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06/23/2011

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I had forgotten that that was Alan Rickman. I don't think I knew who Alan Rickman was when I saw it.

Slope!

AMDG

These are recent movies?

I had a feeling somebody might call me on that. If I were in a mood to be contrary, I would say, yeah, they're really quite recent compared to Beowulf. But I'm not, so: recently watched.

Slope, aka Slop.

I guess you haven't seen Thor yet.

No, and wasn't planning to. Should I?

Have you ever seen the Makioka Sisters?

AMDG

No, nor heard of it.

(them?)

It's been a long time since I watched it, but I remember liking it and it was very beautiful.

AMDG

The Barchester Chronicles are wonderfully funny. McEwan always plays baddies on British TV.

I own an Ozu boxset which includes Late Spring. I tried to watch it and gave up after about 10 minutes. Perhaps I am too impatient; in any case, I was bored.

I have no reason to recommend Thor to you. It was an idle question.

Heh...well, that's certainly prima facie evidence of a certain level of impatience. This is pretty much the opposite end of the universe from, say, The Wire.

I expect almost all your patience is expended on your books. You must have a reserve in there somewhere or you wouldn't be able to write them. I just started reading your 1st Samuel book and am in awe of the learning. I hope I can understand it.

There's a phrase reviewers use that's always annoyed me a little: they speak of characters "you love to hate." Well, the bishop's wife, and Slope, certainly were that for me. Have you seen her Miss Marple? She's really, really good.

Makioka Sisters looks really good. I just put it on my Netflix queue. I will probably bump it up from its entry slot, #82. What am I doing?!?! I'll never be able to watch all these.

I don't know how you get so many on your queue. I'm always running short.

You should just bump everything I've recommended up to the top and get rid of everything else. ;-)

AMDG

Current occupants of the top 10 positions: 2 disks of the original Upstairs Downstairs; The Dirty Dozen; The Long Goodbye; The Drowning Pool; Heaven; Islands in the Stream; Guns of Navarone; The Haunting. But there's always a pretty good chance that any of those will be replaced by something else before it actually gets to the top--for instance, I just put U-D there yesterday. I have a lot of stuff on there that are not necessarily of the greatest interest, just whims of a moment, or a response to someone saying such-and-such was pretty good. A number of '40s and '50s detective movies, '50s scifi, classics I saw a long time ago and would like to see again (Treasure of the Sierra Madre). Old Hollywood standards that I've never seen....etc. You could start expanding yours by adding all the available Bergman that you haven't seen. Sometimes I don't even recognize what's on the list, in some cases because my wife added it. A lot of the ones near the top now are there because she doesn't have time to watch, and I'm trying to get some of the ones she's not interested in out of the way. e.g. The Dirty Dozen.

Craig, I did see a somewhat favorable review of Thor, from a not-stupid critic. Might be fun.

I haven't seen Miss Marple. Is it recommended?

I will be disappointed if you can't understand the I Sam comm. I wrote it with church bible study groups in mind. Not that I've ever been in one. I tried to imagine who would read a 'theological commentary' on Scripture and came up with church bible study groups as my target audience. It doesn't have a lot of crap in it about postmodernism and this sort of thing.

I just looked on Netflix and can't find McEwan's, but here they are at Amazon. I didn't realize there were so many--I don't think I saw more than 3 or 4. The Joan Hickson ones from...late '80s, early '90s?...were also good, I thought. Yeah, recommended by me, anyway. I don't know the books so I wasn't comparing the dramatizations to them.

Re 1 Sam: that's encouraging (your intended audience). I feared it was theologians. I've literally only read a couple of pages, which are predominantly textual considerations. I only got it last weekend (had requested it for Father's Day).

I don't think I knew about the Geraldine McEwan ones. Too bad they aren't on Netflix. She was Lucia in Mapp and Lucia and played the same kind of character--the one you love to hate.

AMDG

I will buy it from amazon when I get back to the USA next week

That's a lot of money--I hope you won't hold it against me if you don't like it. Here's a sample on YouTube.

I think I watched one episode of Mapp & Lucia and didn't care for it, but it was a really long time ago.

