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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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    Pastor, Writer, Film Critic

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  1. Joel Mayward

    The Fits

    I've watched this film at least 3 or 4 times now, and I come away with a new interpretation for what the "fits" could mean each time. Is it medical? Biological? Psychological? Spiritual? Is such diagnosis even the point? It's interesting to me that, in the comment above, black bodies in apparent distress are seen as "causing the city grief" viewed through economic terms (i.e. monetary costs) and young women are assumed to be lying to get attention. I don't think one needs to have kids to appreciate the film's aesthetic or performances; I do think its meaning isn't quite so clear (in a good way), which leaves audiences really divided (if you read the Amazon.com reviews and comments, many people hate this film and its ending). FWIW, there's a great article in Film Quarterly about the film: Bodies That Matter: Black Girlhood in The Fits. I recently decided that The Fits is going to be in a chapter of my PhD thesis as an example of a cinematic parable, i.e. a narrative-metaphor with a polyvalence of interpretations, an everyday story which teases its audience into active thought. Like Jesus's parables, I think this film, via its ordinary with an extraordinary and ambiguous ending, brings to light the audience's questions and paradigms, drawing them to the surface to be examined and transformed.
  2. Joel Mayward

    The Good Place

    Thanks! I did present it, and a longer version of the original paper will be published as a chapter in an edited volume from the "Popular Culture and Philosophy" book series. I did create a handout with a list of every single philosophy/theology book mentioned or shown in Seasons 1 and 2, which you can see in the attached PDF. The small detail I enjoyed most was how in Chapter 7 the title of Chidi’s sparkly-boot-wearing colleague’s course on the classroom blackboard is “Eschatology and Notions of the Apocalypse,” with books by prominent Christian theologians listed as assigned reading. It's probably the only time Jurgen Moltmann has ever been included in a TV sitcom. SST 2018 - The Good Place Presentation Handout.pdf
  3. Joel Mayward

    The Predator

    This was one of the more incoherent, poorly edited action films I've ever seen, up there with the Transformers films and Suicide Squad. Perhaps it was the theatre I was in, but the night scenes--which are almost all of them--are so poorly lit and blocked that it's quite hard to discern what is happening. I'm a fan of the Predator series, but not a fan of this.
  4. Joel Mayward

    Congratulations, Joel.

    Another Joel update (on my birthday, no less): I'm a new associate editor at Transpositions, the online journal for ITIA. We publish scholarly-yet-accessible essays and book reviews on just about anything involving the intersection of theology, imagination, and the arts. So if you're interested in writing for Transpositions, do check out the submission guidelines and send me an email. Also, I'll be at AAR/SBL, the big annual academic conference for religion and Bible scholars, this upcoming November 15-20 in Denver, CO. I'm presenting a paper on Black Panther and cinematic parables at SARTS, the Society for the Arts in Religious and Theological Studies, if you're in the Denver are and want to say hello.
  5. Joel Mayward

    Other Dardenne Films

    In my PhD research on the Dardenne brothers, I've discovered that the Liege production company, Dérives, which produced the brothers' early documentary films mainly shown on Belgium TV, has a Vimeo page. Nearly all of the Dardennes early work is available here for purchase, including versions with English subtitles (which is a rarity). I don't know how long these will be available, as many of the videos were uploaded November 2017. You'll have to search individually for each film, and they're only available for purchase. But for all you Dardennes purists, this is a fantastic find.
  6. Joel Mayward

    Films about exile and restoration?

    I think one could view the Dardennes' Two Days, One Night and The Kid with a Bike through the lens of exile-and-restoration, although those themes aren't the most prominent. Coming-of-age films come to mind: Moonrise Kingdom, Son of Rambow, The Kings of Summer, Stand by Me. I have mixed feelings on the film, but perhaps Captain Fantastic. And for a weird one, Swiss Army Man. The survivalist stories of recent years--The Martian, The Revenant--could be applicable, although I'm personally negative on both of these examples. Maybe Gravity?
  7. Joel Mayward

    Examples of "Cinematic Parables"?

    The article I linked to is about how critics called mother! a parable when it's more allegorical, and how the Dardennes' The Unknown Girl fits the description of parable much better.
  8. Joel Mayward

    Examples of "Cinematic Parables"?

