Tuesday, March 17, 2009

FFCC Award Winners

2009 Faith & Film Critics Circle Award Winners

Most Significant Exploration of Spiritual Themes
Winner: Silent Light
"Cycling image by image through the idea of things being revealed and unveiled, the time-lapse Genesis imagery that sets the film in motion culminates in a theologically rich network of visual and thematic allusions – as if Regygada’s natural cinematography needs an additional shove towards the transcendental." (M. Leary, Think-Film)
Runner-up: Doubt
Also nominated: The Dark Knight, In Bruges, Slumdog Millionaire

Best Narrative Film
Winner: Slumdog Millionaire
"The story explores the deepest themes of life, from loyalty and love to betrayal and despair. The redemptive nature of the film is seen in the title itself as Jamal travels an unexpected road which prepares him for the questions he will be asked on the television show. That love is possible in even a 'slumdog’s' life is a message of hope that speaks to a world where the majority of humanity lives in poverty." (Hal Conklin and Denny Wayman, Cinema in Focus)
Runner-up: Silent Light
Also nominated: Happy-Go-Lucky, Paranoid Park, WALL-E

Best Documentary
Winner: At the Death House Door
"Pickett's odyssey makes for an incredible story. One of the executions he had to preside over was of a man who killed a popular parishioner during a prison riot. Watching Pickett negotiate, even in memory, the complex of emotions that his job has forced him to reconcile, I was struck by how the film begins with the political and moves to the spiritual. Like Plato's Republic, which cannot answer the question "What is Justice?" without describing the perfect society, At the Death House Door begins with a seemingly simple, direct question and shows how hopelessly complicated the simplest questions can be." (Kenneth R. Morefield, from his 2008 top 10 list)
Runner-up: Man on Wire
Also nominated: Encounters at the End of the World, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, Young@Heart

Best Film for the Whole Family
Winner: WALL-E
"While the film’s themes of consumerism and environmental carelessness are unmistakable, unduly political spin on the film is probably more related to election-year hypersensitivity than the film itself. WALL‑E is not about left or right, liberal or conservative. Rather, it is about living thoughtfully, about what traditional Christian language calls good stewardship of resources and the environment." (Steven D. Greydanus, Decent Films)
Runner-up: More Than a Game
Also nominated: City of Ember, Horton Hears a Who, Kung Fu Panda, The Spiderwick Chronicles

Faith & Film Critics Circle Members
Steven D. Greydanus
Ron Reed
Peter T. Chattaway
Frederica Mathewes-Green
Mike Hertenstein
Josh Hurst
Josh Larsen
Darrel Manson
Brett McCracken
Ken Morefield
Jeffrey Overstreet
Matt Page
J. Robert Parks
Robert Johnston
Catherine Barsotti
Denny Wayman
Jared Wheeler
Visit the FFCC site for links to all FFCC members

Sunday, March 15, 2009

valkyrie (2008, USA, Bryan Singer)

No Scientology, but not much Christian faith either. Dietrich Bonhoeffer doesn't even get a walk-on! A regrettable compromise.
"Before shooting had even been completed on director Bryan Singer's VALKYRIE - an account of the failed attempt by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg and members of the German resistance to assassinate Hitler - the film threatened to become overshadowed by the storm of controversy it had provoked in the German media. Much of the furore centred around the casting of Tom Cruise as Stauffenberg, with the actor's professing of scientology (categorized as a 'dangerous cult' by the German government) central to most concerns. A spokesman for the German Protestant church went so far as to say Cruise's involvement would 'have the same propaganda advantages for scientology as the 1936 Olympics had for the Nazis.'

"The first half of the film is careful to explain the background influences that led Stauffenberg and the other members of the resistance to risk the assassination attempt. There was a strong class aspect to the resistance. Men like Stauffenberg were drawn from the aristocratic Prussian military class and viewed the Nazis as a bunch of thugs led by a lowly Austrian corporal. 'Stauffenberg came from a 900-year-old family who had served kings,' says Singer. 'He had great pride in the longevity of Germany as a great nation. These people were not Nazis, they had never been party members.'

