So, Hulu Plus is making their vast Criterion holdings available for 'free' streaming this President's Weekend. I guess there are commercials, but that's the price cheapskates pay. Lets get my unsolicited, uncompensated testimonial out of the way- it's well worth the 8 bucks a month or whatever pittance they charge JUST for their Criterion selection.
So, what to watch! So much genius, so many artistic triumphs, so little (comparatively) time!
I'll start with my own personal recommendations, culled not from their lush plantation of art house classics but from the grimy badlands of genre offerings & documentaries- I'm more comfortable scrambling among the rocks and nettles than observing the civilized rows from the veranda with a drink in my hand.
Burden of Dreams
One of my favorite documentaries on one of my favorite documentarians, Werner Herzog. Details the deranged, laborious shooting of his film Fitzcarraldo. It is a fine film, but its theme of artistic creation is better served by this behind the scenes documentary. Budgetary constraints truncated the third act, but it stands alongside Hearts of Darkness at the apex of 'behind the scenes' documentaries. Worth the price of admission just for Werner's lunatic monologue about death and art against a backdrop of endless jungle.
The adventures of a blind masseur/avenging Ronin. Gaudy, enjoyable melodrama that mixes slapstick humor with balletic bloodshed. It is a long series and they have what appears to be the whole hting, I suggest starting with the first.
Perhaps the lone film in the history of Cinema that can be accurately described as 'Hitchcockian'. A tremendous thriller everyone should see. I'd recommend any of Georges Henry Clouzot's films, but along with Wages of Fear (also available) this is my favorite.
One of the most uncompromising thrillers ever made. I've always been tempted to check out the American remake just to see how many teeth were pulled during importation- I expect it needed dentures afterwards. A woman disappears at a rest stop, her boyfriend begins an obsessive quest to find out what happened, and eventually does. The structure of the film hides nothing, the abyss lies in its examination of the human soul.
Beauty & the Beast
Cocteau's masterpiece and one of the few absolutely convincing fantasies ever portrayed on screen. Magic from start to finish.
Stranger than Paradise
Jim Jarmusch's essential first feature, containing the DNA of his entire oeuvre. Deadpan, static, indispensable. Also available and equally compelling, Down by Law.
Hanzo the Razor
Police procedural meets samurai film. They have a couple, all deliver the requisite shower of arterial spray.
Le Cercle Rouge
Jean Pierre Melville's modernist gangster opus. Le Samouraï isn't available for some reason, but this is a suitable replacement. Bauhaus meets revolver.
One of the great underrated Noir classics. Jules Dassin's opus more than lives up to the promise of its title.
And now, some suggestions from people who, unlike me, presumably know what they're talking about:
Filmmaker Wes Anderson's top ten.
Comic illustrator Mike Allred's top ten.
Filmmaker Jane Campion's top ten.
(Her films Sweetie & Angel At My Table are available and excellent as well)
Filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro's top ten. He's a cheater, there are as many 'ties' as there are slots, but his taste is impeccable.
Documentarian Chris Hegedus’s top ten.
Actor/magician Ricky Jay's top ten.
Novelist Johnathan Lethem's top ten.
Now, GET WATCHING!
And also, subscribe.
Putting this list together underscored HOW FREAKING MANY increcible Criterion films I have yet to watch. Eight bones a month is nothing, not when Amazon Instant wants $3.99 to rent current release garbage for 24 hours.