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Top 100 Recommendations and Lobbying

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I debated putting this in the About You forum (assuming each person might have his/her own) or asking for it to be in film specific threads. I would appreciate *discussion* of particular films to be in film specific threads. But given the number of nominees on the list and the (yet undetermined) time before voting, I wanted a thread specifically devoted to prioritizing nominations. 

Below is my list of films from nominations that I either haven't seen (*)  or saw so long ago that I would need to revisit. If anyone wants to put in a word to help me prioritize what I should see....

 

  1. 2046 (2004)
  2. 7th Heaven (1927)
  3. A Brighter Summer Day (1991)
  4. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
  5. A Moment of Innocence (1996)
  6. Code Unknown (2000)
  7. Daughters of the Dust (1991)
  8. Endless Poetry (2016)
  9. Faces Places (2017)
  10. From the East (1993)
  11. Hour of the Wolf (1968)
  12. In a Lonely Place (1950)
  13. In Praise of Love (2001)
  14. IIt’s Such A Beautiful Day (2012)
  15. Le Bonheur (1965)
  16. Le Quattro Volte (2010)
  17. Love is Strange (2014)
  18. Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
  19. Mothlight (1963)
  20. Peeping Tom (1960)
  21. Samurai Rebellion (1967)
  22. Song and Solitude (2006)
  23. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005)
  24. The Banishment (2007)
  25. The House Is Black (1963)
  26. The Music Room (1958)
  27. The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978)
  28. This Transient Life (1970)
  29. Tuesday, After Christmas (2010)
  30. Under the Sun of Satan (1987)
  31. Voyage to the End of the Universe (1963)
  32. Wanda (1970)
  33. Wavelength (1967)
  34. What Time Is It There? (2001)
  35. Where Are My Children? (1916)
  36. Where is the Friend's House? (1987)
  37. Yella (2007)

P.S. I consider myself fairly well exposed, and if I have nearly 40 films on the list I haven't seen, I can imagine this might be overwhelming to some.

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Prioritize Sophie Scholl, In a Lonely Place, Hour of the Wolf, Man with a Movie Camera, 2046

If anyone can't find copies of Sophie Scholl and In a Lonely Place, I will mail you my DVD of either, provided you mail it back. I didn't nominate either, but thank you to whomever did.


"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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Six of these were in my top 25, and several others were on my short list. I imagine I'll be the only person to vote for Song and Solitude, which is unavailable except as a 16mm rental. But I felt compelled to include it on my list because it was the first Dorsky film I saw and his work has completely changed my understanding of contemplative cinema. That film was one of the few before-and-after movie moments in my life.

I also nominated two structuralist masterpieces, Wavelength and Mothlight, which are both available on YouTube, although watching them in that format is sort of a waste of time. I really hope that doesn't sound snobbish. Seeing Wavelength in a theater is akin to performance art. And, in some fundamental way, my understanding of celluloid and cinema history changed when I rented one of Brakhage's prints of Mothlight and projected it for an audience. I don't expect any of these three films to make the top 100, but I think the list would be better for having one of them on it.

Of the films I didn't nominate, I'd encourage you to see 7th Heaven and A Moment of Innocence. I believe the latter has gone out of print, but I have a copy.

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I didn't nominate Love Is Strange, but it's a worthy nomination.  Its director, Ira Sachs, has said his main stylistic influence was Ozu, which is all over this film, with its pillow shots, narrative ellipses, and emotional discreetness.  Its plot also runs strongly parallel to Tokyo Story (and by extension, Make Way for Tomorrow).  Sachs (who is gay) does all of this in the service of a story about a married gay couple whose economic circumstances force them to live apart.  There's a commentary in there about those who would place religious dogma above committed love, but it's not heavy-handed.  Here's a review I wrote six years ago: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk/2014/09/love-is-strange-dir-ira-sachs-usafrance-2014/

I did nominate Faces Places, along with Varda's The Gleaners & I.  It's a minority opinion, but I prefer the former.  I love the old/young juxtaposition of Varda and JR, while JR's larger-than-life photos are a celebration of the dignity, beauty, and goodness of ordinary humans.  Even a third viewing on a tiny airplane screen moved me to tears.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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By the way, you're in better shape than I am, Ken. I haven't seen 73 of the films nominated so far and there are another 40 or so I haven't seen in 15-20 years. Here's a strategic question, would you all prefer I not watch the films I'm pretty sure I won't like? ;)

Edited by Darren H

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16 minutes ago, Darren H said:

By the way, you're in better shape than I am, Ken. I haven't seen 73 of the films nominated so far and there are another 40 or so I haven't seen in 15-20 years. Here's a strategic question, would you all prefer I not watch the films I'm pretty sure I won't like? ;)

I'm not totally surprised given the recency bias of the nominations. I had at least one person I mentioned the nominations to cite that as the reason (not being up on contemporary films) for not wanting to submit a list.

