By the time you read this I’ll have seen and reviewed Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son, but as of this writing I still haven’t laid eyes on it. Will it advance the cause of fat-suit hijinks begun by the original Big Momma’s House? Or will it lazily trip over itself and impale its own latex chub on a plastic sword like Big Momma’s House 2? Will it wrestle the Spiritually Corrective Violence trophy away from Tyler Perry’s Madea? Will it aim for post-tasteful as White Chicks or, even better, Little Man did? Can any franchise earner ride the fart train as tenaciously as The Klumps? These are important questions to ask of this genre. Film scholars of future times are going to write about it all, just watch.
Which brings me to the Criterion Collection, which is another scholarly thing. In the opposite direction.
You know what that is, right? Okay, let’s say maybe you don’t. The Criterion Collection is the coolest series of DVDs in the world. They take historically significant movies—and that can mean Jean Luc Godard’s Breathless or it can mean Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon or it can mean The Blob, or any film that takes as its mission the idea that movies can critique or comment on the world instead of just existing as passive entertainment—and then packages them with so many extras it’ll wear you out trying to deal with it all: commentaries, documentaries, essays, elaborate packaging, rare footage, interviews. If it’s important to understanding the movie then it’s in there. It’s film school in a box.
So here’s the best part. Hulu.com just made a lot of Criterion titles available to stream right to you. On your computer. Your phone. Wherever you can watch it. [And I should say here, in the interest of not being seen as giving free advertising, that they are owned by the same company that owns this site. I had to be told that, actually, because that’s how little I pay attention to this sort of thing. But you already know that like six corporations own everything now, anyway, so who’s surprised by this?
If you have Netflix then you can get a lot of these films on their Instant feature, and some of them are single-use watchable on Mubi.com (used to be called TheAuteurs.com, fyi), but what Hulu is going to do, in time, is make all those extras available, and that’s going to be incredibly cool.
If you’ve never seen anything with subtitles or heard of Ingmar Bergman or know about the nutty Beale sisters then just pick something from the first batch of titles and start watching. You won’t be disappointed. Grey Gardens, Eyes Without a Face or Playtime would all be excellent, awesomely entertaining first choices.
So here are the first 10 movies I plan to watch on my laptop in bed with a box of those Kardashian mini cupcakes:
1. House – The insane, 1977 Japanese haunted-house-on-LSD movie (also known as Hausu) features a piano that eats people and girls tormented by pillows. That’s not even the weirdest stuff. You will find that you can’t watch it enough times.
2. Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? – (1966) A black-and-white mod fashion fantasy that makes no sense but it doesn’t really matter. Everything looks so cool you’ll wish they’d never invented colors.
3. The Exterminating Angel – The 1962 Luis Bunuel classic about people who go to a richie-rich dinner party and find themselves trapped in the room afterward. They descend into moral chaos and animal behavior, all without the aid of the Three Stooges conducting a high society food fight.
4. Wise Blood – (1979) What makes Flannery O’Connor one of American literature’s greatest writers is that she took her own devout, serious Christianity and vivisected it until it made everyone turn their heads away. This is the movie version of her classic novel about a faithless man who becomes the preacher of a church where “the blind don’t see and the lame don’t walk and what’s dead stays that way.” Yeah, dark.
5. Rome Open City – (1945) Roberto Rossellini’s masterpiece about resistance and betrayal during World War II. I’m a little ashamed to say I’ve never seen this one. But here’s where I correct that. Look, everyone has gaps in their education. It’s also one of Martin Scorcese’s favorite films, in case that matters to you.
6. Tokyo Story – (1953) Yasuhiro Ozu’s heartbreaking story of grandparents whose children and grandchildren just don’t care about them. It’s better to watch this one when you’re young so that you can resolve to treat your family a little more nicely and still have time to make good on it. If you watch it when you’re old it’ll just bum you out too hard. The other thing about Ozu movies is that they move about as quickly and noisily as grass growing, so they’re also an exercise in patient attentiveness. Feel the silent slowness!
7. Pandora’s Box – (1929) Louise Brooks was the Angelina Jolie of her time. The time was 1929 and this one is about an amoral woman who was so physically inspirational that people went crazy with sex and violence all around her. In other words, your generation didn’t invent anything, sorry.
8. Summertime – (1955) This one’s in English. It’s David Lean’s 1955 movie with Katherine Hepburn as a lonely American woman on holiday in Venice. And she stays lonely. It’s one of the saddest films you’ll ever see and so effective at communicating it that even if you’re in love while watching it you’ll wonder if you’ll end up dying alone in a room somewhere.
9. Things to Come – (1936) H.G. Wells’ story of future progress and space travel and gleaming robot towers and titanium legs. All the stuff that you were promised by The Jetsons that never came true? He thought it up first.
10. The Tale of Zatoichi – (1962) The first in a series of 26 movies about a blind masseur (Shintaro Katsu) who is also a master swordsman. You’re not obligated to watch the 25 movies that follow this one, but this guy’s fighting technique is unstoppable so you’ll probably want to. Look, you watched both parts of Kill Bill, didn’t you?
One last thing. It’s going to cost you $7.99 to do all this. That’s cheaper than a ticket to Big Momma. Think of it as necessary balance.