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A&F Top 25 2014


J.A.A. Purves
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By the process of deciding upon a theme, we *are* excluding some films from being nominated in the first place.  No one (I hope) would nominate A Clockwork OrangeBlood SimpleAmour, or The Master for comedies.

Blood Simple is most definitely a comedy. It's a pretty black comedy, yes, and I haven't mentioned it in this thread because I don't see that it's particularly spiritual or transcendent or whatever, but viewing it as a straight-faced noir film is every bit as untenable as viewing The Princess Bride as a straight-faced swashbuckling romance.

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As an extreme example: suppose someone says the films of Michael Bay are so bad they're funny.  And because they're so bad, they remind us of the quality and beauty of good art.  Therefore, Michael Bay films should be eligible for a Top Divine Comedies list.

 

(No, I don't think anyone here would actually do that, but I think it illustrates my point that we should come to some very basic agreement on how a comedy qualifies as divine.)

 

nic-cage-image-cover-tilt-color-sm.jpg

 

We may as well admit that this is where we're headed.

Edited by Nathan Douglas
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By the process of deciding upon a theme, we *are* excluding some films from being nominated in the first place.  No one (I hope) would nominate A Clockwork OrangeBlood SimpleAmour, or The Master for comedies.

Blood Simple is most definitely a comedy. It's a pretty black comedy, yes, and I haven't mentioned it in this thread because I don't see that it's particularly spiritual or transcendent or whatever, but viewing it as a straight-faced noir film is every bit as untenable as viewing The Princess Bride as a straight-faced swashbuckling romance.

I don't think it's a straight-faced film noir at all.  But if I had to pick only one category to put it in, it would probably be noir, because I think that's its dominant genre.  Like Clockwork it certainly has aspects that are very darkly comedic, but the main tone of those films seems to me to be something other than comedy in both cases.

 

I guess I generally don't classify films as comedy unless one of their primary intentions is to make the viewer laugh.  Clockwork and Blood Simple both have a primary intention other than laughter, which is why I tend not to think of them as comedies.

 

As a Coen example I was originally going to say Miller's Crossing, but then it struck me that that has more comedic elements than Blood Simple.

 

However, this brings up another question: when does a film cross the line from having comedic elements into being an actual comedy?

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 it's possible or desirable to define 'spiritually significant' so as to exclude some films from being nominated in the 1st place. But implicitly, a list of spiritually significant comedies 'deals with spiritual themes and has deeper meaning behind the laughs'. And if it's identical in outcome to a top Comedies list, won't that simply mean that to voting A&F members, the finest comedies *are* spiritually significant?

By the process of deciding upon a theme, we *are* excluding some films from being nominated in the first place.  

 

 

Sorry, I wasn't clear! I meant exactly that: that 'spiritually significant' or 'Divine' already qualifies Comedies. 

 

 If we're just going to vote for our favorite comedies, I think it's somewhat misleading to call the list "Divine Comedies."  I can think of several films that I would include on a top comedies list, but would exclude from a spiritual comedies list.

 

 

Me too. I love comedies from the 40s and 50s, but I can't think of many I'd propose for this list. I don't understand the likelihood of that scenario though - why members would nominate and vote for their favorite comedies, in sheer disregard of the actual topic.  Is it just a liability of the process?  

 

 If we allow "Divine" or "Spiritual" to mean whatever each individual defines it as, then it will end up meaning nothing and is completely irrelevant to the list.

 

 

But you're saying we would need a consensus as to what spiritually significant means.  I'm not disparaging that, but I think it only goes so far to cull films, like debates over what constitutes the cinematic or art itself, only more so. Or comedy, as the posts about Blood simple and Clockwork Orange bear out! 

 

As an extreme example: suppose someone says the films of Michael Bay are so bad they're funny.  And because they're so bad, they remind us of the quality and beauty of good art.  Therefore, Michael Bay films should be eligible for a Top Divine Comedies list.

 

 

 

If someone truly believes Michael Bay's films are exemplars of divine comedy and belong on the list, shouldn't they make the case and nominate them?  (And the process has safeguards, like the 2nd obligatory nom. and the weighted voting.)  

