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Everything posted by kenmorefield

  1. A beautiful filmic palindrome, Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Ted Chiang’s “The Story of Your Life” is a richly humanistic film, even as its premise is about encountering extraterritorial life. The film opens and closes with a memory, albeit our understanding of the memory and its significance in the narrative is remarkably different by the film's conclusion. What makes Arrival remarkable is that its very form elicits the same “waking up” within the audience as it does within its characters; we are sutured into the time and memories of the cinematic world, having to relearn and become more aware within the linguistic nature of film itself. What’s more, this philosophical and cerebral film about aliens, language, memory, and time is also deeply affecting, particularly as a parent. Arrival is a timely film, in every sense of the word.

    —Joel Mayward

  2. Thank you for responses. I have to think on this, because my initial response is to wonder whether body/spirit (or immanent/transcendent) reflects an ideological tension or merely an aesthetic/formal one. I think it does, but I once again lament the absence of The Exorcist as the obvious complement to Ordet in terms of denying the body/spirit dichotomy and answering "both....and" I'm just not sure how to articulate this division as an ideological one. My knee-jerk reaction is to associate spirit with neo-platonic influence on Christianity that tends to downplay the importance of the body. Suffering is spiritual suffering...the spirit is seeking release from confinement or expression of self. (Maybe First Reformed, Diary of a Country Priest, Ikiru...haven't seen Tree of Life in ages...) And "body" with texts that focus on the social and political implications of structural religion, usually in negative ways (Silence, Do the Right Thing, Of Gods and Men), where effects on the *bodies* are the external symbol of spiritual poverty of systems. I don't think I could have ever voted for it, but perhaps that line of thinking could have opened up a comparison of Gibson's The Passion of the Christ with one of the other passion narratives. I've always thought it significant that Dreyer changes the root of Johannes's madeness in Ordet from studying Kierkegaard in college to a personal grief over the death of a loved one.
  3. I have been outlining my paper for the proposed anthology to accompany the Top 100. I want to write something broad about auteur theory and/or genre. At the moment, I've been noodling Robin Wood's claim in "Ideology, Genre, Auteur" that "the development of the genres is rooted in...ideological contractions...." It sounds highfalutin, but I think conceptually my approach is built on standard poststructural/deconstruction idea of meaning promoted through binary oppositions and the privileging of one term over the other. Formalism (New Criticism) shows how the work "resolves" the apparent contradiction while deconstruction shows the failure to resolve or the arbitrariness of the privileging. I was trying to making a working list of "contradictions" or "tensions" within the Top 100 -- seeing if I could treat "spiritually significant" as a genre. So far I've come up with four tensions/oppositions that I find thematically common to many films on the list. I was hoping people could offer a few others. --pacifism vs. activism (by this I don't mean military pacifism specially) so much as an attempt to accept circumstances rather than change them. Coming to terms with situation -- Ikiru, maybe First Reformed, Make Way for Tomorrow) --dogmatism vs. doubt (the clinging to certainty or conviction in the face of opposition or circumstances vs. the tendency to reevaluate or revise previous teaching or belief) --individualism vs. corporatism (the ultimate expressions of spirituality are personal vs. spirituality is the sublimation of the personal into a corporate enterprise or unit...authenticity vs. belonging). --Triumphalism vs. Martyrdom (related to pacificism/activism) Is the hero or heroine successful (either within the narrative itself or by the narrative via tone, or is the antagonist heroic for sacrificing. Obviously all such tensions raise limits, questions and amibiguities, and it is through exploring or interrogating them that genre pieces differ. For example, I think that It's a Wonderful Life depicts sacrifice as the means to triumph (he wins by sacrificing) whereas A Man for All Seasons depicts martyrdom as spiritual triumph over fear but as a genuine failure to alter the circumstances around them. A film like Silence seems to try to neither resolve the tension (The Trial of Joan of Arc might show Joan as both triumphant and martyred) nor privilege one over the other -- it questions the binary itself, and I think a portion of the narrative anxiety is the the priest's inability to situate or understand his own narrative within that binary framework.
  4. I heard back from the publisher last week, they have had some delays creating the CFP due to COVID 19, but are still planning to proceed. I will post the CFP when I get it.
  5. Here's the 2017 blurb from the "Waking Up" list. http://artsandfaith.com/index.php?/films/film/460-picnic-at-hanging-rock/ Weir appears to be undergoing a slight come back on these pages with this film on the 2017 Top 25 and Witness making its way back onto the Top 100.
  6. Picnic at Hanging Rock is one of those rare films which becomes more inexplicable when seen repeatedly. Weir directed this adaptation of the Joan Lindsay novel prior to The Last Wave, a film equally interested in Australia as a land remaining wholly other and inaccessible to its white settlers. Lindsay’s novel was scandalously ambiguous about the facts of this story about a few private school girls and their teacher vanishing during an outing to a rock formation in southeast Australia.

