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A&F Top 25 2014


J.A.A. Purves
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Alright, so I’ve been asked to help out again with starting up the process for our fourth Top 25 Films list. The goal is again for it to be finished and hopefully published by awards season.

Let’s use this thread to nominate Top 25 themes and discuss them. As themes are suggested, I’ll periodically begin adding them to a list at the bottom of this post which will be the list we vote on at the end of October.

Here's a tentative timeline for the completion of this Top 25 list (so that we give enough time for the compiling of voting results & website work to the folks over at Image).

Nominate Top 25 themes: October 8
Close theme nominations: October 28
Begin voting on themes: October 28
Close voting: November 4
Open film nominations and discussion: November 4
Close film nominations: January 6
Open voting on films: January 8
Close voting: January 20

Write blurbs: January 20-February 3
Post results: TBA
Academy Awards: March 2

Notes/Instructions for this thread:

- One theme "nomination" per person. Suggest and discuss how ever many themes you'd like, but nominate one theme. In order to get a theme on the poll for voting purposes in a week from now, post "I nominate ___________________."

- Think carefully about how you word the theme.  In the past we've just called them "Top 25 Films on ___________"  And then also discuss and advocate for why we should try your theme this year.

- In this process, Tyler McCabe will be helping us this year.  He just mentioned something interesting to me.  This list will be on the year that is Image's 25th Anniversary.  He said that for their Anniversary, they may be open to doing more than one "Top 25" lists this year.  That would, of course, mean more work for everyone.  But it is possible that we might choose to do a little more or to do something distinctive to help mark the anniversary.  So this is another idea up for discussion.

 

List of Nominated themes to be voted on beginning October 28:

 

1 - Top 25 Cinematic Films

2 - Top 25 Films on Memory

3 - Top 25 Films on Creating Art

4 - Top 25 Films about Childhood

5 - Top 25 Films about Anniversaries

6 - Top 25 Films that inspire positive action

7 - Top 25 Coming-of-Age Films

8 - Top 25 Films on Spiritual Malaise

9 - Top 25 Films on Second Chances

10 - Top 25 Films on Transformation

11 - Top 25 Divine Comedies

12 - Top 25 Animated Films

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I nominate "Top 25 'Cinematic' Movies." 

 

You can take away plot, and still have cinema. You can even take away sound and still have cinema. But you cannot take away imagery and still have cinema.

 

In this time when the line between television and movies is blurred, when more and more sports events and "filmed theater" are being broadcast on cinema screens, and as viewers become accustomed to watching movies on cell phones and iPads, I think it's important to remind ourselves that cinema is something distinct... it isn't just something filmed and projected on a screen, but it is an art of visual composition and editing, and it is best experienced in community on a large screen.

 

That is to say, this would be a list of movies that draw audiences into an experience that only the big-screen, theatrical experience can really offer; movies that are substantial for more than just their narrative (if they even have one); movies that can teach us about what is only possible through the art of image-making and the juxtaposition of images.

 

I imagine that this is the kind of list that could include a wide array of films from Man with a Movie Camera to Gravity, Close Encounters to Koyaaniqatsi, from Lawrence of Arabia to Leviathan

 

But it would be a bold statement that what we talk about when we talk about "cinema" is different than what we talk about when we talk about "movies" (most of the time). It would insist on the value of the theatrical experience. And it would challenge readers to consider that cinema is more than just two people talking in front of a camera and moving us from plot point to plot point.

 

Too convoluted? Maybe. But I'm feeling strongly about the subject these days. I'm encouraged that so many people are excited about the "cinematic" qualities of Gravity. I didn't realize that that many people really cared. Critics talk about it all the time, but I guess it took a movie with Clooney, Bullock, and outer space to get mainstream movie-buzz folks announcing the arrival of some entirely new art form. Maybe this opens a door to introduce people to films they've missed, films that may not be big box office material, but that embrace and demonstrate the full potential of the medium.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Top 25 "Cinematic" Movies would definitely get the conversation going, if only we can come to some kind of agreement about what you mean by "cinematic." The question posed by the title of Bazin's collected essays, "What is Cinema?" is surely just as hotly debated today as it was then. More so than ever with, as you say, the proliferation of screens.

