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Jeremy Ratzlaff

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Posts posted by Jeremy Ratzlaff


  1. Greetings, all - it's been about five years since I checked in here! So thrilled to see a brand new Top 25 list fresh off the polls. Can't wait to dive into that.

    I've been on a pretty big Paul Schrader/Transcendental Style binge since seeing First Reformed earlier this year, and I've been burdened with a strong desire to do some personal categorizing for all the films that have spoken to my soul over the years and the films that I wish to deliberately seek more of going forward.

    One of the elements of the transcendental film that has most fascinated me is what I've heard Paul refer to as 'freeing the audience,' when he describes the way the Bresson will reward his patient viewers with a sudden burst of music at the very end or the way Ozu will suddenly let his characters be visibly emotional after being conditioned not to expect it, etc. (This interview includes a great short summary of this.) My heart leapt for joy when I heard this described this way, because it's very similar to a bold filmmaking technique that I began to notice in some of my favourite films years ago and that I used to describe as a 'Grace' moment. Specifically, I've thought of it as a moment that is essentially a small miracle (God overtly making himself known?) in a world then has up to that point been agnostic and/or whose characters have struggled with faith.

    Examples that have significantly stood out to me, personally, as 'grace' moments (POTENTIAL SPOILERS):

    Ordet, obviously.
    Stalker, when it begins to rain inside the Zone.
    Magnolia and, I would argue, several of PTA's other films (I made a video essay about this specifically)
    Breaking the Waves, the last shot.
    Dekalog: I, the ending with the computer and the church.

    I've been struggling to better finesse this definition, and maybe I'm completely reaching through the weeds in my attempts, but I'm curious if 'Release of Grace' sparks to mind any other examples? Am I misinterpreting or undercutting Schrader's definition as it pertains to transcendental style?


  2. I'm still pretty dizzy after seeing it, but I don't think I've ever been so eager to write about a film. Specially, the part that took my breath away was

    what was arguably the climax of the film, when Noah raises his knife over his granddaughter with grim-faced intent to kill. In that moment, I could have sworn that Darren Aronofsky took a page out of Soren Kierkegaard's Fear & Trembling: "By faith, Abraham..." A horrifying take on the moment of sacrifice, and the horrifying notion of paradoxical faith. "By faith, Noah..." No less horrifying, the main theme here being Noah's grappling with paradoxical faith. In the film, God's voice is subjective, and Noah is left to interpret God's commands. By all counts he's doing the best he can. I can't blame Noah for being a monster any more than Kierkegaard could blame Abraham for being one. Aronofsky's film grabbed the essence of faith by the throat and strangled it for several breathtaking moments. Then, God's angel [an overwhelming sense of love] stops him. After that, a ram [the dove with the leaf] appears as a sign of God's atonement.

    Kiekegaard comparisons aside, I thought major chunks of the film (specifically the first twenty minutes and roughly the last ten) felt clunky and first draft-ish. But there's more than a fair share of mouth-watering substance in between.


  3. On the other hand, we've produced more than one list in the past that I would argue was excessively, if not obnoxiously, obscure and lacking in familiar landmarks. 

     

    A list that looks like runs the risk of being perceived as essentially signaling to newcomers, "From our point of view, you've wasted your entire cinematic life. You've missed everything. Everything you care about is irrelevant to us, and conversely this list is irrelevant to you." 

    I'm about a month late to this thread, but I wanted to comment on this. When I first found the 2011 list two years ago, I had seen a grand total of six/100. From my completely inexperienced but eager standpoint, this was exhilarating to me. I was so excited to be introduced to Dryer and Tarkovsky and beyond. I've now seen over half of that list, and I still have a looooong way to go, but I'm still exhilarated by the diversity and obscurity to be found among the Arts and Faith favourites. I've never once considered the list to be irrelevant to me. Rather, it's been unspeakably more rewarding than an alternative, more familiar list ever could have been.

     

    So while I severely lack the experience to actually contribute to the lists, I'll admit that I too was surprised to see such familiarity on an Arts & Faith list. I would have been happy to see less Pixar and more titles I haven't even heard of, for is that not one of the distinguishing appeals of the Arts & Faith lists? Illuminating bold and obscure treasures that most would be likely to miss?

    I guess I'm not really contributing anything new to this thread, other than to say: From a newcomer's perspective, a more diverse Top 25 would have been ultimately much more rewarding. But hey, I've got nothing against revisiting some good Pixar! ;)


  4.  

    Folks, if you love the Criterion Collection and believe in what they do, it's imperative that you support them as much as you're able, or else there won't be a Criterion Collection soon. Word has been circulating that their profit margins are shrinking, which shouldn't really come as a surprise if you've been paying attention to how home entertainment has been trending lately.

    I've long suspected this might be the case, and it's the reason I don't feel good about the fact that I purchase Criterion disks almost exclusively during the 50% off sales.

     

    Are their 50% off sales sponsored in any way? Or is it just something they keep doing out of the goodness of their hearts?

    I feel somewhat guilty as well, but I can't not take advantage. Although, in order to get my hands on Breaking the Waves and Persona as soon as possible I'll probably just go ahead and preorder.


