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Everything posted by Christian

  1. Christian

    Destroyer (2018)

    I wasn't much of a fan - didn't hate it, didn't love it - but I did wonder what was going on with a co-worker inviting the lead character to a Bible study (did anything come of that? I thought it was dropped), a character who's a pastor (though compromised, as is everyone else, it seemed), a visit to his church, and, ummm, what's up with the title of this movie? I'd by lying if I didn't say that John 10:10 popped to mind while considering, but that's, uh, probably a reach, right? And the film comes out on ... Christmas Day. It's almost like the entire movie is one giant troll. But again, I'm not sure there's anything intentional behind those disparate story and release-date elements. Neither of the screenwriters nor the director have faith-informed backgrounds, as far as I know.
  2. Just finished it up this morning. Seconded! Also a big second for the mighty November and the lovely, ultimately moving (and, dare I say, kind of gentle?) The Sisters Brothers.
  3. I'll go ahead and second Gareth's nomination of Blindspotting, which I had indicated earlier I was on the fence about nominating myself. I'm still wrestling with its application for the A&F list, but I'll be honest: It's one of my favorite movies of the year, and I'd love for more people to see it. So, on that selfish score, I'm seconding it. I hope others embrace it - as part of this list, or for any other reason. It's so alive as you watch it. Just great.
  4. Christian

    Roma (2018)

    I am glad to see your thoughts, Ken. I watched this last week with two other critics who raved about it. I had to sheepishly confess that I felt disconnected to the material nearly for the duration of the film. It's hard not to be affected by the childbirth scene (although I found myself impatient during the run-up to the delivery; "why is this pregnancy scene taking so long?"), and a late sequence at a beach during high tide struck me as a technical marvel. But for most of the film, I found myself wondering why I felt so little about what was happening. I had expected to be captivated by the cinematography alone, but even that didn't strike me as particularly dazzling.
  5. OK, looking over my running list of the year's best films, I nominate these documentaries for the EJ: Hale County This Morning, This Evening: I suppose it's hard to find - I saw it at AFI DOCS - but IMDB confirms that the film had a release date of September 14, 2018. From my AFI DOCS capsule reviews: A largely non-narrative look at an African American community in Alabama, Hale County: This Morning, This Evening follows the lives of Daniel, a college basketball player at Selma University, and Quincy, whose wife is about to deliver twins. But Hale County is also a tapestry, including scenes of a worship service, echoes of Scripture (Daniel paraphrases Matthew 6:34), and people sporting “Know Jesus, Know Peace. No Jesus, No Peace” t-shirts alongside heartbreaking scenes of mortality. Days after seeing it, Hale County continues to rise in my estimation. If not my favorite documentary of the festival, it may be the best. For the Birds: This one released June 18; I don't think it ever played in the D.C. market. I'm nominating it because of its look at marriage: For the Birds' obsessed protagonist has no scientific background, but she’s surrounded by turkeys, ducks and chickens—and a husband who seems to rate lower than the birds. “To me they’re family,” says the bird obsessive. “You gotta have something you believe in. Something that makes you get up in the morning.” What starts as a look at a quirky, possibly mentally ill animal lover becomes a story about a strained marriage and, ultimately, the strength of bonds that carry over to later decades. I left For the Birds unconvinced by its conclusion but fascinated by how one couple’s strife competed with their need for companionship.
  6. Christian

