Friday, November 14, 2008

40% Off Criterion DVDs!

No, I don't work for Criterion and I benefit from this in no way. It's just awesome and something I thought should be shared. If you hit up the Criterion Collection online store, they're having a 40% off sale 'til November 25th. Some tremendous deals in there if you've been holding back on some purchases for awhile (L'eclisse and Scenes From a Marriage, here I come...). If you need some help, here are my personal Top 10 Criterion DVDs (bearing in mind that I've seen only a fraction of the total colleciton, never mind the ones I own and have devoured entirely...your mileage may vary).


This is an honorable mention because the DVD is out of print, and even if you got ahold of it (which is still relatively easy...Amazon sells it), it's almost entirely devoid of special features. But God damn do I love this movie. Look, I love Tarantino and the Coen Brothers and all those other masters of dialogue, but this is the coolest dialogue ever written. Period. Great atmosphere, too.


One of my twenty favorite films of all time, without a doubt. Never fails to hit me. It sucks that Kevin Smith will never be this great again, but what'll you do. Ben Affleck too for that matter (and I'm a big Ben Affleck fan; no joke). DVD has the usual great commentary by Smith and a whole gang of fools, plus some other stuff that isn't nearly as interesting.


I owe this film a tremendous debt. For a few months, I'd been a little depressed about what I was going to college for - to study film. I felt like it was a useless endeavor, and that whatever little film truly gives back to the community, film studies gives even less. And while the latter may still be true, this film reminded me of how much film has to give.
The DVD, meanwhile, has a commentary and a long interview with Ingmar Bergman in which you realize what a truly depressing man he was. Brilliant, though.


It sort of annoys me how much film students love Terry Gilliam and constantly talk about what a visionary he is and how awesome he is for fighting the studio system. They're not really wrong, I just get sick of hearing about it is all. Great film, though; great special features. Terry Gilliam's an endlessly engaging speaker.


My favorite Jean-Luc Godard film, and one of my favorite films period.
I have a little thing written up that I'll ship over here in the next few days about how a little three-minute-fifteen-second segment of this film is one of the most joyous things ever created. I know that seems like hyperbole, but this is a film that fosters that. I JUST bought this DVD, so I haven't even cracked open the extras, but the film is so absolutely stunning that this list wouldn't be complete without it. Also, it's pretty as hell.


Dude, I'll admit it - I frickin' love this movie. I do. Truly. Completely. I know, it's silly as hell. But I love it. Bruce Willis' speech at the end brings tears to my eyes. It does. If that makes me less a man, or less a cinephile, then that's your problem - this film is emotionally genuine in a way I almost never see, especially in big-budget summer filmmaking. It's cheesy, but it earns it.

Great DVD, too. One commentary with Bay, Bruckheimer, Willis, and Affleck on just how hard and amazing making a film like this is (Affleck gets it, though, and is quick to point out the many, many ways this film is absurd), the other with scientists who point out the many, many ways in which this film is scientifically inaccurate (and a surprising number of ways in which it accurately represents science). Also a lot of featurettes about the special effects - well worth checking out.


Even if this wasn't Gilliam's most enjoyable film, even if this wasn't Johnny Depp's second-best performance (closely behind Ed Wood), even if Criterion's transfer wasn't a feast for the'd be worth it for the Hunter S. Thompson commentary and short film about him. Insane.


Wow. Wow. Wow. Watch the five-hour version. There's a reason this is considered Ingmar Bergman's supreme achievement. I don't quite think it's his best (Persona), and it's not my favorite (Wild Strawberries), but there's no doubt that purely in terms of craft and, again, achievement...this is it. One of the finest motion pictures made in any language. About as many special features as a Lord of the Rings extended edition.


You know, even considering masterworks of visual style like Pierrot Le Fou, Fanny and Alexander, L'Avventura, or the many, many others in Criterion's rich collection, this is still one of my favorite transfers of theirs. The summer they released this, I must have watched it five times. I still watch it at the end of school every year. Such a great film.

Buy it for the commentary, making-of, and the badass booklet that comes with it, loaded with essays and recollections. Linklater's one of the smartest American filmmakers, and never less than engaging.


This film has a very special place in my heart. I saw it when it was released when I was 15. It made me love movies. Really. Wasn't the first movie I saw or anything. But it wasn't until then that I realized how special movies truly are. I still watch the film every Christmas to remind myself of that. I love this movie, truly, madly, deeply.

The DVD was the first Criterion DVD I ever bought, and it's still pretty great. Commentary track, behind-the-scenes by the great Albert Maysles (who would do an ever better doc for The Life Aquatic, but even so), and all of the main cast doing five-or-so-minute bits about their characters.


Right now, this is my favorite film ever. There are moments when I think it's the greatest film ever made, and in many ways, it really is. I could go on and on, and at some point I'll post my full review of the DVD in which I talk about everything this film means to me, and especially what it meant to me when this came out just over a year ago, but...suffice to say, I wouldn't see life quite the same if it weren't for Terrence Malick.

The disc boasts my personal reference for video quality and a fantastic commentary by editor Billy Weber, production designer Jack Fisk, costume designer Patricia Norris, and casting director Dianne Crittenden, who all provide great insight into the nuts and bolts of filmmaking, as well as into Malick himself.

What are you waiting for? Go out and buy some shit!

Scott can be reached at

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Purest Form of Cinematic Ecstasy

There is a sequence in Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot Le Fou that is one of, if not THE, purest distillation of happiness and love and absolute delight I've seen in a film. It lasts a little over three minutes, consists of only three shots (each lasting about a minute each), and is absolute cinematic heaven. When I'm down, it cheers me up. When I'm up, it lifts me higher and expresses every bit of the joy I feel. It's in the film to illustrate how Ferdinand feels about Marianne, and I'm so glad it took as long as it did for me to see this film so I ended up reaching a point in my life where I know exactly how he feels at that moment.

The YouTube quality, of course, barely does justice to the eye-popping colors (even in the woods, the use of color is absolutely radiant if you watch this sequence in a proper setting) and the grace of the camera movement (and the camera doesn't really track a whole lot in this film, but when it does, it's bliss). This scene is what made me fall for this film. It's why it's one of my favorite films of all times (Facebook readers, my profile list needs updating), and though I'd seen Breathless, Band of Outsiders, and Masculin-Feminin before this, it's why Godard is one of my favorite directors. Whatever minor issues I have for his other films, it takes someone with true vision and ambition to create something this spiritually joyful, never mind to place it in a film with this sort of set up, never mind to have it all tie together and serve the story.

Even if you don't see what I see (and outside the context of the film, it's totally possible), try and see if you can't see something. Then fire back with your own scene (or even just a moment) from a movie that elicits this reaction in you.