  5. Val Kilmer voiced both Moses and God in Prince of Egypt, I believe, the suggestion being that God's voice sounds like the voice inside our heads. I was not a fan of how they did the burning bush scene - I rather wish it had been more "ordinary" and not quite so "magical" - but I feel their answer to God's voice was a good one.


  6.  

     

    And yeah, I find this trailer fairly uninspired. It looks very much like we're appealing to the Inception crowd (which, of course) and there's not a single frame here that looks original or even interesting. And what the hell is Morgan Freeman doing there?

     

     

    Uninspired, sure. But what specifically struck as INCEPTION-like? I don't really see much there in terms of visual style or even in terms of thematically, other than both scifi, that reminds me of Nolan's film. Is it just our knowledge that Pfister is Nolan's DP?

     

    I won't judge until I've seen it, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if Pfister is cashing in on Nolan fame and formula. The smart-man's-blockbuster approach that made everyone love Inception so much. Not to mention the heavily borrowed cast. 

     

    But, this only from the trailer. And I'll be doing my best not to watch any more trailers for this from now on!


  7. One line I find extremely interesting is, "If we don't stop it, it will be the end of mankind as we know it." Why is this always said as a negative thing? Why is it that changing "how, or the way, we know something" is bad? Maybe it is more about the rate at which the change occurs.

    I had a similar thought. Curiously, I just had a lengthy discussion with someone about the condition of our 'futuristic' movies. Apart from a few exceptions, I think it's safe to say that we have a grim anticipation of an apocalyptic future embedded in our cultural psyche. War will ravage us, corporate greed will overpower us, our technology will get the best of us. It all seems very tired to me.

     

    And yeah, I find this trailer fairly uninspired. It looks very much like we're appealing to the Inception crowd (which, of course) and there's not a single frame here that looks original or even interesting. And what the hell is Morgan Freeman doing there?


  8. Attica, Even, Jeffrey - I'm encouraged by your responses. I suppose I'm sooner to disassociate myself from a 'Christian response' to art and culture when it just seems like too much work to redeem it. It seems much easier to simply pursue film and criticism on the general playing field, if you will. But that's just where I find myself right now. My Christian faith is restricted to mostly vague subtext for the time, considering what popular 'Christian' film criticism tends to look like. I'm grateful for pockets of the internet like this, but it still seems as though there's such a painfully long way to go.

     

    Possibly I just live in the wrong place and see all the wrong things.


  9. If their terms look anything like Tom Snyder's tweets, it's probably a lost cause. 

     

    I've often found myself incredulous at the appalling condition of the right-wing Evangelical subculture - and the distressing ease by which they can be picked out by their stereotypes - and I'm often forced to turn a blind eye, if not for my own good. I can't let what is so clearly antagonistic, antagonize me. Their layers of warped complexes are utterly impenetrable, as far as I'm concerned. I would think the WORST thing you could do is engage them. Let them to their own vices. Their hypocrisy is self-evident. 

  10. Her


    Considering that Theodore was engaging in phone sex, I think the imagery employed by Jonze was actually rather tame.  I've never indulged in said activity, but I would hazard a guess that men doing so would need to engage in rather graphic visualization to achieve the desired effect.  (And that's all I plan to write on this rather awkward topic...)

     

    yes, I am also disappointed that Jonze did not go so far as to 'visualize' the dead cat.


  11. I had forgotten to revisit this thread, but in the past year and a half since I first saw it THE MASTER has become one of the most important staples of cinema in my life. You can bet I'll be revisiting this film again today, paying even closer attention to Hoffman's role. Truly one of the most captivating character performances of the decade.


  12. I don't think I've ever felt so devastated over the loss of an actor. His collaborations with Paul Thomas Anderson and his role in Synecdoche, New York have been so important to me, and I'm going to be revisiting each of those films this week and crying real tears.

     

    I ache for all the future PTA collaborations that will never be. I ache for an actor who surely had many, many roles left in him.

     

    And I guess the Hunger Games are pretty much f**ked.

  13. Her


    I like the idea of Samantha "calling something out" in Theodore, though I doubt she can be viewed in accordance with any sort of divine benevolence. Samantha is simply another, finite entity, albeit with obvious differences from a human entity. In the end, they're simply not compatible to share in the responsibility of love. Although, her explanation of 'evolving' beyond human understanding deserves some scrutiny (but frankly, I love how vague it is).


  14. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Love this thread. Loved this film.

     

    I love the way the Las Vegas environments seem so desolate and lonely, emphasizing why Travis instinctively grabs hold of the lifeline of an authentic, meaningful relationship when he finds it. (There's a wonderful 360-degree turn as Travis realizes his new environment, and it is paralleled by a shot of Martin's lonely new apartment.)

     

    That is exactly the moment that came to my mind when I scanned past Christian's comment concerning the film's cinematic quality. The pace of the camera matches that of the plot beautifully. There were a few moments that made me think, "ah hah, indie film," but for the most part the composition felt relaxed and confident, never trying too hard and yet never being dull. There was a rich maturity to the film, not only in the character dynamics but also in the way it was shot. Great colors. Incredible use of the frame. Aesthetically, it was a pleasant experience.

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