J.A.A. Purves

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About J.A.A. Purves

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    Thomist, Traditionalist, Chestertonian
  • Birthday 02/12/1980

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    Santa Barbara, CA

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  1. Right. We do not want to just select mostly or even all from our Top 100 list. As far as "revelation of darker realities", evil, etc., I'd argue that we already did that with our Top 25 Horror Film list. So far I've wrestled with limiting how I'd define "waking up" by the idea of getting rid of "default settings" or unwarranted assumptions, or by "conversion" in let's say an anti-Kirk Cameron sense. I've been interested in a long time in stories about waking up - stories where a character realizes that there are deeper, even sacramental, realities behind the scenes. In this sense, out of the entire Top 100 List, I'd see Ikiru or Wings of Desire as prototypical examples. Ikiru's Watanabe is a character who eventually sees the world as a little enchanted, and this fundamentally changes and redeems him. He has a sense of what really matters. I apologize that it seems as if I'm circling, rather than articulating, what "waking up" could or should mean for this list. I will admit that I've been reading Charles Taylor, Louis Dupré, and Hans Boersma recently and, while nominating films, I am personally specifically looking for films that can hint at what Taylor calls the "enchanted world" that modernity has for the most part lost or rejected. Thus, all or any films touching on waking up to sacramental reality would fit perfectly with this list. A film considered to be "spiritually significant" or concerning matters of faith is not always going to touch on waking up to the spiritual reality underlying material reality. Indeed, I think that most of our Top 100 do not do this. Mere spiritual significance can focus on conviction of sin, the nature of evil, the possibility of miracles, conversion, the nature of religious belief, false prophets, moral awakening, atonement, death, eternity, etc. Out of all those themes, my personal plan is to look for films that focus upon the ideas of conversion and awakening. Additionally, as I said the other thread, I'd advocate for films that "focus on stories where characters' eyes' are opened to spiritual realities, both with and/or without institutionalized religious contexts. I would want to craft the list in such a way that it is attractive, challenging, and inspiring to any thinking person, wherever that person may currently be in thinking through what he or she believes." This may be a balancing act, but I believe it will be worth it. All that said, I'd think that The Tree of Life, Doctor Strange, The Truman Show, and Inception are all absolutely on topic, regardless of precisely where I'd think each film would rank inside or outside the final Top 25.
  2. So I'm going to make a very rare exception to one of my own rules and nominate a film that I haven’t seen yet. I only haven’t seen it because I haven’t been given a chance to. According to the film’s website, they plan to have a DVD distributor by the end of this month. We are planning on finishing voting on nominated films by mid-June. Most of us probably haven’t seen this, but you can watch the first 4 minutes of the film here. Given these first minutes and everything I’ve read from Wendell Berry, this strikes me as being very much a film about waking up to the spiritual/sacramental realities around us. In fact, I believe this is exactly the sort of film that, if we can use our lists for advocacy, we should persuade many other people to see. (A part of me even wants to ask if we could trade our #1 spot on this list and a promise to enthusiastically promote the film for advance DVDs from the filmmaker/distributor.)
  3. Title: Upstream Color Director: Shane Carruth Year: 2013 Language: English IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2084989/ YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SilYsr_3vrA Link to the A&F thread on the film: Title: The Illusionist Director: Sylvain Chomet Year: 2010 Language: French IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0775489/ YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMqpU7lUlLg Link to the A&F thread on the film: Title: La Belle Noiseuse Director: Jacques Rivette Year: 1991 Language: French IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101428/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1 YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFijVVdPnDc Link to the A&F thread on the film: N/A Title: Joe Versus the Volcano Director: John Patrick Shanley Year: 1990 Language: English IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099892/?ref_=nv_sr_1 YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmQDIne3CLo Link to the A&F thread on the film: Title: Rumble Fish Director: Francis Ford Coppola Year: 1982 Language: English IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086216/?ref_=nv_sr_1 YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kx_jtFN0H8 Link to the A&F thread on the film: N/A
  4. Title: Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry Director: Laura Dunn & Jef Sewell Year: 2016 Language: English IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2335444/ YouTube Link: Link to the A&F thread on the film:
  5. Genuine, thoughtful, and good film criticism has always been rare. We can always use more Pauline Kaels and Rogert Eberts, and some of the best writing on film I've read has been done by good writers who are not popular "film critics" at all (such as Geoff Dyer, Zadie Smith, and David Foster Wallace). Popular aggregates and ratings systems, of any variety, have practically nothing to do with film criticism. Do not use them to decide what you watch.
  6. Again, and I can emphasize this, imagine the "Top 25 Films on Conversion" that someone like Ted Baehr would create. Then, imagine us doing the opposite of that and calling it "Top 25 Films on Waking Up." I believe such a list would focus on stories where characters' eyes' are opened to spiritual realities, both with and/or without institutionalized religious contexts. I would want to craft the list in such a way that it is attractive, challenging, and inspiring to any thinking person, wherever that person may currently be in thinking through what he or she believes.
