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Criterion Collection embraces Adam Sandler in October

Dan Webster

Above: The Safdie brothers film "Uncut Gems" will join the Criterion Collection in October. (Photo/A24)

I awoke this morning to a text from my friend and Movies 101 colleague Nathan Weinbender.

You may recall Nathan from his tenures as a staff writer at The Spokesman-Review and then as an editor/writer at The Inlander.

His message: “You’ll never guess what movie is being added to the Criterion Collection.” And almost immediately he added a photo, which was of Adam Sandler.

So naturally I texted back, “Happy Gilmore”?

Yeah, I was joking. The correct answer is “Uncut Gems,” the 2019 drama from the Safdie brothers – Benny and Josh – that stars Sandler as a Manhattan hustler/gem dealer who courts ruin at every step while working on the deal of a lifetime.

It’s not a film that I would normally consider appropriate for the Criterion Collection, though that likely has more to do with how uncomfortable – if quality – a view it is. At least for me.

But, then, discomfort is in the eyes of the beholder, right? “Uncut Gems” is joined by a number of other films on Criterion Collection’s October calendar. Among them:

“Ratcatcher” (1999): Written and directed by Lynne Ramsey. A young boy attempts to negotiate the mean streets of 1973 Glasgow. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “There is something ineffably deep and true in Ramsay's understanding of this Glasgow world, which comes through powerfully in her compositions.”

“Devi” (1960): Written and directed by the great Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray. Set in 1860s Bengal, the film casts a young woman as a goddess when her father-in-law dreams of her as a vision of Kali. San Francisco Chronicle critic Edward Guthmann wrote that the film “bears all the hallmarks of Ray's best work: gracefulness, exquisite pacing and composition, love for his characters and a deep regard for the power of silence to tell a story.”

“High Sierra” (1941): Directed by Raoul Walsh. One of the great classics of Film  Noir, Humphrey Bogart stars as the fresh-out-of-prison thief Roy Earle who is hired to plan a heist. Look particularly for Ida Lupino. Village Voice critic William Paul wrote, “If Walsh’s gracefully restless camera seems in continual exploration of the space around his characters, then his movies can be seen as poetic explorations of the limits of freedom.”

“Onibaba” (1964): Written and directed by Kaneto Shindô. Two women living in 16th-century Japan make their living killing samurais and selling their belongings. “Self-preservation and sex in a primitive society made desperate and bestial by war,” wrote New York Times critic A.H. Weiler.

“The Incredible Shrinking Man” (1957): Directed by Jack Arnold. In this science-fiction classic based on a screenplay co-written by Richard Matheson, Grant Williams stars as a man who, after being exposed to radiation, begins to do what the title indicates. Writing in the New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote, “There is something contagious and morbid about all this shrinking, particularly when our hero levels off for a while at 3 feet, thanks to an antidote for his ‘radioactive’ malady, and seeks romance with a carnival midget.”

I know Crowther meant his comment to be critical. But if ever there was a criticism that made me excited about seeing a movie, that is it.

I’m fairly certain that Nathan will agree.

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