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A Year’s Worth of Essential Reading

We’re ringing in the new year with a look back at a selection of the most exciting pieces we published in 2023.


Room Tone 2023

Look back on the collaborations that defined our year, captured in this compilation of moments that our crew shared with the artists, critics, and scholars who talked with us about the movies.

By Daniel Reis

Deep Dives

Deeper into Ozu

Six writers celebrate the 120th anniversary of Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu’s birth by highlighting underacknowledged elements of his artistry and lesser-known gems in his oeuvre.

For the Love of the Con

The best movies about con artists highlight something their makers share with the fraudsters they depict: an intuitive sense of people’s desires and a talent for ruthless manipulation.

By Terrence Rafferty

Don’t Fence Her In: On Women of the West

A string of important midcentury westerns, including Johnny Guitar and Rancho Notorious, elevated women from their traditionally marginal role in the genre to more potent and central positions.

By Imogen Sara Smith

Blood and Guts in High School

John Fawcett’s 2001 cult classic Ginger Snaps—a highlight of the Criterion Channel’s High School Horror collection—uses the werewolf trope to explore the psychosexual anxieties of female adolescence.

By Farihah Zaman

Linda Darnell’s Tough and Timeless Women

Despite being one of the most mesmerizing performers of 1940s Hollywood, Darnell struggled throughout her career to be seen as more than a great beauty.

By Mayukh Sen

Noir by Gaslight

A collection of films on the Criterion Channel combine the moodiness of noir with late-nineteenth-century period detail and dark romance.

By Farran Smith Nehme

The Man Behind the Wheel

Amid the anxiety and social turbulence of the Nixon era, car movies served to explore and embody the contradictions of American masculinity.

By Christina Newland

“The House Is the Monster”: Roger Corman’s Poe Cycle

In the great American writer’s Gothic tales, Corman found themes that inspired him to riff, invent, and create immersive cinematic environments.

By Geoffrey O’Brien

Hip-Hop’s Big-Screen Breakthrough

As the influence of the New York–born cultural movement began to spread across the country, cinema gave audiences a deeper sense of the sounds and styles that had emerged from it.

By Craig D. Lindsey

The Replacements: AI in the Movies

Over the past half-century of sci-fi cinema, the theme of artificial intelligence has foregrounded our anxieties about sex, reproduction, and labor in the modern world.

By Gregory Zinman

Elvis’s Adventures in Hollywood

Over the course of thirty-one feature films, one of the world’s most revered rock-and-roll icons developed a charismatic persona all his own—and created moments of surprising dramatic depth.

By Sheila O’Malley

Marilyn’s Method

Marilyn Monroe was already a brilliant performer before she began studying Method acting, but the immersive techniques she learned from teacher Lee Strasberg gave her a heightened sense of her craft as “a sort of religion.”

By Kim Morgan

Darkness Visible: Anthony Mann and James Stewart’s Westerns

One of Hollywood’s most beloved actors showed a turbulent, sometimes downright sinister side in his collaborations with director Anthony Mann, which include the classic westerns Winchester ’73 and The Man from Laramie.

By K. Austin Collins

An Asian American Comedy Milestone Riffs on a Kung-Fu Icon

One of the first hit movies made by an Asian American team, They Call Me Bruce confronts everyday racism with irreverent humor emblematic of its era.

By Oliver Wang

The Good Fight: Deepa Dhanraj’s Visions of Solidarity

Over the course of her four-decade career, the pioneering Indian documentary filmmaker has demonstrated the important roles that joy and pleasure play in the process of political change.

By Devika Girish

The Wet Dreams and Twisted Politics of Erotic Thrillers

Combining elements of soft-core porn and film noir, one of the most popular Hollywood genres of the 1980s and ’90s captured the fraught aspirationalism and sexual mores of the era.

By Beatrice Loayza

First Person

How to Stay, When to Vanish

The author of the novel Fiona and Jane looks back on a relationship that never quite solidified—and a future that never quite arrived—through the prism of Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey into Night.

By Jean Chen Ho

The Velvet and the Worms: Ester Krumbachová’s Unsung Legacy

Primarily known as a costume and production designer, this multitalented visionary deserves to be more widely recognized as one of the most important creative forces behind the Czechoslovak New Wave.

By Jonathan Owen

Songbook

The Monkees Set Fire to Their Pop Image in Head

On the verge of implosion, the band rages through a performance of their song “Circle Sky” in a psychedelic, politically trenchant sequence from director Bob Rafelson’s debut feature.

By Caden Mark Gardner

First Person

Finding a Home in the Avant-Garde

Desperately seeking community in her college years, the writer discovered the world of experimental cinema when she stumbled on a short-film program at an art-house in Manchester, England.

By Juliet Jacques

Under the Sign of Sadness: Zbigniew Preisner’s Three Colors Scores

One of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s closest collaborators, the Polish composer suffuses the quotidian images that appear throughout Blue, White, and Red with deep poetry and sacred meaning.

By Tim Greiving

Bright Lights, Dark Dreams: Alejandro Galindo in Morelia

This great director from the golden age of Mexican cinema drew upon a wide range of styles to explore the conflict between tradition and modernity.

By Imogen Sara Smith