Mr. Arkadin

Arts & Faith Top 25 Films on "Waking Up" Discussion Thread

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Top 25 Films on "Waking Up"

Please keep nominations and seconds only in the nominations thread.  All discussion of the nominated films themselves, as well as ongoing conversation about how we should best define the list's theme, should be posted here.

*Note: Currently, there are no hard-and-fast rules about eligibility based on content - it’s up to YOU to advocate for what you believe fits this category. We believe the community of voters will make a wise decision about it when the times comes. That said, please think carefully about whether the film is really about what the community wants for an "Arts & Faith" list as opposed to a purely generic "top films" list that would be created on some other popular movie website.

 

Timeline:

Open film nominations and discussion: 3/29

Close film nominations: May 28

Open voting on films: June 2

Close voting: June 15th

Write blurbs: June 16th – July 16th

Post results: TBD

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I'm still curious how to parse "waking up" to positive spiritual/ethical realities from what's already listed in our Top 100 "spiritually significant" films. Every time I consider a film about "waking up," it's either a revelation of darker realities, spiritual or otherwise (e.g. The Sixth Sense, The Orphanage, They Live) or it's a film already on our Top 100 list or would be a strong contender (e.g. The Tree of Life, Ikiru, Ordet).

So, would a film like Doctor Strange be worth considering? The Truman Show? Inception? Help me out, A&F community.

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I think Orson Welles's THE TRIAL should be on this list. After the narrated prologue, it begins with the shot of Anthony Perkins waking up in his bed, to find the police in his room, . The film is of course not a realistic story, and the irony is that though K has woken up, it is clearly a nightmare unfolding over the course of the film. The surreal narrative dream-logic pursues a vision of the absurdity inherent in bureaucracies, and ultimately the cruel and pitiless violence of the police state. These are themes very much needing to be awoken to, but in this poetic, labyrinthine exploration, are somehow made more present than a more straightforward story might do.

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So I'm going to make a very rare exception to one of my own rules and nominate a film that I haven’t seen yet.  I only haven’t seen it because I haven’t been given a chance to.  According to the film’s website, they plan to have a DVD distributor by the end of this month.  We are planning on finishing voting on nominated films by mid-June.  Most of us probably haven’t seen this, but you can watch the first 4 minutes of the film here.  Given these first minutes and everything I’ve read from Wendell Berry, this strikes me as being very much a film about waking up to the spiritual/sacramental realities around us.  In fact, I believe this is exactly the sort of film that, if we can use our lists for advocacy, we should persuade many other people to see.  (A part of me even wants to ask if we could trade our #1 spot on this list and a promise to enthusiastically promote the film for advance DVDs from the filmmaker/distributor.)

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Huh, I'm not as keen on Wendell Berry as some here are, so I'm not sure if I'd make that trade.

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On 3/29/2017 at 9:49 AM, Joel Mayward said:

I'm still curious how to parse "waking up" to positive spiritual/ethical realities from what's already listed in our Top 100 "spiritually significant" films. Every time I consider a film about "waking up," it's either a revelation of darker realities, spiritual or otherwise (e.g. The Sixth Sense, The Orphanage, They Live) or it's a film already on our Top 100 list or would be a strong contender (e.g. The Tree of Life, Ikiru, Ordet).

So, would a film like Doctor Strange be worth considering? The Truman Show? Inception? Help me out, A&F community.

Right.  We do not want to just select mostly or even all from our Top 100 list.  As far as "revelation of darker realities", evil, etc., I'd argue that we already did that with our Top 25 Horror Film list.

So far I've wrestled with limiting how I'd define "waking up" by the idea of getting rid of "default settings" or unwarranted assumptions, or by "conversion" in let's say an anti-Kirk Cameron sense.  I've been interested in a long time in stories about waking up - stories where a character realizes that there are deeper, even sacramental, realities behind the scenes.  In this sense, out of the entire Top 100 List, I'd see Ikiru or Wings of Desire as prototypical examples.  Ikiru's Watanabe is a character who eventually sees the world as a little enchanted, and this fundamentally changes and redeems him.  He has a sense of what really matters.  I apologize that it seems as if I'm circling, rather than articulating, what "waking up" could or should mean for this list.  I will admit that I've been reading Charles Taylor, Louis Dupré, and Hans Boersma recently and, while nominating films, I am personally specifically looking for films that can hint at what Taylor calls the "enchanted world" that modernity has for the most part lost or rejected.

