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2016 Arts & Faith Ecumenical Jury -- Nominations and Discussion

Which Voting Format Do You Prefer?  

13 members have voted

  1. 1. Which Voting Format Do You Prefer

    • 1 Ballot where members rank each nominated film using a Likert (1-5) scale; winners are films with highest average from critics who have screened film.
      3
    • 1 Ballot where critics select their 10-15 favorites, unranked, from all nominees; winners are determined by second ballot where critics rank the 10/15 finalists.
      10


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50 minutes ago, Evan C said:

Considering that both Silence and A Monster Calls aren't getting their wide releases until Jan. 6th, I would like to propose pushing back the deadline for the final ballot until midnight Jan. 6th (that way, anyone who wants to can see them both that day). If that's going to be cutting it too tight with deadlines, I understand, and in that case we should probably stick with the timeline we have, but it would be a real pity if both were left off the final list simply because jurors hadn't seen them. Thoughts?

I will forward this to Greg and see if he has any feelings about it on IMAGE's end.

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Brian D   
On 12/19/2016 at 4:50 AM, kenmorefield said:

So, you know, The Witch is a great film and all, but I confess I was pretty depressed after watching it. 

I want to be careful how I say this because I don't mean to be directive -- this is just my own feeling. I worry a little that our lists tend twoards negative depictions of religion or religious influences. In some ways, I'm okay with that. I mean I don't want to be on one tribal pole that cares not for craftsmanship and judges only based on whether an artifact speaks well of religion. But I think there is a balance to be had that includes the uplifting, inspiring, encouraging, as well as the challenging. 

If you end up having The Witch on the final list and are interested in some balance, all of the jurors would do well to see Almost Holy.  That film is a picture of a very complicated, but I think ultimately positive, religious figure.  Not only is he positive on balance, but he is positive in a way that is completely unexpected and unique.  The central figure lives out his faith in a way that is quite shocking at times, but ultimately encouraging and deeply compelling.

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19 hours ago, Evan C said:

Considering that both Silence and A Monster Calls aren't getting their wide releases until Jan. 6th, I would like to propose pushing back the deadline for the final ballot until midnight Jan. 6th (that way, anyone who wants to can see them both that day). If that's going to be cutting it too tight with deadlines, I understand, and in that case we should probably stick with the timeline we have, but it would be a real pity if both were left off the final list simply because jurors hadn't seen them. Thoughts?

I would like to hear from others besides Evan to see if there is any consensus. Greg said he is "tempted" to allow Silence, but he wasn't directive. 

My feelings are a bit more conflicted. For one, Silence is not opening until the 13th in my area, so I think the wide release is actually a gradually extended roll out. Plus my academic training tells me there is always one more book or one more movie people want to see before doing anything. I'd also like a head count in terms of who wants to see either film and has bene unable to do so. If it is one or two, it may be moot. If it is more than half, that could be an issue.

Anyone else want to chime in?

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1 minute ago, kenmorefield said:

I would like to hear from others besides Evan to see if there is any consensus. Greg said he is "tempted" to allow Silence, but he wasn't directive. 

My feelings are a bit more conflicted. For one, Silence is not opening until the 13th in my area, so I think the wide release is actually a gradually extended roll out. Plus my academic training tells me there is always one more book or one more movie people want to see before doing anything. I'd also like a head count in terms of who wants to see either film and has bene unable to do so. If it is one or two, it may be moot. If it is more than half, that could be an issue.

Anyone else want to chime in?

If Silence is as significant as some critics have said, it could be worth making an exception to allow for it. I can't recall a recent religious/spiritual film having as much anticipation as this one, and if it were absent from even being considered for our list, that seems like a missed opportunity, as the film isn't really being marketed to the religious community. So, I'd recommend allowing for seeing it to consider it for the list, though I'd also like to hear from those few who have seen the film.

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9 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

I would like to hear from others besides Evan to see if there is any consensus. Greg said he is "tempted" to allow Silence, but he wasn't directive. 

My feelings are a bit more conflicted. For one, Silence is not opening until the 13th in my area, so I think the wide release is actually a gradually extended roll out. Plus my academic training tells me there is always one more book or one more movie people want to see before doing anything. I'd also like a head count in terms of who wants to see either film and has bene unable to do so. If it is one or two, it may be moot. If it is more than half, that could be an issue.

Anyone else want to chime in?

It's probably also worth noting that Monster Calls, as much as I esteem it (my favorite 2016 movie), hasn't been seconded, so we may just be talking about Silence, really. (I know Monster was sent to critics groups, so Gareth and Noel have at least had opportunity to see it.

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SDG   

I think it's damned unfortunate that Silence has been so inaccessible to so many so far. I also think it's the film to beat for this jury. 

On the one hand, I don't like the idea of pushing back the vote. On the other hand, I understand why Greg is tempted. 

If we don't push back the voting this year, would the film be eligible for 2017? If not, then I would say absolutely, push the vote back. We can't just let this film fall between the cracks. 

