Film Daze Curates the Criterion Collection

The Film Daze team picks films they'd like to see in the Criterion Collection.

The Criterion Collection has been a gift to many cinephiles around the world since its creation in 1984. By curating films into their collection, they bring forth underseen world cinema and art house films, as well as preserving classics. Once hard to find, forgotten pieces of art can now be easily found in the Criterion Closet. Since the Criterion Collection only releases a handful of films each month, there are still numerous titles that people want to see entered into the collection. The Film Daze team took it upon ourselves to select a few pieces that we thought would be worthy of a Criterion release. 

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© Gaumont

POSSESSION (1981): Emily Jacobson 

One of the most sought after yet frustratingly difficult movies to find these days is Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession. Known for its extremely disturbing imagery and committed performances from leads Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill, Possession is a landmark in horror cinema. Following the decaying relationship between Anna (Adjani) and Mark (Neill), the film coalesces drama and supernatural horror to produce a dreadfully shocking experience. Possession’s ability to combine these elements, resulting in a complex investigation of disintegration, whether it be marriage or something else entirely, proves its relevance in the horror genre. However, its complicated history results in the film being inaccessible to many, risking it being left out of cinematic language. As my pick for our Criterion closet, this film would benefit from restoration and re-release, introducing it to new audiences and bringing it home to the longtime fans of the film. 

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© Beyond Films

SLC PUNK! (1998): Peyton Robinson

James Merendino’s SLC Punk! encompasses the hilarity, tragedy, grit, and growth involved with forging into independent adulthood. Following the lives of Stevo (Matthew Lillard) and his best friend, Bob (Michael A. Goorjian), it exposes this emotional reality in the ultra-specific scope of a small-town punk subculture, presenting an utterly human phenomenon in the eccentricity of a niche context. Goofily sentimental yet remarkably soul-stirring, SLC Punk! tackles the honest, yet eye-rolling complexity of young adult identity. It’s emotionally penetrable to the deepest degree; however, it’s an odyssey trying to find a new physical copy available for purchase. Aside from the inherent benefit of restoration, adding SLC Punk! to the Criterion Collection would enable it to exist in the physical realm, untethering it from its dominantly digital space, and with the added special features, we can obtain an even more thoughtful glance into Merendino’s semi-autobiographical film. Not only would this overjoy its cult-following, but grant heightened accessibility for new viewers to cherish the film — to see, in a uniquely scintillating and sympathetic style, the universality of the ways we discover ourselves and the individuals that are integral to our personal histories.

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© RKO Radio Pictures

BRINGING UP BABY (1938): Saffron Maeve

With Criterion’s strong emphasis on classics, Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby feels like a strange omission from the collection. A strong cocktail of romantic tension and calculated farce, Bringing Up Baby exemplifies the screwball comedy, paving the way for other films of its subgenre. The film follows an unassuming paleontologist (Cary Grant) hoping to persuade the wealthy but vexatious Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) to secure a million-dollar museum grant from her aunt. Vance and her bizarre pet, the titular Baby—Hollywood’s own Nissa the Leopard—soon prove this to be a nearly impossible task. Equal parts heartfelt and boisterous, Bringing Up Baby is the kind of great escape moviegoers yearn for. It also gave us Cary Grant in a fur-lined bathrobe so your move, Criterion. 

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© TriStar Pictures

DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS (1995): Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller 

Picture this: Denzel Washington, starring as Easy Rawlins, in an adaptation of Walter Mosley, written for the screen and directed by Carl Franklin, co-starring a young and outstanding Don Cheadle. Anyone of those names by themselves deserves canonization in the history of great cinema, but all of them combined makes it criminal how little attention this film has gotten in the 25 years since its release. Did I mention it’s set in 1948 Los Angeles? Did I mention it features a painstakingly rendered recreation of Central Avenue, the up-and-coming Black neighborhood of L.A. that represented an unthinkably positive future for the community — which Franklin incisively layers with ominous foreshadowings of the trauma that was to come? Or the soundtrack, an immaculate collection of period blues and juke joint music, many of which are recordings you can only find here. That’s before we even get to the plot, a twisty and ingenious noir-styled tale of simmering racial tensions, kaleidoscopic conspiracies, and one man’s engrossing journey as a Black P.I.-in-the-making. It’s essential cinema in so many ways, and deserves so much better than it got — many have even said Devil in a Blue Dress is one of the very few films that really should have had copious sequels, and even could have started an outstanding franchise based on Mosley’s numerous Easy Rawlins books. And yet Hollywood went down a different path, and though Washington and Cheadle are household names nevertheless, Franklin’s work warrants the Criterion treatment, yesterday, at the very least. 