 

My concern is not only that we as a voting group won't come to an agreement of "what is cinematic?," but that it commits those participating in the list to a kind of theoretical stance that I'm not exactly sure that I, at least, will be comfortable with. I might agree with you that the cinema is a distinct art form (would I have dedicated my academic life at this point to the topic if it wasn't?), but if it is merely found in the "art of visual composition and editing," then I don't know if we can discount those mediums such as TV or non-theatrical big-screen distribution from the "cinematic." Certainly some things are more "cinematic" than others, but you see where this is going? Can we as a group articulate in a coherent way the notion of the cinematic? If we're going to go there, and I'm not saying we shouldn't, we need to be prepared to do some heavy work on the topic, investigating what has come before in the debate, situating our list and entering the academic discussions that are currently going on around this topic.

 

I'm currently re-reading Bazin, and reading David Rodowick's THE VIRTUAL LIFE OF FILM, and both of those folks are deeply invested in the concept of the cinematic. Rodowick looks at the way that "new media" is "fashioned upon a cinematic metaphor," which complicates the notion.

 

My two-cents.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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I wish to nominate Top 25 Films on Memory. (I'll make my case later today.)

Top 25 "Cinematic" Movies would definitely get the conversation going, if only we can come to some kind of agreement about what you mean by "cinematic." The question posed by the title of Bazin's collected essays, "What is Cinema?" is surely just as hotly debated today as it was then. More so than ever with, as you say, the proliferation of screens.

My concern is not only that we as a voting group won't come to an agreement of "what is cinematic?," but that it commits those participating in the list to a kind of theoretical stance that I'm not exactly sure that I, at least, will be comfortable with. I might agree with you that the cinema is a distinct art form (would I have dedicated my academic life at this point to the topic if it wasn't?), but if it is merely found in the "art of visual composition and editing," then I don't know if we can discount those mediums such as TV or non-theatrical big-screen distribution from the "cinematic." Certainly some things are more "cinematic" than others, but you see where this is going? Can we as a group articulate in a coherent way the notion of the cinematic? If we're going to go there, and I'm not saying we shouldn't, we need to be prepared to do some heavy work on the topic, investigating what has come before in the debate, situating our list and entering the academic discussions that are currently going on around this topic.

I'm currently re-reading Bazin, and reading David Rodowick's THE VIRTUAL LIFE OF FILM, and both of those folks are deeply invested in the concept of the cinematic. Rodowick looks at the way that "new media" is "fashioned upon a cinematic metaphor," which complicates the notion.

My two-cents.

Entirely agreed with all of this. Edited by Ryan H.
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Top 25 "Cinematic" Movies would definitely get the conversation going, if only we can come to some kind of agreement about what you mean by "cinematic." The question posed by the title of Bazin's collected essays, "What is Cinema?" is surely just as hotly debated today as it was then. More so than ever with, as you say, the proliferation of screens.

 

My concern is not only that we as a voting group won't come to an agreement of "what is cinematic?," but that it commits those participating in the list to a kind of theoretical stance that I'm not exactly sure that I, at least, will be comfortable with. I might agree with you that the cinema is a distinct art form (would I have dedicated my academic life at this point to the topic if it wasn't?), but if it is merely found in the "art of visual composition and editing," then I don't know if we can discount those mediums such as TV or non-theatrical big-screen distribution from the "cinematic." Certainly some things are more "cinematic" than others, but you see where this is going? Can we as a group articulate in a coherent way the notion of the cinematic? If we're going to go there, and I'm not saying we shouldn't, we need to be prepared to do some heavy work on the topic, investigating what has come before in the debate, situating our list and entering the academic discussions that are currently going on around this topic.

