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Joel Mayward

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Everything posted by Joel Mayward

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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!
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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?
  9. 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.
  10. Joel Mayward

    Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

    I'm late to the game here, but this film was atrocious. Meaningless and cynical.
  11. Joel Mayward

    Godzilla 2

    I watched the trailer on my phone, and it still evoked a sense of wonder and frisson.
  12. Joel Mayward

    The Miseducation of Cameron Post

    This opened in Paris this week, so I hope I can find a moment to see it.
  13. Joel Mayward

    Top 25 or 100 for 2018-19

    Regarding Andrew and Christian's questions about participation, I didn't vote in the 2011 list, but reading through the various threads and nominations, many of the same people who were commenting there are still somewhat active on A&F, at least within the past year or so. And A&F has added a few folks since then. Are there any stats somewhere about the actual numbers for voting in previous lists? A bigger question for me is the role of Image--Greg Wolfe and Anna J seemed like the main organizers for the list, but I'm not sure what role Image would play now. All this to say, I still think it's very much worth doing.
  14. Joel Mayward

    Top 25 or 100 for 2018-19

    YES. In a Top 25 thread from nearly two years ago, SDG suggested 2018 as the year for a Top 100. Ken also proposed the idea of a companion book. Both ideas seemed to be met with a lot of positive feedback, so is that enthusiasm still here? A&F seems a bit quiet these days, although I do check the forum daily. I'm game for a Top 100, and wonder if such a list-creating endeavor could reignite some of the discussion here.
  15. Joel Mayward

    The Rider

    Thank you for sharing this, Darren!
  16. Joel Mayward

    The Rider

    Thanks for starting this thread, Andrew. This is currently my favorite film of 2018. I went into it with zero knowledge of the story's premise apart from "horses," and was deeply moved by the film's characters and the strong directorial vision. Here's my review.
  17. I will be doing a teaching internship during my final semester of seminary this spring, teaching a Church History course which covers the Protestant Reformation until the 20th century. I get to help structure the readings and assignments, and the professor is also a cinephile who has invited me to consider adding films to the syllabus for the students to watch. So, what are some great films for a graduate-level course on church history? These can be films about particular events, key figures, movements, or ideas, but mainly historical (as opposed to entirely fictionalized, though I am considering Silence). This course focuses on the Reformation and beyond, but I'd be interested in films about pre-Reformation events too. Here's what I've come up with so far: A Man for All Seasons Monsieur Vincent The Flowers of St. Francis The Mission The Passion of Joan of Arc Luther
  18. Joel Mayward

    Ahmed

    Links to our other threads on the films of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne: La Promesse, Rosetta, The Son (Le Fils), L'enfant, Lorna's Silence; The Kid with a Bike; Two Days, One Night; The Unknown Girl. The upcoming film from the Dardennes has a title: Ahmed. From this Screen Daily article about Wild Bunch acquiring it for distribution: The synopsis at the Wild Bunch website is similar: "Belgium, today, Ahmed, a young fanatic barely out of childhood, plans to kill his teacher in the name of his religion. How can love of life win out over his desire to put someone to death?" As I wrote on Twitter, apart from the allusions to Christian imagery throughout their oeuvre, and the treatment of North African religious ceremony/beliefs in La Promesse, this could be the Dardennes' most direct examination of religion. Not sure when it'll be released yet--filming begins in Belgium this summer (2018)--but I do hope to visit and meet the Dardennes at some point in the filmmaking process, to observe how they do their "two-headed filmmaker" thing.
  19. Joel Mayward

    Star Wars: Boba Fett spin-off movie

    This film is probably for everyone wondering what Boba Fett was up to before and after the events of the Star Wars Holiday Special. Fett's character thrives on mystery and looming in the background. Giving him the spotlight and more of an origin story undercuts any lingering sense of enigma Episode II didn't already exorcise. But ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  20. Joel Mayward

    Star Wars: Han Solo origin story spin-off

    I do find myself beginning far too many sentences with "Indeed..."
  21. Joel Mayward

    Star Wars: Han Solo origin story spin-off

    Yeah, the more I've thought about L3's character and her fate, the more I find the treatment of droids in the film and the employment of a liberative framework for comedic use problematic. Are droids sentient persons capable of love and moral choice, or are they mere machines for utilitarian use by "live" beings? Solo strongly suggests both, which is...confusing. Let's say Lando is truly in love with L3, and that she is capable of love too. What happens to her--being torn apart and "dying," then being uploaded to the Millennium Falcon as its new "brain" (are these the "special modifications" Han made?)--could either be seen as restorative and life-affirming in resurrecting her, but it also suggests that she's mere coding, a mechanical Gnosticism where her body doesn't matter as much as her system. And she's never heard from again on the Falcon, so is she "alive" still in the computer system? Is the Falcon now somehow sentient? Could we hear from L3 in future installments? Should we have heard from her all along? I'm probably overthinking all this.
  22. Joel Mayward

    Star Wars: Han Solo origin story spin-off

    FWIW, I enjoyed the film more than I anticipated, even if it's just a trifle of a movie. It's totally unnecessary--even more than Rogue One--to the Star Wars mythos, but I can't say I didn't enjoy it.
  23. Joel Mayward

    Congratulations, Joel.

    Since moving to St Andrews, I've had the pleasure of meeting a few A&F members face to face. First, Joel Clarkson is also in the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts, so we connected last fall; he's finishing up his masters and I believe will be doing a PhD in ITIA as well. Then, a few weeks ago, I met Anders Bergstrom in Toronto during the Religion & Film Conference; he presented an insightful paper on Mad Men and the documentaries of Adam Curtis, and it was great to discuss film theory and grab a drink at TIFF Lightbox. Today, I met Brian Duignan and his lovely family as they visit friends in Scotland and were able to come by St Andrews; we had a great conversation about life as ex-pats and the wonderful films of the Dardennes. The Internet can be terrible, but it can also be good. I'm thankful the connections this A&F forum has fostered.
  24. Joel Mayward

    Come Sunday aka Heretics

    I think this is an example of why I found the film more interesting and complex than, apparently, you did Peter, in that it doesn't always portray Pearson in a positive light. He makes these impulsive, isolated decisions that have big community ramifications, then is surprised to be held accountable for his words and decisions. I think that's actually quite realistic and indicative of many Protestant evangelical senior pastors and leaders (e.g. see the recent Bill Hybels scandal and firing), in that they operate and lead quite autonomously, given significant power due to their rhetorical skills. The church literally lives or dies based on the one charismatic leader. The self-baptism scene reveals this complexity too--I think (I hope!) viewers would find such a decision to be problematic. So, I think the film is just as much about systems of leadership in evangelical culture as much as it is about theological questions.
  25. Joel Mayward

    Come Sunday aka Heretics

    So fascinating to see the early posts about this film and the various folks who've been involved! This film has finally been released via Netflix. Here's my review. Really great performance from Ejiofor, and a surprisingly good one from Jason Segal playing against type. I do wish we could have seen a Jonathan Demme version of this, and I'm glad Martin Sheen took the role of Oral Roberts instead of Redford.
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