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Thread: Criterion Challenge 2023

  1. #1

    Criterion Challenge 2023

    Welcome to the Criterion Challenge 2023 thread!

    MC Criterion Challenge 2021
    MC Criterion Challenge 2022

    Original Letterboxd List for 2023

    There are 52 categories - one for each week. Watch any Criterion related film based on the categories below between 1/1/23-12/31/23. Your choices can be any films released by Criterion on Blu-ray, DVD, VHS, Laserdisc, or ones that have been featured on The Criterion Channel streaming service (although I'd prefer you choose films they've actually put out themselves). The films can be watched daily, weekly, or monthly, and in any order! Watch them at your own pace, but remember you have to finish by 12/31/23. I would like for all picks to be first time watches, but will leave that up to you.


  2. #2
    1. Random Number Generator -- Rolled Old Joy, then Summertime. Went with the former even though it's a rewatch. Didn't expect the emotional release of this 73-minute ambient movie about two dudes failing to reconnect would occur in the small print of the closing credits. "Copyright 2005, Lucy Is My Darling, LLC." Old Joy feels 100% real, but nothing is more real than Kelly Reichardt naming her company after her dog. The Yo La Tengo score is perfect. My first Reichardt movie is still my favorite, 15 years later. Four stars.

    Up next:
    2. Made in Belgium. Six options total. An Akerman short, Man Bites Dog, and four Dardenne features. Going with Palme d'Or winner Rosetta.

    3. Made in Taiwan. Six more options. The three I haven't seen are Flowers of Shanghai, Taipei Story, and Touch of Zen. All are intriguing but I'm leaning Flowers.
    Last edited by Idioteque Stalker; 01-09-2023 at 06:03 PM.

  3. #3
    Evil mind, evil sword. Ivan Drago's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    44. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953)

    This was a wonderful introduction to the films of Yasujiro Ozu. His camera stays static through all but one shot of this masterwork to not only craft a snapshot of post-WWII Tokyo where an elderly couple ventures to visits their grown children, but also to convey the unspoken divide between two generations of a family and its melancholy consequences. Tokyo Story is a poignant snapshot of a city and its citizens at a moment in time and a sad but honest statement about how generational divisions are fostered by events beyond their control, the ultimate fragility of life and the people we leave behind as we age.
    Last Five Films I've Seen (Out of 5)

    The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse (Mackesy, 2022) 4.5
    Puss In Boots: The Last Wish (Crawford, 2022) 4
    Confess, Fletch (Mottola, 2022) 3.5
    M3GAN (Johnstone, 2023) 3.5
    Turning Red (Shi, 2022) 4.5
    Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953) 5

    615 Film

  4. #4
    2. Made in Belgium -- Rosetta. I think I forgot to exhale this entire movie. It's like Winter's Bone, but better. Been trying to figure out for almost two weeks why this resonated so much while La Promesse did nothing for me, and I keep coming back to the performances. It's easy to see why Emilie Dequenne won best actress at Cannes. The other Dardenne movie I love also has a blistering central performance (Two Days, One Night). Still a lot to see from them, and Rosetta has me more resolute than ever. Fantastic coat. Four stars.

    3. Made in Taiwan -- Flowers of Shanghai. Staring into a flawless topaz, perfection begets new realities. New favorite HHH. Four stars.

    Up next:
    4. Made in Canada. Taking a little break on Cronenberg. Daytrippers, Brand upon the Brain, or something from Allan King.

    5. Made in Portugal. Literally Pedro Costa and that's it. I admire Vitalina Varela but it tested my patience. If I abide 100% by the rules, Osso will be the choice because it's relatively short. Depending on my mood, I may cheat. Diamantino, Tabu, City of Pirates, or Osso.
    Last edited by Idioteque Stalker; 01-24-2023 at 12:48 AM.

  5. #5
    I'm the problem it's me DFA1979's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    None of your business
    I don't understand #1, explain it to me like I'm five cause I'm trying to wrap my brain around it.

    And it's happened once again
    I'll turn to a friend
    Someone that understands
    And sees through the master plan
    But everybody's gone
    And I've been here for too long
    To face this on my own
    Well, I guess this is growing up

  6. #6
    Quote Quoting DFA1979 (view post)
    I don't understand #1, explain it to me like I'm five cause I'm trying to wrap my brain around it.
    Watch a random Criterion movie. Use google's random number generator to pick a movie for you. Set the max number to 1178 because there are currently 1178 movies with spine numbers. Whatever number you get, go here to see what movie your number corresponds to and then watch it.

  7. #7
    After a strong start, I am a philistine once again.

