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.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Spine 300.

Wow.

For all the jokes about doing this until either we or the Criterion Collection itself dies I don't know that we ever realistically thought we'd be Lost in Criterion for this long. I suppose we may as well stick it out.

Wes Anderson is a favorite of the Collection and we will eventually see all of his films as part of it. He's also a favorite (or decidedly not) of many of our friends who we've invited on this week's episode to discuss his 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Long time friends Donovan Hill and Stephen Goldmeier return, as well as normally only Christmastime guests Andrew Tobias and Ben Jones-White. Our dear friend and musician Jonathan Hape sits in as well, and helps us run a slightly better set up for multi-guests in one room, though the recording does have some issues, principally an echo on multiple tracks that I wasn't able to track down. Let's pretend I added it on purpose to make the episode more whimsical.

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Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Every year we break out of the normal Criterion Collection journey for a special end of year episode watching a non-Criterion film that takes place at Christmas for no discernible reason. We've done Die Hard, Die Harder, and Lethal Weapon the past few years. As always we're joined by dear friends -- that's important this time of year -- and this time around frequent guest Stephen Goldmeier and award-winning journalist Andrew Tobias join us in watching Christmas-fetishist Shane Black's 2005 directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It's really fun.

It's been a good year on Lost in Criterion. We kicked things off with the Collection introducing us to the masterful comedy of Jacques Tati, we sat in awe of Carl Th. Dreyer, and we were generally disappointed by the collaborations of David O. Selznick and Alfred Hitchcock. We laughed and cried with the Czech New Wave, and broke into the 21st Century with some frankly brilliant films.

Thanks for listening! Have a wonderful end of the year (of the Gregorian calendar, at least) however you celebrate it! We'll see you next year with our regularly scheduled Lost-ness.

Merry Christmas with Die Harder

We kicked things off about a year ago with a special non-Criterion Christmas-themed episode, so we thought we'd celebrate our anniversary with a sequel and friends. And what friends! Long time contributors Donovan Hill and Stephen Goldmeier in their first episode together, as well as Stephen's partner from Enchantment Under the Sea Andrew Tobias and filmmaker Wrion Bowling (whose award-winning Shelter is really something you should see). We love guests. You should join us sometime.

This year's Christmas movie is a direct sequel to last year's: Renny Harlin's 1990 "Die Hard in a _____" (airport this time) Die Hard 2: Die Harder. It's got everything the first one had to offer but with even more civilian casualties and even more journalists who aren't really that good of people if you think about it. Merry Christmas or whatever winter holiday you celebrate! They're all great, why don't you try to hit all of them?

It's been a good year, folks. We've had fun and seen some great movies (except Salo). We've got like 23 more to go before we're through everything. But we watched Salo. We can do anything. Wish us luck?