 

See, that sounds exciting to me. We could even publish a round-table discussion with some of us on the question. The resulting list would be fascinating and strange.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Tyler, can you please define "spiritual cinema" for the group?

 

[waits for answer]

 

What? You're banned!

 

(Oh, and ... welcome!)

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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In this time when the line between television and movies is blurred, when more and more sports events and "filmed theater" are being broadcast on cinema screens, and as viewers become accustomed to watching movies on cell phones and iPads, I think it's important to remind ourselves that cinema is something distinct ... it isn't just something filmed and projected on a screen, but it is an art of visual composition and editing, and it is best experienced in community on a large screen.

 

That is to say, this would be a list of movies that draw audiences into an experience that only the big-screen, theatrical experience can really offer; movies that are substantial for more than just their narrative (if they even have one); movies that can teach us about what is only possible through the art of image-making and the juxtaposition of images.

Jeffrey, I assume you've read Tarkovsky's Sculpting in Time?  In it, he makes an argument about what the art of film can offer that makes it different from everything else.  What you seem to be trying to say reminded me of his argument.  I'm going to have to look at it again, but it's not focused entirely upon imagery.  Imagery is important to him, but his point seems slightly more focused on what the medium of film can give us since, to him, film is sort of captured blocks of time.  Tarkovsky is arguably one of the most "cinematic" directors in the history of film, but then again, that depends on how we would choose to define cinematic.

 

And yes, I don't think we could work with your suggestion unless we actually explicitly defined what "cinematic" means.  Unlike other themes, I don't think this would be such that we could just leave it vague and up to however the voting happened to turn out.  I'm interested in it, but even to have an idea of how to vote, I'd want to know I was sharing an understanding with everyone else on what we were trying to do.  Since you're the one who is nominating this theme, I wouldn't have a problem with your defining it (after some discussion) with the understanding that if we chose this theme, your definition would be the one we would go with.

 

But it would be a bold statement that what we talk about when we talk about "cinema" is different than what we talk about when we talk about "movies" (most of the time). It would insist on the value of the theatrical experience. And it would challenge readers to consider that cinema is more than just two people talking in front of a camera and moving us from plot point to plot point. Too convoluted? Maybe. But I'm feeling strongly about the subject these days ... Maybe this opens a door to introduce people to films they've missed, films that may not be big box office material, but that embrace and demonstrate the full potential of the medium.

On the idea that making a list on this theme would be making a statement, I wonder if we could limit it somehow by the fact that this is an Arts and Faith Top 25 Cinematic Films.  In other words, could we frame the theme in such a way that we could exclude something like Gravity by the nature of the theme itself?

 

... if only we can come to some kind of agreement about what you mean by "cinematic." The question posed by the title of Bazin's collected essays, "What is Cinema?" is surely just as hotly debated today as it was then. More so than ever with, as you say, the proliferation of screens.

 

My concern is not only that we as a voting group won't come to an agreement of "what is cinematic?," but that it commits those participating in the list to a kind of theoretical stance that I'm not exactly sure that I, at least, will be comfortable with. I might agree with you that the cinema is a distinct art form (would I have dedicated my academic life at this point to the topic if it wasn't?), but if it is merely found in the "art of visual composition and editing," then I don't know if we can discount those mediums such as TV or non-theatrical big-screen distribution from the "cinematic." Certainly some things are more "cinematic" than others, but you see where this is going? Can we as a group articulate in a coherent way the notion of the cinematic? If we're going to go there, and I'm not saying we shouldn't, we need to be prepared to do some heavy work on the topic, investigating what has come before in the debate, situating our list and entering the academic discussions that are currently going on around this topic.

I like what you're thinking here, but why the discomfort with taking a "theoretical stance"? Some stances are worth taking. If we take our film criticism seriously, why not do the work to inform ourselves of what others have thought deeply when considering what "cinematic" art ought to do? It would take some commitment on our part, but it could be worth it.

