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.

In Bruges

It's the end of the year, the darkest night has passed (in the northern hemisphere) (literally, even if not symbolically), and we gather our loved ones as we start on our crawl back into the light, rising like Winter Wheat.

Our non-Criterion end of year special this year, Martin McDonagh's 2008 film In Bruges, uses Christmas as purgatory, a time for self-reflection and pushing forward with new resolve. Also a time of depression. Christmas is complicated. Joining us in the complication this year are long-time friend Stephen Goldmeier, returning winter friend Sam Martin, newcomer Ben Jones-White, and (arriving late to the party) occasional guest and theme music composer Jonathan Hape. Hurray, friends!

We've had a good year here at Lost in Criterion, taking the year in small chunks, as we spent nearly a month with late period Jean Renoir, nearly a month with Bergman's Fanny and Alexander, and over a month with the works of John Cassavetes. We also just watched a ton of movies about different sorts of rebellions and revolutions -- Ikuru, Battle of Algiers, The Leopard, and Salvatore Giuliano among a few of others -- because our trip through the Criterion Collection knows we needed escapism about pushing back against apathy, corruption, and tyranny. Hey, speaking of those exact themes: Merry Christmas!

Thank you all for listening! Extra special thanks to those of you who support us on Patreon where you can get access to the rest of the year's non-Criterion bonus episodes! You're all great! Hope you have a wonderful end of (Gregorian) year holiday, whatever you choose to celebrate. Or just a good day today. And a fantastic new year. You're great.

Cobra

It's that time of year again! The time where we gather close to loved ones and, at least in the northern hemisphere, try to stay warm through the darkness. Whatever your position on this planet, though, assuming you count time by the Gregorian calendar it's also the time of looking back at what has passed and hoping in what may come.

Or hoping against what you fear may come.

2016 has been...complicated. 2017 isn't going to be much easier. But we can strive to make it better.

We've seen some great films this year that provide a light in the darkness. It may have been Lost in Criterion's most political year yet, and some of our best episodes this year deal with politics, fear, politics of fear, and fear of politics. Oh, and the Holocaust. Let's try not to let that happen again, eh? As like a New Year's Resolution, maybe? But, you know, one we actually keep.

We got existential with Solaris and Bergman's trilogy on religion. We examined the ups and downs of a life (and a career) with Truffaut's Antoine Doinel series. We talked about the nature of documentary and art. We even peered Dickens-like into a possible future.

We finish things off, as we always do, with a seasonally appropriate non-Criterion Collection movie. This year it's Sylvester Stallone's 1986 film Cobra. George P. Cosmatos directs this just awful film -- awful both in product and moral. Donovan Hill and Stephen Goldmeier, two long time guests and practicing defense attorneys, join us for a film that is like Dirty Harry on speed, the story of a cop who is do dedicated to "justice" that he's willing to punch out a reporter who suggests that criminals may have civil rights. Oh and that cop murders a lot of people. Ostensibly he is the good guy here. There are no good guys here. C'est la vie.

For those of you who haven't seen it, Pat was kind enough to edit all the good bits of Cobra into this one 30 mb gif which I can't post here because SquareSpace limits us to files under 20 mb, but if you have the data follow this link!

This has been a long post but if you're still reading, we are very happy to announce our new Patreon this week: https://www.patreon.com/lostincriterion. If just 1/10 of you regular listeners pitched in a dollar a year we'd make enough for our costs, but it's still just enough to strain us financially because we are poor. But we've got some decent rewards for those who'd like to help! (We hope, at least. And right now hope is all many of us have.) Please click through and check it out!

So Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy Hanukkah! Heri za Kwanzaa! Joyous Solstice! Joyeux Candlenights! Our love and thoughts and blessings to you on whatever you may or may not be celebrating. We're all in this together. 

Or listen on iTunes.

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.

Lethal Weapon

Every year we here at Lost in Criterion take a break from the hustle and bustle of Criterion-ing and settle in for a special episode talking about a classic Christmas film that's not in the Criterion Collection.

This year we're decking the halls with Richard Donner's Lethal Weapon. Perhaps the best that can be said for this movie is that it led to screenwriter Shane Black's great career, and since that man's got an obvious obsession with setting movies at Christmas for no reasons I'm sure we'll see him for Christmas Specials Future! Can't wait!

Sam Martin joins us, marking possibly the first time we've had a guest who's actually listened to the show before. Check out his great band 99 Spirits over on the facebooks.

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?

Merry Christmas with Die Hard

We here at With Two Brains are excited to be starting a new long term project! Lost in Criterion will feature Pat and Adam and the occasional guest discussing every movie in the ever-growing Criterion Collection in order of their spine numbers.

Our first proper episode will be up on Friday when we'll be discussing Jean Renoir's 1937 classic The Grand Illusion, but to kick things off we've got a special Christmas episode with a special Christmas guest!

Our old friend Andy Heney joins us for a discussion of the Christmas classic Die Hard! Listen below or on iTunes! We look forward to you joining us for our Sisyphean task in the coming weeks, months, and years.