2018 Seattle Film Critics Nominations Ballot

Note: Zama was deemed ineligible.

Best Picture

  1. First Reformed
  2. The Other Side of the Wind
  3. The Day After
  4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  6. Bisbee ’17
  7. Burning
  8. Let the Sunshine In
  9. If Beale Street Could Talk
  10. Before We Vanish

Best Director

  1. Paul Schrader, First Reformed
  2. Orson Welles, The Other Side of the Wind
  3. Christopher McQuarrie, Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  4. Lee Chang-dong, Burning
  5. Hong Sang-soo, The Day After

Best Actor

  1. Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
  2. John Huston, The Other Side of the Wind
  3. Kwon Hae-hyo, The Day After
  4. Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  5. Meinhard Neumann, Western

Best Actress

  1. Juliette Binoche, Let the Sunshine In
  2. Kim Min-hee, The Day After
  3. Regina Hall, Support the Girls
  4. Esther Garrel, Lover for a Day
  5. Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Steven Yeun, Burning
  2. Peter Bogdanovich, The Other Side of the Wind
  3. Bill Heck, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  4. Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther
  5. Tim Blake Nelson, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
  2. Isabelle Huppert, Claire’s Camera
  3. Haley Lu Richardson, Support the Girls
  4. Zoe Kazan, The Ballad of Buster Scurggs
  5. Jeon Jeong-soo, Burning

Best Ensemble Cast

  1. The Other Side of the Wind
  2. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  3. The Day After
  4. Isle of Dogs
  5. If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Youth Performance

  1. Koyu Rankin, Isle of Dogs
  2. Marco Graf, Roma
  3. Abby Ryder Fortson, Ant-Man and the Wasp
  4. Miguel Lobo, Good Manners
  5. Mahour Jabbari, Ava

Best Villain

  1. August Walker, Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  2. Ben, Burning
  3. Stephen Taubes, Notes on an Appearance
  4. Buster Scruggs, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  5. Ayoub El-Khazzani, The 15:17 to Paris

Best Screenplay

  1. Paul Schrader, First Reformed
  2. Orson Welles & Oja Kodar, The Other Side of the Wind
  3. Hong Sang-soo, The Day After
  4. Joel & Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  5. Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Animated Feature

  1. Isle of Dogs

Best Documentary Feature

  1. Bisbee ’17
  2. Monrovia, Indiana
  3. Caniba
  4. Hale County This Morning, This Evening
  5. The Green Fog

Best Foreign Language Film

  1. The Day After
  2. Burning
  3. Let the Sunshine In
  4. Before We Vanish
  5. Claire’s Camera

Best Cinematography

  1. Alexander Dynan, First Reformed
  2. Gary Graver, The Other Side of the Wind
  3. Hong Kyung-pyo, Burning
  4. Kim Hyung-koo, The Day After
  5. Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

Best Costume Design

  1. The Other Side of the Wind
  2. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  3. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  4. Let the Sunshine In
  5. Claire’s Camera

Best Film Editing

  1. The Other Side of the Wind
  2. Bisbee ’17
  3. Let the Corpses Tan
  4. Let the Sunshine In
  5. Ready Player One

Best Original Score

  1. Michel Legrand, The Other Side of the Wind
  2. Nicholas Britell, If Beale Street Could Talk
  3. Mowg, Burning
  4. Alexandre Desplat, Isle of Dogs
  5. Thom Yorke, Suspiria

Best Production Design

  1. Isle of Dogs
  2. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  3. The Other Side of the Wind
  4. Burning
  5. If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Visual Effects

  1. The Other Side of the Wind
  2. Before We Vanish
  3. First Reformed
  4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

2017 Muriel Awards

Best Feature-Length Film

  1. On the Beach at Night Alone
  2. The Work
  3. Faces Places
  4. Princess Cyd
  5. Good Time
  6. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion
  7. The Post
  8. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
  9. 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)
  10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Lead Performance

  1. Kim Min-hee, On the Beach at Night Alone
  2. Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
  3. Rebecca Spence, Princess Cyd
  4. Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread
  5. Cynthia Nixon, A Quiet Passion
  6. Robert Pattinson, Good Time
  7. Jessie Pinnick, Princess Cyd
  8. Kristen Stewart, Personal Shopper
  9. Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
  10. Tim Robbins, Marjorie Prime

Best Supporting Performance

  1. Hong Chau, Downsizing
  2. Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)
  3. Elizabeth Marvel, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
  4. Robert Pattinson, The Lost City of Z
  5. Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip
  6. Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
  7. Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
  8. Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
  9. Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
  10. Lois Smith, Marjorie Prime