I did wonder if you'd need to establish the boundaries of comedy and decide if satire and irony would be eligible - or if the distinguishing feature would be movies that make you laugh.

 

I love the word play too, but I think the list should try to incorporate more than just a clever pun on Dante.

 

 

To me, divine is more than a facile pun; it's synonymous with spiritually significant. 

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What's our timeline? It seems to me we always do these lists at the busiest time of the year for me (December/January). Whatever our topic, I just know I'm not going to have time to catch up on the films I'd like to for the voting.

Tentatively, it's this:

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

Yeah. So the actual voting for the list will take place right in the middle of my annual catch-up retreat of movie watching as I finalize my 2013 best films list. Right when I have zero time to watch other movies. This seems to be an unavoidable glitch in the system, alas.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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I don't think it's possible or desirable to define 'spiritually significant' so as to exclude some films from being nominated in the 1st place. But implicitly, a list of spiritually significant comedies 'deals with spiritual themes and has deeper meaning behind the laughs'. And if it's identical in outcome to a top Comedies list, won't that simply mean that to voting A&F members, the finest comedies *are* spiritually significant?

If this happened — if we produced a list of top comedies undifferentiated from other top comedy lists by some kind of spiritual awareness or transcendent themes — then I would lose interest in the list and definitely in branding the list as "Divine Comedies."

That said, I'm willing to leave it to the voters to interpret the category according to their best judgment. I don't think we need to wring our hands over some official definition, any more than we had an official definition for the Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films. The voting community, as a community, should produce a list of films that satisfies the description of spiritually significant or "divine" comedies.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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That said, I'm willing to leave it to the voters to interpret the category according to their best judgment. I don't think we need to wring our hands over some official definition, any more than we had an official definition for the Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films. The voting community, as a community, should produce a list of films that satisfies the description of spiritually significant or "divine" comedies.

THIS.

 

Nominate the comedies you think qualify. Argue your case. Let the voters sort it out.

Edited by Christian

"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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I don't think it's possible or desirable to define 'spiritually significant' so as to exclude some films from being nominated in the 1st place. But implicitly, a list of spiritually significant comedies 'deals with spiritual themes and has deeper meaning behind the laughs'. And if it's identical in outcome to a top Comedies list, won't that simply mean that to voting A&F members, the finest comedies *are* spiritually significant?

If this happened — if we produced a list of top comedies undifferentiated from other top comedy lists by some kind of spiritual awareness or transcendent themes — then I would lose interest in the list and definitely in branding the list as "Divine Comedies."

That said, I'm willing to leave it to the voters to interpret the category according to their best judgment. I don't think we need to wring our hands over some official definition, any more than we had an official definition for the Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films. The voting community, as a community, should produce a list of films that satisfies the description of spiritually significant or "divine" comedies.

 

 

Also agreeing here.

 

But adding that we haven't even voted on the topic of the Top 25 List yet, and while I remain an advocate for "spiritually significant"/divine comedies as a topic, I could be happy with several of the other nominated topics, including "Films about creating art," or "Films about childhood."

 

But not "Films about malaise." We have enough of those on the Top 100. "Tragedy tomorrow. Comedy tonight!" (this quote should not be taken as a suggestion that A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a spiritually significant comedy).

Edited by BethR

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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By the process of deciding upon a theme, we *are* excluding some films from being nominated in the first place.  No one (I hope) would nominate A Clockwork OrangeBlood SimpleAmour, or The Master for comedies.

Blood Simple is most definitely a comedy. It's a pretty black comedy, yes, and I haven't mentioned it in this thread because I don't see that it's particularly spiritual or transcendent or whatever, but viewing it as a straight-faced noir film is every bit as untenable as viewing The Princess Bride as a straight-faced swashbuckling romance.
I don't think it's a straight-faced film noir at all.  But if I had to pick only one category to put it in, it would probably be noir, because I think that's its dominant genre.  Like Clockwork it certainly has aspects that are very darkly comedic, but the main tone of those films seems to me to be something other than comedy in both cases.

