Do the Right Thing
It’s one of the most important American films of all time and a powerful, wonderful breakthrough for Spike Lee. All the pieces fit, and it feels effortless. The climactic riot scene is already a landmark in cinematic storytelling. Spike Lee essentially crafted a war film, except the battles are set in inner-city America.
Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer
This film actually frightens me, and that’s saying something for a documentary made some thirty years ago. The Maysles brothers and their team crafted a glimpse into the dark and dysfunctional world of the American family and a failing American dream.
High and Low
This is such a fiery and entertaining crime film. It’s epic yet completely domestic and simple. While it’s somewhat of a departure from his canon, Kurosawa’s stamp is everywhere. He manages to expertly adapt American source material and place it in Japan (the irony, of course, being that America would adapt his stories for years to follow).
Passionate, personal, and uplifting documentary filmmaking. This is a true example of the power of the art form, and a terrific movie too. Rarely do you find filmmakers with such an insight to the world of sports, and the ability to examine the personal politics that run underneath it. This should be required viewing for any sports or film fan.
I cannot stop watching this film. I’ve tried. Yet Wes Anderson has created a fairy-tale world that is so timeless and awkwardly comfortable. Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman portray one of the most endearing duos in years, with an ensemble of memorable characters surrounding them. Full of hilarious dialogue, a pristine song score, and Anderson’s imaginative eye—this will restore anyone’s faith in American independent filmmaking.
In fact, the whole John Cassavetes: Five Films set. This is the starter kit for anyone who wonders about the roots of the American independent film movement. Seeing Cassavetes’s debut, the politically charged love story Shadows, is like watching the birth of a giant. Meanwhile, Faces and A Woman Under the Influence are searing portraits of the blinding pain true love can bring when a marriage ends up tearing a family apart. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Opening Night, on the other hand, are noirish sagas of death and business. Plus, Charles Kiselyak’s moving documentary A Constant Forge offers up the proper historical and cultural perspective on one of American cinema’s true visionaries.
There’s a reason this is one of Ingmar Bergman’s most cited works: it’s one of his best. A beautiful and unusually brisk road movie, this may be Bergman’s most accessible film, but what’s wrong with that? This is the kind of film artists spend their entire careers striving for. Bergman achieved it early on, and made many more classics as a result.
A society on the brink of defiance and revolution, and a generation that’s sick and tired of being sick and tired. In some years and some countries, they riot. In 1990 America, they talk it out. Easily one of the most influential American films of the last twenty-five years, Richard Linklater’s exploration of bored youth is mesmerizing. This film would help its titular term become a phenomenon, as well as put Austin, Texas, on the cultural map.
The Rules of the Game
Jean Renoir’s almost-lost piece of essential filmmaking is a tour de force of social debate, comedy, violence, and overindulgence. And that’s just how the characters behave. The filmmaking is crisp, smart, and quickly paced. Many films have come close, but, in my opinion, Renoir’s masterpiece is the finest cinematic example of class satire.
Jesse Malin’s Top 10
After playing in hard-core and glam bands throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Queens-born singer-songwriter Jesse Malin released his first solo album, The Fine Art of Self Destruction, in 2002.
Jonathan Caouette’s Top 10
Jonathan Caouette is the director of several feature-length documentaries: the award-winning personal diary film Tarnation (2004), produced by John Cameron Mitchell and Gus Van Sant; All Tomorrow’s Parties (2009), about the music festival; and Walk…
Bill Hader’s Top 10
In compiling his top ten Criterion editions, Hader says, “I couldn’t pick ten . . . sorry. So I programmed Criterion double features, which is what I tend to do on Sunday nights anyway.”