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 […]

Malcolm McDowell stars in the film by Lindsay Anderson

‘If…’ – Malcolm McDowell rebels on Amazon Prime

Lindsay Anderson captured the fancy of a generation of British youth with If… (1968), his savage satire of the regimented British education system and bullying “public” schools. In 1968 the time and tenor was ripe for a rebel yell, but while the picture stands a rallying cry for a generation, its celebration of individualism and […]

An Seo Hyun and friend in Bong Joon Ho's "Okja."

Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Okja’ on Netflix

Okja, a social satire/political allegory/action fantasy from Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho, skips theaters entirely to debut on Netflix. You may recall that it was a point of controversy at the Cannes Film Festival, not for its subject matter but because of the Netflix model of releasing its films straight to streaming. The Netflix logo elicited […]

Miguel Sandoval, Spike Lee, and Ossie Davis

Spike Lee’s ‘Do The Right Thing’ on HBO Now

Do The Right Thing (1989), Spike Lee’s vibrant, vital, thoroughly accomplished third feature, opens on a call to action – “Fight the Power,” shouts Public Enemy in the credits – and ends with a call to “Wake up!” Rosie Perez pumps out an aggressive shout of a dance in the opening credits, staged in front […]