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TylerMcCabe

Top 25 Divine Comedies: Results

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Well, I confess I didn't vote either, and am surprised to learn that my vote would have carried so much weight. I'll try to pay closer attention to the next poll. 

 

I'm not entirely satisfied with the list either ... three Chaplins and no Keaton or Lloyd? Not only no Marx Bros., but no Leo McCarey at all (THE AWFUL TRUTH, MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW, THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S)? Well, I've no one but myself to blame. I'd certainly have put in two cents for YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU, THE GENERAL, THE KID BROTHER, NETWORK, maybe DUCK SOUP or A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, AMELIE, LE ROI DE COEUR, possibly something off the wall like STRANGE CARGO. 

And we still need to compile a list that is a natural home for the drastically underrated MARY POPPINS and WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Musicals? Family films? Fantasies? Whatever category they belong in ... 

Edited by mrmando

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Reply to Andrew from the Coverage of the Divine Comedies thread.
 

For what it's worth, Jeremy, I'd urge you to go easy on the self- and group-flagellation. It's a decent list, limited by its monolingual quality and over-representation of certain directors and studio-auteurs. But within those limitations, I think we've got some good stuff in there: Lars and the Real Girl, Whit Stillman, Dr. Strangelove, etc. And the intro and blurbs are terrific. In balance, I think we can be modestly proud of our creation.

 
I agree, FWIW, although if Jeremy hasn't been persuaded of that by now, I don't know that he's going to be.
 

1) No more than 2 directors or studio-auteurs per list - for me, this strikes the right balance between recognizing the great auteurs of a genre (in this case, Pixar, the Coens, Charlie Chaplin, etc.), while allowing for diversity.

   
Agreed. IIRC, the "four films per director" rule was first proposed in connection with the Top 100 list, where it seems more proportionate. We probably should have scaled it down for a Top 25 list. It also seems reasonable to similarly limit the number of Pixars (should that be an issue with future lists).

In this case that would have meant losing Wall-E, which I think would have been a very serious blow to the list, as well as Ratatouille, about which Nick feels similarly. That is because Up and Finding Nemo were, IMO, overrated for the purposes of this list in our voting outcome. 
 
This is where having rounds of voting would help. If an initial vote revealed that Up and Finding Nemo had ranked above Wall-E, we could have had a discussion about which Pixars really belong on this list, and perhaps the final outcome would have been different. 
 

2) Have some more pre-voting time to allow for advocacy of particular overlooked gems.  I would love to see this list-making allow for maybe 3-4 in-depth film club discussions.  For comedies, for instance, I would've loved to see discussions of Tampopo, Good Morning, a Jacques Tati film, Sherlock Jr., etc.

 
Agreed, with the proviso that I think advocacy needs to be combined with rounds of voting. People don't start advocating in earnest until they see where things stand. Too much advocacy in past lists has been after-the-fact lamentation.
 

I hope, too, that this experience will motivate this year's non-voters to get off their keisters and vote!  It only takes 15-20 minutes, and unlike U.S. presidential elections with their cursed electoral college, your votes here actually make a difference. 

However, I would not want you or any other folks involved in the list organizing process to do more to get certain people to vote.  I think there are reminders aplenty for all us busy folks juggling families, one or two careers, and our avocations; and singling out certain folks for special pleading smacks of elitism.

 
Only on the last point do I disagree. There is nothing wrong with a little gentle harassing of the people who are most invested in the board. Obviously if someone wants to sit out, they can sit out, but too many people in the past have simply missed deadlines though inattention or circumstance, and lamented it later. As for the question of elitism, a certain elitism, if you want to call it that, is baked into the cake with the ranked voting system. I don't think a modest effort to ensure that the "elites" vote substantially aggravates that issue.

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The list is up, it is what it is, and while it's not at Ghostbusters highs, it's no Caddyshack 2 either.  It's definitely at Stripes or Meatballs quality.

 

But... and I risk banging a dead horse here... I still humbly request to have the raw data results emailed to me somehow. I work with databases for a day job.

 

I still would like to craft a list of the Hidden Treasures of the Survey.  That is, those movies in which the films either got "YES. THIS IS THE MOST SUBLIME WORK AND GUT-BUSTING HILARIOUS WORK OF ALL TIME."  or "Didn't See It/Didn't Vote For It/What's The Movie Called Again?".  And nothing inbetween, with the majority being the latter.

