Joel Mayward

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About Joel Mayward

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    pastor | writer | youth worker | film guy

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  1. There are so many layers to this film. I wonder if Varda was intentionally being subversive in her approach, as she's in the vein of the French New Wave while also incorporating some very different elements and decisions. Even the title is subversive--it's really more like Cleo from 5 to 6:30ish, thwarting our expectations. It's definitely an experiment with the cinematic form, both in its construct of "real time" chapters, as well as that sudden contrast between the colorful opening with the tarot cards and the rest of the black-and-white film. But it also seems to subvert the male-centric New Wave narratives simply by having a female protagonist who doesn't die at the end, and by incorporating and critiquing feminine stereotypes. There's also a contrast here with films like Ikiru and Wild Strawberries, which are similar in the central character's existential crisis due to impending death, and their wandering/wondering throughout the film. But this is not an elderly man who is reeling from having lived a meaningless life; this is a very young, beautiful woman who is struck with the fact that she may not even be allowed the opportunity to live a full life, meaningless or not. Hence the "waking up" theme--Cleo's conversation with Antoine the soldier and his comment that the soldiers are "dying for nothing" in the Algerian war is a tipping point for her, as up until this point no one has really taken her seriously, nor has she seemed to take herself seriously. There's a willingness to face death--or at least the result of a medical exam--with a sense of resolve and courage after this conversation. There's also something being said about the nature of art, with the short film Nathan mentioned, the sculpting sequence, the music, fashion, etc. I'd have to watch the film again to mine those depths.
  2. That's wonderful! I likely won't take a course, but I do hope to have some in-depth conversations with him, as my PhD research may include some New Testament hermeneutical stuff regarding film and narratives (like, what exactly is a parable anyway? Funny enough, Wright has a brother who also is a theology scholar, Stephen Wright, whose expertise is in parables.) If nothing else, I'll aim to get a book or two signed, as well as read his entire New Testament corpus.
  3. Wright has significantly influenced my theology, and while he does have the tendency to ramble a bit in his writings and reiterate what he's already stated in lengthy run-on sentences (somewhat like this one!), his academic writing is much more accessible than other New Testament scholars I've read and also appreciated (e.g. JDG Dunn). I begin PhD studies at the University of St Andrews this fall, which is where Wright currently teaches, so I hope to have at least a few conversations with him in the years to come.
  4. Second: Picnic at Hanging Rock; Something, Anything; The Secret of Kells.
  5. Well, that escalated quickly. Mau, ad hominem statements with zero merit, like, "That's because you probably are not a christian [sic]" are simply uncharitable. Moderators, take note. Focusing on the film, I revisited it over the past two days, having not seen it for a few years. It's still one of my favorite cinematic depictions of Christ, mostly for the angry, liberation theology tone when Jesus is teaching. There's a sparseness and intimacy to the entire film (perhaps due to its budget constraints) which is a welcomed contrast to the elaborate Bible spectacles (I'm thinking of DeMille and Scorsese both). I love some of the directorial choices, especially choosing to view the trial scenes from the perspective of the disciples within the crowd, the camera hovering at a distance creating a fuller sense of anticipation and tension, as well putting the audience within the frantic nature of the whole procedure. A highly-political Jesus who pronounces woe upon the wealthy elite and unjust religious leadership, turning over tables in the temple, then embracing the poor and marginalized? It's a timely Jesus film to watch this Easter 2017 weekend.
  6. FYI, the above quote about Ozu being boring shouldn't be attributed to me.
  7. Bright Wall/Dark Room has a long-form interview with Varda worth reading.
  8. Welcome to A&F, Mau! Watching all 100 of the films is quite an endeavor. I wonder how you define "blasphemous," a word you used in the Gospel According to St Matthew thread, and perhaps what you criteria would consider to be "spiritually significant" within a film. Perhaps your definitions might evolve or change after watching more films on the list. I'm also curious as to what you found to be boring with Late Spring, Bicycle Thieves, and Chariots of Fire, three incredibly different films in terms of both form and content--what makes a film "boring" for you, and why is that considered a negative attribute?
  9. The first trailer: I'll admit it--I kinda like the campy, colorful look of all this.
  10. Despite having nominated a number of films already, I, too, am really struggling with figuring out which films actually are worth considering for such a list, as the definition of "waking up" is still too vague, IMO. Adding to Michael's list and in light of John's comment, are we also considering films which have caused the viewer to "wake up" to a new reality? This is partly why I nominated The Tree of Life--I felt like the very viewing experience was a wake up to deeper spiritual realities than I had ever considered or known before. But if these experiences were included, they'd be incredibly subjective and wide-ranging. The use of "woke" in our cultural climate does make me wonder if there are films which could be considered which wake up people to realities of injustice, racial experiences, civil rights, etc. I imagine there are plenty of films, especially documentaries, which raise awareness about these stories (though none come immediately to mind right now). But I'm just going to keep nominating films as they come to mind, and see if this community can discern whether or not they're worthwhile.
  11. I believe that was the case in previous list-making, which would bump back the date a year to December 2015. I'm open to adjusting for this if there's a consensus, which would mean my nominations of Arrival, The Fits, and The Edge of Seventeen wouldn't be considered. I'm much less open to including films which haven't been released or seen and placing them at #1 (r.e., the Wendell Berry documentary).
