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A "Pop Culture" viewpoint of one '80s kid who, like the rest of the Criterionites out there, is still "learning" about what movies are & what film can *be*.. Loving every minute of Criterion College.. & hoping to have my mind, eyes, & soul opened to the experience! [Possibly even gaining the necessary tools to venture into Criterion *Grad School*!]
Honestly, when Criterion first started, I never thought I'd own a single one. I was born in '77 & was a child of the '80s. Grew up in S. Jersey & moved to Central AZ when I was 11. In Love with Atari, Back to the Future, Run-DMC, Garbage Pail Kids, Max Headroom, Ghostbusters, Saturday Morning Cartons, & New Wave music.. pretty much *anything* Pop Culture!
"Those movies aren't for ME!" I thought. Criterion always seemed "too old" & "Black & White" & "Boring" & "Slowwwww" & "Subtitled" & lackluster compared to the movies of the '80s.. as well as whatever was current.
But Criterion is all-encompassing: all languages & all eras. And one film from your palette [ or "safe zone"] spawns another "influenced-by" or "antithesis-of" film that maybe you saw when you were younger & hated, may know by title alone, or simply have been unaware of. [Hey, I saw "2001" & "A Clockwork Orange" & "The Godfather" & the such when I was younger & thought the world was nuts for putting these on such a high pedestal! But I was a *kid*! I wanted robots, dinosaurs, time travel, aliens, & BOOBIES!]
If you like James Woods, you'll Love this film! [Is he never NOT snarky & quick w/ the dialogue delivery?!] Directed by the guy who warned you to "Be afraid.. be VERY afraid" of Jeff Goldblum! And there's sexy/slinky/dangerous Debbie Harry from Blondie! I always get nostalgic for the '80s & '80s technology when I watch it. Mesmerizing & beautifully directed/paced by Cronenberg. A comment on our technology-and-information driven society that holds even MORE true today! Blu-Ray def & colors pop. Artwork is fantastic, w/ outer cardboard sleeve, & "case" artwork designed to resemble an '80s Betamax tape! The only movie I know that "lulls" you into safety/normalcy by hitting you right off-the-bat with torture-porn. What, it gets *worse*? And *weirder*?! How??? Watch.
Always heard of this movie, never saw it until my mid-'30s. I like Travolta.. always have.. ever since "Welcome Back, Kotter" reruns as a kid. But "young" Travolta always seemed like the "disco-dancing-Urban-Cowboy-Greased-Lightning-Barbarino" guy in my mind. And this is a movie directed by Brian "Scarface" De Palma?! Interest piqued. Also always heard it was one of Tarantino's Top 3 favorite films of all time.. & what made him want to "use" Travolta in one of *his* movies. I can watch this movie over & over again. Hitchcockian-like & innovative direction/camera, & great performances by Travolta, Nancy Allen [tart-y, but a purposeful decision to play her character like that], & a maniacal John Lithgow! And sometimes, I just wanna watch a movie that's a snapshot of the late '70s / early '80s.. just for the cityscapes, technology, & clothes!
It's hard to rank movies, actors, directors, etc.. so in *this* case, I'm going to just enter multiple films by the same director as a "tie." I actually saw "Down by Law" before "Stranger Than Paradise," & I didn't think it could get much better than DBL. Wow, was I pleasantly surprised! Great interplay vs. silence between the characters. Great Black & White shots of NYC, snowy Cleveland, & Florida.. both *on* and *off* the road. You'll find so much more to look and laugh at on repeated viewings.. & it's hard NOT to get a crush on Eszter Balint / Eva each time as well. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a Blu-Ray upgrade! ** As a side note, I never knew that Richard Edson here [the Parking Garage Attendant from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" - "Uh, what country you think this is?"] was Sonic Youth's original drummer!
Beautiful, crisp, high-contrast Black & White cinematography! Daytime/nite-time shots look beautiful & full. I was hooked from the opening "camera-out-a-moving-vehicle" shots of New Orleans.. & the intros of Tom Waits [with an Ellen Barkin cameo] & John Lurie. Every actor inherits and commands their character. I'd always seen Waits pop up in bit parts, a la "Wristcutters," "The Book of Eli," & "Mystery Men".. but he can star/co-star w/ the rest of 'em! And I hadn't a *clue* that Roberto Benigni had done anything before "Life is Beautiful." If anything, having found out that he was in this before having *watched* kinda seemed like a "negative" to me at first. Man, was I wrong! Like "Stranger Than Paradise," the 3 main characters can't be stopped once they're in their groove.
**Bonus #2** "A Fistful of Dollars" is Amazing. Enough so that it broke out of the "somewhat stale" state of Westerns @ the time [John Wayne, good guys in white, bad guys in black] with a "cool" & relatable hero spouting one-liners! Heck, even Marty McFly goes by "Clint Eastwood" for most of "Back to the Future, Part III".. & even uses some of his tricks & get-ups! And on a Pop Culture / Cult Movie note, "Last Man Standing" with Bruce Willis & Christopher Walken is still pretty Wild-West-Noir cool! But both are remakes of this Black & White [gah!] & Subtitled [wha?!] masterpiece! Just *tryyyy* it [if you haven't already]! Don't let the lack of color or English keep you from experiencing something beautiful.. something that you juuuust might be enjoying [& sharing] for the rest of your life!