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kenmorefield

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  1. January has come and gone, and I'm not really sure where we are at. We can certainly shelf this for now and ask again later in the year if Pandemic wanes. Or we can assume there isn't enough interest. Or we could assume that "if you build it, some will come" in a lurking fashion. Evan, do you have any thoughts on how you'd like to proceed? Go, wait, or abandon?
  2. Jeff, I doubt this is what you want to talk about with Chad, but I am interested in the *mechanics* of filming during (this stage) of the pandemic. Have most productions resumed? Is he just on hiatus? Is it different for small indies (do they have to deal with unions?) That sort of stuff.
  3. Peter...good to see you. Thanks for posting that.
  4. I bought an OQ2 last week with money I didn't spend on film festivals last year. My first Virtual Reality Experience. I primed myself to be disappointed, but Beat Saber is certainly more fun than anything I play on the Wii (excepting Rock Band which requires a crowd). Also, there is a YouTube VR, so I watch the Top 100 trailer that Jeremy did in VR, and that was...cool. The store seems very limited as to content, but what content that is there is fun (if overpriced). I think success will be if enough people buy it that the secondary market finds it profitable to start developing more games.
  5. Nice to see Another Round get some more love.
  6. Link to The New Muppet Show It seems inconceivable to me that after nearly two decades, there is no dedicated thread to The Muppet Show. Perhaps there was, and I couldn't find it. Anyhow, I got a press release today that Disney+ is getting The Muppet Show including Seasons 4 and 5 which the press release says " have never previously been released on home entertainment." "
  7. Okay, here's the grumpathon: http://1morefilmblog.com/2021/01/23/cobra-kai-season-3/
  8. Whether you are a critic, a fan, or something in-between, you have no doubt experienced the delicious pleasure of discovering a show or a band or a film before it breaks out. You have also no doubt shared that the glum experience of watching that personal favorite lose something of its appeal as it seeks and finds a larger audience. Cobra Kai on YouTube was a quirky, clever, nostalgic favorite that avoided the extremes of deconstruction and imitation. It wasn’t simply a repeat of the Karate Kid formula, but neither was it presenting the childhood movies as false memories. Cobra Kai on Netflix is a different beast, and I spent half of the third season trying to convince myself that my growing disenchantment was generic sour grapes that the rest of the world had caught up to me and the show was now being talked about and promoted heavily. Warning: From here on out there are plot spoilers. The decline of Cobra Kai is less a matter of some colossal misstep than an overabundance of fan service combined with the stalling of any forward momentum. It’s not atypical that new shows, especially those that aren’t guaranteed to have long runs, will have satisfying but relatively complete story arcs in their first season or two. But once a show becomes open-ended, once culmination or cancellation is seen as something that must be perpetually deferred, they often become formulaic. Story arcs are contained in episodes, not seasons, and characters that were previously well defined become malleable to the needs of the episode or static caricatures of themselves. Comedy can sometimes sustain this character stasis a little better, but indeterminacy is a poison pill for a lot of drama. It’s not just that Season 3 leans heavily on a romcom structure of shuffling partners (or in this case, allies), it’s that in doing so it takes otherwise individuated characters and renders them interchangeable. Robbie’s function becomes to fall under Kreese’s influence. Never mind that we’ve spent two seasons establishing him as a thoughtful, intelligent, young man who is capable of seeing past surface bluster and beginning to heal from his justifiable bitterness at his dad. Conversely, Eli must be redeemed not because the path to his change of heart has been carefully paved but because the season needs to end on a high note. There are plausible explanations for both those changes. Eli questions Kreese occasionally; Robbie expresses anger at being turned over to the police. But one senses that these are in-the-moment emotions that would ebb and flow were they happening to real people. Miguel alternately sends Johnny away and then becomes too quickly loyal to him again. Sam has a two episode flirtation with cowardice so that we can have flashbacks of Daniel on the mat with Mike Barnes. Kreese gets a backstory not to deepen his character but to tease the cliffhanger everyone sees coming. (Speaking of evil karate incarnate….did anyone else think it weird that some sense of gender code prevented him from laying out Daniel’s wife when she slapped him but didn’t cause him to pause when Tory tried to kill Samantha and left her permanently scarred?) Nowhere was the show’s increasing dependence on reliving the movies rather than rebooting the characters more evident than in the incessantly teased but ultimately underwhelming return of Ali. Elizabeth Shue is the most talented (or at least the most accomplished) of the films’ alums, but why bring Ali back and give her literally nothing to do? From her opening just-visiting-for-Christmas scene, nearly every thing about her appearance screams “cameo” in all caps. Ali’s significance, especially to Johnny, has been trumpeted for two-and-a-half seasons. Yet the show is at its best is when it questions the metanarratives we construct out of high school memories. As Johnny learns about himself and, yes, matures, he questions the dogma of his childhood. But neither he nor the show even entertains the somewhat obvious notion that maybe the idea of Ali or the memory of Ali is more important to him than the actual person of Ali. I know nothing about show negotiations, but I’d wager dollars to donuts that Shue was either asked to make or only agreed to make a limited engagement. So there is this weird disconnect between Ali’s importance to the mythology of the show and her actual lack of impact on either of the characters. She and Johnny go to Golf ‘N Stuff and then she feeds Johnny and Daniel the same analysis that Carmen and Amanda have been telling them for two years. And they listen because…well it’s Ali. So she gets to be the one who brings them together after being the one who allegedly caused them to fight in the first place. There is a weird lack of jealousy about Ali from both Carmen and Amanda that is in some ways plausible — or would be if the show took more care to define these relationships better. When Daniel apologizes to Ali for how things ended between them, it comes across as Macchio apologizing to Shue for her character being written out of the second movie. Even this would be more interesting if there were more details about what happened between the characters than what happened between the movie producers and the actors. One of the the things that is most enjoyable about shows with long runs or franchises with long lives is that we come to to know the characters better. Writing characters that change slowly but credibly is one of the hardest things to do. That’s what Seasons 1 and 2 of Cobra Kai did. In Season 3, they change too abruptly as the needs of melodrama dictate, causing us to question not just who the characters are now but also whether they ever actually were the people we were shown. Will I watch Season 4? Of course I will, just like I’ll watch the next Marvel movie…expecting more of the same formula and lots of references to previous episodes used to underline what the plot has already made obvious. View the full article
  9. May try to write a review this weekend, but man, S3 was a major letdown for me.
  10. Interesting thoughts...appreciate the other perspectives. One thing that hasn't been wearing well with me is the whole "never before in the history of the world..." vibe. I do think there is an important observation to be made that it is the technology and the apparatus that is more disturbing than the content...but I am old enough to remember similar such claims for, say, television (the medium is the message/amusing ourselves to death/death of print culture irrevocably changing all aspects of life.) I wonder to what extent the film postulates some sort of straight, unchanging line of human existence that is radically impacted by this recent developed and to what extent it sees social media as the latest (r)evolution of a never ending series of changes? I'm certainly down with the notion that our environment changes us as we conform and interact with it and the notion that some of those changes are more drastic, sudden or impactful....but I tend to think that those changes are ever present and not this unprecedented challenge the film frames it as...
  11. I finally watched Mulan and it was marginally entertaining, though thoroughly safe and over-processed in an American movie kinda way. I felt like the movie thought just the existence of a female lead who wasn't a princess was enough of a reason for being, as though we haven't watched 8 years of Arya Stark or something. Bits and pieces had nice art design and choreography. Other scenes were really laughable: Commander: Your punishment is banishment... Mulan: I would rather die! Commander: If you are seen again, you will get your wish. [Mulan leaves] I couldn't really tell what they were going for. I'm grateful to not have one of those shot-for-shot remakes a la The Lion King (what's the point?) but the changes were nowhere for the better, nothing really complicated or deepened the story. It remained on a real obvious plot level that dribbled out its meaning in expository dialogue designed for trailers so that you don't actually have to watch the movie to know exactly what it is. Still, the lead actress was winsome and earnest, and there was enough produciton value to make it sort of feel like a B-grade MCU film. I won't remember much of anything about this movie after a few days except that I saw it. But in the midst of social isolation, any passable content is not to be sneezed at.
  12. Nice commentary from Magnus Carlsen: "This draw offer is, quite frankly, insulting...." Also liked, "He shouldn't smile there...he should be ashamed..." Not surprisingly the essence is that the show tries to inject suspense or drama into a situation where world-caliber chess players would see there is none...
