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M. Leary

Creating Film Critic Circle?

New Film Critic Circle   15 members have voted

  1. 1. Would you apply to join?

    • Yes
      10
    • No
      1
  2. 2. What metric for application would be appropriate?

    • 25 Reviews Published
      3
    • 50 Reviews Published
      4
    • 100 Reviews Published
      1
    • 8643 Reviews Published
      0
    • Other
      3
  3. 3. What awards would you like to see?

    • Best Film
      11
    • Best "Spiritually Significant" Film
      2
    • Best Director
      9
    • Best Cinematography
      5
    • Best Actor cetegories
      6
    • Best Animated Feature
      5
    • Best Documentary
      7
    • Best Family Feature
      0
    • Other?
      0

Please sign in or register to vote in this poll.

77 posts in this topic

My first thought is that we have been down the "Faith and" route before and it didn't pan out.

Huh. I thought our past groups fell apart for other reasons, mainly lack of participation and lack of sufficient infrastructure. 

 

As a community, at least, we are still chugging along here under an "And Faith" banner; and while I recognize the reasons for possibly not wanting to affiliate a critics group around the Arts & Faith identity, I don't think this is because of any issue around the word "faith." 

 

I do see what you're going for, Mike, with the idea of a "Significant Film" community. Of course, I don't imagine any critics group in the world would accept the suggestion that the films topping their awards lists were insignificant, so I think we need to find some way of being clearer and less nebulous about the kind of significance we're going for and how it makes us different as a group. 

 

Casting about for analogies and congenial efforts, I think of the Ecumenical Jury Prize awarded at Cannes by members of SIGNIS (Catholic film professionals) and Interfilm (Protestants). 

 

Or the Bresson Prize awarded each year at the Venice Film Festival by the given each year by the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Social Communications in consultation with the Catholic film foundation Ente dello Spettacolo to filmmakers whose work attests to the human search for spiritual meaning in life.

 

These are awards from expressly Christian bodies, although their interests and criteria, like ours, are broadly humanistic, spiritual, "God-haunted." This is very much what I think Promontory and the FFCC were meant to be, and what they were, and, for what it's worth, this would be my own first choice for a group I would like to form, although I am open to alternate visions. 

 

At the end of the day, though, if we dispense with both Christianity and even faith as defining concepts, I'm concerned that whatever we're left with is too nebulous to differentiate us from other groups, and say why we, as a non-regional community, have chosen to band together. 

 

I don't mind "faith" if it refers to religions in general (a la Patheos). It's just "faith-based" as a euphemism for "Christian" that bugs me. If we're going to be Christian, then fine, let's own that (and let's not surrender the word to the "Dr." Ted Baehrs of the world). But if we're going to be multifaith, then obviously we need a more general term. (And, hmmm, what about explicitly atheist reviewers like our very own Secular Cinephile? Patheos does have an atheist "channel", after all.)

 

Very much agreed on all counts. I don't want to be "faith-based," but I am up for being either "Christian" or "Faith" oriented, if we can avoid the term "faith-based." I am potentially (with reservations) open to a group that includes atheists, if their atheism is part of a broader orientation toward "the big questions." I wouldn't want critics who happen to be atheists but whose voice is just like any other critic that happens to be an atheist. At that point, what's the idea for the group? 

Edited by SDG

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Casting about for analogies and congenial efforts, I think of the Ecumenical Jury Prize awarded at Cannes by members of SIGNIS (Catholic film professionals) and Interfilm (Protestants). 

 

Or the Bresson Prize awarded each year at the Venice Film Festival by the given each year by the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Social Communications in consultation with the Catholic film foundation Ente dello Spettacolo to filmmakers whose work attests to the human search for spiritual meaning in life.

 

 

This is helpful. To clarify, it would potentially differ from Rebecca's group because it would not be interfaith? Is that what you're saying?

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My first thought is that we have been down the "Faith and" route before and it didn't pan out.

At the end of the day, though, if we dispense with both Christianity and even faith as defining concepts, I'm concerned that whatever we're left with is too nebulous to differentiate us from other groups, and say why we, as a non-regional community, have chosen to band together. 

 

I don't mind "faith" if it refers to religions in general (a la Patheos). It's just "faith-based" as a euphemism for "Christian" that bugs me. If we're going to be Christian, then fine, let's own that (and let's not surrender the word to the "Dr." Ted Baehrs of the world). But if we're going to be multifaith, then obviously we need a more general term. (And, hmmm, what about explicitly atheist reviewers like our very own Secular Cinephile? Patheos does have an atheist "channel", after all.)

