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Top 25: Choosing the second list's theme

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Road movie/pilgrimage is attractive (although I'm not sure the two are completely synonymous).

This is both the pro and con of this idea. It would be quite difficult to create legit formal borders for the list.

However, such a list could have the potential for us as a community to re-define or further define the "road movie" genre as a riff on the religious concept of pilgrimage. And pilgrimage is a universal religious concept, so it would require considering films from a very wide range of religious traditions.

So, FWIW, I see both negatives and positives here.

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Another suggestion: Best films about food. Of course, we all know what film would top that list...

But this strikes me as a particularly rich concept with a lot of ties to food as something that embodies the gospel-bound home-centered hospitality that [is supposed to] characterize Christianity.

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It's absolutely true that choosing a genre like comedy would lead to fascinating conversations, insights, etc.

But the world outside A&F will be much less interested in a comedy list than a thematic list like "road movies" or "conversion stories." (I'm not saying those are the best examples, just a couple that have been mentioned.)

The reason horror worked so well is that the very genre seems potentially opposed to religion, faith, etc. in a common sense sort of way (what's spiritual about death and dismemberment, etc.).

In general, genre lists offer much to cinephiles, but little to the public at large.

I don't think I agree. It could be said that much about the genre of comedy is opposed to religion, faith, etc., given how often one feels a need for a purification ritual after seeing many allegedly comedic films, with their profane and cruel qualities. Since reading your post, I've been trying to come up with spiritually significant and edifying comedies that have emerged in the past several years, and the list is a rather short one: O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Rage in Placid Lake, maybe Thank You for Smoking...

The fact that even mediocre to poor comedies, e.g. pretty much every annual or semi-annual Will Ferrell film, draw a large audience would signify a large hunger for films that try to generate laughs, so I would hope in turn there'd be a sizeable audience for a list of spiritually significant films that actually succeed in doing so.

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Converging agreement with Greg: not that genre lists aren't interesting per se, but I agree that a more offbeat, more high-concept category like road movies is more thought-provoking and more interesting. I also agree that the horror list was a good place to start in part because "a horror list put together by a group of mostly Christians" is itself high concept. I'm not against doing a list of comedies at some point, but something like road movies seems to me a better follow-up to our first list, more imaginative and, as it were, off the beaten track.

Edited by SDG

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I also agree that the horror list was a good place to start in part because "a horror list put together by a group of mostly Christians" is itself high concept. I'm not against doing a list of comedies at some point, but something like road movies seems to me a better follow-up to our first list, more imaginative and, as it were, off the beaten track.

Here's another problem ... if we decided to pick specific story-lines for a Top 25 list, like films about traveling or films about making dinner, then we have really limited the scope of films we can choose from. I'm not absolutely against it, but I think we'd have to work even harder to defend the spiritual worth of each nominated film instead of just picking it because it so well lines up with the limited scope of the list. If we are doing a "road movie" list, and someone nominates one of the most famous, critically acclaimed road movies of all time, won't we just put it on the list because it's famous?

In other words, I'd much prefer the chosen films themselves to be great, unique, and Christianity interactive than I would the title of the Top 25 list.

So everyone here is starting to look down on "Top 25 comedies" list as an option because (1) it's too broad of a genre, and (2) other Christians already support comedies and make "top comedy" lists all the time?

I personally know a number of Christian friends & family where, in whose homes, most comedies are BANNED just as much as the horror films are.

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If we are doing a "road movie" list, and someone nominates one of the most famous, critically acclaimed road movies of all time, won't we just put it on the list because it's famous?

And yet, I can't find Citizen Kane on our Top 100. (And that doesn't bother me.)

In other words, I'd much prefer the chosen films themselves to be great, unique, and Christianity interactive than I would the title of the Top 25 list.

I'm not sure what you mean by "Christianity interactive," but for some here (by no means all - or even most) there is a broader sense of spirituality. The diversity of this community will I hope make a list that is not necessarily specifically Christian.

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And yet, I can't find Citizen Kane on our Top 100. (And that doesn't bother me.)

Right, but my point is our Top 100 wasn't limited to any specific story-lines. Citizen Kane would likely be required to make one of our Top 25 lists if we did one on the corruption of power.

I'm not sure what you mean by "Christianity interactive," but for some here (by no means all - or even most) there is a broader sense of spirituality. The diversity of this community will I hope make a list that is not necessarily specifically Christian.

I'm always trying to use different phrases for it. "Spiritually significant" ... "interacts with faith" ... "of spiritual worth" ... "themes within Christian faith" etc.