 

I guess I generally don't classify films as comedy unless one of their primary intentions is to make the viewer laugh.  Clockwork and Blood Simple both have a primary intention other than laughter, which is why I tend not to think of them as comedies.

This is a reasonable position to take, though I think your definition of comedy might be too restrictive (as far as I can tell it would also exclude my example, The Princess Bride), and trying to determine the "primary intention"  for a work of art can be problematic.

 

However, this brings up another question: when does a film cross the line from having comedic elements into being an actual comedy?

This is indeed the question. We don't need to settle it once and for all, but we do need to give it some thought. I think it's clear from some of the post-list discussions of the past, the marriage one in particular, that a little effort to get everybody on roughly the same page about what we're voting for could only help.

Edited by Rushmore
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Me too. I love comedies from the 40s and 50s, but I can't think of many I'd propose for this list. I don't understand the likelihood of that scenario though - why members would nominate and vote for their favorite comedies, in sheer disregard of the actual topic.  Is it just a liability of the process?

 I guess we're not really in disagreement then.

 

But you're saying we would need a consensus as to what spiritually significant means.  I'm not disparaging that, but I think it only goes so far to cull films, like debates over what constitutes the cinematic or art itself, only more so. Or comedy, as the posts about Blood simple and Clockwork Orange bear out!

Not really a consensus.  I was looking for clarification as to whether or not a comedy would be eligible by the virtue of being a comedy alone, because laughter is spiritual; or would it have to deal with some transcendent theme(s) in one way or another in addition to being a comedy.  If the latter, then of course each member will have to decide personally as to whether or not a particular film deals with transcendent themes or not.  If someone wants to argue Pirates of the Caribbean, The Big Lebowski, or Bringing Up Baby have spiritual themes, (there are no safe examples, are there?) then they should definitely nominate those films, even though I expect I would ultimately disagree.

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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This is a reasonable position to take, though I think your definition of comedy might be too restrictive (as far as I can tell it would also exclude my example, The Princess Bride), and trying to determine the "primary intention"  for a work of art can be problematic.

Are you trying to trick me? The Princess Bride is a kissing film.

 

 

Okay, in all seriousness, any definition of comedy that does not include The Princess Bride is flat out wrong.  But you can't expect me to have passed up that opportunity.

 

 

However, this brings up another question: when does a film cross the line from having comedic elements into being an actual comedy?

This is indeed the question.

No. "To be or not to be" is the question.

 

In the words of Captain Jack Sparrow, "Sorry, mate. Couldn't resist."

"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 was looking for clarification as to whether or not a comedy would be eligible by the virtue of being a comedy alone, because laughter is spiritual; or would it have to deal with some transcendent theme(s) in one way or another in addition to being a comedy.

Let's do the latter.

In all of the three past Top 25 lists, I voted against what I considered to be great films in the genre because they had very little to do with any hint of spiritual themes. If we choose comedies, I plan on doing the same here.

 

Choosing the greatest comedies on merely the grounds that "laughter" is divine (which in many cases it is not) would be, to me, no different from choosing films for our Top 100 list on the sole grounds that artistry is divine.

 

In fact, I have yet to see anyone on this thread really try to make a coherent argument for why "laughter" alone, in and of itself, is of spiritual value.  (It seems like some have only alluded to the theoretical possibility that someone could possibly do this.)  I don't see how anyone could deny that laughter is human, and is therefore subject to the moral sphere.  In order to claim that comedy, humor and laughter have any value at all, one would first have to presuppose some sort of standard of value.  And this would necessarily mean a standard of judgment that would entail something more than the mere definition of comedy.

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I don't think it's possible or desirable to define 'spiritually significant' so as to exclude some films from being nominated in the 1st place. But implicitly, a list of spiritually significant comedies 'deals with spiritual themes and has deeper meaning behind the laughs'. And if it's identical in outcome to a top Comedies list, won't that simply mean that to voting A&F members, the finest comedies *are* spiritually significant?

