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What should be eliminated? (UNOFFICIAL)


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I don't mind sharing the movie I voted off the list: It's "American Beauty," which I've disdained here from day one.

But my vote was only the second so far, and the first was for ... "Stevie"! I can see how someone might not have cared for that film, but it's so clearly a work of spiritual depth, showing sin and its consequences, as well as healing and forgiveness, that I can't fathom why anyone would vote it off the list.

I know, I know: Some think "American Beauty" shows some of those same traits. But it's fake; "Stevie" is the real deal.

Just wanted to voice my surprise.

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Thom   

Is this a rethinking of the Top 100 or did we end up with 101?

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Christian, as you probably already know, I'm in 100% agreement with you. American Beauty is self-righteousness disguised as selflessness, arrogance disguised as piety, and, as Pauline Kael remarked, an extreme butt-kisser for the left. I won't argue that people might be moved by it, but I think they're probably being moved by things that were stolen from other films to lend some kind of spirituality to what is generally the celebration of one of the most reprehensible characters I've met in a film.

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I was debating between three films:

The Matrix, which spouts out alot of pseudo-spiritual/religious jargon but ultimately doesn't say anything of substance...

AND

The Sixth Sense, which is a fine, fine film, but, in my eyes, not quite as profound as most of the others on the list.

In the end, though, I'm kinda tempted to go with The Passion of the Christ, a film that, I confess, I have not seen. I have a number of problems with it, most of which are well outside the scope of this thread, but, ultimately, I don't really understand why it would be moving to ANYBODY who has read the Gospels. If seeing the story of Jesus in a film (which is manmade and therefore bound to be misleading or erroneous) moves you or challenges you in ways that reading the Gospels don't then you have a serious problem.

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If seeing the story of Jesus in a film (which is manmade and therefore bound to be misleading or erroneous) moves you or challenges you in ways that reading the Gospels don't then you have a serious problem.

Josh, I'm curious: would you say the same thing about the story of Jesus in music? The story of Jesus in painting? The story of Jesus in fiction?

I've gotta admit, I've been deeply moved by portrayals of Christ in all varieties of art, moved in ways that I am not when I read the Scriptures.

Watching Jesus grab hold of demoniacs in The Last Temptation of Christ, or lie down beside the fire... or in The Passion of the Christ, seeing him suffer blow after blow without surrendering or saving himself... it moved me in ways that I am not moved by Scripture's sparse treatment of such things. They may not be factual in these works of art, but they are still true to the nature of what Christ was, what he did. I'd never really meditated on the physicality of Christ the way I did watching Last Temptation. I'd never really meditated on his relentless commitment to his mission the way I did watching him suffer in The Passion. I'm not saying Scripture is faulty... I'm just saying that we can come to understand Christ better through telling and retelling the story, in words and in art.

While it's certainly not flawless, I'd count The Passion to be one of the most important spiritual films ever made, definitely.

I've been moved even more deeply by paintings of Christ, and certainly by music. Peter Gabriel's Passion is eloquent about the mysteries of Christ in a way that the film it supports is not. And what about Handel's Messiah?

Do I have a serious problem?

But I'm with you on The Sixth Sense... didn't give me much to think about in the area of spirituality. Some, but not much.

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Greg P   

An interesting list, with many excellent entries. But my vote, without question, would be Linklater's Waking Life, perhaps the most brutally pretentious piece of post modern drivel I have ever seen! I'm also surprised at the inclusion of several others, namely: Truman Show, The Prince of Egypt (?) The Miracle Maker (now c'mon!) Dogma, and Changing Lanes (did I miss something?)

I'm also in agreement about American Beauty even though there were many things I liked about the film. Whatever good I discovered was eventually eclipsed by the overbearing, preachy stereotypes (the melodramatic, angst-ridden daughter, the bigoted, homophobic military man, etc...) that always seemed more in keeping with your standard issue movie-of-the-week than an oscar-caliber film.

