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M. Leary

The Future of Arts and Faith...

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Anyway, back to my point. Its in my opinion critical for building those touch points that drive the development of relationship that the other fora stay. Its discussions about coffee and how embarrassingly badly the Buckeyes played in Tempe that enable the disagreements that do lead to arguments to be smoothed over. Isn't it called social capital--we all need to invest to realize the dividends.

Good points. It's down to me whether or not I get distracted I guess. And reflecting on what you've said, I guess I value knowing that Alan is deeply concerned about environmental issues and that some people have got very good taste in tea.

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Re. pseudonymns, I'm not seeing any need to "apologize" for them - we're not sitting around a table eating and talking, though i often wish that was the case. I don't like using my given name online, period.

Okay, time to come clean. My real name is Ralph Waldo Faulkner.

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I'm curious about the sentiment (seemingly held by some) that A&F has "lost focus" or slowed down. In short, I don't see it.

I have a fairly unqiue perspective here. I've been part of this string of boards for at least four or five years under different names, yet I've never been a big poster, especially in the flagship "Film" forum. I just don't know that much about film.

The board has evolved from consisting of the posts of a few to becoming a community of many. But there are still great discussions of all sorts.

Oh, and I agree that Alan does a heck of a job in his, um, job. As moderator. Thank you, Alan.

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I'm curious about the sentiment (seemingly held by some) that A&F has "lost focus" or slowed down. In short, I don't see it.

I've not been around long enough to know (hence my use of the term 'allegedly' above). The initial question just set me wondering. I've posted much less in the last 3 months, and sometimes feel there isn't a discussion I want to get stuck into. Which is partly why I began to wonder if the non-arts fora were a distraction. And further reflection makes me realise it's me to blame if I allow myself to be distracted (and for some being distracted is not a problem, but I primarily come here for professional reasons - to get the wonderful interplay and diverse insights of some minds that are well tuned in arts-faith matters). It's also, I realise, at least partly my fault if I don't want to wade into some debates. Work has been so pressurised in the last six months (so I probably shouldn't be coming here to play at all most days!) that I've seen far fewer films than I should have done, and I can't afford the luxury of re-examining some older films and older threads. Also, I guess these things go in cycles - periods when it happens that lots of discussions are my kind of thing, and periods when not much is.

I still think it's great (which is why you all get a corporate acknowledgment in my book).

(Have I just become guilty of product promotion again - sorry, that's not my intention; rather to indicate the level of my appreciation).

tony

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The "Prayers for A&F" idea is a timely reminder. I have learned quite a bit on this board, have discovered many great films as a result, and I appreciate the effort that Alan and others make to keep this place running. But it's a good to remember that it's important to keep each other in prayer.

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Andy Whitman wrote:

: But the danger is that this sends the intimidating and alienating message that the

: board is overrun with "professionals."

I agree that we need to blur, if not obliterate, the line between "professionals" and "non-professionals" here. At the same time, I think it can be a positively good thing to encourage non-pros to become pros. I think we have seen a number of people here make significant progress in their film-commentary careers (I use the word loosely) since joining this group -- either in this incarnation of the board, or in one of its previous incarnations -- and the more we can encourage that, the better. At the same time, we have seen some pros become non-pros, and unfortunately, they have tended to (mostly) drop out of the picture; I would like to think that they could still hang around here and keep us company, and share our love of the arts in a more casual way even if they no longer earn their bread and butter by writing on it, but that's up to them. (Since I recently started missing screenings on a regular basis so as to look after my kids, this is not entirely an academic question for me.)

The one thing I don't "get" is when people who write DVD liner notes and the like pop by here to complain that there are too many "insiders" here.

Alan Thomas wrote:

: You know (again, looking back), all this makes me wonder: Do you pray for us?

Individual people who frequent here, yes. The board, per se, no. The people are more important than the board, and I can't say I have ever been inclined to pray for any of the fanzines, newsgroups, listservs, etc. that I have participated in, though I have prayed for individual people and groups of people that I met in those venues.

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I enjoy this board for what it is in my life. It is the opportunity to listen in on, join or ignore some very, very interesting, informed, intelligent conversations. Where else in life can this happen? Certainly not at this level and in this easy of a social structure where I can do it as my schedule permits and no one is mad that I don't "call them" or "respond to them" or whatever other social obligations exist in other settings. So...

I listen in on most of the conversations, in part because they are not mine and so I have no desire to join but find them fascinating. The fact that they are online means that the authors expect others to listen in, if we want, and take whatever is helpful from their comments home with them. I do not consider that "lurking" but rather "learning." I have learned a great deal from the posts of this board and it has caused me to go off and read/learn in other ways.

