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M. Leary

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  1. M. Leary

    High Life (2018)

    Whoah: "This configuration of the family unit—a protective father figure and a dead or distant mother—is as foundational to Denis’s imagination as it is to fairy tales." Yeah, this is good. And helpful for High Life, with which I still cannot connect because I am not sure where it is going until it becomes Monte's film and we are back in traditional Denis territory. This is a bit heavy-handed and moralizing for Denis, so I hesitate to ascribe it to her film, but I do get this wonderful Ray Bradbury vibe at the end that if we are going to send anything into the void, it should be that the good do indeed survive.
  2. M. Leary


    I have been scanning interviews to see if Jones comments on religion/Christianity in the film and it does not seem to come up. He does cast the film as drawing on his experiences in this town, and notes that Diane in part draws on his own mother. I get the sense that Christianity and these little bits of language are just part of the package, in the sense that some of these people just have a general cultural Christian background and some of them have conversion experiences (like casually one mentioned and Brian's dramatic turn). There is a conversation in the last third of the film about how alcoholics sometimes dry out and become preachy Christians, trading one manic experience for the other. This turns out to be the case for Brian. Given this hollowed-out presence of Christian language and experience in the script, Diane has nowhere of consequence to turn in her search for absolution. I am guessing that this is Jones' intent. We are haunted people. Things have not turned out like we thought. We make choices we just can't undo and these choices define us until the last moments of our lives. The religious stuff is just a shell game. A few spoilers here... Her son does give her some room to breathe in his confession that his hatred of her was just a learned reflex. He was just kind of going along with how he thought he was supposed to respond to her. It may be that years of addiction have helped him understand how easy it is to ditch family for fleeting pleasure, and how that in the moment something feel less like a choice than it does just going along with something inevitable. I do love the way Jones lets the details of Diane story unfold so slowly as it gives us time to see her - rather than the specifics of her transgression. But it is a bit hard to tell when or how Brian's mind about this changes, other than that he was out in the woods with a beer and he wanted to get this off his chest. His character is just not as well developed as Diane's. Back from spoiler land... There is so much Rohmer in Jones' moral play and conversation. I agree with Joel that the scene with Brian and his wife fell flat. I am not sure what Jones could have done here to make this element of the story line happen more organically. He sure does nail the script here though... that "I am doing this because I love you" language touches on the weakest, most violent element of Evangelical theology. The sense of time here is so masterful - which we also get in Rohmer. Clearly Jones has been thinking about this story, and the whole scope of the film, for a long time. The edit taking us to the final scene of the film is perfectly done. Scattering unpredictable bits of time between scenes shifts Diane's story to a whole level of transcendence I was not at all expecting. I still can't shake the blend of audio, edit, perspective, and raw psychological energy in the final sequence. Can we take an entire life of regret and wondering and failure and transmute it into seconds of cinematic thought? I guess so.
  3. Same here, Evan. It feels a bit rote for Assayas, which makes it of interest, but it does not feel right for the list this year. -- Here are a few I do not see on the page 1 list. My apologies if they have already been nominated: The Souvenir American Factory Long Day's Journey Into Night An Elephant Sitting Still Under the Silver Lake
  4. Andrew also raised these points above. Evangelical churches tend to not be very good at pastoring people through trauma, and particularly trauma born out of violence or addiction. As Ken says, Evangelicals are not the only branches of Christendom of which this could be claimed, but I do wonder if there is something specific to Evangelicalism that triggers this experience. I am puzzling this out myself at the moment, but I think Evangelical theology prizes certain human experiences as the centerpieces of God's design for humanity. These are marriage and procreation, vocation, and communal relationships (this latter piece becoming dominant over the past 20 years). So Evangelical churches have a radar sensitive to marriage issues, family issues, workplace and finance issues, and ensuring everyone is "in community" somehow. Therapy and pastoral counseling tend to address these issues as if fixing them resolves our core psychological disturbances. In my experience, people with PTSD and serious addiction issues feel neglected because the Evangelical church has no real language for these experiences. So we rally around the fixed marriage, the rags to riches stories, the people who weather various recessions, the resolved family crises, etc... When the person finally having a good week after years of PTSD goes uncelebrated. The person with 6 months sobriety goes unnoticed. The person fighting sex addiction keeps everything private, etc... There are some very good contemporary theologies coordinating human experiences of violence with the person and work of Christ - but Evangelicalism does not have a lexicon for this yet.
  5. This is always a compelling witness. Especially for someone like you, being so self-aware about what the experience entails personally and theoretically.
  6. Of course it does. For sure. Though belief itself has become a discipline for me, which is something I thought I had learned in part from Merton. In the sense that the questions I face in my vocational and family and church routines have a centrifugal force, which must be maintained by a constant gardening of my experiences. It is easy for things to creep in and cut that tension. I fish a lot. I particularly love fly fishing because there is no feeling like that tug. Two lives briefly connected by the mere whisper of a line. And sometimes God and I seem to switch places in this analogy when transposed to my communion with God. But that electric tension pulls me in these moments of what I guess is spirituality into the assurance that I am onto something good and honest.
  7. Wow. I am really grateful for this thread at the moment. I have been staring at it for a while and re-reading your posts and just thinking through what I could possibly contribute here. My story is very similar to you all in terms of having grown up in an evangelical background. I invested my college and graduate school years heavily in biblical and theological study, leading to postgraduate work in early Christian origins. Books, libraries, theory, etc... It was a whirlwind of much learning without any clear direction other than the unexpected encounters with God outside of this evangelical intellectual complex in family, friends, travel. And then the miracle of our children. The economic crash in 2006. Then the hunt for my first career entry job during this time on an academic market which left me haunted with a sense that teaching full-time was not something I actually wanted to do. This dismay was in part due to not really connecting with the theological world of any schools at which I might fit by virtue of heritage and training. Maybe I could have pressed on and just made something work. Maybe this. Maybe that. But I ended up weathering the recession in a career that I never knew existed and fits me like a glove. This has carried me intellectually and vocationally in a way I never expected and in this work I feel like I am doing something valuable for society, science, and the faculty/students I interact with. Working as what amounts to being an ethicist and consultant in the scientific research environment has stretched my theological background beyond what I had expected. I still also teach biblical studies, and have for over a decade now. It still thrills me to draw others along into the wonders and complexities of the biblical narrative - and its implications for the self. We have also endured a lot of tragedy as a family over the last 10 years. It has been tough. We have learned how to carry things together. How to forgive each other. I suppose what I am winding my way toward here is that I rediscovered. No, that isn't true. I never really had it. I discovered what I think is the essence of biblical spirituality in these experiences. I know a lot of stuff. But my sense of what it means to know God is only something I found in a set of pressures bounded by time, sorrow, anger, tragedy, failure, and the fragile thrill of recovery. Part of my absence from this board is that my desire for cinema waned when faced with the challenge of living through these hardest of years. What I gathered in crumbs and baskets from cinema in a theoretical way was now right here. So I am still a bit lost in what cinema actually means. I just have to leave that there as I am not sure what else to say about it. -- My wife and I did return to the church I grew up in about two years ago. We tried big church evangelicalism for 9 years and it hurt us where it counts. Leaving that place was bewildering. We were not sure what to do, short of doing nothing at all. But this reconnected me with some things I have not done for a long time. I have been able to teach/preach a few times in a max security prison not far from us. The freedom I feel to talk to these guys is liberating for all involved. It is the only place I feel my past, the deep presence of God in scripture, and my pleasure in talking come together. What does it mean to use the word "freedom" as any sort of premise or promise for a man who will never see the outside of a triple-layer fence again? This, I submit, is the most complex theological problem I have encountered. I have also been preaching. Like, actual in the pulpit with a sermon preaching over the past year at our church. I am grateful God kept me out of the pulpit for so long. -- Still not sure where I am going here. The question though. Faith now. This question of faith in God dominates my thoughts in a way it never had before. I feel as if the weight of time and trial has finally pressed the question into the right places. And it leaks out. I think at this stage I am waiting to see what that looks like, trying to stick with the logic of recovery. Keeping the path narrow.
  8. M. Leary