 

Very much agreed on all counts. I don't want to be "faith-based," but I am up for being either "Christian" or "Faith" oriented, if we can avoid the term "faith-based." I am potentially (with reservations) open to a group that includes atheists, if their atheism is part of a broader orientation toward "the big questions." I wouldn't want critics who happen to be atheists but whose voice is just like any other critic that happens to be an atheist. At that point, what's the idea for the group? 

 

 

Yes - "Faith" as a euphemism for "Christian" more than bugs me. I cheer PTC's comment above in that respect. "Faith-based" seems like a term destined for scare quotes, as it just serves to strategically align someone with their general ideological location in the public square. "Faith" as an answer to a religiously described yearning for thicker descriptions of time and the condition of man is a different prospect. 

 

SDG, I have long appreciated the way Interfilm and SIGNIS work. Their model is simple. Their admission criteria are clear. Their work is very well-defined. They have a "set it and forget it" approach to defining themselves as religious entities.

Edited by M. Leary

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This is helpful. To clarify, it would potentially differ from Rebecca's group because it would not be interfaith? Is that what you're saying?

 

Well, I'm interested in the possibility of a Christian group or an interfaith group, probably more the former than the latter, but I'm open to either, or in theory both — but I'm not sure there's enough interested parties to form two meaningfully differentiated groups. 

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For what it's worth, I suspect that the other group (as I understand it based on SDG's quote) would be pretty large, and in my experience the larger the voting body, the more predictable and less interesting the results. I've never really identified as a "Christian critic" but I've always enjoyed this forum because the people who congregate here typically make the effort to see a greater diversity of films each year and have the experience/curiosity to engage with them knowledgeably. I wonder, for example, if a film like This is Martin Bonner would stand a chance in year-end voting among a large body of faith-based critics.

 

I say this partly based on my first experience last year with the Muriels. It's an invitation-only group, and the voters watch a wide variety of films, but the results were all pretty predictable. It isn't really until you get into numbers 11-20 in each category that there are any surprises.

 

I guess the larger question (and I ask this sincerely) is, "What's the point?" Is it to say, "We as a nation of faith-based film critics declare 12 Years a Slave the year's best film!" (12 Years seems the most likely winner, right?) Is it to express the voice of this weird little community, as our other lists do, and to bring more attention to Image? Is it just for fun? Because let's face it, making lists and voting on stuff is fun.

Edited by Darren H

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SDG, I have long appreciated the way Interfilm and SIGNIS work. Their model is simple. Their admission criteria are clear. Their work is very well-defined. They have a "set it and forget it" approach to defining themselves as religious entities.

 

This appeals to me as well. I would like to belong to such a group, for critics. And the way they define the criteria for the Ecumenical Jury Prize seems to me a useful guide to how we might approach our own awards (as well as our A&F lists, if we can maintain a general consensus around the core concepts). 

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We once had such a group (Faith and Film Critics Circle), which is now defunct. We had a rudimentary voting system that resulted in a few years of "awards" (2009). I think I bowed out at one point, due to time concerns and disagreement with some of the basics of the award (including the name and separating "Best Film" categories from a "Spiritually Significant" category IIRC).

FWIW, a "faith-based" (read: Christian) critic outside our A&F circle has been (or at least was, a few months ago) quietly exploring the possibility of putting together a group of "faith-based" film critics -- and while I share Peter's discomfort with that term, I appreciate that this critic wanted to keep the doors open to Jewish and perhaps even atheist writers, if they wrote from a perspective broadly informed by what are sometimes called "the big questions."

This is what's holding me back from the "Yes/No" voting option above. I've essentially voted "yes" for that other organization and, having made a commitment there, am not sure what this other proposed group would do differently. I suppose it's no sweat to join more than one group, but being part of one nonreligious voting group and having turned down invitations to be part of other nonreligious voting groups, I'm not sure why I'd want to double up in the faith realm. So I'm holding off for now in the vote above. I wish there were a "maybe" option.

I would be interested in this for the same reasons that I am interested in participating at Arts and Faith and at Filmwell. I am working towards growing both as a critic and a writer, and historically, circles and clubs of like-minded writers have proved to be both necessary and stimulating for their members.