I join those conversations which match my interest and passion. There are some things my life experience, my passion for ministry and film, my love for Jesus, and so on compels me to join. I have enjoyed, except for a few conversations the types of which I've learned to identify and not join, these conversations immensely. I find that almost every post is very helpful to me. I am seldom disappointed.

I ignore those conversations that don't interest me. That's again a great advantage in a board such as this. I have offended no one by saying to myself and to them by my click of the mouse, "I don't have time for this even if it is interesting." I have never read some of the areas of the board, and can't get into the personal stuff very much because as a pastoral counselor I have more personal stuff than I can emotionally handle already. When I am gone for weeks traveling and teaching, I can return and pick up where the conversations are at that time without anyone being upset that I was gone or that I came back.

My point is that this is a board for exceptional, Christian discussion. When we allow it to be that, it enriches our lives. If we expect it to be more, then it has inherent limitations, not the least of which is we don't even know some of the participants real names or real lives. We can't look into their eyes or allow our senses, physical and spiritual to assess their emotional and spiritual states. We can't hear the chuckle in their voice or the fear in their breathing. We don't know how it is at work or at home or at prayer. We don't even know what color one another's eyes are, let alone recognize one another's voices. These are inherent limitations to such a discussion board as this.

Denny

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That said, there's an exception: the political forum. My feeling is that A&F would probably be better off without it, judging from the many rancorous threads there - though since it's not been showing up under "new posts," things have calmed down a lot. (And so have I!)

Rancor is relative. Christian and I disagree violantly about coffee, but the stakes are low in such disagreements. The stakes are much higher during football season between Buckeye and me, yet there is a bond between us as part of the bretheren here. I can't think of anyone with whom I have participated in discussion here, regardless of level of rancor in a particular discussion, that I would not look up if I knew I would come close to in travels. Or I would avoid if I knew s/he were near Detroit. It is not just that this is my nature as an hospitable soul. There is also the curiousity of the real person behind the words you read and the bond of having "visited" in a disembodied way with so many so often here.

When any of us meet face to face, or with our friends of a more "normal" sort, there is usually the option open to discuss most anything of interest, regardless of any urge to do so. One of the things that is unique here is the similar range of options. Though this place is hardly exhaustive in its collection human intersts and passions, there is plenty here and an excellent example of the keeping of rancor to a minimum even in many highly charged discussions. I've learned an awful lot about Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and also a sense of some day to day aspects of the faith of liberal Protestants and that is something that conservative Protestants rarely get a sense of.

The best way to better this community is to add to it. For someone to augment our views with perspectives of which we are not aware and arguments yet to be heard. The same folks cannot always do that. Leaving the gates open gives us the opportunity for such to happen.

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Re: the "political" forum, my own involvement there has dropped off ever since it stopped showing up in "View New Posts", but I do have to say I think it is as essential to this board as the "science" forum or the "religion" forum or any of the other fora that don't directly address film or the arts in general. I don't know how many people here recall this, but we created the "politics" forum here partly because our discussions of certain films in the old days veered into heavily political (and politicized) discussions that were detracting from our ability to discuss the films themselves. As with politics, so with, say, science -- we need a thread to discuss climate change in general, without always referencing Al Gore's movie (or, alternatively, we need to be able to discuss Al Gore's movie AS a movie without necessarily getting bogged down in the science of climate change).

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I would also add that at different points in my life I would have found different aspects of this board interesting. For example, I started out being very interested in politics in my 20's and early 30's. But as I began working with politicians/political parties/partisan agendas, etc., I found it far less meaningful than advancing the Kingdom of God. I want to be a part of something that brings people together in ultimate solutions of eternal realities. So, although I recently hosted the Democratic leadership in our area of the state at our church, I do not give anywhere near the energy to this that I do to bringing Jesus into the lives of people in our city and state. That's not to say that others shouldn't, just for me I'm not going to give it much energy at this stage in my life and that includes discussing and rediscussing political beliefs and approaches. Film on the other hand is the language of the age...

Denny

Edited by Denny Wayman

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I love you all and hope for a good direction for each of you.

Then again, I think ya'all sux. :)

-s.

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Leary, in your own comments in the "does it matter" thread, you talk about the site in quite superlative terms as an incomparable reference on Christian approaches to film and art. Past tense. You also wrote that this would be true for "years and years to come". Do you no longer feel that way?

I still feel that this place is a powder keg of potential that every now and then flashes into brilliance. That is the way it has always been. Due to the fact that we in the main focus on current releases (and I know that is a vast generalization that really is only partially true), the quality of our conversation is linked to the quality of whatever films are currently out there. I still think it is the case that Arts and Faith has set a benchmark for Christian discussion of film, as articles, books, papers, and scads of reviews have been inspired by interaction here. I can think of no other dialogical setting that can claim that sort of success, even if it has taken different people different directions. And most of the interaction here is more than a cut above the popular books on film and theology that still pass in Evangelical Christendom as "state of the art." The "Top 100" is still a credit to our communal due diligence (even though no one else gets The Mosquito Coast).