Thus, all or any films touching on waking up to sacramental reality would fit perfectly with this list.  A film considered to be "spiritually significant" or concerning matters of faith is not always going to touch on waking up to the spiritual reality underlying material reality.  Indeed, I think that most of our Top 100 do not do this.  Mere spiritual significance can focus on conviction of sin, the nature of evil, the possibility of miracles, conversion, the nature of religious belief, false prophets, moral awakening, atonement, death, eternity, etc.  Out of all those themes, my personal plan is to look for films that focus upon the ideas of conversion and awakening.

Additionally, as I said the other thread, I'd advocate for films that "focus on stories where characters' eyes' are opened to spiritual realities, both with and/or without institutionalized religious contexts.  I would want to craft the list in such a way that it is attractive, challenging, and inspiring to any thinking person, wherever that person may currently be in thinking through what he or she believes."  This may be a balancing act, but I believe it will be worth it.  All that said, I'd think that The Tree of Life, Doctor Strange, The Truman Show, and Inception are all absolutely on topic, regardless of precisely where I'd think each film would rank inside or outside the final Top 25.

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Posted (edited)

Ok, so here's justification for my noms:

The Pervert's Guide to Cinema--obviously. I mean, for one thing, critique-of-ideology is all about "waking up" and seeing deeper (historical-material) realities. Also, it's a documentary, which is nice, and it's Zizek--which is even better.

Fallen Angels--Really it came to this or Days of Being Wild for my WKW selection; I went with this one primarily because of the last scene, which suggests--elliptically, perhaps--a kind of awakening (to what is a fair question).

The Killer--Along with Pervert's Guide, this was one of the first movies I decided I would nominate if this topic was chosen. I'm still not convinced Woo has much spiritual depth here, but it's worth hashing out; certainly, the story of a gunman's journey toward redemption is well within the scope of this list, and the paradoxical focus on blinding could, perhaps, give a nice twist to this idea of "waking up"

Shutter Island--this is, I think, a natural selection. Not only does it feature a protagonist struggling out of his madness, but it ends with him making a [possibly?] redeeming choice based on that revelation.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow--Ok, I'll admit that I put this one on the list primarily because it's a lovely little flick that has grown on me over the past--oh, five or so viewings. It's sweet and it goes down easy. But it's also got some interesting stuff--not just with the protagonist "waking up" to his sexuality or his wife "waking up" to same, but in the way the movie ends by suggesting that they have, as the result of the choices they make in this movie, somehow attained a more real (say, metaphysically-realized) marriage, even though the actual legal contract is ending.

EDIT: Journey to the West. This one should be pretty obvious--in terms of waking up to Spiritual Realities, it's hard to beat seeing an enormous Buddha defeating Sun Wukong.

Edited by NBooth

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21 hours ago, J.A.A. Purves said:

Right.  We do not want to just select mostly or even all from our Top 100 list.

Just to clarify, are you suggesting that the new list not include any from the Top 100? Or that we should avoid selecting too many from the Top 100?

20 hours ago, J.A.A. Purves said:

  As far as "revelation of darker realities", evil, etc., I'd argue that we already did that with our Top 25 Horror Film list.

I'd argue that the two don't need to be mutually exclusive. A number of Flannery O'Connor stories involve an act of violence or "revelation of darker realities" being used to wake up a character out of their privileged prison of self-righteousness, a necessary condition for them to awaken to deeper spiritual realities, even if the latter sometimes doesn't actually come for a character.

20 hours ago, J.A.A. Purves said:

Ikiru's Watanabe is a character who eventually sees the world as a little enchanted, and this fundamentally changes and redeems him.  He has a sense of what really matters.

Thanks for this helpful example. Perhaps these following terms, borrowed from Andrew Walls, can add to the distinctions we’ve been discussing.

Conversion=the transformation/redemption of the already existing good but fallen aspects in a person’s life or culture. As I see it, this is the biblical Christian view. “Christ Transforming Culture” In the context of this list, as others have said, I don’t take it that it need be a transformation concerning religious affiliation, as in Ikiru.  