I think the answer to your question depends on a lot on your reasons for doing so, but in general my answer is "yes...or at least enough of it to confirm that impression." 

But I think doing so also has more or less value depending on one's willingness to give at least one pass, however cursory, at articulating one's reasons for not liking it rather than just adopting a naysayer position as means of saying, "It's up to you all to pitch me/convince me" or "I don't care to discuss it beyond telling you all that you are wrong...." 

I get not wanting to invest a lot of time in movies one doesn't like, particularly as one gets older. And really, if someone has seen every episode of Twin Peaks and not cared for it, do they really need to watch the movie too before saying, 'this is not for me'? That said, I've always been appreciative of one very dear friend who actually said to me once, "What exactly is your objection to the film?"

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I'd love to put a name with lists and hear the reasoning for the nominations made.  To that end, here are the 25 films I submitted, in approximate chronological order.  Some of the films probably don’t need explaining, but for the ones that might, here goes:

-          1. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

-          2. Late Spring (1949) and 3. Tokyo Story (1953) – Arguably the two most perfect Ozu films, with all of the warmth, humanism, and reflections on life’s beauty and evanescence that implies.

-          4. Ikiru (1952), 5. Red Beard (1965), and 6. Ran (1985) – So many great Kurosawa films, but I’d contend that these are his most technically excellent films that grapple with questions of human purpose (the first two films) and the presence/absence of God in the face of human cruelty (the last one).

-          7. The Searchers (1956) – Another perfect film.  John Wayne’s portrayal of Ethan Edwards compels us to wrestle how we treat people who look different than us, and with America’s second original sin.

-          8. The Seventh Seal (1957) and 9. Winter Light (1963) – The two Bergman films that contend most grippingly and thoughtfully with theodicy and God’s presence/absence in the world today.

-          10. Vivre Sa Vie (1962) – Godard’s parallel between Nana and Joan of Arc compels us to see the sacredness of all human life, no matter how debased.

-          11. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – I can’t do better than M. Leary’s blurb from 2011.

-          12. Harold and Maude (1971) – A film I return to every couple of years for nourishment.  Such a joyous exhortation to live, love, and defy authority.

-          13. Tender Mercies (1983) – A touching portrayal of human grace and its transforming power.

-          14. Princess Mononoke (1997) and 15. Spirited Away (2001) – The two Miyazaki films that most belong on our list (IMO):  Mononoke for its animistic power and Christological references, and for making explicit that we are killing God in our rape of the planet; Spirited Away for being the culmination of Miyazaki’s art, but not at the sacrifice of his animistic and environmental themes.

-          16. The Gleaners & I (2000) and 17. Faces Places (2017) – Even if we didn’t need more female representation on our list, these would still be worthy candidates, for Varda’s contagious pleasure in humanity at its most obscure and nameless.

-          18. Heartbeat Detector (2007) – I won’t repeat myself, since I’ve already tried to make the case for this film in its dedicated thread.

-          19. A Serious Man (2009) – The Coens’ most overt tackling of spiritual themes, and artistically one of their very best.

-          20. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) – Like the Coen Brothers, I think a Top 100 list of spiritually significant films needs a Herzog film, given his pursuit of ecstatic truth and his idiosyncratic secular humanism.  What better Herzog film, than one that gives us unprecedented access to some of humankind’s earliest art?

-          21. Kid with a Bike (2011) – I’ll let the most vociferous Dardenne-heads tackle this one, but it’s their film that touched me most deeply with its depiction of grace and kindness.

-          22. I Am Not Your Negro (2016) – Given that we’re mostly US voters, I think our list would be sorely lacking without a look at our country’s original sin.  And what better film, than one that so movingly and eloquently presents the words of one of our great prophetic writers?

-          23. Silence (2016) – What I said about the Coens and Herzog goes for Scorsese.

-          24. First Reformed (2017) – Is there a better film about the state of Christianity in the West today?