But no, I'm not interested in making this a forum for a broader sense of spirituality that is too general to be called Christian. I'm not interested in recommending films that explore the spiritual worth of Buddhist, Islamic or Wiccan themes. We can still keep our Christianity the focus without turning to films like Fireproof or Left Behind.

What would trying to make a list that explores a spirituality that is broader than Christian result in? If you don't think themes of the existence of God, the depravity of man, sacrifice and redemption are specifically Christian, then I'd disagree with you, but I'd allow for what you mean by "not necessarily specifically Christian" because other faiths and religions can explore these themes too. But to me, these are subjects that are specifically Christian, and there is no reason to shrink from that. Just because "Arts and Faith" isn't interested in destroying art in order to use art for evangelistic purposes doesn't mean we still can't wear our Christianity on our sleeves. I have no interest in creating "broader spiritual" lists of films, or recommending films, that explore themes of the presence of a God-like force in everything, of the power (nonexistent from a Christian point of view) of man to redeem himself alone, or even of the value of pure self-centeredness.

A talented filmmaker could, after all, make a film that, let's see, explores the spiritual worth of pure self-interestedness (a la Atlas Shrugged). But I consider some forms of spirituality as distinctly anti-Christian.

Edited by Persiflage

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Here's another problem ... if we decided to pick specific story-lines for a Top 25 list, like films about traveling or films about making dinner, then we have really limited the scope of films we can choose from. I'm not absolutely against it, but I think we'd have to work even harder to defend the spiritual worth of each nominated film instead of just picking it because it so well lines up with the limited scope of the list. If we are doing a "road movie" list, and someone nominates one of the most famous, critically acclaimed road movies of all time, won't we just put it on the list because it's famous?

In other words, I'd much prefer the chosen films themselves to be great, unique, and Christianity interactive than I would the title of the Top 25 list.

This is thoughtfully and eloquently put, and I agree that putting the most famous road movies on the list is something to watch out for. It is an argument I think we should have. Let's pick movies that have actually played significant roles in our film pilgrimages, individually and corporately -- or if there are movies that someone feels that we have to include, throw them out and see what kind of discussion ensues.

So everyone here is starting to look down on "Top 25 comedies" list as an option because (1) it's too broad of a genre, and (2) other Christians already support comedies and make "top comedy" lists all the time?

I personally know a number of Christian friends & family where, in whose homes, most comedies are BANNED just as much as the horror films are.

I'm not looking down on comedies -- I'd be okay with doing comedies at some point -- but I'm thinking that it's not as strong a follow-up to the horror list as something like road movies would be. Whatever resistance to comedies might exist within some Christian circles is a much more inside-baseball kind of thing than resistance to horror. Spiritually significant road movies seems to me to offer more, so to speak, drama than spiritually significant comedies.

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I'm not sure what you mean by "Christianity interactive," but for some here (by no means all - or even most) there is a broader sense of spirituality. The diversity of this community will I hope make a list that is not necessarily specifically Christian.

I'm always trying to use different phrases for it. "Spiritually significant" ... "interacts with faith" ... "of spiritual worth" ... "themes within Christian faith" etc.

But no, I'm not interested in making this a forum for a broader sense of spirituality that is too general to be called Christian. I'm not interested in recommending films that explore the spiritual worth of Buddhist, Islamic or Wiccan themes. We can still keep our Christianity the focus without turning to films like Fireproof or Left Behind.

With the caveat that films like The Burmese Harp that explore universal spiritual themes within a Buddhist cultural context can resonate strongly enough to warrant my vote, my hope also is that our perspective as voting members will be fundamentally from within a worldview that is shaped by Christianity and that embraces that Christian heritage as a defining, constitutive element of the culture on this board.

Not all of us here are Christians, and who is or is not a Christian may itself be a point of contention. Nevertheless, the Christian heritage of this board is still strong enough to be taken for granted as a defining reference point in our discussions -- and I think that nearly everyone who has congregated at this board is either here because of that heritage or at least understands it as part of the ecosystem that they appreciate for whatever reason.

If we can't agree on that much, if that perspective erodes, I wouldn't necessarily leave the community, or even volunteer to give up my moderator cap ... but I wouldn't be interested in voting in future Arts & Faith lists, or in writing promotional pieces for such lists. Not to speak out of turn for Greg, but I'm not sure that a community that couldn't agree on that much would continue to be a good fit for Image sponsorship.

Edited by SDG

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Another possible theme for some point int he future: Coming Home. That leave it broad enough for the return of the hero and of the prodigal. A few films that come to mind as examples are The Deer Hunter, perhaps American History X, of course the film Coming Home. In a metaphorical sense, perhaps even Exodus.