  13. I know one other idea we had for a list was TV shows. I think Crime & Punishment was suggested in the last round. But I know Evan's been wanting to do Musicals for awhile, and I'm inclined (if we do this) to let whoever organizes have maximum input on selecting the topic.
  14. I would be okay with that, though it is hard to tell if there is enough interest to proceed.
  15. This Netflix documentary looks a little different on the other side of last week's failed insurrection at The Capitol. It's argument is depressing but persuasive -- that the conditions that created the violence were predictable (one participant says the thing he most fears based on his understanding of social media manipulation is "civil war") and to some extent unavoidable. Like documentaries dealing with climate change, it is harrowing because it doesn't see a clear solution. The conditions that have been created are so widely entrenched as to make fixes implausible. That's why the post-credits menu of stuff you can do feels forced and ineffective. The dramatizations are also somewhat hokey. A sort of live action version of inside-out with actors playing Facebook technicians monitoring a typical teenager. I wonder how much of this was tested. Still there are bits of lucidity and insight here, including real foundational stuff about political theory and economics. It's worth a watch.
  16. The Immigrant (#91) is on MUBI for 30 days. Looks like we have an old (2014) blurb on there. If anyone wants to update, let me know. But watch the film either way if you've never seen it.
  17. When someone he has befriended leaves the Ku Klux Klan, he often gives Daryl Davis the robe he wore as a member of that group. Over the years, Davis, by his own account, has amassed dozens of these retired jerseys of hate. Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America, which premiered this week at SXSW, chronicles Davis’s attempts to impact America by changing the hearts and minds of one racist at a time. Daryl goes to Klan rallies. He has invited Klansmen to his home and visited them. He calls some of them “friend” even as they call him inferior. In one moving segment, the film recounts how Daryl met the daughters of an incarcertated Klan member at the airport and drove them to the prison so that they could visit their father. Eventually the family noticed that none of the man’s Klan colleagues were serving or loving them as much as Daryl was. Their ideology of hate collapsed in the face of undeserved compassion. “When something bothers me, I try to learn about it,” Davis told me in an exclusive interview at the Austin-baseed film festival after Accidental Courtesy premiered. Part of what makes him so effective at talking to the Klan is that he has read every book he can find on the subject. He asks questions. He gathers information. He listens. Often, it is readily apparent that he knows more about the Klan, its history and practices, than does the person with whom he is dialoging. “I never set out to convert anyone,” he says in the film. Through a mix of diplomacy and Socartic questioning, he will sometimes see a racist begin to think about his ideology rather than simply proclaim it. Eventually, “they end up converting themselves.” In our interview, Davis cited an example, not in the film, of how his own faith helped him to eventually persuade a Klan member that his practices were not compatible with a professed Christian faith. Rather than directly preaching against racism from the Bible, Davis asked the man why, as a Christian, he burnt the cross. Wasn’t that sacriligious? Sometimes a cross burning was a threat, the Klansman explained, but sometimes, at a rally, it was a symbol of purity and meant to light the way for Jesus’s return. “My God lights the way for me, not the other way around,” Davis replied. Eventually the conversant realized that his attitude of superiority had even infected his posture towards God. Not everyone admires Davis’s methodology. In one of Accidental Courtesy’s most complex scenes, Davis is confronted by a trio of African-American community activists at a Baltimore establishment. They denigrate his work, questioning whether it does anything to confront the infrastructure of racism or help those who are suffering under it. In a rare instance of escalating rhetorical provocation, Davis calls them “ignorant.” Their leader refuses to shake hands. When filmmaker Matt Ornstein asks Davis if he feels “disconnected” from Black millenials, Davis observes that just as Klansmen hate other Whites who have sold out more than they do Blacks, so too the anger in Black community is often more fierce when directed towards other Blacks who aren’t in perfect solidarity with the group. Davis was challenged about his treatment of the Baltimore activists at the premiere’s Q&A session, but he refused to back down or be conciliatory. “You have to admit,” he said, in response to an accusation that he showed more defernce to members of the KKK than to the African-Americans who challenged his methods, “I sat down there, I listened to Tom Robb, I listend to Frank Ancona, I listened to the head of the National Nazi party, Jeff Schoep, I let them talk, and make all their ignorant statements before I said anything. I let [the African-American activists