At the end of every month, the Criterion Channel removes a lot of movies from their streaming service (although some return surprisingly fast). Here are only a few of the films that will go away when November disappears.
A Deep Cover (1992)
Here’s an extraordinary film noir from the early 1990s. Laurence Fishburne stars as a police officer who goes undercover to get rid of the drugs being smuggled into Los Angeles. He wants to clean up the bad neighborhoods, but as he becomes a major cog in the drug scene, he begins to realize that he’s just making things worse, and he’s not sure if he’s a detective or a criminal? Jeff Goldblum plays a Jewish mobster who doesn’t know that his new friend is a cop.
A Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Burt Lancaster risked his career to produce this exploration of the seamy side of fame. He plays New York gossip columnist J. J. Hunsecker – a truly repellent and despicable person who happily bathes in the adulation and fear of those around him. Tonight’s main victim: a whiny Broadway press agent desperate to get his client into Hunsecker’s column (Tony Curtis in a great performance). To make things worse, Hunsecker–who’s based loosely on Walter Winchell–has a rather too-close relationship with his kid sister. From a script by Clifford Odets and Ernest (North by Northwest) Lehman.
A- Picnic (1955)
A handsome piece of beefcake with barely a nickel in his pocket (William Holden) arrives at a small town on the day of a big, citywide picnic. He goes straight to the most beautiful girl in town (Kim Novak), which is a problem because the son of the richest man in town wants her, too. But the beautiful girl, along with some other women, have their own desires and agendas. Great, early CinemaScope cinematography by James Wong Howe. Composer George Duning occasionally overdoes the music.
B+ The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
Movies were pretty weird in the ’70s, and they didn’t get much weirder than this—at least with a major director (Nicolas Roeg). David Bowie plays an alien who comes to Earth in search of water. Instead, he discovers capitalism, TV, alcohol, and human sex. It’s not entirely clear what the film is about, but the images are intriguing, the central characters are puzzles that cry out to be solved, and the sex scenes are hot. If for no other reason, see it to rediscover how strange science fiction films could be in the time between 2001 and Star Wars.
B If…. (1969)
I loved this crazy movie when it was new, but it hasn’t entirely aged well. Set in a British boarding school, it presents that environment as a living hell. Everyone bullies those below them and suffers the bullying of those above them. The adult staff encourages this. Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell) leads the rebels, sometimes violently. The film is weird, surreal, and unbelievable, and those are its best features. Occasionally it cuts to black and white for what seems to be no discernible reason. (I’ve recently discovered that some of the locations couldn’t get enough light for the color film). The shocking ending seemed surreal in 1968 England; it’s too close for comfort in 21st Century America. The first film in Lindsay Anderson’s Mick Travis trilogy.
Other films probably worth watching
- Death in Venice
- Funny Girl
- The Knack . . . and How to Get It
- Pumping Iron
- The Prisoner of Zenda
- The Rose Tattoo
- This Property Is Condemned
- Yankee Doodle Dandy
These are only a few of the films that will disappear from Criterion on December first.