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About Christian

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  • Gender
  • Location
    Fairfax, VA
  • Interests
    Film, religion, jazz.

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  • Occupation
    Publications Manager
  • Favorite movies
    Dardennes brothers, Tarkovsky, Dreyer, Coens, De Palma, some Kubrick
  • Favorite music
    Hard-bop jazz.
  • Favorite creative writing
    Junot Diaz, Matt Labash, Marilynne Robinson

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  1. Stan Brakhage

    I don't post here much, but wanted to jump back in to say that, five and half years after buying this set, I think I may have, at last, stumbled on to a way to approach the material. I've mentioned over the years both that I easily fall asleep when viewing feature films at home, and it's happened multiple times while trying to watch the Brakhage disc(s). I've also said that I've had revelatory experiences with certain films while at the gym, on the treadmill. (This happened with Scorsese's New York, New York and, at home on the treadmill, with Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.) This morning, for my run, I had no audiobook to listen to and couldn't get my OTA antenna to work (I figured I'd just put on the local news - something I never do - just to have something to stare at while I ran on the treadmill). So, searching for a DVD that wouldn't require me to read subtitles or captions - I have trouble with those from the distance my treadmill is from the TV, but also because the slight bouncing in my stride makes it hard to lock in the text) - I decided to put the Brakhage Disc 1 on. I don't know if it's the endorphins or some sort of chemical response from the exercise, but the films played as new to me, and as extraordinary. I think I'm only on the third one, Dog Star Man, but some of the imagery was unfamiliar to me and, having to pull the disc out quickly once my workout was over so I could get ready for the day, couldn't confirm from the chapter listing that I was actually watching DSM (yes, I felt stupid; googling it before posting this morning didn't provide the visual confirmation I was hoping for). Still, whichever film I was watching was just beautifully strange, and now I feel like maybe, just maybe, I'm ready for more Brakhage. Another 2018 movie resolution, maybe?
  2. Thanks, Joel, for sending out the ballot. I filled mine out and am only now scanning the list of nominated films that didn't get a second. I can roll with titles being left off - not all of us see everything, and we don't all feel strongly about the same films - but I was still quite surprised to see Loveless not seconded. That film has haunted me since seeing it, and it deals with moral issues in profound ways. Its view of faith may be negative - something that I've said makes me hesitant when considering eligible films for this list. So I can see why someone might not want to "endorse" Loveless with a jury nomination. But the other part of me is picturing jury member finally catching up with Loveless, which I choose to believe they simply must not have seen (right??), and kicking themselves for leaving it off our list. My imagined life - the one where everyone realizes how correct I am - is my best life. Happy new year, all!
  3. Second The Shape of Water. For this list, I shy away from religious characters/characterizations that are primarily negative in nature, and Shannon fits that description. But Eliza's statement about being evaluated not by what you lack struck me as a picture of grace. I've been reluctant to champion that angle because it might equate God to, ya know, a fish-man (who's described as "a god"), but I was genuinely moved along those lines both times I watched the film.
  4. Second "On the Beach at Night Alone." I'd love to nominate Hong's 2017 film "The Day After," which I preferred to "Beach," but it looks as though "Day" doesn't have an official opening date in the U.S. this calendar year.
  5. The Post is superb, but I hadn't thought to nominate it for this list. Nevertheless, I'm happy to second Peter's nomination.
  6. Ah, the ending! Yes, I suppose there's something to that for our list. OK, I second The Trip to Italy.
  7. My main concern about including Twin Peaks is the implied obligation, if it's nominated, to become a Showtime subscriber in order to access it. I'm sure the program will be worthwhile - I've been wanting to watch it for months - but I don't have Showtime, would have to sign up (maybe jam the entire series into a 7-Day trial, is that's still a current offering) or become a paid Showtime subscriber to watch the film within our screening/voting window. At least with the multi-hour O.J. documentary I was sent a screener and could work in the episodes where I could. Also: Is Showtime pushing this program for Oscar consideration the way ESPN pushed the O.J. documentary? I don't want to dampen others' enthusiasm for nominating the program, but I also don't want to hurt the film's chances if I'm unable to watch an entire TV series amid the many other features and documentaries that compete for my time during awards season - although skipping a nominee during voting doesn't actively hurt the film the way, say, a vote of "0" or "1" would (or whatever the low end of our scale is), right?
  8. !!! I loved this movie but hadn't even thought to consider it for this list. Persuade me? (I may have left this one off my running best-of list for the year. If so, gotta go in and fix that.)
  9. I'll nominate Mudbound, which I just saw last night. Like Lady Bird, I have some issues with the film, but here the faith elements are so strong and beautifully integrated into much of the story that I think it's an obvious candidate for our list. Oh, and since I may not have restated it this year and feel like I should: I confess that my tendency for nominating films to this list is to focus on films (not exclusively, but mostly) that explicitly reference faith or a life of devotion to God - or even when far from orthodox, at least acknowledge that this life might not be all there is (see Personal Shopper) or that show characters exhibiting Christian virtues such as forgiveness (The Glass Castle). I see many films each year that are excellent and that go high on my personal Top 20 lists that don't do those things, but I like this list because I can highlight particular films for those particular reasons. I know others don't use the same nominating criteria. We've hashed this out over the years and don't need to do so again. But I wanted to put this out there as we start in on this year's nominations.