 

This would be our homework for the next five years.

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I agree with Andrew and SDG, with one exception.  On future top 25 lists, I suggest 2 films per director and 3 per studio, because 1) different directors have different voices and styles even within the same studio, and 2) I wouldn't want to discriminate against a director who works with the same studio as another director.

 

I still think that would allow for enough diversity.

 

E.g. Suppose My Neighbor Totoro and Spritied Away finished as the top two Studio Ghibli on an animated films list. Would we want to exclude Grave of the Fireflies OR Whisper of the Heart (not both) as a third Ghibli because Miyazaki didn't direct them?

Edited by Evan C

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How would we approach a do-over?

By majority decision just like anything else. But, being dissatisfied with a list does not equal a good reason for re-doing it. I would oppose a do-over because so much work and time was put into this list and there are so many other ideas and topics for future lists that would be a shame to neglect.

 

If you're too bitter or apathetic about the outcome to work up any enthusiasm, however qualified, don't write about it.

Oh, no, I'm not bitter or apathetic. You can disagree with something without bitterness or apathy. Rather I'm actually still surprised. I'm trying to figure out whether my disagreement is only a matter of subjective personal taste or whether it is more philosophical. I haven't decided yet, but it's a question that interests me. I have no desire to disparage, or to show any contempt for, this list. (Also, I'm still thinking through the substance of your essay. I'm happy that you quote Chesterton, but I'm wondering if you stopped short from taking a few of Chesterton's ideas as far as they could go. If I write something, that will be the sort of thing I'll write about.)

 

For what it's worth, Jeremy, I'd urge you to go easy on the self- and group-flagellation.

Quite right.

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I noticed that the first sentence of my own blurb was abridged from this:

"From the scene that unveils his comic genius to the close-up that sees right through it to the heart of the Little Tramp, Chaplin intoxicates us."

to this: "From the first scene, Chaplin intoxicates us."

I'm not sure if it was because of length constraints or because it was poorly worded, but I'm very disappointed. Not because my words were changed or because I was referring so pointedly to the opening and closing scenes in the film, but because what I most wanted to impart about City Lights and found most relevant to the outlying list (besides the final parenthetical words of my blurb) is gone. I feel I've done the list and the film a disservice.

Hmmm ... actually, looking at it, it now seems to have been changed to "Chaplin intoxicates us from the very first scene."

I actually do like your original sentence better.

Now that I think about it, I've always just assumed that we've had a two step process for the blurbs. First, they are turned in to me, and if I see any edits that I believe would help I tell and ask the writer about them. Second, I turn them into Image, and I assume they edit them as well.

However, just like with any editor, you can always feel free to disagree with any editing decisions, and say so when it happens. I will ask Tyler if it can be changed back.

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On the other hand, we've produced more than one list in the past that I would argue was excessively, if not obnoxiously, obscure and lacking in familiar landmarks. 

 

A list that looks like runs the risk of being perceived as essentially signaling to newcomers, "From our point of view, you've wasted your entire cinematic life. You've missed everything. Everything you care about is irrelevant to us, and conversely this list is irrelevant to you." 

I'm about a month late to this thread, but I wanted to comment on this. When I first found the 2011 list two years ago, I had seen a grand total of six/100. From my completely inexperienced but eager standpoint, this was exhilarating to me. I was so excited to be introduced to Dryer and Tarkovsky and beyond. I've now seen over half of that list, and I still have a looooong way to go, but I'm still exhilarated by the diversity and obscurity to be found among the Arts and Faith favourites. I've never once considered the list to be irrelevant to me. Rather, it's been unspeakably more rewarding than an alternative, more familiar list ever could have been.

 

So while I severely lack the experience to actually contribute to the lists, I'll admit that I too was surprised to see such familiarity on an Arts & Faith list. I would have been happy to see less Pixar and more titles I haven't even heard of, for is that not one of the distinguishing appeals of the Arts & Faith lists? Illuminating bold and obscure treasures that most would be likely to miss?

I guess I'm not really contributing anything new to this thread, other than to say: From a newcomer's perspective, a more diverse Top 25 would have been ultimately much more rewarding. But hey, I've got nothing against revisiting some good Pixar! ;)

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Stupid question.

