More than 75 movies will disappear from the Criterion Channel at the end of the month. Here are some that I recommend you watch before February. One brilliant filmmaker, Bill Plympton, stands out on this list.
A Idiots and Angels (2008)
A man so rotten he pushes a tear of empathy back into his eye inexplicitly sprouts angel wings. Bill Plympton’s dialog-free animated morality tale reveals its characters by showing us their actions and their daydreams, which are mostly about money and undeserved glory. But no matter what their bearer may be thinking, the wings themselves insist on virtue.
A Cheatin’ (2013)
Another adult cartoon from Bill Plympton. Jake appears to have a 60-inch chest and a six-inch waist. The love of his life, Ella, has lips so swollen you wonder how she can talk (Actually, no one talks in this movie). They fall in love, get married, and can barely keep their clothes on. Then a would-be seductresses tricks Jake into believing that Ella is cheating on him. He starts sleeping around, so Ella…at this point I should stop. The real joy is in the surreal, visual wit of Plympton’s hand-drawn animation – drawn, I might add, with Plympton’s own hands. Read my full review.
A- It Happened One Night (1934)
Frank Capra’s breakthrough movie foreshadowed the screwball comedies of the late 30s and 40s. Like them, it’s a romantic comedy that crosses class lines–in this case a heiress falling in love with a newspaper reporter. And as one would expect from a Hollywood movie made in 1933 (and released early in ’34), it takes poverty seriously. People are desperate and often hungry. It lacks the fast pace and over-the-top comedy of the screwballs to come, but it has a warmth and humanity that they lacked. You can read my full article.
A- The Big Country (1958)
This big western came from a time when Hollywood liked to make big movies. Running nearly three hours and shot in the high-definition Technorama format, this just may be the first anti-western. Gregory Peck stars as a sea captain who’s come west to marry his sweetheart. But he’s not a typical western hero. He avoids shows of machismo and fires a gun only once – and it’s not aimed at a person. Charleston Heston gives a rare supporting role. The cast also includes Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, and Burl Ives. Directed by William Wyler. Read my Blu-ray review
B+ The President’s Analyst (1967)
This little comedy from 1967 deserves recognition, even if it’s extremely outdated. The White House hires a psychiatrist (James Coburn) to help the president deal with his emotional burden. Trouble is, no one can help the psychiatrist. He’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown when spies from every country in the world converge to kidnap him (and stop other spies from kidnapping him). Although the movie shows its age in almost every way, the film’s surprise ending seems remarkably prescient.
B+ Rafiki (2018)
Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) hangs out with the boys in her Kenyan town, but she’s not interested. In fact, she acts more like a boy than a girl. Then she meets the right girl, Ziki (Sheila Munyiva), and it’s love at first sight. But that doesn’t make life any easier; this is Kenya, an extremely Christian and homophobic country. And yet, for two-thirds of the runtime, the movie feels upbeat. The screen splashes with the vibrant colors and upbeat music that seems to saturate the town. But when the secret love is revealed, the friends and neighbors turn into a mob. Read my full review.
B+ Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
After The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Sergio Leone had a much bigger budget for his follow-up western. This time, he could afford Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, and Charles Bronson in the Clint Eastwood part. Leone even shot part of the movie in Monument Valley. The movie starts with what is probably the best opening sequence in western history, followed by a scene where Fonda – the blue-eyed icon of decent Americana – murders an unarmed young boy in cold blood. With the bigger budget, Leone could create a sense of epic grandeur. But the story, which involves the coming railroad and who will own the land it’s being built on, is something of a mess.
More of Bill Plympton
If Bill Plympton isn’t the strangest, most iconoclastic, bizarre, and brilliant animator of all time, we live in a very weird world. Rather than listing each one of his shorts, I’m just recommending all of them…including the ones I haven’t seen. The titles include How to Kiss, How to Make Love to a Woman, Santa, the Fascist Years, and Your Face.
And here are some films on the list that I saw and liked, but I haven’t written about them, and I don’t remember them well enough to write about them now:
- The New World (2005)
- The Black Cat (1934)
- Local Hero (1983)
- Moulin Rouge (1952)
- The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
- Ordinary People (1980)
Here are all the films that will disappear after January 31.