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Darren H

Discussion of voting process

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I am leaning towards 2/film per director, but am undecided.

I often tell my students in persuasive writing that the hardest decisions are those not between something you value and something you don't but between two things that you value that are, for whatever reason, in conflict with one another. 

I value integrity and consistency a lot. I *want* to do what I/we said we would do.

I value flexibility a bit (but apparently not quite as much). I don't want to be an authoritarian or (worse) someone who uses the cover of "consistency" and "integrity" to rationalize a decision that is really driven by what I want. Josh Wilson (I think) said something on Zoom that resonated with me. We are making our own rules, so if there is consensus, its not like we are beholden to some external force to be consistent. The smaller the group, the more flexible we can afford to be towards adapting without as many people feeling as though they (or their position) got the shaft. It's always harder to see a decision one fought for undone than it is to see it not adopted in the first place. 

 

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1 hour ago, Christian said:

And as one who embraces the "auteurist" label, though not as fervently as I once did, I find myself OK with the one-film-director list if only because - and sorry if this is pedantic, but I think it's worth reminding everyone - we'd already limited our list to two films per director. What's yet one more limitation, down to one? Yes, it'll hurt to make cuts, but in my mind, I/we already made cuts to the oeuvre of several filmmakers to get their contributions down to two. Had we not done that, I would've nominated/voted far more Bergmans, Malicks, etc.

So I see our evolving list as including an imaginary asterisk next to each filmmaker, with an imagined endnote/footnote that encourages readers to explore each filmmaker's broader output (or, in the interest of full disclosure, we could name - somewhere, I'm not sure where - the movies that got booted in the whittling down).

That's wonderfully compelling! 

I really look forward to reading the accompanying write-up for each film, imagining each one being presented as a sort of entry portal into a bigger handful of spiritually significant work under the same director. (Assuming the vote goes that way.)

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2 hours ago, Christian said:

So I see our evolving list as including an imaginary asterisk next to each filmmaker, with an imagined endnote/footnote that encourages readers to explore each filmmaker's broader output (or, in the interest of full disclosure, we could name - somewhere, I'm not sure where - the movies that got booted in the whittling down).

Yes, that makes the list still a valuable tool for anyone wanting to use this list to explore the wider world of cinema and spirituality!


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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6 hours ago, Darren H said:

Apologies for not being able to join the call last night. Sounds like I missed a great conversation.

I wanted to second Ken's comment here and also suggest that we offer ourselves a bit of grace about this. As I mentioned earlier, the 2002 Sight and Sound Top 100 only includes two women filmmakers. I suspect S&S won't be changing their rules in 2022 but their voters (like we have) will certainly be paying more attention to gender representation when they submit their ballots. I also suspect the new S&S top 100 will illustrate incremental progress but not a whole-sale dismantling of the canon.

I've made every effort throughout this process to advocate for greater diversity in the list -- in the discussions, nomination process, and voting -- but 19 of my 25 6-point films were directed by white men. I say that as a matter of fact and without any regret. When I saw Ken's email yesterday requesting my top 10 films directed by women, I'd just gotten off a tense, 90-minute call for work and needed a distraction, so I decided to knock it out quickly. I wanted to include ten different filmmakers representing a variety of genres, and to be honest it was more of a challenge than I'd anticipated. Six of the ten were from the 2000s (seven if you include Beau travail, which was released theatrically in 2000). All of them are white. In other words, my top 10 is representative of the history of cinema, which for the first century effectively excluded women from the director's chair, and which has only in the past two decades made the means of production more widely available. My top 10 is also representative of my taste and viewing habits, which I've become much more conscious of over the past two months.

Thanks for this Darren, you said this much more eloquently than I did last night during the Zoom meeting and providing the context of the Sight and Sound etc.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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3 hours ago, Christian said:

So I see our evolving list as including an imaginary asterisk next to each filmmaker, with an imagined endnote/footnote that encourages readers to explore each filmmaker's broader output (or, in the interest of full disclosure, we could name - somewhere, I'm not sure where - the movies that got booted in the whittling down).

I think this is a really good idea.

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3 hours ago, Christian said:

So I see our evolving list as including an imaginary asterisk next to each filmmaker, with an imagined endnote/footnote that encourages readers to explore each filmmaker's broader output...