 

Now that the Top 25 has been released, what's stopping us from printing a Top 100 List?

 

Not with blurbs.  Not with stills.  Just a list of titles, with Director's last name and year of release.

 

Eh?

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A couple thoughts on amendments to the process. As one of those with a heavily weighted vote, I think it fair to think about that.  I agree there should be some weighting, but having a factor of 5 for my votes seems a bit excessive.

 

Concerning limits to number per director/Pixar: I wonder if perhaps it should involve a primary of say Coen Bros. films to pick a smaller number of films by them to put into the actual voting.  Not sure it would really make any difference, but I can imagine some scenarios it might.

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I'm trying to figure out whether my disagreement is only a matter of subjective personal taste or whether it is more philosophical. I haven't decided yet, but it's a question that interests me.

 

For what it's worth, this is the first time I haven't actively participated in the nomination process or blurbing of a list. After "Divine Comedies" was chosen, I followed the discussion for a few days and then lost interest. Comedy, regardless of what adjective we affix to it, is just too broad a topic, and, historically speaking, our conversations on this forum, when we've addressed comedy at all, have revolved around exactly those films that made the top 25. I didn't participate because I'm no expert on comedy in world cinema. Frankly, I don't think anyone on this forum is an expert on comedy in world cinema. And so it was totally predictable that our list would reflect that lack of expertise.

 

This should go without saying, but I think many of us are experts in other areas of cinema history--we've advocated on behalf of those areas for more than a decade on this forum, and the lists that have grown out of those conversations have, objectively speaking, a critical legitimacy that this one lacks.

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On the other hand, we've produced more than one list in the past that I would argue was excessively, if not obnoxiously, obscure and lacking in familiar landmarks. 

 

A list that looks like runs the risk of being perceived as essentially signaling to newcomers, "From our point of view, you've wasted your entire cinematic life. You've missed everything. Everything you care about is irrelevant to us, and conversely this list is irrelevant to you." 

I'm about a month late to this thread, but I wanted to comment on this. When I first found the 2011 list two years ago, I had seen a grand total of six/100. From my completely inexperienced but eager standpoint, this was exhilarating to me. I was so excited to be introduced to Dryer and Tarkovsky and beyond. I've now seen over half of that list, and I still have a looooong way to go, but I'm still exhilarated by the diversity and obscurity to be found among the Arts and Faith favourites. I've never once considered the list to be irrelevant to me. Rather, it's been unspeakably more rewarding than an alternative, more familiar list ever could have been.

 

So while I severely lack the experience to actually contribute to the lists, I'll admit that I too was surprised to see such familiarity on an Arts & Faith list. I would have been happy to see less Pixar and more titles I haven't even heard of, for is that not one of the distinguishing appeals of the Arts & Faith lists? Illuminating bold and obscure treasures that most would be likely to miss?

I guess I'm not really contributing anything new to this thread, other than to say: From a newcomer's perspective, a more diverse Top 25 would have been ultimately much more rewarding. But hey, I've got nothing against revisiting some good Pixar! wink.png

 

 

I thought this list was the most reflective of A&F of any of the lists its members have produced. If it tends towards the modern and the mainstream and is dominated by a few directors/studios, other lists have come across to me a bit more like wishful thinking. 

Then again, this exchange made me think of a conversation that I had with Nick Olson when I was waffling about whether or not to do Volume III of the Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema b/c the bulk of the proposals we got were about American and more recent directors. At a certain point, Nick argued (correct me if I'm remembering incorrectly), we had to allow for essays on previously mentioned directors or allow for a broader range. The very fact that those doing it didn't just go through the Top 100 list and pull out the comedies reflects that you want each list to be different, no? And even though there are a lot of great movies, if may be hard to come up with categories that don't simply keep regurgitating the same titles over and over. 

Edited by kenmorefield

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Who says we have to be experts?

 

Where is it written that only experts get to play? Is the only baseball worth playing Major League? Can't a minor league game be worthwhile? Have we learned nothing from Chesterton? ("If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly.") 

 

Ken says our previous lists come across as "wishful thinking." For what it's worth, I don't agree — I'm not even sure I know what he means — but the resistance that has been voiced by some, not only Darren just now, not only to the actual list we produced, but to the very prospect of attempting such a list, starts to look to me not entirely unlike pretension, or like something equally unattractive. 

