The Criterion Collection bills itself as “committed to publishing the defining moments of cinema.” They choose movies made by masters of the industry and present them as they were intended to be seen. Many of the filmmakers participate in audio commentary tracks which are added to the movie’s special features. When you think of who must be included in a collection of this nature, names like Alfred Hitchcock, Cecil B. DeMille and Federico Fellini come to mind, as do Ingmar Bergman and Jean-Luc Godard (no, not the captain of the Starship Enterprise).

You might not expect, however, to see some contemporary names in such prestigious company. Lena Dunham of recent HBO fame is on the list. Blockbuster director Michael Bay has two movies in the collection. Actor Jack Nicholson earned a place on the list with his directorial debut. Rob Reiner’s lovable mocumentary “This is Spinal Tap” is included as is counter-culture hero Kevin Smith.

Dunham’s “Tiny Furniture” (2010) is an introspective and funny look at a college graduate who moves back in with her family. The then 24-year-old Dunham served as writer, director and lead actor. The film led to comparisons with Woody Allen and an offer from HBO to run her own show. Expect to see far more great things from this filmmaker.m bay

When you think of director Bay, you probably think of his blockbuster action films rather than critical acclaim. The folks at Criterion Collection included “The Rock” (1996) and “Armageddon” (1998) as defining moments in the cinematic echelons. Film professor Jeanine Basinger (who taught a young Bay at Wesleyan University) said of “Armageddon,” “In little more than one minute of screen time, five key characters are identified, established in a specific environment, shown relating to others, given distinct personalities, and defined in ways that indicate how they will behave on the later mission. (If that’s not screenwriting, what is?)” Bay’s movies were also lauded for being works of art that master chaos, razzle-dazzle and explosion.

Most of us think of Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrence in “The Shining” (1980) or the Joker in Tim Burton’s “Batman” (1989), but he has directed three feature-length films, including his directorial debut,  “Drive, He Said” (1970). The comedy is based on Jeremy Larner’s best-selling book of the same name. The film captures the frenetic atmosphere of the early 70s and includes footage shot during an actual college protest.

Rob Reiner is another director who made the collection on the strength of his directorial debut. His film “This is Spinal Tap” (1984) pioneered two genres of film: the “rockumentary” and the “mockumentary.” The film follows an aging British heavy metal band (invented for this film) on a poorly performing American tour. Actors Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer still perform the songs of Spinal Tap, generally in an unplugged format, and so this fake band has outlasted many of the bands they parodied in the 80s.

“Chasing Amy” (1997) is the third installment in the “New Jersey Trilogy” from Smith. The (sometimes) lovable band of misfits and losers portrayed in his films has made a significant impact on film, and “Chasing Amy” was included in the collection for its brash honesty about relationships and for influencing the evolution of our societal ideals about men and women.

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