My Favorite Criterions

by Nick van Lieshout

Created 07/05/12

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Since the collection has contained hundreds of titles across different home viewing formats, I decided to limit myself to their films released on Blu-ray and DVD that I have seen. Presented in alphabetical order and featuring only one film per director.

  • Despite being released in 1951, Billy Wilder’s ACE IN THE HOLE is as relevant today as it was over sixty years ago. That’s a characteristic few films can claim hold to, reflecting and commenting on our present in ways no one could’ve anticipated back when they were making it. While the medium of journalism may have changed, the message remains the same, and perhaps it’s these differences that help highlight its relevance today. As that old saying goes, “the more things change, the more they remain the same.”

  • One of the most beautiful films ever shot, and perhaps one of the greatest uses of the Technicolor process. It's equal parts melodrama and horror. The third act has horror imagery on par with anything in NOSFERATU or THE EXORCIST.

  • Easily one of the most depressing endings of all time. And yet, there is something almost darkly poetic about it. Very few other filmmakers are able to fashion products of such sinister, surreal beauty filled with colorful, hallucinatory imagery like Brian DePalma, and BLOW OUT might just be his masterpiece.

  • I didn't go to high school in the 1970's. And I didn't go to high school in Austin, Texas either. But I look at this movie and I can relate to it. The characters, the summer atmosphere, everything. In a way, it's like the spiritual successor to AMERICAN GRAFFITI It also has one of the best source soundtracks of any movie I've seen.

  • This was my first exposure to Wes Anderson. I loved it the first time I saw it, and with each subsequent viewing my affection for it has only grown. Anderson has often been critiqued for making live action cartoons, but here he isn’t finally giving into his tendencies, but rather using the medium as a way to present this story and its themes in a charming and imaginative way.

  • Kurosawa has made a lot of samurai films. Some of them are epics (SEVEN SAMURAI), while others are character dramas (THRONE OF BLOOD), taking their cues from both history and Shakespeare. THE HIDDEN FORTRESS is neither -- it's a straight forward adventure story, the kind that would've been told around campfires and passed down from generation to generation (which, in its own way, is a tradition HIDDEN FORTRESS has continued with its influence on STAR WARS). This being a Kurosawa film, of course there are themes and ideas at play, but at the end of the day, this is a movie that lives and dies on its action and humor, and it more than delivers on that front.

  • INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is a movie that is great on the first viewing, but becomes transcendent on the second. At first I thought there was no chance this could crack my top five Coen films, but at this point, it might be in the top three. There is so much that resonates with me -- the effects of capitalism on artistic aspirations, what it means to be authentic, the narrative retelling of the Sisyphus myth -- that I can't help but think of the film for days after watching it.

  • The visual iconography of this movie alone is enough to secure it a spot on this list. But it is its examination and depiction of Catholic guilt in the Middle Ages that resonates with me more than anything. Having been born and raised in the Church, it was refreshing to see these issues of faith, doubt, and guilt handled with the intelligence and respect that they deserved.

  • In one single camera move, you can watch John Wayne become a movie star.

  • Has there ever been a greater actor-turned-director debut than this? Charles Laughton's visuals are reminiscent of those found in the expressionist films of the German silent era (NOSFERATU in particular comes to mind), using light and shadow tell the story more so than the dialogue. Laughton (who would not go on to direct another film, a loss for us all) presents the American south not as a tall tale, but a Gothic fairytale, with Robert Mitchum as the devil in sheep's clothing. The original American horror story.

  • This movie is almost two and a half hours long. The first half is slow paced and takes its time setting up the plot and characters. But as soon as those trucks start moving, things don't slow up. I was on the edge of my seat even after it had ended.

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