 

Does anyone doubt that a list that most or all of us could agree was satisfactory could have been cobbled together from, say, the top 75 films we voted on? If so, then any deficiencies in the outcome were in principle fixable. With a different procedure — rounds of voting with advocacy in between, perhaps — we would have got a different outcome. 

 

As it is, I think to a degree we got a self-fulfilling prophecy: Too many people decided they weren't interested, and as a result we got a less interesting outcome. 

 

I don't suppose I have enough claim on anyone involved to say I'm disappointed, or for it to mean anything anyway, but I can't help feeling that way anyhow. We voted on the topic (or rather, on which topic to do first, since clearly we were going to wind up doing both anyway). One topic won. There was significant enthusiasm for it. If the other topic had won, I'd have gone along with it. (I still will. We're still doing it.)

 

My feeling is, whatever we do, I'll be there. I'm invested in this community. It's a commitment to me. I take it personally. I'll stop there before I say something I regret. 

 

Hell, those of you who were against divine comedy should be glad it won, since any improvements in procedure will now benefit the next topic anyway. 

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Jeremy is trying to better understand his dissatisfaction with this list. I'll stand by my response as one explanation for why this one is so much different from the others.

 

The top 10 films in our most recent Top 100 are from nine different countries. If we throw out one film each for Dreyer and Tarkovsky, who both have two in the top 11, and if we consider Murnau a German (even though Sunrise was made at Fox studios), then our top 10 is from ten countries. Our top 25 Divine Comedies are all in English and only Life of Brian was made outside of American production channels. Why the difference? Because Americans are the only funny people in the world? Or because we, as a group, don't watch and value comedies from other countries in the same way that we watch and value the important works of spiritual cinema? If I had a long list of favorite comedies from other eras and other parts of the world, believe me, I would've nominated them!

 

Who says we have to be experts?

 

I'm not trying to pick a fight when I say this, Steven, but what's the point, otherwise? The Internet has enough lists by non-expert enthusiasts.

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I'm not trying to pick a fight when I say this, Steven, but what's the point, otherwise? The Internet has enough lists by non-expert enthusiasts.

But not enough lists like this. Not like what I wrote about in my introduction, about the relationship between the sublime and the ridiculous in film. When there is silence on a subject, then even non-expert enthusiasts are justified in speaking.

 

And if this community isn't equipped to start this discussion, who the hell is? Show me the community better equipped to start this discussion. And then explain to me why they aren't doing it. 

And, again, you don't have to start to dig too far outside the films that actually wound up on the top 25 to start to get titles outside the English-speaking world. With a different process — and better participation from everyone — this community could have produced a more diverse list.

Edited by SDG

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It occurs to me that Darren is right. And as a member of 10+ years, I feel personal investment as well. Steven is also right, this list probably serves as a mirror to us in some ways. We can improve our process through learning. There is no need to self-flagellate to the point of "hating" ourselves for the list we produced.

 

1. It's not a bad list.

2. It could be much more informed.

3. Question: As a community, do we approach comedy films with as much import as they deserve? (I find it interesting that we DO approach something like horror films with more reverence)

4. Personal question: Those not interested, do you view comedy as a lesser form of film art?

5. We will learn from this experience.

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Then again, this exchange made me think of a conversation that I had with Nick Olson when I was waffling about whether or not to do Volume III of the Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema b/c the bulk of the proposals we got were about American and more recent directors. At a certain point, Nick argued (correct me if I'm remembering incorrectly), we had to allow for essays on previously mentioned directors or allow for a broader range.

 

Yes, this is right. A bit more American and a bit more contemporary was the natural progression Volume 3 was going to take if it was going to maintain the series trajectory of different directors/topics. Well, I suppose this is loosely true--to some degree dependent on one's definitions of "Masters" and "faith and spirituality."

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I noticed that the first sentence of my own blurb was abridged from this:

"From the scene that unveils his comic genius to the close-up that sees right through it to the heart of the Little Tramp, Chaplin intoxicates us."

to this: "From the first scene, Chaplin intoxicates us."

I'm not sure if it was because of length constraints or because it was poorly worded, but I'm very disappointed. Not because my words were changed or because I was referring so pointedly to the opening and closing scenes in the film, but because what I most wanted to impart about City Lights and found most relevant to the outlying list (besides the final parenthetical words of my blurb) is gone. I feel I've done the list and the film a disservice.

