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Rob Z

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  1. Rob Z

    The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

    Peter, you articulate my mind on these decisions in the films better than I could. That's a great insight about the shape/movement of the narrative as it moves forward, too. Haha! Good point! My daughter is two, so Mister Rogers episodes are all we've given her so far!
  2. Rob Z

    The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

    Yes, there is much that is silly and distracting in these films that I wish had been left out. But I still think that the films hold up overall. They just do so much so well—the action, the charm, the detail, as mentioned. I rewatched the LotR trilogy around the years that The Hobbit: An Unconscionable Jumble, The Desolation of Special Effects, The Battle of Five Hours Too Long films came out, and my reaction was more so that Jackson had showed restraint (!) with the original trilogy by reigning in the excesses of his filmmaking style, which he used well in service of the stories. The reverse was more true in the Hobbit films, which along with the decision to present them as prequels turned the films into bloated fan fic drek. I was a devotee of the LotR books (call me a nerd if you like) in high school when the original trilogy came out. I had many, many criticisms of the film when they came out, but I’ve always been able to compartmentalize them. It boils down, for me, to the fact that they are still pretty good adaptations of books that I love. The same cannot be said of the Hobbit films. I thought that Return was the weakest, in part because it’s the worst adaptation, and Fellowship the best on its own merits, and it makes by far the fewest blunders in character development and story plotting, but also because it’s easily the best adaptation (also the easiest to adapt). Treebeard, check, whose wisdom and patience is traded for some phony feel-good Hobbit heroics. Faramir, check, whose understanding, goodness, gentleness, and self-control are traded for thinner, inferior characterization and a pointless diversion that eats up screen time. These indeed are hard to forgive. The third? My takeaway from my most recent rewatch was simply how long they are! Since becoming a parent, I hardly have the time/energy for a 2 hour film in one sitting. And the camera movements felt kind of dated. My film tastes have matured even since then though, so on next rewatch, who knows? Probably won’t be for a long time. The Filmspotting podcast recently did a good and, yes, largely positive retrospective of the LotR trilogy, including a Top 5 scenes. https://www.filmspotting.net/episodes-archive/2018/5/17/681-lord-of-the-rings
  3. Babette's Feast is the film that came to me first, very much about restoration (spiritual and vocational) while in a place of exile. The Chosen is a film I remember being about relational exile, and feeling exiled from pursuing one's dreams, but it's been a really long time since I've seen it. Cast Away was another in the survivalist genre that came to mind, but that and all those other films are rather thin. That is, whatever their merits as films none of them really warrant the weight of the word "exile" and all it signifies. Life of Pi is another, but again, not really an exile per se. Also a lot of hero films involve a kind of exile from a community and then a restoration via a return that saves the community (or something like that). Like The Lion King. I'm not recommending that, just thinking out loud!
  4. Rob Z