I will roadtest before I buy

It doesn't have a lot of crap in it about postmodernism and this sort of thing.

That in itself is a great recommendation. :)

I don't have a Netflix queue per se (Netflix in Canada exists, but as a pale shadow of its more southerly self), but I do keep a list of movies I'd like to see, many of which I first heard of here. I think my current list is about 20 or 30 films long.

A few weeks back Rob G recommended the films of Terrence Malick here. I've watched a few of them since (Badlands and The New World), and they were both very good. The New World, especially, is a beautiful, beautiful film.

Mac, do you have a queue for music and books as well? My CD queue has about 100 titles on it, and my book queue -- I almost choke to say it -- has about 900!

(Not 900 factorial, just 900.)

I thought New World was great too. I haven't yet seen Badlands, but The Thin Red Line just blew me away. He has a new one out, I think it's called Tree of Life. Haven't seen it yet.

No, I don't have a queue for music and books. I just have a whole lot of both in my house waiting to be heard/read. And a whole lot more in mind. The only reason I have a movie queue is that Netflix provides it and almost requires that you use it, at least to the extent of putting the next one you want in the queue. I think making an actual count of either would be far too depressing.

I will make a confession: the Netflix queue isn't the only movie "list." Some months ago, in a fit of some kind I suppose, we (my wife and I) signed up for AT&T's Uverse service, which makes recording movies unbelievably easy and reliable. Also, Uverse carries Turner Classic Movies. There must be 30 or 40 movies sitting on the dvr now....

Tree of Life is getting some wildly enthusiastic reviews. As far as I know I haven't seen anything by Malick. But there are a couple in the queue...

I'm glad you mentioned Tree of Life. I really liked the trailer, but I'd forgotten about it. Looks like the release date is July 8--a week before HP.

I didn't like Mapp and Lucia either. I think we watched the whole DVD because it was at home (before Netflix), but we never got any more.

AMDG

The Tree of Life isn't in wide release yet? That's encouraging. It opened here a few weeks ago, but only at one cinema in another area of the city, to which I can basically never get. I am very keen to see it, and would be delighted if a few other theatres started showing it.

Jesse, The Thin Red Line was the first, and, until a month ago, only Malick film that I had seen. I agree that it is excellent. Now that I have seen a few other Malick films and have a better appreciation of his style, I would like to see it again.

"HP" will always mean "Hewlett-Packard" first for me.

Daniel (Nichols) was saying that Tree of Life was only being released to art houses and/or in big cities. Is that changing on July 8?

All I know is that IMDB says the release date is July 8. Does IMDB have some deep esoteric meaning for you?

AMDG

I like Geraldine McEwan a lot, but her Miss Marple is not one of my favorites. I think the blame should be placed on the writers, though. For one thing, her Miss Marple is not actually a traditional spinster, but a lady who had a love affair during WWI. Her lover was killed, and, if I’m not mistaken, was actually married to another woman. Also, she comes off rather hip and PC, which is not at all what I want in a Miss Marple.

"I mean...damn, boy..." (Southern male expression of consternation) :-):-)

I think to the world at large HP is more esoteric than H-P.

Hmm, I missed that stuff in the latest Miss Marple series. Writers will do that sort of thing.

Oh, I see it's playing already at the theatre that shows Art House movies. I wonder if Bill would like to drive to Memphis this evening.

AMDG

That sounds like Foghorn Leghorn.

AMDG

I think the worst Miss Marple ever was Angela Lansbury. She was to soignee and she smoked. And then, Angela Lansbury is pretty much always Angela Lansbury.

AMDG

I am teaching a course next term on Theology and Film. What films would you include Mac? Rob G? Craig? Janet? Marianne? Louise? Dan?

Theology and Film! Cool. :)

Well, first off, "The Passion of the Christ."

"Into Great Silence" maybe.

What about that old St Joan of Arc movie? I'm sure there are lots of movies which could be used, but I'm initially just thinking off the top of my head, so they're all explicitly religious so far.

