A Woman Is a Woman
This has always been my favorite Godard film. The first time I watched it, I was heartbroken because I thought my DVD was defective: the sound kept cutting out. In researching further I learned I was the fool—Godard was playing with sound design. It was in a way I had never heard before. His use of long camera pans with text explaining what our heroes think but would never say is absolutely brilliant. Between Anna Karina, her red tights, and the celebration of American musicals, it manages to sum up all my favorite things.
The Exterminating Angel
It begins with elegance and, as the story unfolds, reveals the dark, desperate, and very human parts of us. I enjoy films that take place in one setting if done correctly. It allows the audience to focus on the characters that drive the plot without any fancy trickery. Such a fun, mysterious ride.
I saw this when it came out. I was seven. It was my favorite film. I must have watched it forty times.
Choosing a Cassavetes film was the hardest part of making this list. All his films have continued to inspire me—every aspect of them. He’s one of the only filmmakers where I will put on the DVD just to listen to his commentary. His ideals, his pursuit of the road less traveled—and traveled in a way that is curious, thought-provoking, and dangerous—have always excited me. I take his box set with me to every set. Each film has an incredible backstory, and leaves me thinking, How the hell did he pull that off?!
Gena Rowlands is absolutely stunning in every way in this film. And I love watching her and John act together, especially with her drunk during an improvised play for hundreds of extras who showed up because John took an ad out in the paper.
Highly quotable, incredibly hilarious, and remarkably intelligent. Had the pleasure of going to a Q&A with Stillman at the Cinefamily after a screening of this film. I was giddy the whole night. Also read on IMDb that he is an Aquarius. Not sure what that means, but cool.
Quite possibly my favorite ending of any film. Perfectly summed up in one beautiful, long, hopeless shot.
Antonioni’s first color film. I felt like I was opening my eyes for the first time. An incredible palette and commitment to tone. He actually painted trees whites and grays! I have always wanted to talk technicalities with someone about this film. The fog? How did he do the fog?!
Scenes from a Marriage
This was the most invested in any relationship I had ever been—including my own. Beautiful, hopeful, heartbreaking in ways that hit almost too close to home.
The Third Man
One of my favorite scores, next to Days of Being Wild. An incredible use of depth and contrast and the word Lime. God, I love the way they say “Lime.”
Whit Stillman’s Top 10
“In trying to come up with a ten best list from the Criterion Collection I thought first of Trouble in Paradise and decided to go online to find the rest. But after only seven pages of Criterion’s online list I already had more than enough for te…
Megan Abbott’s Top 10
Megan Abbott is the award-winning author of seven novels, including Dare Me and The Fever. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Wall Street Journal.