-          25. A Hidden Life (2019) – I really don’t dig Malick’s aesthetic, but this one knocked my socks off.  The best film about confronting our century’s greatest evil, with unfortunate resonance for today.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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10 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

I debated putting this in the About You forum (assuming each person might have his/her own) or asking for it to be in film specific threads. I would appreciate *discussion* of particular films to be in film specific threads. But given the number of nominees on the list and the (yet undetermined) time before voting, I wanted a thread specifically devoted to prioritizing nominations. 

Below is my list of films from nominations that I either haven't seen (*)  or saw so long ago that I would need to revisit. If anyone wants to put in a word to help me prioritize what I should see....

 

  1. 2046 (2004)
  2. 7th Heaven (1927)
  3. A Brighter Summer Day (1991) GOOGLE PLAY
  4. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
  5. A Moment of Innocence (1996)
  6. Code Unknown (2000) AMAZON
  7. Daughters of the Dust (1991) AMAZON
  8. Endless Poetry (2016) AMAZON
  9. Faces Places (2017) GOOGLE PLAY
  10. From the East (1993)
  11. Hour of the Wolf (1968) Criterion
  12. In a Lonely Place (1950) Vudu Amazon
  13. In Praise of Love (2001)
  14. IIt’s Such A Beautiful Day (2012)
  15. Le Bonheur (1965) CRITERION
  16. Le Quattro Volte (2010) CRITERION
  17. Love is Strange (2014)
  18. Man with a Movie Camera (1929) Vudu Amazon
  19. Mothlight (1963)
  20. Peeping Tom (1960) TUBI (FREE)
  21. Samurai Rebellion (1967) CRITERION
  22. Song and Solitude (2006) 
  23. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005) TUBI/AMAZON PRIME
  24. The Banishment (2007) VUDU
  25. The House Is Black (1963)
  26. The Music Room (1958) CRITERION / AMAZON
  27. The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978) CRITERION /AMAZON
  28. This Transient Life (1970)
  29. Tuesday, After Christmas (2010) Fandor
  30. Under the Sun of Satan (1987) Amazon
  31. Voyage to the End of the Universe (1963)
  32. Wanda (1970) CRITerion 
  33. Wavelength (1967) FlixFling (One week free trial)
  34. What Time Is It There? (2001)
  35. Where Are My Children? (1916)
  36. Where is the Friend's House? (1987) CRITERION
  37. Yella (2007) Vudu

P.S. I consider myself fairly well exposed, and if I have nearly 40 films on the list I haven't seen, I can imagine this might be overwhelming to some.

So it turns out I have seen Love is Strange, just didn't recognize the title. I actually got it out of a Redbox in NC, but who knows. 
I've updated this list with the most likely place for me to see it according to Justwatch.com. Bottom line, I may be getting a month of the Criterion Channel. 

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My nominees were (also in chronological order):

