For now, at least, I have one final entry in The Criterion Top 10 Series. Alex Withrow (And So It Begins, filmmaker, @shiftingPersona) had a familiar quandary when he made his first list. Specifically, he wanted to make several lists. Today, he brings us a list comprised purely of films made since 2000. As for the series, this closes it out for the time being, although there are a few more lists that may show up soon. I hope you’ve all enjoyed it, and thank you very much to everyone who participated!
ALEX: The Criterion Collection is a great way to discover obscure and important films from years past. Occasionally, they extend their services to a contemporary film, instantly giving that movie some lauded street-cred within the film community. Below are my favorite Criterions of films released since the year 2000. As was the case with my prior list, both the films and the special features included on the disc were considered for my ranking here.
10. Bergman Island (2006), Marie Nyreröd
If there’s a chance to discuss the influence of Ingmar Bergman, then discuss it I will. Nyreröd’s featuring length documentary is a series of interviews with the famed filmmaker, shot a few years before his passing. If you’re a fan of Bergman’s work, Bergman Island presents fascinating insights into once of cinema’s greatest minds. Note: Bergman Island is also included as a special feature on the Criterion’s Blu-Ray edition of The Seventh Seal.
9. Gomorrah (2008), Matteo Garrone
Matteo Garrone’s Italian mob thriller is unlike any mafia movie ever made. No explanation, zero exposition; from scene one, it literally throws you into a dark underworld and forces you to discover for yourself who all the major players are. It’s a frustrating, thrilling work of art that makes, for example, the simple sight of a tractor driving away a vision of sheer horror.
8. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Wes Anderson
Of Criterion’s glorious treatment of Wes Anderson’s filmography, The Royal Tenenbaums is my favorite packaging of the bunch. An extended behind the scenes feature is a must-watch for those intrigued by Anderson’s process. And his self-effacing director’s commentary is amusing throughout. For a director who seems so detailed oriented, it’s very refreshing to hear Anderson explain the lack of purpose behind much of his decisions.
7. Antichrist (2009), Lars von Trier
So here’s the thing: if you can actually stomach Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (and many, understandably, cannot), this Criterion is a great way to discover what the hell von Trier was thinking when he made it.
6. Che (2008), Steven Soderbergh
One of Soderbergh’s most underappreciated films, Che is an expansive look at a deeply complicated and misunderstood man. As a film fanatic, it’s a joy to watch both parts of Che in quick succession, marveling at how technically different they are. Soderbergh and star Benicio Del Toro put their hearts and souls into this one, and Criterion captures it beautifully.
5. George Washington (2000), David Gordon Green
Green’s first, and still best, film is essential viewing for young filmmakers. The disc’s special features, including Green’s insightful commentary and his two student films, are splendid ways to help appreciate George Washington even more.
4. In the Mood for Love (2000), Wong Kar-wai
Has contemporary love been better realized on screen than through the florescent lens of Wong Kar-wai? In the Mood for Love remains his best film, and this Criterion is a gorgeous reminder of the power the film bestows. Do yourself a favor and buy the Blu-Ray. My God does this film pop.
3. Hunger (2008), Steve McQueen
Hunger is a startling and confident debut from one of cinema’s most unique voices. McQueen and Michael Fassbender’s video interviews included on the disc are essential viewing. McQueen’s in particular allows the filmmaker to expand on the necessity of sticking to your vision, despite what outsiders may think. I love this film’s pain and love revisiting it, barring my body and mind can handle it.
2. Fish Tank (2009), Andrea Arnold
Fish Tank is ranked so high on this list for two reasons. One: it’s an incredible little film of enormous power. Two: the special features on the disc are some of the best I’ve ever seen. This includes Arnold’s three short films, Milk, Dog, and Wasp (which won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short). Although I absolutely adore Fish Tank, I didn’t fully fall in love with Arnold’s filmmaking until exploring this entire disc.
1. Traffic (2000), Steven Soderbergh
Traffic is as good as films of the Criterion Collection get. It’s one of my top 10 films of all time; I’m forever indebted to its uncompromising style. The special features are equally thrilling, namely the three separate commentary tracks that enhance the film for very different reasons. The many deleted scenes and the in-depth making-of features help add context to the film, but really, if this disc had no special features, Traffic would still rank number one for me. It’s simply that good.