Friday, April 10, 2009

Jesus Christ Superstar - Live Blog

Crucifixus est...

Our Lenten journey is over. The Passion is all that remains. In honor of the Great Three Days, I humbly offer up a live blog of the greatest cinematic achievement of all time -- Norman Jewison's film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Weber / Tim Rice rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar.

I will not be giving a minute-by-minute rundown of the movie, as I did with my last live-blog. Instead, I will give you some bullet pointed snarky comments and profound insight in chronological order under the heading of each song / scene.

OK...I'll give you a moment to cue up the DVD...there's the old-school Universal Studios we go!

  • We swoop in on the ruins of Israeli road station of Avdat - a market city along a main trade route in the 1st century BC. Quite artsy.
  • How did all of those people fit on that one little bus?
  • What is the significance of the "New Lincoln" tank top adorned by Herod?
  • Pilate looking fabulous in burgundy velvet robe
  • Judas appears paranoid from the moment he steps off the bus. Motion sickness perhaps?
  • Jesus has some nice skin (on his back)...can't say the same for the facial hair
  • Ascend the scaffold!!!

Heaven on Their Minds
  • No fewer than four fast-zoom shots on Judas - sitting in the shape of a cross
  • A black Judas...I bet that didn't cause much of a stir in 1973.
  • I love the rich young man pointing emphatically to his palm...Overacting 101
  • "Have you forgotten how put down we are!?!?!" (Thumbs down, says Judas)
  • Then he crushes some rocks in his hand. Some fine choreography in this sequence.
  • Judas appears to be wearing a rope around his waist and a coin purse....hmmmm....foreshadowing anyone?

What's the Buzz?
  • Classy Roman soldiers, complete with purple tank tops and metal bowls on their heads
  • Lots of wild hand gestures in Jesus' face. I wonder if he was ever accidentally poked in the eye during filming
  • A Native-American Mary Magdalene...and a Anglo Saxon Jesus...more interesting casting choices.

Strange Thing Mystifying
  • I'm guessing that Judas wasn't invited to many parties. What a Debbie Downer!
  • "Hey cool it man!"
  • "It's not that I object to her profession..."
  • Pissed-off, lazy-eyed Jesus -- "then leave her alone"
  • Classic glare from Peter to Judas
  • "Not one....NOT ONE OF YOU!"
  • We will call this scene These Idiots Just Don't Get It (TIJDGI #1)". Ok? Ok...

Then We Are Decided
  • A song added just for the film...not included in the original score
  • Love the vocal dichotomy of Annas (counter tenor) and Caiaphas (bass)
  • Sexy jewel-encrusted breast plates - and those hats. Divine!
  • "Then we are decided? Then we are deciiiiided!"

Everything's Alright
  • Mary is swooptastic throughout the entire movie...I'm already annoyed
  • I think Judas is just jealous that Jesus is getting all the oil treatments
  • "People who are hungry, people who are starving, matter more than your feet and hair!" Haven't you heard of the social gospel, Jesus?
  • Best. Handshake. Ever. I think Pastor Eric Carlson would agree
  • Don't blink, Jesus. C'mon...I dare you. Blink your eyes. Do it!
  • If Mary was singing the same thing over and over a few inches from my face, I would find it difficult to "close my eyes and relax". I'm just saying...
  • TIJDGI #2

This Jesus Must Die
  • Any time a movie includes a scene that starts with a swarm of hundreds of birds encircling overhead, it's never a good thing for the protagonists. Paul Hedeen taught me that in
  • I think all church councils should meet on scaffolds in the middle of a desert.
  • The only time I've heard the word "blockhead", outside of the Peanuts comic strips
  • Apparently pounding your hands on pipes is Arabic Sign Language for "dangerous"
  • "One thing I'll say for him, Jesus is cool." "He's top of the pole." Not Tim Rice's best lyrical work, methinks.
  • Caiaphas has huge vocal range..."fools you have no perception!" His abs are nice, too.

I already talked about this earlier in the week. Consider it a foretaste of the feast to come.

