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Joel Mayward

2017 Arts & Faith Ecumenical Jury Nominations and Discussion Thread

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Link to our original 2014 thread. Link to our 2015 thread. Link to our 2016 thread.

As the end of this year is quickly approaching, I've begun this thread for nominating, seconding, and discussing films for the Arts & Faith Ecumenical Jury for 2017. Here's a statement Ken Morefield wrote up for our first jury in 2014:

Quote

“The [Arts and Faith] Ecumenical Jury is made up of film critics and cinephiles who wish to recognize and celebrate films that use the medium to explore themes of religion, faith, or spirituality. We particularly seek to enlarge or expand the perception of what is meant by either labelling a film a "Christian" film or suggesting that it should be of interest to Christian audiences. The jury seeks to recognize quality films (regardless of genre) that have challenged, moved, enlightened, or entertained us and to draw the attention of Christian audiences to films it thinks have the potential to do the same for them.”

I think the statement remains applicable--it's appropriately broad and ecumenical, while also having the particular faith-focused nature of this end-of-year-list.

I want to propose a timeline here, and I'm very open to feedback/pushback, so let me know what you think:

Nominations open on November 1.  To nominate a film, simply post it here in this thread or email it directly to me (jmayward@gmail.com). All nominated films must receive a "second" vote from another jury member in order to appear on the voting ballot. Non-jurors can also recommend films for nomination in this thread, but they must be seconded by two jury members. I will keep a tally of all the nominated and seconded films here, updating it as we go. You can this same thread to discuss, advocate, question, process, or to direct folks to links to other threads or conversations about the nominated films. I'd encourage you to give your reasons behind nominating or seconding a film. Qualifying films: a first time theatrical, DVD/Blu-ray, streaming, or festival release in the 2017 calendar year.

Nominations will close at midnight on December 30. This is fairly late in the year for end-of-year film lists, but it mostly follows our pattern last year with Silence, and allows some of the late-year releases to be considered (like a certain Paul Thomas Anderson film). Is this date too late, or does it work for y'all? On December 31, I'll send jury members a link for a survey with all the nominated films that they can rank 1-5 (strongly disagree-strongly agree that the film should be on our jury's top 10 list). You are to vote only for films you have seen--if you haven't seen a film, simply leave that ballot blank or unranked. 

Voting closes on January 6. This gives a week for jury members to vote on the nominated films. Would having this occur after the holidays be more or less helpful for people's schedules? I recognize that folks may not want to be online or voting on film-related stuff the first week of the year. After the totals have been added up using some math wizardry, I'll send out an email with the results and post them here in the forum. Then I'll solicit "blurbs" for the final list, as well as your Honorable Mention--a film which did not end up on the top 10 list, but you would like to see recognized. I'll work with IMAGE on when/how the final list will be published.

Here's our jury, listed alphabetically and with the website/"brand" I currently have for you (let me know if you want to update or change this):

1.     Anders Bergstrom (3 Brothers Film)

2.     Peter Chattaway (FilmChat)

3.     Evan Cogswell (Catholic Cinephile)

4.     Steven D. Greydanus (National Catholic Register)

5.     Christian Hamaker (Crosswalk)

6.     Josh Hamm (Cut Print Film)

7.     M. Leary (Filmwell)

8.     Noel T. Manning (Cinemascene)

9.     Joel Mayward (CineMayward)

10.  Kenneth R. Morefield (1More Film Blog)

11.  Jeffrey Overstreet (Looking Closer)

12.  Kevin Sampson (Picture Lock)

13.  Melissa Tamminga (Seattle Screen Scene)

14. Gareth Higgins (The Porch / Movies & Meaning)

15. Josh Cabrita (MUBI Notebook / Cinema Scope)

I'm excited to have Melissa and Kevin as part of the jury this year, so welcome them to A&F! I've reached out to two others who have not responded yet; if they answer in the near future, I'll add them to our jury. Looking forward to our discussion of these 2017 films, and for creating another unique end-of-year list.

