Rob Z

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About Rob Z

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  • Occupation
    Graduate student and literature/composition teacher, University of Oregon
  • Favorite movies
    Ordet, Chariots of Fire, The Tree of Life, Blade Runner, Tarkovsky
  • Favorite music
    classical, Stevie Wonder, U2, Over the Rhine, Sufjan Stevens, Patty Griffin, RAIJ
  • Favorite creative writing
    Wendell Berry, Marilynne Robinson, Dostoevsky, Thoreau, Dickinson, religious and environmental poetry
  1. This comment makes a lot of sense. It seems to me that "conversion" in the traditional sense of religious affiliation or belief is only one form of (or maybe even more accurately one possible byproduct of) spiritually "waking up." Andrew, I don't know you at all, but I just want to say that I'd value a list of "spiritual awakening" films even more if I knew that it had the input of a nonbeliever or someone who was generally skeptical of "spiritual" things.
  2. I didn't vote for either, but "coming of age" was my second choice. Honestly, most of these topics seem great, and I'm just looking forward to participating. As a Cubs fan, I'm used to saying "there's always next year" (till last year of course)
  3. By the way, if anyone wants to vote for Franz Jagerstatter in this year's edition of Lent Madness, you can on Wednesday. (Lent Madness, aka the saintly smackdown, is an online Lenten devotional in the form of a bracket style tournament with winners determined by online vote. A&F thread here.) Of course, Jagerstatter is up against Joan of Arc, a fitting matchup in that both were martyred for their Christian convictions by wartime political forces. In terms of films, it's Radegund vs. The Passion of Joan of Arc (or Bresson's Trial, but I prefer Passion). Classic Dreyer vs. highly-anticipated Malick! What a choice!
  4. I share the feeling of not loving Malick’s most recent films (at least as much as “middle Malick”--TTRL to TToL--especially). My theory, at least for my own appreciation of his work, is that his best films are the ones set furthest from the present, that is, from the time the film was made. Thus we come up with a descending ordering as follows (dates/distances are approximate): 1. The New World, 1607-1617, almost 400 years 2. Radegund -1943ish, 75 years 3. Days of Heaven, 1916, 62 years 4. The Tree of Life, 1950s but also the present, distant past, etc.; about 50-55 years 5. The Thin Red Line, 1942-3ish, 45 years 6. Badlands, 1959, 14 years 7. To the Wonder, 2012, the present and preceding years 8. Knight of Cups, 2015, the present and remembered preceding years 9. Song to Song, 2017, the present The one exception is The Tree of Life. This ranking system seems accurate for me only dealing with the parts of TToL set in the 50s and the present. But add in the parts including the creation, and millions of years ago, and the consummation that will take place at a time known only to the Father, and you have a film that transcends this ranking system. That temporal ambition is a part of what makes it not just my favorite Malick, but one of my favorite films of all. TNW is a close second, and Days of Heaven a distant third in my book. Actually, I'd probably personally place To the Wonder higher, too. The list's order isn't my own rank, just by how long ago they're set. I haven’t seen Voyage of Time, but it is kind of an outlier, too. I also haven’t seen Radegund, obviously, but it’s the upcoming film I’m most anticipating. All that to say, I don't have terribly high expectations for Song to Song. But it's still Malick.
  5. These are great questions. I'm due for a re-watch of this one. It's been years since I watched it (alone, and on a laptop), and I've had in the back of my mind since then it would be one to watch/discuss with my wife. It's also #4 on the Top 25 Films on Marriage list.
  6. I'm curious if the voting method for the Top 25 Topic poll has been discussed? Using a simple plurality/ first past the post/ single vote system like in a Congressional race doesn't seem like it would be the method that would most accurately reflect the will of the group in choosing a topic. For example, what if no topic has a majority and "coming of age" receives the most votes, but only one more vote than "cultural upheaval," and let's say "cultural upheaval" was everyone else's second choice. I'd say "cultural upheaval" might more accurately reflect the interest at large. Has a preferential/ ranked list/ instant runoff system been considered? That's how the Oscar for Best Picture is chosen. I'm not suggesting a change to this vote that's already in progress, just wondering if the system has been considered.
