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J.A.A. Purves

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Posts posted by J.A.A. Purves

  1. Title: Captain’s Courageous
    Director: Victor Fleming
    Year: 1937
    Language: English
    IMDB Link
    YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqxk0bYt4U8
    Link to the A&F thread on the film: N/A

    Title: You Can’t Take It With You
    Director: Frank Capra
    Year: 1938
    Language: English
    IMDB Link
    YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WY9RAroTS0
    Link to the A&F thread on the film: N/A

    Title: The Best Years of Our Lives
    Director: William Wyler
    Year: 1946
    Language: English
    IMDB Link
    YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yc5PugV4mk
    Link to the A&F thread on the film

    Title: I Remember Mama
    Director: George Stevens
    Year: 1948
    Language: English
    IMDB Link
    YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_GptutzTOQ
    Link to the A&F thread on the film: N/A

    Title: The Browning Version
    Director: Anthony Asquith
    Year: 1951
    Language: English
    IMDB Link
    YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oexu0qFjUDw
    Link to the A&F thread on the film: N/A

  2. On 1/24/2019 at 4:50 PM, Peter T Chattaway said:

    I am not familiar with MacDonald's thoughts here, nor am I sure exactly where Lewis echoes him on this subject (though I have read a lot of Lewis over the years), but for what it's worth, my rejection of this particular *theory* about the atonement (it doesn't sound to me like MacDonald or Lewis rejected the atonement *itself*, per se) is what set me on the path to becoming Eastern Orthodox. I reached a point in my life where I became convinced (partly through Robert Jewett's Saint Paul Returns to the Movies: Triumph over Shame) that the Protestant emphasis on guilt and punishment goes back to Anselm and, before him, Augustine, but does not go back to the Bible or the earliest teachings of the apostles. So I flirted with post-evangelicalism and even attended a liberal Anglican church a few times (where I was startled to see priests denouncing the Bible from the pulpit just like the Bad Preachers in cheap evangelical movies), but I was never comfortable or satisfied with the idea of subscribing to a theology that had basically been invented the day before yesterday. It didn't make sense to me that the Church would have gotten something as important as the atonement wrong for so many centuries. I shared these thoughts with some friends in another forum, and one of them piped up and said I should check out the Orthodox, who also didn't care much for the Augustinian-Anselmian approach to the atonement -- and this appealed greatly to my desire for continuity with the early Church.

    C.S. Lewis actually explicitly rejects the atonement "as punishment" in Mere Christianity.  Given his reading of MacDonald, this isn't a surprise (one of MacDonald's most explicit treatments of it is in his Unspoken Sermon entitled "Justice").

    For what it's worth, there is at least one lovely Antiochian Orthodox church in my town, where my wife and I have visited occasionally during our process of working through where we belong.  We still go to their Saturday evening Vespers on occasion, and every time we leave refreshed and readied for Sunday morning.  Coming from my evangelical background, the differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy appeared to be very small compared to the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism/Orthodoxy.  Our landing in the Catholic Church probably mostly has to do with our being persuaded by Newman's work on the development of doctrine and our understanding of the doctrine of the universal visible Church.  As a Catholic convert, I already love the Orthodox church, think the Great Schism to be a great tragedy and to be more the fault of the West than of the East, will work for giving the Greek liturgy a greater place within the Catholic church, and will work and pray for reunion.  As far as Augustine and Anselm's penal substitutionary teaching on the atonement goes, my understanding is that not only does the Catholic church not take this teaching as far as the Protestant Reformed view (which emphasizes a juridical view of justification) does, but that the reason for this is the corrections and distinctions drawn by other theologians such as Cassian and Aquinas.  (But, I have not read John Cassian yet.)

    On 1/25/2019 at 3:51 AM, Andrew said:

    I'm sure I would've left the church sooner or later anyway, but the church's response to my vicarious traumatization of hearing hundreds of trauma narratives from combat vets with PTSD was much the same as you describe, and was a nail in the coffin of my belief and praxis.  If I attempted to discuss it, I was typically met with silence and less than zero empathy, leaving me feeling an insignificant non-person.  And numerous veterans with actual PTSD, not my vicarious traumatization, recounted to me similar experiences that led them to leave the church.

    Partly because some PTSD combat veterans are personally close to me and partly because of an interest in neuroscience, I have had reason to research the basics of the different schools of thought that are out there for treatment of mental health issues.  Out of these different schools of thought, I have been very impressed with some of the work that is being done in cognitive behavioral therapy and in dialectical behavior therapy.  I have found that the mainstream Protestant and evangelical church has rejected a great deal of ancient and medieval theology regarding how consciously forming habits and practices can lead to different forms of healing and life changes.  I am still learning more about this, but I believe Protestant and evangelical thinking rejects works/practices/habits as a means of grace, because they teach that salvation must only depend upon God's grace being given to the believer.  Put another way, Protestant/evangelical theology rejects salvation "as a process."  Instead, salvation must be instantaneous upon the first moment of faith.