I agree that we need to blur, if not obliterate, the line between "professionals" and "non-professionals" here.

This is an odd by product of the success of all the generations of this board. A few careers have blossomed here, whether part or full time, and that necessarily makes things different. Now it is hard for many to make any comments that can't be construed as "self-promoting" because guess what? A lot of posters here write on film in all their spare time and their posts are often going to be referring to work they have already done. There is a sort of planned obselesence behind Arts and Faith. If the goal has been to push Christian cultural conversation forward by actually "doing culture" and criticism together. That's happened! So the landscape here will shift as a result. It will increasingly become less of a think-tank than a space for the anorakic indulgence of theology and film buffs. That isn't inherently better or worse, just...different. I suppose what I fear the most is that this board will become plagued by some of the absurd wrangling that goes on at other film discussion sites, increasingly embittered argumentation about minute auteur details or points of cinematography.

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Anorakic.

A-norak...

Oh. Anorak-ic.

Hm.

My Britophilic interests have previously introduced me to the term "anorak," both in the primary/literal and figurative senses of the term, but I never ran across an adjectival form before.

Heh. I see Google turns up exactly two other uses: a neologistic suggestion at Collins Word Exchange Forum... and another usage in an essay at Matthews House by guess who.

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I have heard it over here a number of times both in conversation and on the telly, and scoured both Google and OED for precedent. There really is none. But feel free now to use the word as if it were actually a word. (And Britophilic is much better than Anglophilic. I am switching today.)

Edited by MLeary

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(And Britophilic is much better than Anglophilic. I am switching today.)
Yes. My Britophilia focuses strongly on Cornwall, and if you call them Anglo (or English) they will let you have it. Not to mention the rest of the Celtic fringe (another controversial term, but I don't have a better one). Edited by SDG

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You two are SO scrupophlific.

-s.

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Don't you mean scrupophilific? I just love the English language. Sometimes it's just pin the suffix on the prefix, but there's one word after another out of the blue!

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Don't you mean scrupophilific?

No. Thank you for trying to ease over the tensions, Rich Kennedy. Thanks for always looking for the good, and for trying to give me a way out. But you know me better than that. Had I meant scrupophilific, I would have said it.

No, these two certainly do have to answer for themselves in this area, and I am here to call them on it.

-s.

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Where's Will Farrell/James Lipton to come up with a new word for us?

Like scrupoprophylactic?

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I want to voice the opinion that if these boards are downhill, particulalry in the film section, it is because of the TOPICS of discussion and not the discussions themselves. The discussions at A&F are great, and I admire most everyone who takes part. However, Fox Faith -- I don't know, it feels like it's the late 80s all over again and serious critics are getting ready to talk about Amy Grant.

I thought we were past all that.

Just a current frustration of mine. Fox Faith panders, and the critics here fall in line.

The Future of A&F cannot be in covering companies that are reducing us to a mere demographic. Christ didn't die so that Fox Faith can distribute nice little Christian films.

While I'm serious for a moment, I also think that linking to blogs is El Lamo. I've always thought that. I mean, it's your blog, why not at the very least do us a favor and copy and paste? Otherwise the future of A&F's conversation will be a Post # 1, link to a blog, Post #2, link to another blog, Post #3, etc etc

-s.

Edited by stef

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The Future of A&F cannot be in covering companies that are reducing us to a mere demographic. Christ didn't die so that Fox Faith can distribute nice little Christian films.

I avoid all discussions about FOx Faith since - so far - I think we've been spared their efforts on this side of the pond. And also because I have little interest in discussing ostensibly Christian films. That needs some qualification I guess. I'll happily discuss Bresson et al (when I have time, of course!) because their films, created out of a Christian worldview, are accepted as great films outside of the Christian community. But films that are made by the faithful for the faithful hold little appeal - partly perhaps because so many of the examples I have seen over the years (in other media too) are second rate. A more significant reason for me is that my ministry, and that of the organisation of which I am a part, revolves around helping people (whether inside or outside the church) to be able to relate Christian faith and contemporary culture. The need over here in western Europe is both acute and chronic: the days of us being a church-going culture are long gone; residual Christian understanding is minimal. We can't afford the luxury of focusing on a Christian audience (though that is not to say that people don't - fiddling while Rome burns has always been a popular pastime I guess). So the films and books of faith that do interest me are those produced for a general audience, not an already-on-side one. It's why I admire what GP Taylor has achieved so much.