"Stauffenberg was also a Catholic, something only touched on in the film 'I wasn't making a biopic,' Singer clarifies. 'It was important for me that the film be a thriller about the assassination attempt. I left out anything that didn't help to get us to the assassination. His Catholicism was just one facet of his drive.'"

excerpted from James Bell's article "Deadly Knowledge," Sight & Sound, February 2009
So this ain't no SOPHIE SCHOLL. Which means there's still a great Soul Food movie to be made - screenwriters of the world, Arise! Until then, for all the details Hollywood skipped, Videomatica has the dull-as-dumplings doc KILLING HITLER: THE TRUE STORY OF THE VALKYRIE PLOT.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mar 15: POP SWITCH premiere screening

Jason Goode is a PT guy - acted in some Stones Throw shows, most recently TWIGS (he was the furniture mover) - who makes films. THE HITCHHIKER was penned by our Literary Manager, Kathy Parsons, and starred Gina Chiarelli. Well, his new one - scribed by and starring Lucia Frangione, also starring Michael Kopsa and Duncan Fraser - is ready to go! If you want to get the look, here's the dope...

(Don't worry about the RSVP date. Just let them know as soon as you can.)

Film & Faith Critics Circle Nominees

The nominees are:

The Dark Knight
In Bruges
Silent Light
Slumdog Millionaire

Paranoid Park
Silent Light
Slumdog Millionaire

At the Death House Door
Encounter at the End of the World
Man on Wire
Pray the Devil Back to Hell
Young @ Heart

City of Ember
Horton Hears a Who
Kung Fu Panda
More of a Game
The Spiderwork Chrinicles

Friday, March 06, 2009

Apr 3: THE TRIAL OF JOAN OF ARC, Pacific Cinematheque

Trial of Joan of Arc 
with actress Florence Delay Carrez in attendance (!)
Pacific Cinematheque
Friday April 3, 7:30pm

France 1962. Director: Robert Bresson
Cast: Florence Carrez (Florence Delay), Jean-Claude Fourneau, Marc Jacquier, Roger Honorat, Jean Gillibert
Pacific Cinémathèque and the Consulate General of France are pleased to present a Special Film Evening.

FLORENCE DELAY IN PERSON! │ Novelist, actress, distinguished member of the Académie française, and star of Bresson’s 1962 masterpiece Trial of Joan of Arc.

IMPORTED 35mm PRINT! │ One of film’s giants, Robert Bresson was master of a spare, rigorous, intensely metaphysical cinema (famously called "transcendental" by Paul Schrader) that explored, with rare poetry and purity, the human struggle for grace and redemption. His startling, searing take on one of cinema’s most filmed stories is based — like Dreyer’s 1929 silent masterpiece, The Passion of Joan of Arc — on the actual transcripts of Joan's trial, here distilled into the very essence of the spare Bressonian aesthetic, and focusing with unsettling power on Joan’s physical humiliation. (British critic Gilbert Adair has described the film as "Bresson’s essay in sadomasochistic voyeurism.") Trial of Joan of Arc won a Jury Special Prize at Cannes in 1962, and was much admired by the filmmakers of French New Wave, and by Tarkovsky, who cited it as a formative influence. "Perhaps the ultimate expression of Bresson’s unique cinematic voice...In the austere documenting of Joan's imprisonment and trial, physical objects — chains, stones, wall, windows — become metaphors for her spiritual isolation and sounds — the scratching of a pen during her hearing — contribute to the minimalist musicality of the experience" (James Monaco). "For the first time in film history, one feels that Joan was really burnt" (Richard Roud). B&W, 35mm, in French with English subtitles. 65 mins.