Proselytism=doing a complete 180, leaving behind everything in one’s previous life or culture upon encountering new spiritual realities. AKA the Kirk Cameron approach. “Christ Against Culture” In Ikiru, this would be Watanabe shunning his bureaucratic job as utterly meaningless rather than returning. This was the approach of Euro-centric Christian missionaries who assumed conversion meant acting, dressing, thinking, etc. like a European, as if Christianity were essentially European. In the New Testament, this is the view that to be Christian, Gentiles first had to become Jews and follow the Jewish laws/lifestyle, an approach that was rejected.

Syncretism=mixing in the new spiritual insights with the old ones and getting some third, different product related to both originals. “Christ In/With Culture”

20 hours ago, J.A.A. Purves said:

Thus, all or any films touching on waking up to sacramental reality would fit perfectly with this list.  A film considered to be "spiritually significant" or concerning matters of faith is not always going to touch on waking up to the spiritual reality underlying material reality.  Indeed, I think that most of our Top 100 do not do this.

This distinction is a really helpful one. The term “spiritual realities” keeps getting mentioned, and that reminds me of the Templeton Prize, given for “for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities.” Actually that was the old description; now it’s for “Outstanding contributions in affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.” The award is chosen by and has been awarded to people of many different faith backgrounds, including atheists. The dozen or so winners whose works I’ve dug into have indeed helped me wake up to deeper spiritual realities. Charles Taylor, for instance, has won the award.  The emphasis on the “discovery” of spiritual realities is what I’ll try to keep in mind.  And I’m going to try to keep in mind movies where it isn’t just characters who “wake up,” but where the film itself is about “waking up,” whether that’s in a character or otherwise. To use the example of Ikiru, the second half is very much about Watanabe's friends and associates waking up to the fact of his transformation and consequent deeds.

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Posted (edited)

Another Woman - very much Woody Allen's Wild Strawberries, but it stands on its own thanks primarily to Gena Rowlands. The film is entirely themed around the idea of awakening - from self-deception to the reality of one's own flaws and weaknesses. As mentioned in the nominations thread, my advocacy for this film centres on the scene where Rowlands' character reads Rilke's Archaic Torso of Apollo, with its explicit final statement: 'You must change your life'. This idea, of being brought to the crux of one's own existence, is so well embodied by Rowlands that the film carries a charge of moral depth unusual for Woody Allen.

The Lives of Others - it's pretty obviously a candidate, isn't it? I imagine it may be too simplistic for the tastes of some in our community (and as a Stasi-era film I think Barbara is greater), but it's a very strong iteration of our theme. I know some people say the ending is too sentimental, but I think I see it differently. Wiesler is a man who's undergone a conversion experience but is still haunted by the past, and the final line 'Es ist für mich' is imbued with a sense of wonder at an act of grace. This is a film which drew a lot of people to serious foreign-language drama, and I think it would be not only a deserving list member, but a useful one.

(Edited to add the last paragraph from Anthony Lane's New Yorker review, which sort of backs me up on the ending:

Quote

It is a shock to find the action lasting until 1993. As the events of 1984 hastened to a climax, with treachery being punished on a damp street, I was already reaching for my coat. So why press onward? Why drag us into the debris of the broken G.D.R.—into the opening of the Stasi files, and the queasy afterlife of politicians and playwrights alike? Against all odds, though, the best is yet to come: an ending of overwhelming simplicity and force, in which the hopes of the film—as opposed to its fears, which have shivered throughout—come gently to rest. What happens is that a character says, “Es ist für mich”—“It’s for me.” When you see the film, as you must, you will understand why the phrase is like a blessing. To have something bestowed on “me”—not on a tool of the state, not on a scapegoat or a sneak, but on me—is a sign that individual liberties have risen from the dead. You might think that “The Lives of Others” is aimed solely at modern Germans—at all the Wieslers, the Dreymans, and the weeping Christa-Marias. A movie this strong, however, is never parochial, nor is it period drama. Es ist für uns. It’s for us.

 

Edited by Anodos

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I Don't Want to Sleep Alone: I actually thought, after watching this, that it could very easily have gone on our "Mercy" list, but I think it works as well here. The characters all exist in a [literal!] haze, and part of their journey in this film is the need to "wake up" to other people, to human connection--which is itself a kind of transcendence (suggested by the final shot of the film):

sleep-alone-3.jpg

See also this shot:

22632_I-Dont-Want-To-3.jpg

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Here are my cases for the films I've nominated so far.