Best Direction

  1. Josh & Benny Safdie, Good Time
  2. Bertrand Bonello, Nocturama
  3. Eduardo Williams, The Human Surge
  4. Steven Spielberg, The Post
  5. Paul W.S. Anderson, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Best Screenplay

  1. Hong Sang-soo, On the Beach at Night Alone
  2. Stephen Cone, Princess Cyd
  3. Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
  4. Noah Baumbach, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
  5. Matías Piñeiro, Hermia & Helena

Best Cinematography

  1. Sean Price Williams, Good Time
  2. Darius Khondji, The Lost City of Z
  3. Janusz Kaminski, The Post
  4. [no credit], Phantom Thread
  5. Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Call Me by Your Name

Best Editing

  1. Nocturama
  2. Wonderstruck
  3. Ex Libris – The New York Public Library
  4. Lady Bird
  5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Music

  1. Oneohtrix Point Never, Good Time
  2. Jonny Greenwood, Phantom Thread
  3. Carter Burwell, Wonderstruck
  4. Jon Brion, Lady Bird
  5. Bertrand Bonello, Nocturama

Best Documentary

  1. The Work
  2. Faces Places
  3. Ex Libris – The New York Public Library

Best Cinematic Moment

  1. Heartbeats, The Work
  2. Digital magic, The Florida Project
  3. Webcam transition, The Human Surge
  4. Projector breakdown, By the Time It Gets Dark
  5. Face dissolves, Félicité
  6. Photographs, A Quiet Passion
  7. Miranda’s monologue, Princess Cyd
  8. Questions with father, Hermia & Helena
  9. Dream memory, Call Me by Your Name
  10. Swan boat, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion

Best Youth Performance

  1. Millicent Simmonds, Wonderstruck
  2. Brooklynn Prince, The Florida Project
  3. Oona Laurence, The Beguiled

Best Cinematic Breakthrough

  1. Vicky Krieps
  2. Tiffany Haddish
  3. Rian Johnson
  4. Timothée Chalamet
  5. Greta Gerwig

Best Body of Work

  1. Sean Price Williams
  2. Nahuel Pérez Biscayart
  3. Robert Pattinson
  4. Buddy Duress
  5. Damien Bonnard

Best Ensemble Performance

  1. Lady Bird
  2. 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)
  3. The Post
  4. Marjorie Prime
  5. Mudbound

Other remarks:
If it were eligible, Twin Peaks: The Return would take up most of the spots on this ballot.

10th Anniversary Award, Best Feature Film 2007

  1. Death Proof
  2. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
  3. Hot Fuzz
  4. The Darjeeling Limited
  5. Persepolis

25th Anniversary Award, Best Feature Film 1992

  1. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
  2. Rebels of the Neon God
  3. The Last of the Mohicans
  4. Raising Cain
  5. The Story of Qiu Ju

50th Anniversary Award, Best Feature Film 1967

  1. The Young Girls of Rochefort
  2. Dragon Inn
  3. Wavelength
  4. La Chinoise
  5. Playtime

Top 19 of 2017

2017 was, to put it mildly and flippantly, an utter oddity of a year in so many ways. When I look at my list, the overall quality of the films themselves was perhaps no poorer than in the monumental selections of the past two years, but there was a certain bewilderment, a malaise that put me at a distance. With the exception of Twin Peaks: The Return, there was practically no film where my love was not complicated in some way, and it seems equally due to the films as it is to the year at large.

The following list is formed from the reds, oranges, greens, and blues (plus a few more) that I have seen at time of writing that were commercially released in New York City in 2017. It is a snapshot rather than a permanent fixture.

no1

1. On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sang-soo)

no2

2. The Work (Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous)

no3

3. Faces Places (Agnès Varda & JR)

no4

4. Princess Cyd (Stephen Cone)

no5

5. Good Time (Josh & Benny Safdie)

no6

6. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (S.S. Rajamouli)

no7

7. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)

no8

8. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Noah Baumbach)

no9

9. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)

no10

10. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Paul W.S. Anderson)

no11

11. The Son of Joseph (Eugène Green)

no12

12. 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) (Robin Campillo)

no13

13. Marjorie Prime (Michael Almereyda)

no14

14. Call Me by Your Name (Luca Guadagnino)

no15

15. The Post (Steven Spielberg)

no16

16. Hermia & Helena (Matías Piñeiro)

no17

17. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson)

no18

18. The Human Surge (Eduardo Williams)

no19

19. Downsizing (Alexander Payne)

My Top 10 Discoveries During 2017 (for first-time viewings of films made before 2000)