But this also partly has to do with my view of film criticism in general. I am collecting books of it and reading more and more of it, and I am becoming more convinced that “film criticism” is itself (necessarily along with film) still in its infancy. “Literary criticism,” on the other hand, has a very long history spanning across thousands of years. What most intrigues me is how completely cut off the vast majority of today’s film criticism seems to be from the philosophy, standards and movements of literary criticism. In other words, I will be a writer for the rest of my life. Historically, circles of talented literary critics have occasionally wielded influence in culture, and that influence can sometimes be very good. If I were to find a collection of other like-minded writers who were interested in raising the bar for the quality of film criticism, and therefore of film itself, then that is a circle that I would be interested in associating with and working in for the rest of my life.

But, its “making of lists” or its “handing out awards” would not, as I would see it, be the main purpose of the sort of film critic circle that would be most interesting. That would only be one practical means of striving for much broader ends. In my opinion, Arts and Faith and Filmwell have traces of a beginning of this sort of thing. But I’m not sure how many others see it the way that I do.

If the goal of such a circle would be to advocate for certain standards - to promote certain undervalued artists and directors - to challenge both readers and other critics to step up their game - to challenge and improve each other’s published works - then it would mean more than just holding annual popular polls to determine the group's favorite films.

 

(Sidenote: If my own personal ideas, after I’ve been reading about past literary circles, are not what anyone else here is talking about, then just disregard this.)

 

Also, I was going to say that one other reason I'd be wary of associating any film critics group with A&F specifically is because quite a few "faith-based" critics who would be good to have on board (e.g. CT's Alissa Wilkinson, Patheos editor Rebecca Cusey, etc.) are not associated with A&F at all.

I would want to abandon the focus on "Christian criticism" the FFCC had and present a more broadly worded mission statement. We have already hashed much of this out via the Image Top 100 list, so I can imagine us settling on a title/mission statement more easily this time.

Maybe we should hold off on participating in a "Will you participate in this?" poll until we've defined what it will be more clearly. If it's a Christian film critics' circle, I'll pass. If it's defined more generally and attached to media organizations, I might.

I would be less likely to join (if invited and I were eligible) if membership were conditional upon membership in A&F or if this board were used as a proxy for association business. A lot would depend, too, on who was running it. I would not particularly care whether it were specifically "Christian" or more ecumenically defined,

My first thought is that we have been down the "Faith and" route before and it didn't pan out.

It seems like the goals and vision of such a group would be most important to attracting other like-minded and talented critics and writers. If the goals and vision were stated clearly, and informed by the Christian faith, then it would NOT need to be called “faith-based” in name (with all the connotations of the phrase). And if that were so, then the beliefs or commitments of individual members would matter less than the primary fact that they were attracted by the same principles to begin with. The most interesting critics circle would be, again for me personally, one that was interested in a movement aimed at articulating shared values in film - and in having a real impact on today's film criticism as a whole. It’s not that such a group would necessarily have very much weight or influence at the beginning, but that’s something acquired over years of work. If it were only designed to attract Christians, then (given diversity and problems with Evangelical Christianity’s relation to the arts in general) I doubt it would end as much more than yet another popular Christian association, of which we already have plenty.

 

For what it's worth, I suspect that the other group (as I understand it based on SDG's quote) would be pretty large, and in my experience the larger the voting body, the more predictable and less interesting the results ...

And the less interesting being a participant or voting member would be. And the less effective the group would be in wielding influence or in articulating points of view that are not given to popular circulation.

 

The previous discussion was initiated by Rebecca Cusey at Patheos. (Rebecca had asked those she contacted to keep it confidential, but she just emailed me and said it's okay to talk about it openly.) ... Rebecca says she'd be happy to talk about what we're interested in, what she's interested in, etc. Do we perhaps want to open an email discussion? Or invite her here to A&F? Or what?

Note: "Faith-based" has been Rebecca's preferred term, but I don't get the sense she's married to it or anything.

Why don’t you invite her to join A&F, not to imply that A&F would be the group’s base, but to encourage her, if she is willing, to advocate for her ideas here?  I suspect that even if some of us were to decide we weren't interested, she probably would still leave the discussion with a few more supporters than she entered it.

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For what it's worth, I suspect that the other group (as I understand it based on SDG's quote) would be pretty large, and in my experience the larger the voting body, the more predictable and less interesting the results.

Yes, there's truth in this.