    The consequences from this is that I have found both impatience and intolerance in evangelical churches for any kind of "working out of salvation," whether this means changing or forming behavior patterns or thought patterns.  Given the time, the empathy, the work, and the daily practice of dealing with trauma, it does not appear to be the easy instantaneous grace of the work of a sovereign deity bestowed after the sufferer utters a simple "I believe."  I suppose this is because they believe that if one works out any kind of redemption by practicing and forming specific thinking or specific behavior, then that must be a redemption worked out by man, not God - which takes away from God's glory or sovereignty in some way.  Personally, I am seeing cognitive behavioral therapy help those I love, and I am finding that the requirement of faith (or bestowals of grace) does not have to be mutually exclusive with the requirements of daily practice or habit forming.  (All this is said with the caveat that I've made some broad generalizations here and that I grant that these are matters of great complexity and diversity of both belief and experience.)

    On 1/25/2019 at 7:21 AM, Joel Mayward said:

    Thanks for sharing about this, Jeremy, for your willingness to explore beyond the faith of your upbringing, as well as your abilities to communicate that process here. I've come to deeply appreciate much of Catholic theology (although I am admittedly very critical of some Catholic theology and praxis, but that's for a different conversation), and I can empathize with your experience of reading deeply--"sear the page as if with a flame" is a beautiful phrase--as having a profound effect on your spiritual practice.

    Thank you, Joel.

    To put this in another way as I think more about this, I have become persuaded over the years that literal "spiritual practice" really does matter.  Daily practices and habit forming, and the formative character of ordering one's time and attention, is a traditional theological concern of the church that I was never taught in my evangelical churches.

    How one thinks about the importance of regular, spiritual practices is determined by one's sacramental view of reality.  Hans Boersma, for one example, calls this sacramental ontology.

    I recently read James K.A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom, and while I admired his discussion of cultural liturgies and the ways in which practices and habits form us, I was struck by the complete lack of his discussing or citing to the major theologians and philosophers of the past who have made the same arguments in even far greater detail.  In other words, except for a couple offhand references to St. Augustine, Smith presents his cultural liturgies arguments about the formative practice of virtue as if they were new.  It feels to me that making a theological argument in this way is making an unnecessary break in the continuity and community of the church.  I was very lucky that my father instilled a deep love in my brothers and I for the practice of the inductive Bible study method.  But no evangelical church ever taught me that the experience of reading deeply was itself a spiritual practice called lectio divina, and that there were riches to be had in practicing it along with other disciplines.

  3. January

    - Summa Contra Gentiles, Book One: God (1259) - by St. Thomas Aquinas

    - The Rule of Saint Benedict (530) - by St. Benedict

    - The Gods of Winter (1991) - by Dana Gioia

    - The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy: Revised Edition (2018) - by Martin Mosebach

    - American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll (2010) - by Bradley J. Birzer

    - Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical (2003) - by John Waiss & James McCarthy

    - Love the Postmodern Predicament: Rediscovering the Real in Beauty, Goodness, and Truth (2018) - by D.C. Schindler

    - A Journey of the Mind: Collected Poems, 1945-2016 (2016) - by Helen Pinkerton


    - The Hanging God (2018) - by James Matthew Wilson

    - Introduction to Catholicism (2003) - by James Socias

    - Interrogations at Noon (2001) - by Dana Gioia

    - Introduction to Christianity (1968) - by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

    - Norse Mythology (2017) - by Neil Gaiman

    - Toward the Winter Solstice: New Poems (2006) - by Timothy Steele

  4. On 1/18/2019 at 12:04 PM, Darren H said:

    I grew up in a conservative evangelical world and was an active participant in it until 2004, when my wife and I left the church. I'd been feeling increasingly alienated from the religious practice of my youth for several years before then, but our decision was precipitated in some ways by a traumatic event we suffered ... With no offense to others still in that world, I feel grateful now to have escaped that particular evangelical culture. But I've experienced the loss as a kind of mourning. Faith, theology, the big questions of what it means to be human -- and to be a good human -- have remained a constant preoccupation of mine.

    Thank you, Darren, for starting this thread - one of the most riveting and thought-provoking threads we've had here for what feels like a long time.  It is striking how tragedies, griefs, and personal & family related issues have been mentioned by most participants in this thread as both cause for change in A&F participation and change in spiritual life and outlook.  I did not know this was something that so many of us shared.  It sounds like many of us have had quite a rough time of it.  Personally, the tragedies and struggles of life, family, and career have severely limited the time that I used to have available for participation in this group and my film reviewing pursuits.  But I have a deep and lasting affection for all of you, and it warms the heart to hear how well so many of you are bearing up after profound losses, crises of faith, and life-altering events.  It is also refreshing to be able to read and think through these things so generously shared here.  I still have the hope that A&F might find a revival of engagement again, and that I will be able to help contribute to it.

