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Brian D

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About Brian D

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  • Occupation
    Family medicine doctor
  • Favorite movies
    In America, Of Gods and Men, Munyurungabo, New World, Running on Empty, Where the Wild Things Are, Dead Man Walking, Men Don't Leave, The Apostle, Into the West
  • Favorite music
    U2, Dylan, Springsteen, Sufjan Stevens, Arcade Fire, Sara Groves, Innocence Mission
  • Favorite creative writing
    Novels: Gilead - Marilynne Robinson Brothers Karamazov-Dostoevsky Auralia's Colors-Overstreet Short stories: The Tumblers - Nathan Englander My Mother's Garden - Katherine Shonk

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  1. Hi Ken, In regard to the blurb I'll be writing for You Can’t Take It with You in the top 25 : I really liked the way you crystallized this film’s value (above) for the list in terms of Grandpa Vanderhof’s fruitfulness in old age. Do you mind if I expand on that particular point for my blurb? I can’t think of a more helpful perspective or way to approach the film for this top 25. Gratefully, Brian P.S. I wanted to send this as an individual message but I couldn't get that A and F function to work.
  2. Brian D


    Spoiler alert: The scene is closer to the end, quite soon after the depression over the cat has lifted. I wondered why the tone was more serious rather than the tone of celebration that I would have expected. It may be one in which the hare is mentioned...I don't recall for sure. I suspect there may be a cultural aspect that I am missing. Thank you!
  3. Brian D


    Spoiler alert: The scene is closer to the end, quite soon after the depression over the cat has lifted. I wondered why the tone was more serious rather than the tone of celebration that I would have expected. It may be one in which the hare is mentioned...I don't recall for sure. I suspect there may be a cultural aspect that I am missing. Thank you!
  4. Brian D


    Question : can someone please explain to me what is going on in the scene in which the wife keeps filling up the professor's sake cup while the professor is singing? The thing that confused me here was that the students at that moment appear to be frozen in some sort of fear or apprehension rather than their customary joviality and laughter. Why are they suddenly so serious?
  5. Brian D


    Excellent, Ken. Hearing this analysis from a professor really gives Madadayo a boost in credibility in my mind. I was on the fence about some aspects if it, but I realize from your take that some of my concerns may vanish as I shift a bit and focus on some other very fine aspects of the film.
  6. Brian D


