed since Moses’ abolishment. Armed with a renewed faith, Moses demands that Ramses releases the Hebrews… the words come to no avail. A series of plaques befall the entire city of Egypt due to the ignoring actions of the slaves’ release. Unable to withstand anymore, Ramses reluctantly agrees to Moses’ terms and the Hebrews are let free. Although a treacherous journey to the “promised land”, it is along the way that Moses is given the Ten Commandments, ten moral rules to abide and live by, as by the words of God.
This now brings me to the overall take- EXODUS: GOD AND KINGS is a very strong film. The strength is pulled from various points: direction, storyline and photography are the high points that deserve recognition. The film takes several dramatic pauses in between some great battle sequences… as if to give the audience a chance to catch their breath. Those points, however, can take a little too much time to recover and continue with the storyline that should capture and draw the viewer in. It is gorgeous to sit and admire on the big screen. As is the case with the modern film, EXODUS suffers from a wee bit too much CGI (computer generated images) to help create the glorious Egypt and other exotic locales. The CGI is used very well between the second and third act of the film when the plaques befall Egypt. The use of trick photography, CGI and clever editing also help construct a breath- taking ‘parting of the Red Sea’ sequence that must be seen.
The obvious is that there is no real comparison between DeMille’s and Scott’s films, respectfully. They may be based on the same topic, but offer two very distinctive takes on the subject. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is an epic film of the highest magnitude. It is a product of the days of Hollywood at its finest with top- tier actors, costume designers, photographers and production crew. DeMille was the captain of a well- manned vessel and knew that second best would not be accepted. It is this kind of direction that made studio heads happy, the birth of the classic films were coming forth: GONE WITH THE WIND, THE WIZARD OF OZ, CITIZEN KANE and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO were only a small group of titles that bore the right to be called a true Hollywood creation. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS took pride in its rich cinematic Technicolor appearance, the detailed costuming and the jaw- dropping set designs back dropped by exotic location shots. 
EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS tries for the same, but takes on a milder, yet direct, approach to its storytelling. Conversations between characters are real, withdrawing from the biblical language such as ‘thou’ and ‘thy’, as they generously appear in DeMille’s version. It is because of the use of language that the film takes on a different, not better, path in the telling of Moses’ plight. The events are not punctuated as in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. The comparisons would almost be like the difference to seeing a play performed live in a theatre as opposed to seeing it on your television. COMMANDMENTS is very theatrical, which I wouldn’t except any other way, however, EXODUS takes a strong course to allowing you to see the realist effects of actions, emotions and plaques that befall the characters in Scott’s film. The musical score doesn’t ring in your ears with heavy brass but accompanies the film with a more Egyptian- like score to add to the ambiance. Costumes and sets are lavish and Scott has always known how to photograph a scene properly.
Let’s just say that it should be accepted (and possibly welcomed, to an extent) that the “Hollywood embellishment” is here to stay, for better or for worst, and will be a part of the biblical storytelling. But, in all fairness, the ‘embellishment’ IS Hollywood, isn’t it? The classic story of “the one that got away” must have begun by the telling of how a trout slipped out of the hands of a fisherman. Every time the story was told, especially to others of his fellow seamen, the fish ‘grew’ in size until it became virtually impossible for one man to handle one gigantic whaler that obviously got away! Hollywood loves telling its own ‘whoppers’ as well, but it is in the business to do so. To imagine what we cannot think about, to show us what we might only dream about and to believe in the unbelievable. That is the power of the embellishment and the main ingredient in the Hollywood recipe.
Thank you once again for stopping by and a very HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR TO ALL! I will try to stay active and continue submitting regular topics open for discussion! As always, please share your thoughts and feelings on the various subjects discussed! I look forward to your replies and comments. Keep it right here and check often for new submissions