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Films that I can watch time and time again, quote off the cuff, and just put a permanent smile upon my face.
This is simply my favorite film of all time. I love Wes Anderson. He is the best filmmaker working right now in America, and he tells such grand stories in the most beautiful style. This is also the film that got me into Criterion. What a great set! I love the old book look. I could hold a series of lectures on why every aspect of this film works so well. From the set design, to the writing ("What this book presupposes is, maybe he didn't?"), to the soundtrack (The Clash, Ramones, Rolling Stones, Nico, not to mention Mothersbaugh's score) to the ensemble cast to end all ensemble casts. This movie is just joyous to me and something to be savored and adored.
I saw this freshman year of high school for the very first time, at around 11 o'clock at night, when the credits rolled around 1 I was within inches of a heart attack. At first the action of the story had me gripped, and then I began connecting to Gavras' political views (in the same way I did with Bergman's religious ones in the Seventh Seal) and then suddenly not only did it pay off exactly how I wanted for the sake of the characters but also how that little cynical voice inside my head knew it would have to end. Many cheap political thrillers will advertise as "gripping, edge of your seat action"/"heart pounding!". Z doesn't make such promises, but delivers in full! (and then some)
In my mind this is the greatest film ever made. Across the board. Not my personal favorite but simply the best. There is nothing to trump it. It is perfect in every aspect. It was just a miracle that it even turned out the way it did, everyone involved was at their highest and a lot of improvisation from Reed to Welles went a long way in crafting one of the best films ever made. I mean, Reed just found composer Anton Karas playing his zither in a restaurant and next thing you know you have one of the greatest scores (and opening title sequences) ever. The "cat-got-your-tongue" scene (not to give anything away) always has me grinning from ear to ear every time at the reveal. Pure magic!
Walker was a blind buy, and the best that I've ever come upon. But coming from Alex Cox, I don't know why I would expect anything less. Very few films have as much re-watchability for me. Strummer's score is hypnotic, Harris is mad as a hatter, and Cox and Wurlitzer have one hell of a good time poking fun at our political choices in the 1980s. After seeing it three or four times, one night while watching it something suddenly just struck a perfect chord for me and by the time the village was burning down to Strummer's 'Brooding Six', I was just completely overtaken by the entire film in a way I've never been before or since. It was really a magical moment. As relevant today as it was when it came out. Reminds me a lot of a comic, light hearted and surreal Heaven's Gate or Misfits. People never really respond well to anti-westerns when they open initially. I'm glad this has been resurrected from the Universal vaults and given one of the most entertaining releases ever on home video!
What Gus van Sant has done here is truly a miracle. For 1991, the audacity, the shots, the imagery, the practical effects, the subject matter, the adaptation (Shakespeare's Henry IV & V served as the script's template) and the ensemble cast just blow my mind to sunder. Not only did he film an entire barn falling from the sky (to symbolize an orgasm...) but he got a brilliant performance out of Keanu "Block-of-wood" Reeves. This movie was just a huge revelation for me, emotionally as well as cinematically. And it will always stand as my favorite Shakespeare film by miles.
Luis Bunuel is the most inspirational director I've ever come upon. And this little slice of absurd surreality is my favorite work of his (according to his autobiography, the Last Sigh, it was Bunuel's as well). It was the most all out, most surreal, wild film he could ever make. The final chapter in his "Truth Trilogy" (The Milky Way / The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie), "Liberty" finds Bunuel (and his wonderful co-writer Jean-Claude Carrier) at a fever pitch of creativity, running together dreams of ostriches to dinner parties set upon toilet bowls where you dash off halfway through to sneak a quick meal in a little room down the hall. It was his second to last picture and at that point there was nothing holding the man back. The best example of surrealism on celluloid.
"There's a Bergman film playing in the neighborhood." "No, I don't feel like getting depressed tonight." - John Cassavetes' "Faces"
Bergman has made comedies and epics and coming of age stories and musicals, but these two films will haunt me forever. They both contain elements from those other styles of movies (the Seventh Seal can be outright hilarious in sections) but carry with them a great sense of emotion and dread. The Seventh Seal raises essential questions of life and does so perfectly and with great elegance. Through A Glass Darkly (the first installment of his Faith Trilogy) was one of the single most depressing, insightful, dramatic, ingenious, and inspiring films I have ever seen. With merely four actors on a small island, he manages to set up a wide range of emotions and characters in the quick 89 minute run time that put you on your knees in tears by the end, a feat that would take even someone like Lean or Kubrick 2 1/2 to 3 hours - if they were lucky. The darkest pieces of Scandinavian film making and two of the greatest films of all time. I hope you check them out.
