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Lost in Criterion
101 minutes | Aug 12, 2022
Spine 513: Summer Hours
Olivier Assayas' look at what we inherit from our parents was sponsored by the Paris Musee D'orsay for their 20th anniversary and from that partnership came a movie with a satisfyingly over-ambitious art direction in any modern film we've seen.
110 minutes | Aug 5, 2022
Spine 512: Vivre sa Vie
Like much of the early work of Jean-Luc Godard (and the rest of the young directors of the French New Wave), Vivre sa Vie (1962) wears its American influences on its sleeves. Perhaps better than our experiences with other pre-1968 Godard work, we can see the seeds of the more explicitly Marxist ideology that will bubble up in his work later in the decade. And that's probably not the only way this is prototypical Godard.
98 minutes | Jul 29, 2022
Spine 511: Colossal Youth
This week we finish up the Pedro Costa boxset Letters from Fontainhas with Colossal Youth which is a beautiful and affecting piece of art, despite the fact that we are still left a bit suspicious of Costa's politics.
99 minutes | Jul 22, 2022
Spine 510: In Vanda’s Room
We continue through the Letters from Fontainhas boxset this week. The story goes that one of the co-stars of Pedro Costa's Ossos, Vanda Duarte, invited Costa to see what her life was really like, and Costa decided to strip the artifice of film down to its essentials or something and make a "docufiction" film about Vanda and Fontainhas with just his subjects, himself, and a handheld DV camera.
98 minutes | Jul 15, 2022
Spine 509: Ossos
We start a box set from director Pedro Costa this week. "Letters from Fontainhas" contains three of Costa's films set in the impoverished Lisbon neighborhood of Fontainhas. Ossos (1997) is our first, and the closest to a traditional film. While "closest" is doing a lot of work in that sentence, the others move from outright narrative fiction to something more accurately labeled "docufiction" or even "ethnofiction", a fictionalized ethnography. We'll talk more about that aspect in the rest of the series, but for now we have Ossos which is a beautiful film.
110 minutes | Jul 8, 2022
Spine 507: Bigger than Life
Last week we had a long conversation about the nature of ennui today and this week Nicholas Ray swings in with a movie from 1956 reminding us that middle class ideals lead to fascism. I love it when the Criterion Collection gives us unmarked ideological sets.
93 minutes | Jul 1, 2022
Spine 506: Dillinger is Dead
Marco Ferreri's 1969 film Dillinger is Dead takes a look out how being a victim of alienation under capitalism makes committing oppressive violence feel like liberation. Or at least I hope so, because otherwise it's a bad movie.
95 minutes | Jun 24, 2022
Spine 505: Make Way for Tomorrow
Make Way for Tomorrow is one of the most subtly political films we've seen, particularly from America. Leo McCarey's masterpiece tells the story of an older couple forced apart by economic forces, having lost their income and their home in a world were their children cannot financially or emotionally care for them. It stands as a beautifully made depressing drama, but it shines as an example of the state of things and the need for change as the New Deal and, particularly, Social Security were bringing a much needed safety net to Americans in similar situations. Long time supporter of the show Jason Westhaver joins us to talk about this wonderful film.
88 minutes | Jun 17, 2022
Spine 504: Hunger
Director Steve McQueen's feature debut, Hunger is a historical drama about the mistreatment of IRA political prisoners by the British government, particularly centered on Bobby Sands' part in the 1981 hunger strike that led to his death. McQueen and his cast all insist this movie is meant to be apolitical and show that wrong was done on both sides. If that is true, this brilliant film failed its makers' intentions.
99 minutes | Jun 10, 2022
Spine 503: Lola Montes
Our fourth and currently final Max Ophuls movie in the Collection is his final film, a historic romance that takes a lot of liberties and is maybe kinda about taking liberties? Capitalist patriarchy is a circus in Lola Montes.
93 minutes | Jun 3, 2022
Spine 502: Revanche
Götz Spielmann's 2008 film Revanche feints at being a crime drama, and has a title suggesting it's a revenge thriller, but settles into being a study on loss and grief.
103 minutes | May 27, 2022
Spine 501: Paris, Texas
After we watched Wings of Desire a few months ago we were greatly anticipating another Wim Wenders film and Paris, Texas (1984) does not disappoint. The term "modern western" is usually applied to cowboyish action films, but I think it's fitting here for a story of the southwest US that doubles as a parable on the lack of community and connection when living in places built for cars not people.
99 minutes | May 20, 2022
Spine 499: Germany Year Zero
We finish up the Roberto Rossellini War Trilogy boxset with our least favorite of the bunch. Germany Year Zero (1948) is a deeply impactful film, but it also gets us thinking about the nature of Rossellini's commitment to "realism".
108 minutes | May 13, 2022
Spine 498: Paisan
We continue through the Roberto Rossellini War Trilogy boxset with 1946's episodic Paisan. This week we get six separate stories with various amounts of tragic endings and the lasting reminder that Italy would like America to be its friend now.
100 minutes | May 7, 2022
Spine 497: Rome, Open City
This week we kick off Robert Rossellini's War Trilogy, a boxset of the Italian director's films from the end of World War 2 and the beginning of the Neo-realist movement. First up is Rome, Open City, a movie that codifies Rossellini's neo-realist style out of necessity instead of ideology. This episode is a bit late because the laptop I have recorded Lost in Criterion since 2013 on died. RIP the macbook I promised myself I would keep for a full decade in order to justify the cost. You almost made it.
104 minutes | Apr 29, 2022
Spine 496: Che
Steven Soderbergh's Che (2008) is surprisingly pro-Che (and unsurprisingly anti-Castro) telling the story of the revolutionary's rise in Cuba and fall in Bolivia. Most of the bonus features on the Criterion dvd though are dedicated to the fact that this epic film is shot on a RED digital camera and isn't that neat?
119 minutes | Apr 22, 2022
Spine 495: The Golden Age of Television - Part 3
We finish up the Golden Age of Television boxset with two Playhouse 90 episodes both directed by John Frankenheimer, who averaged directing about one live television broadcast every other week during his early career. This week it's The Comedian, Rod Serling's stinging look at a caustic comedian, and Days of Wine and Roses, a melodramatic very special episode in association with Alcoholic's Anonymous.
110 minutes | Apr 15, 2022
Spine 495: The Golden Age of Television - Part 2
We continue through The Golden Age of Television boxset with the three teleplays from disc 2: the perfectly comedic and tragic Bang the Drum Slowly, the ambitious and poignant Requiem for a Heavyweight, and the why-is-this-in-the-set A Wind from the South.
77 minutes | Apr 8, 2022
Spine 495: The Golden Age of Television - Part 1
This week we start a boxset of teleplays from various 1950s live dramatic anthology series. Criterion here is releasing a PBS retrospective from the early 80s showcasing the teleplays that mostly hadn't been seen since then, and really weren't publicly available until Criterion's release. We'll be taking this set over the course of three weeks, focusing on each separate disc in the box. Criterion front-loaded the set with three bangers straight out of the gate. Adam S. joins us to talk about Marty (written by Paddy Chayefsky), Patterns (written by Rod Serling), and No Time for Sergeants (starring Andy Griffith).
86 minutes | Apr 1, 2022
Spine 494: Downhill Racer
Michael Ritchie's directorial debut is one of the greatest sports films to ever come out of Hollywood, second only to Ritchie's later Bad News Bears.
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