July Theme Month

Dalton Mullins’s Top 10 Criterion Films

5. Hoop Dreams

Hoop DreamsReality is often times stranger than fiction. The story of William Gates and Arthur Agee couldn’t conceivably be thought of by a screenwriter. The journey through life and adolescence is not easy and Steve James manages to fully explore the struggles, the trials, and the tribulations that accompany us in a, somehow, succinct 170 minutes. Hoop Dreams represents why we love film. We watch movies for the chance to see something as extraordinary and sensational as Hoop Dreams. Filmgoing is an experience that everyone should have, and everyone should feel the sensations that accompany this film. There is nothing like it before and there will be nothing like it afterwards. I will relish the opportunity to revisit it in the future.

4. M

MThere is no film as thrilling as Fritz Lang‘s M. I have never been as tense or taut as I was during my first viewing of this film. The beginning mystery of who was the killer, the revelation of his identity, the pursuit, and the passionate, spirited defense by the killer will have you gnawing your fingernails as you gaze at the screen in awe. When I was finished the film, I thought about nothing but M, and, in particular, Peter Lorre‘s ardent and intense performance. It has few equals in the annals of film history. His performance is a masterclass of acting and creating sympathy for an awful character. This is a film that never truly leaves you after viewing.

3. Ikiru

IkiruIkiru was the first Criterion film that I bought. It’s the first film that I ever truly fell in love with. The masterful hands of Akira Kurosawa combined with the humane, gripping, and heart wrenching performance of Takashi Shimura create the one if the most moving films that I have had the pleasure to watch. There are few films that I’ve had a resonant emotional connection with and Ikiru was the first. The reflective and pensive exploration of the meaning of life grasps you and refuses to release you. Ikiru leaves you to ponder your own existence and to find meaning within your own life. If you ever feel lost or astray and devoid of feeling and emotion, Ikiru is the perfect remedy for those thoughts of isolation and regret.

2. Nashville

NashvilleNashville is the film that most exemplifies the American Spirit. Nashville is a microcosm of America. The twenty-four interrelated stories offer an unfiltered, unadulterated look at American culture and the numerous types of people America fosters. Nashville is the quintessential Robert Altman film. It features overlapping dialogue between an enormous ensemble cast, with each character completely fleshed out, with their own hopes and fears for their world, and every story comes together for a final, ambiguous climax. There is no shortage of things to love about this film. The completely original music adds another layer to the film and all of the talented actors play their parts with relish. There aren’t enough words in the English language that describe how wonderful Nashville ultimately is.

1. The Tree of Life

The Tree of LifeThe only film that has matched the sheer ambition of Kubrick‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey is Malick‘s The Tree of Life. They’re both philosophical masterworks by directors working at their absolute peaks, but where they differ is in their humanity and the amount of raw emotion presented within them. 2001 lacks the emotional depth that accompanies The Tree of Life. This film explores the inner turmoil you experience during youth that can follow you to adulthood. Malick is a master at exploring philosophical discourse and the creation of Man through a series of breathtaking images and disjointed, yet fluid narration. The graceful Jessica Chastain, the curious, immature boyishness of Hunter McCracken and the brutish Brad Pitt guide the ethereal film through its 119-minute running time. The Tree of Life transcends the label of a film and reaches new heights as an experience of the highest order.

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