Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche in the romantic drama from Fred Schepisi

‘Words and Pictures’ on HBO Max and free on Kanopy

Words and Pictures (2013) is both a romantic drama, with Clive Owen as passionate but alcoholic English teacher at an expensive prep school and Juliette Binoche as the new art teacher who clashes with the brash Owen, and a pedagogical drama where a “war” between the written word and the image inspires the student body […]

Patrick Fugit and Kate Hudson star in Cameron Crowe's autobiographical 'Almost Famous.'

‘Almost Famous’ on Amazon Prime and Hulu

Almost Famous (2000), Cameron Crowe’s thinly fictionalized autobiography, is deftly poised between rosy affection, thoughtful remembrance, and giddy adolescent awe. As perhaps it should be. The story of 15-year-old William (Crowe’s stand-in, played by Patrick Fugit) sent by Rolling Stone magazine to tour with an up-and-coming band (Stillwater, a fictional amalgamation of real-life bands The […]

‘Araya’ – a landmark of poetic nonfiction on Criterion Channel

Araya (Venezuela, 1959), Margot Benacerraf’s 1959 documentary of the hardscrabble lives on the peninsula of Araya, is non-fiction filmmaking as poetic realist portrait. Araya is a barren desert surround by ocean and salt marshes on the northern reaches of Caribbean Venezuela and was originally settled by the Spanish in 1500. The “daily ritual of salt” […]

Last chance: Paul Schrader’s ‘Affliction’ on Amazon Prime and Hulu

Paul Schrader made his mark on American cinema revealing the scarred psyches of American men trying to reconcile the contradictions of masculine fantasy and social reality, from his screenplays for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull to his own movies, beginning with Blue Collar. Affliction (1998), adapted from the novel by Russell Banks, is his most […]

Last chance: Sean Connery in ‘The Wind and the Lion’ on HBO Max

The Wind and the Lion (1975), the sophomore feature of director John Milius, is a small-scale version of the kind of grand historical epic that blossomed in the 1960s. Set in 1904 Morocco and loosely based on a true historical incident, the 1972 historical adventure stars Sean Connery as Berber chieftain and rebel leader Mulai […]

Last chance: ‘Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World’ on Amazon Prime and Hulu

Peter Weir’s sweeping nautical adventure Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003), based on the beloved novels of Patrick O’Brien, all but blows sea spray from the screen. Russell Crowe is Captain Jack Aubrey of the H.M.S. Surprise, an English officer on the high seas during the Napoleonic wars, and Paul Bettany […]

‘Changing Lanes’ – Ben Affleck vs Samuel Jackson on Amazon Prime and Hulu

Samuel L. Jackson is a recovering alcoholic whose sincere efforts to put his life back together is frustrated by unresolved anger and a self-righteous sense of vengeance. Ben Affleck is a smug, self-absorbed lawyer who refuses to accept culpability for his moral lapses and deals with his pangs of guilt by going on the attack. […]

Last chance: ‘The Night of Counting the Years’ – rediscovered and restored on Criterion Channel

A masterpiece of Egyptian cinema, The Night of Counting the Years (also known as The Mummy) (Egypt, 1969) is inspired by a real-life incident. An isolated mountain tribe in late 19th century Egypt was secretly selling off ancient artifacts from the tombs of the Pharaohs, specifically a cache of mummies hidden in the mountain caves […]

Paul Dano is Brian Wilson in 'Love & Mercy'

‘Love & Mercy’ – Brian Wilson’s journey on Amazon Prime and Hulu

Capturing the life of Brian Wilson, the troubled genius who pushed the surf pop sound of The Beach Boys into psychedelic symphonies as he spiraled into depression, in just a few key years is a tricky proposition. Love & Mercy (2014), a biopic that parallels the boyish enthusiasm and free-flowing creative drive of young visionary […]