    Likewise, the film is shot and scored with perilous beauty, the scenes around Hanging Rock hovering between dream and reality. The search for these girls and reaction of the town and school to the disappearance begins to reveal an elusive set of reflections on nature, innocence, and Victorian sexuality. It is not quite clear what we are waking up to in the film, though we find ourselves drawn into Weir’s deeply poetic handle on nature as an enduring stage for the mysteries and conflicts of modernity.

    —Michael Leary

  7. Link to our thread on the film. Last year I identified twenty novels that I had never read to try to get around to before I kicked the bucket. This was one. I'm about 90% done. (I actually have the 60 hour Audible recording that I listen to when I do my walking.) I figured I'd go ahead and post this now since the film is in the news. I'm going to finish the book before going back to look at the film, which I haven't seen in years. This is a strange book, with Scarlett O'Hara ranking right up there with Undine Sprague as least likable protagonist in American literature. Before I made the list I had shared on Facebook my standard schtick about "where are the great love stories in American literature?" and a former student offered GWTW? Huh... I guess maybe one could make that argument if one were willing to say that it the book is the love story between Scarlett and Ashley, but I don't think she is much capable of love and I'm reluctant to call anything she felt for anyone "love." The word I keep hearing about the film is "romanticizing." I don't think the book romanticizes the South or Scarlett or whatever. But neither does it condemn it...at least not consistently. There are people (most notably Rhett but sometimes Ashley by the end who question the culture and its values, though they are usually not taken seriously. Scarlett isn't a first-person narrator but so much of the book is filtered through her perceptions (limited-omniscient) that its impossible for me to not feel *some* sympathy for her, deplorable as she is. This is because the book is so frackin' long, and it illustrates how pervasive and relentless are the attitudes that shaped and warped her. Is it the Chinese who have the proverb that the nail that sticks up gets hammered down? Not that Scarlett sticks up much, but the social control mechanisms and peer pressure are very acutely shown. The one very specific change in attitude that the book had on me was in the question of the use of the "N" word by Black people/characters. I was inundated in the 90s graduate school culture with lots of arguments about "appropriation" and could at least see the arguments for people from within a group using such words to de-fang them. But the novel shows a history of Blacks using that word about other Blacks mostly to endear themselves to Whites and thus curry the favor of whites by adapting to the roles that were assigned them by the white culture. It's hard for me to get a sense of what Mitchell was up to in the novel. It's a very strong bit of mythopoeia -- world building. And it feels organically drawn and not just meticulously researched the way some historical fiction can be. Part of that is that the *culture* is *not* "gone with the wind" -- the culture is pervasive, and designed to perpetuate itself even through defeat and reconstruction and vast global changes. What is it, finally, that makes an individual or culture so resistant to change?
  8. I definitely recommend keeping a copy of your blurbs as online writing and revision can get deleted very easily,s sometimes by mistake. Once the blurbs are complete, I will change to permissions so that someone copying doesn't accidentally alter or delete a blurb, but in the meantime back up your work.
  9. Call it a Chestertonian fairy tale.  This film explores a “soul sick” man’s growing awareness of the fact that he is no longer interested in his own self, but in other people and other things around him instead.  This realization is then lit like a match when he takes up a mysterious stranger’s offer to set out on an adventure.  The ensuing exploits lead to further awakening, falling in love, learning to see, trying to pray, and taking steps by faith.  At the film’s end, you’ll find yourself looking at the world around you as perhaps just a little more enchanted.  If almost the whole world is asleep, Joe Versus the Volcano asks what it would mean to be one of the few people who are awake.

    —Jeremy Purves

  10. Mann fills The Insider with mirrors, windows, and all manner of frames within frames. Based on a Vanity Fair article, the first half of the film narrates the plight of Jeffrey Wigand, the first whistleblower to bring the predatory practices of big tobacco to public attention in the 90s. The second half of the film shifts focus to Lowell Bergman, whose manic intensity brought to life by Al Pacino eventually lands Wigand’s story in the media.

