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Joel Mayward

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Everything posted by Joel Mayward

  1. This is what Steven wrote at First Things back in 2011 to describe the intent behind the Top 100 list: "Spiritual and moral concerns" as a general unifying principle, as well as the list being a reflection of the personal journeys of the voting members—this all still rings true to me for this new list. Regarding the missional aspect described by Ken, while it may not be the primary concern (i.e. creating a list in order to get more clicks and/or forum members and participation), I will say that the Top 100 list was my introduction to Arts and Faith over a decade ago with the 2008 iteration, and I've encountered a number of people over the years who have told me about this "Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films" list they found once (e.g., a professor I had in seminary was elated when he learned I was involved with A&F, because the 2010 list introduced him to Dekalog). So, even if publicity isn't necessarily the main motivation, we should still appreciate that publishing a list—both online, and as a book!—is a deliberately public act which invites those outside of A&F to consider both the films on the list, as well as the nature of the online community itself. If we were going to do a second ballot for ranking, I think something like this would be doable (or even a Top 25), rather than ranking 100 films. I will say that the second ranking ballots have made a significant difference for many of the final Ecumenical Jury lists; whether that's a benefit or not is debatable (i.e. if film moves from #3 or #4 to #1). Well said. I think this speaks of a formative/transformative aspect of the films we'd like to appear on such a list as well—these are films which may have affected and changed us, guided us and challenged us, enriched us and enlightened us, expanded our spiritual/moral/personal/existential imaginations, made us more aware. And such contemplation and appreciation is perhaps akin to a spiritual practice or discipline in the vein of Thomas Merton or mystical theologians, where contemplatio is to "gaze" at the invisible transcendent presence and be more aware its reality.
  2. To Darren's point about what exactly we're voting on, I do think having some connection to "spirituality" remains valuable, even as we could define "spirituality" on fairly broad and inclusive terms, using language like a "recognition and celebration of transcendence, connection, meaning, and truth, usually (but not necessarily) in relation to a higher power or deity," or something along those lines (I do like the word "contemplation" too). What I've appreciated about the Arts and Faith Top 100 Films in the past are the genuine appreciation of arts and faith, even as both have wider connotations than merely an ostensibly "religious" film—Brakhage, Tati, Kiarostami, and the Dardennes were there next to Dreyer, Bresson, Rohmer, etc. They were films that expanded my understanding of both the distinctions of the cinematic medium and my understanding of God/humanity/time/existence/love/suffering/connection, etc.
  3. Okay, I see that there was a poll for the 2011 voting process, which asked a number of questions about short films, voting scale, inclusion of TV series and trilogies, etc. You can see the results of the poll here: If the poll results were followed, then short films weren't included in 2011, there was a limit to 3 films per director, there was a 1-5 scale (not 1-10), there was a cutoff release date of December 31 2008 (so, two years), and nominations had to be seconded (which seems normative). For the 2010 list, the "Spiritually Significant" label was dropped by IMAGE, all the previous included films (about 150 films) were grandfathered in automatically, A&F members could nominate up to 25 additional films in a thread, and (to quote Greg Wolfe in the linked thread), "We are going to try to get away without worrying too much about the issue of eligibility." It was a 1-5 scale, weighted voting by post count. There was also something about a "Peculiar Treasures" list which was going to be made by specifically chosen film critics? Here's the link to the post. I've never seen a Peculiar Treasures list, so perhaps this was abandoned or published elsewhere? I've not found anything regarding how many votes a film needs to qualify to be on the list, i.e. how at least 50% of the jurors on the Ecumenical Jury have to have seen/voted on a film for it to be included. Any thoughts on this from the community? So, a final question (for now): should there be a similar poll like there was for the 2011 list, voting on how we'll do the nomination/voting process which we'll democratically follow based on the results? Or, should the list organizers determine the nomination/voting parameters based on feedback from the comments and past lists, which is more "top down" but a bit more streamlined?
  4. Have "short films" not been eligible in the past? IIRC, a Brakhage collection was included at one point.
  5. This seems like a solid list of criteria to me. Regarding Twin Peaks: The Return, I'm inclined to consider it more "television" than "film," even as I also think Lynch is deliberately trying to blur those lines and provoke further questions about what cinema is/isn't. With Dekalog, I'd personally view it closer to O.J.: Made in America as an episodic work of cinema. But it's not a hill I would die on.
  6. Ken, I'll look through past threads and see what I can dig up regarding previous iterations of making the list and see if I can get some answers regarding mechanics of nominations and voting structure. I think we've discussed it before, but to make my own position clear, the idea of weighted votes based on post count is something I would strongly resist. However, I do think membership at A&F needs to be a basic minimum (it's a "free" website, so sign up!). I don't believe I do know your position! Is Dekalog a TV series or a film, in your opinion? And are we ready for a Twin Peaks: The Return discussion?
  7. I think, for better and for worse, often the cultural assumptions assigned to what makes for a meaningful life are perhaps linked to perceptions of gender and traditional roles therein, i.e. what makes a woman's life meaningful vs. what makes a man's life meaningful. And that's definitely a spiritually significant question to address, i.e. existential questions of meaning and purpose and where we find significance.
  8. Joel Mayward

