Thimblerig’s Ark Podcast Episode 7 • Shadowlands


In the seventh episode of the Thimblerig’s Ark Film Review Podcast, I start a new series where I examine Hollywood’s attempts to tell “our” stories, or stories that are important to Christians. To that end, this week I took a look at 1993’s Oscar nominated Shadowlands, directed by Richard Attenborough (Ghandi, Elizabeth), written by William Nicholson (Gladiator, Les Misérables), and starring Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs and bunches of other movies) and Debra Winger (Officer and a Gentleman, Terms of Endearment)

Shadowlands tells the mostly true story of the unlikely relationship between C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman Gresham. Lewis, as most people know, was the writer of the Narnia Chronicles, the Space Trilogy, and dozens of other books dealing with everything from writing to Renaissance literature to Christian theology.

I chose to review this film because Lewis is the unofficial patron saint of Evangelical Christianity and I wondered how his life story would be handled by people with no faith-based agenda. The film is a masterpiece of biographical filmmaking, widely considered to be Attenborough’s finest work, with high praise for the acting of both Hopkins and Winger. But even still, it’s been criticized by Lewis devotees for not being entirely factual. I look and respond to these criticisms in the podcast.

Also, I’m very interested in what the Christian audience wants from Hollywood if they are making our films, and why the Christian audience should want Hollywood to tell our stories in the first place, and so I discuss these ideas as well.

I would be curious to know what people think of this subject, and so I’d invite you to comment after you’ve taken a listen.

The Thimblerig’s Ark Film Review podcast is a part of the More Than One Lesson family of podcasts, and you can listen to it as well as other great film podcasts by visiting the More Than One Lesson website.



Mom’s Not Dead, for Real! The Movie

Mom's Not Dead for Real


“Mom’s Not Dead for Real”

Kendrick, an older bearded student studying philosophy at Reed College, has a vivid dream one night that heaven is for real. When he wakes up, his wicked professor, Dr. Hercules, mocks his beard and his dream, telling him that his mom, Debra, had gone out with some friends the previous night and died… and NOT gone to heaven.

Of course, the pure-hearted Kendrick refuses to believe it, and sets off on a hero’s journey to find her. Using information from the snakeskin given to him by his uncle Hannibal, Kendrick builds an ark, and as he, Trace Adkins, and Hermione Granger sail off to find his mom, wacky hijinks ensue.

Will Kendrick be courageous enough to face the group of fireproof rock giants who have taken his mom, or run the risk that she could be left behind in a shack… forever?

News of the Ark

There’s quite a bit going on in the world of Noah’s Ark this morning, and I predict that there will be even more as the premiere of Aronofsky’s film approaches.  I thought I would try to make it a regular thing on the Thimblerigs’s Ark blog to collect the stories that I find the most interesting, and link them here.  Enjoy!

Russell Crowe Tweets the Pope

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 8.22.45 AM

When I saw this, I laughed, because I’ve been trying to get Russell Crowe or Darren Aronofsky to notice Thimblerig’s Ark for the past couple of months, to no avail.  And now, it seems he and Aronofsky are hoping the Pope will notice their film.  I wonder who the Pope tweets, asking for favors?

Here’s my response tweet to Mr. Crowe:

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 8.34.42 AM

I’m hoping that Mr. Crowe will be a believer in paying it forward, and will at least give the first three chapters of Thimblerig’s Ark a read.  Wouldn’t it be cool if he read it, liked it, and helped promote it?  And maybe the Pope would watch Noah, like it, and help promote it, too.

Free Noah’s Ark Game

Noah's Ark game pic

This game, made by the folks at PaperBigfoot, looks like it could be fun.  And it’s a free download for your mobile phone, so why not?

I’ll bet they wish they could get a RT from the Noah film guys, too.

New International Trailer for Noah

I have to admit, this trailer gets me more excited about the film.  I’m starting to see the structure of the film, and it does seem to show that Aronofsky intends to show humanity’s overall wickedness and not just his violence against the earth.  This should please the religious audience, and if the story is well told, it should also please the audience that isn’t interested in religion.

I had a similar goal with Thimblerig’s Ark, too.  To help with that, I told my beta readers to be on the lookout for the “Four P’s”.

Four PsThat’s all that I saw in the news this morning about Noah and the flood.  I’m glad to NOT report on the ongoing stories where people are deciding not to see Aronofsky’s film because of what it may or may not contain, when most people haven’t seen it to know what it contains.

And remember, watch out for groundhogs playing con games!  They’ll grift you every time.


Requiem for a Bible Epic?

I’ve been watching the development of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah for quite a while (not a surprise to anyone who follows this blog) and it’s been an interesting ride.  The first thing I remember hearing – way back in 2008 in this Slashfilm article – was that the movie was being made to promote a pro-environmentalist agenda.   In that article, Aronosky was cited as saying,

I think it’s really timely because it’s about environmental apocalypse which is the biggest theme, for me, right now for what’s going on on this planet. So I think it’s got these big, big themes that connect with us. Noah was the first environmentalist. He’s a really interesting character. Hopefully they’ll let me make it.

darren_aronofsky_02At the time, this revelation really bothered me.  Not because I’m opposed to saving the environment, but I’m not happy with changing source material in such a radical way.  While it’s a noble idea to try and draw the attention of the modern audience to the important issue of environmental awareness, the story of Noah from the Old Testament has absolutely nothing to do with humanity’s lack of being green.  Genesis 6:5 says that the reason God sent the flood was:

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

Certainly one could make the argument that God could have been grieved  because of humanity’s evil treatment of the environment, but you have to read a LOT into the text to make that implication, especially if that is the thesis of your film.  The text makes it clear that it was humanity’s immorality – their evil treatment of each other – that ticked off God enough that he wanted to clean house and start over.  Genesis 6 goes on to say that one of the redeeming qualities of Noah was that he was “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God”.

