Sean Lemme

Sean is mildly pleased with most things in life, so I guess it's good he made this website.

Criterion Month Day 14: Le cercle rouge

Le cercle rouge (1970)

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, drew a circle with a piece of red chalk and said: “When men, even unknowingly, are to meet one day, whatever may befall each, whatever the diverging paths, on the said day, they will inevitably come together in the red circle.”

Jean-Pierre Melville made up that Buddha which quote opens his Le cercle rouge and I am feeling it. My red circle with this film is a wide one, reaching way back to the first time I heard about it on an episode of Filmspotting from 2008 (to give you a better sense of time, it was the one where Adam and Matty reviewed Pineapple Express). That was part of their Classic Heist marathon, which I am still woefully ignorant of, but in theory very interested in consuming. Don’t believe me? That’s fair, but it motivated two draft picks in the very first Criterion Month. Those were Rififi, which directly inspired Le cercle rouge, and another Jean-Pierre Melville film, Le Samouraï. And it keeps going: Le Samouraï was indirectly remade in a couple more of my later picks, The Killer and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. So this really does feel like a homecoming.

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Criterion Month Day 13: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a French musical from 1964 that takes a fairly mundane story and elevates it massively with its incredible style. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it is one of the most colorful movies I have ever seen. A stark contrast from the (mostly) black and white of Agnès Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7, this film, directed by her husband Jacques Demy, makes every single frame vibrant beyond reason. Similarly, the filmmakers made the audacious choice to have the story be entirely sung-through while keeping lyrics as realistic dialogue. So people sing things like what a mechanic did to fix a car. By dialing everything but the story up to 11, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg shows that the difference between everyday events and drama is just your point of view.

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Criterion Month Day 11: Cléo from 5 to 7

Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)

Back when I drafted Hiroshima mon amour, I remember joking about how pretentious the French New Wave’s left bank group must have been, given their reputation for considering right bank directors like François Truffaut, and Jean-Luc Godard “too commercial.” But now that I’ve seen movies from a couple left bank directors (and read Colin’s many reviews) I’m realizing I actually had it backwards. I think the left bank was poking fun at the right bank for taking cinema too seriously. It’s less that one side was more intellectual than the other, and more that the left bank filmmakers were willing to play looser and get more experimental. So in the case of a movie like Agnès Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7, we get a film that seriously tackles existentialism and feminism, but isn’t afraid to get goofy with it sometimes.

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Criterion Month Day 7: Godzilla

Gozilla (1954)

The Criterion Collection made a big deal out of spine #1,000 by releasing their biggest box set yet: Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, a collection of the first 15 Godzilla movies. (The title refers to the period of Emperor Shōwa’s reign.) The set comes in an oversized hardcover book filled with dozens of beautiful illustrations and essays that make it equally at home as a display piece on the mantle or a coffee table book. I’m proud to own it and show it off… but I do have one dark secret: I’m not sure I deserve to own such a exquisite prize. You see, before this month, the only Showa-Era movie I’d seen is the first King Kong vs. Godzilla. And now that I’ve finally watched the original Gozilla, I don’t foresee see myself checking out the other 13 movies any time soon. That’s not great, because if I was just going to watch the first one, Criterion already released that forever ago. Let me try to explain why my eyes are bigger than my stomach when it comes to kaiju movies.

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Sean’s Sad Superhero Sundays: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

We gave up a lot of things in 2020 and that sucked. One thing that maybe actually needed a break was the superhero genre, which has dominated cinemas for more than a decade now. Last year, only DC managed to release anything (Birds of Prey and WW84) unless you count the final season of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, which was probably only watched by me. Well, now it’s 2021 and we’re coming back and we’re all super depressed. Over the next few… however long this takes me, I’m going to review all the sad new superhero shows and movies of 2021 leading up to Black Widow‘s release in July. Come wallow with me!

What does it mean to be “Captain America” after World War II? Outside of war propaganda, it’s pretty weird to cover yourself in the stars and stripes. The comics have been wrestling with this issue since the character was revived during the Vietnam era, sometimes with embarrassing results. In the MCU, Steve Rogers ultimately gave up his alter ego, sidestepping the issue until he made the surprising choice to pass the mantle on to Sam Wilson. Then he disappeared into another timeline(?) and left his two sidekicks to pick up the pieces. Sounds like a funny buddy flick right? But it’s 2021, so let’s make sure to have some real bummer stuff in there too.

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Sean’s Sad Superhero Sundays: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

We gave up a lot of things in 2020 and that sucked. One thing that maybe actually needed a break was the superhero genre, which has dominated cinemas for more than a decade now. Last year, only DC managed to release anything (Birds of Prey and WW84) unless you count the final season of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, which was probably only watched by me. Well, now it’s 2021 and we’re coming back and we’re all super depressed. Over the next few… however long this takes me, I’m going to review all the sad new superhero shows and movies of 2021 leading up to Black Widow‘s release in July. Come wallow with me!

I’m thankful that I’ve had enough time for a whole other Zack Snyder streaming movie to come out before writing about Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Because I still haven’t quite figured out how to feel about this “movie.” And I have to admit, in and of itself, that is a failing of my personality. I’d much rather be the kind of guy who never thinks about Justice League at all. Not just because I’m an adult man in my thirties and this is a movie about superheroes beating up demons – sorry parademons – but also for what this release represents. The Snyder Cut is just as much a victory for passionate fandom over bad corporate decision-making as it is another alarming sign about the toxic power of butthurt nerds on the Internet (RIP The Rise of Skywalker, another Chris Terrio joint).

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Sean’s Sad Superhero Sundays: WandaVision

WandaVision Season 1

We gave up a lot of things in 2020 and that sucked. One thing that maybe actually needed a break was the superhero genre, which has dominated cinemas for more than a decade now. Last year, only DC managed to release anything (Birds of Prey and WW84) unless you count the final season of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, which was probably only watched by me. Well, now it’s 2021 and we’re coming back and we’re all super depressed. Over the next few… however long this takes me, I’m going to review all the sad new superhero shows and movies of 2021 leading up to Black Widow‘s release in July. Come wallow with me!

In retrospect, it’s pretty funny that the creators of WandaVision wanted to make a show about how even superpowers can’t protect you from the pain of loss and we were like “I can’t wait for her to fight the devil.” Until the pandemic happened, this was going to be the fourth release of the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following Black Widow, The Eternals, and the planned first Disney+ series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. But Disney refused to release their biggest cash cows exclusively on streaming and the Captain America twins had their production halted, so the red-headed stepchild got called up to lead the charge in January. Which was a real blessing, because it ended up being a wonderful showcase for all the benefits and drawbacks of dragging the MCU into this format.

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