Undeadcow's 2010 Criterion Challenge List
1. Rome Open City* 7.5/10
Found the first part to be a bit slow but it quickly picked up. Really enjoyed the cynical outlook and religious subtext, good melodrama with historical appeal. Looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.
2. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou 6.5/10
I remember not being drawn to LAwSZ in theatrical release promos but when I first saw it last year really enjoyed it. A lot of the whimsey and artistic detail is turned up but the humor a bit more tongue in cheek. I liked this movie more than Rushmore ...but I still think Owen Wilson's acting is wooden.
3. Mamma Roma* 6/10
I appreciated the theme of poor people lusting for a better life and appreciated that a lot of the plot was more subtle. However, the ending seemed too sudden and maybe not enough was spelled out for it to have the intended punch with me. Excellent performance from Anna Magnani.
4. Yojimbo* 8/10
When I was younger I saw Last Man Standing (Yojimbo remake) several times so couldn't help but be reminded of the later film. Yojimbo exceeded my expectations and lived up to it's reputation as a "mindless fun" popcorn flick. The film is effective and building a sense of conflict between the two rivals. I especially thought the soundtrack was well integrated.
5. Night and Fog 6/10*
Great concept. I enjoyed the more recent bits of the abandoned concentration camps and appreciated that the film emphasized genocide cannot be replicated on film or understood by the viewer. However, I think I've been overexposed to Holocaust material so it didn't have as powerful of an impact with me as it obviously hoped to convey. Interesting footage of the gruesome aftermath. As an aside I got this one on Ebay for less than $3 shipped.
6. 2 or 3 Things I know About Her* 8.5/10
Someone on imdb.com commented that this was one of Godard's most challenging films and I'm sure I missed parts of it. However, I really enjoyed it and found the chopped up style of vignettes followed by characters talking to the audience disjointed but interesting. Godard's point about the inadequacy of language and it's replacement with materialism is well presented. I watched Pierrot Le Fou last month and could see a lot of thematic similarities between these two films.
7. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul* 6.5/10
Good melodrama and themes but parts of the plot seemed forced. At times the characters seem so fickle they lack definition changing unexpectedly mid-movie.
8. Robocop 7/10
Good action film but starting to seem a bit dated. I understand the over the top characters are suppose to be satire but at times it comes across so crass that it's ackward. I really like the Robocop theme song, simple but effective. It's odd seeing Kurtwood Smith (Red Forman, That 70s Show) playing a bad guy since I'm use to him from the sitcom. When I watched The Bad Sleep Well last month I remember thinking that plot needed more cyborgs, wish granted.
9. 8 1/2* 6.5/10
I enjoyed some of the themes but felt they ended up being half formed (which perhaps was the point that Fellini felt lost and without resolution). I enjoyed the cartoonish imagery but at times felt the pacing was too frantic and disjointed. It seemed like a more complex film that I might appreciate with further viewings. The imagery such as the floating introduction, the rumba dance, and the ending was excellent. However, some of the compositions seemed a little tight and Fellini seems to favor facial close-ups which might have added to the frantic pacing. This was my introduction to Fellini so I'm curious to see more of his work. I don't think there's any way 8 1/2 could have lived up to it's hype.
10. Death of a Cyclist* 7.5/10
I'm not sure why this doesn't get more attention but if you haven't seen it I highly recommend it. The theme of selfishness versus redemption seems rich with a lot of thought provoking twists. Reading the insert book it didn't immediately stand out but in retrospect I can see the director switches between hollywood style close-ups and neorealism panoramic shots as part of his visual essay on culture. The cinematography is good with clever editing tricks. Watching the film it reminded me a lot of Hitchcock with good subtle tension. The soundtrack was minimal and slow which contributed effectively to the suspense. Some of the antiwar commentary seems a bit forced since none of this occurs during the spanish civil war and no events from that war factor into the plot (aside from thematic use as social commentary).
11. Pickup on South Street* 7/10
A refreshing pulp tale that carries a good sense of location and time but there are some charming relics (i.e. red fear). There is a controversal scene with violence towards women but I didn't find that too strong. This is the second Fuller movie I've watched (after Naked Kiss, which I prefered) and in both he seems to focus on marginalized characters striving for more.
12. Robinson Crusoe on Mars* 3/10
A nice chunk of brain dead escapism but my least favorite film of the challenge. A lot of problems are eventually solved with convoluted non-sense easy answers to the point of eroding away any plot. The scenery is good and the effects, cheesy by today's standards, seem like a fun throwback. It's interesting how the main character comes across more as a generic everyman than a full-bodied anchor with emotional worth. A lot of the movie seems to pivot on exploring the set along with the main character in what amounts to more of a visual tour of fictional Mars than a narrative in itself. I know a lot of this is adapted from Robinson Crusoe and on the face of it the Mars setting seemed brilliant but the execution is a bit off.
13. Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator* 6/10
I enjoyed the frantic energy with this movie and it's wild tangents. Some segments seems to make sense only on an abstract thematic level (i.e. a cook making strussel emphasizing growing romance). Though this film at times seemed choppy. I'm looking forward to checking out WR: Mysteries of an Organism though maybe not in time for this challenge. (from Eclipse Series 18 - Dusan Makavejev Free Radical)
14. Mr Freedom* 6.5/10
Surprisingly hilarious satire, it's not subtle and very hammy but I guess that's where part of the humor comes in, sort of a 70s live action South Park. You can't beat the scene with a football gear wearing "Mr Freedom" in bandaged up stigmata crying about being bullied by a kid while being force fed corn flakes. It's absurd a movie like this was ever made with a straight face. (from Eclipse Series 9 - The Delirious Fiction of William Klein)
16. Torment* 7.5/10
There's a lot of slow tension with an incendiary sense of injustice building up. Many of the characters seem to be desperately clinging to anything meaningful creating a really bittersweet and meaningful tale. It seems like Bergman makes play at social status throughout the film which is an interesting spin. (from Eclipse Series 1 - The Early Films of Ingmar Bergman
17. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her* (Commentary with Adrian Martin)
Commentary track was insightful. Godard spells out his ideas of shape and form in Pierrot Le Fou which the commentary does a god job of highlighting. Discusses Godard's goals with this film of subjective experience and objective description uniting to create shape, a series of which he hopes builds to presenting life itself. Track presents interesting criticism that Godard is often said to emphasize the subjective to greatly. The commentary does a good job of linking this movie to Godard's earlier and later films. Speaker has a cool accent and good energy.
18. Se7en 8/10 (from Laserdisc Criterion Collection)
I remember seeing this movie in the theather when it first came out as a 14 year old and being on top of the world. Now I really like the gritty and dark atmosphere which contributes to making this film a classic but found some of the plot points a bit weak
19. Häxan* 6/10
A funny & whimsical "documentary" about witchcraft, exceeded my expectations with its mockery of inquisition/witchcraft. It benefits from good attention to detail and excellent special effects especially considering the age (bite me CGI). The sensationalism is cheap fun but either lacks depth or has become cliché until the last chapter (1/7th) switches suddenly to dismissive (overly simplistic) explanation. I'm curious about the commentary. The film starts out tongue in cheek then ends up beating you over the head with it's agenda but I'd recommend it.
October 1 (Overtime derby)
xx. Sisters* 7.5/10 - Reading the inset booklet cued me in to a lot of fun homages in this film. The plot structure is unique in that this is a mystery where from the beginning it's shown who the murderer is. The narrative is told from a reporter who enters and exits the main action or is told in flashbacks both suggesting voyeurism (maybe a comment on popular news media). Right from the start there's effective music and suspense. I enjoyed the surrealism as the move progressed with thick stylization getting more deliciously complex.
* = First time viewings
Watch one film from every decade covered by Criterion.
-X- 1920 - Häxan
--- 1930 -
-X- 1940 - Rome Open City (1945); Torment (1944)
-X- 1950 - Night and Fog (1955); Death of a Cyclist (1955)
-X- 1960 - Mamma Roma (1962); Yojimbo (1961), Simon of the Desert (1965); 8 1/2 (1963)
-X- 1970 - Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
-X- 1980 - Robocop (1987)
-X- 1990 - Se7en (1994)
-X- 2000 - Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)
Watch films in at least five languages.
-X- First language, Italian, Rome Open City, Mamma Roma.
-X- Second language, English, Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou; Robocop.
-X- Third language, Japanese, Yojimbo.
-X- Fourth language, French, Night and Fog; 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her.
-X- Fifth language, Spanish, Death of a Cyclist.
-X- Sixth language, German, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul.
Watch something from spine number range:
-X- 001-050 - Robocop (23)
-X- 051-100 - Yojimbo (52)
-X- 101-150 - 8 1/2 (140)
-X- 151-200 - Night and Fog (197); Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (198)
-X- 201-250 - Mamma Roma (236)
-X- 251-300 - Life Aquatic With Steven Zissou (300)
--- 301-350 -
--- 351-400 -
-X- 401-450 - Death of a Cyclist (427); Robinson Crusoe on Mars (404)
-X- 451-500 - Rome Open City (497), 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (482)
--- 500-550 -
-X- an Eclipse title - Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator (from Eclipse 18); Mr Freedom (from Eclipse 9); Torment (from Eclipse 1)
-X- a laser disc only Criterion from this list - Se7en
Watch a film from the following genres:
-X- Comedy - Life Aquatic with Steven Zissou
-X- Drama - Mamma Roma; Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
-X- Horror - Häxan
-X- Science Fiction - Robinson Crusoe on Mars; Robocop
-X- Action / Adventure - Yojimbo; Robocop
--- Musical -
-X- Epic / Historical - Rome Open City
-X- Mystery / Thriller - Se7en
--- War / Western -
-X- Documentary - Night and Fog, Haxan
-X- Watch a film which won an Academy Award - 8 1/2 (1963: Best Foreign Language Film; Best Costume Design)
-X- Watch a film with commentary - 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her
-X- Watch a short - Night and Fog
--- Watch a Criterion disc completely. Every part of it. -
--- Watch an entire Criterion Collector's Set/Eclipse Box Set - [Planning Rosselini's War Trilogy]