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Criterionchannel Suggestions

Discover the very best Criterionchannel suggestions. Everything you see here follows the agoodmovietowatch criteria: a viewer score of at least 7/10 (on IMDb for example) and at the same time a critic score of at least 70% (on Rotten Tomatoes).

Given the controversial subject matter, there’s something remarkably placid about the way About Dry Grasses proceeds. Amidst the snowy white steppes of Eastern Anatolia, writer-director Nuri Bilge Ceylan slowly lets the plot unfold through multiple conversations, where an accusation of inappropriate contact leads to a he-said, she-said investigation, all centered around a misanthropic protagonist Samet. By focusing the entire film on Samet, Ceylan takes the time to understand this difficult, exhausting character in a detached manner, with the camera oftentimes taking in the whole lived-in, rundown places where Samet lives and works in. It’s an interesting perspective, depicting the ways everyone’s fumbling around, trying to create boxes to understand one’s place in the world, but it’s not an easy one to explore. About Dry Grasses dares to do so, anyway.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Cengiz Bozkurt, Deniz Celiloğlu, Ece Bağcı, Elit Andaç Çam, Erdem Şenocak, Merve Dizdar, Münir Can Cindoruk, Musab Ekici, Nalan Kuruçim, Yıldırım Gücük, Yüksel Aksu

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan

When Castro took over Cuba in the 1950s, Havana’s nightlife shifted as clubs and casinos were closed down, leading to certain traditional step-based genres like son, bolero, and danzón to decline. A few decades later, prominent American musician Ry Cooder travelled to Cuba with his friend documentarian Wim Wenders, to pay homage to traditional Cuban music in an album and its respective documentary. Wenders weaves in illuminating interviews and shots of Cuba today in between the band’s Amsterdam and Carnegie Hall performances, with a certain intuition that makes each song feel like a triumph. While the documentary does focus more on Cooder, Buena Vista Social Club is a delight to watch, even with its 90s digital grain.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Compay Segundo, Eliades Ochoa, Ibrahim Ferrer, Joachim Cooder, Omara Portuondo, Ry Cooder

Director: Wim Wenders

Rating: G

Before Wong Kar Wai made his signature romantic dramas, he first made his directorial debut As Tears Go By, a film that wouldn’t be out of place in the crime and action flicks that characterized 1980s cinema. There are moments that feel a tad derivative, such as the use of Take My Breath Away from 1986’s Top Gun, and the gangster love triangle reminiscent of Martin Scorcese’s Mean Streets, but Wong’s style starts to peek through with his use of color and light, and of course, the distinctive blurred action that transforms movement into lines. It’s not as sleek as Wong’s better known works, but As Tears Go By is still a good film to watch, marking Wong as one of the biggest names in the then-emerging Hong Kong New Wave.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Man, Andy Lau, Benz Kong To-Hoi, Chan Chi-Fai, Chow Gam-Kong, Ho Wing-Cheung, Hui Fan, Jacky Cheung, Lam Kau, Maggie Cheung, Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk, Pak Yan, Ronald Wong Ban, William Chang Suk-Ping, Wong Aau, Wong Chi-Wai

Director: Wong Kar-wai

There are a few instances that prove the merit of one’s friendship, and one of those instances is a roadtrip. Withnail and I is considered one of the greatest British comedies of all time, but there’s a certain melancholy to it, as two unemployed actors have gone on holiday due to an offer from one of their uncles, though this offer doesn’t come without strings, which the titular “I”, Marwood, whose name is never mentioned, has only found out on the trip. As the holiday goes wrong, with the two making the worst of every new situation, the two share somewhat of a dysfunctional, slightly homoerotic relationship, as Withnail deals with everything in the most drunken, unserious manner, and Marwood anxiously realizes how much he’s outgrown their friendship. The film’s humor may be a tad too dry for those outside the country, but cult favorite Withnail and I still resonates with its endlessly quotable lines, memorable scenes, and its bitter understanding of how life can diverge.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Anthony Wise, Daragh O'Malley, Eddie Tagoe, Irene Sutcliffe, Llewellyn Rees, Michael Elphick, Michael Wardle, Noel Johnson, Paul McGann, Ralph Brown, Richard E. Grant, Richard Griffiths, Robert Oates, Una Brandon-Jones