in the film] make all their ignorant statements, also. I sat there and I listened. But when it was my turn to talk, who got up and walked away? It wasn’t me.” To be fair, it should be stressed that Davis did not denigrate the work of those who methodology differs from his own, even if they dismiss his accomplishments. “They have their role to play,” he said of the Baltimore activists. In our interview, Davis also conceded that not everyone can do what he does. God hasn’t given him a magic formula or directed his words so much as provided him with the opportunity to be educated and informed, which has helped make him highly intuitive about people. Listen to enough people, and you become more adept at reading the signs of who is truly engaging with you. “If you allow [people] to express their views” he says in the film, “there is an excellent change that people will reciprocate.” Is it really that simple? Can we earn the privilege of talking to people (rather than at them) by being willing to listen to them? If we do, are willing to take the longer, harder path of softening racism or bigotry or prejudice by holding out the hand of friendship to those who despise us without yet knowing us? From whence comes the power and the patience and the perseverance to see the potential in those whose outer shell shows only hatred and disdain? Daryl Davis believes we will be better and stronger and healthier and happier together as one nation than as a segregated one. Late in Accidental Courtesy, Ornstein asks Davis what he is feeling as he watches a video profile of former racists who have left the Klan. What Davis says next was both profound and powerful, a message of hope to a nation frightened and afraid by yet another ugly election season. “These are my fellow Americans.” This review originally appeared at Christianity Today Movies & TV. It is reprinted by agreement with the publisher. All rights retained by the author. View the full article
  18. Love Sarah begins immediately after the death of the titular character, whom we are told was a world class chef. Sarah’s partner reluctantly agrees to sell the restaurant space, and her daughter meets Sarah’s estranged mother because she has nowhere to live. I would like you to stop for a moment and predict three things you might expect to happen in a movie with the set up described above. Go ahead, I’ll wait… If you actually did the above exercise and are still reading, you might make it through Love Sarah since knowing what is coming next is not a deal-breaker for you. It isn’t for me, either, but in the absence of innovation or originality, one would like to see better execution. Sarah’s mom (Celia Imrie) agrees to fund the transition of the space into a bakery. A male pastry chef brings a tender but necessary romcom presence to the struggling business. The aging matriarch connects with her granddaughter, and… But there is not “and…” The closest we get to an idea that is not about plot is when grandma harangues the Eastern European delivery guy about his favorite snacks. He misunderstands what she is asking, of course, so the scene nowhere has the spark of discovery or insight. There is no point in the scene, or the movie, where the audience isn’t at least a step-and-a-half ahead of the characters. I can sort of accept the idea that grandma has never heard of half the deserts that the international community inhabiting Notting Hill crave. But the pastry chef….? Wikipedia says Notting Hill is “known for being a cosmopolitan and multicultural neighborhood,” Which makes it surprising that nobody has ever thought of specializing in international food. But then again, the Notting Hill of this movie apparently has no cookbooks or Internet either, and the can-do cooks have to improvise based on descriptions of said treats given in the broken English of the movie immigrant. If the previous paragraph sounds like a nitpick, I can only say that it wouldn’t be half so annoying if it weren’t presented as an act of stupefying genius. It’s not that food preparation can be dramatically or artistically filmed. (Pardon me for a second while I go re-watch Big Night.) It’s not even that the idea of food preparation drawing people together is less dramatic than explosions or space explorations. (Pardon me for a second while I go re-watch Babette’s Feast.) It’s certainly not the case that grief can’t make mourners draw together for comfort. It’s just that nothing unfolds in Love Sarah that suggests the movie is remotely curious about how these things happen or why they might move us deeply. It is apparently enough to record that they do and expect that they will. A few weeks ago, I was surprised to give a mild endorsement to another modest, female-led (or co-led) indie: Modern Persuasion. I was hoping that Love Sarah would be similarly charming, but it ended up too safe, too middle-of-the-road. It’s competently directed, and the actors are fine. The screenplay needs work, though. Good writing is one of the most undervalued qualities in most smaller budget, modern movies. When a story is this conventional, some other aspect needs to be superlative in order to elevate the film. Love Sarah will be available in the United States on January 15, 2021. View the full article