I don't know which is the better solution. 

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6 minutes ago, SDG said:

If we don't push back the voting this year, would the film be eligible for 2017?

It would be, but I don't anticipate it would do very well. I base that on films like Selma, Our Little Sister, and The Revenant that didn't get scene by enough jurors to qualify one year and did not really stick around. (On the other hand Love & Mercy did not make it one year and did the next, though that was a festival only kinda of deal.)
 

We do still have critic's choice (where people can pick a film that didn't make the list). 

I'm not enthused about pushing voting back, but I also kinda feel like I'm in the minority.

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A D.C. screening was just announced today for January 3. I'm guessing I can make it, but I'm not sure. Even if I do, it bothers me that I'll have all of 48 hours, or whatever, to live with the film before our vote (assuming we delay it, which I'm open to but am not advocating), but that's always the case with one or two titles each year. (I've seen the Bayona.)

Edited by Christian

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Evan C   
52 minutes ago, SDG said:

Wait, can I nominate Our Little SIster for this year? 

I did on the first page, even though I was a little worried about its eligibility.

 

Personally, I think it's very weird to have a film that is contending for other awards this year, and then we honor that film a year later when everyone has moved onto other releases, but that might just be me.

Edited by Evan C

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I'll second A Monster Calls.

Evan C wrote:
: Personally, I think it's very weird to have a film that is contending for other awards this year, and then we honor that film a year later when everyone has moved onto other releases, but that might just be me.

I agree, though foreign films tend to have somewhat irregular release patterns anyway. (I saw Our Little Sister at a festival in 2015; it had a formal theatrical release in 2016.)

(The Revenant was also a 2015 film that got a wide release in 2016, but that was a Hollywood-studio awards-season effort, so I would definitely be more inclined to say that *that* film was eligible last year and *not* this year. But if enough people want to nominate it now, I guess we could have that discussion.)

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In my perspective, there's something distinct between a festival or international release (e.g. this year's The Unknown Girl) versus a film in limited release during a particular year, then opening wide in early January (e.g. Selma). We included The Witch for both 2015 and 2016 in our nominations because it was first released at Sundance in 2015, then opened wide in early 2016 (over a year later), yet I'd consider it a 2016 film. About Elly was a 2009 film which made its U.S. wider theatrical release in 2015, despite being at festivals and in other countries in 2009. Our Little Sister had its first U.S./Canada release in July this year, so that makes sense to me to include it for this year's list. Silence was released today, technically.

I'm conflicted about Silence, as I don't like the idea of pushing back the date again--we already pushed the date back once, at my request--but I also feel like a 2016 list of spiritually significant films which doesn't at least have Silence as part of the conversation would be missing something essential. Perhaps if we didn't push the date back (which means that Silence could likely not be seen by enough of us to be included), whoever chose to write up an introduction to the list could communicate our conflicted feelings about it?

It feels quite fitting that Silence would bring about this much disquiet and speculation in our list-making practice.

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Joel Mayward wrote:
: We included The Witch for both 2015 and 2016 in our nominations because it was first released at Sundance in 2015, then opened wide in early 2016 (over a year later), yet I'd consider it a 2016 film.

Obligatory nitpick: a film isn't "released" if it simply shows at a festival (like Sundance). :)

: I also feel like a 2016 list of spiritually significant films which doesn't at least have Silence as part of the conversation would be missing something essential.

Abso-bloody-lutely.

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5 minutes ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Obligatory nitpick: a film isn't "released" if it simply shows at a festival (like Sundance). :)

Ha! A fair edit. :)

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11 hours ago, Evan C said:

I did on the first page, even though I was a little worried about its eligibility.

 

Personally, I think it's very weird to have a film that is contending for other awards this year, and then we honor that film a year later when everyone has moved onto other releases, but that might just be me.

Historically (which sounds pretentious to say since we are in year three of jury), the criteria has been a first time theatrical, DVD, or festival release in the calendar year. That's mostly conformed to Oscar eligibility but allowed movies like Mr. Turner, Selma, or Inherent Vice to be nominated by those who have seen them and/or nominated again if others missed them. 

The crux of the matter here isn't really about eligibility, though. Everyone agrees that Silence is eligible--and would be again in 2017 (assuming we all survive and continue this tradition). It's about the purpose of our list, its perceived value/usefulness, and the expediency of changing our procedure to accommodate our mission/goals. 

Quote

Perhaps if we didn't push the date back (which means that Silence could likely not be seen by enough of us to be included), whoever chose to write up an introduction to the list could communicate our conflicted feelings about it?

That is a possibility, though it would again be dependent on Greg being on board -- last year's list was spread over two days because it was a bit long. We could cut critic's choice to make it shorter -- in some ways that critic's honorable mention serves a difference function. It would also necessitate someone who had seen the film writing the introduction. Right now that appears to be Steven and Peter, and I can't speak for either of them. 

