Easter reminds me of an old Saturday Night Live skit from the early 1990s:
Set in the time of Christ, the pals of Jesus are gathered in secret to toss the Messiah a surprise birthday party. The joke is that everyone is having a hell of a time finding a good gift for Jesus. The guy is Jesus for God’s sake. What do you give Jesus? Finally, an argument breaks out, and everybody is yelling and upset, and suddenly Jesus strolls in.
“Where’s the wine?” asks Jesus in a very un-Jesus-like (but very Phil Hartman-like) voice.
I like Jesus movies.
Partly because the plot is so predictable. You know how the story starts. How it ends. And you know most of the stuff in the middle. The Last Temptation of Christ tosses in a few twists, though, especially with Judas, the Apostle for which history gives the rawest deal.
In Temptation, Judas is some kind of badass Jew militant who spends half the movie threatening to kill Jesus. And then, just when Judas has completely bought into the Messiah business, Jesus informs him that he must betray Him to fulfill the prophecy.
See, that’s the thing with Judas. No betrayal, no prophecy. No death. No resurrection. No Jesus Christ Superstar. Judas does his job, and gets nothing in return but a sack of silver and a place alongside Brutus and Cassius in Dante’s 9th Circle of Hell.
Like I said, I like Jesus movies.
I even like the Jesus movies that aren’t really Jesus movies, like Ben Hur. And I like the Jesus movies that feature extra strength Jesus-action, like The Passion of the Christ. But whenever I think of Jesus movies, my mind goes back to a scene from The Greatest Story Ever Told. In that one, Max Von Sydow is the unnervingly blue-eyed Jesus.
What I remember about Greatest Story is a minor scene in which one of the Apostles (Peter maybe?) wakes up to discover that someone has stolen his coat. Naturally, the Apostle is all sore because somebody ripped him off. Then Jesus appears, all refreshed and well-rested, and tells the Apostle, “Perhaps somebody needed your coat more than you did.”
Son of God or not, Jesus could be aggravatingly righteous .
There are two books that nobody should quote from. One is Webster’s Dictionary. (“According to Webster…”) The second book is The Catcher in the Rye.
But I always liked what Holden Caulfied had to say about the Apostles. They were always letting Him down. Holden nailed it. The Apostles were lousy friends, and they were about as useful as a sack of billiard balls to Jesus. When they weren’t denying Him thrice before the cock crows, they were whining when somebody made off with their coats.
Really, Christianity should thank Christ it has made it this far, considering whose hands Jesus left it with.
It seems sacrilegious to complain about a gift received on Easter, but it is the only natural response to receiving a copy of Islands In The Stream in your Easter basket.
For Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, Islands in the Stream was a big hit. For a young Angry Czeck, it ranked somewhere between The Future’s So Bright, I Got to Wear Shades and Private Dancer. Those aren’t very good songs, in case you were wondering.
But there it was, wedged between a chocolate bunny and a box of peeps, was a .45 single of Islands in the Stream. By that time in my life, I knew that the Easter Bunny was not behind the gift, but my Angry Mom, who had deftly asked me the week before, “Do you like Islands in the Stream?” Gravely, I had answered in the affirmative, never guessing the grisly consequences of my response.
The lesson, of course, is be mighty careful of what you tell your mother.
Mrs. Angry likes to watch The Ten Commandments every Easter.
The Ten Commandments has a lot going for it, especially casting. Everybody does a terrific job. Anne Baxter throws herself into her role as Nefritiri (“Moses, Moses, Moses.”) Not only is Yul Brenner the only guy on the set who could play an Egyptian with a straight face, but nobody wears gold arm bands better. Even Vincent Price is in The Ten Commandments! Charles Heston does a pretty good job as Moses, too.
But who earns a coveted Angry Award (if not an Oscar) is Edward G. Robinson as Nathan. Who the hell thought to cast Edward G. Robinson in a Moses movie? Let’s see you make bricks without straw, Moses! Edward G. Robinson! Was Peter Lorre busy? Where’s your God now, Moses?
Nearly every line in The Ten Commandments kicks heathen ass. My favorite doesn’t even belong to EG Robinson, but to Yvonne De Carlo. The stranger is wise. And strong. It’s like Pete Rose wrote the screenplay, yet it still works. The perfect Easter movie.
I shall dwell in these lands.