Mr. Arkadin

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

105 posts in this topic

I nominated The Color Purple (1985). The clip that I posted on the nominations board shows the awakening of an entire community. In this scene, Shug Avery, a singer known for her promiscuity, is singing and abruptly changes songs, a powerful metaphor for the transformation that comes with a spiritual awakening. With the second song she sings, she starts walking towards the church her father pastors, reconciles with him, and a mass of people following behind her called into this awakening. This is just one of many spiritual awakenings that happens in the The Color Purple; I highlight it because it involves so many people. The whole story, though, is an awakening for the main character Celie, who wakes up able to move beyond the horrible past of victimhood to abuse from her father and then from her "husband" who she calls "mister." She awakens to regain lost relationships, self-respect, and an answer to all the prayers we've seen her praying as she walks in the field since her childhood.

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Thanks to EdB99 for compiling the list of films. I'll try to set up a proper list (maybe a spreadsheet on Google docs) when I get a moment.

I've just been kinda drained since the nomination period kicked off, but I'll be giving this process more of my attention once I get past Easter weekend.

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I nominated two films with very dark portrayals of waking up. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) shows characters awakening from their delusions of patriotism and heroism into the reality and horror of what war really is. Pressure Point (1962) shows us the process of a Neo-Nazi's indoctrination, waking up to his newfound view of self and others while. The Nazi character (played terrifyingly by Bobby Darin) is in prison in the 50s, and his story is told in flashback by his psychiatrist (Sidney Poitier), and we see many times where the the psychiatrist has to deal with his own fears of having his own dark "awakening." The more he learns of the evil his patient is capable of, the more he is tempted to "wake up" to the hatred and evils that he may be more prone to. The trailers that I posted for each of these films on the nominations board shows the dark "awakenings" that I'm talking about very well. 

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I nominated Now, Voyager (1942). The Bette Davis character wakes up from an existent bound by a controlling, abusive mother. With the help of a great psychiatrist, she becomes willing to take the risk to go on a vacation by herself through which she wakes up to the bigger world beyond the walls of the house and the mother she's been bound to. On the vacation, she develops a romance with a married man, and the romance is what's most talked about with this movie and it certainly is an important part of her waking up but much more significant is that the romance paves a way for her to facilitate an awakening just like she's had for her lover's daughter. 

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I named A Man Called Ove. Ove repeatedly does three things in life: talk at the grave of his wife, unsuccessfully try to kill himself, and call other people idiots. At one point in the movie, we see him at his wife's grave saying, "Idiot! That's what I've been." When he calls himself an idiot, he faces his own problems instead of blaming them on everybody else. Learning that he's the only idiot in his story means he wakes up to the acceptance of love and help from other people. He wakes up to his own needs, and he wakes up to a reason to keep living.

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I nominated The Artist. Much more than a sweet love letter to Hollywood, this study in hubris shows both sides of it (arrogance and self-defeat). George Valentine's crisis in the movie is whether he will continue living in his no-longer-existant silent world or cross over into the world of sound movies. This crossing over is a beautiful picture of a spiritual awakening. Whether he makes it or not depends on how he deals with the pride plaguing him.

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I nominated A Bronx Tale. C (the character based on Chaz Palminteri's own childhood experience) is told by his father to work to be loved by others. He respects his father, but he's drawn into the spell of a gangster who also acts as a father figure to him and tells him that it's better to be feared by others than to be loved. The movie shows the process of C weighing through the advice given to him by his real father and the gangster he admires, learning to accept what is true and beneficial for him from both of them (as both of them do have a lot to offer him) and what just won't work (also plenty from both of them). This learning process culminates in a grand awakening when he's in a position of extreme peer pressure, and in narration he tells us that in that situation he made his decision by listening to the voice of his father and the voice of Sonny (the gangster). Through listening to these very different and seemingly contradictory voices, he wakes up to a new sense of reality, a new sense of identity, and a new sense of life.

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Posted (edited)

Tender Mercies—I looked through the Top 100 to see if I could spot any obvious films for this list that hadn’t been nominated yet. It’s probably been 10 years since I’ve seen Tender Mercies, but I think this film is a powerful example of spiritually waking up as a slow, difficult, real-life process. Country singer Mac’s journey from rock bottom alcoholism to recovery is one of waking up to meaningful relationships, including attempts to heal broken ones, spiritual redemption, and a new chance at life. I remember thinking that the religious aspects of this (going to church, prayer, baptism, singing hymns) were only byproducts of Mac’s larger transformation, but now I see these scenes as central to the film. The film is basically a feature-length demonstration of the meaning of baptism and conversion.

Edited by Rob Z

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I nominated Captains Courageous. The child, left to himself with too much money in a school for rich kids but no idea how to actually make it in the real world. When he accidentally goes overboard his father's ship, he is rescued by a man who becomes a real father figure to him. His near drowning is the first step in waking up to the real world, to relationships, to the value of work, and how to live interdependently in community.

