A lot of early John Ford films will disappear from the Criterion Channel at the end of June. There are several other good films that will go away after June 30.
Click the film’s title to start watching the movie – assuming as if you subscribe to the Channel.
A+ The Last Picture Show (1971)
Peter Bogdanovich’s masterpiece just may be the bleakest coming-of-age movie ever made. The two young men at its center, inherently nice guys, have no prospects and no real ambitions. They live in a depopulated town that looks like it will blow away with the next windstorm. College isn’t an option. Even sex is a confusing and often embarrassing experience. Made in 1971 and set about two decades earlier, the film refuses to make the 1950s nostalgic. Read my A+ appreciation.
A- How Green Was My Valley (1941)
John Ford followed The Grapes of Wrath with yet another story about a poor family struggling against the cruelty of capitalism. The Morgans, living in a Welsh coal mining town, are far better off than the Oakies in Grapes…at least they have a small house. But life isn’t easy. There are union strikes, mining disasters, fist fights, death, a bad marriage, and a beautiful landscape slowly disappearing. Ford often went overboard with sentimentality, especially with films connected to his Celtic heritage, but he keeps it under control here. The film brought Ford his only Best Picture Oscar and one of his four Best Director Oscars.
A- Blue Velvet (1986)
You could call this picture a murder mystery without a murder, but David Lynch has never been strong on genre. It’s really about the ugly reality hidden within tranquil suburbia, where two wholesome youths (Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern) stumble over a group of cruel men led by a horrible sadist (Dennis Hopper). Their primary target: a strange, European woman who can’t leave for some serious reasons (Isabella Rossellini). Don’t worry much about the story; just go where the movie takes you.
B+ Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
John Ford serves up a hearty meal of Americana along with providing a murder mystery. Henry Fonda gives a fine performance as a young, self-taught lawyer who would eventually save the Union and help free the slaves. Fonda plays Lincoln as an awkward, shy man with a deep sense of fair play and a good sense of humor. He knows nothing about his destiny, but Alfred Newman’s musical score certainly does. One of the best films made about the man my parents chose for a baby’s name.
B Yentl (1983)
Barbara Streisand proves she can direct and do it well at her first try. She sings, of course, and while her voice is fine, the songs are just dreadful (the studio heads insisted it should be a musical). Based on an Isaac Bashevis Singer, it follows a young Jewish woman who wants to study Torah. That’s a problem, because she lives in a time and place where women aren’t allowed such things. So, she cuts her hair and pretends to be a man. It’s a striking tale, and Streisand manages – some of the time – to make us believe that she could pass for a boy too young to grow a beard. It would have been better with a younger star and without the songs.
B Ministry of Fear (1944)
I’ve now seen three World War II thrillers directed by Fritz Lang, all set in Europe but shot in Hollywood. This is easily the weakest (the others were Man Hunt and Hangmen Also Die!). But Ministry of Fear is still fun. Ray Milland is freed from an asylum (he assisted his ailing wife’s suicide) and stumbles upon a nest of Nazi spies. The story is set in England, mostly London, and nobody ever explains why Milland speaks with an American accent (’40s American films set in England should be recognized as a major genre). Aside from the hero, you really aren’t sure who’s good and who’s bad.
B Band of Outsiders (1964)
I don’t think this Jean-Luc Godard picture would work at all without Anna Karina. She’s not only beautiful, but she has a youthful innocence that overcomes her less-interesting two male co-stars (Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur). The film is at its best when they’re just fooling around with the energy of youth; the dance scene in the restaurant is a great moment in cinema. But we all know from the start that Band will eventually become a crime story, and then evolve into another type of movie altogether.
Other films probably worth watching
If you don’t trust my opinion, here are all the films that will leave after June.