    Still Life

    Thanks so much for posting, this Rob. It is great confirmation of my experience of the film, which still haunts me. And you used the phrase "bearing witness," which is a helpful way to process Jia. We just have to learn how to look, long and deep.
  9. I would love to participate. I have not really been part of any cinema conversation for a while, but have kept current and am gearing back up for some writing this coming year. There were some really spectacular films from the last few years which went under the radar but would look great on this list. Looking forward to feeling the old flicker of life at A&F. I second or fourth the notion about communicating with Image to defining our relationship at the moment.
  10. Relentlessly okay, thirded. A lot of really inert dialogue. The critical problem for me is that Thanos is not a compelling character, and the relationships intended to imbue his prodigious chin with pathos are not well scripted. A similar thing happens with the Iron Man/Spiderman relationship, which doesn't quite connect the emotional dots. There just aren't any stakes present. A telling flaw is the first Guardians of the Galaxy sequence, which lacks the crackle and pop of their film installments. This makes me think that had Gunn directed this entire film, it would have been more coherent and incisive. He is a much better director.
  11. M. Leary

    Stan Brakhage

    This is great. Hope it sticks. I am training this year for a long race in July - so I will join you as you journey through these discs.
  12. Ah, must have looked at the wrong list for Hunter Gatherer. Such a shame, as this one really fell through the distribution cracks. And I think Aquarius did have a run in 2016, but am not sure. Again, feel free to pull whatever you think best.
  13. Yeah, it does look like it had some sort of very limited release in 2016 (Box Office Mojo has zero recorded stats for this release) - though D'Angelo has it on his NYC release list for 2017. I follow the latter but I don't see why that has to be the standard for this jury. Feel free to pull it from the nominations if you think that advisable.
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