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2015 Arts & Faith Ecumenical Jury


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The contact from Magnolia told me to just give her the jury roster list and she'll send out the screeners I was given (Best of Enemies, Entertainment, Experimenter, and A Pigeon Sat...--I'm wary to ask for more).

Who *doesn't* want or need these screeners? I'm assuming Ken and Peter, maybe Jeffrey, Alissa, and Christian? I don't want to keep you on the list--unless you want me to--if you've already received screeners from them, all you professionals.

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Public Service Announcement. The following films have been nominated but not yet seconded (unless I missed it):

Honor Thy Father

Phoenix

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Hitchcock/Truffaut

Best of Enemies

White God

Girlhood

The Drop Box

When Marnie Was There 

O, Brazen Age

The Fool

Louder Than Bombs

A Misummer's Fantasia

'71

The Assassin

Murmur of the Hearts

Right Now, Wrong Then

Cinderella

Queen of the Earth

Iris

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

Sicario

Southpaw

Mister Holmes

Prophet's Prey

Don Verdean

Straight Outta Compton

The Wolfpack

Last Days in the Desert

I am Big Bird

Still Life

McFarland, USA

Homeless

Experimenter: The Stanley Milgrim Story

Faults

People Places Things

The Mend

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

Junun 

Selma (see discussion above)

Mr. Turner (see discussion above)

Leviathan (see discussion above)

Inherent Vice (see discussion above)

Learning to Drive

Meet the Patels

Jimmy's Hall 

Grandma

Truth

The 33

 

Feel free to  berate your fellow jurors as necessary. :-o

 

I will second :

Hitchcock/Truffaut

Truth 

The 33

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I would also like to nominate: 

"Son of Saul" (Hungary)

"Embrace the Serpent" (Columbia)

 

If these have already been nominated and I missed the thread -count this as a second ... or third ...

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The contact from Magnolia told me to just give her the jury roster list and she'll send out the screeners I was given (Best of Enemies, Entertainment, Experimenter, and A Pigeon Sat...--I'm wary to ask for more).

Who *doesn't* want or need these screeners? I'm assuming Ken and Peter, maybe Jeffrey, Alissa, and Christian? I don't want to keep you on the list--unless you want me to--if you've already received screeners from them, all you professionals.

Colin, given that it is an e-mail roster and thus (I assume) for sceening links as opposed to DVDS, I would just send them the whole thing. Sometimes for NCFCA I'll bullet those who get screeners from other organizations. (I know SDG is in OFCS, so he probably got Magnolia package of DVDs. Alissa has actually told me she usually *does not* get FYC screeners because she is not in any critics' organizations.) But sometimes they like to have the full roster, even if they don't end up sending screeners to everyone on it. 

(For example, it's rare, but I'll occasionally get a follow-up--did you get it? what were your thoughts? And sometimes they just like to update their own rolodex in case they have future films they want to alert people to. 

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I'm willing to tentatively second White God. I think it should be considered, but not yet convinced that it should make the final cut.

Also, I thoroughly enjoyed Man From Reno,  and happy to see it included in this list, if only because small scale genre flicks in the same vein are so often forgotten or ignored in many best of the year lists. 

Re: The Assassin. It may have helped that I saw it twice in a festival setting, (seeing it multiple times is necessary given the plotting) and was able to talk about it with Hou Hsiao-Hsien cinephiles and enthusiastic critics before and after each screening, but it's likely going to end up as my favourite film of the year.  Beautiful, contemplative, in-depth look at violence and pacifism through lens of personal conscience, political loyalty, filial relations, and love. 

"What's prayer? It's shooting shafts in the dark." -- Frederick Buechner, Godric

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The contact from Magnolia told me to just give her the jury roster list and she'll send out the screeners I was given (Best of Enemies, Entertainment, Experimenter, and A Pigeon Sat...--I'm wary to ask for more).

Who *doesn't* want or need these screeners? I'm assuming Ken and Peter, maybe Jeffrey, Alissa, and Christian? I don't want to keep you on the list--unless you want me to--if you've already received screeners from them, all you professionals.

Colin, given that it is an e-mail roster and thus (I assume) for sceening links as opposed to DVDS, I would just send them the whole thing. Sometimes for NCFCA I'll bullet those who get screeners from other organizations. (I know SDG is in OFCS, so he probably got Magnolia package of DVDs. Alissa has actually told me she usually *does not* get FYC screeners because she is not in any critics' organizations.) But sometimes they like to have the full roster, even if they don't end up sending screeners to everyone on it. 