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Another possible theme for some point int he future: Coming Home. That leave it broad enough for the return of the hero and of the prodigal. A few films that come to mind as examples are The Deer Hunter, perhaps American History X, of course the film Coming Home. In a metaphorical sense, perhaps even Exodus.

I like that, but I agree: for the future. The theme for our next list shouldn't be too startlingly unlike the first.

That's why, once again, I like Greg's road movies / pilgrimages concept. It's got quasi-genre continuity, but also expands the playing field and opens the door to less conventional themes.

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I'm not looking down on comedies -- I'd be okay with doing comedies at some point -- but I'm thinking that it's not as strong a follow-up to the horror list as something like road movies would be. Whatever resistance to comedies might exist within some Christian circles is a much more inside-baseball kind of thing than resistance to horror. Spiritually significant road movies seems to me to offer more, so to speak, drama than spiritually significant comedies.

That's why, once again, I like Greg's road movies / pilgrimages concept. It's got quasi-genre continuity, but also expands the playing field and opens the door to less conventional themes.

Alright, let's do it.

1 - But we should make sure to call it the "Top 25 Pilgrimage Films" just to make sure our purpose is clear.

2 - We will really just need to pick 24 - I'd be willing to just start working on the list with the understanding that Andrei Rublev gets the #1 slot.

3 - No allegorical / purely mental pilgrimages allowed. I'd argue that each film need an actual physical pilgrimage - physical travel and journeying should be required.

4 - Pilgrimages are often very religious experiences and journeys. So should we set some sort of boundaries for the next A&F list that eliminates films that specifically advocate a religion other than Christianity?

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Well, the entire road/pilgrimage needs some discussion. Take e.g. Apollo 13. I see it as a road movie, but not necessarily as pilgrimage. Easy Rider, Two Lane Blacktop, Thelma and Louise? All wonderful road movies. Pilgrimage - not in any religious sense, but in some other aspects perhaps.

As to point 4 I would object stenuously. In Pilgrimage, that would eliminate such films as Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran, something I think would fit the list perfectly. In fact, since I really can't stay awake in any Tarkovsky film, I'd rank Monsieur Imbrahim higher than Rublev.

Edited by Darrel Manson

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Persiflage wrote:

: 4 - Pilgrimages are often very religious experiences and journeys. So should we set some sort of boundaries for the next A&F list that eliminates films that specifically advocate a religion other than Christianity?

Hmmm. What about Jewish pilgrimages? I am personally open to pilgrimage stories from pretty much any tradition, but I would be ESPECIALLY open to Jewish pilgrimage stories given that Christianity is, in some sense, derivative of Judaism.

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Persiflage wrote:

: 4 - Pilgrimages are often very religious experiences and journeys. So should we set some sort of boundaries for the next A&F list that eliminates films that specifically advocate a religion other than Christianity?

I am not sure why we would limit the pilgrimage theme to a specific tradition. The concept of pilgrimage is one of the few universal elements of the human religious experience, and probing this theme in cinema will be an interesting way to demonstrate connections between film and spirituality.

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4 - Pilgrimages are often very religious experiences and journeys. So should we set some sort of boundaries for the next A&F list that eliminates films that specifically advocate a religion other than Christianity?

As to point 4 I would object stenuously. In Pilgrimage, that would eliminate such films as Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran, something I think would fit the list perfectly. In fact, since I really can't stay awake in any Tarkovsky film, I'd rank Monsieur Imbrahim higher than Rublev.

I haven't seen Monsieur Ibrahim, does it turn a character to Islam? Does the pilgrimage in the film end with a character deciding the answer is in Islam? To be clear, I don't mean we should eliminate all films only having to do with other religions. But haven't we crossed a line somewhere if our list just becomes a generalized "these are the best religious pilgrimage movies" from which miscellaneous characters come away as Muslims, Buddhists, Christians or some other faith that has some truth in it?

It's been years since I've seen it, but what about Seven Years in Tibet? If memory serves, when Brad Pitt's character had finished his long journey, he was converted to Buddhism.

Hmmm. What about Jewish pilgrimages? I am personally open to pilgrimage stories from pretty much any tradition, but I would be ESPECIALLY open to Jewish pilgrimage stories given that Christianity is, in some sense, derivative of Judaism.