    First Reformed

    I can’t fault anyone for not seeing the film as hopeful, although I ultimately do. It’s a bleak film, not optimistic in the least about the state of religion, politics, economics, environmental issues, etc. I have a cousin who grew up in the Christian Reformed Church, who has struggled a lot with Christian faith in its American form particularly, who walks the environmentalist walk more fully than anyone I know personally—a lot in common with Toller I talked the film up to him, but because he’s at a kind of down/rebuilding place in his life (like Toller) couldn’t really recommend it because of the bleakness of the film. But I think there’s hope, and my takeaway is the same as Andrew’s, including regarding the relationship matters. As to Toller’s treatment of Esther the choir director, the first time I saw the film, I was kind of jolted at his behavior. But on second viewing, if made more sense, He also is distancing himself from those who care about him (including Mary), because he figures . When he says, Anyway, I thought those scenes were still “slice of life,” even if they were more dramatic. As to Toller and Mary’s relationship, I don’t think it’s warranted to interpret it as , nor does calling it that do justice to the actual content and arc of their relationship. Does it stray into the inappropriate? sure—especially if a strict realism is assumed. It could have gone further in that direction, but I don’t see it developing into something immoral. I think the film is almost at pains to show that the growing relationship of Toller and Mary is genuine and personal and pushing boundaries in healthy ways, even if that does transgress best practices of pastoral care. And in this film, the stakes are far higher than the appropriateness of a professional/pastoral relationship. No one is immaculate in this film, not even Mary. Total depravity, a very Reformed concept, is on full display. Seeing hope (or salvation) in the midst of that reality and the despair it produces is essential to the film (and, I believe, to Christian faith). And I see a lot of grace and beauty in their relationship, too. From a relationship standpoint, I don’t fully buy the realism of the ending of , which Ken compared to the end of this film, either, but that doesn’t mean that the end of that film isn’t any less transcendent, inspired, and fitting. I do buy Ken's comparison. On this point, Peter, I’m really curious if you though the ending of First Reformed could be seen as something like an instantiation of the Father Zosima quote I posted earlier, about being saved by God at the very moment of personal failure? As I mentioned earlier, I see ! As to Peter's point about the film becoming more conventional in terms of . I do wish we had gotten to know more of the two main female characters, but this is Toller’s story, so we don’t. I guess the film was stylistically and otherwise unconventional enough, including in the depth and seriousness of its religious and environmental questioning, and increasingly so in latter parts of the film, that I looked past the lack of depth on some of those relational aspects.
  5. I’m on board, and Andrew's consideration applies to me, and I tend to agree. As someone who has only been participating here for a year and a half or so and is a cinephile who enjoys writing about film but is not a film critic, I would value the input/judgment of the longtime members more than my own. I am happy just to be included/welcomed into the process to the extent that I am. I tend to gravitate toward older, slower, more thoughtful and spiritually-oriented films, the kind that make up the Top 100. I’m more interested in, invested in, and eager to discuss them than the future and current releases that make up the majority of discussion on the board. Not being a film critic, I tend to watch more tried-and-true films than I do new releases. (And the Image Ecumenical Jury list is one of my main guides for newer films! So please, you all, do keep making those lists!) I should add that I came to the board after coming across the 2011 Top 100 list shortly after it was created, and I realized it was my kind of list and you all are my kind of cinephiles! That said, I agree with Joel in principle. This board has an ethos of exclusivity as it is. (That’s probably inevitable with so many longtime and committed members—a major strength—but still…) And Joel himself has been one of the most active participants here in the years I have been lurking and then participating, and I read and highly respect his posts and reviews. Even if he hasn’t made thousands of posts, his voice carries as much weight here to me as anyone’s. Same goes for Evan, and others. That kind of participation can’t be quantified the way that post count can. That’s this relative newbie’s take. Perhaps there could be a nomination round, then a "weighted" first round of voting to determine what films will be on the list, and then another unweighted round to determine the ranking of those films (perhaps using some form of submitting and combining directly ranked lists). That would ensure that relatively-unseen but well-loved gems don’t get excluded, and probably create some level of continuity with the past, but it would also make the ranking more meaningful and allow for better discussions. It would also take longer, but at this point I’m not sure a 2018 release is realistic anyway for a Top 100. And it sounds like others are happy to dispense with weighted voting altogether. What alternatives to the old method do others think should be considered?
  6. Rob Z

    Still Life

    I watched this one on my way through viewing the films in the A&F Top 100. Seeing this film was particularly interesting for me because I travelled down the Yangzi River through the Three Gorges in December 2005. The film came out in 2006, so it must have been filmed around then, I'd guess in either the summer of 2005 or 2006. I was very much a tourist (though the boat I was on was geared toward Chinese people, not foreigners) come to see the Three Gorges while they still could be seen. And while the scenery was indeed gorgeous (pun unintended!), and some of the cultural stops memorable, what I most remember is bearing witness to the unmitigated social and environmental disaster of the flooding. It was surreal to see half demolished cities, half submerged cities, habitations of the soon to be displaced still trying to go on with life, the disorientation of those in the cities soon to be flooded who had (it appeared) already been displaced. I’m so glad this film bears witness to what was happening then, all that destruction--personal, cultural, historical, natural, etc. The moments of magical realism in the film were a little jarring but seemed to fit exactly right in terms of the utter strangeness that I remember experiencing on that trip. The film is stronger for including them. I thought the scene where the workers compare the images of natural landmarks on paper money was particularly brilliant. It captured the regional pride in natural beauty being filtered through a simulacrum/representation in an alien context and the subjugation of the importance of nature to financial realities (they're using money to discuss the value of nature). That doesn’t do it justice as an explanation, but the scene really nailed it.
  7. Rob Z