The other thing about this, though, is that I'm conflicted about it because I don't like critic's groups that make themselves the story. Remember the group that retroactively changed their vote last year to award The Force Awakens? Wasn't there a story two years ago about the group that picked A Most Violent Year being the one that A24 let see it before everyone else? These sort of process stories take away from the films themselves, in my opinion. But I'm not opposed to some special recognition of Silence, whether in the introduction as a separate jury prize (lifetime achievement award?) or something. 

Summarizing, our options appear to be:
1) Take no action regarding deadline or Silence.

2) Push deadline for voting to January 6 as Evan requested. (Will that be enough? Appears that it would add Evan and Christian to list of people who have seen it, but that may not be 1/2 of critics.)

3) Adjust the quota of critics who has seen the film in order for it to be eligible. (There is precedent for this). That gives me pause, but I do think we need to trust each other...and the fact that Steven and Peter feel strongly about the film carries a lot of weight. Even if we do this, there is no guarantee that Silence will meet that quota. But, heck, it is our list, we can agree to make the quota whatever we want. Also, I don't think this is very likely, but what if we lower the quota and then Christian or Evan sees and hates the film? That could inadvertently make the film fall out of final list because each person's vote would be a higher percentage. Also, if we do this for Silence, will we do it for other films? Rams? Embrace of the Serpent? I sense that we as a jury would probably be willing to put the film on the final list on Steven's and Peter's word alone, but there is also the question of *where* to put it? Do we not rank the finalists? Or do we assume it is #1? (If so, what's the point of having a jury?)

4) Proceed with list as per our schedule and regular procedure but acknowledge Silence in some other way -- a special award/category, some sort of mention in the write up. 

I'm probably waffling somewhere between 4 and 3, but I could still be persuaded of 2 or 1. Currently our deadline for nominations is December 26 with the ballot due January 1. It *might* be possible do all other voting as scheduled, work on the blurbs and intro and keep it in "the can" pending an up down vote on including Silence. That might mean the write up is ready to go and delay in voting doesn't further delay appearance of the list.

 

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Evan C   

Of Ken's 4 options, I lean toward #3.

1) Obviously, I would prefer to find a way to make Silence eligible.

2) Since it seems extending the deadline to Jan. 6th deadline would only help me and Christian, that sort of defeats the purpose of it. However, having read A Monster Calls today, if that film's a successful adaptation, I'd be giving that equally high marks, so is it worth asking whether a Jan. 6th deadline helps that?

3) I don't want to assume rankings for films based on love for the source material or the word of other jurors, as much as I trust Peter and Steven's assessment. As Ken said, what's the point of a jury if we decide how to rank a film not based on our votes. Would 5 jurors be an acceptable quorum, and is that achievable within the Jan. 1st deadline? I potentially could catch a train to NYC this week if that would help. Or should there be a voting option for Silence: "I trust Peter and SDG's assessment," even if we know that would almost definitely put Silence at #1?

4) I'm okay with that, although I still prefer to give it a chance to be included on the actual list.

5) The idea of writing up the list, and then holding publication until we do a second vote solely on whether or not to include Silence and where has a lot of merit.

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10 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

I would *never* advocate voting for a film that the voter hasn't seen.

I don't think anyone is advocating for that. Did I miss something?

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As we are closing in on ballot time, it might not be a bad idea to scan the list of nominees on page 1 and see if any glaring omissions are there or anything that hasn't been seconded cries out for a last minute shout out.

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Evan C   

Hunt for the Wilderpeople's good enough to deserve a second, so consider this a second.

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2 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

As we are closing in on ballot time, it might not be a bad idea to scan the list of nominees on page 1 and see if any glaring omissions are there or anything that hasn't been seconded cries out for a last minute shout out.

I happily second La La Land. Ken, I believe you nominated it, but it isn't included in our page 1 list of nominees.

I nominate Herzog's Into the Inferno. Our thread on the documentary.

Edited by Joel Mayward

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I'll second The Invitation and The Treasure .

I'd also like to nominate Never Eat Alone by Sofia Bohdanowicz (I have a screener for it, so PM me if you want a link). 

It's a slight, minor independent film from Canada (premiered this year, but doesn't have distribution to my knowledge), it’s also one of the most precious, tender films I’ve seen all year, and easily one of my favourites. There are few films in 2016 as emotionally resonant as this one. It is a rare film whose plot is perfectly encompassed by its thematic conceits, in which form and narrative are codependent. Docufiction, blending an unfinished documentary shot a year prior to the narrative elements, Never Eat Alone is a profound meditation on the threads of time, as light as gossamer, connecting us to family, meaning and the ways the past bleeds into the present.But above all, it's a film which feels so deeply and on such a personal level, that it is impossible not to be caught up in its world of loneliness and regret and love in the midst of it all.

Also, does anyone have a screener for The MermaidThe Unknown Girl, or Things To Come ?

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IFC did send screening links to some critics' groups, but when I followed up asking rep for another critic, I got radio silence.... so I wasn't able to get other copies of Things to Come. 

The Unknown Girl didn't appear to get any screeners this year since it only played at festivals. 

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