    I do not believe that I've shared here yet that I am currently right in the middle of a profound spiritual change.  I too grew up conservative evangelical, so much so that I went to a very active, politics/culture-engaging private evangelical college.  I too left the evangelical church, and then I left a post-evangelical church.  I also went through my own alienation/disillusionment period of bewilderment, doubt, and re-evaluation.  I spent about three years of intense and aggressive questioning of everything I had previously accepted and believed, and I had to think and talk through my most common and fundamental assumptions.  While not quite having finished what is still an ongoing process, and then after adding getting married and doubling-down on the serious work of building a family-supporting career, I am now finally and unequivocally on the path of converting to Catholicism.  Part of this is a suddenness in finding that I actually believe in the Eucharist.  Part of this is a growing sense of finding the doctrine of the visible universal church (ranging across every continent) to be both compelling and Scriptural.  And part of this is turning out to be the inevitable result of what has been a long journey.

    On 1/18/2019 at 1:41 PM, Joel Mayward said:

    I'm also reading a lot of philosophy, which is giving me a language and understanding of God, time, personhood, truth, goodness, and beauty that I had never previously imagined. Through both my experiences in a variety of Christian church traditions, as well as my current academic studies, I would consider my present faith a theological kaleidoscope of sorts, a mosaic of beliefs and practices formed from a variety of sources.

    It still puts me in a state of awe and gratitude how much a deep, old-fashioned reading and studying of philosophy has given me resources that I had never dreamed existed.  In my reading and studying over the last decade, I have drunk deeply of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Owen Barfield (particularly Saving the Appearances).  From there I moved to G.K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy), Hilaire Belloc, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Roger Scruton.  Edmund Burke, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Russell Kirk (The Conservative Mind), Wendell Berry, T.S. Eliot, David F. Wells (No Place for Truth, or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?), Mark A. Noll (The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind) Neil Postman (Amusing Ourselves to Death), Richard M. Weaver (Ideas Have Consequences), Eric Voegelin, Yuval Levin, Matthew B. Crawford, Josef Pieper, James K.A. Smith (Desiring the Kingdom) all followed.

    But all this only served to convince me how unread and uneducated I really was.  So that's when I began reading Plato and Aristotle, and I'm still reading and re-reading them now.  This led to Boethius, A.G. Sertilanges (The Intellectual Life), Alexander Schmemann, Dietrich von Hildebrand (Aesthetics), Martin Mosebach (The Heresy of Formlessness), Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue; Whose Justice? Whose Rationality?; Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry), Charles Taylor (A Secular Age), Thomas Pfau (Minding the Modern), Hans Boersma (Heavenly Participation; Nouvelle Théologie), Brad S. Gregory (The Unintended Reformation), Patrick J. Deneen (Why Liberalism Failed), D.C. Schindler (The Catholicity of Reason; Freedom from Reality; Love and the Postmodern Predicament: Rediscovering the Real in Beauty, Goodness, and Truth) and James Matthew Wilson (The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the Western Tradition).  These are now books and ideas that I will be rereading for the rest of my life.

    But, and probably more impactful than any others, I carefully read all of Dante's Divine Comedy and I have now begun to systematically work my way through the works of Thomas Aquinas, John Henry Newman, and Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI.  From there, I can't turn back, and I still have Jacques Maritain, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Yves Congar, and the early church fathers on the immediate to-do list.  While I am of a profoundly rationalist inclination of mind, I have read Aquinas coherently and intricately argue against any mere rationalism.  The vast, rich, elaborate, beauty of the coherent architecture of Aquinas' thought is breath-taking.  MacIntyre has explained how in today's public square there is now a incommensurability between different schools of thought and fields of practice that have only reinforces the increased polarization and ideological partisanship that seems to make basic communication impossible.  But Aquinas has a way of placing himself inside another school of thought or field of practice in order to engage, question, and dialogue with them on the basis of their own assumptions - this involves increasingly sophisticated forms of dialectic, where you pursue and attempt to adopt the strongest arguments and most coherent foundations that can possibly be adopted of another point of view with a fearlessness based upon the confidence that God is the author of all truth, all goodness, and all beauty, no matter where it is to be found. And it is an adoption of, and placement within, another's point of view that Aquinas models after what the Lord did with the incarnation.  It requires both a patience and love for other than self, and I it is convincing me that I have to learn and practice far more patience and far more love than I ever dreamed was possible to have for others.

    On 1/20/2019 at 7:58 AM, Darren H said:

    In my experience, "spiritual but not religious" is short hand for "I recognize that there is mystery in the world -- I've experienced it -- but church traditions and church practices, with their closed cultures and dualistic (right/wrong saved/condemned) teaching, alienate me from that mystery."

    In my Evangelical/Post-Evangelical/Baptist/Presbyterian church going, I have found the closed cultures and dualistic teaching that you speak of.  But I have also recently found that church tradition and church practice does not have to be closed, dualistic, and alienating in this way.  Unfortunately, a great part of what formed me as an evangelical was a lack - an absolute utter and blank void - regarding the teaching of either mystery or spiritual discipline or practice.  If I can encourage you to do anything in cultivation of your experience of mystery, I would encourage you to sit down and read the Church Fathers, ancient theologians, and mystics - read the books, treatises, poems, prayers, and devotionals written by Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Athanasius, Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose, Jerome, Psuedo-Dionysius, Augustine, Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Maximus the Confessor, St. John of the Cross, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Ávila, Catherine of Siena, Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, Hilda of Whitby, Thérèse of Lisieux, and others.  Here is mystery and in depth spiritual insight.  I am finding that there is simply no substitute for reading them.  Reading about the works of St. John of the Cross or Catherine of Siena is nothing like reading the the actual works themselves.  I can't find the words to describe this, but, in our current political climate and culture, the words of, for example, John Chrysostom simply sear the page as if with a flame.

