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Joel Mayward

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Everything posted by Joel Mayward

  1. Hello jury members, Welcome to the 2018 Arts & Faith Ecumenical Jury! Here is our thread for nominating, seconding, and discussing films. Here's a statement Ken Morefield wrote up for our first jury in 2014, which I think is worth sharing again: I think the statement remains applicable--it's appropriately broad and ecumenical, while also having the particular faith-focused nature of this end-of-year-list. Here’s our timeline for this process: Nominations open on Thursday, November 1. To nominate a film, simply post the film title in the forum thread or email it directly to me (jmayward@gmail.com). All nominated films must receive a "second" vote from another jury member in order to appear on the voting ballot, which can happen either by posting “seconded” in the forum or via email, or a jury member nominating the same film. Non-jurors can also recommend films for nomination in this thread, but they must be seconded by two jury members. I will keep a tally of all the nominated and seconded films within this thread, updating it regularly as we go. You can use this same thread to discuss, advocate, question, process, or to direct folks to links to other threads or conversations about the nominated films. I'd encourage you to give your reasons behind nominating or seconding a film, especially during this nomination process—encourage us to check out great films we may not have seen yet! Qualifying films: a first-time theatrical, DVD/Blu-ray, streaming, or festival release in the 2018 calendar year. Even though I presently live in the UK, I am going by North American releases as I find them on IMDB. Thus, a film like Paddington 2 (2017 release in UK, 2018 in US and Canada) can be nominated, while a film like Columbus (2017 release in North America, and on our top 10 list last year, but just released in the UK a month ago) would not be eligible. Regarding questions of release dates (e.g. First Reformed was a festival release last year and on our nominations ballot, but had a much wider release this year) and what constitutes a “film” (e.g. Twin Peaks: The Return), I put full trust in the jury’s viewing and voting practices, and in the conversation we will have within the forum. Nominations will close at 11:59pm (PST) on Sunday, December 30. This is fairly late in the year for end-of-year film lists, but it follows our pattern from the previous two years. On December 31, I'll email jury members a link for a survey with all the nominated films that they can rank 1-5 (strongly disagree-strongly agree that the film should be on our jury's top 10 list). You are to vote only for films you have seen--if you haven't seen a film, simply leave that ballot blank or unranked. Again, how you rank/rate a film is entirely up to your discretion and judgment; I trust in the process. Per our practice in previous years, a film is eligible if it's been viewed by at least 50% of the jury. So, 9 out of our 18 jury members. This is so a film with high scores seen by a minority of jurors doesn't have an undue advantage (i.e. a film with only three “5” votes in total would have a higher average score than a film with ten “5” votes and one “4” vote, but the latter film would be a better reflection of the jury's collective opinion and film-viewing experience). If there are not ten eligible films that score “4” or higher on average, the foreperson (that's me!) reserves the right to look at film(s) that averaged over 4 but had less eligible voters. Voting closes on Monday, January 7. This gives a week for jury members to vote on the nominated films. After the totals have been added up using some math wizardry, I'll send out an email with the results. Then I’ll send you an optional second ballot with the ten finalists asking folks to rank them. This had a big impact on where certain films ranked in the final top 10 last year, so indicate on your first ballot if you'd like to receive this optional second ballot. If you choose not to ask for the second ballot, I'll base your rankings on your scores for this first ballot, giving equal weight to all films receiving the same designation/score. Finally, I'll solicit "blurbs" for the final list, as well as your Honorable Mention--a film which did not end up on the top 10 list, but you would like to see recognized. I love the Honorable Mentions, as it’s always very diverse and interesting. Here's our jury, listed alphabetically by first name, and with the website/"brand" I currently have for you (let me know if you want to update or change this, or if I’ve misspelled something): 1. Anders Bergstrom (3 Brothers Film) 2. Christian Hamaker (Patheos / Schaeffer's Ghost) 3. Evan Cogswell (Catholic Cinephile) 4. Gareth Higgins (The Porch) 5. Jeffrey Overstreet (Looking Closer) 6. Joel Mayward (Cinemayward / Think Christian) 7. Josh Cabrita (MUBI Notebook / Cinema Scope) 8. Josh Hamm (Freelance) 9. Josh Larsen (Filmspotting / Think Christian) 10. Ken Morefield (1More Film Blog) 11. Kevin Sampson (Picture Lock) 12. Melissa Tamminga (Seattle Screen Scene) 13. Michael Leary (Freelance) 14. Noel T. Manning (Cinemascene) 15. Peter Chattaway (FilmChat) 16. Philip Martin (Blood, Dirt & Angels) 17. Sarah Welch-Larson (Think Christian / BW/DR / Freelance) 18. Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films / National Catholic Register) I'm excited to have Sarah, Josh L., and Philip as part of the jury this year, so welcome them to A&F! Looking forward to our discussion of these 2018 films, and for creating another unique end-of-year list.
  2. I saw Lean on Pete and wrote a review. It's good-to-great.
  3. I nominate Shoplifters, a film consistent with Koreeda's affecting recent works exploring familial bonds, including a third act reveal which adds to the ethical complexity (and the weeping).
  4. Joel Mayward