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Thanks for the shout out, Peter.  I definitely think there's something to be said for a collegial interfaith gathering of critics.  It could be a welcome contrast to the much more common antagonism if not outright disrespect seen in the mass media; or the highly politicized and commercialized 'Christian' work of Dr Who He Will Not Be Named.  And considering that non's are only growing in numbers (esp. among young adults), a place for non-theists at the table seems appropriate. 

 

On the other hand, I certainly wouldn't be bothered if many of y'all wanted to form a uniquely Christian circle.  FWIW, I agree with earlier comments about steering away from 'faith-based'-type lingo, considering all the toxic, politicized baggage that phrase carries.  A simple, 'mere' Christian label would seem the way to go.

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Hello Gentlemen (and hopefully Ladies)

 

I'm Rebecca Cusey and I am the editor of entertainment over at Patheos. Thanks for all your good work here at Arts and Faith. Y'all have been fighting the good fight in meaningful culture longer than I have.

 

My hope has been to form a professional association for critics who have some sort of faith perspective on film. I'd like to have a defined group with professional entry criteria to counteract both the secular perspective that we're a bunch of hicks and the sometimes anti-art, anti-intellectual ghetto of the extremely conservative side.

 

The defining characteristic of faith perspective is the hardest part to nail down. I feel like Justice Stewart when he tried to define what constitutes an obscenity: We'll know it when we see it.

 

I'll post in pertinent parts of my proposal here. I think the two most important factors are membership criteria for a professional level voting body and the definition of, for lack of a better term, a faith-based critic. (and please, come up with a better, less loaded term!)

 

I would love to gather a core group of 20+ critics who would like to engage this project, vote on bylaws, take on some level of responsibility, and make it less of a Rebecca/Patheos project and more of a like-minded group.

 

As for infrastructure, we do have tentative funding independent of Patheos and the promise of an independent site supported by Patheos' technical team.

 

Here's what I've come up with. Definitely open to suggestions:

 

Criteria for membership:

o   Employment or regular contribution as a film critic for a commercial faith-based outlet, for a non-profit faith-based outlet, or as a faith-based critic for a secular outlet. Outlets may be print, radio, television, or online. All outlets must be in English at this time.

o   An independent blogger or podcaster will be considered if they have a professional-level following. (Tentatively set at 50k UVM as measured by Google Analytics or another reputable analytics company)

o   Critics must post movie reviews, either broadcasting in 30 seconds or longer segments or reviews of 400 words or more. Blurbs, interviews, features, gossip, or news pieces do not qualify as reviews, although members may create them in addition to reviews.

o   Critics must publish at least 15 reviews a year. Reviews submitted for membership qualification must be published within a week of film opening. Three must be demonstrably faith-based.

o   Qualifying reviews may be for different outlets.

o   Applicants must provide links to published work or samples of airchecks.

o   Applicants may be of any faith but must represent a faith perspective. All faiths are eligible. 

 

How do you define faith-based?

A faith-based critic looks at film through a lens of a recognized organized religion, a system of faith, or spirituality. Although faith may not be a component of every review, the critic’s faith perspective is a key component of their overall work. Alternately, a critic may write for a faith-based audience and serve that audience without embracing the faith themselves. Applicants should be able to articulate and demonstrate what faith group they represent and what makes them a faith-based critic. Applicants shall submit three specific faith-focused posts

 

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Welcome, Rebecca!  It's good to have you here.

 

 

Regarding a name for the association: does "spirituality" convey an interfaith basis?  I'm genuinely asking; I don't know what the connotation of "spirituality" is among Christians/atheists/the general public/etc..  If it does convey the idea of looking at the world through a system of faith, while including all faiths, I would suggest using that as a starting point in coming up with a name for the association.  Perhaps the Film and Spirituality Critics' Circle, or something like that.

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Welcome, Rebecca!

 

Evan: My main qualm with "spirituality" is that the word is often used to signify a *substitute* for "religion". "Faith" at least has the benefit of kind of straddling those two realms. (This may or may not tie in to Andrew's remark about the "nones". How many of those people are actually atheists, and how many of them are simply spiritual-but-not-religious or even Christian-but-not-religious?)

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I'm also glad to see you here, Rebecca! 

 

Evan, I have a confused impression that faith implies belief in God (or gods) while spirituality implies belief in or openness to the metaphysical/supernatural, and that atheism and spirituality can go hand in hand. But I suspect I'm completely wrong.

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Thanks for posting this, Rebecca. 

