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kenmorefield

RESULTS: Top 25 Spiritually Significant Films on Growing Older

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A fascinating list--The Straight Story at #1 is not what I expected, but it's not an unpleasant surprise. The list leans towards world cinema, which is not a complaint either; I count seven American-directed films, and Before Midnight is set in Europe. 

Regarding a book, count me in--I could write on specific films, a thematic essay, or both!

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1 hour ago, kenmorefield said:

Ed B. had volunteered to do Late Spring, and I am okay with that, but since he is also doing The Straight Story, I'm not sure if we want the same person writing blurbs for #1 and #2, so I'll take volunteers for Late Spring for a day or two and if nobody else asks I'll see if Ed will do it. (Alternately, Ed, if you prefer to do Late Spring, I could reassign The Straight Story.) I could do Gertrud, but I already have two, so if anyone else wants it, I'm happy to let him/her have it. Jeffrey said he could do 35 Up, but he also has 2 so if I'd prioritize giving others a chance if anyone wants in.

 

 

I'd rather stick with Straight Story, so I hope someone else will volunteer for Late Spring. I think it would be a bit awkward to have the same person credited for blurbs on both of the top 2 and I already have two blurbs with Straight Story & Gleaners. But if nobody volunteers, I'd still be willing to do all three.

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Oh well, I guess I should have campaigned more for All That Jazz. I thought there was no better film to show the reckoning with one's mortality and how growing older is also an approach toward death, framed through a sense of vocation.

I'm still happy to write about Sunset Boulevard, and I could do Things to Come. I could maybe do Gertrud as well, but it's been awhile since I've seen it, and I'd need to rewatch it to write about it.

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Thanks Evan, I put you down for Things to Come.  I may circle back on Gertrud depending on how many others, if any, are able to write blurbs. 

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Great list!  My assumption is that y'all have the very reasonable expectation that blurb-writers be people who actually participated in the voting, but if not, or if you get caught in a bind, I'd happily volunteer to write any of these:

35 Up

Gertrud

Late Spring

Make Way for Tomorrow

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Thanks, Russ. I wouldn't say its an expectation, but I would say those who voted should have first dibs. So I'll wait 72 hours, and if there are still any of those titles available, I'd be happy to have you contribute. Ultimately, it's an A&F project, and you are a member.

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If in 72 hours you’re still looking for a blurb volunteer for The Remains of the Day, I’ll take it. I also wasn’t around for this nomination process, but I think you have a great list. Congrats to The Straight Story on topping an A&F Top 25 list for a second time. 

It’s been awhile since I’ve been on A&F (a combination of replacing a dead computer, not being able to remember a 15 year old password, and the inability to get a password retrieval because I’ve long since deleted the email account that I used to register on A&F - by a miracle, I came across a notation in a journal that had my A&F password), but I hope to be around a bit more in the future. 

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Hi John,

That's great news. As an aside -- if you ever are in a similar position you can reach out to an administrator (currently me or Joel) and we can reset your password or even your e-mail address associated with your account.

Ken

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On 4/17/2019 at 9:48 AM, kenmorefield said:

I'm curious for any other assessments: has this process and the preliminary results made you more or less sanguine about doing another Top 100 in 2020? 

 

Like two others who have posted response to this question, I'm relatively new here. This was my second top 25, and participation in each excites me about the prospect of a top 100. Nevertheless, Ken, earlier in the same post I quoted here, you suggested that 18 participants doesn't sound sufficient for a top 100. I agree with that. Do you have any idea about what a good minimum number should be? Would it be possible to set a date and try to recruit members that use the site for participation in the next list? Then, once we've reached that date, the decision of whether to do a top 100 or 25 can be based on whether or not we reached the minimum number of committed participants for a top 100. Just this week, two people who didn't take part in this list have offered to do blurbs, so maybe that begins to indicate there's more interest on the site for these lists that just needs a little encouragement.

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12 minutes ago, Ed Bertram said:

 Do you have any idea about what a good minimum number should be? 

That's a good question, and one I probably need to think about. I actually like smaller pools. In my experience with voting orgs and the Ecumenical Jury, the larger the pool gets the more all the lists look the same. It's also complicated by the fact that there are different levels of participation. We had 18 who voted in Round 1 but several people who nominated films but didn't vote, and a few who did neither still offered to write blurbs. So I'm okay with a minimum of, say, 15, if those 15 are actively participating. That's a different story if it is 7 or 8 that are participating and another 10-15 who nominally participate. 

