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

 

Can't melodies be more or less melodic? Literature more or less literary? Paintings more or less painterly? Poems more or less poetic? Prose more or less prosaic? Etc.

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

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

 

Can't melodies be more or less melodic? Literature more or less literary? Paintings more or less painterly? Poems more or less poetic? Prose more or less prosaic? Etc.

No. A melody cannot be comparatively more melodic than another, although a piece of music can (since melody is one ingredient in music).

 

More directly to the point, I think we probably say a movie is "cinematic" when we really mean it is visually spectacular. I'd vastly prefer to vote on a "Top 25 Most Visually Spectacular" list thant "Top 25 Most Cinematic" list. smile.png

 

Default acknowledgement, I am not Tyler and yet here I am answering the question you posed for him.

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Edited by David Smedberg

That's just how eye roll.

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Given that no one else here seems to be interested in the “Cinematic” films list, I’ll make this my last post on it. But, for the sake of a grounding for future discussions:
 

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.

Ryan, over the years here I have learned to appreciate your contributions to A&F, and for that reason I value your opinion. That comparison with Fast & Furious was a rather silly exaggeration to illustrate a point. I believe snobbery is real. Any art critic is probably tempted by it. The snobbish critic belittles those who watch what you’d call populist blockbusters. The good critic will be willing to point out the good in populist blockbusters, but will also attempt to persuade those uneducated in the art form (among whom I count myself) where much more good and depth and richness can be found. Does that sound like a fair distinction? I don’t think what you call “cineaste snobbery” has been very effective. But I believe good criticism can be.
 

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.)

Not at all. Even Tarkovsky himself admits that the objective standard he is trying to describe is hard to define. The point is, whatever term or phrase one wants to use to stand for it, there are valid criteria that exist that allow us to judge the value of works within a given art form. If film is an art form, then there would be directors who are capable of using it’s full potential and directors who are simply not interested much more than financially lucrative mass production.
 

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?

I think we do. All the lists A&F have created exhibit a higher standard than is found in both many other Christian film reviewers (who do the count the cuss words thing) and many other populist blockbuster reviewers (who almost never review many of the films that end up on our top of the year lists). Even Aristotle had trouble strictly defining exactly what a “single standard” in aesthetics would look like, but that doesn’t mean it does not exist.
 

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.

Compared to you and the other top posters around here, I haven’t contributed as much to A&F. But I believe the weighting that we give the votes accomplishes something very valuable. You and the others who have participated the most here have been able to promote a certain sort of film. You have, essentially, built some traditions for the board, and I’d argue that these traditions are precisely what attract others to it. The weighting helps preserve this. If granting a veto power for something specific could ever help conserve whatever vague ideas or principles A&F does stand for, then it wouldn’t be improper (particularly if we gave the power to someone very reluctant to use it, like yourself.)
 

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.

Absolutely.
 

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

Just imagine a dystopian economic world where pure water was in short supply. For some strange reason, soda water, kool-aid or other drinks full of artificially mass-manufactured ingredients suddenly were increasingly drunk by the majority of people. Indeed, imagine that there is a large majority of the population that no longer drinks water at all ... ever. Regardless of the health effects this would have, it could do one thing. It could make the adjective “aquatic” suddenly much more useful.

This is analogous to how I was thinking the word “cinematic” could currently be used.

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More directly to the point, I think we probably say a movie is "cinematic" when we really mean it is visually spectacular.

 

That is not my understanding of the term. The imagery in a film can be the most spectacular imagery ever photographed, but the film might be remarkably uncinematic. Likewise, the imagery in a film may be utterly mundane and unspectacular, and the film may be highly cinematic.

“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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Can those of us who are interested in malaise as a potential topic explain why? Here are my thoughts.

 

Malaise sounds inherently negative, but I'm not sure it should be. It implies (to me) uncertainty, maybe a driftlessness. But while some movies meditate on just such a state, I most appreciate movies that make malaise part of a journey to something more definitive, or secure.

 

Malaise seems to me to be inherent in spirituality. It's not hyperactive, it's more reflective, if, admittedly, sometimes slipping into a form of backward introspection, even depression. But God often takes us through "wilderness" periods, and I tend to think of those as akin to, if not synonymous with, spiritual malaise.

 

I also think -- and apologies if this complicates something that we're just starting to wade into -- that malaise is similiar to ennui. That, too, can be negative, but I'm struck by how the linked definition focuses on "boredom." Is that necessarily a negative? I don't think so.

