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M. Leary

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Everything posted by M. Leary

  1. I like the idea of the film as an act of protest. To Ken's question above, it is the only film I can think of that accomplishes what it does - which is to get this fundamental conflict and experience in front of us, so that we can see and hear it with vicious clarity. The language of race becomes a liturgy for Lee. Like Ed said above, the film somehow captures all the voices, which itself is a feat of spiritual craft and reflection. I have occasion to talk and preach in regional prisons, one of which is a supermax facility. I will often queue up parts of Do the Right Thing to get me into the head space of spiritual and moral conflict, and how it is entirely possible to feel both unbridled rage and a desire to "do the right thing" at the same time - and even feel justified with flipping the coin in the moment. Another angle here is that one element of white privilege (or however you want to describe the social reality of being a white person) is that answers to many moral questions feel routine. There is just not much at stake with adhering to general consensus and maintaining the social contract. But for so many fellow Americans, these kinds of questions and decisions are deadly minefields. Lee's narratives tend to leap along with these unpredictable consequences of various choices.
  2. M. Leary

    Da 5 Bloods

    Really wish I could have heard all your comments in real life, as the thread is sparse. I have not had a chance to read much about the film, but the more it settles in, the more grateful I am that it is a pretty sloppy mess of a film compared to the sharp focus of much of Lee's other work. It just keeps going, the gears keep turning, and a current keeps passing from scene to scene. A frequent topic of recent conversation in my house involves understanding how history means something different to black Americans than it does to white Americans, or Americans of other ethnic and racial heritage. The recent editorial, for example, from someone claiming "my body is a confederate monument" spun my entire childhood experience in the south of these networks of monuments and battlefields an entirely different direction (not in the sense that I have any shred of nostalgia for this "heritage," in that as a young transplant from the north all these Civil War shrines struck me as a bitter and violent. More that these monuments of Lee and Davis, etc... disembodied reconstruction era racism for me by freezing it in a historical past). As the film progresses, it takes an increasingly greater toll on these men's bodies, as if all the age and violence and trauma is catching up to them in their journey through the wilderness. And there is a son present to bear witness to this degradation of his father, whose entire psyche is a monument to the American War. I guess this is being received as a more minor Lee work, but I could very much envision Da 5 Bloods as a major locus of critical discussion of Lee's cinema. That dolly shot, for example, is such a complex, haunting, and refined dose of black power.
  3. I have a First Reformed blurb up now. Are we adding old blurbs for past films to the pages where new blurbs are also being written? Or are those being archived with past lists? And what else remains, Ken?
  4. M. Leary

    Young Ahmed

    There is a lot to commend here, especially in the way their observational skill is directed toward the various phenomena informing Ahmed's religious experience. The pacing is spot on in this respect. I once worked at McDonald's as a teenager, with an elderly Muslim gentleman. I once walked into the bathroom, early in the morning, when he was performing ablutions prior to prayer. Watching him wash his feet in the sink was such an act of ritual, personal integrity, and I think about that moment often. There was another classic Dardennes formal element on display several times here, which is when the focal point shifts to the perspective of Ahmed while looking around a corner at someone being observed. This is a centerpiece POV switch in The Son, but I was startled by the thematic reversal here. I can fully understand comments about Young Ahmed playing a lot of common Dardennes' beats throughout, but I am wondering now if this is more playing on a formal theme with a fairly different set of focal points. A few scenes here play as a mirror image of sequences in their past work.
  5. This list feels worth the extra work everyone put in. A lot of the choices make very arguable sense, in terms of the one film per director rationale. It is very reflective of A&F conversation.
  6. Happy to take Do The Right Thing or First Reformed. I could not tell from your comment, Ken, if you wanted to take First Reformed or not.
  7. Thanks for the quick review and nudge regarding the upcoming release date. This Winterbottom sequence has been a highlight for me over the past years. Everything you are describing in terms of how oblivious they are to cultural sites and historical detail rings true relative to past journeys. But a few of the other elements you are describing in terms of the intercuts and a nightmare sequence sound a bit different. Coogan was great in Winterbottom's recent Greed, which is well worth tracking down.
  8. M. Leary

    Icelandic films

    Great recommendations here. Metalhead (Malmhaus) is very relevant to A&F interests, as it involves adolescent trauma, Icelandic evangelicalism, and heavy metal. And Jar City is a great work of nordic noir, if that genre is your thing. I still have not caught The Deep, though I will now put that on the list for the next few weeks.
  9. M. Leary

