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Joel Mayward

2019 Arts and Faith Ecumenical Jury: Nominations and Discussion

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I strongly second Transit.

A few questions I have from the quickly-growing list so far: what are the reasons for Yesterday and Rocketman? I haven't seen them yet, but wondering why they're recommended for a *Christian* audience.

Gareth and Sarah: is that a nomination/second for Terminator: Dark Fate? Or were you simply praising it without nominating it?

Same question for Knives Out—Ken and Sarah, is that a second?

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I second One Child Nation, and Ken seconded Toy Story 4 (that's not reflected in the nominees list).

I love The Lighthouse, but if anyone wants to explain why it's a good choice for a Christian audience, please help me see that case.

The case for my nominees:

The Dead Don't Die - hilarious comedy about caring for the environment and one another that shows the value of friendships, art (specifically movies) in a polluted world while calling us to be better stewards of it.

Missing Link - delightful and witty family film with a thoughtful cross-examination of self-centered childhood dreams and prejudices of the 19th century

They Shall Not Grow Old - As close as a movie has come to making the experience of war first hand and living and serving with the men who did so a century ago.

Rocketman - a testament to the power of music to change and save lives, the role of vocation, and treating everyone with compassion, notably LGTBQ persons. It's also a thoughtful recovery story, framed by Elton John's group therapy for his addictions.

The Nightingale - a subversion of the rape/revenge narrative that shows violence is rarely the answer as it highlights the ways colonialism and toxic masculinity have left women, immigrants, and people of color victims of those in power and how radical true reform and justice would be.

Everybody Knows - a story of how our choices affect everyone around us, and we're all a community who should care for one another and not use our knowledge of others' secrets to exploit them.

Official Secrets - about the cost of doing the right thing and loving your country when it is wrong

Last Christmas - a little contrived and predictable, sure, but the endearing characters and importance of caring for others and not relying on others for your happiness make this worthwhile.

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Yes, I'll second Knives Out, despite some uncertainty.

My rationale is that the film turns on issues of honesty. (Don't want to say more because of spoilers). The "meek shall inherit the earth" is a theme, but I think its examination of that is more political than spiritual. But the honesty thing is perhaps enough to make me see it as a popular entertainment that has a message consistent for Christians. 

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Regarding Knives Out - yes, it's a second.

For Terminator: Dark Fate, I was praising the movie without nominating or seconding it. It's worth seeing, but I'm not sure it fits the purposes of this jury.

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I'd second Alita: Battle Angel  - humanity's thirst for power and societies advances offer an interesting idea for story where coming of age, survival, class divisions, revenge, relationships and redemption all play a part in themes of universal struggle. 

I'll also throw offer Frozen 2 for consideration. Themes of following life's calling, searching for purpose, sacrifice, building bridges and addressing sins of the past. 

Yesterday: 

This is a film that explores the power of something greater than self, the thirst of fame, fortune and everything that goes with it.  It also reminds us not to look past the true gifts standing right in front of us. It is also a film about risking all the material world will provide by speaking "truth."

There are sometimes that certain films need to marinate with you long after the viewing. Those films seem to get richer, more meaningful, and even more deeply engaging with time. Those films seem to find ways to echo, and resonate with greatness beyond that initial reaction. Those are the films that and can speak volumes if you give them the chance. This is one of those films for me.

I've seen this films multiple times, and it keeps speaking to me in different ways with each viewing. 
 

Edited by Noel T Manning II

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@Evan C - Spot on with "Official Secrets." I'll second that for consideration and suggest "Dark Waters" for some of the same reasons. The cost of seeking truth (and speaking truth) is not always without personal, professional, physical and mental sacrifice. It is a David vs. Goliath narrative. It also explores to power of will and choice in coming up against insurmountable odds. 

Edited by Noel T Manning II

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I'm going to nominate Lowland Kids, a documentary short about a two siblings growing up on a disappearing island and the community who's cared for them.

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Hi everyone, I want to take this moment to introduce a new jury member this year, Thomas Manning, who writes film reviews at https://elementsofmadness.com/, and also co-hosts the show "Meet Me at the Movies" with Noel Manning, his father. My apologies for not introducing Thomas earlier—please welcome him to Arts and Faith! And a very happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans here!

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Hi Thomas, pleased to see you at A&F. Glad to have you aboard our jury project.

Ken

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I'll also endorse Knives Out.

Seeking truth and speaking truth are strong messages and understanding that perpetuating lies can cause some serious damage (emotional and physical).  There are also messages relating to betrayal, greed, power.

 

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I want to nominate The Report, and I want to do so in a way that invites conversation about the overlap (or not) in these lists between the religious/spiritual and the political.. 