    4. Made in Canada -- Brand Upon the Brain! This would've excited me more in 2006 before The Artist completely sapped the mysterious artistic potential from silent throwbacks, thus ruining them for everyone. Maddin appears to have moved on to more conceptual material like The Green Fog and The Forbidden Room after this relatively straightforward, lite-horror story about a weird orphanage in a lighthouse, and I trust those recent films will be a more rewarding combination of form and content for me (as was the case with My Winnipeg). Brand Upon the Brain is far from humorless, but to my mind this type mad-scientist-in-the-basement story should ultimately be more light-hearted in tone than the spoken narration or wall-to-wall string quartet score allows. Mixed this up with Cowards Bend the Knee because the titles have a similar cadence. Wish I could have a re-roll. Two stars.

    5. Made in Portugal -- Ossos. Simply too slow for me. Vitalina Varela gets away with it because of how unique it is visually. I'm glad Costa does what he does, and if he had an exhibition of photography downtown, I would be pumped to go. Two stars.

    Up next:
    6. Animals in the Collection -- Okja
    7. Films To Fall Asleep To -- I'm 1/3 through Satantango. It's time.
    Last edited by Idioteque Stalker; 02-28-2023 at 01:39 AM.

  8. #8
    6. Animals in the Collection -- Okja. My reaction to Jake Gyllenhaal's performance mirrors my reaction to the film as a whole. Act 1: "Oh man, this is so zany! I'm excited!" Act 2: "Wait, is it changing?" Act 3: "I don't care anymore, just make it stop." Supremely enjoyable movie until it isn't. Three stars.

    7. Films To Fall Asleep To -- Satantango. When I see all the breathless five-star ratings for Satantango, I'm reminded of the habit we have of romanticizing the obstacles we face. Sometimes we conflate the obstacle itself with the satisfaction we enjoy after overcoming it. It's like when you attempt a difficult boss dozens of times, curse at the TV so much your dog gets upset, break all of your controllers, go to bed mad, wake up, drive to the store to buy new controllers, start the whole process over again, then FINALLY beat the boss and declare it the greatest boss in gaming history. Or it's like when you're a guest on Hot Ones and the wings taste decent even though they've been sitting out a while, then six months later someone randomly asks you "What are the best wings you ever had?" and you talk about Hot Ones for thirty minutes because Da Bomb caused you so much pain you became euphoric. Or maybe it's like when you reflect on a toxic past relationship and wonder if all the yelling and broken dishes were merely the unfortunate side effects of the one truly passionate romance of your lifetime, but a few minutes later you realize it was just the cinematography whoops I mean the sex that was good. I recognize in myself a temptation to declare Satantango a masterpiece. I think it's a similar feeling that drives people to put a "26.2" sticker on their car, as if to say "I am not scared of a challenge. I have squared up against a formidable opponent and emerged victorious." I award myself five stars for overcoming the obstacle, but will not pretend to value the obstacle itself. Two stars.

    Up next:
    8. Black Music Films -- A Well Spent Life, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, Ornette: Made in America, and Babylon all seem like good options. What I'll probably do is a pseudo-double feature of Jimi Plays Monterey and Monterey Pop.

    9. Black Lives Collection -- Daughters of the Dust or Born in Flames. Leaning Daughters.

    10. Heartbreak Heaven -- The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum or Center Stage. Leaning Maggie Cheung.
    Last edited by Idioteque Stalker; 03-05-2023 at 03:05 AM.

  9. #9
    8. Black Music Films -- Double feature of Jimi Plays Monterey and Monterey Pop. In terms of providing a compelling perspective, this one gets a big fat zero. Woodstock and Gimme Danger are far more thorough and insightful documents of the same scene. But credit goes to Pennebaker for bringing some cameras and keeping them rolling during some of the most legendary rock performances ever. Janis and Jimi were too real for the world. Three stars.

    9. Black Lives Collection -- Daughters of the Dust. We often embellish our stories to make them more exciting, but it goes the other way too -- sometimes the truth is so painful we soften the story with metaphor and mysticism. In the Beyonce-approved Daughters of the Dust, one (semi-ostracized) member of this particular Gullah community has become fed up with the disingenuous over-spiritualization of their tragic past, and takes to task the story of the flying African by stating what most believe too obvious for words: "Ain't nobody can walk on water." Four stars.

    10. Heartbreak Heaven -- Center Stage. Millennium Actress is almost a remake of this? Somebody on LB said casting Maggie Cheung is tantamount to cheating, and it's true. Too long, buttoned-up, and prestige-y for me to outright love, but a fascinating and beautiful movie regardless. Three stars.

    Up next:
    11/12. Criterion Double Features. Charulata/Repast, Long Day Closes/Great Expectations, Thin Red Line (rewatch)/The Steel Helmet, or I could cheat a little and do a double Rohmer. Leaning Charulata/Repast.