    Read these people's writings from both the East and from the West.  The room for diversity of thought is immense and varied.  The room for both liberal and conservative sensibility is coherent and commensurate.  The value and love for diversity of culture and the distinctiveness of nationality is profound.

    20 hours ago, M. Leary said:

    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 ... 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.

    My wife and I have only been married a little over three years, and we have already been hurt in the church, more than once.  Leaving hurts too, and we have friends who told us long stories about experiencing far more and far worse than we have.  I do not expect or pretend to believe that we will not find hurt yet again in the Catholic Church.  Evangelicals are thoroughly unsuited to deal with the suffering of others just as all other sinful human beings are unsuited to deal with the suffering of others.  I do not mean this to be dismissive.  I have witnessed and experienced how difficult this can be.  Sanctifying empathy and the resources that can truly give healing to the suffering and to the needy comes from only one source - and His example is still the primary example we can turn to.  My faith has to be in Him.  And I am most interested in the means to His grace which I believe he made specific arrangements for sharing with us.

    On 1/19/2019 at 7:02 PM, Andrew said:

    Whereas praise choruses or CCM sets my teeth on edge, I still adore music such as the requiems of Faure and Brahms.  When my family and I voyage abroad, I delight in spending quiet times in cathedrals.  Even better when we can combine the two: an organ concert in Geneva's cathedral that dates back two millennia, or hearing Brahm's German Requiem in St Malo's cathedral.

    This is good to hear.  Not only can I identify with this deeply, but I can say that it is one of the reasons I am personally headed for Catholicism.  Beauty.  Quiet.  Contemplation.  Of course, I can respect your capacity (just like that of Henry Adams) to appreciate these things without necessarily challenging your hard-won, honest agnosticism.

    From my own perspective, I need a theology and philosophy that gives an important place for beauty.  I am surprised in looking back, at the buildings, at the music, at the sensibility, how much beauty simply does not matter in most of the evangelical circles I spent over two decades within.  Not only that, but the beautiful seemed to be replaced by the trendy, the flashy, the technological, and whatever seemed to be the most likely to draw in additional consumers within the contemporary church marketplace.

    Now I cannot get over the sheer wonder of the interior of an old cathedral, and how every single detail is richly laden with meaning, symbol, craftsmanship, metaphor, imagination, and reality.  I am increasingly learning the variety, flexibility, and sublimity of both Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony.  This stuff makes me want to adore.  I need to learn more about it and why it affects us in the way that it does.  I need language to at least begin to describe it.  I haven't read anything like von Balthasar's seven volumes of theological aesthetics yet, but starting with Aristotle, I've become convinced that exercising the capacity for wonder for the beautiful is a basic human need.  If the first church buildings that were constructed in the world were large beautiful cathedrals, and they were (taking into consideration the elaborate instructions for the tabernacle in Exodus), then why did the evangelicals I was brought up around think that beauty simply does not matter (or, even worse, is not to be trusted)? If it wasn't for cathedrals and choral music, I might not be about to enter the Catholic church.

    19 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

    George MacDonald has been one of the great spiritual guides in my life, and when I first found out that he didn't believe in the atonement, I had to decide whether it was possible for someone to be mistaken and still holy. Another spiritual practice is my commonplace book, and MacDonald has a healthy place in it ... Elsewhere in the same sermon, MacDonald uses the phrase "wander in the direction of the truth." I can't really think of a better metaphor for my spiritual practice and aims than that.

    George MacDonald's teaching on the atonement, and C.S. Lewis's echoing of him in some places, was the first thing I was able to grasp hold of in rejecting the Reformed insistence on how the death on the cross was necessarily Christ's being punished in order the satisfy God the Father's anger against sinners.  While MacDonald does not appear to be entirely orthodox in how he explains this, I have always appreciated how not only his words, but his biography seems to bear out that MacDonald did not make this argument lightly.  In fact he took on great personal sacrifices to do so.  His entire career in the church was destroyed, partly because of his refusal to grant that it was an angry God who demanded the suffering of innocence as the only means of atonement for our sin.  Despite a few of his mistakes from an orthodox perspective, whenever I read MacDonald, I feel that I am reading something wholesome, warming, and refreshing.

    All this said, I acknowledge that there is much that is wrong and even alarming about the Catholic Church.  There are many questions about it and objections to it that I would be happy to discuss (perhaps elsewhere so as to not take over the topic of this thread).  There are currently some great evils in the Catholic Church.  But I have found that no other church I have attended has anything like the riches of the Summas of Thomas Aquinas, like the Roman Missal, or like the four volume Liturgy of the Hours.  That the sources from which these come are richer and deeper than I ever imagined they could be.

