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  2. This is all excellent, and affirming of what I'm working on in my own research. Luc is pretty open about his atheistic beliefs, although he's not *quite* a hardcore Dawkins-esque atheist--I'm arguing that they're post-secular filmmakers, somewhere between secularism and religion. I do have some emerging thoughts on the "Levinasian turn" in film studies and the Dardennes' role in that turn (long story short, I think it's hard to wholly apply Levinas to cinema without serious caveats when he seemed pretty down on cinema/art), and I'm currently reading the Sobchack book. But the sense of philosophy through film, or film-as-philosophy (really, film-philosophy) is what I'm aiming for, only in theology (film-theology). Doug, if you ever want to talk Dardennes, let's make it happen.
  3. Faith, Hope & Love unites two of the most formulaic genres in today’s movies: the romantic comedy and the “Christian” film. Given that starting point, the film shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does. But even if you go in expecting to cringe and roll your eyes, you end up smiling at and rooting for its endearing characters. In an unexpected but undeniable way, the weaknesses of both genres are complemented rather than exacerbated by the tropes of the other. For example, the late Roger Ebert once famously opined that the writing challenge of the romantic comedy was not bringing two people together but keeping them credibly apart for the bulk of the movie. Faith Turley (Peta Murgatroyd) and Jimmy Hope (Robert Krantz) are thrown together by a pro-am dance contest. She’s a dance instructor who has had bad luck with men; he’s a charming widower afraid to let himself love again. If we know in the first five minutes that they are perfect for each other, why should they take so long? As it turns out, because of religion. Faith is anthropologically curious about Jimmy’s matter-of-fact faith. But that’s not part of what she’s looking for in a guy. Jimmy seems attracted to his vibrant, sexy dance instructor — what single male, Christian or otherwise, wouldn’t be? But all his relationships are tinged with grief, and he admittedly is not ready to move on from the memory of his loving, Christian marriage. One of the ways the religious angle elevates the worst parts of the romantic comedy angle is it allows the characters to be at least marginally self-aware people who have understandable but surmountable reservations about the relationship. Hope is attracted to the promise of rest offered in the gospel, but she is also aware of being let down by men in the past and has a hard time trusting God because she has a hard time trusting anyone. Yes, the exposition of these themes is rote, usually delivered through dialogue, and the plotting is is generic — Jimmy takes Hope on a fake date to try to engender jealousy in an indifferent boyfriend. But the film is refreshingly uninterested in keeping the characters oblivious to their own budding attraction. Things don’t turn on a sudden epiphany of what (or who) they have been blind to so much as on a gradual coming to terms with what is holding them back. This feels a lot more like how relationships work in the so-called “real world.” In the same vein, the treatment of the romance helps smooth over some of the problems with Christian genre films. A part of Jimmy’s and Hope’s attraction is sexual in nature, and that part is accentuated by the sensuality of their dances, particularly the Tango. Yes, the film uses dancing as a shorthand symbol for letting go of relational control (who leads), but there is something decidedly non-metaphorical about two actual bodies entwined together or in Faith’s wowzer of a ballroom dress. It doesn’t hurt that Krantz and Murgatroyd have genuine chemistry together and that her dance training provides Faith with a more confident physical presence than we are used to seeing in Christian movies. Not that Faith or the film is slutty or sexually aggressive. But the film is more interested in the ways these two characters channel their attractions than in asking them to deny them, more astute than most Christian films about the ways “attraction,” while not being an adequate foundation for a healthy relationship, can be and often is a catalyst for one. When Faith, Hope & Love moves away from the prospective lovers, usually to Jimmy’s work, it loses steam and tries too hard to be zany without really having any bite. (Corbin Bernsen does deliver the film’s one audible laugh as Jimmy’s boss when he equates dancing with playing “dress up” as one of those things all Christians do in the privacy of their bedroom but don’t ever talk about publicly.) But if the co-workers are two-dimensional sitcom props, Jimmy’s daughters are a bit more realistic than we are used to from the genre. The older of the two wears make-up and lobbies for a 1:00 a.m. curfew, but she is also responsible enough to come home early when people at a party start doing “stupid stuff.” Her dad, rather than interrogating her about it, trusts the values that he and his deceased wife have instilled in her and that she routinely but imperfectly reflects back. This too looks and feels like how Christian relationships are in the “real world” as opposed to the overly sentimentalized or sanitized Christian-movie world. Ultimately this is Krantz’s and Murgatroyd’s film, and they do what all actors in memorable romances do — they make you care about their characters and root for their happiness. That their happiness involves a spiritual as well as a carnal union will be a bonus for Christian viewers but may not even be a deal breaker for those who don’t share Jimmy’s faith. The film presents religion not so much as the thing that will make all relationships work but as the thing that makes this relationship work. In that sense, it’s a testimonial rather than a sermon, and a rather sweet one at that. Originally posted at 1More Film Blog
  4. Hi Doug, I echo Christian's and Russ's sentiments (in the other thread) that it's always a pleasure to see you, whether it is at an event like the one we shared or for a few moments poking your head into A&F to say hi. I appreciate your encouragement and insights over the years. Joel, as a layman listener to Doug's presentation, I would say it was not radically different from the book chapter you reference but was, as is appropriate, more foundational as an introduction. For more on phenomenology, Doug recommended V, Sobchack's The Address of the Eye. I found the presentation helpful in seeing how the influence of Levinas (the face of the other carries with a hint or symbol of the ultimate other) dovetail with but are separate from the phenomenological approach in general. I'll be honest, it also made me question my own tendency to think of the Dardennes as "Christian" filmmakers in a narrower sense and more as filmmakers whose cultural work is compatible with Christan ethics and morality (as I understand them). As is probably also appropriate, it made me see how that philosophy is expressed through the *style* of the films (hand-held cameras), presentation rather than only through the narrative content.
