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.

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.

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?

Nights of Cabiria

Giulietta Masina has often been called the "female Chaplin" and Nights of Cabiria is a prime example why. Federico Fellini's 1957 Oscar-winning drama showcases her bright and playful spirit far more than any movie about a prostitute who is almost murdered twice probably should.

Stephen Goldmeier joins us once again for this week's discussion, the last of a month-long series with him. Show your gratitude by checking out his website, Enchantment Under the Sea, home of a couple of entertaining podcasts he's part of as well.

Black Orpheus

After the great conversations of the last two episodes we're delighted to report that Stephen was interested in staying on for a couple more. He joins us again for Black Orpheus, Marcel Camus' ode to Greek myth and Brazilian culture from 1959.

The film that launched bossa nova into the northern hemisphere -- it's soundtrack sold millions of copies in the US and Europe -- Black Orpheus pulses with the beat of Carnival as escape: from failed love, from poverty, but not, notably, from fate.

Insomnia

We continue a string of guest appearance from Stephen Goldmeier with the original Insomnia and a discussion on the merits of remakes as well as the problems with subtitles in multi-lingual works (especially when dialectical tribalism may be important to characterization). That sounds a lot more clinical than the discussion actually is.

Erik Skjoldbjærg's 1997 film debut is a psychological thriller starring Stellan Skarsgard in his best role as the protagonist with sleep and guilt issues. We can't help but compare it to Christopher Nolan's 2002 remake, also a debut of sorts for the British-American director as it's his first major studio work, but I hope we do justice to the original nonetheless.

The Most Dangerous Game

We invited Stephen Goldmeier over for another round of Lost in Criterion, little did he know that Pat and I were secretly planning to hunt him for sport! Of course since I'm a pacifist, killing Stephen may take awhile. In the meantime we discuss Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack's 1932 adaptation of Richard Connell's short story The Most Dangerous Game.

Despite being made by men who detested drinking on film, big game hunting, and Soviets, The Most Dangerous Game struggles to find something to say beyond "killing people is bad unless they're bad (or Russian?)" and a strong warning against verbally tempting fate with one of the quickest turn-arounds on a "but that would never happen" in film history. It could have used more focus on a theme, or at least more pulp to distract from the lack of one.

Armageddon

It's the episode you've all been waiting for. Since we made it through Pasolin's Salo this was the next film of dread albeit for (thankfully) different reasons. But still dread nevertheless.

Armageddon is Michael Bay's 1998 sophomore work that challenges our understanding of what The Criterion Collection is actually collecting. We come up some good justifications with this week's special guest Stephen Goldmeier whose pedigree we forgot to mention in the episode: former contributor to io9 and currently blogging pop culture at Enchantment Under the Sea (and podcasting with EUTS's Hold on to Your Butts). We also complain a lot. Because there is so much to complain about. So very much.

Bewilderingly Armageddon was nominated for four Academy Awards and won two Saturn Awards (including tying for Dark City for Best Sci-Fi Film). Less bewilderingly it was nominated for seven Razzies, though only won one.