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I'm juggling three ideas for a theme.

 

We've discussed comedies every year (right?), so it might be a good idea to finally do that.  However, I think there are much more interesting themes that would really challenge the community and help us to grow more.  Although taste in humor can be very personal, so maybe that would lead to some productive and thought-provoking discussions.

 

An idea I had just after we completed last year's list was Top 25 Films on Family.  (Not for family, but on or about family.)  Films that explore the relationships between all members of the family could make a good partner list with last year's marriage list.  Regarding eligibility, there would be a little overlap with the marriage list (Tokyo StoryMake Way for Tomorrow), but the big difference would be last year's list contained films that focused on the relationship between the couple; whereas films about family would focus equally on the dynamics of all family members (parents/children, siblings, aunts/uncles, spouses, multiple generations, etc.)  Which is why The Royal Tenenbaums was not the best fit for marriage films, but would fit much better for family films.  The Incredibles would be a stronger fit here as well; Grave of the Fireflies is another example that quickly comes to my mind. We could also have a few negative examples of family's being destroyed (The Shining)

 

Since it's Image's 25th Anniversary, films about making art seems like a natural choice.  From Image's about page: "Thankfully, religion and art have always shared the capacity to help us to renew our awareness of the ultimate questions: who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going."  The best of art making films show the artist's vocation, how s/he forms relationships through that art, and how his/her art "renews awareness of life's ultimate questions."  Examples could include Three Colors: BlueBabette's Feast, Andrei Rublev and PBS's production of Sunday in the Park with George - if the last one's eligible.

 

So all that said, I nominate Top 25 films on Creating Art.

Edited by Evan C

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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I don't think we should be framing whatever theme we settle on with the deliberate intention of excluding any particular film. Either the voters will vote for it or they won't. (And, in the past, we've had verrrry loose definitions of "road movie", etc., so I don't know that we'd want to insist on definitional rigour *now*.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I'm juggling three ideas for a theme.

 

We've discussed comedies every year (right?), so it might be a good idea to finally do that.  However, I think there are much more interesting themes that would really challenge the community and help us to grow more.  Although taste in humor can be very personal, so maybe that would lead to some productive and thought-provoking discussions.

 

An idea I had just after we completed last year's list was Top 25 Films on Family.  (Not for family, but on or about family.)  Films that explore the relationships between all members of the family could make a good partner list with last year's marriage list.  Regarding eligibility, there would be a little overlap with the marriage list (Tokyo StoryMake Way for Tomorrow), but the big difference would be last year's list contained films that focused on the relationship between the couple; whereas films about family would focus equally on the dynamics of all family members (parents/children, siblings, aunts/uncles, spouses, multiple generations, etc.)  Which is why The Royal Tenenbaums was not the best fit for marriage films, but would fit much better for family films.  The Incredibles would be a stronger fit here as well; Grave of the Fireflies is another example that quickly comes to my mind. We could also have a few negative examples of family's being destroyed (The Shining)

 

Since it's Image's 25th Anniversary, films about making art seems like a natural choice.  From Image's about page: "Thankfully, religion and art have always shared the capacity to help us to renew our awareness of the ultimate questions: who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going."  The best of art making films show the artist's vocation, how s/he forms relationships through that art, and how his/her art "renews awareness of life's ultimate questions."  Examples could include Three Colors: BlueBabette's Feast, Andrei Rublev and PBS's production of Sunday in the Park with George - if the last one's eligible.

 

So all that said, I nominate Top 25 films on Creating Art.