Edited by Joel Mayward

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List of Nominated Films (Seconded films are in Bold)

24 Frames

A Ghost Story

A Quiet Passion

After the Storm

Alphago

Aquarius

Beatriz at Dinner

Behemoth

Blade Runner 2049

Brigsby Bear

Call Me by Your Name

Columbus

Dunkirk

Endless Poetry

Ex Libris: The New York Public Library

First Reformed

For Akheem

Get Out

Good Time

Goodbye Christopher Robin

Graduation

Hostiles

Hunter Gatherer

Lady Bird

Logan Lucky

Loveless

Lucky

Marjorie Prime

Maudie

Milla

mother!

Mudbound

Novitiate

Okja

On the Beach at Night Alone

Patti Cake$

Patton Oswalt: Annihilation

Personal Shopper

Princess Cyd

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Sleep Has Her House

Song To Song

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Split

Strong Island

T2 Trainspotting

Table 19

The Beguiled

The Big Sick

The Boss Baby

The Florida Project

The Glass Castle

The Lost City of Z

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

The Salesman

The Son of Joseph

The Trip to Spain

The Unknown Girl

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

War for the Planet of the Apes

Western

Wonder Woman

Your Name.

Zama

 

Edited by Joel Mayward

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Thanks for organizing this, Joel!

I have seen fewer films than usual this year, but I'd like to nominate the following:

Song To Song (Terrence Malick)

Sleep Has Her House (Scott Barley)

Split (M. Night Shyamalan)

Good Time (Ben Safdie, Josh Safdie)

Milla (Valérie Massadian)

Western (Valeska Grisebach)

24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami)

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Anders   

I'd like to nominate Blade Runner 2049. As a rationale to start thinking about why I think it belongs on this list, I'm posting my brother's essay about it: http://3brothersfilm.com/2017/10/all-the-best-memories-are-hers-the-christ-figure-in-blade-runner-2049/

Also nominating:

Get Out (Peele)

Dunkirk (Nolan)

T2 Trainspotting (Boyle)

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Baumbach)

 

Second:

Song to Song (Malick)

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Before we get too far into the nominating process, please do let me know, either here in the thread or DM or email, if the timeline I proposed will work for you. Or I can take one's silence as one's approval. :) I had intended to have a day or so for such feedback before nominations begin on November 1, but I'm also not gonna micromanage the process or conversation.

One more thing: two years ago, Colin Stacy worked hard to procure screeners for this jury, and it was really helpful. I will be doing my best to contact publicists and distributors as I can, but my context (living in Scotland) has altered a bit of that communication and access (i.e. all of my OFCS mailed screeners are still at my US mailing address in Portland, OR). So, if someone wants to take up this screener-getting banner, that would be wonderful.

I nominate:

The Unknown Girl (the Dardennes). Every one of their films is a parabolic masterpiece, IMO, and while this was critically decried after Cannes last year, I think it's incredibly well-crafted as a mystery, and contains a lot of questions about responsibility for loving one's neighbour.

Columbus (Kogonado). I've written about this film twice now, and I keep wanting to come back to revisit it--it's conversations and musings, but also its images and framing. A beautiful film, and one which raises important questions about vocation, as well as worship.

Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas). It's a ghost story about grief and loss, as well as a meditation on art and technology. That it manages to keep both of those aspects elevated within the script is worth applauding.

Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins). It's the film I've personally seen the most in theatres this year. I showed it to a group of high school teens for a theology summer institute, and the post-viewing conversation (over ice cream, of course) was deeply encouraging. There are all sorts of theological ideas embedded within the film, but it's also significant for its images and character development, as well as Gadot's and Pine's performances.

The Son of Joseph (Eugene Green). It's the Nativity story...kind of. Green's formal approach can be a bit off-putting, but I found this to be much more engaging and full of ideas than the last film we nominated for this jury, La Sapienza. A lot of it involves two people simply having a conversation about the nature of art, God, and/or familial relationships. It'd make for an interesting companion to Columbus, actually. This was streaming on Netflix in the US, but it may not be now.

I second: Dunkirk, Get Out, and Blade Runner 2049 (that essay link from Anders had me rethink Blade Runner 2049 quite a bit. The film's depiction of women is still problematic, IMO, but the Christ-figure imagery is worth noting.)

