Criterion Month Day 27: Buena Vista Social Club

Buena Vista Social Club (1999)

I’d planned on reviewing Lynne Ramsay’s 1999 drama Ratcatcher for today. Unfortunately, the film isn’t on streaming or any online rental service that I’m aware of, so I needed a backup. Why did I gravitate to Wim Wender’s 1999 music documentary Buena Vista Social Club? I don’t know. Maybe because it was convenient. Or maybe It was the island rhythms I could feel percolating from within. Let’s find out.

Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 26: Taste of Cherry

Taste of Cherry (1997)

As we come into the home stretch of this year’s Criterion Month, we seem to have found ourselves in a patch of movies about traveling. We had a movie about people puttering about America, then one about traversing France, and now a film about driving around Iran. Taste of Cherry‘s little twist on the minimal road trip formula? It follows a man looking for someone who will burry him after he kills himself.

Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 25: Vagabond

Vagabond (1985)

It seems to me that homelessness is a topic that is never handled terribly well in most Hollywood movies. Usually, most vagrants in films are either objects of unenviable pity, or they seem to be these magical, miserly dudes that some hapless, better-looking protagonist forms an unusual bond with. But, like a majority of the films in the Criterion Collection, Vagabond is not a film born out of a Hollywood studio, nor a film that from what I can tell had much of a cross-over release in America. Fortunately, it provides a both empathetic and unromantic depiction of homelessness, while tapping into the idea that even if a person lives on the fringes of society, they still have the power to impact those living firmly within it. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 24: Stranger Than Paradise

Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

Not a lot of filmmakers can get away with making a feature-length film about nothing. You can call Stranger Than Paradise a film about “social misfits exploring the dark side of the american dream”. At least that’s what the writer/director Jim Jarmusch said about his film on his guest appearance on The Simpsons. Though I would argue Stranger Than Paradise is about nothing. Which I would also argue is what makes the film so great.

Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 23: Repo Man

Repo Man (1984)

I’m not sure if it was the right call or not to review Repo Man after a weekend screening of Sorry To Bother You. Yes, they do make for a good double feature, considering they both have a kind of anti-capitalist bent, both are about shitty jobs, and both go unexpectedly sci-fi in their finales. But at the same time, Sorry To Bother You seems to really go for it, even more than Repo Man does in terms of its immediacy, audacity, and biting humor. Repo Man on the other hand, seems a bit restrained by comparison, which is probably not a description that’s ever been ascribed to this film. But nonetheless, taken on its own, it’s a very enjoyable little slice of ’80s weirdness that manages to buck the blandness of the decade’s typical studio films. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 22: Koyaanisqatsi

Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

I knew I would be setting myself up for a challenge when I chose Koyaanisqatsi as one of my films to review for Criterion Month. After all, how do you review a movie with no dialogue, no story, and no explicit narrative other than what you choose to glean from its vast and beautiful images? Well, I suppose it brings up the question of what constitutes good film writing. And I suppose Koyaanisqatsi would be thought of as a hard film to write about because a lot of film writing typically concerns plot or story, of which Koyaanisqatsi has none. But I often feel like a lot of the best film writing (or really any writing about art) is about how a movie makes you feel. And there’s plenty to feel while watching Koyaanisqatsi. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 21: Stalker

Stalker (1979)

I’ve been in a sci-fi mood lately. I’ve been watching James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction and though today’s film isn’t discussed on the show—gotta make room for films that matter like I Am Legend and Avatar—it got me thinking about the great sci-fi films I have yet to see. Stalker is a film you’ll find on most “Best Sci-Fi Films” lists. But you know another film on most lists? Solaris, also directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. I bring that up because Solaris is one of the most boring films I’ve ever attempted to watch.

Continue reading