It’s pretty clear that the issue in Genesis was fundamentally a religious issue, that Noah was juxtaposed against the rest of the people, and they were found severely wanting.  But check out what Aronofsky said in the aforementioned article:

I don’t think it’s a very religious story… I think it’s a great fable that’s part of so many different religions and spiritual practices. I just think it’s a great story that’s never been on film.

Not a very religious story?  Seriously?  As it was said in the comments on Slashfilm at that time,

Why not take out the issues of racism from “To Kill a Mockingbird”?  Or, we could focus the next film adaptation of “Lord of the Rings” on the disenfranchisement of the orc population!  Bottom line?  The story of Noah’s Ark without the religious component is NOT the story of Noah’s Ark.

I think this is the heart of the matter, the thinking that has so many people predicting that the movie will flop with religious audiences.

And it is precisely where I am hoping that Aronofsky will surprise us.

Coming in March 2014

Coming in March 2014

As a Christian movie lover, I’ll be fine if part of the problem in the film is that humanity has despoiled the earth and is being punished for it.  But if he avoids showing that humanity was also just plain wicked, that the majority of the people were not walking with God, it will be a huge opportunity lost.

And so for the past few days there has been a lot of noise, starting with Variety’s recently published story that had this rather misleading headline:

Survey: Faith-Driven Consumers Dissatisfied with ‘Noah,’ Hollywood Religious Pics

How can “faith-driven consumers” be dissatisfied with Noah, when they haven’t actually seen the film?  My guess is that very few people are following the story as closely as I have been following it, and their opinion on the upcoming film is only based on the fact that it’s being produced by a big Hollywood studio, and stars big Hollywood stars with Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connolly, Emma Watson, and Sir Anthony Hopkins.  But Faith Driven Consumers, the group behind getting Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty reinstated, did a survey which found that 98% of “faith-driven consumers” weren’t interested in a Bible movie where the core message of the Bible story is replaced by a Hollywood message.

It’s a fair question, and one that the suits behind the film should be paying attention to, because ultimately it will be the thing that ensures that their 168 million dollar take on Noah is a hit or a flop.  This is what the noise has been about these past few days, with many websites asking the same question in a slightly different way.  Will religious audiences turn out for Aronofsky’s Bible-based epic?

Further Controversy for Noah

Will Christian Moviegoers Float ‘Noah’s’ Boat?

Wary of Hollywood’s “Noah”, Christians Back “Son of God” Instead

Director Claims He’s Following the Bible 

Noah Movie Test Screenings Reveal Christian Audiences Upset With ‘Darkness’ of Russell Crowe’s Character

But again, and what I return to is this: we don’t know.  We don’t know what Aronofsky is going to do with this story, and we won’t know until the film has been released, and so folks who are unsettled about this should just settle down.  Personally, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, because I want the movie to be a huge hit. I want to want to take people to see the movie – whether they’re religious or not.

The bottom line?  I am a “faith driven consumer”, and I want to give Noah a chance.

The New “Noah” Film International Posters Are Here!

As you can see, this is not one of the new international posters for the Noah film (although it should be), but I’m fully expecting a groundhog to play a prominent role in Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming film.  Groundhogs are amazing, after all!

I’m not holding my breath, however, as it seems that Aronofsky is going to be focusing more on the human aspect of the story from Genesis.   For those wondering more about the animal’s story there is always Thimblerig’s Ark, in which a con-artist groundhog named Thimblerig takes the lead role.  There is also a sage-like kangaroo, a couple of gazelles who have trouble admitting that they’ve got a thing for each other, an obnoxious duck everyone wants to strangle, a wild dog you would not want to meet in a dark alley, and a mysterious unicorn that keeps popping up in Thimblerig’s dreams.


The problem is that Thimblerig’s Ark is still seeking literary representation, but nobody seems to know what to do with an upper middle grade novel about a bunch of talking animals based on a story out of the Bible.  But this is an adventure story with heart, inspired by an Irish pub song that explains why the unicorns never made it onto the ark, as well as the writings of C.S. Lewis, Richard Lewis, and George Orwell.

So, if you happen to be – or know –  a literary agent willing to take a chance, Thimblerig’s Ark might just be the project for you.  And I would bet that Darren Aronofsky, Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connolly, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson and Sir Anthony Hopkins would agree with me that the subject matter is well worth your time.

Noah opens on March 28, so plan to be there opening night!  And does anyone know if Noah will make it to China?  I’d love to see it on the big screen.

Kudos to Aronofsky and his crew on what looks to be a fantastic cinematic experience!

And by the way – if the folks who made the original Noah posters happen to see this, please consider it an homage to your work.  You folks are doing an awesome job!