    Life of Brian

    Terry Jones, director of Life of Brian, has died at age 77.
  9. That timeline works for me. The month of April will be busy for me, but I'm absolutely in for participating in a new Top 100.
  10. Joel Mayward

    Night and Fog

    I just watched Night and Fog for the first time this evening, and the ever-expanding shot of human hair is an image I will never forget. I'm about to embark on reading through Paul Ricoeur's massive tome Memory, History, Forgetting, which explores the ethics of remembering and forgiveness, particularly in light of the Holocaust. One commentator on Ricoeur compares this film with Lanzmann's Shoah as two very different approaches to the act of remembering, so I planned to watch them both alongside reading the book.
  11. This makes sense to me, and (at least for Transpositions—I can't speak for Image) those introductions should still be available at the places they were originally published, right? It does look cleaner without the intro paragraph. Thanks again for all your work on this, Ken. I imagine there's a lot more going on behind the scenes with this stuff, and your care and curation for the website is greatly appreciated.
  12. That's an interesting point, and it makes me wonder if Birdman would have been so celebrated had it been shot in a more conventional way. But I'm pretty certain Johnson is just joking around here.
  13. Joel Mayward

    Sansho the Bailiff

    Just watched this for the first time—it's my first Mizoguchi, actually—and wow was that ever depressing. Really interesting cinematography and beautiful as a tragedy, but not particularly uplifting when "life is torture" is a common refrain. Surprised to discover that this wasn't nominated for our Top 25 Films on Mercy list, as the necessity of mercy is the film's overtly stated theme.
  14. If you had told me 1917 was going to be the likely Best Picture winner a month ago, I wouldn't have believed it. Yet here we are. It's a fine movie, but I'm just genuinely surprised that in a year with such a wide variety of excellent films, it seems like it'll get the top prize.
  15. Joel Mayward


    Welcome to A&F, Byron! Ken and Andrew both have a lot of wisdom in their answers, so I don't have much to add. One thing I found helpful when I was expanding my own conception and understanding of cinema in my early 20s was to find a sort of "canon" list of films--such as the AFI Top 100, or Sight and Sound Top 250, or even our own Arts and Faith Top 100--and methodically work my way through it. There were so many films I didn't "get" initially. I remember watching the Dardenne brothers' The Child after seeing it on a shelf in a movie rental store, and finding it admirable, but not especially great or emotionally moving. Now, years later, I think it's a masterpiece. So I think being patient with yourself and recognizing that understanding takes time is key. It's akin to learning a language; you just have to practice and listen and immerse yourself, and over time you find yourself with a more natural understanding of the medium.
  16. I haven't seen it, so perhaps I'm missing something key here, but one of the biggest surprises for me—and probably the least likely to actually win the award—is Ford v Ferrari for Best Picture.
  17. Joel Mayward


    Yeah, this is one of those elements of film criticism where I find it difficult to parse between great direction and great editing/cinematography/production/etc. This is a bit tangential, but when Young Ahmed won the Best Director prize at Cannes, critics booed, and seemed to think the prize should have gone to someone else (Celine Sciamma or Mati Diop in particular). But though Young Ahmed is ostensibly less flashy or formally obvious than Portrait of a Lady on Fire or Atlantics, my scholarly knowledge of how the Dardennes make and direct their films makes me really appreciate just how visionary and capable they are as directors.
  18. Joel Mayward


    Here's my review of 1917, which was a film I somewhat can appreciate for its technical feats, but didn't feel those formal decisions were necessarily more emotionally involving or complementary to the situation it was showing. This tweet kinda sums it up for me:
  19. Not that it revolves around me, but my most "free" months in 2020 are February, May, July, and August. I think my fall season will be busy with academic writing projects. So, if we aim for the list to be published by June or July, that works well for me.
  20. Please do look for this, as I'm really curious now. I actually expected it to be a sunrise as I watched it precisely because the scene itself seemed to be trying so hard for the symbolism of it all. It's like the Twitter joke: *leans over to date* "That's the Rise of Skywalker."
  21. That's great news about the anthology! I'm happy to help lead/coordinate, especially depending on the timeline. Regarding the timing, I looked at past Top 100 threads, and there was quite a lot of discussion about procedures before the actual voting began, but when the voting opened, it was relatively brief, about 3 weeks. It seemed to follow the same timing we've continued to use for the Ecumenical Jury, i.e. nominations and voting in December, list announced in early January and blurbs solicited, published in early-to-mid February, likely to correspond with the Oscars. If we followed this pattern, but transposed it to summer time (voting in May, finalize list and solicit blurbs in June, published in early July), would that work?
  22. Thanks for this, and I could be wrong here because I can't remember the exact details from Rise of Skywalker, but isn't she positioned to be looking at the same horizon on Tatooine that Luke was looking at from his farm? If this is the case, it would mean either a) the suns rise and set on Tatooine on the same horizon, which would be an interesting bit of cosmic physics, or b) it's a sunset. Now I'm really curious as to how Rey is framed/positioned in the final shot.
  23. Sorry, I made a decision and sent an email before seeing your comments, Ken and Evan. The deadline extension made sense to me, allowing for any January 9/10 releases to be seen while not necessarily affecting the voting results beyond allowing for more time to see films for jurors. Ken, we should also talk publication date specifics, as our publication has typically coincided with the Oscars, which are quite early this year (February 9). We can discuss it via email.
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