I like all of these ideas, Evan. My only concern with films about creating art is that I'm not sure I could come up with 25 choices. I know we vote from a larger number of possibilities; I'm just trying to think of how many nominees would be put forward if it's difficult to come up with a slew of possibilities on first attempt. But I'm probably just borrowing trouble.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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If this is Image's silver jubilee, then I nominate films about anniversaries (and birthdays; they're the same word in French) -- including, perhaps, films in which people mark milestones of one sort or another, celebrate how far they've come, and take stock of the past.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I don't think we should be framing whatever theme we settle on with the deliberate intention of excluding any particular film. Either the voters will vote for it or they won't. (And, in the past, we've had verrrry loose definitions of "road movie", etc., so I don't know that we'd want to insist on definitional rigour *now*.)

 

As a general rule, I agree with you.  But I could see some themes being exceptions to our normal rule.  It's not that we would intentionally exclude one film.  It would just be that we would try to agree upon a crafted definition that would exclude "kinds" of films.  We probably wouldn't need "definitional rigour" for a list of top films on family or art creation or memory.  But "cinematic"?  That just strikes me as needing some agreed upon definition.  I could, for example, be persuaded to participate in making a Top 25 list for other descriptive themes like say "imaginative" or "satirical" or "art-house" films.  It all depends on the word and how loosely it is commonly used.

 

One of the reasons I'd prefer to encourage some sort of limit here is because it sounds like Jeffrey was really trying to describe a specific feeling or idea that he wanted cinematic to mean. The idea I understood from him was that there are some films that arguably would be short-changed if they are not seen on the big screen (imagine someone who has only seen Lawrence of Arabia on their iPhone).  Even agreeing to that single idea as what "cinematic" means would intelligently inform our voting better than common usage would.

My only concern with films about creating art is that I'm not sure I could come up with 25 choices. I know we vote from a larger number of possibilities; I'm just trying to think of how many nominees would be put forward if it's difficult to come up with a slew of possibilities on first attempt. But I'm probably just borrowing trouble.

Well, here's 121 possibilities just to start with.

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Top 25 "Cinematic" Movies would definitely get the conversation going, if only we can come to some kind of agreement about what you mean by "cinematic." The question posed by the title of Bazin's collected essays, "What is Cinema?" is surely just as hotly debated today as it was then. More so than ever with, as you say, the proliferation of screens.

 

My concern is not only that we as a voting group won't come to an agreement of "what is cinematic?," but that it commits those participating in the list to a kind of theoretical stance that I'm not exactly sure that I, at least, will be comfortable with. I might agree with you that the cinema is a distinct art form (would I have dedicated my academic life at this point to the topic if it wasn't?), but if it is merely found in the "art of visual composition and editing," then I don't know if we can discount those mediums such as TV or non-theatrical big-screen distribution from the "cinematic." Certainly some things are more "cinematic" than others, but you see where this is going? Can we as a group articulate in a coherent way the notion of the cinematic? If we're going to go there, and I'm not saying we shouldn't, we need to be prepared to do some heavy work on the topic, investigating what has come before in the debate, situating our list and entering the academic discussions that are currently going on around this topic.

 

See, that sounds exciting to me. We could even publish a round-table discussion with some of us on the question. The resulting list would be fascinating and strange.

 

 

 

In this time when the line between television and movies is blurred, when more and more sports events and "filmed theater" are being broadcast on cinema screens, and as viewers become accustomed to watching movies on cell phones and iPads, I think it's important to remind ourselves that cinema is something distinct ... it isn't just something filmed and projected on a screen, but it is an art of visual composition and editing, and it is best experienced in community on a large screen.

 

That is to say, this would be a list of movies that draw audiences into an experience that only the big-screen, theatrical experience can really offer; movies that are substantial for more than just their narrative (if they even have one); movies that can teach us about what is only possible through the art of image-making and the juxtaposition of images.

Jeffrey, I assume you've read Tarkovsky's Sculpting in Time?  In it, he makes an argument about what the art of film can offer that makes it different from everything else.  What you seem to be trying to say reminded me of his argument.  I'm going to have to look at it again, but it's not focused entirely upon imagery.  Imagery is important to him, but his point seems slightly more focused on what the medium of film can give us since, to him, film is sort of captured blocks of time.  Tarkovsky is arguably one of the most "cinematic" directors in the history of film, but then again, that depends on how we would choose to define cinematic.