(For example, it's rare, but I'll occasionally get a follow-up--did you get it? what were your thoughts? And sometimes they just like to update their own rolodex in case they have future films they want to alert people to. 

Okay, I'll be sending her the roster tomorrow and those screeners should be sent to everyone then. I'm hoping these will be the people I can keep in touch with for next year(s)––if this jury continues––and that we are able to have better, earlier access to these films, as we've discussed a bit in prior posts. 

This is the Facebook page for Kaili Blues: https://www.facebook.com/kailiblues/?fref=ts&ref=br_tf. Send them a message requesting a screener and they will gladly send it. It's a phenomenal debut film that reminded me of a hazier/lazier, docu-stylized version of Certified Copy.

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I heartily second The Assassin, and now want to see it again. A deliberately, beautifully obscure film.

Joel, could you say a line or two (here or in the film's threads) about what, if anything, makes it a good fit for EJ? (i.e. is there anything in particular that makes you recommend it for a Christian audience/viewer, or is it just a good movie?)

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I'm not Joel or a member of the jury, but I'd recommend The Assassin to Christians for the same reason I'd recommend John Ford and Yasujiro Ozu. The Assassin is essentially a family melodrama that speaks to the importance of self-sacrifice (and the trauma of that sacrifice) in service to community. After seeing it a second time, I'd put The Assassin somewhere between Late Spring and Drums Along the Mohawk!

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The Assassin revels in mystery, forcing the viewer to truly think and contemplate what they're seeing on screen. For the viewer, there's a tension between the on-screen visual grace and the work of the audience to understand what is happening before them. The film also directly addresses ethical issues of pacifism and violence, particularly around the main character's vocation and familial ties. And I think it lands strongly on the pacifism side, yet shows that taking this path is not a cop-out or a sign of weakness, but a chosen path requiring immense strength, resilience, and sacrificial action. (I'm a pastor with Anabaptist/peace-making leanings, so a film that wrestles with pacifism like this without becoming a didactic "message film" is so refreshing.) There are also themes of guilt and forgiveness, regret and redemption. The Assassin is also open to spirituality--sure, a decidedly more Eastern version, with some sort of dark magic afoot--and I find a film that openly embraces a worldview containing the spiritual and mystery is decidedly more "Christian" than one which doesn't (e.g. The Martian). Finally, it's one of the most visually beautiful films I've ever seen, without exaggeration. Hou's use of color, the framing, the aspect-ratio, all of it; each frame is so deliberate and precise without ever feeling rigid. A few scenes literally took my breath away, and I uttered a spontaneous "whoa..." at the beauty before me (e.g. the mountain shot with the rising fog). The more I think about it, the higher The Assassin rises in my estimation.

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Sicario

Mister Holmes

Feel free to berate your fellow jurors as necessary. :-o

Whoever nominated Mister Holmes, consider yourself berated.

And please no one second Sicario; I have thus far been successful in keeping my resolution not to watch it, and I don't want a reason to break it.

Edited by Evan C

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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And please no one second Sicario; I have thus far been successful in keeping my resolution not to watch it, and I don't want a reason to break it.

I know that Evan is speaking tongue in cheek, but it's worth reiterating that no juror should feel as though he/she *has* to watch a film just because it got nominated.

There is, of course, a mental calculus in that you can't rate it (low) unless you watch it, so not watching is really abstaining. When I talk about making a "good faith effort" to watch enough of the nominees that one can vote in an informed manner, that more means: 
a) Don't just nominate your five favorite films and refuse to watch anything else. 

b] don't try to systematically not watch *any* low profile films in the hopes that they won't meet the 40% threshold for eligibility, increasing your favorites' chances.  

Particularly as we get into December, if last year is any indication, most of us will have more option than we have time to view them all and will occasionally be guided by recommendations pro *and* con for what we watch. Example: I currently have screeners on my shelf for 45 Years and The Wolfpack....both have been nominated...which should I watch first?