  1. A Touch of Zen (1971, King Hu)
  2. The Terrorizers (1986, Edward Yang)
  3. Rear Window (1954, Alfred Hitchcock)
  4. Rio Bravo (1959, Howard Hawks)
  5. A New Leaf (1971, Elaine May)
  6. Ashes of Time (1994, Wong Kar-wai)
  7. Surviving Desire (1991, Hal Hartley)
  8. Do the Right Thing (1989, Spike Lee)
  9. The Unbelievable Truth (1989, Hal Hartley)
  10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper)

2017 “Senses of Cinema” Ballot

Hypothetical ballot for the 2017 Senses of Cinema World Poll. Mostly based on 2017 New York City commercial releases.

1. Twin Peaks: The Return (2017, David Lynch)

2. On the Beach at Night Alone (2017, Hong Sang-soo)

3. Three Films From Ten Seconds Into the Future:
The Human Surge (2016, Eduardo Williams)
By the Time It Gets Dark (2016, Anocha Suwichakornpong)
Kékszakállú (2016, Gaston Solnicki)

4. Humanist Documentaries
The Work (2017, Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous)
Faces Places (2017, Agnès Varda & JR)

5. Independent Breakthroughs:
Princess Cyd (2017, Stephen Cone)
Good Time (2017, Josh & Benny Safdie)

6. Auteurist Franchise Works
Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (2017, S.S. Rajamouli)
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016, Paul W.S. Anderson)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017, Rian Johnson)

7. “American” Histories:
The Post (2017, Steven Spielberg)
Phantom Thread (2017, Paul Thomas Anderson)
The Lost City of Z (2016, James Gray)

8. Family Dramedys
Lady Bird (2017, Greta Gerwig)
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017, Noah Baumbach)
The Son of Joseph (2016, Eugène Green)

9. French Sensuality:
120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017, Robin Campillo)
Personal Shopper (2016, Olivier Assayas)
Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello)

10. Old Masters:
Ex Libris – The New York Public Library (2017, Frederick Wiseman)
Song to Song (2017, Terrence Malick)

2017 Seattle Film Critics Society Nominations Ballot

Best Picture

  1. On the Beach at Night Alone
  2. Faces Places
  3. Princess Cyd
  4. Good Time
  5. The Post
  6. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
  7. 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)
  8. Lady Bird
  9. Phantom Thread
  10. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Best Director

  1. Josh & Benny Safdie, Good Time
  2. Bertrand Bonello, Nocturama
  3. Eduardo Williams, The Human Surge
  4. Steven Spielberg, The Post
  5. Paul W.S. Anderson, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Best Actor

  1. Robert Pattinson, Good Time
  2. Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
  3. Claes Bang, The Square
  4. Adam Sandler, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
  5. Ben Stiller, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Best Actress

  1. Kim Min-hee, On the Beach at Night Alone
  2. Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
  3. Rebecca Spence, Princess Cyd
  4. Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread
  5. Cynthia Nixon, A Quiet Passion

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)
  2. Robert Pattinson, The Lost City of Z
  3. Tim Robbins, Marjorie Prime
  4. Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
  5. Dustin Hoffman, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Elizabeth Marvel, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
  2. Lois Smith, Marjorie Prime
  3. Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
  4. Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip
  5. Julianne Moore, Wonderstruck

Best Ensemble Cast

  1. Lady Bird
  2. 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)
  3. The Post
  4. Marjorie Prime
  5. Mudbound

Best Youth Performance

  1. Millicent Simmonds, Wonderstruck
  2. Oona Laurence, The Beguiled
  3. Brooklynn Prince, The Florida Project
  4. Valeria Cotto, The Florida Project
  5. Ahn Seo-hyun, Okja

Best Villain

  1. The texter, Personal Shopper
  2. Fei and Lin, The Ornithologist
  3. Rose, Get Out
  4. Dr. Isaacs, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
  5. James Murray, The Lost City of Z

Best Screenplay

  1. Hong Sang-soo, On the Beach at Night Alone
  2. Stephen Cone, Princess Cyd
  3. Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
  4. Noah Baumbach, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
  5. Matías Piñeiro, Hermia & Helena