I have no objections to trying to recruit people, but that's not where my skills or gifts lie. I don't have a big social media footprint and I'm better at making people aware of invitations or opportunities than persuading them to take them. I've been accused of having a more strident voice online, and that doesn't lend itself to recruitment. So I suspect if A&F does continue to revive or grow, it will do so organically rather than as a result of a membership drive or push. Or because someone more charismatic than I is able to draw people. 

With growth usually comes more friction. We're a peaceable group at the moment, but I think we've all experienced in one forum or another how quickly that can change as new voices enter and exit the mix. I think this forum community, any community really, can better absorb new voices if those voices are slowly added and have positive experiences here. I wonder -- don't know, just speculating -- if the push to get to 200 or 300 voters in whichever Top 100 list I participated in (back int the day) didn't put some strain on the community, expanding without a healthy foundation or without working through some of the core interpersonal issues. 

I need to say something else, too, and I hope it doesn't come across wrong. But I need to say it. I'm 53 years-old and tenured. I've probably got 10-15 professional years left. I don't expect to keel over any time soon, but I am at a stage in Life Cycle where I have more opportunities than energy, and I have to think intentionally about what is worth devoting a year or more of my professional life to. Certainly, if I can keep A&F afloat until I retire and set it up to continue after I am gone, I think that's a worthy use of my time. And part of that process is investing some of my time into projects like the Top 100 that draw people and make sure people will continue to visit (and some join). If I am honest, however, I would have to say that my ultimate vision is to focus my time and energy on the administrative side and let the community decide what projects we want to do communally. Right now we are a bit rudderless, and that's understandable. When I worked in food service (lo many decades ago) the manager sometimes had to work in the kitchen if they were short staffed to make sure customers got their food. That's good in a pinch, but it isn't a long term solution. I'm running this Top 25 because I honestly think that's what A&F needed at the moment and nobody else either could or felt comfortable doing it (though I thank Evan for tracking nominees). I'm happy to do it. But I don't want to be the one running a Top 25 or a Top 100 every year. So in addition to thinking about how many voters we need, we also need to be thinking about who else besides me can coordinate. 

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On 5/2/2019 at 8:26 PM, kenmorefield said:

I need to say something else, too, and I hope it doesn't come across wrong. But I need to say it. I'm 53 years-old and tenured. I've probably got 10-15 professional years left. I don't expect to keel over any time soon, but I am at a stage in Life Cycle where I have more opportunities than energy, and I have to think intentionally about what is worth devoting a year or more of my professional life to. Certainly, if I can keep A&F afloat until I retire and set it up to continue after I am gone, I think that's a worthy use of my time. And part of that process is investing some of my time into projects like the Top 100 that draw people and make sure people will continue to visit (and some join). If I am honest, however, I would have to say that my ultimate vision is to focus my time and energy on the administrative side and let the community decide what projects we want to do communally. Right now we are a bit rudderless, and that's understandable. When I worked in food service (lo many decades ago) the manager sometimes had to work in the kitchen if they were short staffed to make sure customers got their food. That's good in a pinch, but it isn't a long term solution. I'm running this Top 25 because I honestly think that's what A&F needed at the moment and nobody else either could or felt comfortable doing it (though I thank Evan for tracking nominees). I'm happy to do it. But I don't want to be the one running a Top 25 or a Top 100 every year. So in addition to thinking about how many voters we need, we also need to be thinking about who else besides me can coordinate. 

It's so good to know that, Ken.  Maybe we can think about how to share list responsibilities more in the future, or have others plug into the multiple roles you've had to fill this time around.  We do so appreciate the way you've led and inspired us to get the list going and to work toward the project as a community.

I think this is a fine list, and surely the end result (blurbs and all) will be special indeed.

I would be very open to contributing an essay to a Growing Older - themed book.  One idea for a theme I could suggest would be something related to growing older and preserving/consolidating memory before death…preserving memories, pieces, fragments of who a person is before they pass from this world…retaining those fragments so they are not forgotten.  This idea can be seen in both Varda films on our list in the way the director captures pictures of herself and her subjects in the later years of her life.  The central figure of Poetry, similarly, struggles to put into poetry something of herself that will outlive her decaying memory and body.  Finally, the forest of trees in The Man Who Planted Trees is a beautiful image that captures some of the essence of the man who planted that forest.   That's a related theme idea that I would find intriguing.   