  1. Faust (1926) - Murnau's rendition of Goethe's story of a wager between God and Satan for one man's soul is still one of the most visually stunning films ever made, and the way Faust's choices affect all of humanity is beautifully shown
  2. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) - I don't think I need to make a case for this
  3. Singin' in the Rain (1952) - because it's arguably the most perfect film ever made, it's a delight from start to finish, it's a celebration of the good, true, and beautiful, and it's the perfect example of the type of joy the world needs right now (please, please, please let this get on the list)
  4. The Night of the Hunter (1955) - Don't think this needs a case made for it either
  5. Paths of Glory (1957) - I seriously considered 2001 and Eyes Wide Shut, but for a humanist statement on humankind's ability to do great evil and great good, I had to go with this. it's also the film that first got me hooked on Kubrick.
  6. Through a Glass Darkly (1961) - In my mind, the most perfect wrestling with doubt, faith, and a desire to believe in the midst of loss and suffering. This has to be one of our two Bergman's (or three, if we go three)
  7. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) - This one may be a bit of a stretch, but its simultaneous love letter and critique of traditional musical romances provides some beautiful reflection on how we respond to unexpected changes in our lives and how we value what we have.
  8. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) - What purpose does suffering serve, and how do we add to it or help diminish it?
  9. Stalker (1979) - Probably doesn't need a case made for it, but the search through a supernatural, mysterious zone reveals more about the protagonists' own lives and how they live them
  10. All That Jazz (1979) - I already started a thread for this. Yes, I did nominate three musicals.
  11. Kagemusha (1980) - I think this is generally underappreciated, it's one of Kurosawa's best, and the questions of honor, duty, and what or who one truly serves make this a great fit. I hope it's included given the director limit.
  12. Amadeus (1984) - a perfect cautionary tale about envy and how we react when God speaks in ways we neither expect nor want
  13. Babette's Feast (1987) - a literal cinematic feast about gratitude and the ways arts can serve and save a community
  14. Grave of the Fireflies (1988) - one of the most beautiful portrayals of sibling love, a highlight of the evil of war, and the injustice of decimating a country because it loses, and the cost that takes on everyone
  15. The Double Life of Veronique (1991) - a reminder that we're never alone, even if it seems like it, and the mysterious ways we can be connected even when we least expect it, especially though the transcendence of art
  16. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) - a journey through hell that challenges all the characters' (and our) preconceptions and assumptions that made it possible for Laura Palmer to be so abandonned
  17. Three Colors: Blue (1993) - How was this the only one of the color trilogy to be nominated? Anyway, it's about finding the will to live and heal after a tragedy, with art once again playing a crucial role
  18. The Last Days of Disco (1998) - in the midst of messy lives in which me make many mistakes, the importance of small moments of grace, moral insights, and valuing the good times we share with one another
  19. WALL-E (2008) - about care for environment and our home. Andrew is right we need film's addressing America's original sin of slavery and racism, but we also should include a film addressing our country's sins of environmental waste and destruction
  20. A Separation (2011) - a film that cares about everyone of its characters as they all try to do what is right, and the ways seemingly simple acts of carelessness can have more serious repercussions
  21. Two Days, One Night (2014) - this has always been the Dardenne film that resonates the most with me; the compassion it has for all the characters stuck with an awful choice, Sandra's resilience, her fight with depression, and the "third way" of the ending that finds a perfect balance between cynicism and fake optimism
  22. The Assassin (2015) - a story of walking away from violence and trying to build peace between warring dynasties, even when that means rejecting your training
  23. The Witch (2016) - unquestionably about the dangers of fundamentalism, but also about the fear of a very real evil
  24. Silence (2016) - It's important to remember how Christians have failed and ask ourselves where is God in the midst of that failure
  25. Lady Bird (2017) - "Don't you think maybe they're the same thing: love and paying attention?" Gerwig's handling of the Catholic school milieu gives this a more religious element than the average coming of age story, but the care and love that's at the root of all these relationships, even when the characters don't know how to show it, makes this an essential film for the list.

 

Edited by Evan C

"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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Here's me:

  1. The Kid (1921) - Somehow heartbreaking and humorous, its the Chaplin classic film that I find most affecting, perhaps due to Jackie Coogan's phenomenal child performance.
  2. The Red Shoes (1948) - Maybe the greatest film about art ever made?
  3. Germany Year Zero (1948) - I could have picked any number of Rossellini films—particularly ones which are more overtly religious or spiritual—but this one remains the most haunting for me. The landscape of a real-life nightmare.
  4. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) - A perfect, joyous film.
  5. The Night of the Hunter (1955) - One of my all-time favorite films. Some day I will write an article (or book!) on the religious side of James Agee, film critic and this film's screenwriter. 
  6. The 400 Blows (1959) - Coming-of-age stories strike me as distinctly spiritual and transformative—they're stories of how we "grow up" into a new person, how the seed of our Self sprouts into its more mature form. It's why I've advocated for a Top 25 coming-of-age list every year, and why I think Truffaut's classic should be considered here. Deep down, we are all still the person we were as a middle school-aged person, and the meaningful experiences we had during that season of life can shape our entire life trajectory.
  7. Wanda (1970) - Upon a rewatch this week, there are so many religious allusions in this, from Wanda walking through hills of coal in angelic white, to the presence of large churches on the edge of the frame, to the strange visit to Holy Land USA. And I think every single one of the Dardennes' films makes some visual nod to this film.
  8. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) - A coming-of-age film as well as a nightmare of sorts. 
  9. Blade Runner (1982) - From what I can tell, this film was not included on previous Top 100s. I cannot fathom why. A philosophical treatise in cinematic form.
  10. Stop Making Sense (1984) - Another perfect, joyous film.
  11. Secrets and Lies (1996) - This captures the adult adoptee experience in remarkable ways.
  12. Mulholland Drive (2001) - Maybe it's cliche to say that this is the best Lynch film (apart from Twin Peaks: The Return), but if that's wrong, I don't wanna be right. I love that we have more than one Lynch nominee on our list.
  13. The Son (2002) - I mean, it's *The Son*. See my 5000+ word essay on it here.
  14. Lost in Translation (2003) - This was one of those before/after films for me; watching it as a senior in high school, raised in a conservative home where movies weren't usually allowed, this moved me profoundly then, and still moves me now. A picture of the need for belonging and community, of feeling alone even when surrounded by people, and the mystery of human connection, i.e. why we love the people we love. I recognize now that there is a possible argument to made for co-opting culture ("using" Japan to tell a white upperclass tale of ennui), but there's still something humanistic in the best way about this film.
  15. Children of Men (2006) - A Nativity story.
  16. The Secret of Kells (2009) - I love the colors and images, as well as the resonance of the story and its celebration of both sacred texts and sacred relationships.
  17. The Tree of Life (2011) - My all-time favorite film.
  18. The Kid with a Bike (2011) - My other all-time favorite film.
  19. Upstream Color (2013) - I wrote an academic journal article about Carruth's cinema, and described this film as a pneumatological post-secular film—there is a Spirit to this film, but not in any traditional sense.
  20. Two Days, One Night (2014) - A beautiful and cathartic Via Dolorosa.
  21. Selma (2014) - A biopic which powerfully captures what it means to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. I find myself increasingly drawn to films about saintly figures who practiced social justice (Romero, Of Gods and Men, Monsieur Vincent). We need a really good Bonhoeffer or Dorothy Day biopic.
  22. The Fits (2016) - Every time I've shown this film to others, it's elicited a strong reaction: either they hate it and don't get it, or they're deeply moved and can't stop talking about it. Blessed are those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
  23. Cameraperson (2016) - At the very last second, even as I writing the email to Darren, I included this film rather than Rashomon (I figured someone else would nominate Rashomon, which apparently didn't happen!). A montage memento mori.
  24. First Reformed (2018) - It prompted a spiritual and existential crisis for me, so I suppose that's something.
  25. A Hidden Life (2019) - Though there are so many moments, two parallel scenes really stick with me: 1) when Franz gets a suitcase for an older woman on a train, and 2) when Franz picks up a fallen umbrella in a store and puts it back in its place. The smallest, most insignificant gestures of kindness and goodness are captured by Malick's camera.

I deliberately focused on films that were not included in previous Top 100 iterations, as well as more recent works (i.e. since 2011) that were worth our consideration. Which is why no Dreyer or Tarkovsky or Bresson or Ozu appears here—I figured others would have that covered. But the fact that films like The Red Shoes or Blade Runner had not appeared on a list seemed like a significant omission.

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23 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

I debated putting this in the About You forum (assuming each person might have his/her own) or asking for it to be in film specific threads. I would appreciate *discussion* of particular films to be in film specific threads. But given the number of nominees on the list and the (yet undetermined) time before voting, I wanted a thread specifically devoted to prioritizing nominations. 

Below is my list of films from nominations that I either haven't seen (*)  or saw so long ago that I would need to revisit. If anyone wants to put in a word to help me prioritize what I should see....
 

2046 (2004)

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

In a Lonely Place (1950)

Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

Wanda (1970)

 

A couple of these are ones I nominated. I'm kinda surprised you'd never seen A Charlie Brown Christmas, one of the most profound and explicitly Christian pieces of commercial art ever made IMHO, with an all-time jazz score. I'd prioritize that first.

2046 is one I nominated, and I'm guessing without Ryan Holt to second it, it will be passed over. It's a moving meditation on desire, time, memory, change, anchored in the history of 60s Hong Kong. It's a bit more sprawling and less focused or "perfect" than Wong's In the Mood for Love, but it strikes me as a better fit for this list.

The last three are all films I think you should see. I think you'll perhaps like In a Lonely Place and Wanda, given your tastes. I'm guessing the formalism of Vertov's "city symphony" may not appeal to you, but it's really a landmark in exploring the philosophical possibilities of the film camera.