    Thanks! Dekalog and Calvary are on my list; I think Dekalog will play a significant role in my thesis, actually. I might classify The Truman Show as more of a satirical fable than parable. And if you think of films which aren't as "popular" that's helpful too. Thanks! This is one I hadn't considered, but I think could apply, as the wolves could symbolize much more beyond cancer--mortality itself, sin/grief/regret, etc. The thing about parables, at least in the way I'm describing them, is that there's potential evidence within the boundaries of the story itself for more than one valid interpretation, even as those interpretations remain in the realm of truth, as opposed to personal judgment or preference. And these stories make us come back for more--we keep revisiting them and finding new applications or interpretations. Presently on my list, I'm considering films from Rossellini, Bresson, Kaurismaki, Farhadi, Mungiu, Rohmer, and Koreeda, as well as Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, Anna Rose Holmer's The Fits, Debra Granik's Winter's Bone, and Sean Baker's The Florida Project. Some Ingmar Bergman could apply. What doesn't *quite* fit--although I'd love to hear pushback on this--are the highly stylized formalist auteurs, e.g. Wes Anderson or David Lynch or Steven Soderbergh or Spike Lee. Are there any documentaries that could fit the description?
  9. Joel Mayward

    Examples of "Cinematic Parables"?

    I have a brainstorming question for this community: I'm steadily working on my PhD thesis on the films of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, in which I suggest their films are "cinematic parables" via philosopher Paul Ricoeur's specific description of "parable" as narrative-metaphors with an existential referent, i.e. the story refers to something outside of itself in the real world of human existence. The story stands on its own as a story, yet it also refers to something outside of itself; Ricoeur looks for "signs of metaphoricity" which reveal the story as parable. Ricoeur makes a distinction between parable and allegory; the latter is more didactic and overt, a one-to-one correspondence in the metaphorical reference (e.g. Aslan stands for Jesus) whereas parable can have a polyvalence of interpretations. With parable, the narrative as a whole--as opposed to each individual character or plot element in allegory--refers to Something Else or illuminates that aspect of human existence. In this, parables engage the transcendent via the immanent, "religious" stories which utilize only "secular" language or images, and have a distinct realism, i.e. they're not fantasy or sci-fi or fables, but set in real-world contexts and ordinary, everyday life. These also prompt some sort of action or transformation in the audience; parables intentionally subvert expectations via indirection in both form and content, using the unexpected or a surprising/extraordinary moment to challenge commonly-held beliefs and reshape one's imagination and will. They're both invitational and confrontational; they draw you into the story, then blindside you with a lingering sense of awe and/or disequilibration. If you've seen the Dardennes' films, you can probably see how the above description applies to them. All this to say, I'm looking for film examples which could be considered parables in the sense I'm describing above: realist narrative-metaphors which prompt some rethinking of one's moral and/or theological imagination. I'm especially struggling to find examples of Hollywood or "popular" films which fit this description. I've got plenty of examples in world cinema and indie films, especially in realist traditions (Italian neorealism, British "kitchen sink" realism, etc). But I'm wondering if parable can be "popular" too. The closest I've come up with is a qualified descriptor, i.e. a "sci-fi parable" or "parabolic superhero film" which loses that realism inherent to "true" parables. I'd distinguish parable from fantasy, magical realism, or fables (e.g. Guillermo del Toro). I think some of Chaplin's films, like The Kid or Modern Times, could be considered a parable. (I wrote about Darren Aronofsky's mother! and the genre of parable, if you're interested). Help me brainstorm: what are some examples of cinematic parables?
  10. Joel Mayward

    Top 25 or 100 for 2018-19

    Yes! Thanks for this. Reading the whole thread, it seems I even contributed to the discussion!
  11. Joel Mayward

