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


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MLeary wrote:
:  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.

But wouldn't a film about someone becoming "woke" inevitably be a film about someone of European descent and their journey of moral discovery or whatever?

Also, I'd kind of hate it if this list was seen as an attempt to tie in to the whole "woke" thing. I don't recall anyone citing that as a reason to pursue this theme in our previous discussions (though maybe someone did, and I missed it?). I'm generally not fond of political topicality -- the pursuit of perceived political relevance -- when compiling lists of this sort.

Joel Mayward wrote:
: 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?

Not sure how would this play out in practice. Individual viewers can say what they say about certain films and how those films affected them (see, e.g., my comments elsewhere about the psychological trauma and moral-religious angst I experienced after seeing The Crying Game 24 years ago), but a *collective* expression of films that fit this theme is something else. And really, there are probably very few films that *haven't* caused *someone* to "wake up" to a new reality.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"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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1 hour ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

But wouldn't a film about someone becoming "woke" inevitably be a film about someone of European descent and their journey of moral discovery or whatever?

I don't think so, given that the origin of "woke" in current parlance was with internal use in the black community.

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Rushmore wrote:
: I don't think so, given that the origin of "woke" in current parlance was with internal use in the black community.

Are there films in which black Americans "wake up" to "our current civil rights crises", then? It seems to me that the point one often hears is that white Americans need to "wake up" to realities that minority Americans have never been able to ignore, etc.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"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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17 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Also, I'd kind of hate it if this list was seen as an attempt to tie in to the whole "woke" thing. I don't recall anyone citing that as a reason to pursue this theme in our previous discussions (though maybe someone did, and I missed it?). I'm generally not fond of political topicality -- the pursuit of perceived political relevance -- when compiling lists of this sort.

Joel Mayward wrote:
: 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?

Not sure how would this play out in practice. Individual viewers can say what they say about certain films and how those films affected them (see, e.g., my comments elsewhere about the psychological trauma and moral-religious angst I experienced after seeing The Crying Game 24 years ago), but a *collective* expression of films that fit this theme is something else. And really, there are probably very few films that *haven't* caused *someone* to "wake up" to a new reality.

I hear you. I was not intending to shift the list toward that theme. Just wanted to raise the question, as I would hate to see Image/A&F get hammered on Twitter for perpetuating a connection between cultural privilege and spiritual awakening in an era when people are getting "woke" to even deeper connections between social polity and religion. Ownership over the definition of what constitutes "waking up" is a really powerful thing.

A positive thing about this concept - it works like a litmus test on me. When I got into cinema, I really associated "spirituality" with the contemplative tradition, which is predominately either white and European, or the independent scene in the US which is still pretty really white and middle class. Even all the bits of Asian or Latin American cinema I find so energizing trickled down to me through the same channels. I know I am walking into a minefield with this comment, but I have been trying to break out of that mold over the past five years or so by shifting the ways I find films, trying to bracket out "sacramentality" as my default description for what constitutes spirituality in cinema, and unlearning some of the continental theological stuff which has so inflected my sense of what it means to be a person. As it turns out, my very sense of what constitutes "waking up" is not always shared by other film directors.

--

Funny that you should mention Crying Games. I thought of you nominating that film given your past comments on it.

 

Edited by M. Leary

"...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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8 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Rushmore wrote:
: I don't think so, given that the origin of "woke" in current parlance was with internal use in the black community.

Are there films in which black Americans "wake up" to "our current civil rights crises", then? It seems to me that the point one often hears is that white Americans need to "wake up" to realities that minority Americans have never been able to ignore, etc.

Yeah, there are. But more often in the sense of a black director constructing a space in which black audiences would perceive the race crisis in a different way - like all of Burnett and the Black Independent Movement cinema stuff. Same could be said of Spike Lee's narrative films. Baldwin's writing always worked in a similar way, trying to help his audience connect dots between class, policy, and autobiography. 

But a more direct example is Lee's Malcolm X, which is very much about X's spiritual awakening(s). Also Jewison's In The Heat of The Night is a good example of both white and black characters shifting in their racial expectations of each other. Boyz in the Hood is a good document of race identity in the 90s, and was a direct attempt to "wake up" black viewers to the toll of urban violence.

Edited by M. Leary

"...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)

Filmwell | Twitter

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I'm British and not that politically active so forgive my ignorance - what is the 'civil rights crisis' African-Americans are having? 

17 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Also, I'd kind of hate it if this list was seen as an attempt to tie in to the whole "woke" thing. I don't recall anyone citing that as a reason to pursue this theme in our previous discussions (though maybe someone did, and I missed it?). I'm generally not fond of political topicality -- the pursuit of perceived political relevance -- when compiling lists of this sort.

More or less the same here. In terms of our list - I think we need to accept that we are overwhelmingly a group of white dudes. I think we should just honestly nominate the films that we find fitting to the theme, rather than trying to second-guess whether the Twitterati are going to call us out on our privilege/unwokeness. I'd love it if that list includes a huge variety of cinematic styles from across the globe, but if not so be it. If we get moved sideways into a politically-charged 'relevance' I'll really wish I'd voted for 'coming of age'...

