This month, a number of our critics share their 10 favorite titles from the Criterion Collection in celebration of the Barnes & Noble Criterion Collection July sale.
Hunger not only brought one of my favorite actors but also one of my favorite directors to prominence and the pair both play a huge part in the most memorable moment of the film. The pivotal scene where Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) explains to his priest why he has decided to go on a hunger strike whilst imprisoned defines the brilliance of both Fassbender and director Steve McQueen. It features a shot that lasts over fifteen minutes and this allows the audience to focus in on the dialogue. It also displays the great amount of trust McQueen must have in his actors to be able to give performances that are so captivating.
9. Modern Times
Despite being released in 1936, I still find Modern Times particularly relevant today. The satirical messages within Charlie Chaplin films stand the test of time as well as the slapstick comedy. Modern Times features Chaplin as his iconic Tramp character struggling to get by in the world. The audience sees the Tramp at the opening of the film working in a factory and although he may be employed the reality is he is barely making ends meet. Not only is Chaplin’s performance hilarious but he is able to show at the same time he is an ordinary man struggling to keep up with society. When I watch Modern Times I admire the film since even though Chaplin was an entertainer, he does what I find the best filmmakers do and that’s challenge society using the medium.
8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
As David Fincher is my favourite director I could not resist including a film made by him. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is not my favorite film by Fincher, but it is a film that is unmistakably his. In every Fincher film, the world is displayed how I see it which is neither black nor white but more beautiful and bleak. At the heart of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a love story which also explicitly shows the difficulties and hardships that lovers sometimes shoulder. Like all Fincher films, the narrative is a parable but instead of it seeming implausible the imagery that is made up of a monochromic and a dark color palette keeps the story grounded and conceivable. These contrasting features that wonderfully blend together are the reason why I love Fincher’s style along with the morals. I think The Curious Case of Benjamin Button could have been a contrived and lifeless film in another director’s hands, but instead, it showcases what extraordinary abilities David Fincher has.
What I like about Following is not that it is a micro-budget film, but that it is a well made one. It’s hard to imagine that Christopher Nolan’s debut feature was made for less than a millionth of the budget we are acclimated to seeing the director use today. What impresses me the most about Nolan’s inaugural feature is the structure of plot and how it unfolds. Though it may appear as a simple crime thriller to start with, as the story unfolds the audience sees what a well woven non-linear narrative Following has. It is only right that a film like this should be preserved to inspire young filmmakers into what can be achieved with minimal funds, and what success you can have if your filmmaking foundations are well presented.
6. The Red Shoes
I quite enjoy dance as an expressionistic form of art so when it is used in a film I am immediately intrigued. Black Swan and The Red Shoes are two films that define how effective this form of art can be when shown in film. When the ballet of which The Red Shoes takes its title from is performed I find its use of intense colors with stark shadows very encapsulating. I also enjoy when films go behind the scenes of theater, particularly with ballet. It’s often seen as a graceful and angelic industry but the reality is there is a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into achieving an ethereal look.