Simon Zealotes
  • My second favorite scene.
  • Amazing special effects - it's like the dancers are appearing out of nowhere...and then pausing in mid air or dancing in slow motion. Simply stunning.
  • I've said it once, but it bears repeating -- there's no way all of these people fit on one bus.
  • One of the dancers looks a lot like Diana Ross
  • Simon looks like a coked-out, poor-man's version of Jimi Hendrix
  • WOAH! Apparently bras were optional for the young lady in the grey tank top. Gracious!
  • Now the dancers are rolling around in the dirt. Odd...
  • I now know that there are no cavities in Simon's teeth. Thank goodness for 37" LCD TVs.
  • I love how his head shakes after the "A-" and before the "-men". Crazy cat!

Poor Jerusalem
  • The definitive TIJDGI scene. (#3, if you're scoring at home)
  • There's needy, clingy, despondent Mary staring blankly at Jesus
  • "To conquer death you only have to die..."
  • Simon is super confused. Jesus is getting more and more frustrated...

Pilate's Dream
  • I thought his wife was the one who had the dream. Laziness in casting, Mr. Jewison?
  • Stellar blue topaz ring, Pontius
  • More foreshadowing?

The Temple
  • Pretty provocative scene, for a G-rated movie. Drugs, sex, semi-automatic weapons, and fresh produce.
  • I have a feeling they only did one take of this scene.
  • "Mmmyyyyyyyyyyyyy temple should be a house of prayer!" You tell 'em, Jesus!
  • Has anyone ever told Jesus about Zoloft or other anti-anxiety drugs?
  • Judas' face is classic at the end. Eyes squinting...mouth agape...shaking his head.
  • TIJDGI #4
  • Creepy exchange with the lepers.
  • Trivia: The controversial line "Heal yourselves!" was replaced with "Leave me alone!" for the film.

I Don't Know How to Love Him
  • One of the two most famous songs from the rock opera...and my least favorite. Not sure if it's the swoopiness...or her enormous mouth...or the fact that she doesn't really do anything...or maybe it's just because I don't think Mary really felt this way about Jesus. Whatever.
  • I do like her metal guitar pick necklace, though
  • "I've had so many men before in very many ways." What are you saying, Mary?
  • I have nothing else to say about this scene. Let's just move on.

Damned for All Time / Blood Money

  • Cue the five huge tanks - easily the most expensive aspect of making this movie.
  • Good thing there's a scaffolding that Judas can climb to escape the tanks!
  • I love how the Sanhedrin ignores Judas when he shows up - just turning their backs on the one guy that is going to get the job done.
  • Annas' hat is so, so, SO fantastic
  • "Think of the things you can do with that money, choose any charity, give to the poor"
  • Annas drops the money...what a punk!
  • What's up with the little bugs flying around Judas' face
  • Cue the two fighter jets.........NOW!

The Last Supper
  • It's nice that they found a little green space in the middle of the desert.
  • Nice homage to Da Vinci
  • Nothing says sacrament like red kool aid and an over-sized cracker
  • "No, not me!" Yes,
  • "You LIAR, you Judas!"
  • I've always had a hard time with Jesus calling Judas a "fool"...
  • I love the disciple who is wearing a mesh shirt who becomes hypothermic as soon as Judas takes off. Instantly, no fewer than three disciples are rubbing his arms and back. Strange.
  • Jesus brings Judas a black coat. Judas responds by calling Jesus a "mandarin" several times. Once citrus is being used in an offensive manner, all bets are off!
  • Love the symbolism of Judas scattering the sheep that were initially led in by a shepherd. Well played, sir.
  • TGJDGI #5

Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)
  • Somebody get the disciples some Red Bull...or at least a cup of coffee.
  • Best scene in the movie
  • Rock climbing without a belay. Paul Hill would not approve.
  • The singing is amazing. I will not listen to arguments on this.
  • Sweet use of famous crucifixion paintings
  • "What you started; I didn't start it!"
  • I saw Neely do this last year. He's well into his 60's...and he still has the pipes for Gethsemane. Awe-inspiring, to say the least.