I don't care what kind of pilgrimages they are, and I'm willing to learn from and appreciate a film celebrating any religious tradition. But there's a difference between appreciating a film about a different religion, and recommending it to others. So when you say you're open to, or "ESPECIALLY" open, does that mean open to appreciating a good Jewish pilgrimage story, or open to putting down your name as recommending it to everyone? I'm seeing the word "pilgrimage" defined as a long journey in search of religious truth or moral significance. Given that some pilgrimages can end with the conclusion that truth is in this particular religion, I'd object to recommending any Jewish pilgrimage film that ended by saying "the answer is in _________" (whether Judaism, or any other religion that was not Christianity).

I am not sure why we would limit the pilgrimage theme to a specific tradition. The concept of pilgrimage is one of the few universal elements of the human religious experience, and probing this theme in cinema will be an interesting way to demonstrate connections between film and spirituality.

We don't have to, but I think we should start making the list with the understanding that we rule out those films that conclude that the answer is in a specific religion other than Christianity. That makes sense right? Not demanding that all the films we recommend can be called "Christian", but still demanding that no film we recommend essentially concludes that Christianity isn't true.

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Given that some pilgrimages can end with the conclusion that truth is in this particular religion, I'd object to recommending any Jewish pilgrimage film that ended by saying "the answer is in _________" (whether Judaism, or any other religion that was not Christianity).

No religion, not even Christianity has THE answer. But I think that many religions point us to answers we can share and appreciate. We can learn things of value from the faith of others.

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We don't have to, but I think we should start making the list with the understanding that we rule out those films that conclude that the answer is in a specific religion other than Christianity. That makes sense right? Not demanding that all the films we recommend can be called "Christian", but still demanding that no film we recommend essentially concludes that Christianity isn't true.

I doesn't really make sense to me in this context. At least, this would be the first time I ever thought of an A&F list in those terms. Theologically, I do not think we can extend our concept of general revelation to the doctrinal commitments of other religions. I am neither a universalist nor a pluralist. But I have always had the working premise that cinema at its best, even when expressing myths and religious codes incompatible with my own, is the most constructive and graceful form of ecumenical discourse available to us. I have tried to avoid using these kinds of lists as a means of self-description, because cinema inherently for and about the other.

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Given that some pilgrimages can end with the conclusion that truth is in this particular religion, I'd object to recommending any Jewish pilgrimage film that ended by saying "the answer is in _________" (whether Judaism, or any other religion that was not Christianity).

No religion, not even Christianity has THE answer.

The historic Christian belief is that Jesus is God's singular answer. If that belief is false, then Darrel is right. If it is true, then I think we can call Jesus "THE answer," whatever qualifications and allowances for valid insights and contributions from other religions and so forth we might want to append, etc.

However, I would not necessarily object in principle to a pilgrimage film made within the context of a religion other than Christianity, for reasons much like M. Leary's comments above.

Like I wrote above, I am not interested in participating in an Arts & Faith list if we cannot agree that our perspective as voting members will be fundamentally from within a worldview that is decisively shaped by Christianity and embraces that Christian heritage as a definitive, constitutive element of the culture on this board. However, this doesn't mean that we can't bring a Christian perspective to a film that reflects another religious faith and find enduring truth that transcends religious differences. I've mentioned The Burmese Harp as an example of this.

Edited by SDG

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I have always had the working premise that cinema at its best, even when expressing myths and religious codes incompatible with my own, is the most constructive and graceful form of ecumenical discourse available to us. I have tried to avoid using these kinds of lists as a means of self-description, because cinema inherently for and about the other.

This is somewhat different from my own perspective. I think that movies inherently tend towards praise/positive depiction of their subject matter (therefore the predominant risk of movies about faith is propaganda). Thus e.g. when Groning made Into Great Silence it was a Catholic movie despite having been made by a non-Catholic.

I think movies can serve as a form of dialogue but not as the freest or the best kind. Taking again Into Great Silence its great strength is its sympathetic presentation of these men and their rituals and daily lives, but it doesn't have the distance which a book almost certainly would. Now I'm thinking of "The Year of Living Biblically" -- if you've read that book contrast it with a hypothetical movie adaptation and I hope you'll agree that the book is a more apt presentation of Jacobs' point of view, as it allows him to voice his reactions to everything that's going on around him.

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I think movies can serve as a form of dialogue but not as the freest or the best kind.

I don't think cinema is always a very good source of dialogue. It is, however, an inherently great source of inter-religious discourse.

Also: Cinema isn't about Christianity. Cinema is about durations of time and space. This is why this whole Pilgrimage theme has been intriguing to me from its first mention.

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Also: Cinema isn't about Christianity. Cinema is about durations of time and space. This is why this whole Pilgrimage theme has been intriguing to me from its first mention.

Ok, when you put it this way, I'm much more inclined to find the Pilgrimage idea interesting. And insist that some Tarkovsky makes the list.

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