FlixList: Best of the Criterion Collection (Part 2)


It’s that time again: the sun is up and both game and movie lovers go back into their caves to enjoy their respective hobbies. For gamers, Valve’s Summer Sale is in full swing; for cinephiles, it’s Barnes & Nobles’ 50% Criterion Collection extravaganza. Last time the sale was in effect, we gave you a list of recommendations of what to buy. Everything we said in that list is true and they’re all films well worth your money. But there are hundreds of films in the Criterion Collection, and more are added almost every week, so we’re back to give more of our favorites. And yeah, next time the sale comes around, we’ll probably be doing this again.

The Criterion Collection is great, you guys. Seriously.

The sale is running through August 5th, so there’s plenty of time to take advantage of it, but don’t let it pass just because you’re waiting. Go go go!

12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men is easily one of the best shows you could ever see on stage as long as the actors are good and the director isn’t trying to be too fancy. Why not take the risk out of that, however, and see the movie superbly done film. Henry Fonda delivers a staggering performance that’s the next best thing to seeing it done on stage (correctly). — Matthew Razak

Being John Malkovich

Being John Malkovich is the movie that made the film careers of Spike Jonze (then known for music videos) and Charlie Kaufman (then barely known for his TV writing). It floored me the first time I watched it way back in college in 1999. Here were bizarrre conceits, high imagination, and a human intellect merged into a strange yet cohesive whole. And it’s hilarious too. I suspect that in a few years I’ll realize (as I did with Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) that everything I’ve written since 1999 has been a riff on Being John Malkovich. — Hubert Vigilla


Organized crime makes for fantastic movies, but most of them glorify mobsters and hitmen into anti-heroes. Gomorrah walks the delicate line between glorification and reality and in turn becomes one of the best crime dramas since The Godfather II. Based on a non-fiction book, this is one of those movies you’ll watch once and then it will be in your mind forever. Having it on your shelf helps relieve that itch every time you need a dose of crime.  — Matthew Razak

My Dinner with Andre

At first glance this might seem like art-house at its worse. An entire film that is simply a dinner between two friends. Yet the movie opens up into one of the most charming, enlightening and entertaining films you’ll ever watch. Louis Malle always challenged norms with his films, but this is easily his most successful, thanks in part by two incredible performances from Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn. You’ll go in dreading boredom and come out enlightened by how cinematic a film can be despite relying only on its screenplay. — Matthew Razak


At heart I’m a mod (though more in the mold of The Jam than The Who) and I’d dress like one every day if I could. Franc Roddam’s Quadrophenia taps right into that mod spirit. From the green windbreakers and cute birds on the backs of scooters to the brutal clash on the beach between mods an rockers, this is a great coming-of-age movie for the alienated. Watch as disaffected youths become angry young men, all to a soundtrack by The Who. Seeing where the movie goes, you realize why Roger Daltrey sang, “I hope I die before I get old.” — Hubert Vigilla

Repo Man

When I found out Repo Man was going to be released by Criterion, at first I was like, “Repo Man is coming to the Criterion Collection?” And then I was like “Repo Man is coming to the Criterion Collection!” A personal favorite from the VHS era, Alex Cox’s Repo Man is everything 80s, cult, LA, and cool. It’s an oddball, sci-fi, punk rock movie that defies easy classification and is worth watching because of it. — Hubert Vigilla

The Seventh Seal

No list of Criterion Collection recommendations can be complete without at least one film by Ingmar Berman. (Fortunately, he’s made over twenty Criterion-collected films, so there are plenty more lists to do.) While I don’t think The Seventh Seal is his best film (that would be Persona), it’s nonetheless an amazing study of death, religion, and chess. Those who can’t stand monologues will probably consider suicide by the end of the 96 minutes, but everyone else owes it to themselves to see at least one (or five) Berman films, and The Seventh Seal is certainly among his better and more accessible ones. — Alec Kubas-Meyer

The War Room

If you’re a political junkie, The War Room is essential viewing in the same way that Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 is essential reading. Directed by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, the film chronicles the 1992 Bill Clinton presidential campaign and its masterminds: James Carville and George Stephanopoulos. It’s a fine behind-the-scenes portrait of the personalities that make winning campaigns work, and while somewhat dated, I still think it’s a great view of these kinds of organizations at a ground level. — Hubert Vigilla


Carl Th. Dreyer’s first sound film is fascinating more than it is “good” in the traditional sense. Many of its visuals have been lost to the elements (some shots are nearly impossible to understand), but what is visible is unquestionably worth a look. Dreyer’s use of shadows is extremely impressive, making it seem as through a shadow that somebody is climbing a ladder that, in frame, clearly has nobody on it. In these moments, it’s important to remember that this film comes from 1932. I’m hoping for a Passion of Joan of Arc-style miracle find of a pristine print, but this is quite probably as good as we’re going to get, so a Blu-ray release is unlikely. But the DVD Criterion release is particularly noteworthy, because it comes with a booklet of the film’s original screenplay. That sort of physical addition can’t be replicated by a PDF accompanying a digital download, and makes this a disc worth getting. — Alec Kubas-Meyer

Wings of Desire

One of my favorite movies of all time, Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire is such a human movie, and one that remains compelling even as it seems to meander. Maybe because it meanders. We watch as angels hover around humans and the humans sense the tender regard of angels. There’s a romance in there, and also Peter Falk playing the best version of himself and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It’s not a religious movie, and that’s it’s strength. It’s really about empathy and what little comforts we can afford ourselves and give to others. — Hubert Vigilla