Director: Bruce Robinson

Rating: R

As time goes by, the youth doesn’t recognize how connected they are to previous tragedies, more so when it comes to war. Some even say that they have no part in it. Nobuhiko Obayashi’s later years have been preoccupied in countering this idea. Casting Blossoms to the Sky is the first of Obayashi’s anti-war trilogy, with the film inviting its audience to follow a journalist rediscovering the city of Nagaoka after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. There’s a certain dreamlike approach to the way the various war stories are weaved together, with vibrant frames, simple CGI, and prominent green screen that grants some distance between the audience and the actual wartime reality, but it’s no less potent as Reiko interviews those that remember the scars of the past, and the rituals, practices, and art they’ve taken up in response. Casting Blossoms is a depressing story about war and disaster, one that is a tough one to watch. But it never forgets the humanity, the kindness and love that allowed Japan to recover, the very qualities we must protect and remember in ourselves.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, War

Actor: Akira Emoto, Bengal, Chōei Takahashi, Hirona Yamazaki, Hiroshi Inuzuka, Kanae Katsuno, Koji Ishikawa, Mansaku Ikeuchi, Masahiro Takashima, Masao Kusakari, Masayuki Yui, Mayuu Kusakari, Minami Inomata, Misako Renbutsu, Naoyuki Morita, Natsuki Harada, Saki Terashima, Seina Suzuki, Shiho Fujimura, Shirô Namiki, Sumiko Fuji, Takahito Hosoyamada, Takashi Sasano, Takehiro Murata, Takuro Atsuki, Tomoko Hoshino, Tōru Shinagawa, Toshie Negishi, Toshinori Omi, Toshio Kakei, Tsurutaro Kataoka, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Yuto Kobayashi

Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi

While being known for co-writing the Dogme 95 manifesto, Lars von Trier’s first film after breaks his rules with built sets and music added in post. Still, Breaking the Waves has plenty of von Trier’s thematic preoccupations, challenging the notions between faithfulness and sexuality by positing a married couple who cannot indulge in marital pleasure, due to being paralyzed. While the premise leads to explicit scenes, it’s more harrowing than sexy, really. It’s terribly heartbreaking as Bess does all she can for her marriage, first by praying for her husband’s return, and then following his perverse wish, partly from guilt, but partly from pleasure, even when it goes contrary to her repressive church and community. Breaking the Waves may not be an easy watch, but regardless of what you personally feel about the morality of Bess’ actions, von Trier will nevertheless bring you to empathy.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adrian Rawlins, David Bateson, Dorte Rømer, Emily Watson, Finlay Welsh, Gavin Mitchell, Jean-Marc Barr, John Wark, Jonathan Hackett, Katrin Cartlidge, Mikkel Gaup, Phil McCall, Robert Robertson, Roef Ragas, Sandra Voe, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier

Director: Lars von Trier

Rating: R

In Letterboxd, Cleaners was once the highest rated film of 2021, and was once in the list of the top 250 narrative features overall before the rating system changed in 2023. To viewers outside the Philippines, this might have been mind-boggling, especially since the film wasn't yet released internationally the year it premiered, but it shot up the ranks for a reason. The coming-of-age anthology just looks so different, being filmed live, then xeroxed and highlighted, frame by frame, just like print-outs for school. The unique approach evokes a sense of nostalgia in high contrast print and blurred movement, and it's matched with the classic Filipino coming-of-age moments that has rarely been seen before.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Carlo Mejia, Gianne Rivera, Ianna Taguinod, Julian Narag, Leomar Baloran

Director: Glenn Barit

Without context, Minbo, or the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion seemed like a goofy satire, especially when the silly trumpet score pops up, and unfortunate hotel employees Suzuki and Wakasugi flounder around trying to solve the hotel’s yakuza problem on their own. And when Nobuko Miyamoto shows up as the brilliant lawyer, it’s so satisfying to see her turn the tables on the yakuza purely through words, strategy, and knowledge of law. It’s hilarious, but Minbo doesn’t just poke fun– it demystifies the gangster as a cool and untouchable figure, portraying them instead as loudmouthed bullies that we can handle. It also shows us how much can be done, only if we, as a group, perhaps as a whole nation, can muster the courage to fight.