 

 

Here's what I've come up with. Definitely open to suggestions:

 

o   Critics must publish at least 15 reviews a year. Reviews submitted for membership qualification must be published within a week of film opening. Three must be demonstrably faith-based.

 

 

I am not sure what this means. What is the difference between a film review and a "demonstrably faith-based" film review?

Edited by M. Leary

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Evan, I have a confused impression that faith implies belief in God (or gods) while spirituality implies belief in or openness to the metaphysical/supernatural, and that atheism and spirituality can go hand in hand. But I suspect I'm completely wrong.

Not at all Josie, I threw out the suggestion, because while I knew the "spiritual but not religious" mindset was popular among some of my facebook friends, I was kind of hoping the word still had a more religious connotation among a broader audience.

 

Evan: My main qualm with "spirituality" is that the word is often used to signify a *substitute* for "religion". "Faith" at least has the benefit of kind of straddling those two realms. (This may or may not tie in to Andrew's remark about the "nones". How many of those people are actually atheists, and how many of them are simply spiritual-but-not-religious or even Christian-but-not-religious?)

So we would want a better word choice.

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Thanks for posting this, Rebecca. 

 

 

Here's what I've come up with. Definitely open to suggestions:

 

o   Critics must publish at least 15 reviews a year. Reviews submitted for membership qualification must be published within a week of film opening. Three must be demonstrably faith-based.

 

 

I am not sure what this means. What is the difference between a film review and a "demonstrably faith-based" film review?

I myself write for secular outlets like WaPo from time to time and when I write reviews anywhere, I tend to write for everyone, without an overtly Christian POV. I don't write "As a Christian, I liked this film because..." or "Christians shouldn't see this because...."

 

But from time to time a film comes along that intersects with faith or touches me in a spiritual way and my background as a believer comes into play. (as with Calvary, which I'm writing now). In that case, I am overtly Christian. At times, it's a clear asset to know what I'm talking about and to connect to a work of art in a Christian way. 

 

So in writing these criteria, I wanted to say that there needs to be, sometimes, a demonstrable faith hook to something an applicant writes. Otherwise, we're just another film group. But I set it as a very low quantitative bar because I didn't want to imply that the bulk of a critic's work had to be overtly faith-based to qualify.

 

Not sure if that makes sense. I know it's like nailing jello to a wall. 

 

One thing that keeps coming up in all these discussions is that I think faith-based (or whatever term) critics will be largely self-selecting. I don't think we'll have a lot of people who want to be identified as such who really aren't interested in faith. Why would you want the grief if it weren't important to you? So I'm not sure we need to build walls to keep people out, as it were, but a space to welcome people in.

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To respond to the above comments about atheism and faith/spirituality:

 

- This is a question I've been contemplating for the past couple of weeks, so selfishly speaking, it's a timely query.

 

- From my reading and podcast listening (in the latter category, I especially love 'The Thinking Atheist' for its thoughtful broad-ranging inquiry, and 'Rationally Speaking' for its articulate co-host, a polymath Aristotelian philosopher of science), I would say that nearly all atheists would reject the 'faith' label.  I know this is open for debate (what isn't?), but for us, faith implies an acceptance of things without convincing evidence and even in the presence of much contrary evidence.  A common motto for atheists is "show us the evidence, and we'll change our mind."  For us as well, religious faith often works against a rational humanism (e.g., Islam's systematized Koran- and Hadith-sanctioned misogyny).

 

- 'Spirituality' is still a controversial term in atheist circles, but many (and I would include myself here) see terms such as spirituality, spirit, and soul as the best words we've got for feelings and experiences that encompass altruism, wonder, awe, transcendence, interconnectedness, and joy (to name only a few).  Where we differ from religious folk is in perceiving soul and spirit to be explainable through biological and neurochemical mechanisms.  While religiously-loaded, we just see that no better words have come along yet.  (We're still waiting for a great mind to coin popularly-accepted neologisms that could replace such terms, akin to Freud's id/ego/superego or Dawkins' meme.) 

Edited by Andrew

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Not at all Josie, I threw out the suggestion, because while I knew the "spiritual but not religious" mindset was popular among some of my facebook friends, I was kind of hoping the word still had a more religious connotation among a broader audience.

 

 

I feel less confused after Andrew's explanation but more guilty for misunderstanding usage. Though I do think that when Christians speak of being 'spiritual but not religious' the religious connotation is actually preserved. 