Edited by Joel Mayward

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7 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

Before we get too far into the nominating process, please do let me know, either here in the thread or DM or email, if the timeline I proposed will work for you. Or I can take one's silence as one's approval. :) I had intended to have a day or so for such feedback before nominations begin on November 1, but I'm also not gonna micromanage the process or conversation.

One more thing: two years ago, Colin Stacy worked hard to procure screeners for this jury, and it was really helpful. I will be doing my best to contact publicists and distributors as I can, but my context (living in Scotland) has altered a bit of that communication and access (i.e. all of my OFCS mailed screeners are still at my US mailing address in Portland, OR). So, if someone wants to take up this screener-getting banner, that would be wonderful.

 

 

I have no problem with the timeline.

Regarding screeners. I was concerned last year about Colin not being on the jury and not having a screener point-person, but it did seem like the bulk of the jurors had access to screeners through some other organizations. So it may be sufficient to have a venue where jurors who don't get screeners can ask for contact information of the publicists to request them individually.  This usually takes the form of "Hey, I'd like to watch [nominated film], does anyone have contact information for the publicst(s) so that I can request a screener"?

Edited by kenmorefield

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Joel, I'll just go ahead and request a clarification on the eligibility issue since Personal Shopper was, I believe, nominated last year but not widely seen. How do you want to handle eligibility questions? Theatrical release in 2016? Seen for the first time by critics in 2016? Doesn't have to be the way we did it in past, but there should probably be some intentionality about eligibility.

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Anders   

I'm fine with this timeline.

Also, last year I personally contacted a few of the distributors/publicists and got online screeners for some of the films which I was then able to catch up with in Dec. It wasn't too hard. I'm going to begin that process shortly, and I'll pass on information if/when I have any success in contacting folks.

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2 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

Joel, I'll just go ahead and request a clarification on the eligibility issue since Personal Shopper was, I believe, nominated last year but not widely seen. How do you want to handle eligibility questions? Theatrical release in 2016? Seen for the first time by critics in 2016? Doesn't have to be the way we did it in past, but there should probably be some intentionality about eligibility.

In past years, we've mostly allowed the jury votes to determine such eligibility issues, especially festival vs. wide release. So, The Unknown Girl was brought up last year, and I think The Witch was nominated both 2015 (Sundance) and 2016 (wide release), but I don't think enough folks saw The Unknown Girl to vote it into the top 10 (and The Witch just didn't make it either year). In the opening post, I described qualifications as "a first time theatrical, DVD/Blu-ray, streaming, or festival release in the 2017 calendar year." I'd put emphasis on the "or", and keep it intentionally broad while also sticking with the 2017 calendar. I was also assuming US release dates here, despite my current location. If there are issues with eligibility, we can discuss it via this thread here.

Also, Gareth Higgins is in as well! I've added his name to the above post as a jury member.

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The timeline is fine.

I keep a running list of films I've seen each year, but I keep it on my laptop and don't have access to it while I'm here at work. I keep forgetting to post it in an accessible place. So for now, I'll add a few nominees from memory. I will probably add more later, but if so, I'll create a new post so that the new nominees will be visible to those looking at new posts. If Joel prefers I update this post with additional nominees, I can do that, but then others have to actively be looking at this post, with no notification that it's been updated, right? That seems to disadvantage future nominees, but if that's the way we're supposed to supplement an initial batch of nominees, I'll abide by that.

I nominate the following, all seen at festivals and not opening until late in the year (except for Novitiate, which opened in NY/LA this past weekend):

Loveless (opens in December)

Hostiles (opens in December)

Novitiate

I second:

Personal Shopper (my #1 film of the year so far, so I hope it'll be deemed eligible for the 2017 Jury awards)

The Florida Project

Columbus

The Son of Joseph

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48 minutes ago, Christian said:

If Joel prefers I update this post with additional nominees, I can do that, but then others have to actively be looking at this post, with no notification that it's been updated, right? That seems to disadvantage future nominees, but if that's the way we're supposed to supplement an initial batch of nominees, I'll abide by that.