...by participating in Arts & Faith! 
I say that half in jest, but I do want to be careful that this list remain an expression of who we are and not simply an annotated bibliography pointing people elsewhere. I don't mean pointing people to other films so much as pointing people to other sources. Historically the blurbs have done a great job of explaining why *we* love or appreciate the films, and while a part of that can be about mentioning how the film relates to an auteur's body of work, but I'd hate to see our blurbs become dry, Oxford Companion to English Literature templates or superficial summaries akin to what you would find in the half-page introduction that precedes an author's work in a textbook.

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3 hours ago, Christian said:

And as one who embraces the "auteurist" label, though not as fervently as I once did, I find myself OK with the one-film-director list if only because - and sorry if this is pedantic, but I think it's worth reminding everyone - we'd already limited our list to two films per director. What's yet one more limitation, down to one?

One possible difference -- which I think we all see in business and politics -- is how we arrived at those decisions. Some people may have experienced the whittling down from 3 to 2 as itself a compromise...not something they wanted but something they could live with in a give and take negotiation. I'm thinking of Gandalf at the beginning of the Hobbit, maneuvering Bilbo in steps. I don't think anyone is being consciously manipulative, but I do know from personal experience in other areas (such as selling a house) that when one thinks one has reached an agreement and, especially, when one makes that final concession to strike a deal, the degree of anger and frustration spikes when the other side comes back with..."well...maybe one more thing...."

I am not saying that is the case here, but I am saying I do think the move from two to one is different in kind and not just different in degree from the move from three to two.

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Not sure where to put this, but since both Jeffrey Overstreet and Gareth Higgins (he introduces him as a friend, so I hope he doesn't take this personally) have brought up Mark Cousins' Story of Film on the board and in our Zoom chat, I was reminded of this essay by Brian Doan of rogerebert.com from 2013 that resonated with my mixed feelings about it when I watched it over half a decade ago in preparation for teaching my first film history course in a film studies program. Not meant as an attack, but as just wanting to offer a dissenting position to the conversation.

https://www.rogerebert.com/features/traditions-of-quality-mark-cousins-the-story-of-film-an-odyssey

Quote

"In so many ways, despite its watered-down British Cultural Studies approach to cinema, "The Story of Film" succeeds precisely in proportion to how little it challenges the shibboleths of its audience. Strange remarks like "Most Hollywood films of the time were seen from the man's point-of-view" (in relation to "The Gold Diggers of 1933") can pass by—despite the fact that the thirties were arguably the greatest period for female stars in all of Hollywood history—because it reinforces his overdetermination that Hollywood is invested in the "bauble," and is thus more dismissible: "what denial…what eugenics" (no, really). Cliches like "old-style conformist filmmaking" are needed in order to create the necessary contrast with various sixties and seventies new waves, no matter how much prior contradiction and complexity such a sweeping statement sweeps away. Symbolism is overvalued, because symbolism can be easily read, digested and celebrated (or condemned). Words like "honest," "direct," "social" and "real" are simultaneously privileged with meaning and rendered hopelessly inert, their meanings shifting depending on the aesthetic and ideological needs of a given moment in the documentary.

 


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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I treasure Story of Film: An Odyssey dearly, while also finding bits of Cousin's voiceover silly at times. Perhaps because it presents itself more as a personal curation. The way he sort of clumsily sets up his creative b-roll shots with his cheap digital camera truly betrays it as a labour of earnest love. I can understand being put off by the way it often reaches, but more often than not there's so much value in the all the different destinations you didn't expect to get to that it's quickly forgivable. 

I really appreciated the way Jeff Overstreet referenced it as having "multiple legs all in different destinations" and leaning into so many surprising places, rather than just having two legs and going in a single direction. (Assuming I understood that correctly!) That's frankly what helps me find the one director approach to the Top 100 list more compelling. More legs, more leaning, more surprises. 