Edward Scissorhands - The presence of the title character forces the citizens of the town to wake up and either to recognize the humanity and dignity of one who is different and turn away from their inherent selfishness or dig into it.

Last Holiday - Basically Ikiru as a comedy with Alec Guiness, a man receives a diagnosis that he only has a few months to live, and for the first time in his life begins to appreciate the beauty and goodness in the world

Holiday - Cary Grant is awake to the beauty of the world, but his stuffy fiance despises his childish notions; however, he manages to convert her sister who believes the same as he does.

Pan's Labyrinth - The faun wakes Ofelia up to both good and evil and her newfound spiritual alertness helps her confront the evil

Alice - One of Woody Allen's more religious films, when Mia Farrow has a midlife crisis, she turns to every worldly solution she can think of before finding happiness in waking up to the joy of sacrifice and putting others before her.

This Is Martin Bonner - As a conversion story, both the title character and the released prisoner he helps rehabilitate have to rebuild their lives, and in doing so they wake up to the harm their past choices caused, but they also wake up to appreciate the goodness that they and others can bring to the world

Amelie -  After trying to play God, the title character wakes up to realize the presence of grace and learn that she can't control everything.

Eyes Wide Shut - This is more about waking up the reality of evil, but both Cruise and Kidman know they need to wake up and abandon that evil, but their fascination with it makes it impossible for them.

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Posted (edited)

Running on Empty:

 

Partially borrowed from my quote in our “Movies that teens should see” thread :

There is no movie I find more devastatingly emblematic of a certain universal experience that many kids must pass through : the experience of having to leave home and family to find an identity.  The way this experience finally plays out in the Phoenix character’s life is like a direct collision between grief and hope.  Given that the character’s climactic decision finally opens the doors to the formation of his own identity, it is most certainly a film about waking up.

 

 

Amazing Grace:

Wilberforce…this film shows him not only waking up to the death-dealing reality of the slave trade, but also to the compelling need to express personal faith in a way that impacts the real world around him.

Edited by Brian D

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Moon is the more conventional "waking up" movie of the two I nominated, using the familiar psychological thriller with a twist format to create a narrative where we think things are one way, but as truth is revealed we realize things are very much different. The central protagonist is a character literally alone with himself who through an encounter with himself in a way realizes that reality is more than what he thinks.

Ink might seem like just a low budget film, and it is, but there is so much to it. The first time director gained a cult following despite the amateur nature of the film, because it featured such a deep and well thought out story. In it a father is forced to wake up to a deeper spiritual reality when his daughter is kidnapped by the titular villain and drawn into a deeper world where stories have power and much is not as it seems. Winans uses very Gilliam-like imagery, and draws from many classic influences for what is truly a work of art.

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Posted (edited)

I've nominated the 1971 George C. Scott/Joanne Woodward They Might Be Giants (screenplay by James Goldman). If you haven't seen it, it may be difficult to find the full film online, though the DVD is available. Additional clips are available on YouTube. Scott's character, wealthy, respectable judge Playfair, seems to have fallen into the delusion that he is Sherlock Holmes. Joanne Woodward is psychiatrist Dr. Watson (of course!), hired by the judge's greedy relatives to declare him incompetent so they can get his money. Playfair/Holmes's "broken" world of mystery, however, proves to have greater depth, hope, and truth than the "real" world. Playfair may not be Sherlock Holmes, but he is more than he seems, and so are we all--if we wake up and face our fears.

ETA: They Might Be Giants is in many ways very much a 70s movie, but it also falls squarely into J.A.A.'s description of a film "where a character [more than one character] realizes that there are deeper, even sacramental, realities behind the scenes....a character eventually sees the world as a little enchanted, and this fundamentally changes and redeems him.  He [and she] has a sense of what really matters."

Edited by BethR

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Some brief thoughts and reasonings for the films I've nominated thus far:

The Fits - A young woman, Toni, awakens to both her body and her soul as she enters into a new place of affinity within a girls' dance troupe in a community center. There's something distinctly transcendent about its final moments, though the film never fully explains its mysteries or allegories. We see Toni come alive over the course of the film, choosing not to become a slave to gravity (as the end credits' song implies).

The Tree of Life - It's hard to summarize why Malick's poetic masterpiece is worth considering for a list on "waking up," as the film addresses questions of memory, grace, justice, God, history, love, loss, and so much more in the span of the entire creation/death/resurrection of the cosmos. If there was a film to wake one up to realities beyond one's worldview or understanding, it might be this one.