"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 will save the commentary for the film-specific threads, which I've been slowly trying to populate, but I'll be happy to prioritize discussing any of these in its film-specific thread if asked:

My noms:

  • At the Death House Door (2008)
  • L'Avventura (1960)
  • Blade Runner (1982)
  • By the Grace of God (2019)
  • The Celluloid Closet (1995)
  • The End of the Affair (1999)
  • The Exorcist (1973)
  • Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
  • Fever Pitch (1997)
  • First Reformed (2017)
  • The Godfather (1972)
  • High and Low (1963)
  • M (1931)
  • A Man Escaped (1956)
  • A Man for All Seasons (1966)
  • The Man Who Planted Trees (1987)
  • The Night of the Hunter (1955)
  • Ordet (1955)
  • The Queen of Versailles (2012)
  • Rounders (1998)
  • Run Lola Run (1998)
  • The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • Triumph of the Will (1935)
  • Two Days, One Night (2014)
  • The Way (2010)

Evan, I see your three musicals and raise you four documentaries.

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My nominations, for the record. These aren't ranked, but they are grouped by director in certain cases. Right now, more than representation by gender or sexual preference, I'm most interested in which regions of world cinema we might be leaving out. (I'm pretty sure this has come up elsewhere in our Top 100 discussion.) And on that score, I was determined to make sure Romanian films were represented in our list. Beyond the Hills was an easy fit for our list, so inclusion wasn't a reach. I'm a little surprised that 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days dropped off our list, but am glad to see The Death of Mr. Lazarescu made the first cut (even though I feel less strongly about that film, it's appropriate for this list):

Ordet (1955)

Day of Wrath (1943)

Stalker (1979)

Andrei Rublev (1966)

The Tree of Life (2011)

Knight of Cups (2015)

A Hidden Life (2019)

The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)

The Kid With a Bike (2011)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Beyond the Hills (2012)

The Burmese Harp (1956)

Summer Hours (2008)

Playtime (1967)

Silent Light (2007)

Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

A Serious Man (2009)

Another Year (2010)

Ikiru (1952)

The Seventh Seal (1957)

The Immigrant (2013)

Ida (2013)

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

The Rider (2017)

Magnolia (1999)

Edited by Christian

"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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Man with a Movie Camera seems to have showed up on several of our lists. This is a remarkable for a lot of reasons!

I will come back and update with some explanation for each, but from my list I would want to encourage visiting or considering these (the rest are fairly standard or others have argued well for their inclusion):

  • Nazarin (1959)
  • From the East (1993)
  • In Praise of Love (2001)
  • Walker (2012)
  • I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

 


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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On 4/5/2020 at 9:00 AM, kenmorefield said:

The House Is Black (1963)

I nominated The House Is Black, a landmark in Persian cinema. It's short--only a little over 20 minutes, and it's on YouTube, so everyone should be able to watch this one. The subtitles aren't great, but the translated text is written out in its entirety in the comments.

I have been wanting to rewatch Sophie Scholl myself since seeing A Hidden Life a few months ago.

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5 hours ago, Christian said:

Beyond the Hills was an easy fit for our list, so inclusion wasn't a reach. I'm a little surprised that 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days dropped off our list, but am glad to see The Death of Mr. Lazarescu made the first cut (even though I feel less strongly about that film, it's appropriate for this list)

I'm really glad you nominated this one, Christian, particularly since 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days dropped off, and I think it's the best fit for this list of those three.

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Ok, here's some short notes on my nominees and a rationale in some cases. It's clear to me that a common theme is "memory" and the question of the human and subjectivity, topics I spent most of the last decade working on a doctoral dissertation about.

