My Criterion Top 10: Jessica Manzo


I’ve been running contributions from some of my favorite film critics, writers, and theorists from around the internet for the past few weeks. Each writer is listing their top 10 from the Criterion Collection. Today, the series starts to wind down with another contribution from the fine folks at French Toast Sunday. This time, it’s from Jessica Manzo. As I mentioned last week, I’m a huge fan of the FTS crew because they have impeccable taste in movies and graphic design. Jess is a key piece of that group and is very active with the LAMB. She also has a knack for making Baltimore sound like an awesome place. You can find Jess on Twitter @jess_fts.

I love the world that Terry Gilliam put to screen in Brazil. Not that I would ever want to live in it, but the bureaucratic nightmare of a society is created with such vivid details that it’s hard not to admire in a cinematic sense. The increasingly terrible scenarios that Sam Lowry faces are entertaining and farcical, but underneath there’s a real warning about control and power. On top of all that is the fantastic theme song “Aquarela do Brasil”. I love it.

broadcast-news-movie-imageBroadcast News
This film really took me by surprise and became an instant favorite. James L. Brooks does some of his best work here, with a great trio of Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks, and William Hurt. It takes on the decreasing value of the news and does a nuanced job with it, but it’s also really damn funny. There’s great commentary on journalism and relationships. To me, this film is a complete package.

I love this delightful comedy/mystery/romance starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. The on screen chemistry between the two is undeniable and completely charming. The story unfolds with twists and turns on top of twists and turns, making it a fun whodunit with a witty script.

current_1001_023_largeDazed and Confused
One of my favorite movies growing up, and one I enjoy revisiting often, this Richard Linklater film has so much going for it. The cast is basically a who’s who of some of Hollywood’s biggest actors before anyone knew their name. It’s based on one of my absolute favorite movie tropes—the story takes place over the course of one day/night. It’s damn funny and features all the relevant coming of age themes you’d expect, but handled better than most high school movies can even hope to achieve.

Do The Right Thing
This is one of the first films to really stick with me growing up. I remember watching it for the first time pretty late at night when I was fairly young and being completely sucked in. Everything about it is so vibrant, most obviously the colors and cinematography, but the performances are what really stand out. Most of it feels like a really well done slice of life film but the ending turns it into something far more complicated and poignant which I’ve grown to appreciate more as I’ve gotten older.

Film_553w_FishTank_originalFish Tank
Andrea Arnold’s coming of age film is about a British teenager who becomes infatuated with her mother’s boyfriend, who reciprocates the inappropriate attraction. Everything rings so true here, from the extremely personal camera work to Katie Jarvis’s honest performance. It’s one of the best depictions of adolescence and especially the female experience that I’ve ever seen.

Mystery Train
This interweaving tale of visitors and residents of Memphis, Tennessee is truly excellent. I love how different the three main storylines are but how they actually work together quite well. Memphis becomes such a character here, and all the foreign visitors in each story have such a unique experience with it, all connected by how disappointed they are with this piece of America, despite its storied history. The use of Elvis as signifier of this works so well. It’s easily my favorite of Jim Jarmusch’s films.

As my first foray into Ingmar Bergman’s filmography, this was a really surprising film experience for me. I was not expecting to become so captivated by Persona, but I loved its psychologically thrilling elements and filmmaking that was completely new to me at the time. Any films centering on a duality of characters has me from the get go but Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann’s performances are so intense and lovely that they are amongst the top of that category.

This is one of my all time favorite films. I’m talking top 3 or so. I grew up watching this throughout my childhood and it really made me appreciate classic films from a young age. I know many complain that it’s not worthy of being awarded Hitchcock’s solo Best Picture win, but in my eyes it’s perfect. I love the story, performances, score, and cinematography. Everything is so grand and cinematic. Every time I hear “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” I am eager to enter this world again.

fox_originalThe Royal Tenenbaums / Fantastic Mr Fox
I am tying these, but I have a perfectly sound reason. The Royal Tenenbaums is my favorite of Wes Anderson’s films, but Fantastic Mr. Fox has the best special features out of his filmography. Between the two you get a well rounded view of the director, one who’s approach to filmmaking and thought process are quite fascinating.




Filed under Movies

10 responses to “My Criterion Top 10: Jessica Manzo

  1. Great list! I’m with you on Tenenbaums, Fish Tank, Dazed and Confused and Mystery Train. Royal Tenenbaums and Dazed and Confused are in my top ten of all time too.

    • Thanks! I’m glad you agree with some of my picks. The Royal Tenenbaums is definitely in my top 10 and D&C would be up there as well. I’ve watched both countless times.

  2. Nice list! And positively hipsterish! I guess you like Indie films… I like the inclusion of Dazed and Confused and Broadcast News too!

    • Jess

      I’m glad you like my list… even if it is hipsterish.
      I wish Broadcast News got more attention. It’s such a great film.

  3. Dan Heaton

    Nice job, Jess! I can’t believe I left Dazed and Confused off my list. Broadcast News is a great choice; I was surprised by how much I liked it when I checked it out a few years ago. Love Albert Brooks and Holly Hunter!

    • Jess

      The chemistry beyond all the characters in Broadcast News is incredible. There’s also so many fantastic lines. Dazed and Confused seems like it wouldn’t be in the Criterion catalog, but it’s there and the packaging is really cool.

  4. LOVE this list Jess. Broadcast News, “a complete package,” yes, certainly. I adore that film. Persona is one of my all-time favorite films, and Fish Tank is one of my most cherished Criterions. Have you watched Arnold’s three shorts on that disc? Incredible.

    • I just picked up the Criterion of Fish Tank last week actually. I am so excited to check out her short films. I really want to pick up Persona… the cover is beautiful.

      I’m glad you love my list! It made me really want to go back and rewatch all of these films.

  5. jackdeth72

    Hi, Jessica:

    Very cool list!

    Who knew Gene Hackman could do comedy so well? His playing the blind priest in “Young Frankenstein” just broke ground. While in The Royal Tennenbaums , he quietly and physically swings for the fences!

    While “Dazed and Confused” is one of those remarkable “You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere” films that reveals massive talents that pay off in later projects.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      Gene Hackman is so perfect in The Royal Tenenbaums – if the part had been cast differently the movie might not be nearly as great.

      It’s pretty crazy seeing how many future stars Dazed and Confused rounded together. Linklater had an eye for that.

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