D. A. Pennebaker
With its exquisite packaging, reminiscent of old rock posters with a subtle Hatch Show Print letterpress homage (even using a textured paper), this boxed set is a treasure. I was especially thrilled to find extra footage of songs and bands that were left out of the original film. This footage is a time capsule of California (and American) culture in the sixties, that as a Californian, I find warmly nostalgic. There is so much gritty footage of the crowd, and of the various bands in preparation for the event—it humanizes them and makes these often idolized figures, seem real and accessible.
David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin
Continuing on the rock theme: I see this documentary as a document of the end of an ideal. It’s devastating and difficult to witness the end of such a hopeful era, but fascinating and extremely relevant. And on a lighter note, it’s always enjoyable to watch Mick Jagger strut around like a sexy peacock.
Also, Sanjuro. This edition has subtle and understated packaging that echoes the sparse and slow pacing of Kurosawa’s film. The tribal “voodoo music” is entrancing and fills up the empty spaces Kurosawa leaves deliberately open. There are so many unforgettable images that stay with you, such as the dog with the severed hand in its mouth, and Unosuke’s arm coming out of his kimono’s neck hole holding a gun.
Another Kurosawa film packaged with perfect taste. With beautiful calligraphic type and brush painting, this set is a gem. Featuring seven examples of different personalities deciding to be selfless for very individual reasons, this film is a lesson in patience and of sacrifice.
In the Mood for Love
This seems to me one of the most delicately melancholy and yet vibrantly beautiful films I’ve ever seen. It’s heartbreaking and infuriating, convoluted and yet transparent. The color, fabrics, and décor make me wish I could relocate into a world of low, heavy light, constricting clothing, and dank, long halls even at the expense of my own happiness. I also have to bring up my other favorite Wong Kar-wai film Chungking Express. It’s just as beautiful, but slightly more lighthearted.
The Third Man
A shadow of a man turning around a corner, casting itself so tall it reaches beyond the roofs of buildings; endless tunnels underground broken by the white light of arched openings, and the creepy and mocking music of the zither. The Third Man is a noir archetype. Orson Welles is only present for about a quarter of the film, and he still manages to take it over completely.
The Royal Tenenbaums
This is really a sneaky way to list all of Criterion’s editions of Wes Anderson’s films. Tenenbaums is by far my favorite, but Rushmore, The Life Aquatic, and the new edition of Bottle Rocket are all pretty fantastic, too. I’m always immediately won over by the artwork and illustrations that tie all his films together. Even with different artists (Ian Dingman and Eric Chase Anderson) there is a consistency, due in no small part to Wes Anderson’s own particular aesthetic, that makes these films feel like four stories from the same hyperreal, idyllically melancholy world. There’s an interview in the Tenenbaums supplements section with artist Miguel Calderon that’s totally worth a listen.
I was so excited when I found this edition of Charade. The DVD I previously owned looked like someone had video taped a TV broadcast. And of course this edition is beautiful. The opening credits are simply the coolest. And you can never go wrong with pairing such charming and lovely icons as Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. This is one of those films you can watch over and over because it’s so fun and enjoyable.
Tom Schnabel’s Top 10
Music director at Los Angeles’s KCRW radio station, Tom Schnabel started the daily program Morning Becomes Eclectic in the 1980s, first bringing world music to U.S. radio with such artists as Buena Vista Social Club, Ravi Shankar, and Caetano Velos…
Bill Plympton’s Top 10
Cartoonist, filmmaker, and animator Bill Plympton, whose illustrations have appeared in the pages of the New York Times, the Village Voice, and Vanity Fair, and whose short films became famous on MTV in the eighties, directed the documentary Walt Cur…
Tracy Letts’s Top 10
Tracy Letts is an American playwright, screenwriter, and actor. He received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for drama for August: Osage County and a Tony Award for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?