  7. As the one who came up with the idea in the first place, I can definitively say that if we do not limit what we want "waking up" to mean, then it is not worth doing the list. I do see two major limitations that should be obvious. The first major limitation I've been assuming all along is that the list will actually deal with spiritual/theological themes. This excludes "waking up" to just any realization or reality, and instead would focus the film on "waking up" to spiritual realities. (And I think, Evan, eliminates the vast majority of what you wrote above.) The second major limitation that I think could be tacitly agreed upon is that, given that we have already done a Top 25 horror list, that we avoid focusing on "waking up" to the reality of evil (which is basically any spiritually significant horror film). Finally, we do not want to just select 25 films from our Top 100 list. Therefore, it would be an engaging work of film criticism for us to essentially focus in upon films like Joe Versus the Volcano (stories where a character does undergo a sort of conversion experience that wakes him up to the spiritual world). Here's another way of looking at it. Given all the the above, think of what Movieguide would produce by making a list of Top 25 Conversion Films. Then think of Kirk Cameron saying the sinner's prayer and everything else that would be wrong about such a list. Then think of how to make Top 25 list that would avoid those problems with a less reductionist view of spiritual conversion that would be the opposite of what Movieguide would come up with. "Waking Up" is just a way of naming it differently, but I still think it would be a serious way in producing the kind of recommendations that cannot be found anywhere else in the world of film criticism. I would personally enjoy making a "Coming of Age" or "Crime and Punishment" list. But if we do "Waking Up," then let's make something that can't be found anywhere else.
  8. I think this is important. At the very least, we might want to start a discussion thread on the logistics, procedure, goals, and purposes of our next Top 100 list sooner than later. Also, if we were to decide to try to release a Top 100 List along with a companion book, there will need to be a certain amount of work done in 2017 to make that happen, even if the book were only to reach publication a year or two later.
  9. I certainly would not be opposed to including a film or two about waking up to the realities of evil, but I wouldn't want to do the list if those films took over. There is a sense in which a vast majority of horror films are about otherwise oblivious characters who have to suddenly wake up to the reality of evil and, while I admire the films that do this with moral imagination (say Derrickson’s Exorcism of Emily Rose and Deliver Us From Evil), for purposes of making a “Top 25 Films on Waking Up” list unique I am more interested in stories that are more holistically interested waking up the spiritual reality, including both good and evil (see Pan’s Labyrinth). We’ve done a Top 25 Horror Films already. The waking up to a sense of wonder and spiritual reality that I am going for here would, in most cases, be lost if the character ends with an education in evil alone. In fact, I’d argue that there is something unhealthy about focusing only on the spiritual reality of evil. Evil, by definition, is unreal in the sense that it has no existence or being in and of itself. It is parasitic, unable to create only to twist. So the idea of waking up to only evil is, in another sense, profoundly incomplete. It would be a waking up only to a kind of unreality, which I think we could all agree is not the sort of list we would like to make. There is, as they said in Narnia, a deeper magic. Thinking of a certain David Foster Wallace speech, another way of thinking about a “Top 25 Films on Waking Up” could be considering it a “Top 25 Films on Losing One’s Default Settings.” Default settings that make one blinkered, asleep, or unaware seems to be a pretty common problem of our age. A list of films about getting out of that would be, for me, exciting.
  10. “There was a shepherd the other day at Findon Fair who had come from the east by Lewes with sheep, and who had in his eyes that reminiscence of horizons which makes the eyes of shepherds and of mountaineers different from the eyes of other men ... I went with him to hear what he had to say, for shepherds talk quite differently from other men. And when we came on to the shoulder of Chanctonbury and looked down upon the Weald, which stretched out like the Plains of Heaven, he said to me: ‘I never come here but it seems like a different place down below, and as though it were not the place where I have gone afoot with sheep under the hills. It seems different when you are looking down at it.” He added that he had never known why. Then I knew that he, like myself, was perpetually in perception of the Unknown Country, and I was very pleased. But we did not say anything more to each other about it until we got down into Steyning. There we drank together and we still said nothing more aobut it, so that to this day all we know of the matter is what we knew when we started, and what you knew when I began to write this, and what you are now no further informed upon, namely, that there is an Unknown Country lying beneath places that we know, and appearing only in moments of revelation. Whether we shall reach this country at last or whether we shall not, it is impossible to determine.” - Hilaire Belloc, “Of an Unknown Country” I nominated “Top 25 Films on Waking Up” because I’ve always thought that there had to be a collection of stories along the lines of waking up to the joys and treasures of life - or, waking up to the spiritual world around us - to the sacred - to, as Charles Taylor might say, “windows.” Ikiru is certainly one of the major films of this theme. Joe Versus the Volcano is another. I have always wanted to put together a list of similar films with this same affinity, but they all wouldn’t have to have a main character who suddenly has a death sentence, and also I’d really prefer that we managed to leave a film like American Beauty out of it. Instead, I am interested in a list of films about characters or people who are awake - or who become awake - or who know someone who is awake - and realize that there is far more in the world around them than meets the eye. One might even say that this could be a Top 25 Films Against Cartesian Dualism. Indeed, I’m interested far more in the idea and theme than I am tied to a specific name. As far as I’m concerned, this same list could be entitled Top 25 Films on Re-enchantment ... on the Unknown Country ... on Sehnsucht ... on Holy Fools ... on Going Further Up and Further In. If I was extra ambitious, I’d even say it could be a Top 25 Films on Sacramental Ontology. For now, “Waking Up” is probably easier to define unless someone else persuasively advocates for a better theme description.