 

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Ken,

Thank you for letting us know where you're at with your roles at A&F. I greatly appreciate how much you've done to make this happen. Like Brian, I would definitely be game for taking a bigger role in future lists and/or other community projects. I'm quite new here, though, so I'd need some help and direction along the way, but I'm certainly willing to help in bigger ways.

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Thanks indeed to everyone who worked on this, especially Ken.

Very interesting to see this ranking! I'm not surprised to see that the 5 films overlapping with the  A&F Top 100 ended up so high for the most part (1, 3, 4, 7, 18). And Late Spring at #2 was #47 on the 2010 Top 100 list, before the 3 films per director parameter was added.

The finalist film I was saddest to see cut was The Old Man and the Sea. It very much is about consolidating memories in old age, like Brian mentioned as a thematic here--dreaming of the lions he saw in Africa, working before the mast as a child, the epic arm-wrestling contest. I'd hope an essay on that could bring in such films that didn't make the final cut.

But the one I was most surprised to see cut was Synecdoche, New York. It's not a film I particularly like or agree with in terms of its worldview, but it's a very good film that is spot on thematically in terms of depicting growing older.

I'd love to contribute an essay on The Man Who Planted Trees, but I have a lot on my plate in the next year, so don't let me be the deciding factor in whether a book happens or not. If the book happens, I'd certainly WANT to contribute, but that's all I can commit to at this point.

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I'm embarrassed that I missed the second round of voting! I wanted to wait till the last minute, but I was incredible busy the last couple weeks, so that wasn't a great choice. Anyways, I'm still happy to write blurbs for the two films Ken assigned after Round 1. I'd also be interested in writing an essay for your potential book, though I need to think about what I would best be able to discuss.

 

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1
2 hours ago, Rob Z said:

The finalist film I was saddest to see cut was The Old Man and the Sea. It very much is about consolidating memories in old age, like Brian mentioned as a thematic here--dreaming of the lions he saw in Africa, working before the mast as a child, the epic arm-wrestling contest. I'd hope an essay on that could bring in such films that didn't make the final cut.

But the one I was most surprised to see cut was Synecdoche, New York. It's not a film I particularly like or agree with in terms of its worldview, but it's a very good film that is spot on thematically in terms of depicting growing older.

 

FWIW, I suspect The Old Man and The Sea was ranked low because a lot of people hadn't screened it. It was one of the films after Round 1 that was on the cusp but had been screened by less than 50% of the voters. I don't know if anyone sought it out between Round 1 and Round 2, but it's possible it didn't get seen.

I think the Synecdoche film was probably the result of viewers privileging films that they admired over films that might have fit the theme better. I know Kaufman leaves me cold, and P.T. Anderson (The Phantom Thread) and Wes Anderson (several nominees) are or have been polarizing figures on these pages over the years. 

I think the big winners were probably Poetry, Before Midnight, and Things to Come as films that came out since the last Top 100 and aren't necessarily stapes from other lists. That and The Man Who Planted Trees (which originally made one of our lists but then was cut when the administrator realized it was a short film). I was quite surprised but pleased that Persuasion made the cut, but I don't know that it has the pedigree or following to parlay that into a place in the next Top 100 if and when we do it.

Ed and Brian, thanks for letting me know you might take up some slack on future lists. Ideally, if A&F is nursed back to some semblance of health, it really isn't that much work and there are a lot of people around to help. So most of the work is in coordinating or organizing. 

 

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On 5/2/2019 at 4:26 PM, kenmorefield said:

I need to say something else, too, and I hope it doesn't come across wrong. But I need to say it. I'm 53 years-old and tenured. I've probably got 10-15 professional years left. I don't expect to keel over any time soon, but I am at a stage in Life Cycle where I have more opportunities than energy, and I have to think intentionally about what is worth devoting a year or more of my professional life to. Certainly, if I can keep A&F afloat until I retire and set it up to continue after I am gone, I think that's a worthy use of my time. And part of that process is investing some of my time into projects like the Top 100 that draw people and make sure people will continue to visit (and some join). If I am honest, however, I would have to say that my ultimate vision is to focus my time and energy on the administrative side and let the community decide what projects we want to do communally. Right now we are a bit rudderless, and that's understandable. When I worked in food service (lo many decades ago) the manager sometimes had to work in the kitchen if they were short staffed to make sure customers got their food. That's good in a pinch, but it isn't a long term solution. I'm running this Top 25 because I honestly think that's what A&F needed at the moment and nobody else either could or felt comfortable doing it (though I thank Evan for tracking nominees). I'm happy to do it. But I don't want to be the one running a Top 25 or a Top 100 every year. So in addition to thinking about how many voters we need, we also need to be thinking about who else besides me can coordinate. 