    For all that I can find to love about them, there is not much universal about American Evangelicals, Southern Baptists, or for that matter, English Anglicans.  I've been looking for a faith and spiritual practice that can be adapted to Africa as well as to America, to Asia as well as to Europe.  I am surprised to say that I have found it, and it is more open and has more space and room for intellectual exploration and development than I have found anywhere else.  And, finally, from a Catholic perspective, I do not mean to come across as possessing more certainty and having found more than others here who are openly acknowledging serious struggles and doubts.  I still have great doubts too.  I have these doubts along with what I am finding to be a great deal more than I ever expected, and part of this is the confidence that all truth is God's truth, and part of this is a belief that the kingdom of heaven really is here, in hostile enemy territory in a lot of different ways - which are real and literal and sacramental.  I will keep all of you in my prayers - along with old regular prayer practices that that I am learning now only for the first time.  If I can be of any help or encouragement to any of you, or point anyone in the direction of further hope or light, email or private message me and we can talk privately if you wish.

    I can also thank Steven for his witness and example here at A&F.  While I never needed to dialogue with him about my questions concerning Catholicism, he has always been one of the more gentle but unwavering Catholic examples that I have been able to see over the years that always exemplified a rhetorical temperance and a generosity of spirit in his conversation about theological ideas in the arts.  Years ago, reading Steven's patient explanations for what he believed, I never would have dreamed that I would find myself entering the Catholic church.  But now I can see that reading as another part of what has lead to the present.

  5. (A&F links to Rocky Balboa (2006) and Creed (2015).)

    I've always loved these films because of their continually going back to the themes of family, history, and heritage.  I don't think Stallone could have done better than by picking Michael B. Jordan as the hero to pass the torch to in order to keep carrying the story, and it looks like this next film is as much about torch bearing as ever.

    Todd Gilchrist, Moviefone:
    “After six “Rocky” films, “Creed” was a remarkable triumph -- what seemed superfluous at best became essential.  The first "Creed" movie is not just a great entertainment,  but it is also a catharsis for one character and a vivid introduction for another. Consequently, “Creed II” only needed to be a well-deserved victory lap for Michael B. Jordan, who rocketed to stardom as Adonis “Donnie” Creed, not to mention Sylvester Stallone, whose signature series passed to more than capable shepherds. But like its predecessor, this kinda-sorta double sequel (both to its immediate predecessor and to “Rocky IV”) wrestles with powerful issues, deepens the first film’s characterizations, and resolves lingering details in the franchise’s timelines with humanity and grace. "Creed II" elevates the literal and metaphorical challenges of following up improbable success to something meaningful and eventually transcendent of the formulas that it relies upon ...

    Even as the film falls into the sometimes predictable rhythms of the series -- triumphant victories giving way to devastating defeats, and vice versa -- writers Sylvester Stallone and Juel Taylor showcase what seems like a very real feeling for competitors at the top of their game, and Donnie feels unfocused and perhaps appropriately decentralized in his own story. He is less a person than a character in a narrative that the world is determined to control -- a narrative that loves nothing more than perfect parallel lines between generations as one yields for the next to secure its own legacy. In the first half of Donnie’s journey, he seems to be doing what he thinks he’s supposed to, or is afraid not to -- a realistic and understandable course of action for a kid who, by the end of the first film, had only begun to discover himself, much less his febrile talents.

    But abject losses have a way of forcing reflection upon people who pursue excellence, and director Steven Caple Jr. harnesses these necessary, almost predetermined story beats and turns them into moments of searing introspection -- and, eventually, powerful self-actualization. Jordan, proving again he has more than enough charisma and talent to be both a movie star and bona fide actor, returns to a character facing questions that undoubtedly hit close to home as he plots his next career move: Once you’ve earned success, how much is enough? And more vitally, what drives that pursuit? The young actor’s physical commitment to the role is readily visible, but it’s the overall sharpness of his performance, including moments of heartbreaking vulnerability, that elevate his journey from the son of Apollo Creed to his own man ...

    Because “Creed II” works wonderfully as a follow-up to the first “Creed” and the fourth “Rocky,” but the similarities to those earlier films are quite frankly the least of its charms. And like Adonis, what proves most remarkable is how successfully what could easily be dismissed as a lesser copy or pale imitation combats a suffocating legacy to prove it can, and should, stand on its own.”

    Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist:
    "There’s a Confucius-style tenant written somewhere in the annals of screenplay writing 101—presumably written by a giant like William Goldman (R.I.P.)—that goes a little something like this: if you truly and deeply care about the characters everything else is gravy. To augment that somewhat, if you deeply empathize with a superhero, his fate and everyone they care about, all their epic battles and obstacles are that much more gripping—you are invested emotionally in what happens because the movie has successfully captured your heart. This very basic, but often forgotten, story fundamental is thankfully not forgotten in the ongoing superhero genre of boxing movies. And in “Creed II,” director Steven Caple Jr.,as well as writers Juel Taylor and Sylvester Stallone, understand emotional investment and stakes which make every blow in the film land that much harder.”