For me the hard call is films like Shaun the Sheep, Paddington, and/or It Follows. They are films I haven't seen not because they were unavailable but because I (thought) I knew enough about them to gauge what my reaction would be. But based on buzz, most jurors have already seen them, so if I don't watch them, I'm not keeping any of them from being eligible on the list. Of course, if I want to lists to reflect our corporate sensibilities, I may want to watch to be eligible to vote on it. I was pretty surprised by THE BABADOOK last year, but I wonder to what extent it benefited from self-exclusion..that maybe the only people who voted on it were horror fans because they only people who watched it were horror fans.
 

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it's probably not a bad idea to periodically bump/remind people of the mission statement for the jury. Our goals, as I see them, are, in order:

1)  To expand, enlarge, and/or challenge contemporary notions of what it means to call a film a “Christian film” or recommend it for Christian audiences.

2) To promote the Arts & Faith discussion forum and Image Magazine (its sponsor/owner).

3) To promote the work of the individual jurors.

This forum has debated for years the designation of "spiritually significant." It's worth emphasizing that our mission is perhaps even more nebulous since what would cause us to "recommend [a film] for Christian audiences" can be even more personal or particular. 

There may, in fact, be some jurors who share the attitude hinted at by Darren above--I'd recommend the same films for Christians as non-Christians and I'd recommend them because they are good films. 

There may be some jurors who have specific issues about which they are passionate or about which they wish Christian viewers were better informed. (Part of why I would recommend Homeless to Christian viewers is because a lot of Christians in my area perpetuate stereotypes about welfare recipients--NC, for example, just pared down rosters of who is eligible for food stamps).

As a result of the nebulous nature of the criteria, if I ask you, like I asked Joel. to contextualize a recommendation by referencing our mission, it's more in my capacity as voter to think through how I make a hierarchy of my own scores. I get that there will be (may already be) some nominations that don't seem obvious to some jurors. Part of the way the jury helps promote A&F (or did last year) was by renewing/invigorating discussion around those movies by giving us a neutral context in which to discuss those issues. 

Cuz, I mean.................Paddington?!?!?!

Edited by kenmorefield
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it's probably not a bad idea to periodically bump/remind people of the mission statement for the jury. Our goals, as I see them, are, in order:

1)  To expand, enlarge, and/or challenge contemporary notions of what it means to call a film a “Christian film” or recommend it for Christian audiences.

2) To promote the Arts & Faith discussion forum and Image Magazine (its sponsor/owner).

3) To promote the work of the individual jurors.

This forum has debated for years the designation of "spiritually significant." It's worth emphasizing that our mission is perhaps even more nebulous since what would cause us to "recommend [a film] for Christian audiences" can be even more personal or particular. 

There may, in fact, be some jurors who share the attitude hinted at by Darren above--I'd recommend the same films for Christians as non-Christians and I'd recommend them because they are good films. 

There may be some jurors who have specific issues about which they are passionate or about which they wish Christian viewers were better informed. (Part of why I would recommend Homeless to Christian viewers is because a lot of Christians in my area perpetuate stereotypes about welfare recipients--NC, for example, just pared down rosters of who is eligible for food stamps).

As a result of the nebulous nature of the criteria, if I ask you, like I asked Joel. to contextualize a recommendation by referencing our mission, it's more in my capacity as voter to think through how I make a hierarchy of my own scores. I get that there will be (may already be) some nominations that don't seem obvious to some jurors. Part of the way the jury helps promote A&F (or did last year) was by renewing/invigorating discussion around those movies by giving us a neutral context in which to discuss those issues. 

Cuz, I mean.................Paddington?!?!?!

I've been processing my nominations and seconds through the mental grid of "would I specifically recommend this to a Christian audience, and why?" as opposed to "is this a great film, or a film I personally enjoy?" Which is why I nominated/seconded films like The Drop Box and The Armor of Light, both of which I rated as a 7/10 (I liked them both, didn't *love* them). Neither will be on my end-of-year top 10 list, but both would be beneficial for any Christian audience to view. This isn't to say I'm using the criteria "would a Christian audience like this film?" or "are there overt Christian messages or a Christian worldview here?" but rather "would this expand/challenge/delight/inspire/transform the minds and hearts of Christian viewers?"

