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

FWIW Ryan this was my very first thought on a potential topic.

Cheers, Nick. (And to you, too, Nathan!)

Memory is one of cinema's great themes (cinema, being so directly involved with sensory perception, is uniquely suited to capturing the experience of remembering), but it's also an idea that lies at the heart of the intersection between faith and art and self. What is so much of religious art other than an attempt to translate individual experience and thought into collective memory (is this idea not at the heart of the written Gospels)? And don't we draw on that collective memory in our construction of ourselves? So this is a theme that is not just about our relationship to our personal experience, but our relationship to art and community and tradition. So, in other words, this is a list theme that is tailor-made for A&F.

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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.

I have the same concern; most of our top 100 are fairly cinematic, and I think a list of "top cinematic movies" would look very similar to our perennial favorites.  The suggestion has prompted some great thought and discussion, so thanks Jeffrey for that!

 

 

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.

 

Well if you define art by any of its forms - painting, sculpting, writing, composing, performing, dancing, cooking, acting, directing, etc. I don't think it would be hard at all to find 25 good films.

 

Off the top of my head: Three Colors: Blue, Andrei Rublev, Babette's Feast, The Red Shoes, Bullets Over Broadway, Barton Fink, Amadeus, Once, Midnight in Paris, Ed Wood (about making bad art, but still touches on a lot of the same themes)

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

 Me three.  I'm coming up with quite a few titles that I'd be happy to nominate for memory.

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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Nathan Douglas wrote:

: Personally, I identify movement - through space and time, but particularly space - most closely with "what is cinema?"

Yes! I almost made this point myself: that "cinema" and "movies" are, by definition, about "moving" images, "motion" pictures, etc. A list of the Top 25 "Kinetic" films would focus us quite handily, just by taking us back to the hard-K Greek-word origins of the word "cinema".

The interesting thing is that a *lot* of movies are valued by their *lack* of movement, their stillness. (Kind of like how the movie called "Gravity" doesn't have much actual gravity!) So a list that prioritized movement could also, subversively, highlight films that *restrict* their movement except for certain special moments (La Jetee would be an extreme example here), but then I'd worry that our understanding of "films about movement" would be so broad as to lack any definition at all.

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

I also! Here's a link to an article on memory-themed movies that I wrote for Books & Culture several years ago; it, in turn, was condensed from a series of lectures on the subject that I gave at Cornerstone 2004.

"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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Nathan Douglas wrote:

: Personally, I identify movement - through space and time, but particularly space - most closely with "what is cinema?"

Yes! I almost made this point myself: that "cinema" and "movies" are, by definition, about "moving" images, "motion" pictures, etc. A list of the Top 25 "Kinetic" films would focus us quite handily, just by taking us back to the hard-K Greek-word origins of the word "cinema".

 

 

You could just say you don't like La Jetee. No need beat around the bush.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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Well, here's 121 possibilities just to start with.

 

No such list would be complete without a single Ken Russell film.tongue.png

I'm caught in a three-way tie between Films about Memory, Films about Artists, and Films about Anniversaries (a fun idea, PTC!).

Edited by Nathaniel

"A great film is one that to some degree frees the viewer from this passive stupor and engages him or her in a creative process of viewing. The dynamic must be two-way. The great film not only comes at the viewer, it draws the viewer toward it." -Paul Schrader

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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.

That's an attractive idea. What sort of films do you have in mind? Would Festen qualify, for example? What about On Golden Pond?

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Top 25 Movies That Inspire Postive Action

 

In other words, those movies that, upon viewing, encourage the viewer to pursue a change, whether a personal transformation, or fighting for a social need. 

 

That's my nomination, and I'm sticking with it.

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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FWIW, I really like Peter's anniversaries theme and Ryan's memory theme. But Darrel already mentioned my nomination:

 

I nominate Top 25 Coming-of-Age Films

 

The concept of process, struggle, memory (!), and maturation is one that always fascinates me and draws me into a film. I'm not just speaking about films involving children becoming adults, but rather the becoming of a person, the journey into identity and vocation. This does tend to involve children becoming adults--particularly teenagers--but I imagine this community can create a list of films far more than stories of adolescence.

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Malaise! I like that, Jason.

 

Whichever theme we choose, I know only that number 1 will be a headscratcher.

"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'm strongly drawn to the notion of a list of memory films, but that's probably because it is so central to my own research interests and I'd love to contribute a number of blurbs and/or an introduction to such a list.