    In our upcoming Growing Older top 25...time to finally have a thread of its own! This is what I wrote on Letterboxd about the film: Students, you love your professor. That is so very clear throughout this film. You love him so much you stay by his side and follow him even into his old age. That is quite remarkable. Still, your devotion to him has hints of idolatry. Is he really “pure gold”? Is this not a bit too much? Especially since it is not always clear what you are learning from him. Are you learning to drink deep into the night to somehow show the world that you are alive? What are you learning from him? I wish I understood his impact on you, and I wish it was clearer why his impact was golden. Students, I do appreciate the example of your friendship with your professor. This kind of friendship with the elderly is very rarely found on film, let alone in real life. I am grateful to have been able to taste some of this over the 2 hours of this film. I see your camaraderie with your sensai in many ways here, and it is lovingly detailed. Students, I love most of all the way you stand fast with your professor as his age overwhelms his emotions. The passage with the “lost one” is the most resonant one in the film, not only because it is a deep check on the notion that your professor is perfect but also because it shows so much about how you are faithful friends. Even yet, would you lay down your life for your friend? My own Master once said, “Greater love has no one than this…” Students, would you do this for your professor? I am not a filmmaker yet I am one of Professor Kurosawa’s students. I have learned not a little about life, films, and storytelling as I’ve watched him dream out loud on screen. This film is many times more special because it is the Professor’s final film. The ending is somehow the perfect final scene for the final film of Kurosawa’s career. It has a rare finality, a period at the end of Kurosawa’s lifelong film novel.
  7. It's so good to know that, Ken. Maybe we can think about how to share list responsibilities more in the future, or have others plug into the multiple roles you've had to fill this time around. We do so appreciate the way you've led and inspired us to get the list going and to work toward the project as a community. I think this is a fine list, and surely the end result (blurbs and all) will be special indeed. I would be very open to contributing an essay to a Growing Older - themed book. One idea for a theme I could suggest would be something related to growing older and preserving/consolidating memory before death…preserving memories, pieces, fragments of who a person is before they pass from this world…retaining those fragments so they are not forgotten. This idea can be seen in both Varda films on our list in the way the director captures pictures of herself and her subjects in the later years of her life. The central figure of Poetry, similarly, struggles to put into poetry something of herself that will outlive her decaying memory and body. Finally, the forest of trees in The Man Who Planted Trees is a beautiful image that captures some of the essence of the man who planted that forest. That's a related theme idea that I would find intriguing.
  8. Yes, I had been thinking that the sexism in Browning Version seems even more central and problematic than the casual racism in You Can't Take It with You. Mainly because the only main female character is irredeemably evil and the other female characters seem to gossip most of the time. However, the growing older element (for the man at least) in Browning Version is still pretty strong...finding it especially difficult to decide on where to rank it.
  9. I just Googled "Capra and racism" and found this interesting description of the Capra-produced WWII documentary The Negro Soldier. Interesting indeed... I don't know enough about this film to know if the Wikipedia bits below are accurate views of the documentary. Certainly, though, it adds an interesting element to the discussion about Capra and racism. Could a documentary like this from Capra have been his way of trying to atone for some of the racism in his own earlier films like You Can't Take It With You? Maybe.... "In December 2011, The Negro Soldier was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.[2] The Registry said the film "showcased the contributions of blacks to American society and their heroism in the nation’s wars, portraying them in a dignified, realistic, and far less stereotypical manner than they had been depicted in previous Hollywood films." "The Negro Soldier influenced later African American films and its viewers in different ways. The film played a considerable part in altering the types of roles that African Americans received in following films. For example, instead of showing blacks only as slaves or subservients, this film showed African Americans as lawyers, musicians, athletes, and other valued professions. In different movies during this time period, African Americans were often portrayed as humorous characters. However, after The Negro Soldier, African Americans played more respectable and prominent roles in films. Furthermore, people came to realize how important and influential a tool films were for social change. Messages within films, if expressed the correct way, could influence audiences greatly. The message within The Negro Soldier solidified the notion and provided visual proof that racial equality was a justified concept and should be accepted. African Americans around the country were very pleased with this film."
  10. Tried to add this to my original post above, but I couldn't get the edit to work: One thing to honestly consider as we weigh whether to include a film like this is the question of that era and the implicit racism that was likely present in most of these films if we look deeply enough at them. We have to consider...it's great to include films from that era for their many strengths, yet to do so we may have to endure some egregious racial stuff in the margins. Is the racism enough to carry down the other more central virtues of the films, or does the racism weigh so heavily that it sinks the ship? Should we abandon the many other films from that era that, for example, are casually racist by simply ignoring people of color as characters or not including them as personages of worth? If we do, we may have to abandon all of the films from that era. Maybe we do have to abandon some of them, but we should do some careful thinking along the way. I appreciate this discussion, because I want to think more deeply about this and consider whether this will affect my vote on the Capra film. Still considering...
  11. Good eye, Andrew. The first 2 by themselves could be seen as jokes about the disenfranchisement and ill fortune experienced by many people of color in that day due to the way they were treated by society. Could these instances be seen that way instead of necessarily characterizing those characters as criminals or beggars? I could see cases being made either way. It would perhaps be easier to defend these first 2 comments as sardonic humor in the vein I've suggested if a black artist were the one offering the humor. Not so in this case, of course, which makes it hard to parse Capra's motives. The 3rd example is less easy to defend. For a film about a family living freely and so expansively not conforming to many things in society, the movie certainly missed a chance by not giving the black characters a place at the table. Of course, I’ve put it very mildly and I can see how this element could be interpreted as an example of “casual” racism. I still think You Can't Take It with You has some tremendous virtues. I'd have
  12. Thank you for thinking through all of this so well, Ken. A few questions about dates for you or others who may know: So April 30th will be the last day to vote for Round 2? Also, could you please kindly share the likely deadline for the blurbs to be submitted? That info will be much appreciated, especially as I may not be looking in on A and F every day and don't want to miss any key turning points in the process. Thank you!
  13. I don’t know if it’s too late to talk up films for Round 2, but I would make these shameless plugs for 2 of my favorites (totally biased since these are my 2 write-ups): Poetry : -Amazing film that is so essential for THIS particular category. -A lesser reason but quite noteworthy : There are a few other films in the final 29 from Asia and a few others centered on women, but this film has both of those. The female focus and Korean aspects of this film are actually very essential to the film itself, and I think that’s compelling for us to consider on a list of films that has less of these perspectives. You Can’t Take It With You : Which others among our final 29 are actually comedies? Maybe Limelight, but Chaplin’s in this instance is 30% comedy, 70% drama. Here it is, guys...your chance to get a comedy on this list!
  14. Just noticed this. I gave this film one of my few 5's because (A) I love the film and (B) I began to understand how several adults related to the Growing Older theme. I'm now enjoying showing my kids Akeelah and the Bee, but really that's just a preface to showing them Bobby Fischer, which is the finest film I can think to show kids on the subject of competition. The Growing Older theme can be seen in Bobby Fischer too for sure, but maybe it wasn't quite direct enough to get this film in this top 25.
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