And one of my very favouritest movies: "Molokai" starring Faramir (the lovely Aussie actor, David Wenham) - yes you must seriously consider this one. Only make sure you look up photos of St Damien of Molokai before you watch the movie otherwise you might see photos of him after the movie and think - that's odd, he doesn't look anything like Faramir!

Surely someone has made a movie of "Kristin Lavransdatter"?

Oh man! What a juicy question, Francesca! Winter Light is definitely among my top choices. More later...

Yes, Louise, there is a Kristin film, or at least a film by that name, but it doesn't even pretend to be the book. Liv Ullman (great actress and Bergman protege) directed it, if I'm not mistaken. I saw it years ago and thought it was a decent movie taken entirely on its own, but not necessarily very faithful to the spirit of the book. I really don't remember it very clearly, though, so I'm not sure what I would think now.

Babette's Feast is the first thing that comes to mind, and some Bergman stuff like The Seventh Seal.

I think the choice of films depends on what you are trying to teach about theology and film. If you are examining the way that filmmakers approach or present faith, you would use films that are obviously religious. But you could also be teaching about the theological underpinnings of films that aren't apparent on the surface. So, which are you looking for? Or is it something else altogether. And is it specifically Christian theology?

AMDG

I sat and thought about this for a long time and what I kept coming up with were movies made from books that should have been perfect, but weren't, like Kristin.

AMDG

I would second Babette's Feast. Others that come quickly to mind: Tender Mercies, The Apostle, Ostrov. The last two deal very explicitly with faith and theology, the first is more indirect. The Virgin Spring. I need to watch The Seventh Seal again, because although it deals very directly with faith, it didn't make the same impression on me that Winter Light did. Bergman's next film, Through a Glass Darkly, is also a contender. The third in that trilogy, The Silence, less so--Bergman had worked his way into full atheism, and so it's less interesting from the theological point of view.

Outside Christian thinking, there is a Jewish film...what's it called?...Ushpizin. And the Iranian/Muslim Color of Paradise.

If The Road conveys the same message as the book, it would be good, too. I couldn't finish watching it at home because I have a very small screen and it was so dark that I just couldn't see what was going on. Also, The Willow Tree which is another Iranian movie directed by Majid Majidi, the director of The Colors of Paradise.

AMDG

Has anyone else here seen The Third Miracle made by the Polish director, Agnieszka Holland? It was made about 10 years ago, and I can’t remember a lot of details, but it has stayed in my mind. It’s about a doubting priest who is sent by the Vatican to look into the miracles reported in the case of a woman being considered for beautification. It’s surprisingly complex and thoughtful.

Thank you for all your suggestions, and please keep them coming. I have not heard of Molokai. I am interested in your opinion partly because of your supreme aesthetic tastes, but also because many of you are Americans and know American youth better than I do. They would seem to have a limited but not non existent appetite for European art cinema. Last term, I showed them Pasolini's Gospel of Matthew, which I love, and none liked it. It seems to me I must do at least 50% American films or I will lose them. I like Mujid Mujidii very much indeed. (I have seen three, but not The Willow Tree), but it can't be all Iranian intellectual movies. OTH, the only one of your suggestions I would veto is The Apostle, because I found it v. boring.

In response to Mac's question about what the course is aiming to do, I think it will aim to look at to what extent, and how, basic Christian themes, such as love, forgiveness, grace, sacrifice, can be conveyed in the medium of film

I was the one that asked the question. What about "Places in the Heart?"

AMDG

Molokai is very good, but surprisingly hard to find in Europe (I've seen it, but I've never found a copy of my own). Was it subject to some sort of legal dispute? (Nothing else would explain its obscurity, when so many obscure things are so easy to come by.) Has anybody seen (or even seen anything about) There Be Dragons? I came across it just this week by total chance, and am very surprised not to have heard of it before.

Is Geraldine McEwan better than Joan Hickson? (I thought she was very good.)

Mention of theology and film somehow puts me in mind of A Chinese Ghost Story, which is about battling demons. Burying the dead is also a major plot element. Both theological, one would think.

Would this count as theology on film? (Or this even?)