  7. Also just as an interested observer, but one who has really appreciated using past A&F Top 25 lists: I’m guessing this conversation has been had over these lists in the past, but it seems the unifying category of the lists can have pretty different guiding principles. For example, I mean that Horror and Comedy are pretty clear genres. Marriage is a pretty tangible theme. Mercy and Memory are more intangible themes or motifs. Road films have a common narrative motif, even broader than a theme, a motif of the way the plot develops or setting changes. (Of course there can be specific genres and conventions that might fall under road films, such as the picaresque.) Of the current nominations, I’d classify them this way: genre: coming of age tangible theme: government, journalists, small towns intangible theme: crime and punishment, idealism vs. reality broader narrative motif: cultural upheaval, "waking up," (and I suppose coming of age could be classified here, too, but the bildungsroman—bildungsfilm?—is its own genre with conventions and all that) I really like that these aren’t just like the AFI 10 Top 10 genres lists or similar “best of” lists. For examples, the Marriage theme and list is way more interesting than your standard “best of” rom com or relationship drama fare. And I could see “crime and punishment” being a great A&F take on several related genres, everything from gangster to detective/noir to heist/caper to courtroom drama! Same potential for the broader ones like cultural upheaval or waking up. On the other hand, such lists could be too broad, not unified enough. Or wonderfully idiosyncratic—who knows? But I think the kind of category might affect that outcome.
  8. Thanks! I look forward to participating!
  9. I'm new here, and this seems like a great way to be involved. I looked at some other "film club" threads, and I'm a little unclear on the timeline. Is this an every other month thing? Someone proposes/picks a film (which just happened) and month, then in that month, everyone watches the film, posts thoughts, and discusses?
  10. Hi, my name’s Rob, and I’m new here. I’ve been an admirer of this community for some time, and seeing Silence recently made such an impression on me that I wanted to join in this conversation about it (even as a late-comer)! I thought the film was really impressive as an adaptation of the novel. I really love the novel, but it’s so concerned with the interior, spiritual life of Rodrigues that I didn’t know how that could be translated to film. That’s the aspect of film adaptations that I’m most consistently disappointed with, although perhaps I have unrealistic expectations. I’ve wondered if this has more to do with how one medium inherently differs from another or just how the same story tends to make me feel differently in two different media. This film made me feel much of what I felt when I had read the book prior to the film, which is unusual for me. Again, I wonder if that’s because the film was such a faithful adaptation, or was I just re-feeling my feelings from the book in ways that films usually don’t do for me. (This is unlike, say, my utterly different responses to the novel and film versions of Diary of a Country Priest, although I also loved both of them.) One difference though was that when I read the book Silence, I thought it was heading toward a more straightforward martyrdom. And in the climactic chapter, when that didn’t happen, I could put the book down and stew on it for a couple days before continuing. Knowing what would happen, and not having time to consider the significance of what happens, made for a very experience of the story. Something that I wondered what others thought about in the adaptation, since I see many here have read the novel pertains particularly to the ending. (***SPOILERS FOLLOW***) I was really wondering how the film would navigate fact that the novel is told from 4 points of view: Rodrigues’ first person letters in the first third of the novel, the journals of the Dutch trader and the Japanese guard of the “Christian Residence” at the end, and the narrator, who I read as a historian (probably like Endo Christian and Japanese) reconstructing what happened to Rodrigues between the letters and the journals at the end. I thought the film handled this masterfully in taking a similar “show/suggest” rather than “tell/explain” approach. In a sense, the film seemed to shift from Catholic to Protestant at that point, or maybe moves from Roman Catholic to catholic protestant (lowercase “c” and “p”). It acknowledged through the shift of narrator (from Rodrigues to the Dutch, presumably Protestant, trader) that Rodrigues has lost his status as one who can speak for the church or even as a member of the church. But the narrator affirms that ultimately it’s up to God to judge us not the Church—the keys to the kingdom are not kept in Rome. The end affirms the half-truth of Ferreira used to goad Rodrigues without using that half-truth in service of a falsehood. (I don’t mean it’s protestant because it seems to say that images of Christ aren’t important or stepping on one is really no big deal. I’m a Reformed Christian who loves icons, prayer beads, etc.) Finally, I was reminded shortly after finishing the film of the end of The Last Temptation of Christ, which also ends with an image of Jesus on the cross. Silence seems to me to be just as much about our human identity with Jesus, or God’s embrace of human weakness through Jesus. Whereas Last Temptations then ends with those flashing lights, Silence then shows the dedication to Japanese Christians and the motto of the Jesuits Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, “to the greater glory of God.” Both seem to me to be glosses on the role of faith in each film: one is ambiguous and chaotic; the other, though paratextual, a straightforward affirmation of a particular faith that both transcends culture and must be culturally instantiated, as well as dedication of the film to God’s glory, which is certainly something I experienced through this film.