Lo-fi sci-fi detective noir from 1965. Special agent Lemmy Caution is sent on a secret mission to Alphaville, a city run by an evil professor who’s built a supercomputer that specializes in mind control and strips the city’s inhabitants of all real emotion. No real special effects or futuristic props. So lean. So clean. Also, any time someone can potentially destroy a supercomputer with a poem, I’m down.
The Greek legend, updated to take place in a favela in Rio during Carnival. Beautiful. The soundtrack by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luis Bonfá is incredible. Good for the eyes and ears and soul. Any time someone goes into the underworld to get a dead lover back to the tune of a samba, I’m at least a little interested.
Do the Right Thing
One of Earth’s best. Classic New York movie. Holds up. Makes me miss New York. It made me miss New York even when I lived there. It’s a masterpiece, and due to its depiction of race relations and police brutality in the U.S., the paint is still very warm and wet on it.
Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams
Most people don’t want to hear about the weird dream you had. It may be interesting or bewildering to you, but really no one else cares. I would say that unless you’re Akira Kurosawa and can get Martin Scorsese to play van Gogh in the weird dream you had about van Gogh, you should knock it off because you’re only losing friends. This whole list could have been Kurosawa films.
Tied with (in preferential order): Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Rashomon, High and Low, Throne of Blood, Ran, Stray Dog, Yojimbo, Red Beard
Djibril Diop Mambéty
Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambéty’s 1973 film about a young man and woman in a modern African city who don’t fit in. So they get out. They get far out. The raw energy and often hyper-experimental nature of the music, visuals, and editing make this a favorite. Beautiful. Fully punk.
Iron and Wine’s Top 10
Samuel Beam is an American singer-songwriter (and former film studies professor!) better known by the stage name Iron and Wine. His last album was 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog, and a follow-up is in the works.
Sonic Youth’s Top 10
Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, and Steve Shelley ganged up for this Criterion top ten—or twelve, as it turned out. The New York–based no wavers have been making music together since 1981. Their albums include Daydream Na…
Steven Yeun’s Top 10
An international star who has delivered acclaimed performances in The Walking Dead, Okja, and Burning, Steven Yeun tells us about the “wise grace” of Tokyo Story, the brutality of RoboCop, and other Criterion favorites.