    Sam C. Mac, Slant Magazine:
    “There’s one substantial deviation from this predetermined path: a section in the middle of Creed II in which Adonis, recuperating from broken ribs and a ruptured spleen, settles down with his girlfriend, R&B singer-songwriter Bianca (Tessa Thompson). Jordan and Thompson are excellent in a lovely and anxious scene in which Adonis proposes to Bianca; the actors make their characters’ progression into married life, and eventually their role as parents, believable and moving. And while this emphasis on familial bonds may not be new to the series—in Rocky IV, Apollo and Rocky behave like brothers, and Rocky’s relationship to Adrian was given its own space to develop—there’s something uniquely special about the portrayal of family in Creed II, namely the way Adonis, Bianca, and their baby girl, Amara, come to represent perhaps the first dynastic black family in a major studio franchise. (That’s a development that may well have come from Coogler, a credited producer here, given that his Black Panther is similarly invested in a sense of lineage.)”

  6. I like this idea very much.  FYI, if you want to post a thread for a film for which there is already a thread, I believe there is a way of moving it to the "Featured Film Discussions" section of the board.  Email me if you can use any help figuring that out.

    Perhaps we could discuss a film or two for Advent: something like Whistle Down the Wind, Gosford Park, or The Night of the Hunter.

  7. This is not normally the plot of an awards winning film, but it sounds like it has been turned into a story that is much more powerful than most other directors would have made it.  I’m looking forward to this.

    Chris Feil, Film Experience, September 16, 2018:
    “Widows takes its seemingly straightforward crime narrative and weaves in character details and sociopolitical context to reflect a world where the personal and the political are inextricable, where institutional corruption and old boy loyalties create impossible consequences for the innocent average citizen. The personal and the political are inextricable here, with McQueen and Gillian Flynn’s screenplay sometimes allowing murkiness over definitiveness for the sake of effectively showing a world where reliable alliance is impossible. Manning’s political intentions appear just and honorable, undercut by his menace and willingness to enact the violence of his brother Jatemme, played with Chigurhian brilliance by Daniel Kaluuya. His rival, Colin Farrell’s Jack Mulligan, represents the status quo politicking that does nothing for the people, and has his own degrees of alternating virtue and nefariousness.

    While this rich contextual fabric lends the film an immediacy, its McQueen’s take-no-prisoners approach to building tension that makes the film as invigorating and stressfully evocative as it is. Seldom does a scene occur that some small detail or character beat doesn’t intensify the moment, like the omnipresence of Veronica’s dog and the less than friendly atmosphere shared between the new partners in crime. It’s a constant stream of microtensions that turn Widows into a macro powder keg, leaving our nerves into a frayed tangle. Nailbiters beware.

    Its massive cast (no seriously, even the bit players are recognizable faces) is all given opportunities to shine and given the space to complicate the texture of the film - though Jackie Weaver and Robert DuVall are perhaps given too much space. Along with Kaluuya’s terrifying villain, Debicki is the standout, even if her larger screentime provides repetitive beats that stick out against the film’s steady ability to surprise us with new ideas. Cynthia Erivo stealthily sneaks late into the film, ready to steal the multiplex as swiftly as she took the Broadway stage - her coarse interplay with Davis makes for one perfect wordless scene late in the film."

    Christopher Machell, Cinevue, September 17, 2018:
    “At the centre of the film is Viola Davis as Veronica Rawlings, the recently widowed wife of professional robber Harry (Liam Neeson). It’s a stunning performance, all at once strong, vulnerable and brave. Genre film or not, Davis’ depiction of profound grief is tremendously effective, elicited by McQueen’s audacious direction.

    The opening sequence cross cuts between a night-time heist gone violently wrong, with Harry and his colleagues dying in hailstorm of bullets and fire, and Veronica tenderly embracing her husband in between their crisp white bed sheets. McQueen consistently deploys such devices throughout the film, using the reflections in windows and musical cues to conjure Veronica’s bereaved memories.

    The second of this year’s second women-led heist flicks, Widows is as thrilling – and as relevant – as it gets. Although Veronica is at the centre of the film, her co-stars Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez as the wives of Harry’s associates, are given more than sufficient depth for us to empathise when they enter the frame. Crucially, the women share a common goal and experience, yet have wildly different backgrounds, thrown together under tragic circumstances.

    ... McQueen elevates it with the political element that Manning – who is running for District Alderman – brings with him. Opposing Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), the anointed son of incumbent Alderman Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall), it’s here that McQueen capitalises on the David Simon-esque racial politics.

    In one astonishing shot, Mulligan the younger bickers with his aide about the city’s black people ‘killing each other.’ As they enter Mulligan’s car, the camera stays outside, sitting at the front of the vehicle. As they move down the street, the camera pans from the dilapidated projects and across the windshield, briefly revealing that Mulligan’s driver is black, before completed its maneuver to settle at the left side of the car, revealing Mulligan’s enormous family home. In a single shot, McQueen distills the essence of the film’s political underpinnings, a thesis that culminates in the brief, thrilling heist sequence and a rousing conclusion.”

    Ella Kemp, Culture Whisper, September 18, 2018:
    “It would be easy to dismiss Widows as providing box-checking awards bait with big names and a reliable story. But despite the anticipation and support that lifts the project, what allows every word to ring true is the brutal violence that manages to surprise every sceptical thought and punish the assumptions ever stacked against a woman who has dared to love someone.