    Oscars 2019: Best Documentary Feature

    I've seen several of these - not anywhere close to a majority, but more than in recent years - and just wanted to take a second to plug The Road Movie, which Prime members can stream for free at Amazon Prime. It's a blast! Not necessarily award-caliber, or my choice for the year's best documentary, but it appealed to the younger man in me who used to love clips of David Letterman throwing watermelons and such off a 10-story tower. Same kind of effect here, although, to use a road-trip analogy, your mileage may vary.
  7. Thanks, Joel. I kept meaning to come here yesterday and edit my post, removing the counterproductive "let's discuss this before I nominate" stuff. I've done the EJ for a few years and know how the nominations work. I was just trying to rush a "seconding" post before heading out the door, and was contemplating making a few nominations myself. I was trying to express some uncertainty about doing the latter, given my own interpretation from years past of which films best qualify for this list. (I seem to be less expansive than others in determining which films best fit the EJ.) Anyway, a poor choice on my part. Having thought about those potential nominations for a day, I don't think I'll officially nominate any of 'em. I may yet submit some nominations, but I haven't given a lot of thought as to which films I'd nominate (that haven't already been nominated by others), or the dreaded rationale for doing so.
  8. I second Support the Girls, Minding the Gap and, although I'm not sure what it all meant, the amazing Madeline's Madeline. [EDIT: What follows is discussed below by Joel M., with a reply from me on the next page. I was going to delete the paragraphs below, but they were quoted before I could do so. So I'm leaving the post up in full, with this indication that I made a final decision later in this thread.] Now, let me ask about some nominations of my own. I'm unsure whether or not to nominate Blindspottiing, Damsel and Let the Sunshine In. I have to run out the door and don't have time to flesh out reasons, or lack thereof, to nominate them or not. I have distinct ideas about which films should be on our list, and I'm not sure I'm entirely on board with those three films for this list. But they're each quite good in their own way. So I'll leave it at this: Would you nominate any of those three? If so, why? Yes, this is now a discussion of whether or not certain films qualify for our list, and that might open a can of worms. But I'm reluctant to nominate any of those three films without some discussion of whether they "fit" on our list. Ken: If this isn't an appropriate use of this thread, just let me know and I'll delete everything after the first paragraph seconding earlier nominations.
  9. Christian

    The Nutcracker and The Four Realms (2018)

    Fantastic to hear that, Ken. I'm a Knightley fan, but rarely go see films because of who's starring in them. I wasn't very interested in this Nutcracker. You may have changed that. As for go-for-broke Knightley performances, I've gone back-and-forth about her role in A Dangerous Method. Publicly I've lauded the performance and have tussled with critics less friendly toward it. But I've seen the film three times (I think), and I'd be lying if I didn't admit to moments where I thought, "Maybe this is a bit much."
  10. Melissa: That's the best description I've read of YWNRH, a film that, frankly, I didn't much care for. But you've got me thinking I should give it another look. Thanks.
  11. Christian

    2018 Arts & Faith Ecumenical Jury

    Thanks, Joel. I'm happy to participate, but my affiliation should be Patheos/Schaeffer's Ghost; Crosswalk cut loose all its freelance reviewers in January. The Washington Area Film Critics Association kept me on its books despite my dropoff in published reviews - at least for this year - so for now I have continued access to screeners, which have started to arrive.
  12. Christian

    A&F Site News -- Please Read

    I'm glad the site will live on under your guidance, Ken. Thank you for taking the initiative to preserve A&F. I still check the board frequently to read new posts.
  13. Christian

    Await Your Reply

    Hoo boy. Lemme check. Thanks for alerting me. Yes, wrong link. Try this one.
  14. Christian

    Await Your Reply

    Last week I found a hardback copy of "Await Your Reply" at a library used book sale and bought it. But the main reason I wanted to post here was to link to today's Chaon essay in the New York Times Travel section. It includes a few film references, FWIW: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/29/travel/elda-restaurant-biddeford-maine-review.html?action=click&contentCollection=travel&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront
  15. Christian

    Top 25 or 100 for 2018-19

    Yes, let's do away with weighted voting. I have a lot of posts here at A&F, but as my participation waned, then ceased, in recent years, I'd wondered if my votes carried more weight than they should relative to those who were more active on the board. (My highest-rated choices never seemed to place too high on the final lists, alleviating my concern somewhat.) I've enjoyed the Ecumenical Jury the past few years and hope it continues. Even if I were not to participate in the jury, I'd still value reading its results/awards.
  16. Christian