The politics forum was divisive here, and it was my experience of the days it reigned (if not the forum itself, which I mostly steered clear of), that the leadership and moderation of the board leaned more conservative/Republican. That being said, I've heard or seen more than one message from former participants who leaned right and experienced what they felt was ill treatment from those who disdained them as well as the political causes they supported. 

For the most part these juries have found ample ground among spiritual themes to steer clear of the political while also advocating for a meaningful, in-depth psychological, emotional, and spiritual life. I keep coming back, though, to the jury's charge not necessarily to promote "Christian" movies but to promote movies they recommend to Christians. And at least in American, Christianity (or some types of it) are intertwined with politics (or some types of it) in ways that it feels false not to address.

Truth is -- or should be -- an important, non-partisan, interdenominational, ecumenical concern. Speaking truth. Acting in truth. Bearing witness to the truth. 

Can we only say so in the context of Knives Out -- a great, funny, entertaining film with serious underpinnings? Or can we, must we, also say so in the context of films like The Report or Bombshell (still under embargo for me), or The Great Hack, or Raise Hell? 

I don't know what I want out of such a conversation, other than to be brave and authentic. I know I don't want to just become a place that trumpets art in support of a particular ideology or party. The most heartbreaking scene in Raise Hell for me is when Ivins talks about Clinton signing the welfare reform act. She looks so defeated and hopeless, and I relate to that feeling. To paraphrase Richard Foster in the Spiritual Formation workbook when he points out that a Christianity that excludes, preempts, or gives scant attention to Social Justice is as inauthetic and unhealthy as a Christianity that makes social justice the only thing that matters. 

Recently I saw Steven comment on Facebook about a report indicating that children had been sexually abused who had been held in detention camps. He answered -- bravely, in my opinion -- the hypothetical question, "What would you have us do?" with "Let them go." (That wasn't the some total of his response, but it was the inescapable conclusion that trafficking children was a bigger evil and betrayal of Christian values than anything the immigration detention camps were designed to avoid.) I'm sure he knew he would take heat for that comment -- he has more patience with Trump side of the GOP than do I -- but he said it anyway, because it was right. 

I think the integration of politics back into some of our discussion can be greatly aided by an intention to be more critical of our own side than the other, if only to guard us against toxic self-righteousness that makes us only want to shame and bully people on social forums and media rather than use it in any sort of constructive way. (I am not sure if a constructive way is even possible.) Last week there was an article in The Root about Mayor Pete and why he engenders animosity in the Black community. I didn't understand all of it and I thought some of it dispropritionate in the face of what seem to me to be greater sins against the Black community by representatives of other parties. But I also realized that probably wasn't my call, and that helping empower the voices of the marginalized, if only by listening, might actually be a more welcome move than deciding what was in their best interest and picking that for them.

Anyway, The Report. Yes, it is critical of the Bush Administration and yes it presents Fienstein and the Adam Driver character as caring in about the truth in both some abstract way as well as some politically expedient way. But it also reminds me that somebody somewhere, in my name, as a representative of my government, waterboarded someone over 180 times. Is it possible that this was a greater evil -- and that more evil will come from it -- than some of the things we were afraid of that that we used to justify doing it? And might not that process of "hardening the heart" (to use Christian language) or blunting the conscience be something that Christians of all political stripes need to think very hard about in the present moment?

 

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I nominate A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Like the documentary of Rogers' life from last year, Won't You Be My Neighbor?, there is something distinctly and beautifully grace-full about both Fred Rogers and the films about him.

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Enthusiastic seconds for both The Irishman and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

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12 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

I nominate A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Like the documentary of Rogers' life from last year, Won't You Be My Neighbor?, there is something distinctly and beautifully grace-full about both Fred Rogers and the films about him.

Such a charming and touching film. I'll offer a third layer of endorsement for this film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood explores forgiveness, acceptance, compassion and genuine caring and serving others. So many wonderful quotes from this film, but I'll offer this one to close out this support: “I think the best thing we can do is to let people know that each one of them is precious.” – Mr. Rogers

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I will second 1917, which is a very good film, albeit one I am still wrestling with. (I tend to wonder if it is a triumph of technique over content, and I'm not convinced yet I've heard a satisfactory interpretation of what is actually happening in the back half of the film.)

I also nominate 63 Up, which, well, it's the next Up film...More on that when I finish my review.

 

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A Double feature for consideration on Ethics : Dark Waters and The Report (Amazon Original). With that on mind, I'll second The Report @kenmorefield

Edited by Noel T Manning II

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Alex Ross Perry working the crowd for Elisabeth Moss:

 

Quote

 

To Whom It May Concern:

Why am I writing this letter on behalf of Elisabeth Moss, commonly regarded as one of the finest actresses of our generation? It’s not like people haven’t realized this by now. She has nothing to prove and has an undeniable track record in both television and film.