    The film never loses credibility, as McQueen manages to mesh explosive entertainment with realistic politics of gender and societal injustice. The women at war remain engaging because the mission stems from something bigger than an impulsive loyalty or an obligatory reaction of fear. It digs into reclaiming what they need and, finally, what they deserve. 

    Love and loyalty motivate the heist, but these emotions work against the players. This allows for more moments of comedy than the premise entails, with jabs at gun culture, stereotypical female weaknesses and the economy of online intimacy. 

    There's a difference between the ease in stealing and killing, and the force it takes to save yourself in order to be happy. Widows is a critique of everyday evils and betrayal; a searing lesson on how revenge and redemption go hand in hand. As topical as it may be, it's important to remember the film as more than ‘a moment’. The reaping of this harvest is only just beginning.”

  8. In my experience, a "like" button does discourage conversation.  Just being able to click to "affirm" what someone says is an easy alternative to responding with even a single sentence of affirmation.

    If the A&F board is to have a resurgence of conversation again, there are a number of alternatives to this that I think could encourage more conversation instead.

  9. I'm still here and am checking in every week.  If enough participants desire to update the Top 100 list, I'd recommend:

    1) First and foremost, re-establishing Arts & Faith's contact with Image: Assuming Image is still going to publish what we produce here, we'll need a contact person there who can familiarize him- or herself with how Arts & Faith's lists, voting, polls, and film & voter ranking calculations all work.

    2) Selecting someone with the ability to lead and organize the process: I can personally testify that this would be a significant time commitment.  While I can actively participate, I know I would not have the time right now to lead and organize it.

    3) Obtaining a satisfactory minimum number of participants who would commit to working on this: I second Andrew and Christian on that.

    4) Creating a reasonable timeline:  I'd give an update to the Top 100 list more time to put together than we've given the Top 25 lists, and I know the only way many of us could participate in this is if we place goals and dates on the calendar that we can plan and allocate time for.

    See also our December 2016 discussion.

  10. If you read anything else about Ready Player One, read this essay -

    From Palmer Rampell at The Los Angeles Review of Books, May 3, 2018:
    The New Yorker critic Pauline Kael wondered rhetorically while being interviewed in 1985. ‘One hates to say it comes down to the success of Steven Spielberg, but…’ She left a pregnant pause. For critics like Kael, Spielberg, along with George Lucas and others, shifted the production model in Hollywood away from introspective low-budget pictures helmed by auteurs — like Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider (the so-called Hollywood Renaissance) — to blockbuster productions with ever-proliferating sequels and extensive advertising campaigns. Spielberg’s critics insist that his blockbusters are ‘infantilizing’ or even ‘totalitarian’ in their unreflectiveness and focus on spectacle. At the same time, the popularity of the blockbuster has enabled Spielberg to become the highest grossing director of all time, personally worth $3.6 billion. And while Spielberg began as a countercultural auteur, or so the legend goes, there is also good evidence to suggest that he was sanguine about corporate production from early in his career. Like Halliday and, one day, Wade, his obvious doubles, Spielberg is a multibillion-dollar creator of artworks for the masses, and the battle in the film between Wade and Sorrento is a battle over the legacy of the cultural meaning of the 1980s, the nature of corporate productions, and by extension Spielberg’s oeuvre. Was the culture of the ’80s all just for profit and in bad taste, with Sorrento as its true heir, or, following Wade, can we find something redemptive underneath the shoulder pads, hoop earrings, and acid-washed jeans? ...

    Once we see that Spielberg is pointing to the intertwined visions of director and corporation, Ready Player One looks like a celebration of one corporation in particular — Warners — and of the corporate vision — the vertically integrated multimedia conglomerate — that has underpinned it for the past 50 years. The media conglomerates of the 1970s and ’80s could underwrite the Hollywood blockbuster’s high risk and high reward because they had diversified their holdings by investing in a number of different industries: film, television, video games, et cetera ... What would it mean to read the film as celebrating not just Spielberg but also Warners’ culture, to think of the film not only as Spielberg’s creation but also as Warners’ advancement of a particular agenda at this moment in time? One obvious answer is that Ready Player One promotes virtual reality as a medium for the masses, a potential boon to both Time Warner and Spielberg, who have invested in virtual reality technologies as the next multimedia frontier ...

    But ironically, in its frequent allusions to Warners’ productions, Ready Player One cannot help but reveal the gap between its celebration of the free and open distribution of content and the studios’ actual practice of covetously guarding their intellectual property. To paraphrase Henry Ford a bit, users of the OASIS can explore any IP that they want — so long as it belongs to Warners. Users can generate their own content, but perhaps the most notable example of user-generated content is Wade’s friend Aech’s massive recreation of the Iron Giant. Her creative imagination has been thoroughly colonized by Warners’ IP, which AT&T plans to release to its consumers in similarly customizable experiences. The OASIS is thus exactly what many reasonably fear AT&T envisions as the future of the internet: a putatively free internet that is dominated by Time Warner’s content.