  19. For the seventh year in a row, members and friends of the Arts & Faith forum attempted to bring attention to films specifically recommended to a Christian audience. The Arts & Faith Ecumenical Jury is not affiliated with Interfilm -- best known for forming an Ecumenical Jury at various world film festivals, especially Cannes. The Arts & Faith groups was created in 2014 after Christianity Today discontinued its annual lists of critics choices and "most redemptive" films. Although many participants at Arts & Faith identify as Christian, the forum itself is not affiliated with any particular denomination or faith tradition. The jury seeks not to identify the best films by some artistic criteria but rather those films that its members most recommend to Christian audiences. In recent years the list has more broadly overlapped the lists of recommendations of other critics' groups offering awards. Perhaps this trend reflects the renewed interest in the culture at large in the themes of spirituality and religion. Perhaps it reflect a development or evolution of taste among the members of the the Arts & Faith Community and in the niche of the film blogosphere that is open to Christian art and criticism. If the films are more broadly known and thus less in need of promotion, what purpose can such a list serve? Especially in a year such as 2020, it can direct the attention of those who perhaps do not follow film news as closely or enthusiastically as professional and amateur reviewers. It is my hope that it can also serve as a model, albeit a broad and diverse one, of Christian engagement with film. The titles on these lists are usually less interesting and revealing to me than the reasons individual critics give for championing them. It is in their appreciations, posted below and aggregated and stored on the website's list threads (http://artsandfaith.com/index.php?/films/year/20-2020-arts-faith-ecumenical-jury/) that the Arts & Faith Ecumenical Jury may best reflect the historic purpose of this tradition and, indeed, of this forum. -- Kenneth R. Morefield (2020) 1) Nomadland (Chloé Zhao) From writer and director Chloé Zhao, adapted from a book written by Jessica Bruder, Nomadland shows us real, honest stories about people simply being people. Depicted with candidness are the highs and lows, the pain and peace, and the turmoil and tranquility of everyday life. We see people absorbing the wholesome beauty of the natural world, and pondering the very nature of their existence and purpose as members of the human race. Frances McDormand portrays Fern, a woman from Nevada who loses her job during the economic turmoil of the Recession and begins a life of minimalism. Living out of a van and traveling across the country, Fern becomes detached from the materialistic nature of our society and has more opportunities to personally reflect on spirituality and faithfulness. This is not directly represented as “religion” in the traditional sense, Christianity or otherwise, but the perceived presence of the divine plays heavily into the lives of Fern and other nomads she meets along the way, like Linda May, Swankie, and her spiritual guide of sorts, Bob Wells. Fern also faces the unapologetic reality of our mortality, as a close friend passes away. Yet, as Bob Wells says, “One of the things I love most about this life is that there's no final goodbye. You know, I've met hundreds of people out here and I don't ever say a final goodbye. I always just say, ‘I'll see you down the road.’” This is a relatively simple statement that contains an unbelievably powerful reminder that our legacy is defined by the people we touch along the way. We do not have to change the entire world single-handedly in order to carry out God’s will. Rather, it is the intentions we bring to each individual interaction and moment that reveal our ultimate essence. The compassion, empathy, and humanity that should drive our actions as we plainly exist and live in the Kingdom of God construct the core of our livelihoods. The contrast of the grace and rawness found in Nomadland makes a lovely case for this organic, transparent outlook. -- Thomas Manning, Co-host of Meet Me at the Movies 2) Minari -- Endorsement coming from Steven D. Greydanus 3) Dick Johnson is Dead -- Endorsement coming from Kevin McLenithan 4) Sound of Metal (Darius Marder) Sound of Metal follows Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a heavy-metal drummer who loses most of his hearing while on tour with his bandmate and girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). In an attempt to slow his resulting mental spiral, Ruben checks into a religious program for deaf addicts. There, under the tutelage of a Vietnam veteran named Joe (Paul Raci), Ruben faces a life-changing fork in the road: will he view his deafness as a disability or a chance for a new start? Through meditative compositions and a stripped down soundtrack, director Darius Marder emphasizes how Ruben’s reaction to his physical circumstances reveal his spiritual well-being. Ruben makes it clear that he’s not religious, and initially shuns the thought of a church sponsoring his way through Joe’s program, but in his desperation he slowly begins to doubt his doubts. A Christian himself, Joe encourages Ruben to focus less on his loss of hearing, and instead assess the state of his soul through divine rest. “The world does keep moving,” he says. “But for me, those moments of stillness, that place, that’s the kingdom of God.” In the end, Ruben’s journey doesn’t bring him to any altar calls, but the story provokes deep, spiritual introspection. Where do we find the kingdom of God in a transitory world such as ours? In our own abilities and strength, or in the beauty of tapping into a reverberation, a longing, embedded deep within the universe? Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him hear,” but might this hearing extend further than just our physical senses, and instead touch the very fabric of our souls? — Wade Bearden, co-host of Seeing and Believing 5) Soul -- Endorsement coming from Noel T. Manning, II 6) First Cow (Kelly Reichardt) The rich exist for the sake of the poor,” said St. John Chrysostom, “but the poor exist for the salvation of the rich.” Watching Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow—a tale of survival and friendship about a pioneer and cook (John Magaro) and the Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee) with whom he sets up an unorthodox business—with that sentiment in mind colors this story of entrepreneurship. The rich man is Toby Jones’ Chief Factor, who owns the only cow in the Oregon settlement. When the two protagonists decide to steal some of its milk to sell miniature cakes, what begins as a means of survival becomes an opportunity for greed to set in. The bonds of friendship may transcend material possessions, and at its heart, this film is a beautiful story of friendship as necessary to survival; however, the bondage to capital and to whomever has the most of it haunts not only our protagonists but the world for generations. -- Evan Cogswell (2020) 7) The Painter and the Thief (Benjamin Ree) In 2015, Karl-Bertil Nordland broke into an art gallery in Oslo and stole a beloved painting by Czech artist, Barbora Kysilkova. He was soon arrested and Barbora attended the trial to confront him about the location of her missing work. Intoxicated at the time, Karl-Bertil didn’t remember what happened to the painting, so Barbora asked him a different question: could she paint him? Kart-Bertil accepted and an unconventional relationship was born. Benjamin Ree’s documentary The Painter and the Thief charts this unconventional friendship over the course of three years. At first, it seems to be an examination of the beauty of forgiveness, embodied by the stunning painting Barbora makes of Karl-Bertil. But Ree soon deepens the examination. He begins by telling the story from Barbora’s perspective, but doubles back to show the same events from Karl-Bertil’s perspective, which complicates our assumptions about their relationship and deepens our understanding of how grace operates. There’s an old Chinese proverb that says that if you save a life, you are responsible for that life. The Painter and the Thief resembles the truth of this proverb, but also demonstrates that often redemption works both ways, with forgiveness healing the forgiver as well as the forgiven. In this way, the film captures the mystery of grace and the divine potential of human reconciliation. -- Aren Bergstrom, 3brothersfilm.com 8) Da 5 Bloods -- Spike Lee Four friends, veterans of an Imperial overseas war, return many years later to the country they fought in, ostensibly to repatriate the body of their fallen comrade, but also to retrieve a cache of hidden gold in the mountains. Once there, they must confront their own traumatic memories of the war and the ways that it has shaped them in the years since. Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods is in many ways a riff on the similarly plotted The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, along with other Vietnam War films like Apocalypse Now or Platoon, bringing special attention to the experiences and travails of African American soldiers and exploring the lasting impacts of the war upon their lives. Lee’s film is a bit long, sprawling, and undeniably messy — its choice to centre the experiences of African Americans over the brutality inflicted upon the Vietnamese people is justifiable and timely, but means the film’s anti-war message is somewhat mixed. But it’s also an entertaining, moving, and educational film, in the best sense of the term. It’s a war movie, but it’s also a buddy comedy and a father-child reunion film. Throughout Lee highlights the unequal burden borne by African American soldiers during the Vietnam conflict, and the film’s heart is in the pain and shame that these men still carry, over the things they did in the war and the loss of their friend, Stormin’ Norman, played in flashbacks by the late Chadwick Boseman as a kind of superheroic figure. The character of Paul, in particular, in a monumental performance by Delroy Lindo, has become a bitter, MAGA hat wearing Trump supporter, dealing with some serious issues of self-loathing and a desire to claim some of that American power. But in its confrontation with the shadows of his past, and accompanied by his son, played by Lovecraft Country’s Jonathan Majors, Paul ekes his way toward reconciliation and forgiveness, however imperfectly. At the film’s climax, Paul is confronted by what is either the memory or ghost of Norman, and Norman forgives Paul for his tresspases against him with the refrain, “God is Love, Love is God.” It’s an echo of the title of Marvin’ Gaye’s song, “God is Love,” whose songs soundtrack the film. In its sprawling messiness, Da 5 Bloods is able to tackle quite a bit, and ultimately becomes a kind of plea for understanding and humanity in the midst of the carnage of war and the hurt that we do to each other. It moved me and educated me, and for that I am grateful. 