Just found this forum tonight! Good stuff

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Josh wrote:

: If seeing the story of Jesus in a film (which is manmade and therefore bound to

: be misleading or erroneous) moves you or challenges you in ways that reading

: the Gospels don't then you have a serious problem.

Point number one, the gospels are man-made too, and I daresay they have the odd "error" here and there, at least insofar as that term is used to describe inaccurate statements of fact. (Has anyone EVER created a synthesis of all four Passion and/or Easter accounts that incorporated Every Single Detail and still made sense?) Yes, we may believe that the gospels are "inspired" too (though there is nothing in scripture that makes this specific claim -- that verse in Timothy that everyone points to actually refers to the OLD Testament, and possibly even to the Apocrypha), but to profess this is not to deny their dual nature. The gospels are more than man-made (and their antiquity gives them a place of privilege above all other expressions of the faith), but they are not less.

Point number two, visual representations of Christ and the saints have been an established part of Christian tradition ever since the beginning of the faith, but especially ever since the Seventh Ecumenical Council, held in the 8th century, established once and for all that icons are not merely tolerable but an essential part of Christian worship. Why deny spiritually significant input to one of our five senses? Why resist the fact that Christ came to us in a material form, to redeem the material world? Many Protestants, weaned on words, words, words but starved for visual, artistic, incarnate representations of Christ, embraced The Passion because it gave them an iconographic experience. And, whatever problems there may be with The Passion, this itself is a Good Thing.

Your comments here remind me of a quote from J.I. Packer that is cited and criticized by Robert Johnston in his book Reel Spirituality. To quote my interview with him:

Jim Packer, who is a first-rate theologian, a long-time professor at Regent, has in his fourth chapter of Knowing God -- a book that's sold literally hundreds of thousands of copies -- a description of image in which he argues, out of his Calvinism, that the commandment that says "Thou shalt have no graven images" means there should be no representations that have theological meaning of any kind. You should not have faithful pictures of Jesus, you should not have Warner Sallman's 'Head of Christ,' you should not have anything that's visual, or it's idolatry. That chapter simply needs to be excised in what is otherwise a splendid basic introduction to Christianity. But that's the legacy of our Christian past, as Protestant evangelicals.

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Alvy   

Undoubtedly my first choice would be Signs. It didn't inspire me, and the spiritual content struck me as rather crass.

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DanBuck   

Eh hem... About the films -

Voted for

The Matrix - unimpressive tired philosophical cliche' (the Evil Genius / The Cave) and really an elaborate excuse to blow up people in a stylized manner. (Because they're just computer programs after all.) I guess they get exe.cuted.

But also not thrilled to see:

Prince of Egypt: Its okay, but past the opening sequence I find it dull and uninspired. It takes the God-wallop out of the equation. And it feels too clean and pretty for what really must have been going on at this time. I know, its a kids movie, but... should it be?

It's a Wonderful Life: Sappy and ultimately the meaning goes no further than, the world wouldn't be the same without you. Which is a VERY egocentric concept. But the film fails to show what elements of the world might have been better had it not been for Jimmy Stewart's character's life.

Star Wars: Come on! the FORCE? This is a cheap plot device by a mediocre novelist and a worse screenplay writer. The films were ahead of their time in look and feel, but spiritual?

Punch-Drunk Love: I can see a quirky and clever self-exploration element to this film. But I have trouble loving it as much as others on this board and I DEFINATELY have trouble seeing big spiritual ties (but the truth is, I still find the Spiritual label sticky).

13 Conversations about One Thing: If our list were the top 100 films that try the hardest to be spiritual, this one would be near the top for me. But ultimately, this feels like a meandering, lumbering mess. This film has film student written all over it. I know I'll probably get majorly overruled on this film, but... those are my two cents.

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Josh, I'm curious: would you say the same thing about the story of Jesus in music? The story of Jesus in painting? The story of Jesus in fiction?

Music and fiction: No. Paintings: Yes.

The quote that Peter brought up rather nastily mocks the idea that the Second Commandment prohibits the worship of God through images, but I myself actually adhere to that interpretation of the Scriptures. And I promise that I'll go into more detail about that later today (is a new thread in order?), but, for now, I have to get to work.

