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Joel Mayward

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About Joel Mayward

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    pastor | theologian | film critic

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    St Andrews, UK

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    PhD Candidate, Pastor-Theologian, Film Critic

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  1. I don't have time for a lengthier response (about to leave the office), but two quick things: First, thanks for thinking about this ahead of time, Ken, and making sure there's an awareness of preservation in our digital age. Second, Ron Reed's ongoing "Movie Calendar" project is the first thing beyond the Top lists that came to mind as worth preserving:
  2. Well, a disappointing update: the Cannes press office has rejected both of my applications for accreditation. I applied through two outlets--Think Christian and Bright Wall/Dark Room--and both times received a "no" without much explanation. I'll seek out other possible options, but it seems I won't be able to attend the festival like I'd hoped, which is deeply disappointing. Thanks for all your help and support everyone, and let me know if you have any other ideas--I think the main reasoning, if I can read between the lines, might be the size and scope of the media outlets, either the "Christian" aspect of Think Christian or the audience size (Twitter, Facebook, monthly subscriptions, etc). So, if another outlet which fits Cannes' desired model and numbers commissioned me to write for them and I could make the deadline by March 31, there's still a possibility.
  3. I think the film is doing something beyond the typical midlife crisis narrative, as it's exploring cultural norms and views of what it means to be a "good" spouse/woman/adult, especially via the inclusion of some key markers in growing older--the high school reunion, the revelation about her husband, etc. It's a film about memories and the passing of time without becoming too overt in this; it's a snapshot of the present which immediately makes one recognize the sacred depths of the characters' earlier years. In this, I think My Happy Family really addresses the narrative events leading up to the events in the film really well, without resorting to overly expository methods. I really like Bilge Ebiri's opening statement in his review: "There are few things more terrifying than being asked 'How have you lived your life?' while in the midst of living one’s life." I think that question is significant for our theme of "Growing Older." And I think it's very important that we consider a non-Western female-led, female-directed story for our list.
  4. I really want to watch this, but it doesn't seem to be easily available in the UK--I only found it available to rent/purchase on Amazon Prime US.
  5. A brief exhortation: Please make sure to watch Opening Night and My Happy Family, as these haven't been seconded yet and they definitely deserve to be considered for this list. The latter is streaming on Netflix.
  6. Joel Mayward


    I watched this finally, as it's now streaming in the UK. I had such a surprising negative reaction to it, finding it to be far too literal and obvious in aping horror classics--it's basically nu-Polanski--while also logically inconsistent or incoherent. I'm okay with the inexplicable; I'm less okay with acts/actions that make little sense within the given film-world. Like, who keeps the candles lit? So many candles....
  7. Joel Mayward

    Free Solo

    I genuinely laughed out loud at this.
  8. Joel Mayward

    Free Solo

    I think this is getting at what I'm trying to say. If the film/filmmakers/Alex had wanted to address the question of Aspergers or autism, they could have appropriately done so at any number of points--Alex's mom's comment about Alex's dad, which you (Ken) initially thought was in reference to Alex himself, the brain scan, the questionnaires, the various interviews with climbing buddies who describe Alex as "unique" or "special". So, it raises the question for me of why the filmmakers didn't go down that path (or maybe they did, and it's been edited out!). But if they (the filmmakers) were to go down that path, or if they have their own beliefs/suspicions about Alex being on the autistic spectrum, does that not raise further ethical questions about making a film about his self-endangering behaviors? Is it ethical to make a documentary about a person on the autism spectrum engaging in dangerous hyper-obsessive activities and presenting it as laudable? Might making such a film heighten that egocentricity and/or social isolation? I think there are important ethical questions about this anyway, and the film does nod at those a few times, although--as I point out in my review--it seems much more interested in presenting an awesome award-winning rock-climbing doc than it does in those documentary ethics queries. That was precisely the implication in this particular instance (and has been in others)--it was suggested that I am being "dipshittish" and unsympathetic in my review because Alex is obviously autistic, and thus his behaviors are a "terrifying" struggle for him, which I've wholly dismissed. But I didn't get much of a sense from Alex that he was struggling, per se, apart from the "struggle" of solving the El Capitan climb itself. Oh, good question, and one I hadn't considered. I'm using it simply as an adjective to point out Alex's egocentricity--he operates as if he is the center of the world--and not as a diagnosis of NPD. And that's a good point about "comes off as..." language versus "does things that are..." language.
  9. Joel Mayward

