Criterion Releases: July 2020
We’re past the midway point of the year and there are signs of the virus slowly going away – or so I think – but in the midst of the crisis under another hot summer, some things go on as planned. And, for Criterion, it is time for their next round of movies. All take a different route in the genius of their storytelling and acting, coming from the early 40s all the way to just last year. Here are the movies.
The Lady Eve (1941)
The first re-release from Criterion is Preston Sturges’ screwball comedy about a rich, naive man (Henry Fonda) who is targeted by a beautiful con artist (Barbara Stanwyck) who ends up falling for him, but under an alias, she keeps focusing on the con. Sturges was one of the first to direct his own screenplay in the Hollywood system and maintain his independence from studio scrutiny through the 1940s. Fonda has just done The Grapes of Wrath, and to go from the realism of Tom Joad to being a klutz in this charmer was remarkable. And Stanwyck, who had her first Oscar nomination playing a sacrificial mother in Stella Dallas, she plays this sensual snake who has Fonda wrapped up but cannot allow herself to constrict him.
The War Of The Worlds (1953)
Based on H.G. Welles’ famous sci-fi novel, the film was put in California 1950s over London in the 1890s. It’s two doomed characters, played by Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, discover the large object that has fallen from the sky and finds Martians have Heat-Ray visions that the military cannot stop them at all. The film deviates quite a bit from the novel, but the fear of the mysterious being is still present, and at the time, was a hit with audiences thanks to some special effects that made it all look too real.
Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits (1971-78)
Bruce Lee’s stardom was a short as his life, dying suddenly from cerebral edema, aged 32. Yet, the movies he made in Hong Kong put kung fu on the map and made Lee a cultural hero that stands to this day. Five movies he made at the height of his fame are now in one collection – The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, The Way of The Dragon, Enter The Dragon, and released five years after his passing, Game of Death. The quintuple of movies all gives us the lightning strikes that shook up cinema and made Hong Kong films a permanent fixture of global respect for future stars.
Taste of Cherry (1997)
The second re-release from Criterion is Abbas Kiatrosami’s Palme d’Or-winning story of a man named Mr. Badii who approaches three different people for a simple, yet delicate, taboo job. It’s about theories of life and the value of it and each different person who is approached for the task, driving around the man’s car all over the city, which is why you hardly see Mr. Badii anywhere else but behind the wheel of the car. It’s minimalist, it’s self-reflexive, and, while some people may find it, “excruciatingly boring,” per Roger Ebert, others may be very receptive to Kiatrosami’s philosophical approach to living and dying.
Marriage Story (2019)
Noah Baumbach’s astounding family drama, whether it being on Netlfix or not, deserves its major recognition after Frances Ha got the treatment a few years ago. It’s moving, everybody around pours their heart out, particularly Adam Driver, and it feels human. It is a modern Kramer vs. Kramer and, in my opinion, it really doesn’t give a side to who’s bad. This film ranks highly on the #JDTears list, especially with the monologue Driver has in the beginning, and in the end, reading Scarlett Johannson’s message. I don’t think you can really hate this film being on Criterion.
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