    First Reformed

    I saw this film twice, and it was quite a different experience each time. The first time I saw with a friend who is a film scholar who also finished seminary. I’d watched Winter Light, Diary of a Country Priest, and Taxi Driver in the weeks leading up to it since that’s what reviews had mentioned. I found myself focusing on observing the intertextuality of the film with those and many other films and Christian and also environmentalist works. And that’s what my friend and I focused on in our discussions and interpretations. Of course I was also sobered and shocked by the film itself. The second time I watched it, I really felt it a lot more. This is an emotionally intense film, simultaneously taxing and stimulating. I was with my wife, a clinical therapist, and our conversations focused more on the relational dynamics and characterization that the film did so well to display. I’m really glad I had the ability to watch it twice. Certain things spoke to me a lot more on second viewing, like the emphasis on prayer. I and my wife and friend, I should add, are Christians with Reformed backgrounds, so that added another layer of resonance. My wife and I grew up CRC and attended Calvin College, as did Schrader. That also informed a lot of the conversations I’ve had. I see this film as, in some ways, very Reformed: strong doctrine of creation, a critique of extreme forms of faith, suggesting that you can’t save yourself. Of course it’s very critical of American Christianity as well, or at least the aspects of it that need critique…the church always needs reforming. As to the ending, I’ve really been wrestling with what to make of it. I have a pretty lengthy interpretation, which I'll hide to avoid spoilers.
  8. I really enjoyed participating in the Top 25 list last year, and I'd be eager to participate in whatever form this takes. I agree with Brian and others that discussions around lists seem productive for this forum, and those would be discussions I'd want to participate in.
  9. Rob Z

    First Reformed

    Hmmm, I don’t think the first reason you give here for this interpretation works.
  10. Rob Z

    First Reformed

    Yes, Schrader has said in interviews that the ambiguity was deliberate. Schrader himself seems more invested in the ambiguity than any particular interpretation. Check out this selection from an interview with Slate. https://slate.com/culture/2018/06/first-reformeds-ending-paul-schrader-explains-why-its-designed-to-be-ambiguous.html Honestly, I thought this last possible ending Schrader considered was where the movie was headed pretty much as soon as the ominous background music/noise begins in the second half of the film
  11. Rob Z

