Today in Movie History: August 17

Everything’s turning up Jesus today… though not quite in the way you might expect. We’ll start with Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, the legendary comedy troupe’s follow-up to Holy Grail that ignited the expected firestorm of controversy among those least able to appreciate what it was trying to say. It remains brilliant, of course, and while time has blunted the criticism against it, its message about the foolishness of fanaticism is as pertinent as ever… to say nothing of the general Python absurdity it all comes wrapped in. The Life of Brian opened today in 1979.

Those less accustomed to the heat of religious arguments can look to Jesus Christ Superstar, another one of those Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals that really has no business working, and yet somehow does. Director Norman Jewison finds the right post-hippie vibe for the entire affair, setting modern performers to actual Israeli locations for the — yes — toe-tappingly good reenactment of Christ’s crucifixion. It opened today in 1973.

The field of non-Jesus movies opening today starts with The Time Machine, George Pal’s excellent adaptation of the famous H.G. Wells novel that remains an indelible classic of science fiction cinema. Rod Taylor makes an eminently sympathetic lead and the top-notch effects still retain their sense of wonder. The Time Machine opened today in 1960.

Amid the current bumper crop of animated films, the comparatively modest ParaNorman got left behind a little bit. It’s one of the better ones out there, however, with a great outsider’s vibe and a terrific way of reminding us not to judge a book by its cover. If you missed it, it’s well worth a look, especially with Halloween slowly creeping up on us. It opened today in 2012.



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