The 2009 Dionysis Awards



By Marilyn Ferdinand

A while back Rick Olson and I talked about running a film ethics blog together. We both have an interest in philosophy and ethics—his, a professional one, mine, a personal one—and are constantly seeing ethical dilemmas, both overt and covert, in the films we see. Unfortunately, there’s really not enough time in the day to keep up with our respective blogs, let alone another one, so that idea went the way of the dinosaur. From its ashes rose The Oldest Established Really Important Film Club, whose members choose films that have some provocative ideas or themes that can spur a lively discussion. That seems to be working out pretty well, if the results of the first film club movie, The True Meaning of Pictures, are an indicator.

Now I find through the most excellent Bluegrass Film Society that the syndicated radio program Philosophy Talk has developed a new film award that is unlike any I’ve ever heard of (and in this lackluster Oscar year, we need something substantial to chew on): The Dionysus Awards. Here’s what they are and how YOU can participate:

The First Annual Dionysus Awards

Philosophy Talk is initiating a new movie award.

I know; I know. Do we really need yet another movie award? We’ve got the Oscars; the Golden Globe; the National Society of Film Critics, the People’s Choice Awards …. So what’s the point of another, you ask?
Well, it’s fun to talk about movies—at least the good ones. But more importantly, nobody really explicitly applauds movies for their philosophical merits—though filmmaking can sometimes be a highly philosophical art form. So why not an award that does just that? Finally, what could be cooler than winning a Dionysus Award? Sounds much cooler than an Oscar or a Golden Globe—at least to me.

So on February 8th, we’re going to inaugurate our Annual Dionysus Awards for the most philosophically interesting movies of the year. Our main guest will be noted film critic David Thomson. But we’ll also be joined briefly by some of our favorite philosopher-cinemaphiles who will give their takes on the philosophically most interesting movies of the year.

We’d love to have you join in the fun. Submit your own nomination for a Dionysus Award to Tell us which movies of 2008 you found most philosophically gripping and why. If we find your nomination compelling, we just may include you as a special guest on our on-air broadcast on the 8th.

Sounds like a winner to me. I’m planning to enter and listen. Why don’t you join me. l

  • Joseph "Jon" Lanthier spoke:
    23rd/01/2009 to 11:49 am

    Wow, David Thomson…he wouldn’t be my first choice to guest-speak at a film-as-philosophy event (that would be Stanley Cavell, of course) but he’s still one hell of a critic.
    The problem with assessing films in this manner (and this is ALWAYS an issue) is that profundity is in the eye of the philosopher. I mean, with enough intellectualizing I could make an eloquent philosophical case for “Marley and Me” as the most thought-provoking film of the year, but that would require dismissing my visceral reaction: namely, that the movie was shallow, condescending, and trite. It’ll be interesting to see how Philosophy Talk and Thomson navigate this potential hazard. Hopefully they’ll do more than simply align various schools of thought with the obvious themes of a particular film (ie, “isn’t WALL-E’s spirit just SO Schopenhauer?”).

  • Marilyn spoke:
    23rd/01/2009 to 12:30 pm

    Jon – Thanks for stopping by. Yes, it would be incredible to have Cavell, but I am a great admirer of Thomson and have seen him live. He’s eloquent, if a bit retiring. I think he’ll be great.
    I understand what you’re saying. I doubt the show will fall into the trap, however. I think aesthetic value is a philosophical concept. From that standpoint, you can argue the utility of crap cinema, but it would be a short discussion.

  • Jonathan Lapper spoke:
    23rd/01/2009 to 1:12 pm

    Now I wish I’d seen more movies this year. Nothing I’ve seen stands out in my mind for this award, even the good stuff.

  • Joseph "Jon" Lanthier spoke:
    23rd/01/2009 to 1:20 pm

    Thanks, Marilyn. True enough, aesthetic value absolutely counts as a facet of the philosophical rubric…I guess I’m just a trifle leery after watching Zizek’s trainwreck of an ersatz-psycho-philosophical lecture “The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema” late last year (although many others enjoyed it). And I’d be disappointed if the program turned into a 60-minute deconstruction of the Kant-esque ramifications of “Cloverfield”‘s central gimmick. But, perhaps I give Thomson et al too little credit. Only listening in will tell! Thanks for the tip.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    23rd/01/2009 to 1:31 pm

    My pleasure, Jon. You could have a listen to their podcasts to get the feel for the show.
    Jonathan – I have a number of candidates, even though I saw very little this year. I’m not going to tell you which one I’m going to proffer – I’d love to be included in the broadcast.

  • Daniel spoke:
    25th/01/2009 to 6:07 pm

    Sounds really fascinating! I’m not sure I’m well versed enough in philosophy to flush out the merits of a film of my choosing, but needless to say I’m excited about an award for “thinking film”.

  • Michael Benton aka Thivai spoke:
    29th/01/2009 to 4:44 pm

    I just watched Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique for the first time and it would be a perfect candidate for this award in any year… unfortunately I am at a loss for proper candidates that i saw in the theater last year (a bad year for film combined with my small city lack-of-access to unique films in theaters).
    Thanks for the kind words…

  • Marilyn spoke:
    30th/01/2009 to 7:50 am

    Michael, I’m a regular at Bluegrass and appreciate how you showcase our content. Keep up the good work!

  • Ken Taylor spoke:
    1st/02/2009 to 11:24 pm

    Hi there:
    Unfortunately, David Thomson backed out on us for some strange reason and we’re desperately searching for a replacement at the last minute. David seems to have gotten our show mixed up with another show he was on recently. He said he was dropping out because he didn’t want to “predict Oscar winners” and was disappointed that that’s what we asked him to do the “last time he was on.” Very weird, since the last time he was on our show, we didn’t talk about a single movie then in current release. We talked mainly about the difference between movies, theater, and novels as art forms and ways to tell a story. We talked about the peculiar power of movies to move us in ways that other art forms can’t.
    It’s quite disappointed. But we’re on the case looking for a suitable replacement. Wish us luck.

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