Best Animated Feature

  1. Your Name.
  2. My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea

Best Documentary Feature

  1. Faces Places
  2. Ex Libris – The New York Public Library
  3. Starless Dreams
  4. Escapes
  5. Rat Film

Best Foreign Language Film

  1. On the Beach at Night Alone
  2. Faces Places
  3. 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)
  4. The Son of Joseph
  5. Nocturama

Best Cinematography

  1. Sean Price Williams, Good Time
  2. Darius Khondji, The Lost City of Z
  3. Janusz Kaminski, The Post
  4. [no credit], Phantom Thread
  5. Ed Lachman, Wonderstruck

Best Costume Design

  1. Phantom Thread
  2. Nocturama
  3. Princess Cyd
  4. Good Time
  5. Lady Bird

Best Film Editing

  1. Nocturama
  2. Wonderstruck
  3. Ex Libris – The New York Public Library
  4. Lady Bird
  5. Thirst Street

Best Original Score

  1. Oneohtrix Point Never, Good Time
  2. Jonny Greenwood, Phantom Thread
  3. Carter Burwell, Wonderstruck
  4. Jon Brion, Lady Bird
  5. Bertrand Bonello, Nocturama

Best Production Design
N/A

Best Visual Effects
N/A

A Few Notes on the Oeuvre of Terrence Malick

fields

Since Terrence Malick is, for good reason, one of the most hotly discussed and alternately valorized and vilified auteurs currently working, laying out his aesthetic obsessions and goals seems more than a little futile. But what fascinates me most is the way in which his predilections change, sometimes radically, from film to film. Aside from someone like, say, Godard, no other prominent filmmaker has had such a radical turning point or concrete stages of their career, but at least from my view it seems just as helpful to group each of his (narrative, feature-length) works into duos, specifically ones where the second of each group of two provides a notable stepping-stone point with which Malick leaps to his next stage of either profundity or pretension, depending upon your stance.

The most obvious of these, naturally, is that of his first two films, Badlands and Days of Heaven. At the risk of being reductive, they are the two films even most Malick detractors enjoy, as they have an altogether grounded and staunchly character-driven narrative, and Badlands in particular has a more conventional look and feel to it than any of his other films. But even in Days of Heaven lie the seeds of the next stage of development: there is a rather notable reliance on the handheld, and overall more and more attention is paid to the natural elements surrounding the love triangle. And of course, Linda Manz’s voiceover is characteristically opaque, though it acts more as a backbone – as in Badlands – than the ruminations that are to follow.

Another fairly standard pair comes in the form of The Thin Red Line, Malick’s return to the stage of American cinema, and The New World. The similarities are patently clear: they are both historical films dealing with pivotal events (if not individual moments) in American history, and they are the longest films of Malick’s career (when looking at the extended cut of the latter, which is is the one I viewed). Additionally, both are immersed in nature, respectively beginning and ending with scenes of the natural world that feel at once serene and disquieting, and seem to be told in both very broad and very intimate strokes. The New World, with its relative freedom from something on the order of the tense action of the Battle of Guadalcanal (though it too boasts a remarkable, visceral battle sequence) reaches ever more towards the meditative scenes of connection in an almost primal state; the scenes of John Smith commingling with the Powhatan are among the most moving in his entire filmography.

Easily the most illogical pairing, on the surface, comes from arguably his most acclaimed and most underrated films, respectively, The Tree of Life and To the Wonder. The first is his grandest, most “cosmic,” while the second is, to my eyes, his simplest and most small-scale (and his first film set fully in the modern world). But both provide some of his richest and most finely attuned work with characters, and both are (creation of the universe digression aside) firmly situated in the South. Days of Heaven also shares this setting, but it feels paramount to these films, a setting both clearly definable and yet universal to Malick’s own sense of Americana. And both have scenes of immense catharsis and power: The Tree of Life with its beach/heavenly reunion and To the Wonder with a climactic, almost halo-infused parting – religion figures prominently in these two films as a central touchstone of the culture, including but not limited to Bardem’s character.

Leaving aside Voyage of Time, with its necessarily protracted production and putatively documentary aspects, the final pair thus far is of two films situated in specific entertainment industries: Knight of Cups with its ennui-ridden Hollywood and Song to Song with its hedonist Austin music scene. Both rely heavily on their respective milieus and have a surfeit of cameos, and both feel relentlessly modern; while To the Wonder has a certain timeless quality only occasionally broken, these two are utterly of a specific moment already gone. What progression Song to Song offers is unknown, especially with the purportedly back-to-basics nature of Radegund, but it is important to say that Malick has and, God willing, never will regress. He does recapitulate and return to certain themes and ideas, but his cinema is one of innovation and breathtaking beauty and empathy.