  11. Reasons to Form a Revised Top 100 List Over a Longer Period: (1) I’ll admit that, personally, I would regret bumping off more than 90% of the films that are currently on the Top 100 list. There are very few films currently on the list that I would want to see replaced. (2) We’d need to take more time to do it if we were to do it concurrently with the creation of a book. (3) When rushed, the Top 100 List does seem subject to temporary enthusiasms. (Exhibit A: Make Way for Tomorrow’s placement at #6.) This is also an argument that the list is worth revising. There is certainly room for improvement. (4) Given point (3) above, I wonder if it would first be worthwhile having a discussion over the film selection process itself. - First, I wonder if it might be worth canvassing the older influential A&F participants who so strongly influenced the current Top 100 list to see if we are going to lose anyone’s participation during the revision process. If so and regardless, we might want to consider other methods for a revision. - Second, I wonder if we’d really want to, tabula rasa, vote on an entirely new Top 100 list. An alternative to creating an entirely new Top 100 list could be voting on a new Top 100 list but then somehow applying the new vote totals to the old vote totals so that the current Top 100 ranking and selection would be modified (instead of entirely replaced) by the new voting. (Hypothetically this procedure would mean that if a film like, oh say, Ikiru gets voted down by the new 2017/2018 voting so that it would be ranked #85 in a new list, after applying the new vote totals to the old ranking, its rank would get lowered from #9 to something like #40 rather than all the way down to #85. The arguments for applying the new voting this way would allow a stronger continuity for the list, given that the list is being used in some schools and churches nowadays for teaching purposes and has a certain weight that would be worth preserving.) (5) As I noted before, it seems like it would be more fair for most of us who work on revising the list intentionally devote a little time to seeing the rest of the films on the list that we have not yet seen. If films get replaced, I’d rather have them replaced by voters who have seen the films being replaced than replaced simply because not enough voters have seen them. I’d need help from some of the other A&Fers in order to list them, but I understand that there is still a small collection of films on our Top 100 list that are not easily available. Rather than seeing those films slip off our list because not enough of us have seen them, I’d rather use the list to create more demand for those films that leads to their becoming less difficult to see. (6) I’d also be interested in some discussion over what the ultimate purpose of revising the Top 100 list would be. Sure, there are absolutely some special films from the last five years that it would be nice to include in the list. Yes, there are some rankings that could use some careful revision. But wouldn’t it be worthwhile to use a revision of the Top 100 list as a means for give the Top 100 list more publicity - as a means for increasing our advocacy of the Top 100 films themselves. I would be curious what this could look like - perhaps it could mean actively recruiting a few other names like Matt Zoller Seitz, Alissa Wilkinson, Brett McCracken, Frederica Mathewes Green or others to write some reviews for us. Perhaps it could involve some organization of events at some universities. Perhaps, along with a book, cultivating publicity for a deeper film criticism that offers itself as an alternative not just to MovieGuide/PluggedIn, but to standard mass media film reviews. (7) If we outlined a process for revising the Top 100 list over the next couple years, we could also devote some time to discussing and working towards all of the above. Time invested in recruiting and publicizing does pay off. There is a potential, depending on how we do it, for a next A&F Top 100 list to be the most publicized list in A&F's history. This could generate more attention and support both for Image and for A&F.
  12. Absolutely yes on this one. A companion book for our Top 100 list would be a great way of promoting both the list and A&F's critical sensibility. I'd love to try to use something like this to push back against MovieGuide/PluggedIn sensibility. Instead of full essays on all 100 films, what about full reviews for all 100 films with 2-3 essays on film criticism in general? As far as doing a Top 100 List this year, I'd think that that would be the sort of revision one would do every decade or so. For those of you pushing a new Top 100 list, I'd ask you first to re-evaluate how many of the current Top 100 list films you have actually seen yet. (I know I'm still working through them.) I'd much prefer that many of us advocated for revising the list after we've actually seen the list. I think that would give the list more authority. Then, additionally, instead of making doing a Top 25 or a revised Top 100 an either/or proposition, if a majority of A&F'ers really are willing to working on producing a new Top 100 list, why not be willing to make revising the Top 100 a more than one year project? That would take some of the pressure off to rush it - and it shouldn't be rushed - and it would also give everyone motivation and time to see and think about more films that they have not yet seen. As far as our next Top 25 films goes, I hereby nominate "Top 25 Films on Waking Up".
  13. We've just started it and the first two episodes were surprisingly above average, both in plotting and acting. Jared Harris is more moving here than I think I've ever seen him. Lithgow is great fun as Churchill. Foy and Smith are a complex pair, and they both communicate a great deal without words. Anyone else started it yet?