"Bresson...creates one of the greatest female characters ever put on celluloid." BBC


Japanese poster

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Mar 4: Horton Foote Has Died

My favourite film is TENDER MERCIES, and another followed soon after which made a very personal connection with me, TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL. Both are by Horton Foote, whose exquisitely understated studies of "just plain folks," mostly Texans, makes me think of him as the American Chekhov. Maybe it's time to do something of his at Pacific Theatre...

Horton Foote on the set of “The Traveling Lady”
at the Mabee Theatre at Baylor University in February 2004.

New York Times
March 4, 2009
Horton Foote Has Died

Horton Foote, who chronicled America’s wistful odyssey through the 20th century in plays and films mostly set in a small town in Texas and left a literary legacy as one of the country’s foremost storytellers, died in Hartford, Conn., on Wednesday. He was 92, said his daughter, Hallie Foote.

In screenplays for such movies as “Tender Mercies,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Trip to Bountiful,” and in plays like “The Young Man From Atlanta” and his nine-play cycle “The Orphans’ Home,” Mr. Foote depicted the way ordinary people shoulder the ordinary burdens of life, finding drama in the resilience by which they carry on in the face of change, economic hardship, disappointment, loss and death. His work earned him a Pulitzer Prize and two Academy Awards.

Here is a portion of his obituary, written by Wilborn Hampton; the complete version will be posted at nytimes.com Wednesday evening.

In a body of work for which he won the Pulitzer Prize and two Oscars, Mr. Foote was known as a writer’s writer, an author who never abandoned his vision or altered his simple, homespun style even when Broadway and Hollywood temporarily turned their backs on him.

In screenplays for such movies as “Tender Mercies,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Trip to Bountiful,” and in plays like “The Young Man From Atlanta” and his nine-play cycle “Orphans’ Home,” Mr. Foote depicted the way ordinary people shoulder the ordinary burdens of life, finding drama in the resilience by which they carry on in the face of change, economic hardship, disappointment, loss and death. His work earned him a Pulitzer Prize and two Academy Awards.

Frank Rich, who as theater critic of The New York Times was one of Mr. Foote’s champions, called him “one of America’s living literary wonders.” Mr. Rich wrote that his plays contained “a subtlety that suggests a collaboration between Faulkner and Chekhov.”

Mr. Foote, in a 1986 interview in The New York Times Magazine, said: “I believe very deeply in the human spirit and I have a sense of awe about it because I don’t know how people carry on. What makes the difference in people? What is it? I’ve known people that the world has thrown everything at to discourage them, to kill them, to break their spirit. And yet something about them retains a dignity. They face life and don’t ask quarters.”

Mr. Foote spent most of his life writing about such people in a simple, homespun style. In more than 50 plays and films, most of which were set in the fictiional town of Harrison, Texas, he charted their struggle through the century by recording the daily, familial conflicts that filled their lives.

He often seemed to resemble a character from one of his own plays. Always courteous and courtly, he spoke with a slow Texas drawl. He enjoyed good food and wine but would usually opt for barbecue and iced tea or fried chicken with a Dr Pepper when he was home in Texas. He was a jovial man with a wry humor, and his white hair and robust frame gave him the appearance of a Southern senator or one’s favorite uncle, the one who always had a story.

Albert Horton Foote Jr., one of three sons of Albert Horton Foote and the former Hallie Brooks, was born March 14, 1916, in Wharton, Texas, a small town about 40 miles southwest of Houston that was once surrounded by cotton fields. His father was a local haberdasher and his mother, who was from an old Southern family, taught piano.

Although he boarded a train for Dallas at the age of 16 to pursue a career as an actor, Mr. Foote never really left home. From his first efforts as a playwright, he returned again and again to set his plays and films amid the pecan groves and Victorian houses with large front porches on the tree-lined streets of Wharton. His inspiration came from the people he knew and the stories he heard growing up there. “I’ve spent my life listening,” Mr. Foote once said.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

May 11-22 / Jul 27-31: Film courses at Regent

A reminder about a couple intriguing film courses coming up at Regent College. Check here for more details.