Friday, January 15, 2010

An Open Letter to Criterion



Dearest Criterion Collection,

I Love You. I Honestly Love You. I love you so much I think it's about time we move our relationship to the next level. That's right: I want to make suggestions to you.

From time to time I will let my mind wander into what films I'd like to see be part of THE CRITERION COLLECTION. At the moment, I have nineteen (I originally had twenty, but since I started working on this list you've added That Hamilton Woman to your catalogue). Now I know, you may not be able to include any of these on my lists because of legal issues or problems with copyright, ecetera, ecetera, ecetera. However, since it's MY list, I figure, if I don't ask I won't get, right? Well, here we go.
  1. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). Few films have been as accurate about the horrors of war, of the suffering soldiers from both sides endure, the fear, the terror, and the madness of war. One of the great films, it doesn't cheat the audience and is one of the best Best Picture winners.
  2. Cabaret (1972). It won more Oscars than any other film that didn't go on to win Best Picture (8 in total), but that isn't why it should be a Criterion. It is one of the darkest musicals ever made, capturing how "divine decadence" of the Weimar Republic collapsed under the Nazi regime. Brilliant, iconic performances by Oscar-winners Liza Minelli and Joel Grey under the Oscar-winning direction of Bob Fosse add to its status.
  3. Chimes at Midnight (1967). This is mostly based on the reputation the Orson Welles film of the life of Falstaff drawn from various Shakespeare plays has. On this one, there may be odd legal issues, but let's see what we can do about them.
  4. A Christmas Carol (1951). This one is a particular obsession of mine. Out of the many film versions of this Dickens story (from the animated Mickey's Christmas Carol to Scrooged to the Robert Zemeckis CGI/motion capture version), none has equalled this version, with Alaistair Sim's performance as THE definitive Scrooge.
  5. The Elephant Man (1980). David Lynch is one of the most visionary directors working today. Yes, his films can be quite odd, but he is still a man of enourmous creativity. This film is one of his most accesible, with masterful performances by John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins. "I am NOT an ANIMAL! I am a HUMAN BEING! I AM A MAN!"
That's it for right now. I have a few more. Please, dear Criterion, ponder on these. You may find some are right up your street. If you could have The Rock, why can't you have The Elephant Man?

*Update: Chimes at Midnight was released by Criterion in August 2016.

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