    Black Panther

    This raises the question of distinction between the language/construct of "race" and "ethnicity" and the problematic myth inherent in a "black" and "white" understanding of the world (in more ways than one, actually--black-and-white either/or thinking void of nuance has its problems). In fact--and I need to revisit Black Panther before saying this is a fact--but I believe the film doesn't use the language of "black" or "white" in the way I used it above. Again, I'll need to rewatch it, but I don't think the Wakandans call themselves "black," but I do think Erik Killmonger might, which again raises the African/American dynamic mentioned above in the thread. It's also one of the reasons I love Black Panther--it is directly about race (among other things--it's also about gender, violence and guns, foreign policy, pluralism, science vs spirituality, and a mosaic of other themes), but it's not about race in the same way as, say, The Hate U Give or BlacKkKlansman. Instead of angrily deconstructionist and overt in its arguments about race, Black Panther positively creates/constructs another world above and beyond, a film-world reality which which challenges and expands our imaginations in our life-world. Peter, this is tangential to the film, but I'm curious: when you bring up that you are "Mennonite" in the discussion of race, what do you mean by this? Is "Mennonite" considered a race? An ethnicity? A culture? A society? A denomination? A theological strand? Can one be a Mennonite without believing Mennonite theology or attending a Mennonite church--like if one converts to a paedobaptist tradition in Christianity? I know the history and culture of the Mennonites--I was a pastor in a Mennonite church in Langley--and I was struck by similar language and views while I was there. As an American and as a non-Mennonite by name/birth/culture, but (mostly) Anabaptist in my theology, I was still made to feel like I was inherently an outsider due to my last name and my American origins. So, I'm curious if a parallel is being made here between Mennonites and, say, Jews and Judaism in blurring the lines between religion and ethnicity.
  5. This was my reaction to the film--it's a lengthy sermon preached through a bullhorn, but it's a *good* sermon, and undeniably affecting. Amandla Stenberg's performance is remarkable, lifting the film from after-school special territory into something much more interesting and powerful.
  6. Joel Mayward

    Film Club December 2018: The Ninth Configuration

    I'm not sure if it's streaming anywhere else in the US, but I found The Ninth Configuration on Kanopy, and will plan to watch it when I have 2 hours I want to devote to insanity.
  7. Joel Mayward

