The Red Balloon
One of the most beautiful films ever made. It’s a French movie with almost no dialogue, and I remember watching it in school several times. The innocence and the imagination of the young protagonist are threatened by bullies and adults, but the relationship he forms with his balloon gives us marvelous insight into childhood. I love how the film explores universal themes that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
Do the Right Thing
Quintessential Spike Lee. Brooklyn. Hottest day of the year. This film defined a generation of filmmakers and artists that followed. For me, as an artist growing up in New York, Spike Lee was an inspiration. He showed us it could be done.
The Battle of Algiers
This has to be one of the greatest war films ever made. It transports you into a culture and a struggle, and you wind up siding with people who will stop at nothing for their freedom. The imagery is striking and heart-wrenching. Watching this film will make you think differently about our current world.
Cinematic candy. You want to eat, sing, and dance in the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro. The colors and fabrics, the language and music and people and culture, are all so vibrant and beautiful. The story is a retelling of the Greek tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, done with such beauty and imagination. This is one for the ages.
Ozu at his best. Everyone can identify with the family in this story as they suffer the loss of a parent. This is a deep and thorough investigation into our humanity, and it has stayed with me for years. It strikes a very deep chord that makes us recognize our true commonality.
This story about a group of samurai hired to protect a village of rice farmers from bandits is one of my all-time favorites from Kurosawa. There are so many lessons about life and how we view heroism in this timeless masterpiece.
Gorgeous and gritty in every way. It’s a time capsule of late sixties New York City, and it’s about a bond between two unlikely friends. The acting, direction, editing, and score are downright perfect.
A Man Escaped
Bresson’s film about a man yearning to escape from prison takes place mostly within a cell, and yet it never loses your interest for a second. It touches on themes of our collective humanity and what it means to live.
Andrea Arnold’s fresh and gripping portrayal of a young woman navigating her burgeoning sexuality in the housing projects of Essex. The scenes are fraught with tension, and the performances are out of sight.
Brian Raftery’s Top 10
The year 1999 may be this culture critic’s favorite in Hollywood history (he just wrote a book on the subject!), but the Criterion films he holds most dear span a number of different eras.