Edited by Jeremy Ratzlaff

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1 hour ago, Anders said:

Not sure where to put this, but since both Jeffrey Overstreet and Gareth Higgins (he introduces him as a friend, so I hope he doesn't take this personally) have brought up Mark Cousins' Story of Film on the board and in our Zoom chat, I was reminded of this essay by Brian Doan of rogerebert.com from 2013 that resonated with my mixed feelings about it when I watched it over half a decade ago in preparation for teaching my first film history course in a film studies program. Not meant as an attack, but as just wanting to offer a dissenting position to the conversation.

https://www.rogerebert.com/features/traditions-of-quality-mark-cousins-the-story-of-film-an-odyssey

 

I was going to respond to this over in State of the Forum, not because this post should be there but because my response to it is really about "the state of the forum' and not so much the voting process.

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As I said, I don't want to be combative, as I do believe the documentary has value, as many have testified. I think it's solid documentary, it's gaffs and biases included.

I still think that we need to be careful in the framing of our counter-histories and critical attempts at broadening our scope. As Doan says, perhaps more specific to my critiques, coming from the academy: "An ungenerous soul might suggest that such a reading means its author hasn't set foot in a film studies classroom in the last forty years, since so many of Cousins' formal, historical and theoretical goals were long ago advanced by the academy. A more generous reading is that such a statement indicates the unfortunate lack of dialogue between academic and popular film criticism: what A.O. Scott admiringly calls "an invigorated compendium of conventional wisdom" might more accurately be called a manifesto of the already-written, a set of supposed rhetorical bombshells that exploded decades ago in other cinephilic spaces."

So, there is value in all of these exercises, and I laud and support our attempts to better represent the history of cinema and who contributed to it and what we mean by spirituality. But we have to be equally careful as we move in these circles of not, in our zeal, ignoring the work that has gone before and continues to go on in the writing of these histories.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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So, I know there's a lot going on, but this came up earlier, and I think we have yet to deal with it: There are ties on the list.

Each of the following films had the same number of points from the same number of voters. The current list ranks them by standard deviation first (meaning, I think, the more controversial film is first) and then alphabetically if the standard deviation was the same. A few of these films may drop off in we go with the 1/director list.

Do we want to have a poll of some kind to choose between these? I know one place difference isn't big, but it would affect two films in the Top 5 that were tied on all accounts. I would favor another (yet another!) poll to decide the final order, though if we go the 2 director route, the first two ties would be sorted out through a round 2. We can probably delay a decision on this, but I thought I'd bring it up again.

Of Gods and Men / Silence

Night and Fog / Sophie Scholl

A Moment of Innocence / Heartbeat Detector

Close-Up / Rome, Open City

The Best Years of Our Lives / Tender Mercies

Lourdes / Cameraperson / The Burmese Harp

The Mill and the Cross / Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Stop Making Sense / The Grand Illusion

Cleo from 5 to 7 / In a Lonely Place

Calvary / I Am Not Your Negro

Amadeus / Witness

Crimes and Misdemeanors / The Mission

Ushpizin / The Work

The Red Shoes / Timbuktu

Nazarin / What Time Is It There?

 

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On 5/15/2020 at 2:38 AM, Rob Z said:

So, I know there's a lot going on, but this came up earlier, and I think we have yet to deal with it: There are ties on the list.

Each of the following films had the same number of points from the same number of voters. The current list ranks them by standard deviation first (meaning, I think, the more controversial film is first) and then alphabetically if the standard deviation was the same. A few of these films may drop off in we go with the 1/director list.

Do we want to have a poll of some kind to choose between these? I know one place difference isn't big, but it would affect two films in the Top 5 that were tied on all accounts. I would favor another (yet another!) poll to decide the final order, though if we go the 2 director route, the first two ties would be sorted out through a round 2. We can probably delay a decision on this, but I thought I'd bring it up again.

In the process of looking back through threads for messages I might have missed, I ran across this, which I confess did not register or which had slipped my mind. 

Yes, I think this warrants some discussion regardless of the outcome of the 1 v 2 poll. I believe Darren said somewhere that he used Standard Deviation as a tie-breaker, which I'm not entirely comfortable with, and then went to alphabetical which he admitted was a placeholder pending further thoughts. I could have misread the data Darren send, but that would also add to the list Rob had:

  • Grapes of Wrath / Through a Glass Darkly
  • Secrets & Lies /Munyurangabo
  • Certified Copy / Won't You Be My Neighbor?
  • The Mission / Paris, Texas

These would all have to be double-checked, because I may just have been scanning the Excel lines wrong.