Janet, I have not heard of Places in the Heart. I will look it up when I get back next week.

Paul, I have heard of There be Dragons, and I don't think it is on DVD yet. I would like to use if it I can.

Gosh, Francesca, it had not sunk in on me that the people you'll be teaching are, like, students. That puts it in a whole different light. How about The Matrix?

I'm not familiar with any of the movies named by Paul and Marianne, or with Molokai or Places in the Heart. I remember hearing about the last of those years ago, but never saw it.

Re my mention of The Third Miracle: Make that “beatification” rather than “beautification.” It is sort of an interesting typo, though. ;-)

Catching up on some of the things I missed or didn't have time to look at yesterday:

Paul, yes, Temptation of a Monk looks good, but surely nothing can beat pop Buddhism with a disco soundtrack.

I had not heard of There Be Dragons. From the ad, hard to tell whether it's good or bad. I noticed that it's directed by the guy who did The Mission, which is supposed to be quite good, but I've never seen it.

Yes, Marianne, that's an excellent typo.

Paul, I don't know that I would say Geraldine McEwan's Miss Marple is better than Joan Hickson's. It's been too long since I saw the latter, though I remember it being very good. From what Marianne said the Hickson ones may be better as adaptations of the books.

In all seriousness, thinking of this topic with an audience of American college students in mind, I'm at an impasse. In my experience said group is not in general very receptive to movies that aren't pretty Hollywood-ish. Bergman would probably be completely wasted on them.

I'm astounded that you have seen neither The Mission nor Places in the Heart.

AMDG

It's probably because they came out in the mid-'80s when I just didn't see very many movies. I do remember thinking that The Mission sounded worthwhile, from what people were saying about it, but never got around to renting it.

Yes, we are talking about American undeergraduates. One or two art movies would be OK, but mainly I am looking for Hollywood type movies. Rob G sometimes recoommends some good ones, though.

Youall have done over theyears which is why I asked

Well, we talked about the new True Grit. That would definitely be good and if you can bear it, you ought to watch Night of the Hunter (I'm told the Coen Bros. are big fans of this movie.), where you will see all sorts of parallels. It could make for an interesting discussion and NotH is good for Theology, too.

AMDG

Was it subject to some sort of legal dispute? (Nothing else would explain its obscurity, when so many obscure things are so easy to come by.)

yes, it was, Paul, but I don't remember the details. It *should* be popular in Belgium! But I guess that's where the legal dispute was.

It's not often (if ever) that I make movie recommendations, but really, y'all need to watch "Molokai."

If it's the 2000 release with Peter O'Toole, Sam Neill, and Derek Jacobi, it's on Netflix. Which I guess may mean U.S. only.

That's the one, Maclin. Do they actually mention Faramir? (David Wenham) Anyway, it was a great cast.

Paul, was David Wenham (Father Damien) convincing with his attempt at a Flemish accent? Although I suppose most Belgians don't go around speaking English? LOL!

Not in the little 2 or 3 sentence Netflix blurb, which was all I read.

Yes, Louise, he was. Best fake-Flemish-accent I've ever heard in a film.

Thanks for all the ideas. Janet, I have seen, own, and have shown, Night of the Hunter, but it didn't occur to me to use it. I have put most of the suggestions that I didn't already have in my amazon cart and purchased them - I didn't have any problem with buying Molokai.

Given Francesca's brief (love, grace, etc.) I wonder whether In Bruges wouldn't be a good choice (despite the constant over-the-top violence and profanity).

And thinking about gangsters, Tsotsi and Mona Lisa are also in some ways films about love. As, of course, is Slumdog Millionaire.

Sometime later today I'm going to look over the list of dvds I've rented from Netflix and see if there's anything there that might be more college-student-appropriate.

This mention of Night of the Hunter is interesting. I've never seen it, because the basic description of the plot was always enough to make me not want to put myself through it. I've never heard anyone say anything from a theological angle about it. There was a remake a while back--probably 20 years or so now--that was reportedly more disturbing and in which the villain was made a Christian fanatic of some kind. Of course.