If A&F was to develop an in-house focus - and I don't think it will, actually, given the breadth of interest here - I would drop it like a stone.

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stef wrote:

: Just a current frustration of mine. Fox Faith panders, and the critics here fall in line.

I can certainly respect that, though I'm not sure who here has "fallen in line".

For my own part, I don't think I've said anything substantive, anywhere, about Love's Abiding Joy or Thr3e (beyond a snarky comment about the latter film's coincidental similarity to a story-within-the-story of Adaptation), and if I say anything substantive about One Night with the King or the upcoming The (Final) Inquiry, it will be because I have always -- always -- had an interest in filmic adaptations of the Bible. That leaves just one film, The Last Sin Eater, which I happened to review, and apart from a link to my review and a comment on the "preachiness" of the book and/or film versions of the story, I don't think I've said anything else about it here.

In fact, I recently raised a question regarding FoxFaith and what appears to be its mission of creating new revenue streams for the merchandising of Christian books -- most of their films, so far, have been based on CBA bestsellers -- so I, for one, am definitely not just "falling in line".

And I can't think of any other critic here who is, really.

: While I'm serious for a moment, I also think that linking to blogs is El Lamo.

I can respect that. I actually avoided starting a blog for years, partly because I enjoyed the give-and-take here much more than the thought of owning my own bit of cyberspace. But, well, certain things that happened here two years ago compelled me to start my own blog, and by the time I was allowed back at the board, I came to see my blog as just another publishing outlet, just like the websites for which I write reviews -- so if I can link to my reviews, I can link to the other stuff, too. That, plus I was extra wary about letting someone else "own" my words (an issue that cropped up here again recently, albeit in a different sort of way, when links to ads began appearing in the text of our posts).

But many times, if my blog post is little more than a link to another blog or news site, and I want to repeat that information here, I'll just post the original news site here. I only post a link to own blog if there is some unique element there.

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Stef, you bring up great points, and Tony's commentary is on the mark, too.

it's the late 80s all over again and serious critics are getting ready to talk about Amy Grant.

Oddly, I took my parents with me to the screening of Becket yesterday and made much the same comment to them on the way there in the car.

As the marketing of films to Christians gathers momentum, we would all do well to to bear in mind how much the entire industry -- the Christian niche, included -- trades on influence, and be extremely wary of any attempt -- any attempt -- to tilt the conversation any given direction by material means, the trading of favors, or the currying of unseemly ambitions. I'm frankly disappointed by how little interest the A&F community has expressed in ethical matters (apart from very specific attacks on specific sites and individuals). The entire industry (even the artform itself, dependent as it is on the manipulation of reality) is shady (for the lack of a better word), and we are all potentially touched by that. No one is entirely above influence.

Fox Faith panders, and the critics here fall in line.

I will second Peter's opinion, however, that this an inaccurate generalization. I will also point out that much of what may appear overt "falling in line" is a symptom of targeted marketing to specific demographics. My readers, for instance, are wholly unlikely to be interested in any way, shape, or form in films targeted at the gay and lesbian community. As a result, the distributors of such films don't bother knocking at our door with promotional materials in the way that, say, Motive Entertainment might. (Incidentally, Fox Faith isn't terribly interested in our audience, either!)

We all tend to talk about what we're interested in, and what we know. For the most part, both of those things are heavily influenced by what marketing manages to put in front of us. So many who seem to be "falling in line" with Fox Faith would probably seem to "fall in line" with whichever publicist was consistently feeding them promotional materials and screenings. (For instance, I can look at any given movie review site and pretty much guess which publicists they're connected to -- because I know how that information flows here in the States.)

Four methods to combat this are to: 1.) make some minor commitment to broading the interests of one's audience rather than just covering the films they'd likely to be interested in; 2.) do the same for one's self; 3.) get more educated about what publicists do and why; 4.) spend a lot of time looking in the mirror.

I also think that linking to blogs is El Lamo.

I think one of the reasons this is a problem (and this isn't a new observation, so I won't belabor the point here) is that any given thread on a film serves two purposes: to provide a repository of sorts for reviews and critical opinion, and to be a place to actually discuss the film.

Personally, I review a hell of a lot more films than I feel warrant much discussion. So most of the time when I post, it takes the form of, "Well, everything I could possibly want to say about this film, I've said in my review. Here's where it's published, if you're interested." Most of the time, I rather imagine people aren't interested; so pasting my review would only annoy others.

For me, the links work. I click through to the things I want to read about, and don't bother otherwise. As I've recommened elsewhere, though, it would be nice to be able to get a "What's New" view in which such threads and posts could be filtered out.

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