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - The greatest cinematic statement on the question of the human, and my answer most days if some asks me the greatest film ever made.
  2. 2046 (2004) - As I said above, it's a moving meditation on desire, time, memory, change, anchored in the history of 60s Hong Kong. It's a bit more sprawling and less focused or "perfect" than Wong's In the Mood for Love, but it strikes me as a better fit for this list.
  3. After Life (1998) - Quite possibly my favourite film of the 90s is Kore-eda's unique portrait of the immediate after life: at a way station to the great beyond, each soul is asked to contemplate their life and choose one memory to take with them to eternity. An existential challenge as great as any philosophy work I've read.
  4. Blade Runner (1982) - Again, evokes a challenge to the question of the human, and ends with a shift from an ontological to an ethical definition.
  5. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) - A rare truly great piece of explicitly Christian commercial art. Linus's reading of Luke 2:8-20 is as straightforward an account of my faith as exists in cinema.
  6. Children of Men (2006) - A Christmas movie about the need for a miracle, which I've written about here.
  7. Days of Heaven (1978) - A Biblical tale like few others.
  8. Do the Right Thing (1989) - My pick for the best American film of my lifetime, a work not only classically informed, but rich in characterization and nuance. A call to reflect on Jesus admonition to "love our neighbour.
  9. First Reformed (2017) - A challenge to what it means to live faith in tension, caught between hope and despair, and its cost.
  10. The Grapes of Wrath (1940) - We had to have a John Ford film, and for me, this is one of the best, with cinematography by Gregg Toland and Henry Fonda's Tom Joad speaking something prophetic about North American and capitalism that takes on a spiritual dimension. Deeply moving to me.
  11. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) - One of the most important films in my own personal life, part of my Christmas liturgy. It manages to evoke an entire life and community.
  12. Jesus of Montreal (1989) - A film about how the story of Christ might become our own.
  13. La Jetée (1962) - Another short film, Chris Marker's masterpiece challenges the definition of moving image and even the logic of cause and effect in our lives. What moment is our life leading to? And more frighteningly, is it in the past?
  14. The Mirror (1975) - One of my very favourite films of all time. I will simply quote Tarkovsky: "Memory is a spiritual concept! [...] Bereft of memory, a person becomes the prisoner of an illusory existence; falling out of time he is unable to seize his own link with the outside world—in other words he is doomed to madness."
  15. My Neighbor Totoro (1988) - Maybe the most beautiful film ever made. "Truly I tell you, anyone who does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 
  16. The Rules of the Game (1939) - My pick for a film about sin and how it can be both petty and personal at the same time it is systemic and shared.
  17. A Serious Man (2009) - My pick for the best Coen brothers film.
  18. Summer Hours (2008) - Another beautiful film that connects our relationships with family to questions of art, globalization, and legacy. I have shared this film with people at least a half-dozen times and it touches me like few others.
  19. The Third Man (1955) - One of my favourite films. Wonderful literary and cinematic legacy.
  20. The Tree of Life (2011) - Of course.
  21. Tokyo Story (1953) - Reduces me to weeping, so evocative in its cultural specificity and universality at the same time (or, perhaps the second flows from the first?).
  22. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010) - A challenge to my Western understanding of religion and does so by pushing film form into philosophically challenging realms. Personal because of the two years I lived in Thailand and a chapter of my dissertation.
  23. Vertigo (1958) - Not my personal favourite Hitchcock, but it challenges my love of cinema in its interrogation of the idolatry of the image and very concept of desire.
  24. The Wicker Man (1973) - This genre oddity about an encounter between Christianity and paganism is so fair to everyone involved, without ever pulling its punches.
  25. Wild Strawberries (1957) - The great meditation on aging and memory.

"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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Thanks to those who have shared their rationales already—all so succinct and so compelling!

Some of the themes I noticed in my list were wrestling with the implications of faith/spirituality (whether in what to believe or in other aspects of life), the meaning of vocation (often as related to art), the spirituality and importance of the environment/creation, and compelling examples of faith in action (whether by clergy, laypeople, or communities), also four animated films.

I’ll post some more about some of these in their threads later.