FWIW, (shameless self-promotion), my contribution to the collection entitled THE MEMORY EFFECT: THE REMEDIATION OF MEMORY IN FILM AND LITERATURE, just came out! Pretty exciting to finally hold the copy in my hands. You can check it out here, look at the table of contents, read an excerpt, and place an order if you like.

That book and my supervisor, Russ Kilbourn's book on CINEMA, MEMORY, MODERNITY from Routledge are great places to start delving into this topic.

"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 should probably qualify this post as not purporting to represent Jeffrey’s views. The Top 25 Cinematic film list is, after all, his idea - and it is entirely possible that I’m taking it in places he didn’t intend.)
 

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?

Unless we refused to define the word, “cinematic” could be much more specific than the general idea of “spiritual significant” that we’ve wrestled with for the Top 100 list. Basically, if we wanted to, we could try to make a list of films that most displayed the imagery through sculpted time aspect of film - holding it up as an aesthetic ideal or standard for the specific art form of film.

In my opinion, critics working with an aesthetic standard is only strange to a modern age that reduces most “standards” to mere personal preference and gratification. So by doing a list with an explained definition, we would be bucking the trend - it would be something quite challenging and different.
 

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.

But that could only one element in a richer definition. Yes, we would be arguing (if we wanted to) that “cinematic” films out to be seen on a large screen. But we could also include something more - like films by directors who very intentionally use their imagery as art in contrast to images as Huxleyian sense gratification. The “Fast and Furious” films are arguably films designed for the sensory experience of the Big Screen. So are a large number of cardboard-cutout horror films. But wouldn’t it be interesting to craft a definition of “cinematic” that excluded those films?

Not only interesting, it would be making a controversial statement. Are we like-minded enough, even with our disagreements, to band together to make a statement of that sort? Looking at the lists A&F has done in the past, I think so.
 

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.

Would that necessarily be a bad thing. I, for one, would have no problem of working out something to where, out of the top 5 participants at A&F (you, Jeffrey, Steven, Christian and Steff), 3 out of 5 of you could veto any film voted onto the list for not qualifying for the purposes of the list. Sometimes filtering processes add clarity.
 

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.

Yes, there are multiple understandings of what makes cinema “cinematic.” But that’s the fun thing about aesthetic judgment, it involves advocating for one understanding as better or of greater value than the others. Tarkovsky himself, for example, specifically argued that quick cuts in a film was degrading the power of what the medium of cinema as an art could really do. We can easily argue for all sorts of definitions, but sometimes there is great value in selecting one over the others.
 

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.

What if G.K. Chesterton would say that it is precisely by starting out with limits of some kind - like a rigid definition - that is the very thing that makes broader discussion and deepened meaning possible? Sometimes loose definitions allow a discussion to go everywhere and ultimately nowhere because there is no specific direction in which to go. A more narrow definition, on the other hand, sometimes allows one a place to stand in order to do the work of building on what something means.
 

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.

I'm leery of how this would guide the making of a list without further definition.

I can't distinguish in my mind between Top 25 Cinematic Films and Top 25 Films ... 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.

Except that communities agree, for practical purposes, on definitions all the time. There are all sorts of ways we could agree to one.

For instance, we could add one week for anyone here to define what we would want to mean by using the term “cinematic” in one sentence. Then we could line all the sentences up in a poll and vote on them with the understanding that, for the purposes of this community, we would back and defend the winning definition ... at least if only for purposes of creating this one Top 25 list.

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Oooh... a Top 25 Definitions of "Cinematic" list could be interesting too. ;)

 

Keep going, man. Whether or not the group agrees to this kind of project, I'm loving the idea of it.

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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The “Fast and Furious” films are arguably films designed for the sensory experience of the Big Screen. So are a large number of cardboard-cutout horror films. But wouldn’t it be interesting to craft a definition of “cinematic” that excluded those films?

I don't think so. I'm not particularly interested in a list that was born because some of our members have an axe to grind with populist, blockbuster cinema. It's not very "edgy" to make a list that seeks to include Tarkovsky and exclude THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS; it's just garden-variety cineaste snobbery. Edited by Ryan H.
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J.A.A. Purves wrote:

: Basically, if we wanted to, we could try to make a list of films that most displayed the imagery through sculpted time aspect of film . . .

This sounds almost like making a list that only people who had read Tarkovsky's book could be allowed to vote on. (I am not one of them.)