    13. Danny Peary’s “Guide for the Film Fanatic”. So many great-looking movies to choose from! Le Corbeau, Magnificent Obsession, Kiss Me Deadly, Seconds, Gates of Heaven, Kagemusha, Burden of Dreams, Shoah.... So of course I'll do the exact wrong thing and go with Pink Flamingos.
    Last edited by Idioteque Stalker; 03-20-2023 at 05:31 PM.

  10. #10
    11. Criterion Double Features 1 -- Repast. [
    ] Two stars.

    12. Criterion Double Features 2 -- Charulata. Wouldn't be upset if all movies looked like this. Mukherjee is once again transcendent. News flash: Satyajit Ray is a good filmmaker. Four stars.

    13. Danny Peary’s “Guide for the Film Fanatic” -- In the past month I happen to have watched four movies that could qualify: Kagemusha, Magnificent Obsession, Kiss Me Deadly, and my original choice Pink Flamingos. Me during 1st half: "This isn't that filthy." Me during 2nd half: "These people are criminals." Me during the Director's Commentary: "This is a radical work of outsider art which deserves its spot in the National Film Registry so it can live on and be seen by everyone, excluding any members of my present and/or future family." Three stars.

    Up next:
    14. Sundance Hits. Working Girls, For All Mankind, Sherman's March, or Roger and Me. Uh, what relationship exactly do these movies have with Criterion? Whatever. Got some good docs to choose from. Leaning Sherman's March.

    15. Early Women Filmmakers. The Smiling Madame Beudet seems like the best choice for a feature, but I may do a few shorts instead. A Night on Bald Mountain, something from Lotte Reiniger, and a rewatch of Meshes of the Afternoon.

    16. Independent American Cinema. Burden of Dreams, Daddy Longlegs, Frownland, Medicine for Melancholy, Minding the Gap, or a rewatch of Mystery Train/Sex, Lies and Videotape. Leaning a rewatch (or two).
    Last edited by Idioteque Stalker; 04-26-2023 at 06:44 PM.

  11. #11
    14. Sundance Hits -- Sherman's March. What's in a name? A smidgen more here than usual (check the film's full title for a drastic illumination of intent). On the one hand, McElwee can't "stay on task" to save his life. On the other, he's uniquely suited to it: Hard to imagine a non-southerner could present the region's eccentricities with so little condescension. Gotta say it all feels mighty familiar. Aside from the struggle to get laid, that is, which of course I can't relate to at all. Favorite quote: "This woman has purity, strength, and conviction, and she has the voice of a singing angel, and she's from a prominent Charleston family, and her dowry apparently includes a better-than-average chance of survival in case of a nuclear attack." Three stars.

    15. Early Women Filmmakers -- Three short bangers. Maybe one of the best weeks yet.
    A Night on Bald Mountain. What in the psych-fried afterlife is this? Absolutely surreal with an eye-popping "pinscreen" animation style. An easy addition to the list of movies to put on when a friend gets too high. Alexeieff and Parker went on to do the animated prologue to Orson Welles' The Trial. I don't know what pinscreen animation is, but this is what it looks like: []
    Meshes of the Afternoon (rewatch). In terms of breaking new cinematic ground, this has to be in the top 10 all time, right? Just don't ask me to explain it. Worth noting it is one of only four shorts on the most recent Sight and Sound list, and by far the highest at #16 (the others are La Jetee at #71, The House Is Black at #102, and Un Chien Andalou at #172). []
    The Stolen Heart. This one actually tells a comprehensible story, but I won't hold that against it. Lotte Reiniger's silhouette style is pure magic, and I'm a sucker for a story about the power of music. Love how, as the instruments are stolen and re-introduced one by one, the arrangement itself shifts so that you really hear/feel the important role each one plays in the ensemble. []

    16. Independent American Cinema -- Mystery Train (rewatch). About ten years ago I wrote reviews of every Jarmusch movie. Seems pointless to me now. You either like his style or you don't, and there's little use trying to explain it. I had to pause the movie a handful of times to wait for myself to stop laughing. Not sure why it's taken me so long to realize it, but Steve Buscemi is one of my favorite actors. He is a highlight of every movie he's in. Four stars.

    Up next:
    17. Dysfunctional Families. An Unmarried Woman, The Housemaid, A Married Couple, or a rewatch of The Magnificent Ambersons, Five Easy Pieces, or Paris, Texas. Leaning Unmarried Woman or a rewatch.

    18. Food on Film. Tampopo rewatch or (gulp) Sweet Movie.

    19. Faith on Film. This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection or Miracle in Milan. Leaning Miracle.
    Last edited by Idioteque Stalker; 05-25-2023 at 09:41 PM.

  12. #12
    Here till the end MadMan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    A land of corn and technology
    I don't think I own Mystery Train, but I have seen it and it is excellent.

    Last dance with Mary Jane
    One more time to kill the pain
    I feel summer creepin' in and I'm tired of this town again

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