6 hours ago, M. Leary said:

When I got into cinema, I really associated "spirituality" with the contemplative tradition, which is predominately either white and European, or the independent scene in the US which is still pretty really white and middle class. Even all the bits of Asian or Latin American cinema I find so enervating trickled down to me through the same channels. I know I am walking into a minefield with this comment, but I have been trying to break out of that mold over the past five years or so by shifting the ways I find films, trying to bracket out "sacramentality" as my default description for what constitutes spirituality in cinema, and unlearning some of the continental theological stuff which has so inflected my sense of what it means to be a person. As it turns out, my very sense of what constitutes "waking up" is not always shared by other film directors.

On the other hand, I find this comment interesting, and I'd be interested if you could elaborate on this a little. It made me think about my own assumptions on cinematic spirituality (as tending toward the slow and meditative).

One silly question - did you mean 'enervating' or 'energizing' (the opposite)? 'Cause I can't quite work out what that sentence means...

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I nominated Chaplin's The Great Dictator. The unnamed Jewish barber wakes up to the ability and power he has to stop the oppression against him and the rest of the Jews in "Tomania" all unlocked because of mistaken identity since he looks like the dictator Hinkel (aka Hitler). His speech after he's taken Hinkel's place is immensely powerful because of the belief it expresses that the Nazi regime can be overcome. The last line of the speech, "Look up Hannah" is a call to his girlfriend and his community to wake up as he's awakened, and Chaplin's whole point of the movie was to wake up America to the reality of what was happening to Jews in 1940...too bad it took Pearl Harbor to wake America up when Chaplin gave it the opportunity for over a year before.

Edited by EdB99
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M. Leary wrote:
: I would hate to see Image/A&F get hammered on Twitter for perpetuating a connection between cultural privilege and spiritual awakening in an era when people are getting "woke" to even deeper connections between social polity and religion. Ownership over the definition of what constitutes "waking up" is a really powerful thing.

Well, Twitter needs to be ignored a lot more than it is, in general. But I always assumed that "waking up" would involve some sort of "unsettling" of one's original perception of reality. Might be political, might be sexual, might be spiritual, whatever. I just don't want this list to suddenly get yoked to a hyper-politicized meme-of-the-moment.

And now for some reason I'm thinking of the 1956 version of The Ten Commandments and how it tied into the Civil Rights movement of its era with its depiction of Moses "waking up" to the fact that he's the child of slaves and slavery is wrong etc.

Incidentally, while thinking about this list, I have also found my mind drifting back to a review I wrote a couple decades ago (for a Christian newspaper) about a woman who leaves her husband for another man, and how I tied that film in to Philip Yancey's What's So Amazing about Grace? and a comment he made in there that even stories about people having affairs are on *some* level about people discovering unexpected grace in their lives (even if one disagrees with their moral choices).

: Funny that you should mention Crying Games. I thought of you nominating that film given your past comments on it.

Interesting!

: But a more direct example is Lee's Malcolm X, which is very much about X's spiritual awakening(s).

Ah, yes, I could see that.

"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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Inspired by the discussion above, I nominated Malcolm X. His conversion to Islam vividly shows his waking up to a spiritual realm as well as to his own ability to make a difference in the world. His time in India shows an awaking to the deficiencies of his own narrow, bigoted worldview. When betrayed by the head of the Nation of Islam, he wakes up to the ways that his own belief system has become oppressive all leading to a scene at the end that brings his spiritual life full circle as when he wakes up again, graciously accepting the prayers of a Christian (the faith he abandoned before all the other awakenings), expressing willingness to accept help from anybody invested in his cause of civil rights regardless of their race or faith. 

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I nominated the 1944 version of Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman & Charles Boyer. The process she goes through in learning the truth about her husband's crimes unveils the truth about her own identity. She wakes up from a type of insanity forced on her by her husband's abuse to a revelation of what her life can be free of his manipulation, certainly a type of conversion experience.

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Once a Moth, where a nurse whose dreams of working in the U.S. are shattered by the death of her brother:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minsa'y_isang_Gamu-gamo

Also, Oro, Plata, Mata, where a pleasant "age of gold" is roused by the realities of war:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oro,_Plata,_Mata

This is How We Were. How Are You Doing Today?, where a young peasant awakens to ideas of nationhood:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganito_Kami_Noon,_Paano_Kayo_Ngayon

And Jaguar, a superb film about a publishing press security guard who is befriended by the boss' son and slowly wakes up to the dark undergrowth of Manila:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaguar_(1979_film)

 

 

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I nominated the documentary Life, Animated. Owen's autism is like a perpetual state of sleep for his family until they begin to understand that he sees the world and attempts to communicate through Disney movies. The whole family experiences a dramatic awakening to their identity as a family in this remarkably moving film.

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On 4/7/2017 at 3:00 PM, Anodos said:

I'm British and not that politically active so forgive my ignorance - what is the 'civil rights crisis' African-Americans are having? 