    A centerpiece of the film is a rare surreal flourish from Mann, in which the linear shadows and walls around Wigand visibly dissipate. His children, who have since left with his wife, play outside in a sunlit yard and he can see everything he has lost in the media shuffle. The Insider suggests that investigative journalism and the ethics of waking up have a human scale. Wigand reminds Mike Wallace at the end of the film that, “What got broken here doesn't go back together again.” It is a stunning and prescient self-indictment, which has surely set the tone for the Mannings, Wikileaks, and Panama Papers of our past decade.

    —Michael Leary

  11. The theme of waking up plays out on multiple levels in the gorgeously animated The Secret of Kells from filmmakers Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey. Young Brendan awakens to the world outside the walls of the Abbey of Kells where he lives with his uncle, the Abbott. He also awakens to the world inside that of books. But possibly the most important awakening is that of the Abbot who learns that he cannot hold on to treasure – material, spiritual, or human – by trying to build walls around it and close it off from the admittedly violent and uncertain world. It is the treasures we hoard for ourselves that are most needed in the world, and the risk of sharing them must be engaged.

    —Darryl A. Armstrong

  12. What's that phenomenon where pilots are in clouds too long and stop trusting their instruments? I haven't seen a good new movie in such a long time that I'm not sure if Hollywood is holding everything good back or my desire for something good is thwarting my expectations. There was a part of my riff here that got cut about my re-teaching High Fidelity this year in British Novel and each year I teach it having my students finding it less and less funny. I think Hornby way better than Apatow, but I am wondering if the slacker dude comedy is not right for the current moment. http://1morefilmblog.com/2020/06/08/the-king-of-staten-island-apatow-2020/
  13. The Assassin is a difficult film to summarize, but not because the plot is unclear. Characters constantly fill each other in on where exactly they stand. Roughly, the movie concerns an assassin (Shu Qi) who, having failed in an assignment, is sent to kill her cousin, a man who is also her betrothed. But this is a Hou Hsiao-hsien film, and any expectations of a straightforward wuxia adventure should be left at the door. This film is far more interested in textures: the light falling across early-morning steam on a lake, the titular black-clad assassin stalking through a forest of white trees, a broken gold mask among the leaves. On a plot level, the assassin “wakes up” to her own self-determination, eventually rejecting the orders to kill her cousin. On a visual and sensual level—the level Hou Hsiao-hsien operates on most effectively—the movie is itself an act of awakening. By using lingering shots on faces, on scenery (the characters, often, pushed into the far bottom corner of the frame, dwarfed by the landscape), The Assassin invites viewers to wake up to world far larger than anyone inside the movie. Or out of it.

    —Nathanael Booth

  14. Does anyone contribute to Wikipedia? I happened to notice that A&F is mentioned in the Ordet entry, but it is out of date: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordet#cite_note-28
  15. It would be helpful in tracking blurbs if those who have not finished blurbs yet but still intend to do so could check in and give me an ETA. Also, if you finish a blurb, please let me know here. A Brither Summer Day: http://artsandfaith.com/index.php?/films/film/405-a-brighter-summer-day/
  16. Akira Kurosawa’s entire body of work—from 1943’s brash debut Sanshiro Sugata to 1993’s valedictory Madadayo—challenges viewers to awaken to their responsibility to use their talents unselfishly in a desperate world. 1965’s Red Beard is no exception.  Set in feudal Japan, it opens with callow Doctor Yasumoto arriving at a clinic for the poor, presided over by the quietly intimidating Doctor Niide (nicknamed Red Beard and played by the legendary Toshiro Mifune). Initially chafing haughtily at his assignment, Yasumoto comes to embrace his role as caregiver to the needy, by Niide’s example and by witnessing dignity and tragedy among the indigent. Through masterful characterization, grand drama, and immersive chiaroscuro, Kurosawa prods us to follow the doctors’ examples. In a late climactic scene, Yasumoto, Niide, and other clinic helpers kneel in semi-circle around a gravely ill child; it’s as if Kurosawa is inviting us to rise from our seats and complete the circle.