    Oscars 2018: Best Director

    After Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro G. Iñárritu won Best Director back to back in 2014 and 2015, I jokingly predicted that Del Toro, the third of the “Three Amigos” Mexican Hollywood directors, would win the following year for Crimson Peak. And after Emmanuel Lubezki won Best Cinemetography for both Gravity and Birdman, I predicted he’d win a third time in a row, which he did for The Revenant, which also won Iñárritu a second Best Director in a row. I though my joke was surprisingly accurate. I guess this seems like it will actually be Del Toro’s year.
  12. I know it’s been a while, but I thought I’d weigh in and respond to your questions, Bryce. I’d second all the films recommended in this thread so far (that I’ve seen) and also Overstreet’s book. I think that defining these terms and categories is both really important and highly fluid in that people mean different things by terms such as spirituality, religion, and faith. I’m not sure what you had in mind but I’ll give it a shot. Forgive me for being a little abstract here, but I’m hesitant to use more conventional language. These are not philosophical ideas I came up with myself.I understand the world—and the human person—as an integration of aspects of meaningfulness created by God and through which God upholds all existence and is revealed and by which we and everything else have knowledge and function in every way we do. That whole integration can be oriented toward God or away from God (toward something in the creation—idolatry), likewise specific actions focused in particular aspects of life. That wholeness and integration is what I think is most important in our relationship with God. Films that are actively wrestling with this are what interest me most, as a Christian and as a person. This is what I consider to be spiritual or religious. One of these universal “aspects” has to do with trust, with faith you might say, with that ultimate orientation of our personhood. And certain institutions and traditions (like churches and “religions”) have arisen to be authorities in this aspect of life to help orient us to God (or they fail to. And I don’t think that this is limited to Christianity. I believe other faiths do as well, although I do believe Christianity ultimately holds the true story of God and the world.) It’s inseparable from the other aspects, of course. And it’s also different from faith defined as belief in certain things being the case (like God’s existence). I think that kind of faith inherently decenters God and centers on the human will in idolatrous ways. And I find most faith based genre films to do that. You might be interested to hear the perspective of writer/director Paul Schrader from this talk at the 2017 Toronto film festival. He has a thing or two to say about faith based films. He talks about (and this is in part my take on Schrader) the HOW of film being more important as the WHAT regarding spirituality and the experience of the transcendent in film. And he finds that films that “lean away” from audiences through intentionally difficult and distance-producing techniques (including boredom) force the viewer to lean into the film’s world and find the mystery that is always there, usually just beneath the surface. This is basically what Overstreet said in this thread earlier. Other films (most all films, including faith based films) actively tell the viewer how to feel, how to think, how to believe. And in doing so any sense of mystery or spiritual depth focus gets lost or is actively ignored. The final response in the Q&A also gets at this. I am not as cynical as Schrader about religion itself, but I think what he says about religion in general does apply to faith based films. C.S. Lewis talks about being willing to surrender yourself to the world of an artwork, and only after you’ve done that to be able to critique the work. I find that when I surrender myself to the world of faith based films, I find them to be utterly fraudulent depictions of reality—human, divine, and otherwise. Most of the films on the A&F Top 100, though, I find to draw me more deeply into reality, including the presence of the Spirit. Of course there are films on the list that I ultimately find to be at odds with my faith, but are such astute observers of human nature or articulate what is wrong so well, that I find them helpful nonetheless. Films whose vision of the world I find that I can submit myself to and emerge with my spirituality or my connection to God via the world strengthened are the kind of films I like. And these are more often the kinds of films that employ the distancing “transcendental style” Schrader describes. But not always. I find several films that are fairly conventional but have religious themes to have strengthened my faith as well (Chariots of Fire, The Mission, Sophie Scholl, A Man for All Seasons, others on the Top 100). Might these be the faith themed films of which you speak? They aren’t "faith based" but they strongly engage (and affirm) issues of faith. A film near the top of the Top 100 list that profoundly affected me and even impacted my faith positively, and did so by drawing me into its world (by formally receding from my expectations), is Ordet. It’s faith themed but also engages with that full integration of humanity I was talking about earlier. But another film, actually the most recent film I’ve finished so it’s fresh with me, that has little to do with “religion” on the list is the Japanese film Eureka. It’s achingly slow but also achingly beautiful, and portrays the deep, deep ache of human brokenness. This film taught me something about being made in the image of God and the fact that that image can be and is hugely distorted, but is also capable of healing. Those are Christian truths, and this film spoke those truths in the language of film (rather than the language of “faith”). (By the way, I’ve seen most of the films on the Top 100 by now, and Eureka is one I’d recommend but not eagerly or to most casual film-watchers. It’s difficult on many levels.)
  13. Rob Z