Hmmm ... actually, looking at it, it now seems to have been changed to "Chaplin intoxicates us from the very first scene."

I actually do like your original sentence better.

Now that I think about it, I've always just assumed that we've had a two step process for the blurbs. First, they are turned in to me, and if I see any edits that I believe would help I tell and ask the writer about them. Second, I turn them into Image, and I assume they edit them as well.

However, just like with any editor, you can always feel free to disagree with any editing decisions, and say so when it happens. I will ask Tyler if it can be changed back.

 

 

I'll post this here, because I can't seem to find a more logical place, but later I could delete or even move it to a dedicated City Lights thread. 

 

 

Thank you for offering to ask if what I wrote could be restored. I would really appreciate that. And the published blurb won't have changed - and defintitely not in the small interval between my seeing it and your post. My memory was wrong. 

 

I wouldn't have opened on that meter or with a line that could apply to so many films . But that's just the nature of editing and repairing someone else's prose, not a point of contention. Likewise if my blurb needed to be shorter and if my words were ungainly, I would understand that.

 

It's just that the hard part of this exercise was having to compress *so* much film into so few words.

And the words that are gone held the most compressed meaning, and the most vital.

 

They referred to such a seminal scene in cinema. James Agee, roughly Chaplin's contemporary and one of the most respected critics of his day, called the last sequence 'the greatest piece of acting and the highest moment in movies' while Chaplin himself famously reflects on his restraint in the close-up: 'not acting, standing outside myself and looking' 'a beautiful scene, beautiful because it was not overacted'. The seeming contradiction yet perfect symmetry of those two assertions is key - that Chaplin enters the role so thoroughly that he transcends it. The fourth wall may be transparent rather than toppled (as in The Great Dictator) but no less profoundly or radically.

And what's also missing now is how prominently vision figures in the movie. From the unveiling of the Peace and Prosperity statue, when Chaplin steals the scene, <spoiler>to the moment the flower girl recognizes her benefactor,</spoiler> humor deflects or masks the brunt of deprivation.  The most pressing need in the film is to be seen and loved for yourself  - the most haunting fear that the two are mutually exclusive. Yet there's this tenacious belief that if the miracle*were* to happen, it would be through laughter and the complete dissolution of dignity.  Until then, the tramp can only pass for a gentleman among the blind and drunk. And comedy, the very art of human frailty, can only charm us when when we're slumming.

Near the end, Chaplin's character has hit rock bottom. His homelessness loses its buoyancy and the laughter becomes wholly diegetic. (Playing for laughs isn't funny anymore, if it ever was)  How and why that changes and is redeemed is so essential to the film and the concept of divine comedy.  It's as if the only way home is when for the first time, someone looks at you and *sees* you. It's the silent space after the laughter, which Chaplin understood so well, and which, in ways I probably can't describe or even grasp, seems the essence of spirituality. I may be wrong, but I *think* people who love Chaplin and find his blend of comedy, pathos, ethos in this film especially stirring would understand why I hate to see that part of my blurb go. 

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It occurs to me that Darren is right. And as a member of 10+ years, I feel personal investment as well. Steven is also right, this list probably serves as a mirror to us in some ways. We can improve our process through learning. There is no need to self-flagellate to the point of "hating" ourselves for the list we produced.

 

1. It's not a bad list.

2. It could be much more informed.

3. Question: As a community, do we approach comedy films with as much import as they deserve? (I find it interesting that we DO approach something like horror films with more reverence)

4. Personal question: Those not interested, do you view comedy as a lesser form of film art?

5. We will learn from this experience.

 

 

I agree with this.  We could have possibly pulled off a better or more diverse list.  But it's not as though this list is terrible.

 

I don't personally view comedy as a lesser art, many say that pulling off good comedy in film is incredibly hard, and I make comedy films myself (or at least am trying to make them funny   wink.png   .)  But I certainly do think that the horror film is generally more prone towards investing in spiritually connected themes and questions (at least when done right.)  

Edited by Attica

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My feeling is, whatever we do, I'll be there. I'm invested in this community. It's a commitment to me.

I'm with you.