: In my opinion, critics working with an aesthetic standard is only strange to a modern age that reduces most “standards” to mere personal preference and gratification. So by doing a list with an explained definition, we would be bucking the trend - it would be something quite challenging and different.

A community that agrees to a single standard would certainly pose a challenge to a world of competing standards. But *do* we, as an Arts & Faith community, agree to a single standard? We certainly don't theologically, so why should we aesthetically?

: The “Fast and Furious” films are arguably films designed for the sensory experience of the Big Screen. So are a large number of cardboard-cutout horror films. But wouldn’t it be interesting to craft a definition of “cinematic” that excluded those films?

Not really, no. I mean, we already have our "spiritually significant" lists (or did we stop using that expression? I can't remember). I don't think anyone expects an A&F list to include the Fast & Furious films, no matter how enjoyable they may have become recently; it would only catch attention if our lists *did* include such films.

: : 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.

:

: Would that necessarily be a bad thing.

Um, yeah, it would. I believe the votes are *already* weighted according to which participants are most active here; there would be no need to go even further and give a specific individual (or a very small group of individuals) the right to cancel the votes of all other A&Fers.

: Yes, there are multiple understandings of what makes cinema “cinematic.” But that’s the fun thing about aesthetic judgment, it involves advocating for one understanding as better or of greater value than the others. Tarkovsky himself, for example, specifically argued that quick cuts in a film was degrading the power of what the medium of cinema as an art could really do. We can easily argue for all sorts of definitions, but sometimes there is great value in selecting one over the others.

Wow. I wouldn't want to be part of any list that excluded one kind of uniquely "cinematic" set of films in favour of another kind of uniquely "cinematic" set of films. If we were to do a list of "cinematic" films, I would want to celebrate a *range* of films that exemplify a *range* of properties that are unique to film.

Long moving takes are one kind of uniquely cinematic artform (and I do share Nathan's belief that film is primarily about *movement*; a camera that sits still for ten minutes simply doesn't compare). Montages that consist of many images stitched together are another kind of uniquely cinematic artform. And I'm sure we could argue that the ability to match certain kinds of images with certain kinds of sounds is also uniquely cinematic in a way that no other artform is. Etc., etc., etc.

Ryan H. wrote:

: I'm not particularly interested in a list that was born because some of our members have an axe to grind with populist, blockbuster cinema. It's not very "edgy" to make a list that seeks to include Tarkovsky and exclude THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS; it's just garden-variety cineaste snobbery.

Exactly.

"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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You can take this in whatever direction you want: 

 

I nominate Top 25 films on spiritual or existential malaise.

you must have seen Escape from Tomorrow

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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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.

What if G.K. Chesterton would say that it is precisely by starting out with limits of some kind - like a rigid definition - that is the very thing that makes broader discussion and deepened meaning possible? Sometimes loose definitions allow a discussion to go everywhere and ultimately nowhere because there is no specific direction in which to go. A more narrow definition, on the other hand, sometimes allows one a place to stand in order to do the work of building on what something means.

 

Fair enough. I would still be sorry to see a definition imposed that excluded anyone. Not even on Peter's grounds that they'd not read Tarkovsky - or Bazin  (or Deleuze, for that matter, who has a great deal to say on the subject of moving images). But that made the only plausible list one that only people who could relate to Tarkovsky (or Bazin, or Deleuze, or one articulate, persuasive A& F member) could contribute to. 

Cinematic is a bit like spiritual in that discussion of what it means and is opens the floodgate. I could see a rough, working definition of 'most cinematic' , like: works that best fulfill the potential of the medium or best exhibit those properties that set film apart from other artforms. Because that would provide a 'place to stand' yet still be capacious or elastic enough to unleash the array of tastes and perspectives people bring here. 

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To me, calling a movie "cinematic" is like calling water "aquatic." The adjective is already there in the noun.

Exactly right.

 

I'm currently thinking I'd vote for best films about spiritual or existential malaise... and I'd hope we can find some films that (per Nick's nomination) inspire positive action to resolve said malaise smile.png

Edited by David Smedberg

That's just how eye roll.

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Like others here, I've a personal investment in memory in literature. I would rather see another (fresh to me) topic win but do think it's a wonderful, evocative suggestion. 

I like Darrel's Christ Figures a lot (Whistle Down the Wind, The Lives of Others... ) also anniversaries/milestones and spiritual malaise. And I've been pondering movies that 'inspire positive action'. 

 

If there's no minimal requirement for #of posts, then I'd like to nominate films about Second Chances. 

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