 

And yes, I don't think we could work with your suggestion unless we actually explicitly defined what "cinematic" means.  Unlike other themes, I don't think this would be such that we could just leave it vague and up to however the voting happened to turn out.  I'm interested in it, but even to have an idea of how to vote, I'd want to know I was sharing an understanding with everyone else on what we were trying to do.  Since you're the one who is nominating this theme, I wouldn't have a problem with your defining it (after some discussion) with the understanding that if we chose this theme, your definition would be the one we would go with.

 

But it would be a bold statement that what we talk about when we talk about "cinema" is different than what we talk about when we talk about "movies" (most of the time). It would insist on the value of the theatrical experience. And it would challenge readers to consider that cinema is more than just two people talking in front of a camera and moving us from plot point to plot point. Too convoluted? Maybe. But I'm feeling strongly about the subject these days ... Maybe this opens a door to introduce people to films they've missed, films that may not be big box office material, but that embrace and demonstrate the full potential of the medium.

On the idea that making a list on this theme would be making a statement, I wonder if we could limit it somehow by the fact that this is an Arts and Faith Top 25 Cinematic Films.  In other words, could we frame the theme in such a way that we could exclude something like Gravity by the nature of the theme itself?

 

... if only we can come to some kind of agreement about what you mean by "cinematic." The question posed by the title of Bazin's collected essays, "What is Cinema?" is surely just as hotly debated today as it was then. More so than ever with, as you say, the proliferation of screens.

 

My concern is not only that we as a voting group won't come to an agreement of "what is cinematic?," but that it commits those participating in the list to a kind of theoretical stance that I'm not exactly sure that I, at least, will be comfortable with. I might agree with you that the cinema is a distinct art form (would I have dedicated my academic life at this point to the topic if it wasn't?), but if it is merely found in the "art of visual composition and editing," then I don't know if we can discount those mediums such as TV or non-theatrical big-screen distribution from the "cinematic." Certainly some things are more "cinematic" than others, but you see where this is going? Can we as a group articulate in a coherent way the notion of the cinematic? If we're going to go there, and I'm not saying we shouldn't, we need to be prepared to do some heavy work on the topic, investigating what has come before in the debate, situating our list and entering the academic discussions that are currently going on around this topic.

I like what you're thinking here, but why the discomfort with taking a "theoretical stance"? Some stances are worth taking. If we take our film criticism seriously, why not do the work to inform ourselves of what others have thought deeply when considering what "cinematic" art ought to do? It would take some commitment on our part, but it could be worth it.

 

It's not that I'm "uncomfortable" taking a theoretical stance. I guess, in working on my dissertation and the difficulty in trying to outline my own answer to the question, "What is cinema?," and reading Bazin, and Tarkovsky and others, I'm worried that it could be difficult to come to a definition of "cinematic" that we can all agree on. So, not so much that I don't think that we should take a stance, but skepticism on our ability to come to a consensus on such a debated term. As I said, this doesn't mean we shouldn't do it, but rather we should do it fully aware of the challenge that we have set for ourselves and, as you say, the work that we need to do to inform ourselves.

Perhaps another way to put my concern is this way: what is the difference between "top cinematic movies" and our Arts and Faith Top 100? Would the 25 films at the beginning of that list be mostly the same as the list we vote on and create anew?

I would suggest that they should be, and furthermore that there is something inherently cinematic in the works of Bresson or Dreyer despite the fact that I'm not sure they lose something significant in not being seen on the "big screen." (Of course, the scene of Anna Karina in Godard's VIVRE SA VIE might cause to me to think otherwise. But then again, I only saw Godard's film on Blu-ray on my television).