The villain is a Christian fanatic. But the heroine is also Christian, of a different kind. In Aberdeen I used to have 'DVD dinners' where I invited about six people and watched a DVD. We all enjoyed Night of the Hunter. I started doing that years back because I couldn't work the DVD player. I would hand the remote to some competent person while I did the food.

Robert Barron gave a one of his talks on Slumdog Millionaire and said it is about divine providence. It could be. But I don't know. In a sense, all comedies could be said to be about some kind of providence!

It's the combination of Night of the Hunter and True Grit that's so interesting. The difference between the girl in TG, who wants vengeance and the young boy in NotH who forgives. And both have scenes with the children taking apples from a bowl with different motives. And then the contrast between the landlady who charges Mattie for an empty bag to put her gun in and the woman who takes in children and gives them everything.

AMDG

I knew you guys would enable me to teach this course!

The blog is very happy that you've found it useful, because I've been thinking of putting it to sleep.

That sounds like a great pairing, Janet. Not having seen either one, I can't offer any specific comment.

Can anyone think of any cartoons?

I once told a postgrad that I really liked Herzog's Fitzcaraldo. He said he hated it. They'd done it at his school, for his German class, and the master kept ranting about what a great movie it is, so they had to pretend to like it. But really, he said, they found it boring. I don't want the class to be like. So I am very grateful to discuss the topic.

I don't want the class to be like that, with my perceptions of what's enjoyable completely at odds with those of the students. In one way, it is less likely, because these students don't have that Etonian charm (they are forthright), but on the other hand they are entirely focussed on getting good grades, which means pleasing yours truly. I don't want that.

Quite right. I can imagine what they might say privately about one of the Bergman movies or something of that sort. I mean, no doubt you hope to actually teach them something, not just make them jump through hoops.

Oh, by the way, I meant to say earlier: I liked the way you slipped David Simon's name into 1 Sam.

David Simon: well partly, of course, it is just that there have been so many good HBO shows over the past decade, and I've seen many. So it is bound to find its way in. But also, I think the comparison works. I think the historical books of the Bible are doing things one can see on radio and TV serials, like intersecting or overlapping story arcs. When most Biblical critics see overlapping stories, they see an interpolation. They should go out less, ane watch more TV!

Yes, it does work--I didn't mean to suggest that it wasn't appropriate.

If American, Hollywood-style films are on the menu, I would recommend Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia. It is very full of extremely vulgar language, which might well be a reason to exclude it, but it is deeply involved with the drama of sin and grace. The film asks the question, "What does grace look like to a world thoroughly mired in wickedness?" (Answer: it looks like something totally unexpected and inexplicable, but unmistakably Biblical. If you've seen it, you know what I mean.) It's a brilliant film.

Mac's suggestion of The Matrix is also worth considering; many people have written about the parallels between Neo and Christ. Most of your students have probably seen it already. I have found that Dead Man Walking also provokes good conversations about sin and forgiveness.

Two films about Jesuits, The Mission and Black Robe, would also be worth considering. I am fresh off Terrence Malick's The New World which, on the surface, is the story of Pocahontas, but is really (I think) about the allure of goodness, about longing for purity and beauty, and about how fragile such things are in a world of sin. It is definitely interested in the spiritual life, and in virtue, but it is not specifically Christian.

On the foreign side, I would second the recommendation of Ostrov (Russian), which is like a dramatisation of one of those wonderful early Christian lives (St. Anthony, St. Martin, St. Brendan, etc.), and also recommend the recent French film Des Hommes et des Dieux, in which Christian theology is front and center. (The DVD is out next week.) Into Great Silence is also wonderful, but probably too "boring" for this crowd?

You ask about cartoons. I know several Christian film enthusiasts who rave about the animated films of Hayao Miyazaki, but I cannot speak from experience. Waking Life is a quasi-animated film, more documentary than drama, exploring various "existential" (in the broadest sense) philosophical questions, and including at least a few explicit references to Christian theology.

You might want to look at the Arts and Faith Top 100 Films, or at the Vatican Film List for ideas. Both, however, have relatively few American films.