Godard gone lose. Never before have I seen so much color, so much comedic violence, so much political satire. So free a filmmaker. This movie pops in every frame and you can just see in every moment, Godard's boyish grin from behind those dark sun glasses. He's like a kid in a candy store tossing Belmondo and Karina around like rag dolls in his technicolor circus, and you just can't help but love every second. So wild. So crazy. This is what I always imagined when I thought of the French New Wave.
This is a brilliant piece of genre blending. Grant gives a tour de force performance (in my eyes a career defining one at that), perfectly delivering Robinson's black as night humor (both verbally and physically) which at all times OOZES (pun slightly intended) with both social and political satire. By all means one of the single most criminally underrated gems of the collection (and one I am quite proud to own)
These two flicks epitomize my absolute favorite kind of film. That 40's/late 50's black & white noir/mystery that always unravels with the quickest of wits, sharpest of tongues, sliest of characters, and twistiest plots. In one corner we have Welles, king of mood and atmosphere in American cinema at the time, taking his motley crew of greedy anti-heroes and warped millionaires down one of the largest scale rabbit holes seen on film (the set itself and history behind the film is yet another wild odyssey). And in the other, Carol Reed, an english visionary who takes a set up as dark as any Welles ending (the Nazi invasion of Europe, no less) and adds a wonderful comic touch to its hair-brained adventure story, creating a surprisingly humanistic depiction of Europe a midst the hellish backdrop of WWII. Of course Charters and Caldicott and Rex Harrison's wobbly voice only help in those regards. Both are paced like a runaway locomotive, constantly flying from scene to scene, locale to locale, and yet never losing the interest of the viewer for one moment. I saw them both twice in the same day the first time I saw them (on separate occasions of course) because I just had to rekindle that feeling that I felt in those 90 minutes of monochrome glory.
I'm totally stealing 11 for what's easily my favorite Criterion release, but not exactly my favorite film in the collection...
Last summer when Criterion dropped a Mad (4x) World hint in their newsletter I about freaked out and simultaneously was looking for any other alternative. There was just no way this could be true. As a kid my mom would entertain my brother and I through the summer with regular trips to the library a new VHS tape for the week every time. We buzzed through Mel Brooks, the Marx Bros, the Universal Monsters, Abbott and Costello and a strong helping of Charlie Chaplin by the time I was in second grade but I recall be exceptionally excited one day when we picked up a movie called It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. I knew nothing about it but my mom kept buzzing about how it had every important actor in it at the time and how she hadn't seen it since she saw it on cable as a child herself. I remember just reading and rereading the list of names on the back over and over again trying to pick up on who I knew and who I could keep an eye out for. Within that one week we had it from the library I must have watched it at least three times, once with my mom and brother and twice on my own (and it's NOT a short movie!). It was just the greatest thing I had ever seen. For my thirteenth birthday my uncle bought me a copy of it on DVD which really helped get me through middle school. But it wasn't until freshman year that I got into Cinemassacre/AVGN that through James Rolfe's own love for the movie did I learn of its extended and lost road show version something I have been itching to see I found out about it. As soon as Criterion announced their edition of the film (I recall I was hosting a radio show at the time and even made a blurb about it) I sent my mom the link in joy, parading the new 197 minute cut and come that fateful day in January when it was finally released it showed up on my doorstep the next day. Needless to say I've watched it at least seven or eight times since (probably half and half between the two cuts) and have gone through all the supplements at least once. I also own the 188 minute Laserdisc and dual VHS as well as the original soundtrack on LP. It's simply a glorious film. High art? Not in the least but a cinematic triumph and important piece of film history no doubt. It's the kind of movie that can just put a smile on my face, cheer me up when I'm in a bad mood, get me through writing a term paper, or help me survive the worst illness. It's at the top of a shortlist of "Feel Good" movies for me that features the likes of Fantastic Mr. Fox and Young Frankenstein and I would definitely put it very high on a list of the greatest comedies of all time without question. It always irritates me to see this film faced with derision and I honestly didn't even know this film had detractors until it's Criterion release. But none the less it's the gayest of romps and received what I can quite clearly call the definitive Criterion treatment. Not only is the film preserved beautifully in 4k on bluray, but it also features a hugely important restoration of what was very nearly considered a lost extended version of the film (the definitive if you ask me), has a strong commentary track, a never ending wealth of supplements and brand new artwork to boot.