Black Dad Knows A Lot But Pop-Pop Knows Everything Shirt, hoodie, tank top

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Black Dad Knows A Lot But Pop-Pop Knows Everything Shirt

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Black Dad Knows A Lot But Pop-Pop Knows Everything Shirt, hoodie, tank top

There are three stages of watching Cecil B. DeMille’s epic of all epics The Ten Commandments.

As a kid I watched it just because it was on. Sprawled out on the floor in front of the TV, I’d always fall asleep before Moses found his way out of the desert. Never once did I make it to the parting of the Red Sea.

As a young adult, I found the movie a bit . . . Cringe. Is the double-crossing Hebrew Dathan (Edward G. Robinson) from the Canarsie section of Cairo? Is there a worse actress than Anne Baxter as Nefretiri? Could they have found a less Jewish actor than Charlton Heston to play the Deliverer of the Hebrews? Why is God turning Moses’s staff into a cobra that devours two other snakes, anyway? That sounds more like a Satan kind of thing. And those special effects, which were cutting-edge when the film was released, came to look ridiculous over time.

Still, though: I always liked Yul Brynner’s Rameses, the epitome of an antagonist who inspires respect because he sticks to his sense of honor. “Better to die in battle with a God than live in shame,” he says, as demanding of himself as of others. Baxter’s acting may be campy (“Oh, Moses, Moses, you stubborn, splendid, adorable fool!”) but she makes for one of the era’s classic bitchy vixens. As for that desert scene I never got to the end of as a little kid, it reaches a powerful climax when Moses silently contemplates a lamb who serves as the herald of a life-saving oasis. Is this the holy Lamb of God we all heard of in so many church services? It’s a beautiful, simple image of salvation.

Charlton Heston may have made a preposterously Gentile Jew, but his oaken style of acting grew on me over the years. He’s playing Moses; he’s not supposed to be hip or loose. He shouldn’t come across as a self-questioning, internally tormented Marlon Brando type. He is the Lawgiver, one of the all-time heroes, and he is there to personify fortitude and leadership. Heston is stately, manly, commanding.

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Heston’s style is in perfect harmony with DeMille’s equally calm and patient staging. DeMille chose not to get in the way of one of the most potent stories ever told. Never hurrying, but never letting things drag either, he used long takes, typically planting his camera for medium shots and letting the actors go to work uninterrupted for minutes at a time. He hardly ever cut or used close-ups. The film is so sparing with its camera movements that it’s a startling departure from form when the camera dollies in on the Pharaoh Sethi for the banishment of Moses from the Egyptian court, accompanied by thundering drumrolls of doom. The palace set is so gigantic, the depth of the space established by long rows of guardians receding into the distance, that as Moses walks slowly away from the emperor’s denunciation — “Let the name of Moses be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of men for all time” — he attains a physical distance from the camera that enhances his isolation and peril. In short, DeMille is a showman. He sells this moment. He makes it matter, and makes you care.

 

 

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