 

In an age of constant screen time and overstimulation, film that show or are rooted in malaise, or ennui, might present a useful alternative. The best of these, I think, take viewers to some place beyond those states. But those states can be helpful periods for us mentally and spiritually. (They can be tortuous as well.)

 

Just some food for thought. If you've posted in favor of a Top 25 Films About Malaise, I'd like to know your further thoughts on what that term means to you. Also, I realize that a list of 25 films about malaise might, based on my definition of the term, take us into stereotypically arty films that could pigeonhole A&F as artsy-fartsy types. If someone wants to make a case for more mainstream films about malaise, I'm all ears (and eyes).

"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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Can those of us who are interested in malaise as a potential topic explain why? 

 

I'm going to hesitantly say "no," and then break that a little just by saying I left it open because I wanted to see this sort of conversation. Movies that move past malaise would fit in just fine. (I also paired it in my mind...and on Twitter, in a conversation, with ennui.)

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It implies (to me) uncertainty, maybe a driftlessness ... It's not hyperactive, it's more reflective, if, admittedly, sometimes slipping into a form of backward introspection, even depression ... I also think -- and apologies if this complicates something that we're just starting to wade into -- that malaise is similiar to ennui.

Movies that move past malaise would fit in just fine. (I also paired it in my mind...and on Twitter, in a conversation, with ennui.)

So more like Justine in Melancholia or more like Marvin in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

 

Or maybe Frank & April Wheeler in Revolutionary Road?

 

If we actually did this one, I think it would be interesting to see how the end result compared and contrasted with the Top 25 Road Films.

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In an age of constant screen time and overstimulation, film that show or are rooted in malaise, or ennui, might present a useful alternative. The best of these, I think, take viewers to some place beyond those states. But those states can be helpful periods for us mentally and spiritually. (They can be tortuous as well.)

If we did malaise, would we focus on films about characters who suffer malaise, or films that can provoke malaise in the viewer?  Or both?  Or leave it undecided?  I was initially thinking of the former category (like Bergman's faith trilogy), but this comment, Christian, got me thinking about films that produce uneasiness in the viewer by means of pacing or thought provoking themes.

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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J.A.A. Purves wrote:

: The point is, whatever term or phrase one wants to use to stand for it, there are valid criteria that exist that allow us to judge the value of works within a given art form. If film is an art form, then there would be directors who are capable of using it’s full potential and directors who are simply not interested much more than financially lucrative mass production.

Okay, so now we're back to the question of how a "Top Cinematic Films" list would be different from the "Top Films" list that we already have. Surely the point of a "cinematic" list would not be to say that our Top 100 consisted of films that had *not* used cinema to its full potential.

: If granting a veto power for something specific could ever help conserve whatever vague ideas or principles A&F does stand for, then it wouldn’t be improper (particularly if we gave the power to someone very reluctant to use it, like yourself.)

Okay, this made me laugh out loud. You flatterer, you. smile.png

SDG wrote:

: That is not my understanding of the term. The imagery in a film can be the most spectacular imagery ever photographed, but the film might be remarkably uncinematic. Likewise, the imagery in a film may be utterly mundane and unspectacular, and the film may be highly cinematic.

Yes. I was watching All Is Lost this morning and thinking how "cinematic" it was, because it told the story entirely through moving images, with almost zero dialogue and nothing, really, in the way of conventional narrative devices (no back story, no sentimental mementoes that trigger memories of a happier time before the storm, no verbal explanations as to what exactly the character is doing to get drinkable water, etc.). And yet I wouldn't call the imagery in that film "spectacular", with perhaps a few exceptions. It's a fairly intimate, small-scale kind of film, and one that trusts the audience to pick up on the visual cues.

"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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It implies (to me) uncertainty, maybe a driftlessness ... It's not hyperactive, it's more reflective, if, admittedly, sometimes slipping into a form of backward introspection, even depression ... I also think -- and apologies if this complicates something that we're just starting to wade into -- that malaise is similiar to ennui.

Movies that move past malaise would fit in just fine. (I also paired it in my mind...and on Twitter, in a conversation, with ennui.)

So more like Justine in Melancholia or more like Marvin in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

 

Or maybe Frank & April Wheeler in Revolutionary Road?

 

If we actually did this one, I think it would be interesting to see how the end result compared and contrasted with the Top 25 Road Films.

 

 

I don't remember Marvin well enough to comment on THGTTG. Melancholy is related to malaise, I think. In fact, I'd have to give some thought as to how to distinguish those two terms. I would put RR squarely in the malaise category.

 

The first film I thought of when the possibility of films about malaise was raised is Ceylan's Distant, which includes that great scene of the main characters watching ... Stalker.