Simply add new posts in a new comment within the thread. No need to limit all of one's nominees in a single post, as you're right, it would limit discussion and engagement if we just each kept adding to a single comment.

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Evan C   

The timeline is fine with me.

 

I nominate:
 

The Beguiled

A Quiet Passion

Graduation

The Salesman

The Lost City of Z

and because I think it does deserve a place on this list, even though I'm sure I'm pretty much the only one: mother!

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Reasons for my nominations above (taken from capsule reviews I wrote of the films):

 

Loveless

The best film I saw at Middleburg, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s drama of marital dissolution and systemic corruption uses the story of a missing boy and his divorcing parents to demonstrate the different forms a lack of love takes. From its hard-to-shake reveal of a young boy overhearing his parents tear into each other to a conclusion that offers little comfort, Loveless is pointed about the things that nourish us and give us life (pregnancy is a major story element) and those that destroy it (abortion and suspected abduction). In a bleak, loveless world, a man described as a fundamentalist Christian seems close to joyful, relatively speaking, if only in a Ned Flanders sort of way. Zvagintsev may not see answers in faith—he’s more attuned to hypocrisies in that realm—but in diagnosing the fraying of family life and cultural norms, he’s made something simultaneously slow and gripping, driven by mysteries with no easy solutions.

Novitiate

A fine religious drama about a young woman’s search for spiritual significance, Novitiate stars Margaret Qualley (HBO’s The Leftovers) as Sister Cathleen, a postulant under the care of a Reverend Mother (Melissa Leo) who  wrestles with how or whether to implement the changes resulting from Vatican II. “We were women in love,” Sister Cathleen says of the nuns’ devotion to Christ, but they struggle under the Reverend Mother’s rigorous forms of religious discipline. Qualley’s sensitive portrayal of Sister Cathleen and the honest way in which the nuns express concerns, even doubts, about the life they believe they’re called to provide a connection even for non-Catholics to appreciate the nuns’ struggles. This is honest, brave storytelling that doesn’t celebrate doubt but allows its characters to genuinely seek the truth.

Hostiles

In the late 1880s, under orders of the U.S. government, Army captain Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) must escort the dying Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family back to his home in Montana, where he can die in peace. Blocker has seen too much bloodshed at the hands of Native Americans to want the “honor” of such an assignment, but when his pension is threatened, Blocker reluctantly agrees to the journey. Dangers from hostile natives will draw Blocker and Yellow Hawk together as they take on a common adversary. The story is violent at times and not without some pacing problems, but director Scott Cooper has made a worthy addition to the canon of revisionist Westerns with Hostiles, which includes scenes of men reading Scripture, singing spirituals and sharing heartfelt expressions of faith.

Edited by Christian

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2 hours ago, Evan C said:

A Quiet Passion

Graduation

The Salesman

The Lost City of Z

and because I think it does deserve a place on this list, even though I'm sure I'm pretty much the only one: mother!

I second all of these, including mother!

I don't second The Beguiled but only because I haven't yet seen it.

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More! Though I have reservations about it, I think Lady Bird is worth nominating:

Lady Bird

If the name Saoirse Ronan isn’t familiar to you yet, it soon will be. In Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Ronan plays Christine, or “Lady Bird” as she prefers to be called—a Catholic high school senior desperate to flee her home state of California. Hoping to gain admittance to an East Coast college, she conspires with her father against the wishes of her mother to apply to out-of-state schools as she searches for an identity to embrace. There are pleasures along the way for viewers, but there are also familiar tropes: a gay character struggling with when to come out, and one horrible abortion joke that is so facile I was embarrassed for the audience members who laughed at it. But the ending of Lady Bird won me back to the film, suggesting that the few cheap barbs along the way maymay—be part of Christine’s journey to a more meaningful life.

I'll also add two nominations from that running list that I can now access. The first falls into the "not well reviewed but suitable, I think, for this list" - I always nominate one or two such movies, although they rarely make the cut:

The Glass CastleFeels familiar at times in prompting a heroine to confront her parents' failings, but The Glass Castle also acknowledges an uncomfortable, unshakeable truth: even the most troubled parents "have their moments," and reconciliation brings closure and healing.