Genre: Comedy, Crime

Actor: Akio Tanaka, Akira Nakao, Akira Takarada, Guts Ishimatsu, Hideji Ōtaki, Hōsei Komatsu, Kōji Sekiyama, Masahiko Tsugawa, Noboru Mitani, Nobuko Miyamoto, Shigeru Yazaki, Shirō Itō, Takehiro Murata, Tetsu Watanabe, Toshiro Yanagiba, Yasuo Daichi, Yuji Miyake

Director: Jūzō Itami

There are horrors in the world that people have faced, and if they survive, they live with the trauma for a long, long time. But what happens when the perpetrator of that trauma has moved on? What happens when they resolve to be better, and pursue a different path? Our Father, the Devil is a psychological drama where an African refugee has to deal with seeing the warlord that once destroyed her entire village, but it unfolds in such a unique way, with the riveting Babetida Sadjo living a split life between her chef and caretaking career in the day, and being tormented by the past at night. It’s a fascinating portrait, one that we haven’t seen in a while, of a traumatized refugee granted the rare opportunity to exact retribution.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Babetida Sadjo, Franck Saurel, Jennifer Tchiakpe, Martine Amisse, Souleymane Sy Savane

Director: Ellie Foumbi

Rating: NR

, 1996

Many people have forgotten that representation and diversity in media isn’t meant just to fill a quota or to signal virtue– the push for it is in response to the way many of these stories were silenced, repressed, and shut out. Lilies might have been overlooked for quite a while, but its 2023 restoration has thankfully enabled more viewers to watch the tale of an imprisoned gay man finally telling his story, turning the tables on a long overdue confession. Michel Marc Bouchard adapts his play through this play-within-a-film, with director John Greyson playing with the confession booth as a viewing booth for both the bishop and the audience to get fully immersed in a love triangle a century ago, juxtaposed with motifs of martyred Catholic saints and French lilies and fire. Lilies is a well-crafted and deeply emotional masterpiece.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Alain Gendreau, Aubert Pallascio, Brent Carver, Danny Gilmore, Gary Farmer, Ian D. Clark, Jason Cadieux, John Dunn-Hill, Khanh Hua, Marcel Sabourin, Matthew Ferguson, Michel Marc Bouchard, Pierre Leblanc, Rémy Girard, Robert Lalonde

Director: John Greyson

After the 1975 release of the Maysles brothers’ Grey Gardens, Big and Little Edie Beale’s story captivated viewers and spawned a musical and a dramatized biopic about the reclusive, impoverished socialite mother-daughter duo. The Beales of Grey Gardens is a compilation of the remaining unreleased archival footage, released after the death of both subjects and David Maysles. For those unfamiliar with their story, the film might feel a bit random and contextless. But for Beale fans, and those familiar with their first documentary, this sticks close to the classic cinema vérité style of the Maysles, while also uncovering other sides of these interesting, eccentric former socialites, becoming a lovely tribute for them and their fans.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Edith Bouvier Beale, Jerry Torre, Lois Wright

Director: Albert Maysles, David Maysles

Rating: NR

Grand gestures, over-the-top declarations of love, and elaborate gifts… These normal romcom acts can sometimes make it seem that romance can only be done by the wealthy. But, in reality, love can happen anytime, and the first film of Aki Kaurismäki’s Proletariat Trilogy suggests that love is ultimately necessary in a world where two lovers are disenfranchised. As Nikander tries to woo a slightly disinterested Ilona, and as Ilona decides to depend on him for support, Shadows in Paradise might not have the usual frills of a romcom, but Kaurismäki finds the bare essentials in a depressing Finnish town, and captures the small ways it blooms in spite of it, through the lovers’ humorous blunt dialogue and the color their love adds to their world.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Aki Kaurismäki, Esko Nikkari, Haije Alanoja, Jaakko Talaskivi, Jukka Mäkinen, Jukka-Pekka Palo, Kati Outinen, Kylli Köngäs, Mari Rantasila, Mato Valtonen, Matti Pellonpää, Neka Haapanen, Olli Varja, Pekka Laiho, Safka Pekkonen, Sakari Kuosmanen, Sakke Järvenpää, Svante Korkiakoski

Director: Aki Kaurismäki

In modern day Europe, demonic possession seems to be a thing of the past, something most likely to be attributed to mental illness, and something that can be dealt with through modern medicine, not exorcism. Still, exorcisms are conducted in certain areas in the continent, and some instances don’t go the way they should. Inspired on the real life Tanacu exorcism, Beyond the Hills doesn’t depict the event through a horror or melodramatic lens– instead the film is stoic, naturalistic, with long single takes that linger uncomfortably and repetitively. As Alina pleads to Voichița to help her, to choose her and their bond, Voichița grapples with wanting the modern yet isolating freedom she knows Alina has found elsewhere, while still wanting the refuge religious tradition has granted her, but also has made her dependent on. It does take a while to reach its conclusion, but Beyond the Hills is a deeply unsettling and striking movie to watch.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adrian Acuta, Alina Berzunteanu, Călin Chirilă, Cătălina Harabagiu, Cosmina Stratan, Cristina Flutur, Cristina Mihailescu, Dana Tapalagă, Dionisie Vitcu, Doru Ana, Gheorghe Ifrim, Gina Tandura, Ion Sapdaru, Katia Pascariu, Liliana Mocanu, Luminita Gheorghiu, Nora Covali, Tania Popa, Teodor Corban, Valeriu Andriuță