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I nominated Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Li Mu Bai is struggles in his deep search for a spiritual enlightenment which he views as always contrary to his feelings. This leads him to constantly restrain himself from the woman he loves. When he opens himself up to honesty with his feelings and with her, he experiences a type of spiritual awakening much different from the one he seeks and it becomes the catalyst for all three of the film's main characters to wake up in their own ways.

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I nominated 127 Hours primarily because of the scene immediately after Aaron escapes. He simply looks up, but this upward look is filmed in such a way to show us that he knows he has awakened, not just to physical freedom from the rock he was stuck under, but a spiritual awakening. The gaze shows us that in his helpless state, he experienced something of a spiritual reality that he is now awakened to and acknowledging.

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All right, I'm going to try to catch up with my justifications for nominating what I did.

Contact is the story of scientist Ellie Arroway’s awakening to the existence of spiritual reality as a legitimate dimension of the world. Extra-terrestrial intelligence serve as a stand-in for God in a way for Ellie, both in what she most deeply seeks as well as what awakens her spiritually.

The film tests different kinds of faith (including science) and finds them all wanting (some more so than others). By the end of the film, Ellie realizes that others’ stories of belief in God or transcendence have merit. The film ultimately falls back on empirical evidence for faith, but it affirms this faith nonetheless as another legitimate way to seek truth, and a better kind of way to seek certain kinds of truth that are not fully accountable by scientific means. I think the kind of spiritual awakening the film portrays is an important way that many people come to realize that there is “more” than meets the eye to reality.

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I've hesitated and held out on nominating what is probably the most popular movie of all time, because in most regards it just doesn't need to be on another list. But when we're talking about waking up, and specifically about spiritual awakenings, I don't think there's ever been a moment in any movie that reflects this theme in quite the same profound way as when Han Solo says to Luke, "May the force be with you," showing that Han has awakened to the story's spiritual realm through the influence of his friend demonstrating its reality for him throughout the course of the movie. So after a long inner battle over the decision, I nominated Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

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I have a question for those who have been nominating films here or even just paying attention to this thread. I'd like to start watching some more nominated films beyond ones I've already seen before voting starts. Could you suggest one film? Which one film would you most want others to consider for the list? (Maybe it's one you nominated, but not necessarily. Maybe the one you'd most like to see on the final list, or perhaps a less famous one that shouldn't go overlooked.) Thanks!

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7 hours ago, Rob Z said:

I have a question for those who have been nominating films here or even just paying attention to this thread. I'd like to start watching some more nominated films beyond ones I've already seen before voting starts. Could you suggest one film? Which one film would you most want others to consider for the list? (Maybe it's one you nominated, but not necessarily. Maybe the one you'd most like to see on the final list, or perhaps a less famous one that shouldn't go overlooked.) Thanks!

I'd recommend Something, Anything from Paul Harrill. I believe it's available via streaming on iTunes and Amazon. Wish that film would get a proper DVD or Blu-ray release so I could own it!

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18 hours ago, Rob Z said:

I have a question for those who have been nominating films here or even just paying attention to this thread. I'd like to start watching some more nominated films beyond ones I've already seen before voting starts. Could you suggest one film? Which one film would you most want others to consider for the list? (Maybe it's one you nominated, but not necessarily. Maybe the one you'd most like to see on the final list, or perhaps a less famous one that shouldn't go overlooked.) Thanks!

I really want to push for I Don't Want to Sleep Alone. It's a good movie, for one thing, and it does interesting things with the sleeping/waking theme (see the screencaps I posted). And it hasn't gotten a second, which either means no one else thinks it's worthwhile or that not enough people have seen it. I'll assume the latter and recommend watching. 

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22 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

I'd recommend Something, Anything from Paul Harrill. I believe it's available via streaming on iTunes and Amazon. Wish that film would get a proper DVD or Blu-ray release so I could own it!

Yes!

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On 5/8/2017 at 3:39 AM, Rob Z said:

I have a question for those who have been nominating films here or even just paying attention to this thread. I'd like to start watching some more nominated films beyond ones I've already seen before voting starts. Could you suggest one film? Which one film would you most want others to consider for the list? (Maybe it's one you nominated, but not necessarily. Maybe the one you'd most like to see on the final list, or perhaps a less famous one that shouldn't go overlooked.) Thanks!

Pressure Point is streaming on AmazonPrime. It hasn't received a second yet, and I think the reason is probably the same as what NBooth thinks about I Don't Want to Sleep AlonePressure Point gives a unique, very dark type of awakening as it shows the process of a Neo-Nazi's indoctrination and the fear that consumes his psychologist, the psychologist being afraid of his own anger and hurt, afraid that he may be capable of waking up in the same way as his client.

