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Christopher Nolan's Top Ten Films for Criterion: Lang, Welles, Malick Make the Cut [Video]

Thompson on Hollywood By Maggie Lange | Thompson on Hollywood January 30, 2013 at 6:57PM

Director Christopher Nolan has selected his Top Ten films for Criterion. His choices are varied, and the themes unsurprising: morality, mortality, life-or-death decisions, larger-than-life situations, and characters pushed to their total limits. The films he selected -- from Erich von Stroheim in 1924 and Orson Welles in 1955 to Terrence Malick in 1998 -- share ambition. Watch the trailers and clips from Nolan's selections below. The full list is here, published in the Criterion newsletter.


"Bad Timing" | 1980 | Dir. Nicolas Roeg
This Roeg clip displays the mind-bending twister "Bad Timing," starring Theresa Russell and Art Garfunkel. Nolan says: "Nic Roeg’s films are known for their structural innovation, but it’s great to be able to see them in a form that also shows off their photographic excellence."

"Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" | 1983 | Nagisa Oshima
Nolan credits the film, with a brilliant soundtrack by Ryuichi Sakamoto, as one of the few that could "capture David Bowie’s charisma."  Along with the Thin White Duke, Nolan acknowledges Tom Conti as "a sympathetic guide for the audience’s emotions."

"For All Mankind" | 1989 | Dir. Al Reinert
Nolan calls this documentary about NASA's Apollo missions "an incredible document of man’s greatest endeavor."  This clip shows the carefully shot dramatic arc of these expeditions - the movie includes 80 minutes of real NASA footage, interviews from astronauts and recordings, and magical views of earth from space.

"Koyaanisqatsi" | 1982 | Godfrey Reggio
Also known as "Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance," this movie features compositions of Philip Glass and cinematography by Ron Fricke.  Nolan writes: "An incredible document of how man’s greatest endeavors have unsettling consequences. Art, not propaganda, emotional, not didactic; it doesn’t tell you what to think—it tells you what to think about."

"The Complete Mr. Arkadin" | 1955 | Dir. Orson Welles
Trailers from Hell called this "nobody's favorite Orson Welles," and they don't necessarily need to retract their statement.  Nolan writes: "No one could make much of a case for Welles’ abortive movie overall, but the heartbreaking glimpses of the great man’s genius preserved here are the most compelling argument for the value of Criterion’s dedication to cinema."  See this clip of the Georgian toast.

"Greed" | 1924 | Erich von Stroheim
Nolan justifies including this film even though it is not actually in the Criterion Collection: "'Greed,' Von Stroheim’s lost work of absolute genius. Which is not available on Criterion. Yet. Here’s hoping." The clip below shows the last three minutes of the film.

This article is related to: Christopher Nolan, Christopher Nolan, Criterion Collection, Stephen Frears, Terrence Malick, Lists, Classics

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.