Late to this, but you've all made some good recommendations.

Mac, I think the remake you're thinking of is of Cape Fear, not NoTH. I don't know of a remake of the latter, but the remake of the former did turn the villain into a crazed Pentecostal.

For Francesca, one that hasn't been mentioned is Hitchcock's 'I Confess.' I too would recommend 'The Mission,' as well as 'Places in the Heart.'

'The Machinist,' with Christian Bale has a lot to do with sin and guilt. It is somewhat violent in spots, however, and has some nudity and profanity. It's definitely an 'R' film, but is quite powerful.

Amazed that you found 'The Apostle' boring. I'd watch Duvall in just about anything, and I think his performance in that one is masterful. His recent one 'Get Low,' about a crusty old character who wants to have his funeral before he dies, is very good and has a prominent repentance theme.

Rob G, thank you very much. The Apostle could be OK if the revival scenes were half the length! Duvall is wonderful, eg in those movies about the Civil War.

You're right, Rob, it's Cape Fear (which I also have not seen). I was going to mention The Machinist, too. Don't know if that would be too weird. Of course a lot of college students would get something out of a lot of these, but the mainstream...

I was surprised, too, that Francesca found The Apostle boring. I'd vote for I Confess, too, although in my experience a lot of young people are really averse to b&w movies.

Actually, Craig, I was half-joking about The Matrix. I thought a lot of Christians went way overboard in their search for Christian themes there, as the subsequent installments proved. But there are some things in it that could be used.

I also have not seen, but have heard praise for, Black Robe and Slumdog Millionaire.

I also think that The Matrix was given too much credit for its theological content, but there is something there, and it is the kind of movie that has wide appeal. Perhaps it could be used as a counter-weight to something more weighty (i.e., Bergman)?

I was thinking that if you started out with some things that they can relate to well and build up some kind of rapport with them, you might be able to sneak some of the more difficult stuff in later.

AMDG

Janet - example my tactic. I am thinking along the lines of about 3/4 mainstream and 1/4 art movies. And certainly, upfront the art movies to begin with.

If it is any consolation, I found The Matrix deeply boring! I have no idea what is happening in it. I fell asleep after about 15 minutes

I don't know how I wrote that nonsense! I meant, 'exactly that tactic' and 'upfront the mainstream movies' (!)

Craig, thank you for your long post. I somehow managed to miss it until just now. That's very helpful.

The only cartoons I can think of are Japanese, and not specificallly Christian (to say the least). But you might try looking at Princess Mononoke (which deals with hatred, forgiveness, fortitude, humanity's relationship to the natural order) or Grave of the Fireflies (just about the saddest film I've ever seen).

Or Howl's Moving Castle. And it suddenly comes to mind that the Dreamworks feature-length cartoons of the stories of Joseph ("King of Dreams", I think) and Moses ("Prince of Egypt") are not bad (and very Hollywood).

And of course, there's the one you recommended to me a few months back, set in early medieval Ireland. "The Secret of Kells", I think?

"I don't know how I wrote that nonsense..." Thank you very much, Francesca. I do that kind of thing all the time and it's comforting to know I'm not the only one. Perhaps senility has after all not arrived yet. I frequently look at what I've just typed and see that it's a word that sounds something like the one I had in mind--"example my tactic" is exactly the sort of thing.

Best fake-Flemish-accent I've ever heard in a film.

Excellent!

Francesca, I feel really pleased that you could get a copy of Molokai - I hope you like it!

Cartoons? "Veggietales"!

The blog is very happy that you've found it useful, because I've been thinking of putting it to sleep.

No! You mustn't!

What about "A Man for All Seasons"?

Wow, did we really miss that one?!

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Louise. I really have been semi-seriously considering closing down the blog, for a couple of reasons: one, my long-running problem of not being able to find time for other writing (or even much reading) while maintaining the blog, and two, there really aren't that many people reading it. What stops me is that some of the people who do read it really seem to like it, and the reality that I might not be writing anything at all if I didn't have the blog to give me some sort of immediate incentive.

If I could just quit my job, the problem would be solved.:-(

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