Criterion Challenge

This year as part of my regular movie watching nights, I decided to embark on a tour of Criterion Films, inspired by my friend Haley. This challenge is supposed to be weekly for 52 weeks, but I tend to watch a lot of films, so I’ll probably finish it early. A bunch of these movies are ones I’d likely never pick on my own, but 4 are films I’d seen before I started, but will re-watch.

At the start

I don’t know if I’ll learn anything new about my tastes, but I still think it’s fun to challenge myself to watch new things. Hopefully there will be some surprises along the way.

The list

  1. Dune 1984 ★★★★

    This movie is so nostalgic for me, as I grew up watching it regularly. It holds up well, but I vastly prefer Momoa’s Duncan to whoever played Duncan in this. Seeing another director’s take on the same source material I appreciate a show-not-tell approach to Lynch’s though there’s no way a huge atmospheric Dune adaptation could’ve been greenlit in 1984. To his credit though, Lynch somewhat managed to encapsulate a whole damn book in one movie.

  2. The Kid 1921 ★★★★

    Trash babies are Charlie Work. This made want to have a little urchin, simply for the scene where he does his nails and then stretches in his absurd overalls. Also I’m pretty sure I’ve seen someone in Chaplin’s outfit in Harajuku. The OG short king.

  3. The Most Dangerous Game 1932 ★★★★

    “My life has been one glorious hunt.” I’ve referenced this film for years but hadn’t seen it. A bizarre and fun movie about hunting people. After the Chaplin, I was worried this wasn’t a “talkie” but the sound was solid.

  4. The Uninvited 1944 ★★★

    I hate an awkward lamb. I can see how this set the stage for quite a few haunted house movies but the pacing of 40s films still makes me yawn.

  5. Godzilla 1954 ★★★

    I love seeing 50s Japan on film because of fascinating lens it provides of a rapidly changing place reeling from a devastating war. On the downside the pacing of older movies is unbearable.

  6. Breathless 1960 ★★★

    Inexplicably boring.

  7. The Parallax View 1974 ★★★★

    A neat, twisty thriller about a shadowy corporation involved in political assassination. Warren Beatty’s hair is excellent, and the score keeps this feeling tense throughout.

  8. Police Story 1985 ★★★★

    Jackie Chan is a terrible boyfriend but an incredible physical actor. It’s been a decade or more since I’ve seen a good HK martial arts film, and this delivered. Comedy, practical effects, and an ton of very wrecked cars and sets.

  9. The Celebration 1998 ★★★★

    My first official Dogme 95 watch, though I’ve seen other inspired by Dogme films. The technical goofiness was fine, but fortunately the story and characters covered for the unnecessary restrictions. A great artist can paint with one color on a rock, but why? Danes get candles right but I don’t understand all the singing.

  10. Memories of Murder 2003 ★★★★

    I saw this a long time ago, and it holds up. A strange, twisty police procedural with a great 80s style.

  11. Personal Shopper 2016 ★★★★

    One of the saddest things was watching Kristen Stewart have to drink French coffee. A scene in this film is maybe the only time I’ve seen a cis woman portrayed like a trans woman wrt fetishization of dresses. No clue what to expect going in, but this was a great and unlikely pair for my other film of the evening.

  12. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence 1983 ★★★★

    I’ve heard Ryuchi Sakamoto’s soundtrack for this movie many times, but it didn’t prepare me for the film itself. Takeshi Kitano! David Bowie!

  13. Videodrome 1983 ★★★★

    I forgot how most of the plot of this movie is Woods’ obsession with finding good porn. Long live the new flesh.

  14. Inside Llewyn Davis 2013 ★★★

    Imagine if folk music had been big in the 90s instead of boy bands, and Timberlake was just a singer-songwriter. Also I hope Goodman got an Oscar for his whole thing, but especially his hair.

  15. Wildlife 2018 ★★★★

    Oof. A pretty brutal look at having to parent your parents.

  16. Je, Tu, Il, Elle 1974

  17. Lola 1981

  18. Happy Together 1997

  19. White Material 2009

  20. Punch-Drunk Love 2002 ★★★½

    Liked this a lot less than the first time I saw it.

  21. Sisters 1972

  22. Fantastic Mr. Fox 2009 ★★★½

    Right before Anderson went downhill.

  23. Tokyo Story 1953

  24. Beasts of No Nation 2015 ★★★★

    Oof, this was both intense and powerful.

  25. The Double Life of Véronique 1991

  26. Certified Copy 2010

  27. Cronos 1993 ★★★

    Why, upon finding a very ugly busted statue, would you keep it? An interesting, slightly spooky debut.

  28. Black Girl 1966

  29. Chungking Express 1994 ★★★★★

    A real timepiece of 90s wild life.

  30. The Last Picture Show 1971

  31. Tokyo Drifter 1966 ★★★

    This has a song that will absolutely get stuck in your head, and I now want to appear in a movie about Keichi Tsuchiya.

  32. House 1977 ★★★

    A weird and silly mess.

  33. Crash 1996 ★★★★½

    A freaky, horny masterpiece. I’m worried everyone only has one set of underwear though.

  34. Female Trouble 1974 ★★

    My first Waters. Are weird ladies with perms on Lex? “I don’t want any boy dates” Gater sounds a lot like Liberty Balboa. “Gonna find happiness in the auto industry”. I wanted to like this but the dialogue being exclusively yelling made it hard to watch.

  35. Ghost World 2001 ★★★

    This captures the teen angst and too cool vibes of the late 1990s pretty well. Buscemi is great and creepy.

  36. The Importance of Being Earnest 1952 ★★★

    Kind of funny, and also deeply deeply homosexual.

  37. Weekend 2011

  38. Before Sunrise 1995 ★★★½

    Elements of this were romantic and exciting but I can’t get over how much of a nightmare it would be for a man to talk to me on a train.

  39. Blow Out 1981 ★★★

    Not my favorite DePalma, but has some great scenes.

  40. Asparagus 1979 ★★★

    With the caveat that I’m not very fond of animated or short films, but this was fortunately visually bizarre enough to be kinda fun.

  41. A Christmas Tale 2008 ★★★

    A runner-up to The Celebration for worst family get-together.

  42. Pierrot le Fou 1965

  43. Jules and Jim 1962

  44. Good Morning 1959 ★★★★★

    Isamu is one of the best child actors I’ve seen in a movie. This is such a perfect slice-of-life.

  45. Before Sunset 2004 ★★★★

    Hawke’s character is still a tool, but there’s something sweet about the movie regardless.

  46. Hunger 2008 ★★★★½

    Brutal. Incredible performances. Close all prisons.

  47. Secret Sunshine 2007

  48. Naked Lunch 1991

  49. Sweetie 1989 ★★★

    Huh. Well. At least the mullet kid was cool.

  50. Diary of a Chambermaid 1964

  51. Sansho the Bailiff 1954

  52. Irma Vep 1996 ★★★

    Avoided this for a while because I assumed it would be super boring, but instead it’s a fascinating look at a film industry as an absolute mess of characters and mistakes. Cheung is great.

Challenge complete

35 films watched. I didn’t finish watching all 52 this year, but I still saw way more wild movies than I would’ve otherwise. My real surprise love was Ohayō. I also loved Crash, but Cronenberg is a favorite I just hadn’t seen all movies from. I don’t know if I’ll do this challenge again in 2023, but I would like to keep watching Ozu films at least.