  5. Hey Russ! I admit to knowing nothing about any of the filmmakers. Do clue me in on Cornish...
  6. Hey, Doug! I will definitely catch up with this one soon. We missed it theatrically, but it did prompt me to finally get around to seeing ATTACK THE BLOCK, which made me regret not prioritizing it all the more. Candidly, the trailer didn't really draw me in, but Cornish's involvement would have sold me if I'd not been sleeping on his last film. Now he just needs to not wait so long before making his next one.
  7. Does anyone else think the line, "That was the best acting I've seen in my whole life," is going to be placed in the film in a similar way to, "I think this just might be my masterpiece?"
  8. Harry is often compared to a (were)wolf in sheep's clothing—think of him extending his hand to the moon before he kills Willa or yelping and running to the barn after being shot by Rachel—and I think that is the dualism involved. Not so much someone struggling between right and wrong, but someone who is quintessentially malevolent but constantly trying to appear good.
  9. Sorry, Joel, I don't really have notes, or at least readable ones. I was drawing from a lot of different sources and just giving them an intro (I only had 20 minutes).
  10. Doug, would you be willing to send me your notes on your Dardennes talk? I'm doing a PhD on them, and your chapter in Ken's "Faith and Spirituality" book is one of the better things I've read on them--and phenomenology is a significant part of my approach, so your title is intriguing. You can email me at jmayward (at) gmail.
  11. Russ, you are amazing. I'm all the more chagrined that I didn't place these notes b/c I am such a huge Baldwin fan.
  12. Alright Joel, you convinced me My Happy Family deserves consideration for the list, so second.
  13. I saw it with one of my 13-year-olds, who liked it, though I couldn't help thinking that its pro-diversity, anti-division message was very much located in a story that climaxes with the violent destruction of a demonized "other" (and a female "other", at that). But it was a fun yarn in any case. For whatever that's worth.
  14. Last week
  15. Hey Christian! Yes, I had mild expectations, and it's not like The Greatest Film Ever, but it was really nice to finally have a film that I could take my daughter to that was fun, empowering, emotionally honest, and didn't insult her intelligence. We had a good time.
  16. Doug! Great to see you! Hey, I did a little tweet storm about this film, and how watching it with my 12- and, yes, 10-year-old boys was close to magical. I watched the film but also watched my boys watching the film, and saw the effect it was having on them. I don't see a lot of movies with my kids, and when I do, the movies aren't always good. So this was a very special experience. I'm indebted to Joe Cornish.
  17. Just wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Ken and my presentations last night at Campbell University. I hope this is a series Ken continues with other speakers. He presented on Dreyer, and I presented on the Dardennes. We had about 80 students, and they seemed very engaged and asked questions afterward. Given that I met Ken here at A&F many moons ago, I thought I would mention it here.
  18. I visited A&F to see if there was any commentary on this film, and I was surprised there wasn't. You probably need to have been a 10-year-old and currently have a 10-year-old to fully appreciate this very charming throwback (and in many ways improvement upon) '80s coming-of-age fantasy films, complete down to its retro synth score. I'll take one of these over 10 of Hollywood's latest superhero movies any day.
  19. Joel Mayward


    A new title and *possible* release date (this would be at Cannes, I assume):
  20. I'm in the minority of folks I know in not liking John Wick: Chapter 2, and this trailer doesn't make me think that Chapter 3 is going to change my mind. I kinda wish it had just stayed as a single film. Pass.
  21. You're in Beale Street, baby. I need to read Baldwin's novel to give credit where it's due, but Jenkins's screenplay is so amazing. Did anybody see a jaw-droppingly better-written scene this year than the one those quotes came from? Not this guy.
  22. Ed's nomination of The Gleaners and I prompted me to nominate another Varda film, Faces Places. I think both films address the experience of aging--both people and places--but Faces Places has a unique aspect of including the presence of JR, a youthful counterpart to Varda, and her dialogue partner about both art and the process of growing older, and I think FP is more *explicitly* about aging than Gleaners.
  23. Title: Faces Places Director: Agnes Varda Year: 2017 Language: French IMDB YouTube: A&F Thread: None?
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