The irony is not lost on me that this well-said and honest paragraph is in our "Growing Older" results thread. Thank you, Ken, for coordinating this list, and for quietly "working the kitchen" in this post-IMAGE season at A&F. I'm happy to help coordinate future lists, and would be open to more of the invitational side of things regarding the value of A&F (if that sort of thing were seen as genuinely beneficial and not just marketing for the sake of marketing). And I have to say, I'm genuinely excited about a Top 100 list for 2020 (if that's the timeline we've chosen), as it just feels like it's time for that sort of a project. I know my life probably won't get less busy following the completion of my PhD, but I'm still striving to be present here for the long-term, as this seems like one of the genuinely good places on the Internets these days.

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On 5/3/2019 at 12:48 PM, Joshua Wilson said:

I'm embarrassed that I missed the second round of voting! I wanted to wait till the last minute, but I was incredible busy the last couple weeks, so that wasn't a great choice. Anyways, I'm still happy to write blurbs for the two films Ken assigned after Round 1.

 

Same — for all of this.

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For several years, I've been maintaining a spreadsheet of all the A&F lists. Here it is updated to include the new list.

Interestingly, three of the films on the aging/growing older list—The Straight Story, Wild Strawberries, and Tokyo Story—are also among the films that have appeared on all previous versions of the top 100.

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I'm sorry if I missed this, but what length blurbs are we aiming for?

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5 hours ago, Rushmore said:

For several years, I've been maintaining a spreadsheet of all the A&F lists. Here it is updated to include the new list.

Thanks for doing this! It's great to peruse the huge list of films here, and to note which films have been included, and how often.

Some random observations: Seeing that The Straight Story was also #1 the Road Movies list, I don't know that I would have called it *the* favorite film of A&F, but perhaps it is, as it's on seven lists. Tokyo Story and Wild Strawberries have also appeared on seven, but not as #1. And The Remains of the Day is coincidentally #24 on both the Memory and Growing Older lists.

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7 hours ago, Rushmore said:

For several years, I've been maintaining a spreadsheet of all the A&F lists. Here it is updated to include the new list.

Interestingly, three of the films on the aging/growing older list—The Straight Story, Wild Strawberries, and Tokyo Story—are also among the films that have appeared on all previous versions of the top 100.

Thanks for doing that. 
I'm a little surprised that Umberto D. is also making its debut on any of our lists, but I guess previous incarnations found Bicycle Thieves easier to nominate.

 

 

2 hours ago, Andrew said:

I'm sorry if I missed this, but what length blurbs are we aiming for?

I would think a paragraph.

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On 5/1/2019 at 8:00 AM, kenmorefield said:

]Since both of Evan's choices got the axe (ouch!), he is welcome to take any 2 of those of his choice, if he wishes.  Ed B. had volunteered to do Late Spring, and I am okay with that, but since he is also doing The Straight Story, I'm not sure if we want the same person writing blurbs for #1 and #2, so I'll take volunteers for Late Spring for a day or two and if nobody else asks I'll see if Ed will do it. (Alternately, Ed, if you prefer to do Late Spring, I could reassign The Straight Story.) I could do Gertrud, but I already have two, so if anyone else wants it, I'm happy to let him/her have it. Jeffrey said he could do 35 Up, but he also has 2 so if I'd prioritize giving others a chance if anyone wants in.

Since there's still no taker for Late Spring yet, I will be willing to give up the blurb for Straight Story and take Late Spring instead. 

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On 5/1/2019 at 2:45 PM, Russ said:

Great list!  My assumption is that y'all have the very reasonable expectation that blurb-writers be people who actually participated in the voting, but if not, or if you get caught in a bind, I'd happily volunteer to write any of these:

35 Up

Gertrud

Late Spring

Make Way for Tomorrow

Russ said he would do Late Spring, I just hadn't updated the list yet. I would prefer Ed do his first preference, which I thought was Straight Story, but if I am wrong about that, let me know.

 

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On 5/3/2019 at 2:29 PM, Rob Z said:
1 minute ago, kenmorefield said:

Russ said he would do Late Spring, I just hadn't updated the list yet.

 

Wonderful! I missed that, but this is definitely my preference. So, thank you.

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