    The Miseducation of Cameron Post

    Ah, this clarifies what you meant. I think maybe you read the quotation marks around the phrase in the source as signaling a direct quote from such an organization in the film? I actually reckoned the opposite. This is a phrase that the writer did not come up with—so a quote—that the writer (or possibly a character in the film) is using to characterize (or, again possibly, to caricature) what is going on. The quotation marks also function as scare quotes (or “scare quotes”) and signal that the belief of the speaker is that it is not their belief that same-sex attraction can be prayed away. Thus I too would question the veracity of the phrase in the mouth of someone actually doing that. (Sexuality is too complex for such universals, but, exceptions aside, it’s my understanding that the evidence suggests that there is some fixity in the orientation of sexual attraction (again, for the vast majority of people), regardless of “prayer” or “miracles.”) I am now curious about the origins of the phrase. While I don't consider the phrase a mockery it certainly could be used that way depending on tone of voice or context. I know the word “struggle,” when used by Christians, can signal to many people a certain stance on all this that might not be intended. I don’t mean to minimize the struggle many people have with their sexuality, including with to whom they are attracted. But I’ve also read books by gay Christians (such as Tim Otto and Eve Tushnet, both of whom are celibate—if that’s even relevant) who experience same-sex attraction much more structurally—not as a struggle but as neutral or just a part of them, a gift even--and struggle more with things that are imposed on them by those who are well-meaning but misguided (not to mention those who intend to put them down, for that matter).
  14. Okay, thanks, Joel. I totally understand. I look forward to watching another film club film with you all at a time when we can swing it.
  15. Rob Z

    The Miseducation of Cameron Post

    Yes, it is. I’ve heard “pray the gay away” more often. I doubt that any organization devoted to doing this would use the phrase, but I don’t know. I have heard it used by many people to refer to "conversion" of sexual orientation, including gay Christians (or rather gay former Christians) I know who have been the objects of such “prayer,” although that can mean many things depending on the organization. Of course, there are organizations with the goal to assist gay Christians, whether or not they are troubled by their same-sex attractions, with emotional, relational, and spiritual health, and that seems good. But those can get lumped in with the “conversion therapy” organizations that I have heard can be unintentionally quite abusive. The phenomenon itself is alive outside of such organizations, too. I’ve heard people mention how they engage in such “prayers” regarding adolescents they are related to or go to church with.
  16. Hey everyone, I have an idea for a film club movie for the month of February. A major blind spot for me is historical Black cinema, and I’d like to watch something in that category. I recently came across a book at the library called Hollywood Be Thy Name: African American Religion in American Film, 1929-1949 (2007) by Judith Weisenfeld, and it’s quite interesting (I love the play on “hallowed by thy name.”) One of the major topics of the book is “race films,” films made with black casts for black audiences (theatres were segregated back then) and often by black directors. The one I’d like to pick for a film club discussion is The Blood of Jesus (1941) directed by Spencer Williams. I haven’t yet seen it, but from reading about it I know that it has several things going for it, in addition to its historical significance: explicitly religious themes, which I think this group will find worthy of discussion, a run time of just under an hour, so it should be easy to fit in a busy schedule, and it’s on YouTube, so it will be easy to access. What do you think? I’ll start a thread soon if others are interested.
  17. ***spoilers*** Yes, I too would have liked more of an exploration of van Gogh's spirituality and Christian journey. That's a good point you highlight about how the film shows it would have been in character for him not to have sought to blame others but to extend grace even to those who caused his death. It adds another dimension to the significance of the title which goes beyond the stance of the filmmakers and intended viewership toward van Gogh (and of course Vincent's valediction to Theo) and shows that Vincent loved even those who persecuted him. I hadn't even thought of the Christlike dimensions of this, but I think they are there. Honestly, I'm still conflicted about the film's argument regarding the true nature of van Gogh's death. It's a much more hopeful, though no less tragic, scenario that the film presents. Of course, I had always been conflicted about the conventional understanding of his death as a suicide since most of the the indisputable, tangible dimensions of the circumstances point away from suicide, except van Gogh's statement--"I tried to kill myself." His struggle with mental illness and despair could go either way in thinking about this, though. the film shows well the fact that this didn't seem to be as much of an issue for him at the time of his death. What do you think? Has anyone seen Lust for Life with Kirk Douglas, or other van Gogh biopics? Are there similarities or differences with Loving Vincent?
  18. Rob Z