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© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940): Aaron Linskey

A delightful romantic comedy by Ernst Lubitsch that somehow has never even gotten a physical HD release. When I think of Criterion, I think of extensive restorations of important films with exhaustive supplements. As much as releasing the films of Wes Anderson liking helps Criterion financially, we just don’t need a 2K or 4K restoration of a movie that already has great Blu-ray releases. While I was tempted to choose something impossible like the original cut of Erich von Stroheim’s Greed, I know that I’d likely never buy that. What I would do is watch a gorgeous restored print of Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan falling in love while being pen pals.

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© Cinemad Presents

It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012): Josh Sorensen

A criticism I have of the Criterion Collection is that animated films, an important form of filmmaking, are largely absent from the collection. This feels like a major oversight, especially considering how many influential films are animated. If the collection were to start featuring more animation, then I can think of no work more fitting than Don Hertzfeldt’s It’s Such a Beautiful Day. A solo project—Hertzfeldt wrote, directed, animated, and does the voicework—It’s Such a Beautiful Day is auteur cinema in the most literal sense. The unique stick-figure style evokes childish simplicity, while the narrative dives into a well of existentialism, asking questions about what it means to, well, live. It’s Such a Beautiful Day stands, to me, as a modern masterpiece, the kind of film that once seen buries itself inside your psyche. It will be influencing filmmakers for decades to come. I can think of few films more deserving of a lavish Criterion re-release.

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© Film 4

CAROL (2015): Jenna Kalishman

Full of bone-deep warmth and so much longing, Carol has always held a permanent position in the list of films I love most. The film so breathtakingly exhibits what it means to be overwhelmed by desire so strong that it pinpricks behind your eyes. It writes love as something agonizing but honest and completely inevitable. Carol will forever be the narrative that unravels me and puts me back together all at once, that makes me shake, and sob, and love in an undeniable way. Stunning and nearly perfect, Carol has always been a masterwork of lesbian cinema, thus deserving of a spot beside Desert Hearts, Persona, Mulholland Drive, and others in the Criterion Collection.

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© HBO

GIA (1998): Trudie Graham

Despite boasting huge star power in the form of Angelina Jolie, Gia — the retelling of model and heroin addict Gia Carangiwas’ life before she died of AIDS —is not an easy film to find in physical format. You’ll be able to hunt down a DVD, but the HD Blu-Ray release (an unrated cut of the film) seems to have disappeared off the face of the planet. Rodrigo García’s stunning and soft cinematography would benefit massively from a restoration based on the original negatives, and, in general, Gia is a beautiful movie that deserves to be seen in the most flattering way possible.

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© Experimental Forest Films

The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (2019): Shea Vassar 

Criterion has already grabbed a number of impressive titles from 2019 for their collection. One that would be an admirable addition is The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, a told-in-real-time look at two different sides of Indigenous experience in an urban Canadian community. The inclusion of this film would mark the first Native film in the Criterion Collection and give the opportunity for more movie lovers around the world to see this beautiful piece of cinema. I can imagine the special features being just as inspiring as the film itself, with the cast and crew sharing their experiences from both a technical and emotional standpoint. 

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© Central Motion Picture Corporation

That Day, On the Beach (1983): Carl Broughton

Edward Yang is one of the greatest auteurs of our time and is one of the key figures responsible for the Tawain New Wave and rise of Tawain Cinema along with Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang. But, when it comes to the Criterion Collection there are a few notable films missing from his iconic filmography. One is That Day, On the Beach, Yang’s first feature film, and one of the first films associated with the birth of the Tawain New Wave. That Day, On the Beach, was also the cinematography debut of Christopher Doyle, who would later go on to work with other famed auteurs including Criterion favorite, Wong Kar-wai. What better way to honor the late Yang’s legacy than to make his first film more accessible for a new generation of aspiring filmmakers and lovers of cinema.

 

 

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