 

 

In an age of constant screen time and overstimulation, film that show or are rooted in malaise, or ennui, might present a useful alternative. The best of these, I think, take viewers to some place beyond those states. But those states can be helpful periods for us mentally and spiritually. (They can be tortuous as well.)

If we did malaise, would we focus on films about characters who suffer malaise, or films that can provoke malaise in the viewer?  Or both?  Or leave it undecided?  I was initially thinking of the former category (like Bergman's faith trilogy), but this comment, Christian, got me thinking about films that produce uneasiness in the viewer by means of pacing or thought provoking themes.

 

Good question. I was thinking the former, but "films that can provoke malaise in the viewer" might qualify. What are some examples?

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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This conversation regarding "malaise" in cinema reminds me of this section from Raul Ruiz's POETICS OF CINEMA:
 

"The monk is in his cell. He feels boredom coming on. He hears the footsteps. But he's skeptical. He knows there's nobody around. Still someone arrives. The monk knows that this apparition is an artifice, and he accepts it as such. The apparition offers to spring him from his cell and he says yes. He is transported to faraway lands. He'd like to stay, but it's already time to go home. Back in his cell, he's astonished to discover that traveling has only made things worse. He's even more bored than before and now his boredom has ontological weight. We will call this dangerous new sentiment melancholy. Now every trip out of the cell, every apparition of his virtual friend, will make his melancholy more intense. He still does not believe in these apparitions, but his lack of belief is contagious. Soon the cell itself, his brother monks, and even communion with God becomes as an illusion. His world has been emptied by entertainment. Some one thousand two hundred years later, in France, Blaise Pascal, in the chapter of his Pensees devoted to entertainment, warns 'All the evil in men comes from one thing and one thing alone: their inability to remain at rest in a room'--be it for no more than an hour. So perhaps boredom is a good thing.
 
What kind of boredom are we talking about? Take a classic example. A fair number of human beings who have passed the age of forty and who decline to take sedatives find themselves waking up every night around 4 AM. Most enjoy two activities: remembering things past and thinking ahead to what must be accomplished the following day. In Milanese dialect there is even a word to describe the first of these activities: calendare. Perhaps Bergson, who tended to doubt the importance of a present which was always seemed to vanish in the ebb and flow of past and future time, would have looked into this privileged moment when past and future part like the waters of the Red Sea before an intense feeling of being here and now, in active rest. This privileged moment, which early theologians called 'Saint Gregory's paradox,' occurs when the soul is both at rest and yet turns on itself like a cyclone around its eye, while events in the past and the future vanish in the distance. If I propose this modest defence of ennui, it is perhaps because the films I am interested in can sometimes provoke this sort of boredom."
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That's an amazing description, Ryan. Thanks for sharing it.

"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 an age of constant screen time and overstimulation, film that show or are rooted in malaise, or ennui, might present a useful alternative. The best of these, I think, take viewers to some place beyond those states. But those states can be helpful periods for us mentally and spiritually. (They can be tortuous as well.)

If we did malaise, would we focus on films about characters who suffer malaise, or films that can provoke malaise in the viewer?  Or both?  Or leave it undecided?  I was initially thinking of the former category (like Bergman's faith trilogy), but this comment, Christian, got me thinking about films that produce uneasiness in the viewer by means of pacing or thought provoking themes.
Good question. I was thinking the former, but "films that can provoke malaise in the viewer" might qualify. What are some examples?

The Mirror and Solaris first come to mind.  Holy Motors and Tree of Life as well.  In general I'm thinking of surreal films with non-linear storylines that convey what Ruiz (in Ryan's post) called St. Gregory's Paradox: the state of the soul at rest but also turns on itself seeing other times and places.  (NB: I am NOT saying those films are boring, rather they have a searching quality that is thought provoking, discomforting (in a good way), and beautiful all simultaneously.)

 

On the other hand, if we ignore the "ennui" part of malaise's definition, and instead focus on the "feeling of discomfort and uneasiness" then there are several films which are meant to be disturbing, unsettling ordeals to challenge the viewer (Funny Games, A Clockwork Orange)

 

We could go either way, or both ways here too.

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 kind of like the malaise idea, but not if it turns into a list of any films that are disturbing or uncomfortable to watch. That's too broad a category to be meaningful. Part of the definition of "malaise," and one we would need to keep to make the list interesting, is that you don't know exactly where the feeling comes from (by contrast, the factors that make A Clockwork Orange disturbing viewing are extremely easy to identify). There's a feeling of discontent without a clear source. Another way to state the idea might be "films about people who are wondering why the world is not enough."

