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Just in alphabetical order. Like everyone I was forced to leave out some of my absolute favorites. Not the ten best films in the collection, but my ten current faves for explained reasons.
Stanwyck is my hero, and Criterion also has my favorite performance with The Lady Eve, but this combo of Stanwyck and Mann is wonderful. Now Criterion really needs to add some Mann/Alton films. They understood the dark both visually and thematically like no others.
It's tough to pick a Fassbinder film, but this is one of the films in the collection that kept me thinking for long after the disc stopped playing. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul left me feeling for long after, but this was an intellectual experience like few others. I saw it on a non-Criterion version first, and the subtitles for the radio broadcasts are a testament to the power of a good Criterion release changing the entire experience and understanding of a film. Now I wish I could afford to buy this OOP set so I don't have to keep checking it out from the library.
This is just plain wonderful. I could have picked other Akerman favorites like Jeanne Dielman or Je tu il elle, which may both be considered more "major" works, but this is such a meaningful movie for me.
Criterion has single-handedly convinced me of the power of Blu-ray. And this is one powerful argument. Wenders' road trilogy MUST be released (now that Alice in the Cities is on Hulu I'm confident). But I included this one because it is one I had seen on another cheap DVD copy multiple times before the beautiful Criterion Blu-ray. Criterion managed to make me even more moved and blown away by this great film.
Cerebral. Surreal. Antonioni. This is a favorite example when I want to show what an "art film" is.
All others on my list are from prolific filmmaking heroes of mine. This is an anomaly. It is an absolute masterpiece on all levels that caught me completely by surprise. So many films about cinema are too theoretical and intellectually lofty, or now they are just inside "meta" jokes. But this captures the spirit of cinema like no narrative film I've ever seen with absolutely no pretensions at all.
B-Movie perfection. A war film like no other. Every Fuller film is about 10 or 15 years ahead of its time, but this racially-charged drama on a shoestring budget takes the cake. Gene Evans is tough as nails.
Pretty tough to pick an Ozu. As a viewer in my 20's, this one is the most immediate. His films touch on so many stages of life. My favorite will continue to change, but this straddles the beautiful contradictions of traditionalism and modernity in family life.
Comfort food. I have seen this more times than any other, and will continue to return to it whenever I need to. I don't think it will ever lose its power to pull me under its pure American road movie spell. I don't even feel I need to explain myself. Either you get it or you don't I guess.
I should have included The Seventh Seal because it was the film that introduced me to both the collection and the art of film. But Winter Light is pure Bergman and pure cinema.