Raymond Carver

Criterion Files

Of the 600+ films in The Criterion Collection, almost 200 are listed as from the United States. While not all of these films are explicitly thematically based  around life in the US, the American selections for the Collection do make up a mosaic of diverse perspectives on life in this country, proving that there is no sustainable solitary understanding of what it means to be an “American,” but there exists instead an array of possibilities for interpreting American identity. What the American films do have in common, though, is provide proof that excellent films have been made in the US for quite some time. So, after exhausting yourself with Independence Day Parades, firecracker-lighting, and Budweiser, settle down with a great American movie. Here are a dozen great titles from the Criterion Collection about “America” and “freedom” in the many senses of those terms.

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As a first-time filmmaker’s adaptation of a serious-themed source, with a comic star as its lead, the odds were stacked against Everything Must Go. Yet writer-director Dan Rush’s cinematic debut is a rare successful feature-length short story adaptation. Rather than fortifying Raymond Carver’s Why Don’t You Dance? with false dramatic notes or thin conceptual embellishments, Rush builds on its compelling premise. With a likable Will Ferrell as its lead and a suburban street setting imbued with great allegorical significance, the film offers an incisive personal spin on these tumultuous economic times. After losing his job and falling off the wagon, a depressed Nick Halsey (Ferrell) returns to his upper middle class Arizona home to find his wife has left him. Not only has she absconded from their marriage, she’s changed the locks and dumped his belongings, all of them, on the front lawn.

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Alcoholic. Out of work. Tossed out by his wife. These are not the kinds of things that begin a wacky adventure, but Will Ferrell looks to be digging into his Stranger Than Fiction light drama past to deliver his performance for Everything Must Go. In it, he plays a man with all three aforementioned qualities in addition to his new station in life: living on his front lawn in a state of prolonged yard sale. It’s unclear just how dire everything will turn, but it’s likely he won’t be praying to newborn, baby Jesus to get him out of this mess. Check it out for yourself:

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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