A Ghost Story: More a story about grief than about the afterlife, and not orthodox in its view of what follows death. But while it goes in directions I didn't completely track (I need to see it again), the film has stayed with me, even - wait for it - haunted me since seeing it. I know others have (legitimate) issues with it. I was on the fence about bringing it up for the jury's consideratioin, but I've tipped into the "nominate it" camp.

Edited by Christian

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Evan C   

I'll second A Ghost Story and Wonder Woman.

 

And because it's about caring for all of creation, and admiring the beauty, joy, and sacredness of life, I nominate Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Should we invite Ryan to be on the jury?

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I second The Unknown Girl

Not sure if it will get a full release in time for enough to see it, but I nominate First Reformed. I've linked to my full review.

I also nominate Goodbye Christopher Robin. The script is uneven, but the parts I liked, I really liked. I thought the film did a great job of representing trauma and depression and the ending showed...well, I won't give away spoilers.

And just because I've never been one to shy away from an unpopular opinion, I will treble down and nominate The Boss Baby, It's actually a better version of mother! (which I don't second, even though I have seen The Beguiled.)

P. S. I also nominate Alphago, a pretty great documentary about a match between a computer program and a world champion Go player. It's not exactly about what it means to be human, except....well, it is. 

Edited by kenmorefield

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36 minutes ago, kenmorefield said:

Not sure if it will get a full release in time for enough to see it, but I nominate First Reformed. I've linked to my full review.

IMDB currently lists April 2018 for its US release. This may be one of those cases where it may end up on a 2018 list just because enough people haven't been able to view it this year. Its reception from TIFF has me really looking forward to it.

Edited by Joel Mayward

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Anders   

Yeah, I've seen and would definitely nominate First Reformed, but those of us who didn't catch it at TIFF or Telluride probably will be the only ones who can comment. I'll be leaving it off my top ten list for this reason, though it would rank in the top 2-3 of the year for sure and is the most spiritually significant film I've seen this year.

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1 hour ago, Anders said:

Yeah, I've seen and would definitely nominate First Reformed, but those of us who didn't catch it at TIFF or Telluride probably will be the only ones who can comment. I'll be leaving it off my top ten list for this reason, though it would rank in the top 2-3 of the year for sure and is the most spiritually significant film I've seen this year.

Is this a second for First Reformed?

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Anders   

Hmm, sure. I mean, I guess if enough of us are able to vote for it, then it should be on the list.

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My Nominated Films:
 
1: Endless Poetry - the heart of a clown, the mind of a wizard, the gift of a healer.
 
2: Patti Cake$ - an elevating, hilarious, truly moving remake of ROCKY that manages to upend white and middle class privilege.
 
3: mother! - which articulate a theology of the eucharist that might save the world. (And Evan, you're not alone.)
 
4:  Maudie - I know it's not historically accurate but good lord those performances.
 
5: The Lost City of Z - I know it's not historically accurate but good lord those images, those feelings, those questions.
 
 
Also: 
 
Dunkirk
 
Beatriz at Dinner
 
A Ghost Story 
 
War for the Planet of the Apes (life is not a zero sum game)
 
Brigsby Bear
 
OKJA 
 
The Big Sick
 
After the Storm
 
Your Name
 
Blade Runner 2049
 
Lucky
 
Spider-Man: Homecoming (for allowing less than total destruction)
 
Table 19
 
Logan Lucky
 
Columbus
 
The Meyerowitz Stories 
 
 
If I could, I would also nominate the screening of The Color Purple we did at the Movies & Meaning festival earlier in the year, because it was one of the most magical experiences I've ever had in a cinema...and the 4K restoration of Unforgiven I saw in Paris.  I do like to stay positive, but if I were to name the worst of the year, it would be the surprisingly empty Despicable Me 3, and the way that the ending of Colossal negated everything humane that had gone before...
 
 
 

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I'll second The Beguiled, Your Name., and War for the Planet of the Apes.

Glad to have Gareth as part of this conversation!

Edited by Joel Mayward

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