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Alan Thomas wrote:

: The passage in Timothy describes 'all scripture'.

And a text without a context is a pretext. What is the context in which that verse was first written and read? (Incidentally, the verse in Timothy merely says that all scripture is "God-breathed" -- it never uses the word "inerrant", which is the point at issue here.)

: If the NT is scripture, then it applies.

And who determines that the NT is scripture? Who determines which biblical texts (such as those in what some people call the "Apocrypha") are NOT scripture?

Josh Hurst wrote:

: The quote that Peter brought up rather nastily mocks the idea that the Second

: Commandment prohibits the worship of God through images, but I myself actually

: adhere to that interpretation of the Scriptures. And I promise that I'll go into more

: detail about that later today (is a new thread in order?) . . .

Probably, yeah. But keep in mind that for Orthodox (and probably Catholic?) Christians -- who were, of course, pretty much the only Christians around until the 16th century -- the Seventh Ecumenical Council's endorsement of icons is right up there with the First Ecumenical Council's endorsement of the Trinity. The Church takes this issue THAT seriously. So if you're going to try to overturn that by introducing a much later, more Calvinist theology, you'd better know what you're doing.

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Coltrane wrote: "An interesting list, with many excellent entries. But my vote, without question, would be Linklater's Waking Life, perhaps the most brutally pretentious piece of post modern drivel I have ever seen!"

--I love your summation, Coltrane, but it reminds me of my introduction to this forum a few years ago, literally within a day or two of seeing "Waking Life." I came into the forum, guns blazing over that film, only to find myself at odds with one of the board administrators, who, it turned out, shares my tastes (and has expanded them) to a much greater degree than I would have surmised, based on our polarized reactions to "Waking Life." So feel free to voice your opinions, aggressively when need be, but keep in mind that others were moved enough by the film to put it on the list for a reason. And I respect that.

:"Changing Lanes (did I miss something?)"

--Yup. smile.gif But thanks for posting, and, if someone hasn't already offered you greetings, welcome to the board.

As for Peter's "Doctrine of Errancy," this has been discussed before, and I'm actually looking forward to watching it unfold once again -- this time from the sidelines, rather than as a participant (if I can restrain myself).

Edited by Christian

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So if you're going to try to overturn that by introducing a much later, more Calvinist theology, you'd better know what you're doing.

I don't think I know church history as well as you seem to, Peter, but I do know of at least three churches in my area that would back me up on this, and I can point you to a few links to other thinkers who share my concern about The Passion of the Christ, and about iconography in general. So it's not as if I'm saying anything particularly revolutionary here.

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But my vote, without question, would be Linklater's Waking Life, perhaps the most brutally pretentious piece of post modern drivel I have ever seen!

Wow! Haven't heard that strong a negative opinion on this one. Among the film critics on this board (more than a dozen of them), Waking Life was voted the most significant spiritual exploration on film for the year of its release. I've watched it about seven times now, and I get more out of it each time I watch it. Recently showed an excerpt to a film discussion group, and it was a great jump-start to the discussion. I'm actually hoping he does a sequel, the way he did one for Before Sunrise.

Still, welcome, Coltraine! Glad you have you in the discussion!

Welcome also to a70eezchild.

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M. Leary   

I don't think I know church history as well as you seem to, Peter, but I do know of at least three churches in my area that would back me up on this, and I can point you to a few links to other thinkers who share my concern about The Passion of the Christ, and about iconography in general.

Hm. I am pretty Reformed myself, and am familiar with a lot of people of a Calvinist persuasion that are able to read people like von Balthasar and identify a role that iconography and liturgy can play in contemporary church life. I guess I don't understand what your statement is trying to accomplish.

So it's not as if I'm saying anything particularly revolutionary here.

It actually is revolutionary, the tendency to downplay the experience of Christian thought through images and attendant liturgy is historically a revolutionary/reactionary idea. At least one that hasn't been around in popularity nearly as long as its alternatives. (And it is an idea that has been tied more to the rational secularity of the Enlightenment than any sort of textual fidelity of the early Reformation.)

