Matthew McConaughey won an Academy Award for playing Ron Woodroof in the film directed by Jean-Marc Vallée

Oscar-winning ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ on Netflix

Matthew McConaughey is so good in Dallas Buyers Club (2013) that he shows up the limitations of this drama based on true events. McConaughey lost a lot weight to play Ron Woodroof, a Texas electrician and rodeo rider in the late 1980s whose reckless lifestyle leaves him with AIDS, a diagnosis this redneck homophobe denies […]

Errol Morris’s landmark ‘The Thin Blue Line’ on Netflix

Documentaries have changed minds, championed causes, and even reversed policy, but The Thin Blue Line (1988) may be the first film to free a man from prison. Randall Adams was on death row in Texas for the murder of a patrolman, convicted on the testimony of another suspect and a psychiatrist who made his living […]

Adèle Haenel stars in the film by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

‘The Unknown Girl’ from the Dardenne Bros. on Netflix

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s The Unknown Girl (Belgium, 2016) revisits themes from their earlier films—poverty in poor communities, families going paycheck to paycheck, immigrants at the bottom of the social food chain—but this time views them through the eyes of a young doctor (Adèle Haenel). She’s on her way out of a small neighborhood office […]

Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, and John Hurt star in the film adapted from the Alan Moore graphic novel

‘V For Vendetta’ – Fighting tyranny on Netflix

V For Vendetta (2005) – “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. The government should be afraid of the people.” His name is nowhere to be seen in the credits but this futuristic thriller about an authoritarian government out of 1984 and a lone revolutionary who takes them on comes from Alan Moore’s acclaimed graphic […]

Mohammad Rasoulof directs this Iranian thriller

‘Manuscripts Don’t Burn’ on Amazon Prime

What’s most startling about Mohammad Rasoulof’s Iranian thriller Manuscripts Don’t Burn (Iran, 2013, not rated, with subtitles) is its audacity. Iranian filmmakers have a history of couching their criticisms of life in Iran in metaphor. This film puts its portrait of authoritarian oppression out in the open. We open on a contract murder that plays like […]

Shirley Clarke directs this pioneering American independent film

Shirley Clarke’s landmark ‘The Connection’ on Amazon Prime and FilmStruck

The Connection (1962), the debut feature from Shirley Clarke, turns a stage play originally produced by New York’s revolutionary Living Theater as a play within a play into an innovative work of cinema. Clarke was a pioneering American independent filmmaker before that label was even invented and her work was unpreserved and largely unavailable until […]

'Straight Outta Compton': The story of N.W.A.

‘Straight Outta Compton’ on VOD and disc

Billed as “The World’s Most Dangerous Group,” N.W.A. was a musical bomb that blew up the hip-hop world with such force that the reverberations were felt all through popular culture. Straight Outta Compton, developed by N.W.A. founding members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre and directed by F. Gary Gray, dramatizes origins and impact of the […]

Tim Streeter and Doug Cooeyate star in the directorial debut of Gus Van Sant

Gus Van Sant’s ‘Mala Noche’ on FilmStruck and Criterion Channel

Mala Noche (1986), the feature debut of Gus Van Sant adapted from the autobiographical novel by Portland “street poet” Walt Curtis, is an intimate black and white tale of l’amour fou steeped in the culture of Portland, Oregon’s (now long gone) skid row. Walt (Tim Streeter), a counter jockey at a grimy liquor store in […]

Nicolas Cage in Andrew Niccol's 'Lord of War'

Nicolas Cage is the ‘Lord of War’ on Netflix

“There are over 550 million firearms in worldwide circulation. That’s one firearm for every twelve people on the planet. The only question is: How do we arm the other 11?” The opening line of Andrew Niccol’s Lord of War (2005) captures the film in a phrase: it’s serious, it’s sardonic, and it has both a […]

Seret Scott and Bill Gunn in the landmark feature film debut by Kathleen Collins

‘Losing Ground’ – The landmark American indie on FilmStruck

If you’ve never heard of American playwright and filmmaker Kathleen Collins, don’t feel bad. At least not for yourself. Collins succumbed to cancer in 1988 at the age of 46 after completing just one feature. The independently-made Losing Ground (1982) was produced before the American Indie film culture established itself with the successes of Spike […]