• The Daytrippers

    The Daytrippers

    ★★★★

    The Criterion Challenge 2023: Round 2

    A road trip dramedy with some good 'ol familial conflict, Greg Mottola's The Daytrippers is full of oddball quirks, deadpan delivery, and bittersweet tenderness. Peak '90s humour plus some really well-rounded characterisation in such a brisk runtime, Mottola's feature debut is an impressive one. It is a marvel of undulating tones and quotable lines. The ensemble cast has excellent chemistry – Liev Schreiber and Anne Meara play so well off of each other, and…

  • Design for Living

    Design for Living

    ★★★½

    The Criterion Challenge 2023: Round 2

    Pre-Code raunch and sexiness, Ernst Lubitsch's Design For Living is an entertaining and sophisticated affair. Ben Hecht adapts Noël Coward's play with his own risqué wit and Lubitsch brings forward his famous 'touch'. The leading throuple is star-studded with Frederic March and Gary Cooper both falling for Miriam Hopkins, all of whom were at their career primes. For a film made nearly a century ago, it has aged remarkably well. Prototypical polyamory that treats…

  • Victim

    Victim

    ★★★½

    The Criterion Challenge 2023: Round 2

    An act of protest above all else, Basil Dearden's Victim is a powerfully progressive rejection of anti-homosexual laws. With a spectacular performance from Dirk Bogarde, who bears such great courage for taking on the role – a gay man himself – the film is ultimately grounded by both his role and his person. Dearden infuses this political work with a suspenseful noir, making it just as aesthetically investing in its own right.

    However, where…

  • His Girl Friday

    His Girl Friday

    ★★★★

    The Criterion Challenge 2023: Round 2

    Genre is bended and gender is flipped, Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday is a laugh-out-loud romp. The second adaptation of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's 1928 play, The Front Page, what Hawks does here with Charles Lederer's screenplay is fantastic. Dialogue quicker than you can think, dysfunctional characters, pragmatic camerwork, rapid editing, a straightforward yet engrossing narrative, a female protagonist who does not conform to patriarchal standards – it is pure Hawkian all the…

  • The Gleaners and I: Two Years Later

    The Gleaners and I: Two Years Later

    ★★★½

    The Criterion Challenge 2023: Round 2

    Agnès Varda's two-year follow-up to her beloved documentary, The Gleaners And I, is almost equal in heart and poignancy. Returning to interview many of the original subjects, updating us about them in the time since, Varda always finds abundances of gold among people on the outskirts of life's social orders. Food and conservation are at the crux again of course, but as is personhood. The creativity and venturing ethos of the gleaners are consistently…

  • Original Cast Album: Company

    Original Cast Album: Company

    ★★★★

    The Criterion Challenge 2023: Round 2

    Quite possibly the greatest documentary about a musical ever made, D. A. Pennebaker's close-up viewing of Stephen Sondheim's Company is an immersive and mesmerising experience. A frenzied look behind the scenes, with the whole cast, crew, concerto, and of course, the composer himself, a pre-stardom Sondheim. I feel only Pennebaker could have made this film, and I feel only Pennebaker would have made it as well as it is. Explosive and entertaining, the songs…

  • No Home Movie

    No Home Movie

    ★★★★

    The Criterion Challenge 2023: Round 2

    The final film of one of the greatest auteurs of the late-20th century, Chantal Akerman's No Home Movie is a perfectly fitting yet incredibly tragic conclusion to a wholly singular filmmaker. In many, many ways a spiritual sequel to News From Home, Akerman takes her most direct thematisation of her career-long muse: her own mother. Intimate beyond words, conversations between mother and daughter in person and via Skype; it is an insightful meditation on…

  • The Docks of New York

    The Docks of New York

    ★★★½

    The Criterion Challenge 2023: Round 2

    Another exquisitely evocative silent feature from Josef von Sternberg, The Docks of New York is full of vivid visuals and affecting atmosphere. Not so much a realist portrait of the working-class, but rather an expressionist one, privileging emotive melodrama and carefully composed mise-en-scène over social and class hardships. George Bancroft and Betty Compson are wonderful together, while Harold Rosson's cinematography and Hans Dreier's set design are immaculate. Sternberg wields his camera like an absolute…

  • The Big Heat

    The Big Heat

    ★★★★½

    The Criterion Challenge 2023: Round 2

    A top tier noir from Fritz Lang, The Big Heat fully emblamatises the raging intensity and controlled sharpness of the Austrian-born auteur's American years. Starring a vengeful Glenn Ford and a loveably problematic Gloria Grahame, the film feels like one of the pinnacles of the cinematic style, while also subverting plenty of those defining characteristics. Ford is a morally ambivalent sleuth but running with red-blooded anger. Grahame is a femme fatale but without causing…

  • A Well Spent Life

    A Well Spent Life

    ★★★½

    The Criterion Challenge 2023: Round 2

    Les Blank and Skip Gerson's portrait of legendary blues musician Mance Lipscomb and his rural Texas town, A Well Spent Life paints a vividly humanistic picture of the songster. My first dive into Blank's extensive filmography, a legend in his own right, it had many of the insightful qualities I expected from a documentary of his. Music and culture being the main ones, with interspersed songs and scenes from around the area, of people,…

  • Suspense.

    Suspense.

    ★★★½

    The Criterion Challenge 2023: Round 2

    High-octane tension and technical innovation go hand-in-hand in Lois Weber and Phillips Smalley's Suspense. An early-20th-century short that earns its title, showcasing numerous horror and thriller tropes with plenty of daring and formative camerawork. A brisk 10-minute runtime neatly packages this proto- slasher from one of the first women filmmakers.

  • EO

    EO

    ★★★½

    The Criterion Challenge 2023: Round 2

    Someone get those asses an Oscar pt. 2!!

    A donkey's escape versus humankind's endless undoings, even in moments of joy and celebration, Jerzy Skolimowski's EO is an affecting addition to the varied world of animal cinema. Poignant at times, endearing at others. Skolimowski stylistically imbues this cross-country tale with a visual inventiveness that feels remarkably fresh for a filmmaker in his octogenarian years. Together with Michał Dymek's vivid and immersive cinematography is Paweł Mykietyn's…