9) Young Ahmed (Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne) The Dardenne brothers' latest cinematic parable is certainly one of their most provocative and challenging films. It has generated a variety of critiques from film critics: it is somehow too liberal and too conservative, too similar to their previous social realist films and too much of an anomaly, too straightforward and too ambiguous. The film's synopsis—a young Muslim teenager’s newfound fundamentalist views prompt him to repeatedly attempt to kill his teacher—elicited a strong dismissive reaction in certain film critics, and there was a call on social media for the film (and the Dardennes) to be "cancelled" before the film even premiered at the Festival de Cannes in 2019. Nevertheless, Young Ahmed remains strongly anchored within the Dardennes’ sui generis visual style and thematic interests, namely the moral formation of young people and the ethical question of taking a human life, as well as our human capacity for empathy and responsibility for our neighbor. As the film follows the opaque 13-year-old Ahmed (Idir Ben Addi) and his kindhearted Muslim schoolteacher, Inès (Myriem Akheddiou), it generates questions in the audience's mind: how might contemporary societies or communities (including churches) respond to a repentant radicalized person? Is it possible to sympathize with or even forgive individuals who have become entrenched in dangerous ideologies? What can or should be done to help de-radicalize people caught in such paradigms (for example, the recent QAnon phenomenon)? This is the power of cinematic parables like the Dardennes' films: through a reorientation by disorientation, they may transform our moral and theological imaginations for the better. -- Joel Mayward (2020) 10) David Byrne's American Utopia -- Endorsement coming from...
  20. I am very pleased that 11 A&F members and friends kept this tradition alive. The results have been populated in our list section: http://artsandfaith.com/index.php?/films/year/20-2020-arts-faith-ecumenical-jury/ I'll be adding an intro at the A&F Blog and we have blurbs coming from various participants. The final list was: 1) Nomadland 2) Minari 3) Dick Johnson is Dead 4) Sound of Metal 5) Soul 6) First Cow 7) The Painter and the Thief 8) Da 5 Bloods 9) Young Ahmed 10) David Byrne's American Utopia
  21. The Dardenne brothers' latest cinematic parable is certainly one of their most provocative and challenging films. It has generated a variety of critiques from film critics: it is somehow too liberal and too conservative, too similar to their previous social realist films and too much of an anomaly, too straightforward and too ambiguous. The film's synopsis—a young Muslim teenager’s newfound fundamentalist views prompt him to repeatedly attempt to kill his teacher—elicited a strong dismissive reaction in certain film critics, and there was a call on social media for the film (and the Dardennes) to be "cancelled" before the film even premiered at the Festival de Cannes in 2019. Nevertheless, Young Ahmed remains strongly anchored within the Dardennes’ sui generis visual style and thematic interests, namely the moral formation of young people and the ethical question of taking a human life, as well as our human capacity for empathy and responsibility for our neighbor. As the film follows the opaque 13-year-old Ahmed (Idir Ben Addi) and his kindhearted Muslim schoolteacher, Inès (Myriem Akheddiou), it generates questions in the audience's mind: how might contemporary societies or communities (including churches) respond to a repentant radicalized person? Is it possible to sympathize with or even forgive individuals who have become entrenched in dangerous ideologies? What can or should be done to help de-radicalize people caught in such paradigms (for example, the recent QAnon phenomenon)? This is the power of cinematic parables like the Dardennes' films: through a reorientation by disorientation, they may transform our moral and theological imaginations for the better. -- Joel Mayward (2020)

  22. Four friends, veterans of an Imperial overseas war, return many years later to the country they fought in, ostensibly to repatriate the body of their fallen comrade, but also to retrieve a cache of hidden gold in the mountains. Once there, they must confront their own traumatic memories of the war and the ways that it has shaped them in the years since. Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods is in many ways a riff on the similarly plotted The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, along with other Vietnam War films like Apocalypse Now or Platoon, bringing special attention to the experiences and travails of African American soldiers and exploring the lasting impacts of the war upon their lives.