 

But this also partly has to do with my view of film criticism in general. I am collecting books of it and reading more and more of it, and I am becoming more convinced that “film criticism” is itself (necessarily along with film) still in its infancy. “Literary criticism,” on the other hand, has a very long history spanning across thousands of years. What most intrigues me is how completely cut off the vast majority of today’s film criticism seems to be from the philosophies, standards and movements of literary criticism. In other words, I will be a writer for the rest of my life. Historically, circles of talented literary critics have occasionally wielded influence in culture, and that influence can sometimes be very good. If I were to find a collection of other like-minded writers who were interested in raising the bar for the quality of film criticism, and therefore of film itself, then that is a circle that I would be interested in associating with and working in for the rest of my life.

 

 

 

 

J.A.A., I've felt the opposite. That film criticism can align with literary criticism and draw upon the same movements and conventions. (I've wondered if it does so more than with visual culture studies and how else it could have turned out.) In academia, where the border between literature departments and film or cinema studies can be so porous, you could probably find that fusion in descriptions of majors and courses and even syllabi. Definitely in the critical works published by university presses. And if you look to the font of film criticism, people like Bazin or Deleuze, I think you'd sense it at the level of theory. 

(My 1st film class was actually a philosophy class. The professor was visiting from Chicago and probably brilliant but I struggled terribly with his approach. I'm sure it was partly that I wasn't smart or educated enough but beyond that I related so strongly to the films and had *so* much to say about them as literature, it felt like being asked to read art mathematically or poetry through the thin lens of prosody.)

 

I am curious if in your comments  (as in the criteria for membership in the circle) film criticism is ever synonymous with film reviewing?

Book reviews seem far less prolific and widely read and enmeshed in an industry. And far likelier to be written by academics and practitioners of the genre than film reviews are by professors and film makers.  And I wonder if besides the youth of the medium and cultural shifts over time, you are seeing differences between journalism and scholarship, between a primary text that you may only view *once* in a theater and be uninspired by, and one that you choose and move through freely and annotate, and between a readership whose decision to see the film, or let their kids, or reconsider their first response can hinge on your review and a readership  - well, I can't encapsulate why people turn to literary criticism right now. I've written more than I wanted and will try to remember to delete this as it's such a tangent. But last words: I've read beautifully lucid and eloquent  reviews, some by A&F members. (Not yours yet, because I'm hoping to see the films first) So I would never dismiss the genre or commitment to quality and learning. No confusion or questions there. 

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Well, this conversation died out quickly enough to indicate that interest would not sustain such a project. I still like the simple Interfilm/SIGNIS approach we discussed, and perhaps we could take it up again in the future. I appreciate that seven people did that respond they would participate, but we would need a bit more critical mass to make something sustainable.

 

Rebecca, thanks for sharing the outline of your idea here. I would not actually meet the criteria for membership as stated, but I am glad to see that you are inclusive of critics who invest their time in writing on film for the sheer love of it - provided they meet the publications requirements.

Edited by M. Leary

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I had been delaying responding to this prompt to see how discussion evolved, but since Mike has now bumped this thread, it might be the correct time to do some reflective listening/summary:

 

 

It is possible that the visions of the "there" and the "this other" might converge. I don't know how likely that is, but it's at least possible. Maybe we should all talk. 

 

I am actually not seeing that.  It's evident that these two groups, while perhaps having some overlap, would have different memberships. (Mike acknowledges as much by saying he doesn't believe he would be eligible for the the other group.) While I haven't yet heard Mike's full articulation of his purpose--I can presume some based on mission statement that I believe he wrote for FFCC--I assume it would be somewhat different than Rebecca's stated purpose. ("..to counteract both the secular perspective that we're a bunch of hicks and the sometimes anti-art, anti-intellectual ghetto of the extremely conservative side.")

 

For what it's worth, I suspect that the other group (as I understand it based on SDG's quote) would be pretty large...

 

 

I'm not really seeing that either. I am admittedly less plugged in (no pun intended) to the professional side of film journalism than Rebecca (and probably Darren) but I am having a hard time envisioning more than a handful of people who qualify and might be interested in such a group. (I also wonder whether, to the extent the group Rebecca mentions (I'm trying not to call it "Rebecca's group" since she has indicated that she does not want it to be such) is conceived as a corrective that it would inevitably invovle some sort of ideological or sociological litmus test--perhaps even an unspoken or unarticulated one. There seems to be a whiff of the **we're not them** at the core of the identity statement. And whether *them* is defined more pointedly (Movieguide, Church of the Masses) or roundaboutedly (conservative, anti-art), there is something that seems...political...(in the broadest sense of the word) about defining oneself in the negative. It was the most troublesome aspect of the FFCC (for me), and I think it opens up such groups to charges of reverse-prejudice or snobbery. I've certainly seen it poison relationships and hurt (personally and professionally) sincere people on both sides of a Christian cultural divide. 

