My Top 3 Movie Picks for Easter

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It just wouldn’t be Easter without watching The Ten Commandments. I might not watch the entire 4-hour epic every year, but it’s hard to resist catching at least a glimpse of that splitting Red Sea. The film, which chronicles Egyptian prince Moses’ transformation into the deliverer of the Hebrew slaves from the tyranny of the Egyptian pharoah, is a feast for the eyes and ears, with classic performances.

Charlton Heston is at his buff best as the bare-chested Moses; Anne Baxter is wonderful as the seductive, sultry Nefertiri; Yul Brynner is smoking hot as the ambitious, envious Rameses; and Edward G. Robinson and Vincent Price deliver thoroughly entertaining performances as sly Egyptian nobles. No … childhood just wouldn’t have been the same without watching a bearded Moses lift up his arms and say, “Behold His mighty hands!”

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

I recall seeing an interview with Catherine Scorsese, Martin Scorsese’s mother, about his film The Last Temptation of Christ. She said that she was more nervous about the angry backlash his film might spark than with his other films about mobsters and Mafiosos. Martin Scorsese definitely did not shy away from controversy when he made his adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ 1960 novel.

The heart of the film is the stellar performance of Willem Dafoe as Jesus Christ. Rather than portray him as a sad, saintly, humble figure, Dafoe plays Jesus as an average, flawed human being, albeit with a divine purpose. He does not hesitate to lash out in anger or curse his fate. This film caused a lot of controversy due to a love scene between Jesus and Mary, but the outrage was obviously from people who did not read the novel. This was “the last temptation of Christ” — to shun his holy mission and live his life as a normal man instead. It is a powerful, beautiful film.

The Passion of The Christ (2004)

Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of The Christ, about the last day in the life of Jesus Christ, is definitely not for the squeamish. It is brutal. It focuses on Jesus’ arrest and subsequent crucifixion, and Gibson spares us nothing. It almost feels like a penance watching it. We feel every lash and every thorn, and by the time Jesus (played by Jim Caviezel) is nailed to the cross, we feel emotionally exhausted. However, don’t let the ultra-realism and ultra-violence put you off.

Gibson was inspired to make the film due to his fervent Christian faith, and regardless of what you think of him (especially now, in the wake of all his alleged anti-Semitic rants, rumors of alcoholism and physical abuse), you have to give him kudos for making a film he so passionately cares about. His insistence on the film’s being as authentic as possible, with the cast speaking in Aramaic (the language of Christ), makes it feel that much more vivid. (The film is subtitled). A harrowing film, which will appall some, and transfix others.