The Criterion Collection is the single most important film distribution company working today. They were instrumental in making sure letterbox was the default mode for all films and that every release had commentary tracks and supplementary material. In a time where simply having a lenticular cover qualified as a “special edition”, they were loading their releases with extra content. They went after collectors and film aficionados instead of the average consumer and their gamble paid off. They’ve been in business for over 30 years and have the highest pedigree of anyone working today. Being apart of the catalog is pretty much a seal of quality. Criterion Collection = Cock of the walk.
They have hundreds of amazing titles but their collection is still not perfect. There’s a handful of titles that desperately need to be part of the collection because I guarantee that if they don’t release them, no one will. Here’s 20 films that need to be in the collection immediately.
20. Tale of the Fox
Criterion doesn’t have many animated movies in their line up and I assume it’s a licensing issue. Animated films are usually made by huge studios and they’re never giving up the rights but they have managed to get a couple. Watership Down, Fantastic Planet, and Fantastic Mr. Fox are all in the collection. Hell, they even had Akira on Laserdisc for a little bit. Tale of the Fox is a film dying for a proper release and I doubt licensing fees are holding it up. Unless they can’t figure out who owns the license because the film has pretty much been forgotten. Kids today need this more than Minions.
19. The Wild Life
Securing the music rights has to be the reason this has never made it passed VHS because this film is incredible. The spiritual successor to Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Wild Life is a criminally under seen film about teen life in the 80’s. It stars Eric Stoltz, Lea Thompson and Chris Penn in probably his best role. It wouldn’t be the best film in their collection but it would be saved from obscurity if they released it.
18. Hands on a Hard Body
The beauty of documentaries, is the fact that any story can be turned into a compelling film. Whether it’s about pet cemeteries, tickling competitions or two men fighting over the legal rights to a foot, a great documentarian can squeeze brilliance from any real life event. Hands on a Hard Body is about an endurance competition involving contestants keeping their hand on a truck for as long as they can. If they’re the last ones standing, they win. It’s an incredibly simple premise for a competition and a film. On paper, that sounds boring as sin. Watching strangers touch a truck for 77 hours is akin to torture but the director some how makes it not only entertaining but actually heartfelt and emotional. You want some of these people to win because this truck is all they have. It’s a delightful doc that definitely needs a release.
17. The Color of Pomegranates
IMDB describes the film as “A super-stylized, surreal biography of Armenian troubadour Sayat Nova, whose life is depicted through non-narrative amalgamations of poetic images.” That comes about as close as you can get to creating a mental picture of what this film is and what it is about. It’s a story of a man’s life, chopped up into segments, all containing images shot from a static camera. It’s hard to describe but there’s no other film shot this way. It’s more of an art piece than an actual film but regardless of labels, it’s gorgeous and needs to be seen by more people.
16. After Hours
Martin Scorsese is arguably the greatest director working today and almost every one of his films has had collectors editions and special editions and for good reason. The man makes excellent shit but it’s a crime that After Hours still isn’t on Blu Ray. Easily his most underrated film, After Hours is about one crazy fucking night that easily could’ve been called “A funny thing happened on the way to get ass.” The cast is stellar and it’s damn funny. It’s the least obscure film on the list but it still needs some Criterion love.
Tilda Swinton is one of, if not the best actress of her generation. She hasn’t found a role yet she hasn’t destroyed with her immense talent. She’s a Godzilla of acting. When it’s her scene, she dominates the screen. It’s impossible to not focus on her. And the best use of her talents has been a film that has never had a proper release. The character of Orlando seems to have been written for her. A gender switching, ageless nobleman that’s been alive for 400 years. There’s literally no one else that could’ve played this role sans prosthetics. You believe her as nobleman, you believe her as a man, as an immortal man. As a woman, a woman that’s lived a million lifetimes and experienced everything life has to offer. You buy the premise and you believe the character because of Swinton. It’s an amazing performance in an amazing film.
14. Kiss of the Spider Woman
Godard once said “All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.” I actually believe that might be true but in order to make a film? All you need is two great actors and a great screenplay. 20 years before Brokeback Mountain depicted an emotional, tender romance between Ledger and Gyllenhaal, there was William Hurt and Raul Julia in Kiss of the Spider Woman. Giving career best performances, the film is about two imprisoned men- one a political prisoner and one who’s only crime was being homosexual, bonding over stories one would tell to keep the other one entertained. It’s a raw, emotional film that needs to be talked about more.
13. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss song
Would there have been the huge independent scene of the 90’s, if it wasn’t for the Blaxploitation movement of the 70’s? I doubt it. And would there of ever been a movement in the first place if it wasn’t for Melvin van Peebles’ explosive second film? I doubt it. Sweet sweetback is monumentally important to the landscape of cinema. It literally changed the game. And if Equinox and Armageddon can get in, Sweet Sweetback is looooong over due. Just sayin’.
12. Beau Travail
Some films come out and are instantly part of the new cannon, the list of the greatest films of all time and I firmly believe Beau Travail is on that list. A retelling of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, the film is all about jealousy, repressed urges, and the beauty of the male body. The soldiers and their routines are treated with reverence, like a ballet. Because that’s how the main character sees them. The film is light on plot but heavy on emotion. It’s a profoundly moving film and an incredible character study.
I’ve already written about my love for Isabelle Adjani’s performance on another list but it bears repeating, her performance in this film is one of the greatest ever captured on screen. It’s a powerhouse of a performance. I don’t think there’s ever been a more raw, emotional performance given by an actress. It’s brutal. Possession is already on Blu Ray and it looks amazing but it’s 70 dollars. Criterion needs to release it so it’s readily available because only people who’ve already seen it would pay that amount of money for it. Even though it’s worth it.