    A Ghost Story

    “Whither thou ghost, I will go; where thou lodgest, I will lodge…forever.” …to pun a phrase from Ruth 1:16 in the KJV.
  19. I absolutely loved this! I can't overstate how unique and special the experience of this film was. I've seen painted animation before, but this was different because it took van Gogh's paintings style and subject matter as the starting place. As with the man and events the film centers around, we only have access to them through his paintings and letters, and that's what this film gives us in its narrative, where van Gogh is not the protagonist and whose story is told in flashbacks reminiscent of his sketches. That narrative tries to be as documentary as possible while the color painted scenes featuring Armand are historical fiction. That the historical aspect of that is fairly rigorous, is my understanding. The "fiction" aspect isn't very strong, as has been noted, but it serves to foreground the documentary nature of the film as an investigation of the circumstances of van Gogh's death. That didn't bother me at all, and the visuals were so immersive. When we got point of view shots corresponding to Armand in the film, we were really getting POV shots that put us in the position of van Gogh painting the original. I felt as though I were experiencing the world charged with light, beauty, and spirit just as van Gogh saw and conveyed it. That's what truly great animation (and any truly great film, but especially animation) can do: represent the physical world in such a way that changes your experience of it and shows it to be charged with the grandeur of God. (The Man Who Planted Trees is another example of animation that does this for me.) I also liked the score. I could tell as I watched it that the composer was the same one who scored Darren Aronofsky's films. I thought it sounded especially like Requiem for a Dream's music. I feel so fortunate that this past year I was able to see not one but two creative biopics about artists (the other being Emily Dickinson) who have been significant for me and my faith. Really there are two more 2017 films about (literary) artists in that same category: Henry David Thoreau: Surveyor of the Soul and Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry, but I have yet to see those! Maybe Gerard M. Hopkins next year???
  20. Rob Z

    The Lord's Prayer

    I’m curious if English-speaking Orthodox tend to use “trespasses” in the Lord’s Prayer? I grew up with debts/debtors (the Matthew text) and my current church uses sins/ “those who sin against us,” so that has always sounded off to me. I like that Luke has both sins and debts, and I wish that were in more liturgical use. I honestly don't know where "trespasses" comes from since KJV has "debts." I read somewhere about biblical metaphors for sin, that there are three primary metaphors that developed over time: first, sin as burden to be carried, then sin as stain to be washed away, finally sin as debt to be repaid. Perhaps it's a property-conscious mindset that developed the metaphor of trespass later? Makes me think that now some of the most common metaphors for sin are "brokenness" and "separation." Beyond theological extrapolations from the Bible, I wonder how those developed. (Just to be clear, I do not hope we end up with "forgive us our brokenness as we forgive those separated from us"! But a translator could do worse.)
  21. Rob Z

