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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. This is still a work in progress, so let me know what else any of you would add from published books for this year - https://underlyingassumptions.org/2017-books-to-read/
  2. Paterson (2016)

    I'm still playing catch up around here, but I was able to write a little about this lovely film.
  3. Columbus (2017)

    Brett McCracken: “When I knew him, Kogonada talked a lot about Postman and cited 'Technopoly' often. He worried about the ways technology might be making us dumber and number; numb to the beauty which is everywhere around us if only we have eyes to see and interest (or attention-spans?) to look. This techno-skepticism is on display in Columbus. Richardson’s character proudly flaunts her antiquated flip phone, which she calls a “dumb phone” because it has no Internet access. She prefers spending time at libraries and trying to remember facts rather than resorting to Google. Happier and more alive to the beauty of her hometown (refreshingly unburdened by the wanderlust and status envy stoked by the “connected” life), she provides a compelling model for what joyful resistance might look like in a technopolized world. Indeed, at a time when more and more are noting the disturbing psychological and de-humanizing effects of technology, Columbus offers a glimpse into a world we can have if we want it: a world of serendipitous discovery rather than utilitarian Google search; quiet contentment rather than clattering consumerism; sensory encounter rather than disembodied distraction; a world where the physical nouns (people, places and things) in front of us are more compelling and comforting to us than the digital abstractions we might find on the other side of a hyperlink. Cinema is often framed as escapism, and indeed it has that quality. We watch movies to visit far away places and times, and to understand the experiences of others. But cinema at its best, and certainly Columbus fits that bill, doesn’t stop at escapism; it helps us return well to reality, with new eyes to see and love the world beyond the screen.”
  4. The Image Film Issue -- Help with PR

    I'd be happy to write a review of it. I'll message you for more details.
  5. Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry (2016)

    It's time we had a thread on this film. I just saw it over the weekend, and it is very easily one of the most important films of the year (whether last year or this year). It's beautiful. It gives glimpses into the values that Berry has been advocating for decades (including precious footage of a debate back in the '70s). It focuses very much on farming and agriculture, turns very bleak and then offers reason for hope if the members of the audience would only start acting on what they know they should act upon. Watch your theaters for it and order the DVD.
  6. Ready Player One

    Well, that certainly looks headache inducing. Sort of Speed Racer meets Transformers meets World of Warcraft to equal a Tron knockoff. No thanks.
  7. Same here. As a rule, I always wait to close to the very end voting date in order to watch a few of the nominated films I haven't seen yet.
  8. 2017 Reading Journals

    March - Conserving America?: Essays on Present Discontents (2016) - by Patrick J. Deneen - Whose Justice? Whose Rationality? (1988) - by Alasdair MacIntyre April - The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (2017) - by Rod Dreher - Tales from the Perilous Realm (1997) - by J.R.R. Tolkien - The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (1981) - by J.R.R. Tolkien May - One Man’s Dark (2017) - by Maurice Manning - Letters to Atticus, Vol. I - by Cicero - The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. I - by Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp - Passage to Modernity: An Essay on the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture (1993) - by Louis Dupré - The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? (2005) - by David Bentley Hart June
  9. So some life and family issues stopped me from participating in the nomination process as much as I was hoping to, but this is looking good. While I ought to spend some more time trying to discuss what I was trying to get at by this list, I can say that, as the one who first envisioned this list, I think there are easily more than 25 films among our nominated & seconded films that meet the theme I was going for here. Some of you have made some comments and asked some questions that I will get around to discussing a little more. I am also beginning to think things through in more detail now that we have a group selected list of films to choose from. For starters, am I right in seeing that there are only 8 films from our top 100 list as prospective nominees? By my count, this includes: 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days Double Life of Veronique, The Fearless Ikiru New World, The Punch-Drunk Love Through a Glass Darkly Wings of Desire Out of these I see Ikiru, Wings of Desire and Double Life of Veronique as absolutely essential for the theme. I can certainly see arguments for the others, particularly for Fearless. The New World is interesting because it is John Smith who goes through the longest and most elaborate waking up process and yet he rejects it in the end. It is certainly a film about being awake to the hidden and spiritual realities of the created things around us.
  10. You Were Never Really Here (2017)

