John Otteni

Criterion Month Day 30: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

This is my last entry for this year’s Criterion Month. Can you believe it? I’m finally free. No more being confined to my arthouse movie prison (the prison bars are subtitles). I can finally go back to watching the bad kinds of movies I usually watch. I’ve had Hostel: Part II burning a hole in my queue all month. But real talk, I’m glad we do this month of celebrating more intellectually and emotionally challenging films. I’m glad we do this because if I’m being honest, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to watch this movie.

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Criterion Month Day 28: Y tu mamá también

Y tu mamá también (2001)

On our Criterion Draft podcast it was mentioned that Y tu mamá también was “kind of a sexy” but I wasn’t prepared for this kind of sexy. Right off the bat this movie hits you with back-to-back explicit sex scenes. I had to stand guard by my remote all night to avoid the embarrassment of someone coming into the room and thinking I was watching porn. A lot of dicks too. The film was rated 18+ in Mexico also known as MX-C which would be the equivalent to the USA’s NC-17 Rating. Which is usually the kiss of death for a film’s success.

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Criterion Month Day 27: Funny Games

Funny Games (1997)

Spoilers Throughout! (you have been warned)
I was so ready to hate this movie. That’s because back in the before times (2007), I watched the English language remake of Funny Games also written and directed by Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke and hated it. the film was so brutal to its characters. The ending is a downer and Michael Pitt has a punchable face. So why thirteen yeas later would I subject myself to the original?

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Criterion Month Day 22: Police Story

Police Story (1985)

It’s hard to not make this review just me breaking down all the stunts John Madden-style. I mean the football guy, not the director of Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Though that guy has style too. It’s crazy to think a movie (and its sequel) is in the Criterion Collection because of how good Jackie Chan can take a hit through a sheet of glass. Though I think it’s more than that. Martial Arts are very much an art form. It’s called Martial ARTS after all and there are few martial artists as exceptional as Mr. Nice Guy himself.

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Criterion Month Day 16: Picnic at Hanging Rock

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

I read on article on that Wikipedia all the kids are talking about. It was called “List of films considered the best”. The article breaks down the most critically acclaimed films by genre and polls. There are Audience polls, Critical polls, and National polls. That last one assigns one or two films to every country as that nation’s defining work. Like did you know the most acclaimed film from the Ukraine is a film called “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors”? You do now! The US and the UK have a bunch of films comin’ for that number one spot. Who will win? Citizen Kane? The Godfather? Gone with the Wind? Probably not the last one.

Australia has two entries. One is a 1997 comedy called “The Castle” that Australian people suddenly decided was great in 2008. But for thirty-three years the choice for Best Film from Down Under was almost unanimous, Picnic at Hanging Rock. What was it about this turn-of-the-century drama about missing school girls that captured the heart of a nation? Why did this film connect so well with the rest of the world? And where did those girls go?

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Criterion Month Day 11: Woman in the Dunes

Woman in the Dunes (1964)

Last month I wrote a list of my “Top 50 Favorite Horror Movies of the 2010s”. Something I noticed when reevaluating my favorite horror films of the last decade was the recent surge in “Transcendental Horror.” Movies like The Lighthouse and Midsommar that aren’t built on scares, rather existential dread. Movies that make you question your existence and if anything matters. The feeling of being trapped in life. I figured this was a recent phenomenon in cinema. Little did I know Hiroshi Teshigahara was making Transcendental Horror over fifty years ago.

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Criterion Month Day 9: The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds (1953)

Why is this in the Criterion Collection? That’s the reason I picked this movie. I vaguely remember renting it from a video store (that’s now a bank) as a kid but wasn’t particularly engaged. Is it the first alien invasion movie? The Man from Planet X is earlier. Is it how the film uses an alien invasion to comment on the Cold War? The Day the Earth Stood Still and Invasion of the Body Snatchers do that better. It’s not even a good adaptation of HG Wells’ novel. What is this movie?

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