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Darren H

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  1. I think the most interesting question re: inclusion criteria is the most fundamental one: What are we voting on exactly? In the years since our first lists, several of us have left traditional religious practices, others have become atheists, and yet we're still here, carrying on the conversation. I identify greatly with something I heard David Bazan say on a religious podcast (I'm paraphrasing): "Most people in my post-Christian condition wouldn't have accepted the invitation to be on your show, but there is literally no other topic that so occupies my imagination or that I'm more eager to talk about." Are these the all-time "best" films according a group of people who were drawn together over the years by a shared interest in the intersection of art and faith? Are they the best films that explicitly evoke religious language/iconography/archetypes? Are they films that we deem most worthy of contemplation? I'll nominate and vote according to the agreed-upon definition, but my preference would be for something like the third option. As a test case, last weekend I watch Blue Velvet for the first time in 13 years. The last time I watched it, I declared it my favorite Lynch film; this time I came away convinced it's an absolute masterpiece. It would be on my list of the 100 best films of all time, and I think it's worthy of contemplation (given the right context and understanding), but it's not an overtly religous/spiritual film.
  2. My two cents . . . Twin Peaks: The Return was financed by TV, distributed by TV, and is partly about being a TV show. The television form is baked into its bones. So it's TV. It was one of my favorite moving-image art experiences of the decade but it doesn't belong on a list of films. I'm prepared to die on this hill. Dekalog is a less clear-cut case, but I don't think it should be on a list next to films that are, generally speaking, 75-120 minutes long. Three Colors is three films, as is the Before Trilogy, and the Up series is nine films. Films should be nominated individually, and if they're selected, the write-up should be an opportunity to contextualize them. I'm open to made-for-TV movies because the format is essentially the same as a theatrical feature. Likewise, movies that have only screened on a streaming service are, of course, eligible. Eliminating them would eliminate 90% of features made in the last 5-10 years.
  3. > conceptions of spirtuality are more informed by gender roles than we would like to think. That's a great point, Ken. I've been thinking lately that most of my heros are women in their 70s and it occurs to me that, at least in the white evangelical world I grew up in, there wasn't really a "wise older woman" archetype.
  4. I haven't seen nearly as many new films this year as I usually do, and I've walked out of or turned off quite a few critically acclaimed movies. But here you go ... 1.The Souvenir 2.High Life 3.Transit 4.An Elephant Sitting Still 5.Ash Is Purest White 6.Uncut Gems 7.The Hottest August 8.A Hidden Life 9.La flor 10.Grass
  5. I'll happily send a screener link to anyone who wants to write about Light from Light.
  6. Darren H

