Don Hertzfeldt’s Top10
The Academy Award–nominated independent filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt has amassed a major cult following for his meticulously crafted animated movies, which includes the shorts Rejected (2000), The Meaning of Life (2005), Everything Will Be OK (2006), and I Am So Proud of You (2008) and the feature It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012). In September 2014, Hertzfeldt created an elaborate and surreal opening couch gag for The Simpsons, envisioning what the long-running series might look like in its eight hundredth season.
Harold and Maude
I love this film! I was lucky enough to discover it when I was a little kid . . . It was one of the few VHS tapes my local library had, so I would just check it out over and over again. This used to be one of those titles you couldn’t wait to recommend to friends who’d never heard of them and then feel proud of yourself, but by now it seems like finally everyone’s heard of it. Criterion did a particularly beautiful job on this Blu-ray—even the main menu is lovely.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian
The Python films just never get old. Heroes, all of them.
The Great Dictator
It’s difficult to watch The Great Dictator without thinking about how the world was about to be plunged into five years of war and horror, and it saturates everything with more wistful sadness than Chaplin probably could have imagined. It’s a comedy at the end of the world . . . this brief and desperate beam of optimism, laughing in the face of evil, just before everything went dark. These two Chaplin releases, as well as The Gold Rush and City Lights, are among the most amazing-looking Blu-rays I’ve seen. Could Criterion please do the same restoration work for Buster Keaton next?
F for Fake
It’s been a while since I’ve seen this, but I remember not wanting it to end. It would’ve been an amazing thing to get really drunk with Orson Welles and just listen to him go. This movie probably comes pretty close.
The Exterminating Angel
Like a wonderful fever dream of a classic lost Twilight Zone script, with an occasional bear.
David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin
The second half abandons you at the worst concert in the world, soaking with dread and drugs and wandering Hieronymus Bosch creatures. It’s still effective no matter how many times you’ve seen it. And I’m in love with the sunspot flares of early-’70s 16 mm.
I’ve not seen another film or work of art come as close to recreating that specific, intangible feeling of having a nightmare. “So I just cut them up like regular chickens?” Incidentally, the very short film David Lynch did with a Lumière camera, Premonitions Following an Evil Deed, is also on this disc, and it is a perfect thing . . . Somehow, this was the only one of his films I was ever compelled to ask him about.
Insane and amazing corporate nightmares. My dad took me to see this when I was only ten, which was maybe not the best parenting decision. I was already devouring all manner of movies by then, but I don’t think I’d seen anything that was so funny and so shocking at the same time. It’s a popular film, but it still strikes me as weirdly underrated and misunderstood. Oddly, the regular R-rated version is way more hard-hitting than this uncut one. It turns out the ultraviolent stuff they had to cut out of the movie was so over the top, it sort of made it goofy.
I just saw this for the first time while dizzy with some sort of flu, and I thought it was lovely. I suppose your personal results may vary. Smeary and dreamlike and bustling and human, in every frame it seems like there’s some sort of constant struggle to breathe, to be seen, to shake through. And the sudden weird handful of dialogue sequences are almost impossibly stiff, making the whole experience that much more surreal.
By Brakhage: An Anthology, Volume One
By Brakhage: An Anthology, Volume Two
A miniature experimental film school. Brakhage’s visuals have encouraged lots of my own in-camera-special-effect attempts and failures, which I imagine countless other filmmakers would probably also say. I admit I struggle sometimes with Brakhage’s contemporaries, because I wish experimental film did not always have to seem so completely allergic to having a sense of humor. And though I know these were originally shared in 16 mm film clubs, it’s hard for me to imagine inviting some friends over to hang out and watch a few hours of Brakhage. To me, these are fleeting glimpses of magic that seem best suited not for large crowds but for small spaces, late at night, alone, when you’re in the mood to encounter something quiet and strange and personal.