 

Either way, I'm pleased with Jeff's suggestion, in so far as it has prompted this discussion, which is worthwhile even if we don't ultimately choose that list.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Well, here's 121 possibilities just to start with.

Our work is done here.

 

Thanks, although looking over that list, I see another reason this topic concerned me. There just doesn't seem to be enough great films on this subject (in my estimation) to fill out a Top 25.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Well, if all we're talking about is Films That Need To Be Seen On The Big Screen, then we can (and should) say that, instead of wading into definitional debates.

Because no matter *how* we define our terms, the list is ultimately in the hands of the voting A&Fers -- unless you're proposing that someone be appointed to veto nominated films that somehow don't meet the hashed-out definition.

It seems to me that the word "cinematic" has been employed with regard to Gravity partly because of its long "takes" (simulated though those takes may be). But we could just as easily argue that the power of cinema lies in its ability to break up the action via quick cuts etc.; if you want continuous uninterrupted action in real time, there's always theatre. And those are just *two* possible understandings of what makes cinema "cinematic"; there are others, I'm sure.

ETA: This is in response to JAA's last post; apparently a few more posts popped up while I was composing this one!

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The Go Big or Go Home Top 25.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Whenever the "____ is super cinematic" meme has come up in recent years, it's tended to fall into a combination of three categories:

1) Long takes (ie. unbroken sense of realism - GRAVITY, LES MISERABLES, CHILDREN OF MEN)
 

2) A sense of kinetics, whether through sustained camera movement (Tarkovsky, Scorsese, Spielberg) or propulsive cuts (Malick, Carruth). The former is much more highlighted than the latter. See the opposite, when deftly edited, genuinely "cinematic" talkie films are described as "stagey" because the camera doesn't move enough.

3) Spectacular (ie. bigscreen-worthy) sights, accompanied by spectacular, often orchestral, music (2001, THE TREE OF LIFE)

 

As far as I can tell, the key thing that emerges from the enthusiasm for a particular film aligning with the above categories is a sense of immersion. Films praised as "cinematic" overwhelm in some formal way. I'm leery of how this would guide the making of a list without further definition. To that end I suggest a focus on the Top 25 Kinetic Films, or even a Top 25 Kinetic Moments/Scenes. Personally, I identify movement - through space and time, but particularly space - most closely with "what is cinema?"

Opening it up to individual sequences might provide a break from some of the rerun fatigue that tends to happen on A&F lists (instead of just "Oh, STALKER again" it would be "here's why the train sequence in STALKER is among the great moments of kinetic cinema"). But, in general, I really like the idea of choosing a formal theme for this list instead of a "theme" theme, if that makes sense.

That all said, I really dig Ryan's Top 25 Films on Memory, too.

 

EDIT: Not that this should necessarily stop a Top 25 Big Screen Movies list, but Reverse Shot has been doing a series called "See It Big," for quite a while now. It's a fairly common list theme out there.

Edited by Nathan Douglas
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We could even publish a round-table discussion with some of us on the question. The resulting list would be fascinating and strange.

Maybe. Or maybe it would just come out like a generic "Best 25 Films Ever Made" list. I can't distinguish in my mind between Top 25 Cinematic Films and Top 25 Films. Which is to say that I think the *discussion* around this point could be fruitful, but I'm not sure that the list itself would deliver.

I like what you're thinking here, but why the discomfort with taking a "theoretical stance"?

Frankly, because I'm not sure it's particularly well-suited to this community and the Top 25 voting process. I'm all for having discussions about film theory, but I don't see us coming to a consensus on a guiding theoretical principle for any list.
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In my personal sense of the cinematic, the big screen and communal viewing don't figure very strongly (and yet both are elemental, and one reason I appreciate J.O.'s definition).  It's simply the power of the camera to tell the story . . .  in communion with the score, mis-en-scene &c.

 

I agree it would be a pity if discussion had to narrow and calcify rather than expand meaning!  

 

A rigid definition would almost dictate people's response to the medium. 

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