Doctor Strange - The titular doctor, a materialist in both senses (he doesn't believe in the spiritual realm, and he's obsessed with material possessions, wealth, and status) wakes up to the reality that defines all of reality: it's not about you.

Inception - Takes the theme of "waking up" quite literally, as Cobb and his dream infiltrators navigate the realms of the subconscious and raise a number of questions about the construction of one's personal reality. I do think considering films here which question whether or not what we're viewing on the screen is a dream or "real" is important for this theme.

My Neighbor Totoro - So many Miyazaki films could be included here for the theme of "waking up" to the spiritual realities around us. Totoro might be the best introduction to such wonders.

Take Shelter - A modern-day Noah story, where the central character portrayed by Michael Shannon is given visions of an impending catastrophe, one which propels him to protect his family at any cost. It's not just that Shannon's dark dreams are a potential reality; I'd argue the true "waking up" moment happens in the final scene with Jessica Chastain, who is converted to Shannon's worldview when she's finally seen it for herself.

The Double Life of Veronique - I love that the film offers no justification or explanation for the reality of these doppelgangers living connected-yet-distinct lives. For me, there's the waking up of each Veronique to the Other, as well as the audience's personal wrestling with whether or not they will accept the mystery for what it is.

Metropolis - For all its ambitious images and symbolism, the film's central theme focuses on the reconciliation between "the head" and "the heart," an awakening to a more holistic way of being as personified by various class systems seeing and recognizing the value and position of the other. For me, the film was also a "wake up" to the power and significance of silent film--it's the first silent epic I ever watched, and it's captured my imagination ever since.

The Edge of Seventeen - I wrote this recently on Letterboxd: "Loved how the film begins entirely from Nadine's perspective--she narrates the intro, and is present in every scene in the first 30 minutes. It's *her* story from the start, yet the film gradually opens up the audience to a wider range of perspectives, scene by scene, until the tipping point in walking into Bruner's home and she sees the baby. It's the moment of waking up as she realizes that there are more stories and narrators and perspectives in the world than just her own."

Arrival - Perhaps the best recent example of how a film's formal construct embodies the mystery of its narrative content, a "twist" ending which isn't really a twist as much as it is a slow awakening to what's been present all along. As Louise begins to unravel the mystery of her memories and the linguistic nature of the aliens she encounters, it becomes clearer that what both her expectations--and ours as the audience--have been subverted. A film which truly requires a second viewing to fully appreciate.

Cleo from 5 to 7 - A young woman awaiting the biopsy results for whether she has cancer wanders about Paris from conversation to conversation, feeling increasingly isolated and distraught by her friends' inability to empathize, until the chance meeting and vulnerability with a stranger in a park brings about the relief and perspective she desires. In the vein of Ikiru and Wild Strawberries, but from a young, female perspective as Cleo is awakened to life's meaning and purpose in the face of potential death.

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I have mixed feelings about nominating The Matrix. I believe it was NBooth who expressed not wanting it on the list, and I too have a similar impulse. Neo’s waking up to the dark reality of the Matrix and “the desert of the real” sort of fits the theme, but that isn’t why I’m nominating it. I think the reason this film could be on the list is because of Neo’s more spiritual waking up to the fact that, within the Matrix, he needn’t conform to or be limited by this false reality in ways that deny his humanity. This corresponds to his “rebirth” outside the Matrix. (I admit this is undermined somewhat by the film’s logic of violence, and definitely by nihilism of the sequels.) I also think that these themes of spiritually waking up are stronger than in many of the films already nominated, which is partially what prompted me to nominate it.

I also just wanted to point out that the clip I posted is the final scene and credits; the song that plays is Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up.”

This movie really wants to be on this kind of list! “Spiritual realities,” too: with all its Buddhist and biblical/Christian allusions/allegories and such, it would be on obvious pick. Although the spiritual realities woken up to are perhaps a little too much like a sophomore-level lecture on ideology or hyperreality for some (including myself), that’s not to say there wouldn’t be some truth to be found there. (Another obvious pick, but one that I don’t like and think the list can do better than, is American Beauty.)