Director: Cristian Mungiu

While best known for 1977 cult horror classic House, Nobuhiko Obayashi first dreamed of adapting Hanagatami, a 1937 novella by Kazuo Dan, and it was only until the later end of his life that he got to fulfill that dream. It’s possibly the reason why Hanagatami feels like a surreal set of memories, with Karatsu’s seaside portrayed with theatrical sets and back projection, with scenes flipped and unflipped ever so often, with Bach looped and mixed with dissonant chords and children singing. And as the teenagers of Karatsu try to cling to their innocence despite the looming possibility of death, Obayashi remembers the lives cut short, not in nostalgia, but in an anxious bid for us to remember humanity’s biggest failure.

Genre: Drama, Romance, War

Actor: Hirona Yamazaki, Honoka Yahagi, Kayoko Shiraishi, Keishi Nagatsuka, Kiyotaka Nanbara, Masahiro Takashima, Mugi Kadowaki, Shinnosuke Ikehata, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Shunsuke Kubozuka, Takahito Hosoyamada, Takako Tokiwa, Takao Ito, Takehiro Murata, Tetsuya Takeda, Tokio Emoto, Tōru Shinagawa, Toshie Negishi, Tsurutaro Kataoka, Wakaba Irie, Yuriko Ono

Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi

For better or worse, death strikes us all, fast and unexpectedly. It’s tough enough if the death is caused by ill health or accidents, but when premeditated by another person– it can be easy to lose faith in a higher power. Secret Sunshine depicts a grieving mother trying to start a new life in the countryside, though certain events make it tough to fit in. There’s a well-meaning, long-term bachelor who’s interested in her, though she’s not ready to reciprocate, and there’s townsfolk that would like to invite her to their church, though she’s reluctant to join. There’s curious, gossipy neighbors ready to comment on her every action. Secret Sunshine reveals a darker layer to the countryside towns we retreat to to cope, but it also examines the ways we grieve, cope, and deal with forgiveness, in a community that would prioritize itself at the expense of what's morally right.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Cha Mi-kyeong, Do-yeon Jeon, Go Seo-hee, Jang Hye-jin, Jeon Do-yeon, Jo Young-jin, Kang-ho Song, Kim Jong-soo, Kim Mee-kyeong, Kim Mi-hyang, Kim Min-jae, Kim Yeong-jae, Kim Young-jae, Ko Seo-hie, Lee Dong-yong, Lee Hee-jun, Lee Sung-min, Lee Yoon-hee, Mi-kyung Kim, Oh Man-seok, Park Myeong-shin, Park Myung-shin, Seon Jeong-yeop, Seon Jung-yeop, Song Kang-ho, Yeom Hye-ran, Yeong-jin Jo

Director: Chang-dong Lee, Lee Chang-dong

Rating: Not Rated, NR

While produced by Wong Kar Wai, Chinese Odyssey 2002 isn’t a moody, melancholy drama that we’re used to. Instead, the Ming Dynasty-set adventure directed by Jeffrey Lau comically spoofs plenty of the beloved genres that captivated Chinese audiences– wuxia epics, musical dramas, and historical romances. The ludicrous crossdressing plot is played in such an over-the-top way, with Lau visually delivering his jabs, with a narrator providing droll commentary on the events, and with intercuts of faux interviews and excerpts from everyone, even including the disgruntled innkeeper spying on the crossdressing princess and the confused restaurant owner. It’s actually quite impressive how the ridiculous plot leads to such a wholesome, moving conclusion.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Romance

Actor: Athena Chu, Chang Chen, Eric Kot Man-Fai, Faye Wong, Jeff Lau Chun-Wai, Ning Jing, Peter Chan Lung, Rebecca Pan, Roy Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Wang Wang, Wang Xudong, Wong Wing-Ming, Zhao Wei