I'm restless about having new /additional polls, but I think that would be preferable (even an optional poll) to alphabetical or coin-flip. I'm open to other ideas. Anyone?

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1 minute ago, SDG said:

We’re doing a runoff poll for the two-film director films, right? 

Yes, if the 1 film  / director list prevails. The outcome is still in limbo pending a call to the as yet uncounted voter and a decision about how to parse the ambiguous threshold (14 votes / 60 percent, which was mistakenly stated under the assumption that there were 23 voters and not 25).

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I know everyone is still absorbing Ken's final call on the Top 100 list, but I have a question about the next step: the cutting down of directors with two films on the Top 100.

My question, which has been alluded to in some discussion I've had on the board with Joshua, is, What's the guidance for voters when we've seen only one of the two films being voted on? The answer might seem obvious: Vote for the one you've seen. But I'm wondering if there might be a "no vote" option in such cases.

I don't want to be decisive in casting a "no vote" - we've all just seen how stressful that can be for Ken and for other voting participants - but, in the case of the Ray films Joshua has discussed, it's quite possible (though hard for me to believe!) that the film I haven't seen is better than the one I have seen. However, I'm not going to see that other film before the vote.

Because I haven't seen the other film, I won't vote for it, despite the good taste of its advocates. But if there's no "no vote" option, I'm not sure what else to do but vote for the one film I've seen over the one I haven't.

Thanks for any feedback on this concern.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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22 minutes ago, Christian said:

I know everyone is still absorbing Ken's final call on the Top 100 list, but I have a question about the next step: the cutting down of directors with two films on the Top 100.

My question, which has been alluded to in some discussion I've had on the board with Joshua, is, What's the guidance for voters when we've seen only one of the two films being voted on? The answer might seem obvious: Vote for the one you've seen. But I'm wondering if there might be a "no vote" option in such cases.

I don't want to be decisive in casting a "no vote" - we've all just seen how stressful that can be for Ken and for other voting participants - but, in the case of the Ray films Joshua has discussed, it's quite possible (though hard for me to believe!) that the film I haven't seen is better than the one I have seen. However, I'm not going to see that other film before the vote.

Because I haven't seen the other film, I won't vote for it, despite the good taste of its advocates. But if there's no "no vote" option, I'm not sure what else to do but vote for the one film I've seen over the one I haven't.

Thanks for any feedback on this concern.

I've been thinking about the same thing, and I'll admit this comes from a concern that Faust will lose out to Sunrise and Through a Glass Darkly will lose out to The Seventh Seal, because in both cases more people will have seen the latter and just vote for that one, so I think there should be a no vote option unless you've seen both films.

For me, this would affect the Rohmers, unless the DVD I ordered of A Tale of Winter comes in soon enough.

And FWIW, The Music Room should be ahead of Pather Panchali.


"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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When I set up the poll, I can make every choice required and include a "No Vote" option for people who haven't seen both films.

I'm trying to think of another approach -- something that would allow us to cast a simple vote for each of the 36 films, which could then be averaged and weighted. There's something to be said for consensus. Eleven voters have seen My Night at Maud's; only five have seen A Tale of Winter. I'm not sure it's fair for only those five voters to make the choice. Any ideas for the math on this one? I'm still thinking it through.

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4 hours ago, Darren H said:

When I set up the poll, I can make every choice required and include a "No Vote" option for people who haven't seen both films.

I'm trying to think of another approach -- something that would allow us to cast a simple vote for each of the 36 films, which could then be averaged and weighted. There's something to be said for consensus. Eleven voters have seen My Night at Maud's; only five have seen A Tale of Winter. I'm not sure it's fair for only those five voters to make the choice. Any ideas for the math on this one? I'm still thinking it through.

I don't know if this simplifies or complicates matters, and I certainly don't mind having an "abstain" option, but...

At the risk of sounding shocking, I don't know if there is any "rule" that one can't vote for (or against) a film one hasn't seen. Certainly in the Round 1, where there is a "haven't seen" option and the frequency weights the outcome, that's pretty standard. But in comparable votes I can think of (like critics' voting or the ranking stage of the Ecumenical Jury [where someone might be called upon to rank 1 or more films he hasn't seen]) that has been more of a personal decision than an imposed rule.