    The Lord's Prayer

    I agree that people need education in the liturgy no matter what. And I agree that liturgy forms us (and that we especially need that Christian formation in the face of the power of “secular cultural liturgies,” as described by Jamie Smith). But that doesn’t mean that liturgy can’t or shouldn’t be changed by the church when needed. (Saying that we don’t or shouldn’t form liturgy sounds to me kind of like Protestants saying that they aren’t formed by tradition, only the Bible, but I might not totally get your meaning.) I agree that “protect us” is what “lead us not” means (although I think “save us” is even better). Why not say “protect us from temptation” if that what the Greek means? That has a nice iambic rhythm (as does “protect us from the time of trial”), too, and seems to me not to lose too much on the grounds of rhythm and cadence, which I agree are important. I am absolutely not suggesting that liturgy be dumbed down for seeker sensibilities. (Yeah, “conditions of access” is a clunky phrase. What I meant was that the language itself shouldn’t be the barrier to comprehending and fully participating in the prayers spoken. I was thinking more of children growing up in the church than adult seekers, but I think it applies to everyone.) I’m suggesting the translation needs to be updated to be more accurate. I don’ think you were suggesting that contemporary English is inherently dumber than 1600s English, but even if it was, we speak contemporary English, not early modern English and not ancient Greek (which again, was contemporaneous vernacular Greek). This isn’t beside the point, but I don’t think it really gets away from the fact that the problem the Pope identifies is real, and that a better translation is needed. Many revisers get it wrong, as you say, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done right. I don’t disagree with Esolen’s quibbles with the Pope’s proposed alternative, but I do disagree with his philosophy of translation. It’s similar to the ESV translation philosophy as I understand it, and isn’t a proper translation of the original into a contemporary language if accuracy in rendering of the original comes at the cost of sufficiently. The ESV is explicit about prioritizing traditional translations of texts. There is something to be said for that, but I think that it does this at the expense of accuracy of translation into English. He seems to be implying that the text suggests that God does lead us into temptation of the sort that the Pope is concerned about, and I agree with the Pope and I think everyone else in this thread that that’s a misunderstanding. I say that accuracy of translation should trump tradition (certainly in this case), and I think that I could root my arguments for that in the larger Christian Tradition, although I haven’t thought that one through thoroughly. A blog I like that takes this perspective (by a Jewish Biblical scholar) is https://goddidntsaythat.com/ Let me add that I think Esolen is a good translator, and his philosophy of translation can be very useful. I’ve read Dante’s Commedia in three translations and I liked his the best. But Dante isn’t Scripture, nor is it liturgy. I agree more with his translation philosophy when it comes to literary translations of the Bible with commentary, like Robert Alter’s or the Anchor Bible series or perhaps this new translation by David Bentley Hart that looks intriguing. We desperately need those translations, alongside NIVs, ESVs, NRSVs, and historical translations. Here are some helpful thoughts on the issue from some Biblical scholars posted at Christianity Today.
  22. Yes, those introductory pieces by Jeremy are phenomenal and really helpful. I don' think they've been posted in this thread, so here they are: http://imagejournal.org/2017/12/11/arts-faith-top-25-films-waking-part-1/ http://imagejournal.org/2017/12/12/arts-faith-top-25-films-waking-part-2/ Two requests for the Image/website people. 1. Could there be links to Jeremy's introductory essays on the page that has the list itself? 2. Could there be a link to the list from the A&F Top 100 page? ( http://artsandfaith.com/t100/) Most of the previous A&F lists are there but the link to the 2016 list on Mercy is missing as is a link to this year's list. I think people are more likely to come across the Top 100 page and then link to the Waking Up or other Top 25 lists than the other way around.
  23. Rob Z