    Black Panther

    I mean, it is an American film from an American filmmaker wrestling both on- and off-screen with the identity of "blackness" which bridges America and Africa. In my bringing up the language of a "black culture" here, perhaps it's unclear out of context of the rest of the paper, which is considering racial identity, the myth of white supremacy in modern Western culture, and how Black Panther is not only about race but also about foreign policy. So, I'm not flattening all non-Euro distinct cultures into one, or at least that's not my intent; I'm very aware of distinctions, and I think the filmmakers in Black Panther are too. Yeah, how T'Challa goes about decision-making is problematic and inconsistent with the character he was in Black Panther. This is one of my biggest frustrations with Infinity War, in that it essentially ignores thematic devices and questions raised in the other films, not to mention aesthetic/formal approaches (for another example, how the Guardians are treated in this film as opposed to Gunn's approach). Perhaps this is too strong of a critique, but it feels like the Russos co-opt the subversive parabolic mythos of Wakanda and re-establish it (or "colonize" it) for the MCU mythos/machine. Fun note: And with this post, I've finally reached 1000 posts at A&F after over eight years of membership.
  8. Joel Mayward

    Black Panther

    In an academic paper I recently gave (and will hopefully be published in a peer-reviewed journal) on Black Panther and borders/alterity, I commented on how in the finale of the film, it is Africa sending aid to America by creating a Wakandan centre in Oakland. It is the colonized colonizing the colonizers: Regarding the refugees and whether or not T'Challa will allow them into Wakanda, I understood the post-credits UN speech as T'Challa proposing that Wakanda will open their borders to the world, to "build bridges not barriers" (a line which feels the most directly anti-Trumpian policy), suggesting a both/and regarding the borders--Wakanda will reach outside of their borders (e.g. Oakland centre) and allow people into their borders. It's fair to say that there aren't direct references to refugees here. Avengers: Infinity War doesn't really do much with any of this apart from place the CGI-punchfest battle in Wakanda, and wipe out all our favourite characters (for now).
  9. Joel Mayward


    Saw it. I deleted the threads, but Ken as Administrator may need to explore the suggestion about new users and new threads.
  10. Joel Mayward

    Avengers: Endgame

    We have a trailer and a title: Avengers: Endgame.
  11. Joel Mayward

    Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc

    Oh, I see it released in October, and it's also available via Amazon Prime in the US. I'm still excited; I can still access Kanopy here in the UK via my Stateside library card, so there's a way to finally see this film.
  12. Joel Mayward

    Suggest a Film to be Featured

    I still have The Night of the Hunter on my to-(re)watch list for this week (I'm writing an article on truly unconventional Christmas movies which will include it). Are there any other Christmas or Advent themed films which might be a good fit for December?
  13. Joel Mayward

    Top 25 or 100 for 2018-19

    I imagine between the regular contributors/commenters/participants at Arts & Faith, as well as those critics who have been involved in the Ecumenical Jury in some form over the past few years, we would have the critical mass to make a Top 100 list and book project not only doable, but unique and exciting.
  14. Joel Mayward

    Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc

    !!! This is not available *anywhere* so this is very good news.
  15. I nominate Summer 1993, now streaming via Kanopy and Amazon Prime US. A memorial and a memoir, the film is about a six-year-old orphaned girl in Spain who must move in with her aunt and uncle after her mother dies of AIDS. It's a tender, warmhearted film, nearly entirely from the perspective of a child (the parallels to Ponette are certainly there), and incorporates a significant amount of Roman Catholic spirituality within its meandering narrative. It was Spain's entry for the Oscars last year, but didn't really have a wider release until this year, at least in the US and UK. I'm not sure why it's not getting more end-of-year awards attention; it's an astonishing feature-length debut from Carla Simón, and currently at 100% at Rotten Tomatoes. Josh Larsen, is it too late for Summer 1993 to be a 2018 Golden Brick candidate on Filmspotting?
  16. A good point and observation. The wording is intentionally ambiguous and a bit open to interpretation; the word "or" carries a lot of that ambiguity, and is meant to address the situation where a film is released at a festival one year and theatrically in wide release in a different year. A good example from this year is First Reformed. While we haven't yet made this a hard and fast rule, I would say that if a film was on our Top 10 list one year due to being a festival release and enough critics having seen it, then it wouldn't qualify for the following year if it had a wider theatrical or streaming release--it would be strange to have a film *twice* in our Top 10. So, if First Reformed or 24 Frames had been seen by enough jury members to be voted upon and make it into the Top 10 of 2017, then I would question its eligibility for this year's list. But I imagine First Reformed is going to be on a lot of folks' Top 2018 lists, not 2017 lists (even though, iirc, it was Ken's #1 of 2017 on his personal list); and First Reformed is winning awards in 2018 as a 2018 film, even though it also won an award at Venice in 2017 and was a Golden Lion nominee alongside The Shape of Water, Three Billboards, et al. Ultimately, I tend to trust the jury's viewing habits and judgment in these things--what were we watching in 2018 that piqued our interest, the films from 2018 we think a Christian audience should check out? Those are the films I hope are on our ballots and final Top 10.
  17. Thanks Evan! I had missed it in the A&F post, even though I have it listed as a nominee in the personal Word document I have. I'm trying to update the nominations post daily, so there may be some delays. Still, a good reminder to all that if there's been a nomination or second and I haven't recorded it yet, please don't hesitate to point it out! I will second Searching. John Cho gives quite the performance via on-screen furrowed brow stares, and this is the film I'd hoped Unfriended would be.
  18. While 24 Frames was nominated last year and was Melissa's Honorable Mention, it was released theatrically in the US in February according to IMDB, and thus qualifies for our list this year. It will be released via Criterion (as a 2017 film) on January 8, 2019. For Jeff's other nominees: Jeannette: limited US release in April 2018 - qualifies November: US release in February 2018 - qualifies Private Life: Netflix release in October 2018 - qualifies Puzzle: limited US release in June 2018 after Sundance premiere in January - qualifies The Sisters Brothers: September limited release, October wide release in US - qualifies. Also, produced by the Dardenne brothers. (Sadly, I haven't seen this.) And by way of clarification, here is our wording for qualifications: "a first-time theatrical, DVD/Blu-ray, streaming, or festival release in the 2018 calendar year." Tacitly, this means a US and/or Canada release, not UK or elsewhere.
  19. Joel Mayward

    Something, Anything (2014)

    That's great news! Something, Anything is a film I'd love to own someday, if it were ever to be made available on DVD/Blu-ray.
  20. Great to see your nominations here, Kevin and Noel! I will second Josh Larsen's nomination for Chosen: Custody of the Eyes. Some of the best blocking and framing of 2018 is shot on a handheld camera by a novitiate nun, Sister Amata. There's a perfectly framed shot here of a teacup as nuns eat a meal in silence, Sister Amata sweeping up bread crumbs. It reminds me of the scene in Three Colors: Blue with the sugar cube in the tea, beautifully patient and emphasizing the wonder of ordinary things. Modest in its form and content, Chosen is an intriguing coming-of-age story and an exploration of documentary ethics--does the presence of a video camera change the culture of a group of cloistered nuns whose lives are intended to be hidden as a key part of their spiritual vocation? If you want to have contact info for a screener, DM or email me and I'll put you in touch with Abbie Reese, the filmmaker.
  21. Joel Mayward

