Top Ten (75… ahem) Criterion Films

Inspired by a lot of the those “Top 10 Criterion Films” lists from directors, actors, writers, and whatnot that Criterion puts out I thought, “That sounds fun, I want to do that!”

The problem? I love a LOT of their offerings and like even more. As I was combing the list, there were a good fifty-five films I thought could legitimately make my Top Ten. Clearly this wasn’t just something I’d be able to choose right off with any kind of real accuracy. It would be quite an undertaking to come up with just ten, and would require a lot of time.

However, it makes for good exercise and reflections on films that I love. Might even give me an excuse to go back and watch some of them that I haven’t in a long while. Eventually, I’d like to get to ten, maybe even five if I’m feeling accomplished.

So without further ado, here is my Top 75 Criterion Films

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McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales


Despite the overwhelmingly great group of contirbutors: Alexie, Chabon, Ellison, Gaiman, Leonard and Moorcock, this collection struck me as extremely indulgent and very “wanky.” Yes, wanky. There’s a stigma that McSweeny’s carries, (one of pomp and pretentiousness) and while I feel that this stigma is mostly undeserved, it is totally deserved here. You would have thought that this book would have been exempt based on its very nature (genre fiction) but it so isn’t.

Chabon—as much as I do like the guy—as editor is just disastrous. He claims in his forward that he aimed to help propel or resurrect or make important again the short story, especially as genre fiction. Whenever that’s your goal, its very nature dictates that you’re going to be a little self-important and if not, at least congratulatory.

The sad truth of this is that with all these great contributors, none of them are at their best here, They shine elsewhere and fall flat here. I can’t help but think that’s because they’ve been set up to fail, and that also they have the same mindset as Chabon, that short fiction is dead. It’s not, not really. Perhaps in their literary circles, yes, but there are so many better genre and short fiction offerings both in print and on the web.

If I had to find a standout piece it would probably be Elmore Leonard’s “How Carlos Webster Changed His Name to Carl and Became a Famous Oklahoma Lawman” but it’s marginally one. Not that any of these pieces are bad per se, just middle of the road which is ultimately a little disappointing.

Overall, as I said, it’s a rather lackluster collection of short fiction that suffers because it aims to correct a wrong that doesn’t exist, that is the death of short fiction. In this attitude, it mourns something that the authors feel is lost, as opposed to celebrating it. I also can’t help but think that this would be better suited edited by someone like Steven Millhauser, who actually has wonderful collections of his own genre short fiction.






Nuclear power is cool. Like 1980s Cape Cod, cool. Okay, maybe not in the actual useful kinda way cool (this is not the forum to debate its usefulness vs. hazard), but in the awesome fodder for fiction cool! I think I have a new short story idea. I’m looking at you Generation Project…

War of the Flesh

First time taking a round is like poppin’ your cherry sophomore year with Sharon What’s-her-name in the back of dad’s clunker. A lot of blind, awkward fondling at first; writhing like a fish out of water, heaving heavy for oxygen. You start cussing like a sailor and talking hard to cover the anxiety and restore confidence that everything’s okay. After that it’s best to just start plugging holes.

Within a few winks, it’s over.

The world returns to normal.

Except now you’ve got it out of the way.

Clean up the mess.

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[Tao] Lin is some kind of eerie, forlorn observer, able to brutally and honestly record the uncomfortable and systematic, alienable interactions of my generation. It’s ugly to read and yet perfect.

I’ve crested the halfway point of “Taipei” by Tao Lin, and all I can say is wow… this is as unabashed and earnest account of “hipsters”—my generartion’s gift to the world, of which I am in number—without any scorn, or vitriol. It is simply honest, telling, and horrifying. That’s the wonderful thing about my generation is that we—the hipster—don’t need to be attacked or lampooned. Left to our own devices we do a marvellous job of it anyway.

This truth is in stark, easy to pick-up but mortifying to digest paragraphs in Taipei, nestled between as many run-ons and em-dashes as one could possibly put to page. This self-negating malaise that Paul propels himself—or rather, allows to propel around him—will resonate with anyone who lived a similar life, or narrowly escaped it.

I don’t know if the writing itself is all that good, it’s certainly syntactically a nightmare, but it reads like the life of my generation should, a deep, beautiful prose that manages to convey very little with almost self-congratulation for its bloated word count. All I can say is that I appreciate that approach, because, again, it feels earnest and makes it very hard for me to be judgemental.


from Atlas Obscura

青木ヶ原 (Aokigahara), known as a popular place to commit suicide may or may not be inspiration for a short story, coming soon.