    The Lord's Prayer

    I love the title of the Guardian article: Lead Us Not Into Mistranslation. So good! The implications of evil general or evil personified are interesting (I think both are totally fine and are not mutually exclusive), but it seems the real issue for the Pope is not “deliver us from evil [/ the evil one]” or even “temptation.” It’s about people believing that God, not satan, tempts us to sin, leads us astray, etc. It’s about “lead us not” more than anything. This is very true, but I think it's important to remember that this issue has more to do with liturgical and devotional use than translating the Biblical text. Bible and liturgy are inseparable, but communal worship demands a certain language that is usable by people in their present context. The same is true for Biblical translation, I suppose. But translation implies that it is going into the present context, and in our present context, when people hear "lead us not into temptation" it means something different than it did in the 1600s. Biblical scholar Robert Alter has said that the Tyndale, Geneva, and KJV translators had a masterful command of the English language with an inadequate command of the original texts, whereas today's translators have a masterful command of the texts and original languages but an inadequate understanding of English. (And another flaw is that they feel beholden to interpretative glosses inherent in previous translations but absent or ambiguous in the original, especially when better translations would ruffle feathers of the faithful) . It's not a good translation--especially for liturgical use, in which people speak the words in prayer--if it doesn't match how the words are used. I'm very much agreed with this. This is how I’ve mostly understood it, at least in my Christian maturity, and how I think how it should be understood biblically. I think a helpful gloss on this passage is Jesus’ words to the disciples in Gethsemane: Pray that you will not fall into temptation. (Luke 22:40) My church uses the 1988 ecumenical phrasing "Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil." Let me immediately acknowledge that "save us" isn't as accurate a translation. But I prefer this one for liturgical use because it is capable of doing the most spiritual work. "Save us" has biblical echoes that show how the prayer resonates elsewhere in Scripture (not to mention in "deliver us"). And I like “trial” since it covers temptation but also other tests that may not be moral or individual but may still have high spiritual stakes. “Trial” or “testing” or even “tribulation” (think of those implications!) could be used for the word that is traditionally in English translated as “temptation.” I get Buckley's point but I think that temptation is too limiting a term. And, hey, I think it's great to say "temptation" when praying the prayer devotionally. But the biblical text implies more than what that word means in English, and in this case, I think so should the prayer. Hmm, I don't agree with this. I think that problem the Pope identifies is all too real. The question of God's relationship to evil is huge and important, but this text isn't the place to have that conversation over. Many people don't stop to think about it. Many do think twice and don't understand that "lead us not" actually means something more like "protect us from." If they don't have enough guidance, why would they? I think "protect us" or "save us" is better for that reason. I had an English professor as an undergrad who wrote a book with her pastor husband called /Worship Words: Discipling Language for Faithful Ministry/, and she emphasized that language changes and "words wear out." Phrases like "lead us not" sound lovely but don't mean the same thing that they did in the 1600s (not that they even were the best translation then either) except to those both already liturgically initiated and historically literate, which should not be conditions of access to the meaning of the Lord's Prayer. True. But the Pope is concerned, as he should be, with present liturgical English. The New Testament was written in vernacular koine Greek, not classical Attic Greek, after all, and I think that's a good analogue. We just need contemporary translations (liturgical and biblical) that also have an ear for rhythm and poetry. I have no desire to defend this one, but The Message, of course, is not technically a translation of the Biblical text. It is an interpretive paraphrase in conversational English (a targum, if you will) that brings out meanings latent in the text (a good thing) while sometimes foreclosing other legitimate interpretations (not so good). It’s meant to be read alongside true translations, and I think it can be really helpful. I think Eugene Peterson is a trustworthy Biblical interpreter, and I’ve found his work on the role of the Bible in spirituality helpful. I don’t think The Message itself should be held to the same standards as other translations for that reason. It also means that I don’t think many of its phrasings are defensible as translations, and often miss the mark. This may be one of those cases.
  24. Rob Z

    Babette's Feast

    My mind has just been blown by a connection that I noticed between Babette’s Feast and Carl Dreyer’s Day of Wrath. (Vague spoilers about the latter film follow.) I was aware that two of the principle actors of Ordet, Preben Lerdorff Rye (Johannes) and Birgitte Federspiel (Inger), are members of the aging congregation in Babette’s Feast. I didn’t realize until revisiting some scenes from the film because of this discussion in this thread that actress Lisbeth Movin, the main character in Day of Wrath, was also an elderly widow in the congregation. In Day of Wrath, Anne (Movin) and Martin (Lerdorff Rye) fall in love even though Anne is married to Martin’s much older father, who is much older than her. This secret romance does not end well, to put it mildly. Interestingly, this is very similar the nature of the relationship between the same actors’ characters in Babette’s Feast, only without the pall of witch hunting mania. Here is how the novella describes it: After the meal Babette creates, the members of the congregation begin to forgive and reconcile. Here is how the novella describes that for these two characters: And here is how the film portrays this scene. When I saw this, I couldn’t help but imagine this as the reconciliation between Martin and Anne, with all the disappointed longings and spiritual darkness (and even the evil perpetrated in the name of religion) of Day of Wrath redeemed. I honestly started crying when I watched this scene with that in mind. Others may have noticed this connection long ago, but it seems significant to me, as more than just an homage to Dreyer but an active engagement with and interpretation of his canon. Just one more reason to love and appreciate Babette’s Feast.
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