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I don’t think of “awakening” as one of Bergman’s spiritual themes, and while Through a Glass Darkly resonates with many of his darker themes,  it also features spiritual awakening. David, the father, has had a spiritual awakening after a time of despair just before the action of the film begins. He then attempts to make right with his family after selfishly abandoning them. His attempts are weak but sincere. He apologizes to his daughter Karin for exacerbating her mental illness; at the end he even has a genuine conversation with his son Minus, perhaps for the first time. David has a couple great discussions of his spiritual breakthrough. One is about how we circle ourselves with defenses but life and reality keep breaking through. Another, at the end, is that love is the best proof for God’s existence, and that indeed God is love. He, and Minus also, are able to find hope and meaning, which is saying something considering it's a Bergman film!

 

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Posted (edited)

Nominating Selma:

 

A few weeks ago, we had a discussion/debate going about the civil rights crisis (past and current) and whether the concept of staying “woke” in a civil rights sense should have an impact on this list.  I see that Malcolm X and Fruitvale Station were both nominated with this connection in mind.  Both of those are appropriate nominations for this category.  With openness to this line of thinking in mind, I rewatched DuVernay’s Selma to see how well it would fit with this list. 

 

It’s clear to me after my rewatch that Selma would make a striking and appropriate contribution to our list.  There are all sorts of waking up going on here (both black and white), and those embedded in a film that is an artistic achievement on many levels. 

 

Here are just a few ways I see “waking up” in Selma:

 

-The film unfolds many stirring examples of the civil rights movement itself waking up on ever-deepening levels to the urgency of the task at hand.  My favorite example is when King gives a speech at the funeral of the murdered Jimmie Lee Jackson.  In this remarkable scene, the viewer is carried along the crest of the urgent wave that rolls toward the Selma march itself.  We see King’s speech propel that wave along.  We and the listeners in the film are woken by that wave as one would be woken by cold water in the face.

 

-The Selma march itself wakes up the nation as a whole to the necessity of progress in civil rights, and this is depicted both in scenes making clear that many (black and white) were coming from far distances to participate in the march and in scenes of the march unfolding via TV in front of the nation.
 

-I will also never forget the scene in which King drives John Lewis in a car while Lewis wakes up King from his own fatigue and discouragement.  Piercingly, Lewis uses King’s own past words to rouse King from despair.  Lewis says, “You said we would triumph, that we would triumph because there could be no other way.  And you know what else you said?  You said, ‘Fear not.  We’ve come too far to turn back now.’” 

 

This last is the sort of wake-up that says “arise and remember who you are, remember where we’ve come from, and remember where we’re going.”  Cold water to the face, indeed.  But also refreshing and clear water.

Edited by Brian D

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Nominating A Touch of Zen. This movie is massive and demands multiple viewings, but even after one I'm pretty confident nominating it for this list. Not only do we get the nominal protagonist "waking up" to the world of wuxia surrounding him, but the climax of the movie features a set of Buddhist monks waking up the ultimate antagonist to his position (I've seen this movie described as an action film about nonviolence, and that's not an unfair description). Senses of Cinema has a pretty good write-up of this movie. For my purposes, I will extract this paragraph:

The Abbot is certainly undergoing “a process whereby he achieves Buddhahood”, as both Teo and Mary Farquar note. But the direction towards which his arm points is mysterious. Is he suggesting survivors return to the world of involvement? (6) The appearance of the monastery in the next shot, against the clouds within a background of gold, seems to deny this. In a climax where any fixed interpretation appears impossible, it may be the case that Hui directs the survivors to the area of refuge that the monastery once was. But we see the monastery vanish and the gold background remain. It is almost as if Hu suggests continuing an attempt to find a refuge, whether from the espionage activities of the Ming Dynasty Eastern Group or the turbulent world of his time (with Maoist China in conflict with a capitalist West), and a move toward some goal of transcendence (7). This is not mere escapism since one of his subsequent films, Raining in the Mountain, reveals a monastery not immune from outside pressures but striving to reach some form of peace and equilibrium that will one day extend beyond its borders. Like any major artist, King Hu cannot literarily describe that future utopia of harmonious resolution but only suggest it by using transcendental cinematic techniques of his own that go beyond conventional narrative representations.

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Still waiting for your second:

 

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days

 

There is a half-wilted pink flower.  It appears in a prominent place in the room right after this film’s most horrific passages.  Is this flower beautiful?  Is it alive?

 

Waking up to the consequences of decisions.  Waking up to the weight of the devaluation of life. 

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22 hours ago, Brian D said:

Waking up to the consequences of decisions.  Waking up to the weight of the devaluation of life. 

I buy this enough to second it. Not sure if it's enough to get me to vote for it though :)

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