    The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

    I can empathize with interpretations pointing out some of the problematic portrayals of woman in Buster Scruggs, but I found that to be more a positive than a negative on the film. The approach is highly satirical, a send-up in the vein of the Coens' entire filmography. Every male in Buster Scruggs is a criminal, comic relief, or a deconstruction of the Western male cowboy--e.g. Billy Knapp is probably the closest to being the "ideal" Cowboy of the Western genre, but he is noticeably absent from the climactic conflict, and pretty useless to Zoe Kazan's character, as noted at this Film Comment article from Michael Koresky, "The Paragon of Animals" (ht to Ryan Holy and Darryl Armstrong for sharing this): So, in a film where the joke is on everyone and positions of power or tradition are deconstructed and lampooned, I think it's probably better that women are (usually) not the brunt of those jokes (Kazan's character and Tyne Daly's uptight wealthy woman in "The Mortal Remains" notwithstanding). More problematic for me are the portrayals of indigenous people, although I'm unsure whether the Coens' camera is painting them in a negative or satirical light, or what the purpose is behind making some of the most violent scenes occur at the hands of attacking Native Americans. It's provocative, to be sure.
  22. I will nominated The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a film which looks Death square in the face and gives it a wink. Each one of the stories in the anthology directly addresses human striving, depravity, and mortality like a darkly comic Ecclesiastes. Some work better than others. But those final two tales, "The Gal Who Got Rattled" and "The Mortal Remains," won me over, and which tip the film from semi-frivolous to deadly serious. We have a thread started here; I'm curious as to y'all's opinion.
  23. Joel Mayward

    The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

    I was mixed-to-positive on this, until that final story, "The Mortal Remains." Then I just loved it. What an ending! I'm not sure why the Coens haven't done an anthology like this before, as it does seem to highlight much of their darkly comic worldview in a way which doesn't feel quite so heavy (Miller's Crossing) but also doesn't veer too far into the silly terrain (The Hudsucker Proxy). They seem to having a lot of fun with this, as much as human mortality could be considered "fun." Shooting in digital was interesting too, and worked really well in some scenes. Stephen Root's "pan shot!" character is in the running for one of my favorite supporting performances of 2018. It's such a small, brief role, but it's instantly iconic, and Root imbues it with a madcap delirium.
  24. Joel Mayward

    The Future of Arts and Faith...

    I would say my own status as a "professional" film critic has direct roots in my lurking at A&F back in 2007 or 2008, reading forums but never commenting. I only became a member in 2010, and I've yet to reach 1000 posts after 8.5 years. Yet I discovered the Dardennes through A&F, which has led to my PhD research on their lives and work, and I'm a film critic now in ways I never anticipated a decade ago. It's taken a lot of listening, learning, and self-growth to move from lurker to a more vocal participant. But I believe one can be an active and engaged listener--both online and in person--without always having to speak. So, regarding the question of mentors/connections, I've learned so much from reading the various film criticism perspectives from writers here--Jeff, Steven, Peter, Anders, Evan, Andrew S, Matt Page, Nick, Gareth, and many others (apologies if I forgot someone!). I've now met Joel C, Anders, Brian D, Peter, Josh H, and Nathan in person, and had a wonderful phone conversation with Andrew S. I genuinely love the A&F Ecumenical Jury, how its expanded and shifted over the few years of its existence, and the various perspectives and voices I've come to know through that list-making process. Even through its various iterations and folks' comings and goings, this feels like one of the good places on the Internet. And if any of y'all want to come to Scotland, you'll have a friend and a place to stay in St Andrews. And Ken, while we haven't (yet) met in person, I'd also add you as a list of mentors/advocates who encouraged me to write more, accepted at least one or two posts for 1MoreFilmBlog when I was still a burgeoning critic, and pointed me towards membership in OFCS. So, if I haven't done so before publicly, thank you for your advocacy and ongoing support.
  25. Joel Mayward

    Movie Calendar

    Searching (2018) has lots of dates appear onscreen, although I can't list them all: June 6, 2008 is the upload date of the YouTube video of Margot's first piano lesson. Pamela posts a picture of her celebrating her cancer in remission on 2014-04-08 Margot lists her birthdate on Facebook as April 13, 2001 Margot posts on her calendar that her mom will come home from the hospital on February 6, 2016, then moves the date to March 1, 2016. It doesn't state the year, but it does list February 28 and March 1, so the next leap year after 2014 should be 2016. The date for the memorial service for Pam is "Saturday, December 6, 2015." Margot goes missing Friday, May 12, 2017. 4/14/19, 4/15/19, 4/17/19 all appear in the final onscreen online conversation.