More or less the same here. In terms of our list - I think we need to accept that we are overwhelmingly a group of white dudes. I think we should just honestly nominate the films that we find fitting to the theme, rather than trying to second-guess whether the Twitterati are going to call us out on our privilege/unwokeness. I'd love it if that list includes a huge variety of cinematic styles from across the globe, but if not so be it. If we get moved sideways into a politically-charged 'relevance' I'll really wish I'd voted for 'coming of age'...

On the other hand, I find this comment interesting, and I'd be interested if you could elaborate on this a little. It made me think about my own assumptions on cinematic spirituality (as tending toward the slow and meditative).

One silly question - did you mean 'enervating' or 'energizing' (the opposite)? 'Cause I can't quite work out what that sentence means...

i meant the opposite. Not sure why the antonym came out like that, sorry.

"...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)

Filmwell | Twitter

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I'm going to let Nick Olson's review of Moonrise Kingdom argue for its inclusion in a list of films about "waking up" to a new way of seeing the world and a new kind of community:

Quote

Framed through the lens of first love, Sam and Suzy’s covenant bond is about pursuing a love that’s both beyond themselves and restorative of themselves. This is the kingdom they establish.

Add his commentary on the film's conclusion, and I think that says it all.

Edited by BethR

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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Could we have a running list of all nominated films along with which ones have been seconded?

"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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I nominated On the Waterfront. In the "I coulda been a contender speech," Terry admits he's a bum. He spends the entire movie leading up to the speech trying to prove to the world that he's not a bum. When he finally admits to being a bum, it is a waking up reminiscent of anyone singing "Amazing Grace...that saved a wretch like me." For Terry to confess that he's a bum is to wake up to the help offered from the priest and from the sister of the young man who's death he was somewhat responsible for, realizing that the entire world isn't against him and that he can experience purpose in life.

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On 4/10/2017 at 8:42 PM, Evan C said:

Could we have a running list of all nominated films along with which ones have been seconded?

UPDATED: Fri., April 21, 6:40 PM ETZ 

Here is what's been nominated so far. Every film listed in bold print has been seconded. 

 

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007)

Almost Famous (2000)

À nous la liberté (1931)

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Awakenings (1990)

Adam's Apples (2005)

Alice (1990)

Amazing Grace (2006)

Amélie (2001)

Angel and the Badman (1947)

Another Woman (1988)

Arrival (2016)

The Assassin (2015)

Barton Fink (1991)

Blue Velvet (1986)

Children of Men (2006)

Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

The Color Purple (1985)

Contact (1997)

David and Lisa (1962)

Doctor Strange (2016)

The Double Life of Veronique (1991)

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Fallen Angels (1995)

Fearless (1993)

The Fits (2016)

Fruitvale Station (2013)

Gaslight (1944)

The Great Dictator (1940)

Holiday (1938)

I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (2006)

I Heart Huckabees (2004)

Ikiru (1952)

The Illusionist (2011)

Inception (2010)

Ink (2009)

Joe versus the Volcano (1990)

Journey to the West (2013)

The Killer (1989)

Knight of Cups (2016)

La Belle Noiseuse (1991)

The Last Holiday (1950)

Life, Animated (2016)

The Lives of Others (2006)

Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry (2016)

Malcolm X (1992)

The Matrix (1999)

Metropolis (1927)

Moon (2009)

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Mulholland Drive (2001)

The New World (2005)

Now, Voyager (1942)

On the Waterfront (1954)

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (2006)

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Powder (1995)

Pressure Point (1962)

Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Red Beard (1962)

Rumble Fish (1982)

Running on Empty (1988)

Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)

The Secret of Kells (2009)

Shutter Island (2010)

Something, Anything (2014)

Take Shelter (2011)

They Might Be Giants (1971)

This Is Martin Bonner (2013)

The Traveler (1974)

The Tree of Life (2011)

The Trial (1962)

The Truman Show (1998)

Upstream Color (2013)

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (2013)

Wings of Desire (1987)

Edited by EdB99
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I nominated David and Lisa (1962). David, suffering from a form of OCD, keeps himself at a distance from other people, saying "a touch can kill" when someone so much as wants to shake his hand. His friendship with fellow patient Lisa eventually wakes him up to a new sense of reality that a touch can actually be life-giving.

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I nominated Awakenings (1990), not because of the temporary physical awakenings of encephalitis patients who have been in vegetative states for many years (what the title refers to), but because of the doctor's spiritual awakening. Through the awakenings and eventual un-awakening of each patient, the doctor wakes up to realities of life's preciousness, brevity, and the goodness within himself that he hasn't recognized. He awakens to a new understanding of what it means to be alive.

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I nominated Searching for Bobby Fischer. The young chess player's father experiences a powerful spiritual awakening. For most of the movie, he is much like a stereotypical competitive athlete-dad who lives his own dreams vicariously through his son's games, to the point of inflicting emotional abuse on his son. But the boy in Searching for Bobby Fischer has a love for chess, not for beating people, and the grace through which he plays the game eventually rubs off on his father, and his father awakens from his own past failures and crushed dreams, now willing to let his son be himself. The father is touched by his son's display of all the un-competative characteristics that he previously shunned. He wakes up to embrace the charity and hope for humanity that his son so freely gives, and he wakes up to pride in his son based on these characteristics, not based on his performance or achievement.

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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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