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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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.

The Royal Tenenbaums

Wes Anderson is among the few living directors -- perhaps even the only one but I've not checked -- who has a lifetime pass to the Criterion Collection, by which I mean whatever cryptic criteria Criterion uses to decide what's in and what's out, Wes slides through those doors. His latest (2014's Grand Budapest Hotel) is his only film not in the collection, and I'm sure it will be by the time we're done with this project.

This week, though, we're talking about his 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums, which is all sorts of wonderful. We get to talk a bit about some of those sorts with our dear friends Casey and Jonathan Hape. Long time listeners will remember that they joined us for our last Anderson outing; listeners who stick around till the end of any episode may know that Jonathan wrote our theme music. There's too much to get into for an hour long show, and even pushing 1:05 we miss quite a bit, but we had fun. Thanks for joining us, Casey and Jonathan! And thanks for listening, you listeners!

Rushmore

So Pat was in the US a few months ago, and it happened that our recording schedule (we were working pretty far ahead at the time) brought us Rushmore. Like Indie music, the works of Wes Anderson hit the right notes for folks like us, so we got some friends together for a bit of a party and a discussion of a movie some of us love a lot more than others.

We've got Donovan Hill returning once again, love of my life Amanda Morant with affected British accent action, Jonathan Hape making his first appearance outside the theme music, and his wife Casey Hape who's one smart cookie we're glad to have. Also, Pat's son makes a brief appearance, but adds nothing of value to the conversation. A good group of people and I wish more of them would come around for more episodes. This is one of our truest round-table discussions, probably helped by the fact that we were actually sitting around a round table.