  10. More! Though I have reservations about it, I think Lady Bird is worth nominating: Lady Bird If the name Saoirse Ronan isn’t familiar to you yet, it soon will be. In Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Ronan plays Christine, or “Lady Bird” as she prefers to be called—a Catholic high school senior desperate to flee her home state of California. Hoping to gain admittance to an East Coast college, she conspires with her father against the wishes of her mother to apply to out-of-state schools as she searches for an identity to embrace. There are pleasures along the way for viewers, but there are also familiar tropes: a gay character struggling with when to come out, and one horrible abortion joke that is so facile I was embarrassed for the audience members who laughed at it. But the ending of Lady Bird won me back to the film, suggesting that the few cheap barbs along the way may—may—be part of Christine’s journey to a more meaningful life. I'll also add two nominations from that running list that I can now access. The first falls into the "not well reviewed but suitable, I think, for this list" - I always nominate one or two such movies, although they rarely make the cut: The Glass Castle: Feels familiar at times in prompting a heroine to confront her parents' failings, but The Glass Castle also acknowledges an uncomfortable, unshakeable truth: even the most troubled parents "have their moments," and reconciliation brings closure and healing. A Ghost Story: More a story about grief than about the afterlife, and not orthodox in its view of what follows death. But while it goes in directions I didn't completely track (I need to see it again), the film has stayed with me, even - wait for it - haunted me since seeing it. I know others have (legitimate) issues with it. I was on the fence about bringing it up for the jury's consideratioin, but I've tipped into the "nominate it" camp.
  11. I second all of these, including mother! I don't second The Beguiled but only because I haven't yet seen it.
  12. Reasons for my nominations above (taken from capsule reviews I wrote of the films): Loveless The best film I saw at Middleburg, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s drama of marital dissolution and systemic corruption uses the story of a missing boy and his divorcing parents to demonstrate the different forms a lack of love takes. From its hard-to-shake reveal of a young boy overhearing his parents tear into each other to a conclusion that offers little comfort, Loveless is pointed about the things that nourish us and give us life (pregnancy is a major story element) and those that destroy it (abortion and suspected abduction). In a bleak, loveless world, a man described as a fundamentalist Christian seems close to joyful, relatively speaking, if only in a Ned Flanders sort of way. Zvagintsev may not see answers in faith—he’s more attuned to hypocrisies in that realm—but in diagnosing the fraying of family life and cultural norms, he’s made something simultaneously slow and gripping, driven by mysteries with no easy solutions. Novitiate A fine religious drama about a young woman’s search for spiritual significance, Novitiate stars Margaret Qualley (HBO’s The Leftovers) as Sister Cathleen, a postulant under the care of a Reverend Mother (Melissa Leo) who wrestles with how or whether to implement the changes resulting from Vatican II. “We were women in love,” Sister Cathleen says of the nuns’ devotion to Christ, but they struggle under the Reverend Mother’s rigorous forms of religious discipline. Qualley’s sensitive portrayal of Sister Cathleen and the honest way in which the nuns express concerns, even doubts, about the life they believe they’re called to provide a connection even for non-Catholics to appreciate the nuns’ struggles. This is honest, brave storytelling that doesn’t celebrate doubt but allows its characters to genuinely seek the truth. Hostiles In the late 1880s, under orders of the U.S. government, Army captain Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) must escort the dying Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family back to his home in Montana, where he can die in peace. Blocker has seen too much bloodshed at the hands of Native Americans to want the “honor” of such an assignment, but when his pension is threatened, Blocker reluctantly agrees to the journey. Dangers from hostile natives will draw Blocker and Yellow Hawk together as they take on a common adversary. The story is violent at times and not without some pacing problems, but director Scott Cooper has made a worthy addition to the canon of revisionist Westerns with Hostiles, which includes scenes of men reading Scripture, singing spirituals and sharing heartfelt expressions of faith.
  13. The timeline is fine. I keep a running list of films I've seen each year, but I keep it on my laptop and don't have access to it while I'm here at work. I keep forgetting to post it in an accessible place. So for now, I'll add a few nominees from memory. I will probably add more later, but if so, I'll create a new post so that the new nominees will be visible to those looking at new posts. If Joel prefers I update this post with additional nominees, I can do that, but then others have to actively be looking at this post, with no notification that it's been updated, right? That seems to disadvantage future nominees, but if that's the way we're supposed to supplement an initial batch of nominees, I'll abide by that. I nominate the following, all seen at festivals and not opening until late in the year (except for Novitiate, which opened in NY/LA this past weekend): Loveless (opens in December) Hostiles (opens in December) Novitiate I second: Personal Shopper (my #1 film of the year so far, so I hope it'll be deemed eligible for the 2017 Jury awards) The Florida Project Columbus The Son of Joseph