    Top 25 or 100 for 2018-19

    It's good to hear that the Ecumenical Jury is seen as valuable enough to do again, regardless of the status of creating a Top 100 list. I'm for doing it again too; it's a very unique contribution to the year-end discussion on cinema. I'm trying to discern the history and tradition of the A&F list-making practice from a second- or third-generation perspective. I watched the Top 2010 and Top 2011 lists process as a mostly-silent lurker--I think I may have voted in the Top 2011, though my memory is muddled on that. Reading through an archived thread from 2004 about the early list-making process was helpful. I also discovered that 44 people voted in the 2010 Top 100, and 65 voters in 2011. It does seem like the process has changed or evolved over the years due to the community involved and the point person(s) organizing it all. I know I'm a different cinephile--hell, a wholly different person--than I was in 2011. I cannot seem to find discussion as to why the Top 100 practice was abandoned after 2011, seemingly in favor of the Top 25 lists. Can anyone shed some light on this? Perhaps the Ecumenical Jury process can offer a potential alternative to the question of a weighted vote. In the previous Top 100 votes, it seems there was a link posted on A&F's website to a SurveryMonkey poll, and a timeline for when that poll opens and closes (please correct me if I'm wrong on this). With the Ecumenical Jury, the poll link has been emailed to participants, who have to put their name, A&F user ID, and email address, which provides some proper accountability (no anonymous voters, multiple votes, or a random person clicking on the link in an A&F forum to mess with the results). I think there's a proper exclusivity in the voting process itself--if someone has not seen a film, then she/he can't/doesn't vote on it. I think this encourages folks to seek out the nominated films to watch them--to expand their film-watching--and thus make their vote count. In weighting the votes as opposed to the voters, it seems the emphasis is on the films themselves, not the quantity (instead of quality) of voters' online posts. Thoughts?
  12. Joel Mayward

    Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

    So, I went to a movie theatre in Paris in order to beat the heat--it's been 95+ degrees this week--and purchased a ticket for Incredibles 2. In the opening scene, I realize that the film is dubbed, and while my French has improved, it's not *that* good. I go to get a refund, but it's a non-refundable ticket, and the only two films playing in English with French subtitles are Ant Man and The Wasp (which I'd already seen), and this film. I haven't seen the original, I'm not that familiar with ABBA apart from "Dancing Queen," and I had no desire to see a belated sequel. But it was air conditioning for two hours and I'm out 8 euros anyway, so I stay. The opening scenes with Amanda Seyfried had me somewhat groaning and rolling my eyes, wondering if I'd made a mistake. But then Lily James shows up in the Oxford scene and she's marvelous. The film built from there, converting my cynical heart until I was tearing up at the baptism scene and my feet tapping/dancing to the final number. I use the word "conversion" above intentionally, because this was one of those moments where I was reluctant to appreciate, let alone enjoy, the artwork before me. But it won me over in a way I can only describe as repentance, an unexpected, holistic turnaround in my emotions and POV. All this to say, this film is much better than I anticipated.
  13. Joel Mayward

    Top 25 or 100 for 2018-19

    Thanks Evan! I've reached out to a few A&F folks who haven't commented in this thread yet to gauge interest. With Image having the Glen Workshop soon, and with people's summer/back-to-school schedules, I imagine it may take a few weeks to discuss all this and figure out the concrete details. And to put my cards on the table, I think the weighted voting system should be disbanded for this process. I can appreciate the history of the practice, but I feel it's unnecessarily exclusive and hierarchical.
  14. Joel Mayward

    Top 25 or 100 for 2018-19

    Unless someone wants to discuss it with Image folks while at the Glen Workshop this next week, I can reach out to Image about potential timelines for publication and a reasonable timeline. Regarding the number of participants: has there ever been a quorum for these list-making projects? How many people do we need? As far as I can discern from reading other threads on the Top 100 process, I can't find data for such a quorum. If I recall correctly, there was a weighted process with the votes depending on involvement, (i.e. someone with more posts had more weight/influence with their votes). I can understand why this practice was in place back then, but I wonder if it's worth reconsidering how we weigh someone's involvement at A&F. I'd like to say I could organize all this, but my schedule for autumn is going to be much busier than it is now, and it could prove difficult. Still, if no one else objects or offers to take point in the near future, I can assume the lead on coordinating with Image to make a Top 100 list happen for the end of 2018. Depending on the timeline though, this all *might* overlap with a 2018 A&F Ecumenical Jury process, if that's still something we'd like to do. Should we do both?
  15. Joel Mayward

    The Miseducation of Cameron Post

    My review. I had high hopes, but I'm mostly disappointed, mainly in the film's characterizations and heavy reliance on tropes/stereotypes. I'll wait to discuss more when the film has been released in North America and seen by a wider audience.