The Making of an Instant Classic: Carol

Originally written for the Scarecrow Blog.

What constitutes an instant classic in the realm of art? This varies from medium to medium (it seems that instant classics are made much more readily in music than in film, for example) and undoubtedly person to person: one’s deep, abiding love for, say, Pedro Costa’s Horse Money doesn’t necessarily translate to a wider cultural consensus or recognition of it. And even this cultural consensus has several layers to it, though for the purposes of this piece I will be only talking about the “cinephile culture” at large, and not the audiences who only attend the multiplexes a few times a year.

All of that being said, it is fascinating to see what films become effectively canonized as classics upon their very release, and for what reasons this happens. Perhaps the most salient and clear-cut example comes in the form of the 2015 film Carol, very likely the only non-franchise (see: Mad Max: Fury Road) instant classic to come out of that year. It exists at a unique, fascinating intersection of what might be considered traditional hallmarks of the classic – pop-culture cachet, notable cast and crew, specific subject matter – and yet it exists slightly apart from those, standing as a masterpiece on its own terms.

Anyone reading this is likely familiar with the overall narrative of Carol, but it is worth touching on some of the more important and basic elements. Directed by the widely acclaimed auteur Todd Haynes, beloved for films such as Safe, Velvet Goldmine, and Far From Heaven, the movie is an adaptation of the landmark queer novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. It stars Rooney Mara as a young storeworker and photographer in New York City during the Fifties who falls in love with a slightly older housewife played by Cate Blanchett, intently tracking the slow-gestating attraction and relationship against a frigid and suspicious cultural backdrop.

Such a spare narrative would usually result in a good but not great film, a romance that would contain some but not a great deal of emotion. But in the hands of Haynes, his magnetic stars, and his immensely talented collaborators – including but not limited to screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, cinematographer Ed Lachman, and composer Carter Burwell – it becomes almost too romantic, too emotionally charged to bear. The resulting critical attention was immense and overwhelmingly adulatory, a response only matched by the widespread dismay at the lack of a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars.

But what sets Carol apart is its resulting afterlife after the end-of-year hoopla had died down. Part of it is its already enormous cachet in the repertory theater scene – Metrograph’s 35mm print has already played more than a few times to sell-out crowds, beginning less than four months after it was released in the United States – but it appears to be even more deeply rooted in the personal connections. More than most truly lasting films of recent times – the aforementioned Mad Max, Boyhood, Holy Motors – there is the sense that it is felt more deeply from each lover of the film to another, often drawing on a sense of recognition in the unabashedly queer nature of the film. It is a film that is seen over and over and cherished with unmistakably deep love and pride, which characterizes something all too rare in the realm of art. Most of all, it seems to both move beyond and stay tightly knit to the people to which it matters most.

Entry #1: The Personal

An entry in the now-abandoned A Personal Consideration of Silence essay series.

Note: This essay was written without a copy of Silence at hand and based off of recollections from two theatrical viewings, hence there may be more inaccuracies than usual.

It is, of course, conceited and undeniably inaccurate to claim that a film serves as an exact mirror to one’s life journey. Both a great movie and a person are inordinately complex, and it is impossible to truly distill either essence into a relatively uncomplicated and accurate summary. But nevertheless I feel a pull, a certain resemblance of my own experiences with faith and doubt in Silence, one that I think deserves some explication before I dive further into the movie’s many complexities.

I was born into a Christian family, and while I have never lived in Taiwan—the country of my heritage, and coincidentally the filming location for Silence—for more than a few weeks, there is nevertheless a strong sense of culture, both secular and nonsecular, that has been instilled by my family and communities throughout my life. I grew up going to church, first in an Chinese church in Seattle (that I am currently attending) and then, when my family moved to Southern California, to Saddleback Church, the famed megachurch. Moving from a small congregation of roughly three hundred to a gigantic conglomerate of twenty thousand had multiple effects on me, some for good and some for ill.

For one, I feel that I arrived at faith and religion early, probably too early. I declared my faith independently around the age of six or seven, and was baptized at the tender age of eight. As far as I can ascertain, most people are baptized as teenagers, and I can’t help but wonder if this early zealotry made my sense of doubt more acute as I grew up.

And I was, regrettably, a zealot of sorts, perhaps too much invested in the letter of the Bible and too little in the spirit. I went on a few medical mission trips with my family, and while I wasn’t necessarily the most interested in them (I’ve never been one for traveling), I did dedicate myself whole-heartedly while I was there. I was far too public about my beliefs and too inconsiderate of others, and only somewhat recently have I felt true remorse about what I did and how I did it.