    Lee’s film is a bit long, sprawling, and undeniably messy — its choice to centre the experiences of African Americans over the brutality inflicted upon the Vietnamese people is justifiable and timely, but means the film’s anti-war message is somewhat mixed. But it’s also an entertaining, moving, and educational film, in the best sense of the term. It’s a war movie, but it’s also a buddy comedy and a father-child reunion film. Throughout Lee highlights the unequal burden borne by African American soldiers during the Vietnam conflict, and the film’s heart is in the pain and shame that these men still carry, over the things they did in the war and the loss of their friend, Stormin’ Norman, played in flashbacks by the late Chadwick Boseman as a kind of superheroic figure. The character of Paul, in particular, in a monumental performance by Delroy Lindo, has become a bitter, MAGA hat wearing Trump supporter, dealing with some serious issues of self-loathing and a desire to claim some of that American power. But in its confrontation with the shadows of his past, and accompanied by his son, played by Lovecraft Country’s Jonathan Majors, Paul ekes his way toward reconciliation and forgiveness, however imperfectly.

    At the film’s climax, Paul is confronted by what is either the memory or ghost of Norman, and Norman forgives Paul for his tresspases against him with the refrain, “God is Love, Love is God.” It’s an echo of the title of Marvin’ Gaye’s song, “God is Love,” whose songs soundtrack the film. In its sprawling messiness, Da 5 Bloods is able to tackle quite a bit, and ultimately becomes a kind of plea for understanding and humanity in the midst of the carnage of war and the hurt that we do to each other. It moved me and educated me, and for that I am grateful.

    -- Anders Bergstrom (2020)

  23. In 2015, Karl-Bertil Nordland broke into an art gallery in Oslo and stole a beloved painting by Czech artist, Barbora Kysilkova. He was soon arrested and Barbora attended the trial to confront him about the location of her missing work. Intoxicated at the time, Karl-Bertil didn’t remember what happened to the painting, so Barbora asked him a different question: could she paint him? Kart-Bertil accepted and an unconventional relationship was born. 

    Benjamin Ree’s documentary The Painter and the Thief charts this unconventional friendship over the course of three years. At first, it seems to be an examination of the beauty of forgiveness, embodied by the stunning painting Barbora makes of Karl-Bertil. But Ree soon deepens the examination. He begins by telling the story from Barbora’s perspective, but doubles back to show the same events from Karl-Bertil’s perspective, which complicates our assumptions about their relationship and deepens our understanding of how grace operates.

    There’s an old Chinese proverb that says that if you save a life, you are responsible for that life. The Painter and the Thief resembles the truth of this proverb, but also demonstrates that often redemption works both ways, with forgiveness healing the forgiver as well as the forgiven. In this way, the film captures the mystery of grace and the divine potential of human reconciliation.

    -- Aren Bergstrom, 3brothersfilm.com

     

  24. The rich exist for the sake of the poor,” said St. John Chrysostom, “but the poor exist for the salvation of the rich.” Watching Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow—a tale of survival and friendship about a pioneer and cook (John Magaro) and the Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee) with whom he sets up an unorthodox business—with that sentiment in mind colors this story of entrepreneurship. The rich man is Toby Jones’ Chief Factor, who owns the only cow in the Oregon settlement. When the two protagonists decide to steal some of its milk to sell miniature cakes, what begins as a means of survival becomes an opportunity for greed to set in. The bonds of friendship may transcend material possessions, and at its heart, this film is a beautiful story of friendship as necessary to survival; however, the bondage to capital and to whomever has the most of it haunts not only our protagonists but the world for generations. -- Evan Cogswell (2020)

     

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