If this happened — if we produced a list of top comedies undifferentiated from other top comedy lists by some kind of spiritual awareness or transcendent themes — then I would lose interest in the list and definitely in branding the list as "Divine Comedies."

 

 

I would too.  Best-of-genre lists cast a wide net (I do value refinement and selectivity) and a Divine Comedies list whose transcendent themes weren't pronounced would just be a sham. I thought Evan's concern was that an A&F D.C. list could be identical to a hypothetical A&F Comedies list. (which now I write it makes no sense, but I think that's my clumsy wording)I felt if that were true, it would be because our favorite, 'best' comedies were spiritually rich and not because we reduced spiritually significant to  'funny'.  I just don't see the latter happening in Arts and Faith forums. 

 

 

 

 

Choosing the greatest comedies on merely the grounds that "laughter" is divine (which in many cases it is not) would be, to me, no different from choosing films for our Top 100 list on the sole grounds that artistry is divine.

 

In fact, I have yet to see anyone on this thread really try to make a coherent argument for why "laughter" alone, in and of itself, is of spiritual value.  (It seems like some have only alluded to the theoretical possibility that someone could possibly do this.) 

 

 

 

I've tried to in the past and in Classical, Medieval and modern philosophy, laughter (risibility) has been pondered as a key to our essential humanity.  But it exists on these spectrums, from spontaneous to cerebral, hysterical to measured, corrosive to merciful. It's multivalent and contradictory. Anyway, I agree in substance with pretty much your whole post - with this whole page of posts. 

 

 

That said, I'm willing to leave it to the voters to interpret the category according to their best judgment. I don't think we need to wring our hands over some official definition, any more than we had an official definition for the Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films. The voting community, as a community, should produce a list of films that satisfies the description of spiritually significant or "divine" comedies.

THIS.

 

Nominate the comedies you think qualify. Argue your case. Let the voters sort it out.

 

 

 

Yes. One of my favorite things about this process is how movies I'd never gravitate to on my own - or never even hear of - are personalized and warmly endorsed. And I like watching a movie in light of the topic too.

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Josie said:  

 

: it would be because our favorite, 'best' comedies were spiritually rich and not because we reduced spiritually significant to  'funny'.  I just don't see the latter happening in Arts and Faith forums. 

 

 

I agree.  I don't think there's anything to really worry about here.

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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.

 

 

I nominated 'Films about Second Chances' but skipped the next step. So belatedly: 

 

I could have chosen 'films about rebirth or redemption' but second chances is the poor relation of both and redolent of resignation and low expectations.

I chose it through the backdoor of my own taste. I mostly go blank when I try to summon a topic or title, so I ranged through stories I love and admire and return to.  It occurred to me how much great literature - how many films we revere or find charming (from Ikiru to Tender Mercies and for me, smaller, far less-acclaimed works like The Polish Bride or The Secret Life of Words)  - are about the breakthrough that only comes when it's too late. About reinventing yourself after you've given up hoping and making plans, misbehaved horribly and blighted your early potential, or when life has brutalized you beyond repair. About the spool of time rewinding or the fissure mending. About the impossible, last-ditch advent of kindness or mercy or grace.

When someone wrote in the hinterland of this thread that you can strip away everything from cinema, everything but images, and then Peter spoke of the frozen or slowed-in-its-tracks camera in light of the cinematic, I naturally imagined a film without images, where the flickering doesn't presage or give way to intelligible shots, it's simply all there is; also, a film that never advances beyond its first frame.

Absence is the surest invocation of presence and those films would be indelibly (didactically) about images or about movement.

Now I'm thinking that the crux of horror is the elimination of second chances. The heart of comedy their reinstatement. And the dystopia a world where there are none, a world forsaken by God. That even despairing movies like A Woman Under the Influence, Leaving Las Vegas, Don't Look Now, or Talk to Her are about the intensity of our yearning for second chances.

And last and most, what my comment addresses without enunciating: Christ is the saviour of lost causes and Christianity the faith of second chances.

 

As a topic, this might be too banal to generate a fresh list or have very much appeal. When Anodos suggested 

'Films of Transformation', I thought I might prefer it as well as some of the other nominations. 

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