    While the story itself doesn’t sound very impressive, the reviews for this one are looking good. A.A. Dowd: “In Lynne Ramsay’s fragmentary, ferociously beautiful ‘You Were Never Really Here’ (Grade: A-), Joaquin Phoenix takes a scary new shape—a bulkiness every bit as psychologically revealing as the bony odd angles of Freddie Quell. Phoenix plays Joe, a muscle for hire. (“I hear you can be brutal,” someone says to him, awe and a little fear on their breath.) If the idea of this particular actor starring as someone paid to bring the pain sounds implausible, then you just haven’t seen the human wrecking ball he’s made himself into this time, complete with a shaggy gray beard that seems to enhance his fearsomeness and his outsider vulnerability all at once. You also haven’t seen his way with a hammer. The character and story come from a novella by ‘Bored To Death’ creator Jonathan Ames. Ramsay, the Scottish director who made ‘Morvern Callar’ and ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin,’ twists that source material into an existential nightmare noir. There are shades of ‘Point Blank’ and ‘The Long Goodbye,’ of ‘Taxi Driver’ shattered into shards, of ‘The Limey’ suffering a nervous breakdown. And in the sinister, serpentine swell of its Johnny Greenwood score—coupled with the sight of Phoenix playing another mad war veteran—it sometimes suggests ‘The Master’ reconfigured into something more savage. All of those influences shine dimly under the skin of ‘You Were Never Really Here,’ but it remains its own bewildering animal, unmistakably Ramsay’s. She is said to have arrived at Cannes with the DCP only yesterday. Who knows if the movie is done—it ends with no credits, just an empty black screen, the void out of which Greenwood’s thrumming cacophony emanates. But if the version we saw is unfinished, at a refreshingly brisk 85 minutes, it’s to great elliptical effect. Ramsay has made a terrific short story, economical as hell but also so moment-for-moment gripping that you want to pore over its every shot, its every dark cranny.” Bilge Ebiri: “‘You Were Never Really Here’ not only turned out to be the best film in the official competition, this 88-minute nervous breakdown of a movie provided just the jolt this Cannes needed. Based on Jonathan Ames’s novel (loosely, I’m gonna guess), it follows the agitated, fragmented inner journey of Joe (Joaquin Phoenix), a kind of vigilante for hire who finds missing people. The plot ostensibly concerns his search for the daughter of a local politician who’s involved in a child sex-trafficking ring. But as depicted by Ramsay’s frenetic, staccato editing style, Joe does not think in linear fashion. His mind is a tangle of memories and flash-forwards and what-ifs, all rendered in short, sharp, shock cuts. We see glimpses of his childhood with an abusive father and feel his impotence at not being able to help his mother. We glimpse footage of a girl killed in Iraq (is it Iraq?) and we understand that somewhere along the way, Joe wasn’t there for her as well. His world is a kaleidoscope of failures both real and imagined: Standing on a train platform or drinking from a water fountain, he sees young women looking at him through dead or wounded eyes. Are they just pointedly posed bystanders, accusing specters from his past, or ghosts of failures yet to come? Some have compared ‘You Were Never Really Here’ to ‘Taxi Driver,’ some to ‘Taken’ — both understandable references. The film it reminded me most of is John Boorman’s Lee Marvin–starring genre deconstruction ‘Point Blank,’ which also disposes of the particulars of its standard-issue crime story and opts to create meaning through style. But another film it closely resembles is Ramsay’s own ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin,’ in which Tilda Swinton’s character’s overwhelming sense of maternal guilt cast her in a kind of surreal waking hell, as she repeatedly replayed her recollections (some clearly unreliable) of a failed parenthood. In Ramsay’s cinema, emotion is memory, and it feeds the present and the future. So, in ‘You Were Never Really Here,’ Joe’s absence is both his great shame and his great skill: When he infiltrates a bad guy’s compound, he vanishes. The film’s action scenes…well, the film has no action scenes, that’s the whole point. When we catch up to a confrontation, whatever has to happen has already happened — we catch a glimpse of a bloodied head, a slit throat, a shot of our hero stepping away from the camera. Because he disappears; that’s what he does, for better and for worse. He’s like a superhero whose special powers are self-loathing and self-negation. As much as he needs to break free of his demons, his demons are also partly the reason why he’s able to do what he does. He could even be a stand-in for an artist, come to think of it.”
  11. Wonderstruck (2017)

    (A&F links to I'm Not There (2007), Carol (2015), and thread on Selznick's book.) Alissa Wilkinson: “Because kids grow up to be adults, giving them smart and artful cinema seems just as important to their development as giving them smart and artful books — to give them, essentially, a training ground for learning to approach the world with serious, sustained attention. But kids’ movies that treat their young audience as if they’re smart and capable of appreciating lush visual storytelling are rare. I’ve been mulling this idea for the past week, as I had one of the worst moviegoing experiences of my life last weekend, when I screened Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul. Unsuitable for both adults and children — few of whom likely enjoy feeling like a movie is instructing them to laugh at designated points — it might have been a bearable 20-minute episode of TV. As a feature film, it was unforgivable. But Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck, which premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, is Wimpy Kid’s polar opposite. Gorgeous, moving, and innovatively told, it may even be too smart for some adults. Kids will get it just fine, though ... Wonderstruck feels like a magical fairytale, though nothing about it is supernatural. Told partly in color and partly in black and white, the film contains long stretches that are virtually silent, with musical accompaniment (composed by Carter Burwell) that sometimes adds atmosphere, and sometimes punctuates what’s happening on screen, similar to how musical accompaniment worked during the silent-movie era.” Katherine McLaughlin: “Adapted by Brian Selznick from his illustrated children's novel, with Carol's Todd Haynes directing, this is a delicately crafted film that continually references the process of turning the written word into elegant visuals and vice versa. Yet it is this ambitious detail that detracts from the telling of the tender coming-of-age stories, with huge portions unfolding via people scribbling on pads or reading aloud to keep the audience up to speed. Rose's narrative takes the form of a silent film with Julianne Moore as a screen siren and Carter Burwell's score providing playful accompaniment. Haynes' 1970s New York echoes Martin Scorsese's crumbling inner-city grit as seen in Taxi Driver, though the overall tone is much sweeter, like Hugo. Wonderstruck shines brightest when its characters interact with the setting or the incredible panoramic model of the city. As the children roam the halls of the American Museum of Natural History their curiosity is realised with a spirited vigour. Haynes' camera whooshes between the different time periods and cinematic stylings, with his film painting the progression of the city over 50 years. It's part heartfelt love letter to New York's history and part ode to the ever-changing visage and vibrations of cinema.”
  12. La Fille Inconnue / The Unknown Girl (2016)

    Still waiting for August 25th. There is no way the Dardenne brothers should have to wait this long to get a U.S. release.
  13. In Pursuit of Silence (2016)

    Finally, in what feels like a long drought of the last six months of 2017, I just came across this gem.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.)