I’ve been running contributions from some of my favorite film critics, writers, and theorists from around the internet for the past few weeks. Each writer is listing their top 10 from the Criterion Collection. Today, the series starts to wind down with another contribution from the fine folks at French Toast Sunday. This time, it’s from Jessica Manzo. As I mentioned last week, I’m a huge fan of the FTS crew because they have impeccable taste in movies and graphic design. Jess is a key piece of that group and is very active with the LAMB. She also has a knack for making Baltimore sound like an awesome place. You can find Jess on Twitter @jess_fts.
I love the world that Terry Gilliam put to screen in Brazil. Not that I would ever want to live in it, but the bureaucratic nightmare of a society is created with such vivid details that it’s hard not to admire in a cinematic sense. The increasingly terrible scenarios that Sam Lowry faces are entertaining and farcical, but underneath there’s a real warning about control and power. On top of all that is the fantastic theme song “Aquarela do Brasil”. I love it.
This film really took me by surprise and became an instant favorite. James L. Brooks does some of his best work here, with a great trio of Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks, and William Hurt. It takes on the decreasing value of the news and does a nuanced job with it, but it’s also really damn funny. There’s great commentary on journalism and relationships. To me, this film is a complete package.
I love this delightful comedy/mystery/romance starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. The on screen chemistry between the two is undeniable and completely charming. The story unfolds with twists and turns on top of twists and turns, making it a fun whodunit with a witty script.
Dazed and Confused
One of my favorite movies growing up, and one I enjoy revisiting often, this Richard Linklater film has so much going for it. The cast is basically a who’s who of some of Hollywood’s biggest actors before anyone knew their name. It’s based on one of my absolute favorite movie tropes—the story takes place over the course of one day/night. It’s damn funny and features all the relevant coming of age themes you’d expect, but handled better than most high school movies can even hope to achieve.
Do The Right Thing
This is one of the first films to really stick with me growing up. I remember watching it for the first time pretty late at night when I was fairly young and being completely sucked in. Everything about it is so vibrant, most obviously the colors and cinematography, but the performances are what really stand out. Most of it feels like a really well done slice of life film but the ending turns it into something far more complicated and poignant which I’ve grown to appreciate more as I’ve gotten older.
Andrea Arnold’s coming of age film is about a British teenager who becomes infatuated with her mother’s boyfriend, who reciprocates the inappropriate attraction. Everything rings so true here, from the extremely personal camera work to Katie Jarvis’s honest performance. It’s one of the best depictions of adolescence and especially the female experience that I’ve ever seen.
This interweaving tale of visitors and residents of Memphis, Tennessee is truly excellent. I love how different the three main storylines are but how they actually work together quite well. Memphis becomes such a character here, and all the foreign visitors in each story have such a unique experience with it, all connected by how disappointed they are with this piece of America, despite its storied history. The use of Elvis as signifier of this works so well. It’s easily my favorite of Jim Jarmusch’s films.
As my first foray into Ingmar Bergman’s filmography, this was a really surprising film experience for me. I was not expecting to become so captivated by Persona, but I loved its psychologically thrilling elements and filmmaking that was completely new to me at the time. Any films centering on a duality of characters has me from the get go but Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann’s performances are so intense and lovely that they are amongst the top of that category.
This is one of my all time favorite films. I’m talking top 3 or so. I grew up watching this throughout my childhood and it really made me appreciate classic films from a young age. I know many complain that it’s not worthy of being awarded Hitchcock’s solo Best Picture win, but in my eyes it’s perfect. I love the story, performances, score, and cinematography. Everything is so grand and cinematic. Every time I hear “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” I am eager to enter this world again.
The Royal Tenenbaums / Fantastic Mr Fox
I am tying these, but I have a perfectly sound reason. The Royal Tenenbaums is my favorite of Wes Anderson’s films, but Fantastic Mr. Fox has the best special features out of his filmography. Between the two you get a well rounded view of the director, one who’s approach to filmmaking and thought process are quite fascinating.