Edited by (M)Leary

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Wow! Haven't heard that strong a negative opinion on this one. Among the film critics on this board (more than a dozen of them), Waking Life was voted the most significant spiritual exploration on film for the year of its release. I've watched it about seven times now, and I get more out of it each time I watch it. Recently showed an excerpt to a film discussion group, and it was a great jump-start to the discussion. I'm actually hoping he does a sequel, the way he did one for Before Sunrise.

Still, welcome, Coltraine! Glad you have you in the discussion!

Welcome also to a70eezchild.

I have to go with Coltrane and Christian on this. The firestorm in favor way back when was so strong that I have always kept my peace, as I was being delightfully pummeled at the time for a host of other opinions, film and otherwise. ph34r.gif

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Greg P   
I've watched it about seven times now, and I get more out of it each time I watch it...

Jeff- Thank you... Great place! In all fairness to Waking, I'm not a big fan of Linklater's films... This is the first time I've joined any discussion group adressing faith/film and I was not aware it connected to that degree with many in the Christian artsist community.

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I like the film, but in spurts, not the whole thing. I find it incredibly funny, such as when the atoms are running around misbehaving, smoking, etc. It has to be one of the more visually playful pieces I've ever seen.

Heh, I bought it real cheap and had to force myself to go through the whole thing just to see what was so inspiring to everyone else. I still don't know. And I LOVE Dazed And Confused!

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Greg P   
"Changing Lanes (did I miss something?)"

--Yup. smile.gif But thanks for posting, and, if someone hasn't already offered you greetings, welcome to the board.

Christian- Thanks! As mentioned above, very happy to find this place... as a writer, christian and lover of the arts, I'm overjoyed such a forum exists (Invision board too! Nice!)

Changing Lanes- an enjoyable time, a few messages there I guess... but certainly nothing profound. And ...ahem... Ben Affleck? blink.gif Speaking of... Why wasn't Good Will Hunting on the list? One of my favorite "messages" in any recent movie.

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What to choose? What to choose? The main problem is that over on the What did we miss? board I'm seeing several films that are better than a few that did make this list. Mostly better from a technical standpoint, but also spiritually.

Deciding between Changing Lanes and Blade Runner is tough. Can we vote twice? I'm going to try.

I just really don't see the spiritual significance. I see that they are good movies (well at least the former, I think the latter is frequently lauded beyond its merits), but I don't get the spiritual element.

Then again, I think it's nuts that someone could think there's no spiritual side to American Beauty or Waking Life. Ah, the communion of the saints!

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mike_h   

But also not thrilled to see...

It's a Wonderful Life:  Sappy and ultimately the meaning goes no further than, the world wouldn't be the same without you.  Which is a VERY egocentric concept.  But the film fails to show what elements of the world might have been better had it not been for Jimmy Stewart's character's life.

Sappy, yes, but the meaning

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It's good to have you here, a70eezchild, but could you post your comments on the film to the actual thread for the film? That way, the odds will increase that any responses to your post will go to the proper thread, too.

Josh Hurst wrote:

: I don't think I know church history as well as you seem to, Peter, but I do know

: of at least three churches in my area that would back me up on this . . .

Um, so?

: So it's not as if I'm saying anything particularly revolutionary here.

Sure you are. In the 2,000-year history of the church, an idea that is only 200 to 400 years old (depending on whether it goes back to the Reformation or only as far as the Enlightenment) is quite revolutionary indeed.

Granted, there WERE Iconoclasts prior to the Seventh Ecumenical Council, just as there were Arians prior to the First Ecumenical Council. But once the Church pronounced the orthodox view, those other views -- whether anti-Trinity or anti-icon -- became officially heretical.

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MattPage   

Could we also have a "none" option? There isn't a film on there that I hate enough to want it off when other people have found it useful, or am embarrassed by when I recommend the list to people.

Matt

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