 

I'm less cynical than Darren about the distinctives of voting both because it doesn't particularly bother me if Christians/secular critics honor the same films and because I think there are other ways groups can announce and practice their distinctives besides what they vote for. But my experiences in and interactions with groups of various sizes and purposes (OFCS, NCFCA, FFCC, Indiewire) has been that the larger the group the less interested most people are in participating beyond simply casting their votes. 

 

One thing that keeps coming up in all these discussions is that I think faith-based (or whatever term) critics will be largely self-selecting. I don't think we'll have a lot of people who want to be identified as such who really aren't interested in faith. Why would you want the grief if it weren't important to you? So I'm not sure we need to build walls to keep people out, as it were, but a space to welcome people in.

 

 

 

One of the things that was important to me in making the NCFCA (now over thirty members, yay!) was that the organization be a resource for people who were learning how to be a film critic. I don't mean that in the sense of teaching seminars (though who knows, some day) but in providing a nexus where the sorts of learning that typically was done on-the-job in the past could be continued. How do you request festival accreditation (and which festivals are more/less responsive)? How do you request media accreditation for local screenings? Associations have also been, historically, nexuses of communication--places where filmmakers or reps without a huge marketing budget can contact a lot of critics rather than contacting each person or outlet individually. Much as with education (another place where jobs are scarce and competition fierce), they are places where you hear about opportunities--jobs, gigs--that are no longer advertised in papers. (Oh, so and so is leaving his job at the __________, hey would you give the editor my vita?). All the stuff that I didn't have anyone willing to walk me through when I was getting started because they were too busy or because the Internet is so flat that too many critics fear losing whatever tenuous foothold they have.) Perhaps I am arrogant (or naive, or naively arrogant), but I think Christian journalism/film criticism could use such an association...one that isn't so much about earning membership signalling that one has arrived (membership as the prize) but one where those who have made strides, however small, in their craft, can give back, help out, assume the mentoring and shepherding (or even just advisory) roles that used to be done by editors or senior staff in the days where everything wasn't subcontracted and freelance. Maybe that's just the teacher in me talking. Because of the nature of my job, that's just the way I think. 

 

I guess I say that to say this. The organization that Rebecca describes sounds like something good. If it ever comes together, it's probably something I might even join. (Assuming I was eligible which Rebecca said she imagined I would be.) But it also sounds like one more line in my vita or annual professional report--memberships in professional organizations--and not necessarily something that tugs at my heart and gets me excited. 

 

Also, I just want to say (and no  this was not solicited) that I feel bad for Mike. He started this thread to gauge interest, which I assume meant it was something he was interested in, and that discussion sort of got conflated or hijacked by another proposal--for an organization that not only might not be what he was moving after but for which he doesn't sound like he could be a part of anyway. Mike, my unsolicited advice is this--make your organization and see who joins. If nobody does, either because they are joining the other organization or waiting to see if they will, or are too busy or what not...what have you lost? And I suspect (going back to my experience making the NCFCA) that asking people if they are interested isn't an accurate gauge of how they respond once something is a reality. Does anyone remember when the PFCC became the AFC2 formed and we (actually I don't even remember if I was a part of it at that point) wanted to have private threads on A&F for group business and members of the forum objected to the exclusivity? I am not privy to any conversations, but I suspect that there may be more people interested in some sort of looser association like you describe than responded to the poll or have said so here because in general people don't want to say "yes" until they know what they are saying "yes" to and (because the thread got conflated with the possibility of this other group) there may be people who simply assumed they were not eligible. 