  1. Rome, Open City (1945) the quintessential neo-realist film for me; though fictional, it’s a more raw and essential New Martyr film than Sophie Scholl or A Hidden Life (though I figured those would get nominated, and I hope the Top 100 has room for all three) in that I found it to most strongly condemn the Nazi worldview as opposed to Christianity
  2. The Flowers of St. Francis (1950) for its beautiful and compelling portrayal of Christian community at its purest
  3. Ordet (1955) the greatest filmic expression of my own relationship with faith (and, for me, the definitive statement on faith in film), and perhaps the most perfect film of them all
  4. The Seventh Seal (1957) what Andrew said. It was between this and Winter Light for me. I love Wild Strawberries and Through a Glass Darkly and find them to be more hopeful, but and Winter Light goes deeper in asking spiritual questions (and I think is a tighter film overall), but Seventh Seal speaks to me more, is more iconic, ultimately more hopeful, and is more enjoyable
  5. The House Is Black (1963) incredibly moving and humanizing portrayal of the truly marginalized in a leper colony; also for its integration of documentary images and religious poetry; see my previous comment in this thread
  6. Andrei Rublev (1966) After Ordet, the second greatest for me, including for its meditation on art and vocation
  7. Stalker (1979) this for me is one of the great statements of what it means to be human, and I think it’s Tarkovsky’s most beautiful
  8. The Sacrifice (1986) for its explorations of the implications of the felt absence of God in modern life; its puzzles are too much for me to piece through, but its answer is one of hope and confidence
  9. Chariots of Fire (1981) I have a lot of affinity for this one as I ran track in high school and college, and I’m a Christian who grew up in a fairly strict Sabbatarian household; it’s one of the few films that’s actually inspired my to be more disciplined in my faith; it uses its entertainment value in thoughtful ways that most mainstream films do not
  10. Amadeus (1984) what Evan said; Mozart was an earthen and earthy vessels of God’s voice through music, but most of us are Salieris at our best, and this film helps me be a better one
  11. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) the world-building here is unmatched in Miyazaki (and it’s our world in the future); Nausicaä is one of my favorite Christ-figure characters, certainly to appear outside a Christian or Western context; its spiritual message of peacemaking and environmental respect is needed more than ever
  12. Princess Mononoke (1997) what Andrew said. As well as any other film, this film tells the truth about the meaning of our environmental crisis and has helped me wrestle with that productively
  13. The Mission (1986) for its wrestling with Christianity's legacy of colonialism contrasted with a Christian vision of peace, solidarity, and the equality of all humans; also for it's portrayal of repentance and spiritual growth; also very beautiful setting
  14. The Man Who Planted Trees (1987) my favorite animated film; an utterly compelling vision of the world renewed/redeemed, and how working toward that is “a task worthy of God”
  15. Babette's Feast (1987) I love this one, too. I’ve written some about it in its thread in the past.
  16. Jesus of Montreal (1989) whatever their historicity, this points to the truths of/in the gospel narratives being the Truth; a phenomenal allegory
  17. Vanya on 42nd Street (1994) Even though it’s just actors essentially in a black box stage, it totally works as a film, and not as a gimmick; for its reflections on meaning in vocation, unrequited love, and it’s one of the most personally moving of these films for me;
  18. Ponette (1996) Ponette’s negotiations for how to confront death are a lesson to us all; I also have a four year old daughter, and the film absolutely nails the life stage, which is no less worthy to look at than older stages; I totally believed the ending, which isn’t as transcendent as Ordet’s but still really worked for me
  19. The Miracle Maker (2000) my favorite Jesus film, and possibly the most faithful to who Jesus was
  20. Adam's Apples (2005) I think it’s the best wrestling with the problem of evil and the contemporary meaning of the Book of Job that I’ve seen in film, and I say that in comparison to worthies such as A Serious Man and The Tree of Life. Plus it’s a true black/dark comedy in that it is hilarious in many moments, and goes to the deeply disturbing dark places (and dark night of the soul), but unlike many black “comedies” somehow still has a happy ending
  21. The Island (2006) a compelling portrayal of hard earned Christian maturity that looks like foolishness to the world (and basically everyone)
  22. Calvary (2014) I think this is the best film I’ve seen about the church’s child abuse problem, especially in thinking about its implications for the church; a compelling portrayal of clergy as well
  23. Selma (2014) what Joel said. We need King’s voice and vision (and Baldwin’s) now as much as ever in thinking about nonviolence and racial justice
  24. Silence (2016) a beautiful adaptation of an essential novel; I feel like these priests’ and believers’ predicament is very indicative of the tradeoffs people of faith are forced into in the modern world; I’ve written about it in its thread
  25. First Reformed (2017) I think it’s one of the two most important films (alongside The Tree of Life) on faith and hope made in my lifetime, as stunning in form as in content; I have a lot of affinity for this one as well: these environmental issues are close to my heart, and Schrader comes from the same religious subculture I do (and went to my alma matter while my parents were going there); I feel like I’ve either attended church or school with every single character in this film, even the ones with a single line
Edited by Rob Z

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23 hours ago, Anders said:

2046 is one I nominated, and I'm guessing without Ryan Holt to second it, it will be passed over. It's a moving meditation on desire, time, memory, change, anchored in the history of 60s Hong Kong. It's a bit more sprawling and less focused or "perfect" than Wong's In the Mood for Love, but it strikes me as a better fit for this list.

I will advocated strongly for 2046. I really do miss Ryan's presence here, though.


"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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Looking like First Reformed is going to feature strongly on this iteration!


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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6 minutes ago, Darren H said:

I'm surprised by the consensus. I don't know if I expected any film to show up on 40% of the lists, especially one that came out three years ago.

I'm speculating, but after writing the post about directors with multiple nods, I think maybe the film was helped by the fact that Schrader didn''t have other films on the list already, sort of like a lifetime achievement award in conjunction with its quality? But I think it speaks very powerfully to the exvangelical moment, and, of course, there is a sort of fan service in his references to other films in the canon.

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