John Otteni

Criterion Month Day 21: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)

As a cinephile, or in layman’s terms, “A movie liking’ guy” Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar is a blind spot. Yasujirō Ozu is another (better watch out pal I’m coming for ya!) I’m not sure why it took me so long. I got so close to watching that Penelope Cruz movie with the creepy mask. I wanted to see Pain and Glory, but it felt weird to watch a semi-autobiographical film by a filmmaker I have no history with. All I knew about Almodóvar is that he casts strong women and sometimes Antonio Banderas. So Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown felt like a good enough entry. It may have come out a decade into Almodóvar’s career but it was his international breakout, nabbing a Best Foreign Language Film nom at the Oscars. So what did I learn?

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Criterion Month Day 18: The Last Wave

The Last Wave (1977)

Australian New Wave is a subgenre of film I’ve been interested in for awhile now. Though I’ve spent most of my time dipping my toes in the horrors of the outback, I’ve seen a few dramas and westerns too. Last year I watched one of Peter Weir’s first films Picnic at Hanging Rock. Weir arguably being the most successful Australian director to come out of the 70s apart from George Miller. Weir’s career in the states included a string of mainstream hollywood hits like Witness, Dead Poet’s Society and The Truman Show. Though if you look at his early films, you’ll find a far more brooding and contemplative filmmaker.

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Criterion Month Day 10: The Housemaid

The Housemaid (1960)

I’d never heard of The Housemaid before I chose it for Criterion Month. For some reason, i’s hard for me to believe that were Korean movies before the 2000s. Korean Cinema had such a boom with the rise of directors like Bong Joon-ho, Park Chan-wook, and Kim Jee-woon ( to name a few) that its overshadowed a lot of pre-21st Century Korean cinema. Yet if it wasn’t for films like The Housemaid, that 2000s boom may not have been possible. In fact, Bong Joon-ho even said The Housemaid was a big influence on Parasite.

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Criterion Month Day 6: Stray Dog

Stray Dog (1949)

We watch some heady stuff for Criterion Month. You know, films that make you feel stupid. Or at least make me feel stupid. What I love about Akira Kurosawa is that he feels like the workingman’s Criterion filmmaker. He makes beautiful films with profound statements and ideas but they are also very entertaining. Kurosawa is never boring. His films move quick (even his longer ones) with tight scripts, action, suspense, and a lot of people getting pissed off at other people. In most cases, one of those people is Toshiro Mifune. Kurosawa is one of the few filmmakers in the Criterion Collection that I will happily watch outside of Criterion Month and he’s got a lot of good films to choose from. Stray Dog is one of them.

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Criterion Month Day 3: Dos monjes

Dos monjes (1934)

“Dos monjes” (Two Monks)
(Sung to the tune of “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors)

One, Two Monks is a movie
from Juan Bustillo Oro
Two Monks, who really hate each other
In a drama from Mexico now
One thinks the other stole his lady
Many years before now
The other said I think you’re crazy
But he got beat with a cross, now

This film has German Expressionism
That’s what I said now
Dutch angles and lots of symbolism
How ’bout that now
Two Monks is a split narrative movie
How ’bout that now
In flashbacks, we see both sides the story
Like Rashomon, now

Who is wrong? Who is right?
The woman they loved got shot one night
She was just trying to break up their fight
But I know what a Monk and lover ought to be
I know what a Monk and lover ought to be

(Scat Interlude)

3 1/2 Stars.

Criterion Month Day 1: The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)

Hey everybody it’s Criterion Month! For those who don’t know, this an entire month we devote to watching and reviewing films in the Criterion Collection. The reasoning is it’s the time of year that Barnes & Noble (which I think still exists) has their 50% off sale on Criterions. It also means I get to watch 90-year-old silent movies in 90+ degree weather in an attempt to provide some kind of insight. Ha, yeah, we’ll see about that.

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