  12. My apologies for the delay in posting a discussion thread. For April 2017, I'm choosing Agnes Varda's 1962 film Cleo from 5 to 7. Inspired partly by the current Varda marathon happening on the Filmspotting podcast, as well as my recent discovery of Varda's The Gleaners and I on Amazon Prime, this is a film often cited as one of her best. Playing out in real time, with chapters and sequences tracked by titles every few minutes, the film follows a beautiful young singer, Cleo, as she wanders about Paris awaiting the results from a biopsy, which will tell her if she has cancer or not. The opening title sequence using tarot cards and the only colorized moments in the film set the tone for an unique, intriguing journey alongside Cleo as she navigates her own emotions about the impending news. I loved it. It's a bit languid at times, but it's also quite exciting, even as it simply follows a young woman around as she talks with various friends about her life and future. It's a beautiful contribution to the French New Wave, and has fascinating formal elements as well as interesting themes to discuss ranging from art, to the nature of romance, to spirituality vs. medicine. I believe it's streaming on Fandor, and perhaps on Filmstruck. I watched it via the Criterion DVD rented through the library. Roger Ebert's review. Josh Larsen's review. Molly Haskell essay. A recent interview with Varda at Criterion, "I'm Still Here." Our woefully sparse A&F thread.
  13. Some brief thoughts and reasonings for the films I've nominated thus far: The Fits - A young woman, Toni, awakens to both her body and her soul as she enters into a new place of affinity within a girls' dance troupe in a community center. There's something distinctly transcendent about its final moments, though the film never fully explains its mysteries or allegories. We see Toni come alive over the course of the film, choosing not to become a slave to gravity (as the end credits' song implies). The Tree of Life - It's hard to summarize why Malick's poetic masterpiece is worth considering for a list on "waking up," as the film addresses questions of memory, grace, justice, God, history, love, loss, and so much more in the span of the entire creation/death/resurrection of the cosmos. If there was a film to wake one up to realities beyond one's worldview or understanding, it might be this one. Doctor Strange - The titular doctor, a materialist in both senses (he doesn't believe in the spiritual realm, and he's obsessed with material possessions, wealth, and status) wakes up to the reality that defines all of reality: it's not about you. Inception - Takes the theme of "waking up" quite literally, as Cobb and his dream infiltrators navigate the realms of the subconscious and raise a number of questions about the construction of one's personal reality. I do think considering films here which question whether or not what we're viewing on the screen is a dream or "real" is important for this theme. My Neighbor Totoro - So many Miyazaki films could be included here for the theme of "waking up" to the spiritual realities around us. Totoro might be the best introduction to such wonders. Take Shelter - A modern-day Noah story, where the central character portrayed by Michael Shannon is given visions of an impending catastrophe, one which propels him to protect his family at any cost. It's not just that Shannon's dark dreams are a potential reality; I'd argue the true "waking up" moment happens in the final scene with Jessica Chastain, who is converted to Shannon's worldview when she's finally seen it for herself. The Double Life of Veronique - I love that the film offers no justification or explanation for the reality of these doppelgangers living connected-yet-distinct lives. For me, there's the waking up of each Veronique to the Other, as well as the audience's personal wrestling with whether or not they will accept the mystery for what it is. Metropolis - For all its ambitious images and symbolism, the film's central theme focuses on the reconciliation between "the head" and "the heart," an awakening to a more holistic way of being as personified by various class systems seeing and recognizing the value and position of the other. For me, the film was also a "wake up" to the power and significance of silent film--it's the first silent epic I ever watched, and it's captured my imagination ever since. The Edge of Seventeen - I wrote this recently on Letterboxd: "Loved how the film begins entirely from Nadine's perspective--she narrates the intro, and is present in every scene in the first 30 minutes. It's *her* story from the start, yet the film gradually opens up the audience to a wider range of perspectives, scene by scene, until the tipping point in walking into Bruner's home and she sees the baby. It's the moment of waking up as she realizes that there are more stories and narrators and perspectives in the world than just her own." Arrival - Perhaps the best recent example of how a film's formal construct embodies the mystery of its narrative content, a "twist" ending which isn't really a twist as much as it is a slow awakening to what's been present all along. As Louise begins to unravel the mystery of her memories and the linguistic nature of the aliens she encounters, it becomes clearer that what both her expectations--and ours as the audience--have been subverted. A film which truly requires a second viewing to fully appreciate. Cleo from 5 to 7 - A young woman awaiting the biopsy results for whether she has cancer wanders about Paris from conversation to conversation, feeling increasingly isolated and distraught by her friends' inability to empathize, until the chance meeting and vulnerability with a stranger in a park brings about the relief and perspective she desires. In the vein of Ikiru and Wild Strawberries, but from a young, female perspective as Cleo is awakened to life's meaning and purpose in the face of potential death.
  14. Second: The Truman Show, Fearless. Title: The Edge of Seventeen Director: Kelly Fremon Craig Year: 2016 Language: English IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1878870/ YouTube: A&F Thread Title: Arrival Director: Denis Villeneuve Year: 2016 Language: English, Heptapod IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2543164/ YouTube: A&F Thread Title: Cleo from 5 to 7 Director: Agnes Varda Year: 1962 Language: French IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055852/ YouTube: A&F Thread
  15. Personal Shopper: an eerie text message conversation on a train occurs on Wednesday, November 2, which I would assume is 2016.