This is why I haven't nominated Horse Money (and am not doing so in this post), because while it's a well-crafted and fascinating film, I'd find it difficult to argue why Costas' hallucinatory mediation on Portuguese politics/history would merit a *necessary* viewing from a particularly Christian audience. But maybe Darren can join the jury just to nominate this one. :)

Another example: I think It Follows addresses and challenges both a semi-Gnostic sexuality of evangelical Christianity (i.e. bodies are gross and lead you into sin) and the ubiquitous hookup culture of the emerging generation (sex is just bodies/biology, with no lingering consequences beyond the physical). It suggests a more holistic sexuality of bodies-and-souls, and the nature of love and self-sacrifice within a sexual relationship. It addresses our culture's inability to truly face and deal with death, no matter how impending or present (a very spiritual issue). Finally, it addresses the systemic abandonment of youth and children by adults in our Western culture, a phenomenon that has enormous moral and spiritual implications as teenagers navigate their ever-changing world on their own, without the input or shared experience of adults. I have more regard for It Follows than, say, The Martian, Mistress America, or The End of the Tour for such a list.

Also, Paddington is great. The trailers don't do it justice. Like a children's film in the spirit of Amelie or M. Hulot's Holiday.

Edited by Joel Mayward
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Okay, I'll be sending her the roster tomorrow and those screeners should be sent to everyone then. I'm hoping these will be the people I can keep in touch with for next year(s)––if this jury continues––and that we are able to have better, earlier access to these films, as we've discussed a bit in prior posts. 

This is the Facebook page for Kaili Blues: https://www.facebook.com/kailiblues/?fref=ts&ref=br_tf. Send them a message requesting a screener and they will gladly send it. It's a phenomenal debut film that reminded me of a hazier/lazier, docu-stylized version of Certified Copy.

I've been getting e-mail links today. Since they had sent me some for OFCS, I'm assuming the ones coming in today are from Colin's work, so, again, if you watch any of these or appreciate getting access to screeners for the jury, don't forget to say "thank you, Colin."

 

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I'll second Son of Saul.

Thanks for getting us those Magnolia links, Colin. I can think of two other Magnolia releases this year that I'd like to see -- Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine and Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon -- but those are both films that I had an opportunity to see theatrically in Vancouver, but missed for whatever reason. (The first film played for just a few days at an arthouse theatre in Vancouver, the other had only two or three screenings at VIFF and didn't fit my schedule.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Thanks for getting us those Magnolia links, Colin. I can think of two other Magnolia releases this year that I'd like to see -- Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine and Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon -- but those are both films that I had an opportunity to see theatrically in Vancouver, but missed for whatever reason. (The first film played for just a few days at an arthouse theatre in Vancouver, the other had only two or three screenings at VIFF and didn't fit my schedule.)

Magnolia is providing both of those in their critics' package, so if you e-mail Danielle back at the address on the Magnolia links and inquire, I bet she'd send them to you. 

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I'd like to second Experimenter. An interesting self-aware approach to the biopic and loads to think about ethically. Obedience is a thorny topic for Christians, as we consider it a virtue, and the abuses of authority are always an important issue for Christians to contend with. Going Clear deals with a lot of the same stuff, but the artistry of Experimenter puts it ahead of that one for me. It also goes on from that to contend with issues of calling and personal worth. 

Edited by Lauren Wilford
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I also just finished A Pigeon Sat on Branch Reflecting on Existence, and wow. What a singular experience. Reminded me of last year's The Strange Little Cat in terms of the meticulous compositions, long takes, silences, and dwelling in life's fanciful, bizarre moments. I'm somewhat hesitant to nominate since it's kind of prickly and arty, but it does touch on loneliness, cruelty, and kindness. I wouldn't recommend it for a Christian audience specifically, so I guess maybe I'm not nominating it, but do everyone give it a watch-- thanks for the screener, Colin!

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I'd like to second Experimenter. An interesting self-aware approach to the biopic and loads to think about ethically. Obedience is a thorny topic for Christians, as we consider it a virtue, and the abuses of authority are always an important issue for Christians to contend with. Going Clear deals with a lot of the same stuff, but the artistry of Experimenter puts it ahead of that one for me. It also goes on from that to contend with issues of calling and personal worth. 

I also tell everyone to watch Experimenter because people have a hard time understanding what I do all day, and the events of this film are one of the events that set the stage historically for the research ethics in the US. Ergo, it explains what I do all day.

And... its existential (post-Holocaust) commentary on what it means to be a human is a real tribute to Milgram's core insights.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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