    —Andrew Spitznas

  17. Margaret’s salvation comes through a synchronicity of awakenings: The moment her husband’s disordered priorities are exposed, with painful consequences. The moment her friendships are revealed as relationships of convenience, enabling lives of self-centeredness and denial. The moment she participates in workplace corruption. She begins to see how her own life has been shaped by peer pressure. She discovers contemplation and the rewards of mystery. She feels the spark of an authentic self in the solitude of a monastery. The sun rises on a world of greater uncertainty and even greater joys. Her future might be a rich and meaningful life, beyond the prisons of conformity and economic compromise, and within the risks of intimacy, trust, and service. Paul Harrill has crafted a quiet, poetic, and inspiring story of a woman’s escape from a marriage and a community built on lies, masks, and materialism into a more dangerous—and more human—experience of faith, risk, humility, and love.

    —Jeffrey Overstreet

  18. Thankful to Gareth and The Porch Magazine for running this intro to our list: https://www.theporchmagazine.com/recent/2020/6/3/crawling-towards-diversity-reflections-on-the-arts-amp-faith-top-100-spiritually-significant-films-kenneth-r-morefield
  19. Thanks, Joel. I could have misplaced a message or two, but as of now, here is my blurb priorities. (Asterisk means there is a previous blurb that can stand if nobody cares to revise/update; bold means no current blurbs and not assigned, though a few might have had people express interest before being assigned other blurbs.): Diary of a Country Priest (1951)* The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)* Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005)* Monsieur Vincent (1947)* To Sleep With Anger (1990) The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978) The Man Who Planted Trees (1987)* Amazing Grace (2018) Dead Man Walking (1995)* Nazarin (1959) What Time is It There? (2001) The House is Black (1963)* Heartbeat Detector (2007)* A Moment of Innocence (1996)* Close-Up (1990)* Lourdes (2009) Cameraperson (2016) The Gleaners & I (2000)* The Apostle (1997)* Munyurangabo (2007)* Tokyo Story (1953)* The Burmese Harp (1956)* Chariots of Fire (1981)* A Serious Man (2009)* In Praise of Love (2001)* Ponette (1996)* Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)* Fiddler on the Roof (1971)* Silent Light (2007)* Schindler's List (1993)* The Ushpizin (2004)* The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)* The Immigrant (2013)*
  20. Thanks for doing that. It looks like there are only a handful of films without a previous blurb or assignment, so at this point, I would suggest anyone who wants one (or to rewrite one with an asterisk*) need only announce they are doing so here so that we don't double up accidentally. The one exception is Blade Runner which I had been holding off on assigning and now seems to have slipped through the cracks, so if anyone wants to commit to doing that, let me know.
  21. The Horror list is now populated as is the 2014 (inaugural) Ecumenical Jury list.
  22. “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent,” explains one soldier in Fury, which shows the intense collaboration required among soldiers during combat, as well as the physical and psychological toll war takes on those who fight it. Principles give way to rationalizations amid repeated kill-or-be-killed engagements, and even Bible-believing soldiers use Scripture to their own questionable ends. Yet while other, similar films have extolled the idea of a noble death for their characters, Fury stops short of that notion, suggesting that there’s a place for the exercise of conscience during warfare, and that the vilest opponents are capable of acts of compassion. The film delivers many of the familiar genre beats of wartime movies, but then goes beyond them, reaching a place that feels more transcendent even as it honors the sacrifice of those who paid the highest price to defeat Germany. Fury leaves us contemplating what sort of choices we would have made had we been in their position, and what we might do when our loyalty to God conflicts with our loyalty to earthly authorities. The film’s great strength is an ambiguity that leaves room for more than one answer. — Christian Hamaker (Crosswalk.com)

  23. Noah is the filmic mashup between a Narnia-esque fantasy, a Shakespearean family drama, and a gritty biblical morality tale, all rolled into an epic cinematic experience. This is not your Sunday-school Noah, with happy flannel-graph animals gathered on a boat beneath a rainbow. Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky depicts Noah (Russell Crowe) as a tortured soul, a man striving to remain faithful to the Creator and care for his family while embracing the difficult task of being a key figure in the destruction of humanity. While Noah has some flaws, it’s certainly a *fantastic* film, in both senses of that word: “extraordinarily good” and “imaginative.” For those who are hesitant about Noah–particularly those who claim it isn’t “biblical” enough–I would invite them to watch again with open minds and hearts, seeking the truth and beauty in the flood of this tale. Noah reminds us that we are broken and beautiful, bearing both the weight of our sin and the image of God in our souls. — Joel Mayward (The Mayward Blog)

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