Oscars are on Sunday. Some good films will be celebrated, some so-so films will get awards–sadly, the best film of the year (Fantastic Mr. Fox) will walk away empty-pawed (though you must check out this terrifically funny animated acceptance speech made by Mr. Anderson).
However, an online group affiliated with the thoughtful religious-y journal IMAGE (who once bastardly REJECTED a story I sent in!) just released their collaboratively determined top 100 films, somehow relating to Arts & Faith (not crystal clear on the criteria…).
One of the crafters of A & F 100, Jeffrey Overstreet, a film critic/novelist whom I had the chance to grab a meal with once upon a time, wrote a bit about the list in anticipation of questions raised by the list–here’s one response I liked quite a bit:
Question #6: Is it just me, or do most of these films look like hard work?
The Arts and Faith Top 100 are not favored for their difficulty. They are honored for their excellence, their beauty, their capacity to inspire us to become more fully human.
Each movie on this list explores fundamental and provocative spiritual questions. Questions that challenge us to grow in understanding. Questions that cultivate community through the experience of bracing conversations. Questions that kindle our deepest longings for all that is sacred and good.
In other words, yes—some of these films require serious work on the part of the viewer. But they are full of rewards for those who give them a chance.
The Arts and Faith Top 100 Films will arrest you with their vividness and strangeness. They are full of beauty and mystery. And unlike what is commonly categorized as “Christian art,” they will leave audiences with some doubt as to their precise application. They tease the mind into thought and reflection—again and again and again.
I agree wholeheartedly with his point & lament it at the same time. As a culture, we’ve been raised on a steady diet of candy art, making these cinematic banquets taste bitter to our palates. I’d love to encourage us all to line up a number of these films on the ole Netflix queue, yet at the same time, I feel MY OWN resistance to sitting down to 3+ hours of static camerawork, silence on the soundtrack, and characterizations that feel incredibly ripe for satire (ahh, the pretension!).
Let me then suggest two things:
1. My own recommendations from this list. I love the following films enough to own them–I will gladly loan them to you and am also willing to sit down and watch/discuss them together (if you live in a 20 mile radius of La Mirada, CA).
- #2 The Decalogue (it’s about 10 hours long, in Polish–one short film per commandment, but they are not really interconnected so you can dip your toe in with a few films, maybe I, VI, or X)
- #3 Babette’s Feast (Danish, Oscar winner, slow but beautiful story of the lavishness of grace)
- #8 Andrei Rublev (Russian, B/W, slow as hades, but lovely as Abraham’s bosom)
- #12 Wings of Desire (German, my favorite film of all time! Just got a new Criterion edition too)
- #15 Three Colors Trilogy (Polish/French, you should watch all 3 and tell me which you connected with the most)
- #30 Stalker (Russian, MOLASSES SLOW, but deep as can be, haunting, beautiful)
- #36 Days of Heaven (American, pretty accessible…amazing cinematography)
- #51 The Spirit of the Beehive (Spanish, so sweet & profound & memorable)
- #56 Ponette (French, on my personal top 10, unbelievable performance from a 4 year old)
- #65 After Life (Japanese film about dead people picking one memory to live in forever)
- #90 Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher (I didn’t actually LOVE this documentary–it’s a bit amateur–but the STORY is so worth exploring)
- #96 The New World (American, I have the extended director’s cut–so powerful!)
2. Please challenge ME to take on one of these based on your recommendation…I need to keep my tastes from atrophying due to my consumption of the “frivolity-industrial complex” produced films that are playing in my local excuse for a cinema.
With our great affection for lists, perhaps someday we’ll have a “Lost In the Cloud Top 100″…until then, enjoy these selections!