For one thing--as was long ago pointed out in this forum--such a rule is absolutely unenforceable. For another, as the recent process has reinforced to me, once you decide to give people a vote, you really can't control the *reasons* for their vote. While I think many people would vote in Rd 1a for the one of the two films they have seen, I could just as easily see others abstaining from voting in that pairing altogether. (How can I compare a film I haven't seen to one I have?) I' could also see some people who have seen neither use some other criteria. I've seen both Through a Glass Darkly and Seventh Seal, but they were so long ago that I might be tempted to just fall in line with the people who are bigger Bergman fans than I. I have a mild personal preference for Stalker over Andrei Rublev, but I am still not sure I "get" Tarkovsky, so I might be tempted to abstain or vote based on pitches that Tarkovsky fans made. I think all those reasons or approaches are valid, and (again as the recent process illustrates) I think the results will probably be better if we let people vote not only for what they want but for the reason they want. I haven't gotten the sense in anything so far that anyone is voting (or even debating) in bad faith.

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FWIW, for the Ecumenical Jury second round of voting regarding the ranking of the Top 10, jurors had to vote on all ten films, whether or not they'd seen them. How they chose to go about ranking those films was up to their own discretion and personal criteria. For those who did not do the second round of voting (which was maybe only one or two jury members at most), I considered their votes from the first round and assumed an "abstain" from the second round of voting meant they were happy enough with the ranking as is.

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Okay, then I'll create a simple poll that lists each of the pairings and then requires voters to choose one of three options, including "No vote" for people who haven't seen either film. For example:

1. Ordet or The Passion of Joan of Arc

  • Ordet
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • No vote

Sound good? Out of curiosity, I looked at the number of votes each of the 36 films received in round 1. Only two or three of the round 2 outcomes seem to be more or less predetermined.

Ordet - 22
The Passion of Joan of Arc - 23

Andrei Rublev - 23
Stalker - 19

A Hidden Life - 19
Tree of Life - 24

The Son - 19
The Kid With a Bike - 22

Ikiru - 21
Red Beard - 11

A Man Escaped - 18
Diary of a Country Priest - 19

The Flowers of St. Francis - 15
Rome, Open City - 15

Faust - 12
Sunrise - 21

My Night at Maud's - 11
A Tale of Winter - 5

The Seventh Seal - 24
Through a Glass Darkly - 18

Close Up - 15
Where is My Friend's House? - 13

The Gleaners & I - 17
Cleo from 5 to 7 - 14

My Neighbor Totoro - 19
Spirited Away - 23

35 Shots of Rum - 13
Beau Travail - 15

Late Spring - 17
Tokyo Story - 21

Pather Panchali - 18
The Music Room - 7

The Wrong Man - 13
Vertigo - 23

Wings of Desire - 23
Paris, Texas - 20

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1 hour ago, Darren H said:

Okay, then I'll create a simple poll that lists each of the pairings and then requires voters to choose one of three options, including "No vote" for people who haven't seen either film.

Or, to minimize the risk of any confusion, "for people who haven't seen one of, or both, of the films," right? I just want to be sure I'm not taking you too literally in the text I've bolded in my quote above.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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22 minutes ago, Christian said:

Or, to minimize the risk of any confusion, "for people who haven't seen one of, or both, of the films," right? I just want to be sure I'm not taking you too literally in the text I've bolded in my quote above.

 

8 minutes ago, Darren H said:

I read Ken's and Joel's comments as suggesting that we should allow people who have only seen one of the films to choose to vote for it.

Yes, but I think Christian's question is whether it is okay for people who have only seen one of the films to choose the "no vote" or can he only use that if he hasn't seen either one? I think if the no vote option is available, voters should be allowed to pick it for whatever reason.

I'm assuming that in the event of a tie, we will go with the film that had the higher score in Rd1? 

Thanks for doing this Darren.

On a side note, does anyone care if I just make a forum poll for the other ties from Round 1? I realize that a few of the ties might be rendered moot by the results of the run-offs, and that forum poll is less formal than vote because people can see the results as they occur, but if I made that today, Darren could include a link to it when he e-mails the run-off ballot and let everyone know it is available if they care. I don't sense as much concern from people since most of them are the difference of one spot, but I could be reading the room wrong.

 

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