Well, I am writing because she gave this astonishing performance in Her Smell, our third film together, and we don’t have the marketing dollars or means to force this back to the forefront of your mind via schmoozy screenings and gifts. Maybe you haven’t seen the movie since Toronto or the New York Film Festival, fifteen months ago. Or, perhaps since it’s release in April of this year. And we weren’t released by a company who would send you a bottle of “Becky Something” branded whiskey or comparable tchotchke as a means of soliciting free social media advertising. So, here I am, spending my time trying to put into words how one of our best actresses delivered one of her best performances. I am and will remain proud of the fact that even the most dismissive reviews couldn’t deny the power of this performance.

Lizzie arrived for fittings and band practice on the Thursday before we started shooting, having wrapped Handmaid’s Tale on Tuesday. She had been practicing guitar since buying one four months earlier and reading drafts of the script for over a year. But as we left the soundstage that night, I said, “I’m really curious to finally see what Becky is like.” “Me too,” she said. The unpredictability was what excited me most. We both wanted to fully discover the character for the first time while the camera was rolling.

Then, I got to sit back and watch this force of nature performance take shape one day at a time. Due to the film’s structure of having just five extended scenes, Lizzie needed to create arcs and trajectories typically unseen in films; the kind that only live in theater and after months of rehearsals. We had one day to rehearse each act. She needed to conceptualize and track where Becky would be at in minute 5, 10, 15 and 20. Watching this process, which was and remains a mystery to me, provided a thrilling revelation every few hours. The choices made, both impulsive and meticulous, were present in every footstep, every line reading, every fully-memorized nonsensical tangential rant. And she did it five times, finding five entirely different shades with which to color Becky. She compared it to tracking an entire arc for five seasons of a television character, one after the other, in just four weeks.

I guess I’m just trying to say that I am unspeakably proud to have played any part in willing this performance into existence. Yet still, on my 100th viewing, it feels like magic to me. Lizzie rigorously calibrated this whirlwind of maniacal insanity, sticking to the script while working off impulse and instinct. It wouldn’t be honest of me to pass up an opportunity to give this performance one final cheer from the sidelines and hope that it is seen as the once- in-a-great-while alchemical blend of writing, directing and, most crucially, acting that it is.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and watch the film.

Alex Ross Perry

 

 

 

Moss FYC letter.pdf

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On 11/27/2019 at 7:41 PM, Noel T Manning II said:

Yesterday: 

This is a film that explores the power of something greater than self, the thirst of fame, fortune and everything that goes with it.  It also reminds us not to look past the true gifts standing right in front of us. It is also a film about risking all the material world will provide by speaking "truth."

There are sometimes that certain films need to marinate with you long after the viewing. Those films seem to get richer, more meaningful, and even more deeply engaging with time. Those films seem to find ways to echo, and resonate with greatness beyond that initial reaction. Those are the films that and can speak volumes if you give them the chance. This is one of those films for me.

I've seen this films multiple times, and it keeps speaking to me in different ways with each viewing. 
 

Thanks for this, Noel T. Manning. A&F doesn't even have a film thread for Yesterday, and I believe many dismissed the movie, but you have articulated my experience with it as well. I'm not a participant in the Ecumenical Jury, but just wanted to say this.

Edited by BethR

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On 12/3/2019 at 11:17 AM, BethR said:

Thanks for this, Noel T. Manning. A&F doesn't even have a film thread for Yesterday, and I believe many dismissed the movie, but you have articulated my experience with it as well. I'm not a participant in the Ecumenical Jury, but just wanted to say this.

@BethR - Thank you so very much. I hope more in our voting panel take the opportunity to visit the film "Yesterday."  I really can't get enough of this film. - Noel T.  

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Looking over the nominated films list, I see that Light from Light hasn't been seconded, so second. I also think Wild Nights with Emily deserves consideration, so second that too.

And Joel, Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood was seconded back on the first page of this thread; that's not reflected on the list.

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2 hours ago, Evan C said:

And Joel, Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood was seconded back on the first page of this thread; that's not reflected on the list.

Thanks Evan! If anyone catches discrepancies or films I've missed, please don't hesitate to mention it so I can keep the nominees list updated and correct.

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On 11/28/2019 at 7:16 AM, Joel Mayward said:

It seems I will need to seek out and watch Yesterday and Rocketman

@Joel Mayward -Have you caught Yesterday or Rocketman yet?

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