An American Tail

The end of the year is always a time to look back, take stock, and redouble efforts to carry on. It’s been a year, but every year is.

Movies are powerful. The best of them take us outside ourselves and challenge us, but perhaps that’s just what I mean when I say “best”. This year we’ve seen some very good films, films I’d call timely, though in growing as a person I’ve realized that the messages I’m calling timely are always timely. We started early with a film that encouraged us to ask the right questions about revolution which also contained my one of my favorite sequences we’ve seen in any movie, one where everything has been commoditized and commercialized to such an extent that even Communism is being sold — at 15% off. We spent some powerful time in Poland dealing with Nazis and other authoritarians. And we saw films that act as propaganda for Authoritarians of a different set. We escaped with some Lubitsch and Donovan H. joined us to deconstruct Samurai films. Speaking of escape, we confronted hope and hopelessness in ways we haven’t yet with one of the best documentaries ever made, and attacked fakery and false authority in one of the best pseudo-documentaries ever made. There are lessons to be learned, positive and negative, all around us. But one felt particularly important in a world that seems mired in hatred.

In past years our winter special has been a violent film that ironically takes place on Christmas, for various definitions of irony. This year we expand our winter holiday corral and attack our own religious-centrism, gathering friends to watch a film that Disney rejected because they were certain no one would watch a movie about a Jewish mouse. Instead Don Bluth made it, and An American Tail became the highest grossing animated film in history until his next film, in turn inspiring Disney to spitefully revamp their own animation studio and kick off a Renaissance. Like most of Bluth’s work, the fact that this is a children’s film does not keep it from being dark, and does not keep it from teaching us important lessons about the state of the current world. Immigrants and refugees are fleeing oppression around the world. When they get to us, let them not find us as cats ready to pounce and oppress them anew. There are cats in America. But we can fight them, too.

By Brahkage: An Anthology, Volume 1

This week's episode is a long one solely for the plethora and variety of material we're tasked with talking about. Stan Brahkage was an experimental filmmaker and a long-time film professor at the University of Colorado, who principally focused on non-narrative film. By Brakhage covers work from six decades of his career. With over four hours of material in 26 pieces ranging from 9 seconds to 74 minutes long, there's a lot to digest: a lot to love and some, well, not to.

Or subscribe on iTunes!

The Complete Monterey Pop Festival

At the height of the Summer of Love powerhouses in pop music came together to hold the first Monterey Pop Music Festival, possibly the first pop music festival ever. D.A. Pennebaker was on hand to record the proceedings to be released as a film, though his footage was eventually released as three. We're talking all of them on this week's Lost in Criterion, including supplemental materials, as we explore the Complete Monterey Pop Festival box set containing Monterey Pop (1967), Jimi Plays Monterey (1986), and Shake! Otis at Monterey (1986).

Mona Lisa

This week Pat and I spend five minutes joking about Sting stemming from our mistaken belief that he was in Genesis. Sorry, Phil Collins, but all bald British musicians are the same.

Genesis only comes up because they have a prominent opening credit listing in this week's movie Neil Jordan's great neo-noir Mona Lisa from 1986. This is Bob Hoskins's third outing in the Criterion Collection so far, and boy is it always fun to see him. Can't wait for Super Mario Bros.!

Sid and Nancy

Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungeon are two horrible people who are horribly perfect for one another. That about sums up the plot of Alex Cox's 1986 biopic of the ill-fated couple. We had, shall we say, mixed feelings on it.

Episode 20 though! Is that a milestone? Nearly half a year already. We've seen some real greats so far, and some real stinkers, and Salo. Trudging right along though. Only 700 or so more to watch!