    Free Solo

    Thanks, Andrew. I noticed some of those signs too, although I'm nowhere near qualified to make any sort of diagnosis, which is why I avoided it in my review: if the film is not going to say it--and there seemed to be numerous opportunities for it to be said (or even speculated about)--then it didn't seem like an interpretation that emerged from within the film, but one placed upon it from the outside. And that's well and good; that just wasn't my experience with the film, nor is it how I interpret Alex's actions without a proper diagnosis. (Full disclosure: my mother abandoned and later divorced my father partly under the pretext that she "diagnosed" my dad as having Asperger's, which meant she could justify leaving him because he didn't meet her emotional needs. So, I'm very speculative about any non-professional and third-hand diagnosis of someone as autistic.) I've found numerous online forums where people have speculated about Alex's personality and possibly being on the spectrum, but those, again, are still audience third-hand speculation based on film footage or interviews--they aren't a professional diagnosis, nor an admission on Alex's part. I did find this interview with Alex where the author writes: "He [Alex] admits to being 'somewhere on the autism spectrum'" but it isn't explored any further, nor is there context or tone given for the statement (Is Alex joking around? Is he totally serious? What question did the author ask that prompted this response?).
  10. Joel Mayward

    Free Solo

    I had an interesting, even fruitful (!) Twitter exchange with someone who called me a dipshit for my "infamous" review of Free Solo, where he said I missed the fact that Alex is dealing with Asperger's syndrome. I pointed out that the film seems to take pains to show that he's *not* autistic, AS, etc., and that my view of the film would be remarkably different had the film shown or said this. My dialogue partner, who identified as having Asperger's, said this: Which makes me want to raise the question again here, as Ken and Andrew did above: is Free Solo suggesting that Alex is autistic or AS, that he's not, or is it intentionally trying to be vague to allow our own interpretations of his actions (a formal choice which seems, to be honest, not the filmmakers' main focus)? Also, apparently my review is infamous.
  11. Captain Marvel had the biggest opening weekend for a female-led film, with $153 million in North America, $455 million worldwide.
  12. FWIW, here's my positive review. I rather enjoyed it, and the more I think about it, the better it becomes in my mind. I must admit, prolonged analysis of Rotten Tomatoes' metrics on these things feels like a literal exercise in missing the point--are the negative reviews actually being read, are they consistent in their negative critiques, what are the strengths/weaknesses being noted throughout reviews, etc.? The content of the reviews would be more interesting data, in my opinion.
  13. Don't forget Jack Nicholson!
  14. This is probably not the thread for this, but if we expand to DC, Christian Bale won his Oscar in 2011 for 2010's The Fighter, two years after The Dark Knight. So, maybe 2-3 years from now, one of the MCU leads wins an Oscar? I'm betting on Benedict Cumberbatch. And now this thread can return to Captain Marvel.
  15. I don't think Halle Berry as Storm is considered in the MCU, despite both being Marvel. But there are lots of Oscar nominees and winners in the MCU: Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Don Cheadle, Josh Brolin, Glenn Close, Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Julie Delpy (she was in Age of Ultron!), Benicio del Toro, Michael Douglas, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Djimon Honsou, Mickey Rourke, Anthony Hopkins, Jeff Bridges, Tommy Lee Jones, Ben Kingsley, Lupita Nyong'o, Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman, Robert Redford, Jeremy Renner, Sam Rockwell, Marisa Tomei, Forrest Whitaker, and, of course, Samuel L. Jackson. This post has even more.
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