I’ve been remiss in not writing up justifications for my other nominations. I’ll do that, but I wanted to write this up as much to justify nominating it to myself, and lest I be thought an unreflective philistine :)

 

 

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The Matrix just strikes me as a movie that thinks it's smarter than it is. On them other hand, it deserves consideration and debate, so I'm going to second it. 

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Posted (edited)

I like this idea, but am still really struggling with the actual list. Seeing the films nominated, I am having trouble cobbling together what the common theme or element might actually be here. And looking through the threads on this, I did not see a definitive working concept on "waking up." Did I miss something? In another thread, JP said: "I believe such a list would focus on stories where characters' eyes' are opened to spiritual realities, both with and/or without institutionalized religious contexts."

I get that. But under this general rubric, I am still having a hard time distinguishing between conversion narratives, apocalyptic, surrealism. religious imagery, big time plot twists, characters having dramatic changes in self perception, and characters literally waking up. There seem to be pretty big differences between The Moviegoer kind of waking up, a Buddhist waking up, Mothlight as waking up, and an Its a Wonderful Life waking up. Big enough that I am not understanding how the list would have much utility. And in Bazin's terms, any film with a sufficient material or psychological realism is inherently a space for "waking up."

Forgive me if this has already been covered, just looking for help with the concept.

Edited by M. Leary

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Posted (edited)

Also want to toss in that being "woke" right now is specifically connected to awareness of our current civil rights crises. I fear a list of films about "waking up" which are euro-centric philosophical parables or about a bunch of white people having mid-life crises would really not be "woke" at all. I say this not as a claim that our community here is insensitive to these issues - rather a comment on the word choice. 

Edited by M. Leary

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43 minutes ago, M. Leary said:

I like this idea, but am still really struggling with the actual list. Seeing the films nominated, I am having trouble cobbling together what the common theme or element might actually be here. And looking through the threads on this, I did not see a definitive working concept on "waking up." Did I miss something? In another thread, JP said: "I believe such a list would focus on stories where characters' eyes' are opened to spiritual realities, both with and/or without institutionalized religious contexts."

I get that. But under this general rubric, I am still having a hard time distinguishing between conversion narratives, apocalyptic, surrealism. religious imagery, big time plot twists, characters having dramatic changes in self perception, and characters literally waking up. There seem to be pretty big differences between The Moviegoer kind of waking up, a Buddhist waking up, Mothlight as waking up, and an Its a Wonderful Life waking up. Big enough that I am not understanding how the list would have much utility. And in Bazin's terms, any film with a sufficient material or psychological realism is inherently a space for "waking up."

Forgive me if this has already been covered, just looking for help with the concept.

Right there with you. I nominated a few movies that I think play with the idea of waking or conversion in interesting ways, but the basic theme is looking at once to be too limiting and not limiting enough.

On the other hand, I'm a firm believer that the meaning of everything--lists included--is found in the process of construction, so I'm hopeful that as the list takes shape we'll get a better idea what we mean.

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Posted (edited)

Please take this with all the humor that's intended... Picking this topic kinda reminds me of Nancy Pelosi's infamous line about the Affordable Care Act - "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it."  The vagaries surrounding an exact definition of this topic seem to have opened up a lot of interpretations.  I'm enjoying the variety of films I've seen nominated so far.  Not all may conform to JP's definition, but perhaps to the nominators own personal experience. My own nominations have varied from darker themes to lighter fare.

Edited by John Drew

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3 hours ago, M. Leary said:

I am still having a hard time distinguishing between conversion narratives, apocalyptic, surrealism. religious imagery, big time plot twists, characters having dramatic changes in self perception, and characters literally waking up. There seem to be pretty big differences between The Moviegoer kind of waking up, a Buddhist waking up, Mothlight as waking up, and an Its a Wonderful Life waking up. Big enough that I am not understanding how the list would have much utility. And in Bazin's terms, any film with a sufficient material or psychological realism is inherently a space for "waking up."

Despite having nominated a number of films already, I, too, am really struggling with figuring out which films actually are worth considering for such a list, as the definition of "waking up" is still too vague, IMO. Adding to Michael's list and in light of John's comment, are we also considering films which have caused the viewer to "wake up" to a new reality? This is partly why I nominated The Tree of Life--I felt like the very viewing experience was a wake up to deeper spiritual realities than I had ever considered or known before. But if these experiences were included, they'd be incredibly subjective and wide-ranging.