 

And, again, you don't have to start to dig too far outside the films that actually wound up on the top 25 to start to get titles outside the English-speaking world. With a different process — and better participation from everyone — this community could have produced a more diverse list.

I'll largely agree with this, too, but I'll say that one of the reasons I stayed out of the nominations process is that I didn't (and still don't) have a great grasp on the category of "Divine Comedies" as it applies to film.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Thanks, Ryan. I appreciate that.
 

I'll say that one of the reasons I stayed out of the nominations process is that I didn't (and still don't) have a great grasp on the category of "Divine Comedies" as it applies to film.


Well…

 

To reiterate yet again what I feel like I've been saying ever since the theme was first proposed:

 

Isn't this essentially the discussion we've been for a decade now, since the first iteration of what was then called the "Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films," and what we now call the "Arts & Faith Top 100," with the implicit understanding, as argued by Greg Wolfe and others, that "Arts & Faith" assumes a faith or spirituality-oriented perspective? 
 
Hasn't this community from the beginning implicitly taken for granted (and, at times, explicitly hashed out, over and over) the idea of a connection between arts and spirituality — a connection by which, on the one hand, the arts illuminate on who we are as spiritual creatures, and, on the other, bringing a certain spiritual perspective to the arts can illuminate them in ways that other perspectives may not?

 

In short, there is a reason why, although we are not a community that is by charter Christian or religious, we call ourselves "Arts & Faith" -- and the reason is not that these are two topics in which we happen to be interested.
 
To hash this out a bit more fully:

 

It seems to me that there is a tension between two ideas, and the peculiar character of discussion at A&F seems to me to depend (I realize this is a bold claim, and I'm very much aware of voicing what is no more than my own perceptions, in my own words, so take it for what it's worth) on maintaining this tension in such a way that if one idea or the other were discarded, the unique voice of this board would be lost.

On the one hand, I think there is a sense in which we take for granted that great art as such can achieve something we express as "transcendence" irrespective of whether it treats what we would normally consider spiritual themes, or whether it has any themes at all. Great sacred music is expressly written to facilitate worship, but any great piece of music, secular as well as sacred, can be the occasion of a "religious experience" in a meaningful sense. My sig quote claims that truth, goodness and beauty are refractions of God across the prism of consciousness; if that is true, than any artistic or imaginative evocation of beauty, truth or goodness can be a "ray of God."

On the other hand, it is not an accident that, in the current iteration of our top 100 films, all of our top 4 films, and 6 of our top 10, are characterized by explicitly religious themes (with Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism in our #1, #2 and #3 films, respectively).

Even more tellingly, our #5 film, the first film without explicit religious themes, is an austere parable about a donkey nearly universally recognized as a Christ figure. A number of other films prominently featured in our list also lack explicit religious themes, yet are commonly viewed through a lens of religious allegory or evocative power. 

We have a Jesus film in our top 10, a second Jesus film (an animated one) just missing the top 25, and a third (of a sort), Jesus of Montreal, just missing the top 50. We have two movies about canonized Catholic saints in our top 25, and at least two more in the rest of the list. Strains of Buddhism, Shinto and other religious traditions can also be detected.

We are certainly interested in films with broadly human themes, profoundly so. Agnostic and skeptic cinephiles (not just those who belong to this community and who voted on this list, but also those who would have no interest in being part of a community like ours) can easily find much to appreciate about our list.

But there is no mistaking the fact that, as a community, we approach film specifically from a perspective of what may be called a spiritual or religious orientation — in spite of whatever difficulties we may have defining that, or reconciling it with the sense in which all great art is "transcendent." We are not a community of believers per se, and we are not only interested in religious films, but we are a God-haunted community, and we produce God-haunted lists.

 

This is at any rate my idea of who we are, and who we have been.

 

If, as time goes by, and people come and go (and change), this community ever drifts away from this characteristic perspective -- if, as a community, we were to lose faith or interest in the relationship between arts and transcendence, and the value of contemplating film from a broadly spiritual or religious perspective, that has historically characterized our outlook; if, for example, the opinion that "all great art is transcendent" were to crowd out the peculiar religious orientation that has resulted in the kind of lists we produce, so that we began to produce lists that look just like any other lists — then I think we would have lost what makes us special.

This is the perspective, or my best articulation of it at present, that I bring to every list we do. This is what I hoped for from our Top 25 Divine Comedies.