All of this is to say that I relate strongly to the spirit, if not the letter, of the padres’ journey in Silence. Like them, I have gone through extreme periods of doubt (though mine are based more on the various cultures and communities I’ve been through), but more important is the manner in which this doubt has manifested itself. It does not lie in sudden moments or public declarations, but instead arises internally over a vast period of time. I am thinking specifically of that magnificent interlude, where Rodrigues prays alone on a grassy mountainside, overcome by loss as he tries to search for meaning in his suffering. To a religious person, the absence of God can feel like a total absence of life, and, as I stand now, religion is more than anything a quest for meaning, a desperate and hopefully fruitful attempt to survive in this world, something that I think Silence embraces as well.

Hopefully, I can refrain from this level of personal exorcism henceforth, but this series will be inextricably bound to my various identities. I (and hopefully you) wouldn’t have it any other way.

Statement of Intent

An essay in the now-abandoned A Personal Consideration of Silence essay series.

In my limited experience, there are two types of “favorite” films. This does not apply just to films that the viewer relates to on a personal level (although that plays a significant part) or to the towering masterpieces of cinema, but to a very particularly moving form of connection that the experience of watching and subsequent reflection activates in a viewer. These two types, described in terms of what each individual lover has to say, are as follows:

1. It is immensely difficult to articulate the nature of the film’s greatness or general quality for whatever reason. Usually, this seems to stem from more intimate movies, ones that are difficult to evaluate from an impersonal lens. They are usually films that lie closer to real life, in the small interactions and little snippets of dialogue.

2. The viewer has an inordinate amount of things to say about the film from a variety of self-imposed perspectives and aspects. This more often than not occurs concerning mammoth films that are clearly great, grandiose productions (not to be conflated with Farber’s conception of white elephant art, as these are usually incisive works), whether they be in the canon or not.

Obviously, this binary is, as all binaries are, reductive, and there are many of my favorite films that fall somewhere in between these two extremes. Nevertheless, all of them are aligned somewhat with these dual categorizations. More importantly, never have I felt the urge of the second type as strongly as I have with Silence, Martin Scorsese’s depiction of incredible, purposeful, and troubling faith in the most hostile of locales. It is a film that gives no quarter, leaves no stone unturned in its repeated questioning of its central character and by proxy the viewer, and what results is a kind of affirmation, a complicated ambiguity that feels irresistible.

It is perhaps only fair to lay out my rather considerable shortcomings in undergoing this venture of writing multiple long essays on this great film. I have seen a grand total of—at this time of writing—six Scorsese films, and among the unseen are a good deal of films both relevant (The Last Temptation of Christ, Kundun, The Wolf of Wall Street) and not but still essential (Mean Streets, The Age of Innocence). I also have not seen Masahiro Shinoda’s version of Silence, nor Shūsaku Endō’s original novel, though I do know the context in which the latter was made. And of course, I am a neophyte of cinema at best, whose cursory knowledge vastly outstrips any benchmark of actual viewing.

So why do I want to tackle such an extraordinary film in such a brazen manner? The film’s majesty, of course, speaks for itself and even for someone as unlearned as me I want to discuss it. The decidedly mixed response of the consensus as a whole (in that the detractors have stated their opinions as vociferously as the supporters) is another reason. But certainly the strongest is my identity as an Asian Christian and the ways in which it deals with that ideal. Silence challenged and moved me in ways even religion cannot, and I relish any attempt to grapple with it further.

This project of sorts will take some time, and I anticipate that posts will come out irregularly. There is no set outline at this time, but each essay will attempt to tackle some different facet of Silence, some focusing on more technical sides and others on more theological issues.

For now, this is what I have to say about Silence. There will be many, many more words forthcoming, and I pray that they will not come in the form of unadulterated fawning, but as a testament to the glory of this truly monumental work.

A Few Immediate Thoughts on The Before Trilogy

So many echoes, both conscious and (I presume, though putting anything past these three geniuses is risky at best) unconscious. Each film has a scene of “acting” in a certain way, and the rhythms and often content of the walks are admirably similar, but each feels so differentiated by the ravages of time and love. A car ride that forms the climax of Sunset becomes the first act of Midnight, the glory of Sunrise becomes more and more attenuated until it acts as a divider, and through it all Linklater grows ever more confident, as vital as ever; the sense of worldly weariness comes from the roles, not the collaborators.