The use of "woke" in our cultural climate does make me wonder if there are films which could be considered which wake up people to realities of injustice, racial experiences, civil rights, etc. I imagine there are plenty of films, especially documentaries, which raise awareness about these stories (though none come immediately to mind right now).

But I'm just going to keep nominating films as they come to mind, and see if this community can discern whether or not they're worthwhile. :)

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Quote

The use of "woke" in our cultural climate does make me wonder if there are films which could be considered which wake up people to realities of injustice, racial experiences, civil rights, etc. I imagine there are plenty of films, especially documentaries, which raise awareness about these stories (though none come immediately to mind right now).

Under this definition then I am absolutely gonna have to nominate Fruitvale Station.

Is this too nebulous a topic, or the nebulousness the point and this is more a "different interpretations make for different and varied moviegoing experiences" kind of list? Perhaps the variety enriches the list we will come up with rather than ruins it. I'm open to that. I would like some more "woke" nominations too as M. Leary describes.

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6 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

Adding to Michael's list and in light of John's comment, are we also considering films which have caused the viewer to "wake up" to a new reality? This is partly why I nominated The Tree of Life--I felt like the very viewing experience was a wake up to deeper spiritual realities than I had ever considered or known before. But if these experiences were included, they'd be incredibly subjective and wide-ranging.

I am wary of this definition. I agree it’s too subjective. I totally feel you on The Tree of Life waking you up to deeper spiritual realities. It had the same effect on me. So have other films beloved by this community that are on the Top 100. So have the poetry and essays of Wendell Berry, and dozens of other writers. I personally want the “waking up” to happen in the film and I want that to be what the film is largely about.

 

When teaching my college writing students about academic inquiry and argumentation, I always say that if there isn’t consensus or common ground in a discourse community (here, A&F) on a definition (say, on what defines a film about “waking up” or what criteria might suggest a film is that) then they’ll struggle to argue that for interpretations that use those definitions (Can Film X be considered a film about “waking up”?). And without that interpretation, they’ll struggle mightily to make an argument about value or policy (what are the best films about “waking up”? which films should be included on this A&F list?) I don’t think there needs to be a common definition, and it seems to me here at least from the discussion that people are pretty well on the same page, although the nominations haven’t been, and maybe that's more important.

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Posted (edited)

I really like J. Purves’ anti-“sinner’s prayer” conversion definition that involves substantial spiritual transformation in a character’ (like in Ikiru) or awakening to “spiritual realities.” I think that the “spiritual” part is important but also broad enough to apply to any and every aspect of a character’s life, whether than be religious faith or justice issues (such as regarding racism) or in loving one’s neighbor.

I’m leaning away from “Allegory of the Cave”-type “waking up” movies. These would include The Truman Show and The Matrix and several others nominated already. (I think that Neo’s waking up to the fact he is The One is what qualifies The Matrix.)

 

Here are my own criteria, with examples from films I've nominated. Not saying these should be universally adopted, but they’ve been helpful for me.

First, I think that a film should do one of the following:

(1) depict some deep personal change in a character (Ikiru) that both

(1a) goes beyond just a simple realization of spiritual realities and

(1b) involves more than just self-actualization or assertion of individual will/power

or (2) depicts the gradual process of reaching that point of deep change (Adam’s Apples, Red Beard, Children of Men)

or (3) depicts an agent of transformation spiritually awakening others, such as a spiritually deadened community (Powder—not the best example, but it’s one I nominated)

or (4) even if it doesn’t depict more than a realization about spiritual realities, the bulk of the film is spent making an argument for that “waking up” that eventually happens (Contact).

AND, second, the film should primarily be about that conversion/transformation/awakening.

 

I really want to emphasize the conversion/transformation aspect and that that is what the film is primarily about. For example, I think that Ordet could easily be on this list because it’s such a universally spiritually relevant film. ****SPOILERS FOLLOW****(I would hate to deprive someone stumbling across this who hadn’t seen it of discovering the ending on their own) In the final scene 4 of the 5 major plot lines involve a “waking up”:

Peter and Morten reconcile, Johannes regains his wits, Inger rises, Mikkel regains his faith, (Anders and Anne isn’t really “waking up”)

The film even “wakes up” from all those long takes to more conventional editing, I read some critic argue. BUT to me, although the film is about a lot of things involving spirituality, including “waking up,” it isn’t PRIMARILY about that.

 

Edited by Rob Z

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