If this vision as I've articulated it isn't coherent or compelling to others, then I confess I'm not sure what we're doing here.

Edited by SDG

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Love your use of "God-haunted", SDG. It suggests to me that, if I *had* voted, I probably couldn't have voted for Singin' in the Rain (which is a film I *love*), but I would very definitely still have voted for The Purple Rose of Cairo, etc.

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I read recently (incidentally, I think it was Wolfe who said it in an interview) that "arts and faith restore us to our senses." I know that's not a new idea, but it's tidily stated and I think it's a nice way of characterizing the films that this community takes a special interest in with these lists. The next step, in this particular list, was perhaps to ask the question of how comedies uniquely and diversely encompass this phrase, and which do it best.

Edited by Nick Olson

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Love your use of "God-haunted", SDG. It suggests to me that, if I *had* voted, I probably couldn't have voted for Singin' in the Rain (which is a film I *love*), but I would very definitely still have voted for The Purple Rose of Cairo, etc.

Well, you couldn't have voted for Singin' in the Rain, because it was never nominated.  Or can we do write-in campaigns?  smile.png

 

In my mind, there were two ways to approach the Divine Comedies list.  1) We could have said that humor in of itself is divine, and laughter good for the soul; therefore, almost any comedy is divine.  Or 2) we could have focused specifically on comedies which in one way or another deal with spiritual or transcendent themes.  It seems to me that most of us fell somewhere in between those two opinions.  However, regardless of how each individual member determined which films were best suited to a Divine Comedies list, I think the beauty of A&F is, as SDG said, that "we are a God-haunted community, and we produce God-haunted lists," and those who voted all voted as to how they perceived (or didn't perceive) the God-haunted-ness in each of the titles.  Although there were two or three films on the list which I questioned how God-haunted they were, the write-ups for them convinced me that they do deal with enough spiritual themes to deserve a place on the list.

 

For those of us who wanted the list to reflect option 2) more, perhaps we should have clarified that beforehand, BUT wouldn't that have removed a good portion of the diversity and varying opinions of all our members that come together to form our (usually) unique and diverse lists.  This time that lack of clarity regarding definition resulted in a much more mainstream list, but as several others have pointed out, the 25 comedies that made our list are pretty much the 25 comedies that have been our favorites for the past decade.  Yes, I would have liked to have seen at least one of the Shakespeare films included (preferably Chimes at Midnight), as well as some of the five I mentioned the other day.  But even without them, I still think it's a fine list.

 

And regarding the American-ness of the list, humor is very strongly cultural.  For example, when I first read The Cherry Orchard, I remember being shocked at how it could possible be a comedy.  I didn't understand Chekhov's humor until a theatre professor and a friend who has a minor in Russian-lit explained it to me.

 

But there is no mistaking the fact that, as a community, we approach film specifically from a perspective of what may be called a spiritual or religious orientation — in spite of whatever difficulties we may have defining that, or reconciling it with the sense in which all great art is "transcendent." We are not a community of believers per se, and we are not only interested in religious films, but we are a God-haunted community, and we produce God-haunted lists.

Don't we also produce lists with a largely homoerotic aesthetic?

Edited by Evan C

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Evan C wrote:
: Well, you couldn't have voted for Singin' in the Rain, because it was never nominated.

 

Oh, it wasn't? I seem to recall it being discussed, but oh well.

 

: Or 2) we could have focused specifically on comedies which in one way or another deal with spiritual or transcendent themes.

 

Y'know, I'm honestly not sure how "spiritual" or "transcendent" I'd say Life of Brian (one of the two films I blurbed) is. But it's definitely interested in *religion* as a phenomenon -- a socio-political phenomenon, if you will. So I certainly think it qualifies on the level of God-hauntedness, to that degree. One of the recurring themes in that film, as the authors of Savior on the Silver Screen point out, is the question of whether we *hear* things correctly. No matter how good and profound the words of Jesus are, there are always people on the fringe of the crowd who think he's talking about cheesemakers; and no matter how simple the parable Brian's telling is, there are always people who get distracted by irrelevant questions like "What were their names?" or who miss the point in other ways. And don't get me started on the shoe/sandal schism, etc. These are all issues we have to deal with as members of faith communities, or even just as people who have faith in God. So I appreciate the way Life of Brian shines a light on these foibles.

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