Matthew Weiner is the award-winning creator, writer, and executive producer of the series Mad Men. About the process of compiling his Criterion Top 10, Weiner wrote, “I’m not a big fan of lists and it’s even harder when you peruse the Criterion Collection and see some of the landmarks not just of cinema but of Western culture. I’ve chosen to put this list in chronological order, rather than any kind of ranking, and assume that all Ingmar Bergman, Stanley Kubrick, and Max Ophuls are essentials and on another list all by themselves.”
Made at the end of the silent era, before the camera was tied down by microphones, this film is filled with pure visual storytelling and an incredible performance by Emil Jannings as a Russian general who finds work as an extra in Hollywood.
On some level this is an Italian postwar neorealist film about the plight of organized labor. But at its heart is a story about women turned against each other as they are reduced to a state of desperate sexuality in order to survive.
Even though this film is supernatural, and set in centuries-old rural Japan, it has had a deep influence on Mad Men, with its exploration of the tragic contradiction of a family man.
In The Apu Trilogy, Satyajit Ray follows his resilient character Apu from childhood. In The World of Apu (Apur Sansar), the trilogy’s final chapter, Apu finds adulthood through one of the most compelling and exquisitely crafted plots in film history. This is not an exaggeration. The ending is so earned and emotional that you feel like it has happened to you.
Catherine Deneuve plays a housewife caught between definitions as either the subject or object of fantasy in Luis Buñuel’s genre-defying exploration of identity, sex, and reality.
I’ve had the advantage of seeing this movie at many different times in my life, and I don’t really know how it’s put together or why it works. Peter Bogdanovich captures the lives of real people using every aspect of filmmaking: casting, location, and period music whose static-y radio sound cuts against the desolate wind of a decaying small town.
Angels inhabit the earth and long to be human because the pain and love of mortality is beautiful. Wim Wenders mixes color with black and white, dialogue with voice-over, aerial with handheld cinematography, and the historical with the magical in this intimate, poetic vision of ordinary life. This film came out when I was in college and was so new and fresh that many of us saw it on a weekly basis.
With no narrator, a Philip Glass score, and dramatic reenactments, there’s a lot of media that tries to imitate The Thin Blue Line, either without knowing the source or without coming close to Errol Morris’s dramatic, funny, and chilling documentary, which redefined the genre.
I don’t think this movie will ever be considered tame. Subversive in every way, this is my favorite of the Monty Python movies because it houses a refined and philosophical look at organized religion, delivered in the most absurd and profane manner. Incredible jokes, great performances, and it’s almost a musical except for all the blood—kind of like the Bible.
I put these two films together because Jacques Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort is a light and airy musical with sherbet-colored costumes and a painted town, while the other, Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz, is a dark, grimy, semi-autobiographical show-business story about a man who makes musicals. These two classics remind me that music and dance can say more than any other kind of action, and that life is a stage whether you are on it or directing it.