    A Hidden Life

    I'm also surprised by how much I loved this film, Andrew. I'm hesitant to say this out loud on this forum, but to me the most radical (and timely) aspect of this film is the way it draws a direct line between religious practice and fascism. Those trademark Malick shots of ornate cathedrals read to me, within the context of this film, as awesome and grotesque. Remove God from the equation (and I'm not saying anyone should), and this is a remarkable film about the rituals and politics of tribalism.
  7. I have enjoyed the conversation around this film, though. The big fight scene has gotten people (in my corner of film twitter, at least) talking about the performative aspects of real fights. Like, when we're arguing with someone we love, how much of it is an opportunity for each person to step out of their everyday personality and play the role of aggrieved spouse/partner? Joanna and I are both non-confrontational and passive-aggressive, so when we do, on very rare occassion, raise our voices, it really is like two different people have just stepped into the room. I like the moment after Charlie punches a whole in wall, when he and Nicole both take a beat, like, "That was weird. You don't do that kind of thing. I guess we're having that fight."
  8. Like Russ, I was surprised to find myself in the wrong wheelhouse (is that how that metaphor works?). I've decided on two explanations. The first is that I'm not sure Baumbach has much wisdom to offer on the situation beyond simply recreating it in hopes that audiences recognize themselves in the accumulation of details (which is not, on the whole, a bad approach to filmmaking). Second, I think the performances are out of balance. For whatever reasons, I find Driver unusually charismatic and believable in almost any role, whereas Scarlett Johansson is never not an actress pretending to be someone else. The form of the film -- its self-reflexive allusions to theater and its long, unbroken monologues -- only add to that imbalance, which ends up being unfair to Nicole, the character.
  9. No. Sorry to have implied that in my earlier post. Diop's short films are all quite unconventional--experimental, even. They're also very small productions. Financing is so hard to come by these days, and public funding organizations typically require completed scripts before lending their support, so there's a push for convention in the process itself. This is all speculation on my part, but I feel like there's a tension in Atlantics between the storytelling and Diop's interest in formal invention (a series of beautiful, washed-out shots of the ocean are the only parts of the film that look like her other work).
  10. Sorry to hear about Jessica's pneumonia. It just occurred to me that, aside from a cold one year and an occasional bout of anxiety/panic (usually brought on by exhaustion and the stress of interviews), I've never dealt with any health issues in all of my years of attending fests. On top of the pain of the sickness, that must've been incredibly frustrating! I saw 25 films/programs during my five days at the fest. Of the 16 TIFFs I've attended, this was the worst lineup yet. It's such a huge program, so I'm always hesitant to make generalizations based on 10% of what screened, but that seemed to be the general consensus among critics too. A few friends had already seen most of the top-line stuff at Berlin, Cannes, and Locarno, so their TIFF was especially bleak. I realized this year how much I crave a "wow" experience at a fest, because I didn't get one this time. Even the Wavelengths shorts program, which is usually the highlight of my film year, only included two or three pieces that really worked for me. I still need to catch up with a couple noteworthy TIFF films -- Synonyms, Parasite, Marriage Story, Uncut Gems, Portrait of a Lady on Fire -- and maybe one of those will give me that "wow" I'm chasing. Or maybe one of the films that didn't play TIFF -- Reichardt, Desplechin, the Dardennes -- will be my film of 2019. As it stands, I didn't give any feature at TIFF a rating higher than a 4. My favorites were I Was at Home, But (Schanelec), Liberte (Serra), The Traitor (Bellocchio), and, the most pleasant surprise to me, A Hidden Life. I thought I was done with Malick, but this one complicates my sense of his spiritual project. I mean, I was even disappointed by Pedro Costa! And Atlantics was a big disappointment too. I love Mati Diop's short films, but the feature just doesn't work. I feel like there might a good film in there somewhere but it was lost in the edit. Most scenes don't work. The shape of the entire film doesn't work. I'd be curious to hear the inside story of what kind of pressures she felt to make it a more conventional, Netflix-friendly film. I wonder, even, if the cut was rushed to meet the Cannes deadline. She spent a decade trying to get a feature made, so I hate that the result feels compromised in some way. The good news (at least for me, as a believer in her talent) is that she won some awards and got distribution from Netflix, so hopefully it'll be easier for her to finance the next project.
  11. Here's the latest draft of my schedule. I only get to watch films for five days, so I'm cramming in as many as possible. 9/5 - Endless Night (Enciso) or A Hidden Life (Malick) - Atlantics (Diop) - I Was at Home, But (Schanelec) - Zombie Child (Bonello) - Bacarau (Mendonca) 9/6 - INTERVIEW or Guest of Honor (Egoyan) or Short Cuts 1 (including Lanthimos) - Proxima (Winocour) - The Whistlers (Porumboiu) - Three Summers (Kogut) - Wavelengths 1 - Vitalina Varela (Costa) 9/7 - INTERVIEW or Cunningham (Kovgan) - The Traitor (Bellocchio) - Workforce (Zonana) - Seven Years in May (Uchôa) / My Skin, Luminous (Rodríguez, Pereda) - Wavelengths 2 - Krabi, 2562 (Suwichakornpong, Rivers) 9/8 - INTERVIEW or The Burnt Orange Heresy (Capotondi) - Martin Eden (Marcello) - Lina from Lima (González) or The Audition (Weisse) - INTERVIEW? - Liberte (Serra) - Wavelengths 3 9/9 - The Moneychanger (Veiroj) - Ema (Larraín) - State Funeral (Loznitsa) - Wavelengths 4 - Wet Season (Chen)
  12. With the Wavelengths and Masters lineups announced today, this is shaping up to be a really strong year. My only major disappointment is that it looks like Kelly Reichardt's new film will premiere at Telluride and then skip TIFF before screening at NYFF. I'd also heard rumors of a new Tsai Ming-liang feature that didn't make the lineup, apparently. I wonder if I'll be able to squeeze in 30 films in five days?
  13. I'll be there for a few days. I'm teaching my first Cinema Studies course at UT this fall, so my plan is to fly up on Wednesday, skip my Thursday class, and then fly back on Tuesday in time to teach that afternoon. I have to admit that the TIFF thrill is finally -- after 15 years! -- starting to fade for me a bit. I'll be able to watch films for five full days, including all of the Wavelengths shorts programs, pick up some interviews, see a bunch of friends, and eat a couple good meals. I'm usually ready to leave on Tuesday morning anyway, so this should work out well. With the short TIFF trip, I figure I can also justify going up to New York for more of Projections during NYFF. My course is on film criticism, so the department head is encouraging me to go to fests. My boss at my day job is also supportive. I'm really grateful for the opportunity.
  14. Falling Upward is a small book with one very useful central idea -- the order/disorder/reorder model that I mentioned in that other thread. It's the kind of book you might gift to someone and encourage them to read over a weekend. The Universal Christ is much more ambitious. It's a plainspoken but exhaustively researched and supported expression of Rohr's theology of "the Christ." (The joke-y pullquote is "Christ isn't Jesus's last name.") It really feels like the summation of a life's praxis. Forty pages in I worried that the book would only be a presentation of this one idea -- that "the Christ" was/is God entering our universe -- but he then provides historical context for this understanding and traces it through central ideas like the life and death of Jesus, sin and grace, religious practices other than Christianity, salvation, and the life/culture/politics of the church. I've scribbled notes on more than half of the pages in my copy -- it's one of those books. I'd be curious to hear what non-protestant friends think of it. I was raised in a culture that was ignorant of church history from, say, the 2nd century to Billy Graham, so I relish the sections where Rohr presents theological notions that sound almost blasphemous to my evangelical ears with Biblical passages (that I get to reread with fresh eyes) and historical traditions of theology about which I'm completely oblivious. The Liturgists podcast did a great two-part interview with Rohr about the book.
  15. I'd love to have an excuse to write at length about Denis's films in this context, but my fall is booked up with other projects. Good luck, Ken!
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