The Arrest
  • More trivia: First inter-racial guy-and-guy kiss in a major motion picture.
  • "Hang on Loooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrdddd"
  • News reporter style interrogation -- brilliant
  • Diana Ross is back -- "tell me Christ how you feel tonight"
  • "Stay a while you'll see him bleed!" (Cue confused Judas face...)

Peter's Denial
  • LOVE the soldier who is brushing his teeth with this thumb.
  • Mary at her most swoopy "don't you knoooow what yyyooooouuu have saaaiiiid"
  • Perhaps they should have given Mary a hair tie or barrette for this scene
  • "It's what he toooooold us yyyooouuuuu would dooooooooo..." Ugh!

Pilate & Christ
  • Pilate - so menacing atop his rocky perch
  • Best two-second sequence in the film: Pilate over-selling his "but are you king, KingoftheJews" line, followed by Woman #2 cackling dismissively over her shoulder.
  • "You're deep in trouble, friend!"
  • Does he not remember the dream he had a few days ago? Not a very smart guy.

King Herod Song
  • So many outrageous things in this scene. Let me see if I can catch them all.
  • Everyone rubbing this grotesque, obese young fella
  • The surprised looks from the piano player, apple-eating-dude, Diana Ross, and ski goggles guy are outrageously funny
  • Finger pointing choreography
  • Excellent belly on Herod
  • I don't know about you, but when I see blond men in tighty-whiteys, I immediately think of using them as a chair
  • Clothing optional for background dancers
  • Chasing Jesus out with yeast rolls
same dude

Could We Start Again, Please?
  • This song kinda pisses me off the older I get. I used to really like it. Now I don't. Call it the ultimate TGJDGI scene (#6).

Judas' Death
  • "What you have done will be the saving of everyone" Caiaphas accidentally mouths the word "Israel" instead of "everyone". (It was originally Israel in the Broadway show.)
  • I don't know how to love him...poignant. Way better than Mary's.
  • "Does he love me too? Does he care for me?" For what it's worth, I think the answer to both questions is "yes".
  • This scene is pretty scary for a G-rated film.
  • Why does Judas take off his shirt to hang himself?
  • Erie that the tree overlooks Pilate's court

Trial Before Pilate
  • Nice of Herod to show up after chasing Jesus away from his house with bread
  • Pilate is a really flamboyant gentleman. It bears noting.
  • Everyone is sweaty. Must be hot in the Israeli desert.
  • "Talk to me Jesus Christ"...followed faintly by the instrumental part from Pilate's Dream that accompanied the lyric "I asked him to say what had happened." Duh! I bet Pilate got less than a 15 on his ACT.
  • Herod breathing it all in...through his large nostrils
  • 39 lashings. Intense. Mary losing her mind. Caiaphas scowling. Herod dry heaving.
  • Don't roll's dirty and rocky...don't roll over...don't roll over....ooohhhh. Ouch! I told you not to!
  • "Everything is fixed and you can't change it!"
  • Pilate serving up some of the best scream-singing ever.
  • Water + fake blood = kool aid from the last supper
  • "Die if you want to, you innocent puppet!"

  • Jesus; quite handsome after taking a shower and putting on a new robe
  • Welcome back (from heaven?) Judas!
  • The angels are both funky and sexy. God must have loved the 1970s.
  • "Could Mohammad move a mountain, or was that just P.R.?"
  • Quite the contrast - Judas rocking out / Jesus dragging the cross

  • Four shots of the cross being raised...same number as there were of Judas at the beginning of the movie. Hmmmm...
  • Nails in the hands, not the wrists.
  • Great cacophony of piano and human sounds during this scene.
  • Only 3 out of 7 of the last words of Jesus.
  • Mary has thrown herself on the ground...again. Just go away.
  • "Into your hands I commit my spirit." Fin.

John 19:41
  • "Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid." (NRSV)
  • That's a wrap! Everyone, back on the bus!
  • Makes me cry every time, once I see Judas getting on the bus.
  • Shepherd and sheep walking across the bottom of the screen as the sun descends behind an empty cross. Jewison claims it was unintentional. Deliberate or not, well done, sir. Well done.
  • silence.

Until Christ is arisen...

1 comment:

  1. I think I know this movie less well than I would like to think. I think I stop watching when it gets more intense and sad.


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