    Da 5 Bloods

    Thanks for the alert. This does look like a potential highlight of the summer. Some basic conversation from Spike Lee here.
  10. This is a great use of the internet. I could imagine someone constructing a database of all the films discussed at A&F. Let's say, 2000 choices. Films are paired randomly for binary selection. We run this for a year, with jury members casually picking stuff over the course of that year. The 100 with the most points are then ranked as the official list. Even better, the list is not just titles, but also still images and short sequences to compare with no other identifying info. This would protect the selection process from priming based on titles/directors.
  11. I appreciate it! I think it is a good thing to work through these options to sharpen up the list, in the way you have formatted everything. A local radio station does a "sweet 16" on different themes every week (junk food, action movies, etc...). It takes them about 1.5 hours, as they are all sharing their reasoning for various binary choices. I would love to have heard your thoughts, in the same way, as you navigated the above. The Work is an incredibly meaningful film for me, but Ushpizin is one of the few Israeli and Jewish films we have on the list. If I had to pick one recent Israeli film for the list, it would easily be Gett. Gett is not only focused on a woman's experience of divorce in the orthodox context - it is co-directed by one of few working Israeli female directors. It checks every box on our Top 100 criteria. But in this specific choice, The Work highlights a spiritual experience few people get to see, unless they are somehow involved with volunteer prison counseling or chaplaincy. It is not a landmark documentary in formal terms, but it captures a few significant experiences in my life I have always had a hard time communicating well with other people. And then back to Ushpizin, A Serious Man is an incomparably Jewish film that takes us a few places Ushpizin does not. And I still find it a near flawless film, frame to frame. I could go on, but I have enjoyed hearing the thought processes of other people faced with these list choices. This, to me, is the most interesting feature of our canon-making that I hope is captured in the capsules or intro.
  12. This process is getting increasingly strenuous, which I feel is a good thing.
  13. Sword of Trust is now even more special as a film, with Maron and Shelton doing their thing together. If we were working on another best films about aging, Sword of Trust would be a good conversation partner.
  14. I was also swayed, Ed, by The Phantom Carriage as a good film for this list. Hard to watch that and not see how much it influenced so many other films we talk about at A&F, especially Bergman.
  15. Count me in for more Zoom chats. That was a great way to make this voting conversation happen.
  16. Yes! Fully agree one this. Otherwise, I appreciate the careful points delivered for either option in this thread.
  17. Where do we see the list of unseen films by voters? Or amount seen by voters by film.
  18. That is a spectacular top 15!
  19. That is an important point, for sure. As an historian of early Christian literature and origins, my answer to what "elements" can be considered representative of the historical Jesus and various early theological permutations of his meaning have to derive from historical investigation of a wide array of texts and various religious/theological phenomena that can be traced back to Jesus and those in the orbit of NT text production. I try to stick with this domain, because it is where I have been trained and feel reasonably accurate. This element of defamiliarization or destabilization of cultural codes, Jewish or Greco-Roman religious assumptions, domestic and economic practices, etc... is just something we see across the first few centuries CE. I try to start here, and with a few specific core apostolic claims about the meaning of Jesus' work (which are also attested in various creeds, hymns, and liturgies common to Christianity into the 2nd century), as a thumbnail sketch of what is "important" in Christ-figuration. We could fast-forward into different Christologies as a template, but then run into the problem you describe above. I will have to track that down and read further. The brand of dispensational typology that persisted in Evangelicalism and restoration movements into the 20th century emerged in the 1820s-1830s, under the influence of a few well-educated bible teachers. For biblical studies, at least, this was an era of discovery and advance in linguistic analysis of biblical texts. (I agree with you here on typology, just curious about that historical pattern as described.) I do have a response to this anxiety, Ken! I share your concerns about typology, which we could likely excoriate at length together. My thinking here begins all the way back in the 1st century, where we already begin to see the Christ image co-opted by dominant ideologies or synthesized and reshaped into hybrid cultural identities and practices. I think we recognize good Christ figure analysis when it hurts, when it exposes areas where the presence/word/meaning of Christ do not actually fit into our assumptions an endorsements. We also recognize good Christ imagery when it nurtures or affirms a suspicion or goodness otherwise hard to articulate within our cultural lexicon. Good Christ images create a surplus of meaning above and beyond images confined by consistency with our received ideology. -- Just made a long paragraph here describing how "the rock was Christ" in 1 Corinthians 10 is a good example of this "surplus of meaning," but it apparently did not save and I am out of time!
  20. This link has cc subtitles that look good. Here is a good summary, though.
  21. I did talk about Dumont's film in one of those papers on this question. It triggered a lot of Christological conflict for me. I likely do, Joel. I will take a look. I hope your work gets traction, as the problem is endemic to nearly all past film-and-religion conversation. It is not just isolated to theological criticism. The best integration I have seen of formal film theory and religious/historical disciplines has happened in trauma studies on Holocaust cinema and modern Judaism. But Joe Kickasola and scholars in his edited journals are also breaking a lot of these molds.
  22. I read a few papers at SBL and AAR in critique of Kozlovic's papers on Christ figures. You have pointed out one of my key areas of critique, in that a lot of Christ figure in cinema conversations borrow heavily on literary critical concepts, without deep interaction with film critical theory - particularly in the way film criticism engages matter of form, shape, rhythm, and other sensory elements as foundational for the production of meaning. Once we get down to these theoretical rudiments of cinema, the Christ figure conversation really opens up in new ways. I have argued elsewhere that some of the most formative and innovative Christ figures in cinema, like Balthazar, are actually formal (not script or narrative) elements evoking profound reflections on the shape of Christ in early Christian literature and theology. I have been pecking away at a book on the subject, which traces a more formal and aesthetic reception history of Jesus/Christ figuration in cinema, outsider art, and contemporary fine arts. The list of bullet points you offer above are very much on point. The quintessential element of a Christ appearance is a destablization of assumed ideas around ethics/justice, salvation/atonement, reconciliation, and moral transformation. Here are a few pieces I wrote that direction (here and here).
  23. Joel, take a look at Assayas' 30 minute reflection on the film, which specifically addresses your question about how radical this was for Antonioni. It is featured in the Criterion Channel (but also available in YouTube...). The way Assayas captures what is happening here helped me grasp several of the finer points, and shifted the way I have watched subsequent cinema.
  24. Hope others catch this for list-purposes. I watched it recently for voting consideration and was struck again at how... odd the film is for its time and context. Darren used the word "wisdom" above, and that captures what Burnett is doing here well. The script is like Jewish widsom lit having passed through a set of religious and cultural traditions. Burnett may be doing a domestic version of whatever Bill Gunn had been doing the prior decade. I kept thinking about how Burnett kind of unravels or critiques the moralizing work of Woody Allen during the same period, from the perspective of Black America.
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