    While, to Spielberg, the Golden Egg may refer to the quality of the art produced under corporate supervision, to Time Warner and AT&T, a golden egg refers to the monetary value of the associated goose. In fact, AT&T has described its premium satellite and cable subscribers as precisely that: ‘a golden goose,’ by which they mean a reliable source of revenue.”

  11. From Richard Lawson at Vanity Fair:
    “This is not an intense annals-of-power thriller, though. It’s instead a quiet look at a personal moral quandary that has no easy answers, a conflict Green illustrates with sensitivity. Though all three sections of the film have didactic bits when big ideas are plainly stated, the bulk of Monsters and Men renders huge issues with a fluid understatement. But that disarming pensiveness and interiority doesn’t forget the anger and sadness of the story—instead, it somehow heightens it, affording these characters a grounded texture that casts their struggles in a piercingly humane light ...

    The film is gorgeously staged, cinematographer Patrick Scola’s camera gliding and reeling, Kris Bowers’s dreamy score playing as both plaint and prayer. The performances are uniformly gripping, with Ramos, Washington, and Harrison Jr. the standouts, if only because they have the most to do. (Beharie remains as welcome here—sharp, natural, incisive—as she is in everything. Please put her in everything?)

    There’s an argument to be made that Monsters and Men is too tasteful for such seismically important, infuriating topics; perhaps the film dulls its stakes with all its lilting aesthetics. As I see it, though, Green’s melancholy reserve articulates something vital and heartbreaking. Alongside all the clamor and fury of this necessary outrage, there is also the everyday ache of these lives, infected and shaped by racism and its destructive ends, yet still possessed of precious everyday joys, hard won and tenuous as they might be.”


  12. Bishop Robert Barron, “The Most Unexpectedly Religious Film of the Year,” April 10, 2018:
    “We flash-forward several months later, and we watch the Abbots (can the name have possibly been accidental?) going about their lives in what could only be characterized as a monastic manner: no conversations above a whisper, elaborate sign language, quiet work at books and in the fields, silent but obviously fervent prayer before the evening meal, etc. (I will confess that this last gesture, so thoroughly absent from movies and television today, startled me.) Given the awful demands of the moment, any gadgets, machines, electronic entertainment, or noisy implements are out of the question. Their farming is by hand; their fishing is done with pre-modern equipment; even their walking about is done barefoot. And what is most marvelous to behold is that, in this prayerful, quiet, pre-modern atmosphere, even with the threat of imminent death constantly looming, a generous and mutually self-sacrificing family flourishes. The parents care for and protect their children, and the remaining brother and sister are solicitous toward one another and toward their parents ...

    The central drama of 'A Quiet Place' is that Mrs. Abbott is expecting a child. The entire family realizes, of course, that a wailing infant would, given the circumstances, mean almost certain death for all of them. And yet, they decide not to kill the child at his birth but to hide him and mute his cries in various ways. When so many in our culture are willing to murder their children for the flimsiest of reasons, when the law gives full protection even to partial-birth abortion, when people blithely say that they would never bring a baby into such a terrible world, the monastic family in this film welcomes life, even into the worst of worlds, and even when such an act is of supreme danger to them. As the baby is coming into the light, the mother finds herself alone (watch the film for the details) and in the most vulnerable situation, for one of the beasts has made its way into their house. As she labors to give birth, the devouring animal lurks. I was put immediately in mind of the scene in the book of Revelation, where Mary is in the throes of child birth as the dragon patiently waits to consume the child ...”

  13. (A&F thread for Of Gods and Men (2010).)

    Linda Marric, HeyUGuys.com:
    “Director Xavier Beauvois (Of Gods and Men, 2010) is back again with a beautifully crafted production which tells the story of the women left behind in rural France after the of the majority of men of fighting-age were conscripted to fight in WWI. The Guardians (Les Gardiennes), takes a contemplative, slow paced look at the great war from the perspective of those whose stories are seldom told. Cannes Grand Prix winner Beauvois, offers a simply told and beautifully conveyed account of the devastating events which will eventually lead the way to the emancipation of women throughout Europe. Basing most of the action away from the battle ground, the director offers an alternative war movie, one where the fight takes place at home rather than on the battle field.

    Adapted from Ernest Perochon’s 1944 novel, The Guardians spans two years in the lives of the women who inhabit Le Paridier, a family owned working farm run by Hortense (Natalie Baye), a resilient matriarch trying to make ends meet in the absence of her two sons and husband. While her daughter Solange (Laura Smet) does her part in running the farm in the absence of husband Clovis (Olivier Rabourdin), Hortence has to also make do without her school teacher son Constant (Nicolas Giraud), and his younger brother George (Cyril Descours) …

    With long mournful scenes and slow meandering shots, the director forgoes the need for artifice in favour of natural storytelling and beautifully sedate exchanges between his characters. Baye is magnificent as Hortence, her quiet resolve and resilience are depicted with huge expertise and panache. The Guardians is a stunning production, which while not being entirely without fault, still manages to thrill and move its audience beyond all expectation. Beauvois is faultless in his ability to recreate the past, down to the last thread of every costume and every piece of equipment used on the farm. A genuinely astounding piece of filmmaking which is as beautiful as it is essential.”


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