 

Edit: By starting and ending with Steven's quote, I don't mean to blame him for hijacking Mike's proposal.I think Steven was right to say it was "possible" that the proposals could intersect and that it was worth talking about that possibility. What I do mean to suggest is that, having talked about it, it seems evident that they do not and probably will not. That may be information that Steven (or Peter, or Christian, or others) needed to know before they responded to Mike's inquiry. But I am not sure that the fact that the merging of the two proposals never happened and that that part of the conversation died out necessarily means that nobody is interested in Mike's proposal. Perhaps the thread (like a business meeting) simply needs someone (me?) to say, okay, we had discussion but we never called the question. That being the case I guess I am left with two questions, one for Mike and one for everyone else:

 

1) Mike, am I understanding from your last you that you are withdrawing your proposal or are no longer interested in pursuing it? If so, is it because you no longer wish to pursue it or because you are interpreting the responses here as indicating that not enough people are interested in making it worth your time/energy? (And,if the latter, what is threshold of a response you would need to move forward?)

2) To everyone else: Does hearing about Rebecca's project in the works make you change your vote (if you have already voted) or able to respond to Mike's inquiry now if you were withholding a response pending more information?

Edited by kenmorefield

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I'm still interested in Mike's proposal, but I've kept quiet 'til now. I just wasn't sure I'd be eligible for anything since I write for a site that covers DVD/Blu-ray releases. (Also, because I never feel like I'm in the same 'tier' of thoughtful as everyone else here.)

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1) Mike, am I understanding your last you are withdrawing your proposal, no longer interested in pursuing it? If so, is it because you no longer wish to pursue it or because you are interpreting the responses here as indicating that not enough people are interested in making it worth your time/energy? (And,if the latter, what is threshold of a response you would need to move forward?)

 

 

Ken, I am grateful in moments like this for the way you think and your ability to communicate that in writing so clearly.

 

A few things:

 

1. You say about a critics society/organization: "...one that isn't so much about earning membership signalling that one has arrived (membership as the prize) but one where those who have made strides, however small, in their craft, can give back, help out, assume the mentoring and shepherding (or even just advisory) roles that used to be done by editors or senior staff in the days where everything wasn't subcontracted and freelance..." This is part of the vibe I failed to describe in prior comments. The sharing you outline here is the important stuff. It honors writers trying to sharpen their craft simply because they feel a sense of calling. I was thinking earlier that your experience as one who has actually started a professional society makes you uniquely equipped to speak to this. I have only ever founded a jury, which has much smaller aims and policy considerations.

 

2. I am not at all offended by the direction of the thread. I was sincerely just testing the waters. There is too much critical energy around that could be channeled once a year into a simple, interesting media release.

 

3. I would not want to put time and energy into yet another association just because it seems like a good idea, but doesn't have the backing that would make even its most basic goals possible. Sorry if that sounds cynical, but it really is simply a time management issue. I will consider your advice to "just do it" and see what happens. Perhaps that would take the form of a concerted vote on best films of this year with a simply defined qualifying criteria for voters.

 

Edited by M. Leary

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I'd be interested in something like Mike's original proposal and Ken's suggestion of a critics circle as a place to mentor folks (like myself) who are just learning to be critics. As a full-time graduate student and parent, I have a hard enough time keeping up with getting my work done and occasionally posting to the website my brothers and I run, to let alone think about becoming a professional critic. But I see folks like Mike, Darren, and Ken, who work in academia and write thoughtful criticism as models, and an opportunity to more formally learn from more established critics about how to go about things like accreditation for festivals or local screenings, etc. would be very interesting to me.

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I, too, liked the sound of Mike's proposal, but assumed I wasn't eligible (particularly once the thread got rolling with talk of Rebecca's proposal). That's why I haven't spoken up more.

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1) Mike, am I understanding your last you are withdrawing your proposal, no longer interested in pursuing it? If so, is it because you no longer wish to pursue it or because you are interpreting the responses here as indicating that not enough people are interested in making it worth your time/energy? (And,if the latter, what is threshold of a response you would need to move forward?)

 

 

3. I would not want to put time and energy into yet another association just because it seems like a good idea, but doesn't have the backing that would make even its most basic goals possible. Sorry if that sounds cynical, but it really is simply a time management issue. I will consider your advice to "just do it" and see what happens. Perhaps that would take the form of a concerted vote on best films of this year with a simply defined qualifying criteria for voters.

 

 

 

Mike, it doesn't sound cynical, but I am also not sure it answers the second part of my question (or even the first). What sort of backing would make its most basic goals possible? Does "backing" mean number of respondents (to the testing of the waters), quality of respondents, or some combination thereof? And are you saying you won't proceed until you see evidence of that backing or that you have determined that such backing is not there and have already moved on?

 

Ken

Edited by kenmorefield

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