Director: Jeff Lau Chun-Wai

Though the drag scene is alive and well today, Paris is Burning is an important reminder that it didn’t always used to be that way. Over the course of seven years, Director Jennie Livingston leads us underneath the crime-ridden streets of 80s New York, where a glittery drag subculture is flourishing, despite all odds. Leading the community are the so-called mothers, the best performers and most fashionable of them all, tasked with inspiring and caring for newcomers. Nevermind that they’re shunned by society and suffocated (sometimes literally) by hateful homophobes and racists; when there is a ball, all that matters is that they strut, dance, and put on the best damn show of their lives. What they do is art, and Livingston makes sure to exalt the craft and pride that goes into it. At the same time, intimate interviews with iconic queens like Pepper LaBeija and Willi Ninja reveal the heartbreaking nature of the community. Most, if not all, have endured some form of abuse, and many risk their lives to earn a decent living. But again, Livingston refuses to reduce them to pure tragedy; she gets them to share their wonderfully big dreams, then gets us to hope along with them that they might just come true.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Dorian Corey, Kim Pendavis, Octavia St. Laurent, Pepper LaBeija, Sol Williams Pendavis, Venus Xtravaganza, Willi Ninja

Director: Jennie Livingston

Rating: R

Swiss filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe gave us the free-flowing fandom doc The People vs. George Lucas in 2010 and hasn't stopped obsessing over his favorite filmmakers ever since. Can you blame him? Dedicating years of your life to research of the the weird Lynch-verse is a mammoth task, especially since the kernel of his new doc can be found in a single line uttered by the director. At a Q&A in 2001, he said:"There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about The Wizard of Oz," and that was reason enough to conceive of the 1939 Technicolor film as a lens to read Lynch's whole filmography through. Philippe is dedicated beyond measure, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage for the whimsical exploration of such a fascinating body of work deserves complete devotion. Perhaps even bordering on obsession. A wildcard documentary for the Lynchheads, Lynch/Oz includes not only excerpts from shorts, features, and TV he made, but also clips from various appearances. Plus, the six chapters feature different filmmakers and critics who imbue the film with their own interpretation of the enigma that Lynchian cinema is.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Aaron Moorhead, Amy Nicholson, David Lowery, David Lynch, Jack Paar, Jay Leno, John Waters, Judy Garland, Justin Benson, Karyn Kusama, Rodney Ascher

Director: Alexandre O. Philippe

Though it’s without a plot, Faya Dayi nonetheless weaves a stunning, expansive narrative about khat and the people who farm it and chew its leaves for their hallucinogenic effect. The documentary seems to take place in the same hazy dreamlike stupor that khat-chewers chase: shot in luminous black and white, the film is set to a reflective rhythm that floats from folklore to contemporary stories of romantic heartbreak, migration, and oppression.

Largely featuring members of Ethiopia's Oromo community — a marginalized ethnic group — including the farmers and workers involved in khat production, Faya Dayi is a portrait of economic hardship, emotional pain, and transcendent escape that hits straight in the chest for all the rawness and yearning it depicts. (As disembodied voice-overs put it, “people chew to get away” to the khat-induced “empty and lonely hideout where no one can ever visit you, your own dark and lonely world.”) Full of textures and images that evoke all of the senses, this is virtually a 5D movie, a hypnotic out-of-body experience that floats an astonishing expanse of ideas into your head — no talky explanations needed.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Biniam Yonas, Destu Ibrahim Mumade, Hashim Abdi, Mohammed Arif, Urji Abrahim Mumade

Director: Jessica Beshir

Despite the amusing specificity of its title, this lovely documentary from director Les Blank is really for all of us. Through the example of gap teeth — a physical feature many of the participants here report being made to feel self-conscious about — the film makes a rallying call to embrace ourselves and all of our physical “flaws.”

A big part of what makes this film so heartening is that so many of the women featured here (including model Lauren Hutton) have come out on the other side of loathing their gap teeth, giving us a tangible example of what it looks like to love yourself in spite of other people’s opinions about your body. What’s more, even within a limited runtime, Blank finds space to devote to exploring other aspects of the featured women’s lives — their art, professions, religious practices — and thereby quietly expands the film’s focus from physical beauty and onto the myriad beauties of life itself. It’s an ironic pleasure that Gap-Toothed Women ultimately refuses to define its subjects by the very feature described in its title, and instead gives us this life-affirming shot of wisdom for the ages.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Lauren Hutton, Lauren Moore, Sandra Day O'Connor

Director: Les Blank

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