    Top 25 or 100 for 2018-19

    I'm on board but worry about the level of participation and how that might affect the results. What's our baseline participation goal for a new Top 100?
  17. We have threads about fiction (for men) and about the decline in literary reading, but I couldn't find a good fit for a thread devoted to discussion of the novel -- specifically the American novel. Roger Kimball had an essay on the subject in last week's Weekly Standard. It was locked for subscribers, so I could read only the early portion of the essay (open to all site visitors) when the issue was initially posted. That got me thinking about the subject. Then the site made the entire article available. I've read through it but haven't really digested all that it offers. I thought, however, that it might be a topic of interest for A&F. Kimball's core argument: There was a moment, an extended moment that lasted many decades, in which some fiction consciously performed a patently moral role quite apart from its value as entertainment. I should stress that by “moral” I do not necessarily mean moralistic or even didactic. Some fiction was indeed patently didactic, but much of the best fiction was moral in a broader, more insinuating sense. Its designs upon the reader—and the reader’s designs upon it—were often laced with equivocation and ambiguity, but were no less imperative for that. It was in this context, perhaps, that we should understand James’s observation (in that same essay) that the novel was “the most immediate and .  .  . admirably treacherous picture of actual manners.” I feel sure that, could we but fully unpack the union of those words “admirably” and “treacherous” in James’s understanding, we would understand a great deal. If we understood also what he meant by “manners” we would be in very good shape indeed. My point here is to suggest that changes in our culture have precipitated changes in the novel or, more to the point, changes in the reception and spiritual significance of the novel. It was before my time, but not I think much before my time, that a cultivated person would await the publication of an important new novel with an anticipation whose motivation was as much existential as diversionary. This, I believe, is mostly not the case now, and the reasons have only partly to do with the character and quality of the novels on offer. At least as important is the character and quality of our culture. Kimball also believes that "much of the most beguiling fiction written today is genre fiction: mysteries, for example, or certain species of light comedy—frosting on the serious cake of life. (There are exceptions, of course, but they remain just that: exceptions.)" And he says he does "not deny that there are good novels written today. I think, for example, of the spare, deeply felt novels of Marilynne Robinson, especially Gilead, her quiet masterpiece from a few years back." But he suspects the culture is shifting away from great American novels, and that our conversation of great American novels will increasingly rely on older novels. (Seems like that's always been the case, no?) It's worth reading the whole thing. I'm curious to know who here agrees with Kimball's diagnosis. Also: What's the last Great American Novel you read? I'd go with Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. Yeah, I know it's designed to be thought of as a "Great American novel" -- akin to the Oscar-bait movies released en masse in the fall of each year. But the book surprised me, it hit me hard and struck me as deeply insightful about the human condition. Maybe I'm just a sucker, or maybe I need to read more American novels.
  18. Christian

    My Brother's Wedding

    I've been looking for a Charles Burnett-related thread to post this, but can't find an existing thread that seems appropriate. This film deserves its own thread. Rather than describe the plot, I'll link to Doug C.'s excellent post on the film. I saw the movie last night. I recommend it strongly to everyone on this board, and want to encourage consideration of this cut of the film for consideration on year-end Top 10 lists. I haven't orgazined a top 10 list yet -- not even in my head -- but am confident that this film will be sitting right near the top of it, maybe at Number 1. It is, in a word, fantastic, and certainly worthy of consideration as a "spiritual film," although I don't know that the film is primarily about faith. (Burnett attended the screening and suggested that spirituality/church is just one aspect of the film, although much more present here than in Killer of Sheep, FWIW). This film was originally released in 1983, in a much longer cut, but only now is it in the director's intended form (surprisingly trimmed -- significantly -- rather than expanded). I wasn't going to bother making the case for this film as a 2007 release because I didn't think it was getting a theatrical run, but A.O. Scott says otherwise in a Sept. 14 article. However, your best chance to see the film is on DVD, as Scott notes: His early films in particular also testify to the vitality of a neorealist impulse that has never quite taken root in American cinema.
  19. Christian

    My Brother's Wedding (1983) - dir. Charles Burnett

    It's from more than a decade ago, but we do have a thread on the film. I'd love to hear Jeffrey's and others' thoughts on My Brother's Wedding.
  20. Christian

    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?
  21. 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!
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. The Post is superb, but I hadn't thought to nominate it for this list. Nevertheless, I'm happy to second Peter's nomination.