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Another way to state the idea might be "films about people who are wondering why the world is not enough."

Like this?

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0143145/

 

No, I've never seen it, but I recognized the title in the way you phrased that.

"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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By the way, why isn't this thread appearing in "View New Content"?


 

Another way to state the idea might be "films about people who are wondering why the world is not enough."

Like this?

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0143145/

 

No, I've never seen it, but I recognized the title in the way you phrased that.

 

Nice. I guess we've found #1 on the list.

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To Rushmore's question: I was thinking malaise films might sometimes be about discomfort, but on further reflection, I'm not sure.

 

I'd been thinking a film like Take Shelter might qualify for films about malaise. But that's really more about paranoia, which wouldn't fit under malaise, would it? I think of malaise as a state of inward uncertainty and/or reflection. Paranoia often leads to ill advised action of a sort, no? Or maybe this is a way of saying that malaise can be contemplative, whereas paranoia tends to be fevered or less thoughtful. 

 

Still, I'm not sure films about malaise rule out films that are uncomfortable to watch. That might rule out too many possible contenders. 

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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Evan C wrote:

: Rushmore wrote:

: : Another way to state the idea might be "films about people who are wondering why the world is not enough."

:

: Like this?

: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0143145/

: No, I've never seen it, but I recognized the title in the way you phrased that.

Oooh! oooh! This is reminding me of that "James Bond Bible study" book that talks about acedia, which I believe was also the subject of a Kathleen Norris book around the time that came out.

"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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Josie said:  

 

: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. 

 

 

I like this also.  If one were to try and define "most cinematic films.'  Then how about this.... "A film where the style and imagery of the film is more important, or at least just as important, to capturing the themes or essence of the film as the story or the dialogue".

 

I like the idea of exploring films that convey something meaningful without the typical three act structure ect.  that has become such a strong template for so many movies, especially in Hollywood.  It opens up the door to investigating some films that are possibly a little bizarre but also made by some truly gifted filmmakers who are exploring and pushing the medium, but yet aren't really being noticed outside of certain circles.  

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Still, I'm not sure films about malaise rule out films that are uncomfortable to watch. That might rule out too many possible contenders. 

I didn't mean to suggest we should rule them out--only that being uncomfortable to watch shouldn't be sufficient to make a film a candidate for the list.

Edited by Rushmore
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Still, I'm not sure films about malaise rule out films that are uncomfortable to watch. That might rule out too many possible contenders. 

I didn't mean to suggest we should rule them out--only that being uncomfortable to watch shouldn't be sufficient to make a film a candidate for the list.

 

Agreed.

"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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There are a number of films I love that are about characters suffering malaise (Tsai Ming-liang's come to mind), but I can't imagine a list of such films working in this forum because malaise isn't especially dramatic or cinematic on its own -- unless, of course, the film is actually about an epiphany or about an awakening from malaise. In which case, the list would more accurately be called "films about epiphanies or awakenings."

 

Does that make sense? An analogy might be the films of Ingmar Bergman, which often depict human despair in a godless world. If they're also "spiritual" films it's because God's transcendence and immanence are revealed through the art (or the form, the aesthetics) of the films. Bergman often lands on our lists, but I wouldn't want to build an entire list on the subject of despair. Malaise falls in the same camp, I think.

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There are a number of films I love that are about characters suffering malaise (Tsai Ming-liang's come to mind), but I can't imagine a list of such films working in this forum because malaise isn't especially dramatic or cinematic on its own -- unless, of course, the film is actually about an epiphany or about an awakening from malaise. In which case, the list would more accurately be called "films about epiphanies or awakenings."

 

Does that make sense? An analogy might be the films of Ingmar Bergman, which often depict human despair in a godless world. If they're also "spiritual" films it's because God's transcendence and immanence are revealed through the art (or the form, the aesthetics) of the films. Bergman often lands on our lists, but I wouldn't want to build an entire list on the subject of despair. Malaise falls in the same camp, I think.

 

Yes. That's what I was getting at when I wrote:

 

Malaise sounds inherently negative, but I'm not sure it should be. It implies (to me) uncertainty, maybe a driftlessness. But while some movies meditate on just such a state, I most appreciate movies that make malaise part of a journey to something more definitive, or secure.

 

Malaise seems to me to be inherent in spirituality. It's not hyperactive, it's more reflective, if, admittedly, sometimes slipping into a form of backward introspection, even depression. But God often takes us through "wilderness" periods, and I tend to think of those as akin to, if not synonymous with, spiritual malaise.

 

Maybe a title like "Out of the Wilderness" would better fit such a list.

 

 

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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