Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster in Alexander Mackendrick's great Broadway noir

‘Sweet Smell of Success’ – Broadway noir on Amazon Prime

“I love this dirty town.” The first and only time that Burt Lancaster’s J.J. Hunsecker drops the cynical twist from his clenched smile and allows genuine appreciation cross his face in Sweet Smell of Success (1957) is when he drops that line while strolling down the nighttime streets of Broadway. It’s not a proclamation or […]

Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder in the classic Mel Brooks comedy

‘Blazing Saddles’ on Hulu

When singer Frankie Laine was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air many years ago, he confessed that when he was engaged to record the theme song to Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles (1974), he was not told that the film (and the song) was a spoof. He simply thought it was a bad song […]

Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Larry Fishburne in 'The Matrix'

‘The Matrix’ trilogy on Netflix

The Matrix (1999) has become such a touchstone of American pop culture—referenced, copied, parodied, and parroted—that it’s hard to remember just how new and different and distinctive it was when it debuted in 1999. Which is not to say that it is completely original. Image Tron as a Greek Myth, or Sim City as an […]

Cary Grant in ‘Only Angels Have Wings’ on Criterion Channel

If you love movies, I mean really love the glory of Hollywood moviemaking and star power and the joys of wondrous stories, then you surely Only Angels Have Wings (1939), the quintessential Howard Hawks adventure of male bonding and tough love in a world where there may be no tomorrow. If you haven’t fallen for […]

Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, and George Macready, directed by Charles Vidor

Rita Hayworth is ‘Gilda’ on Criterion Channel

Rita Hayworth is at her most iconic as the forties sex-bomb in Gilda (1946), a film noir classic co-starring Glenn Ford as Johnny Farrell, an American tough guy in Buenos Aires, and George Macready as Ballin Mundson, the owner of a nightclub and illegal casino who hires Johnny as his club manager. Just as in […]

Francine Everett is "Dirty Gertie" in the film directed by Spencer Williams

Black Film History Pioneers – The ‘Blood’ of Spencer Williams on Netflix and Criterion Channel

The legacy of films made by and for African-American audiences before Hollywood integrated its casts is largely unknown to even passionate films buffs. They were rarely seen by white audiences in their day and were rarely preserved with the same dedication given to the maverick films of Hollywood. Netflix and Criterion Channel present over 20 […]

John Wayne and Montgomery Clift in the 1948 western classic by Howard Hawks

‘Red River’ – the great cattle drive epic on Criterion Channel

Howard Hawks reworks Mutiny on the Bounty as a frontier epic in Red River (1948), the sweeping tale of a journey that can’t be made and the story of a son forced to battle the father he loves and adores. Montgomery Clift made his film debut opposite grand old icon John Wayne, playing Matthew Garth, […]

‘Blade Runner: The Final Cut’ – the definitive version of the SF classic on Netflix

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1981/2007) – Ridley Scott’s visionary reworking of Philip K. Dick’s novel, “Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep,” was a box-office flop. Maybe it was too dark for a public flying away on the fantasy of E.T. in the summer of 1982, or too downbeat for audiences looking for a Harrison […]

Rod Steiger is ‘The Pawnbroker’ on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu

The Pawnbroker (1964), the Sidney Lumet-directed 1964 film based on the novel by Edward Lewis, is a real time capsule. It’s the first American film to really take on the legacy of the Holocaust on a personal level, and it’s set in a Harlem pawnshop where a stream of slum stereotypes wander in and out […]

‘Rebel Without a Cause’ on Netflix

Before the 1950s, there were no teenagers in the movies, at least not as such. There were adults and children, and that awkward age in between was largely seen as, well, that awkward period in between. You had kids on the cusp, troubled young adults, and juvenile delinquents, but the teenager, with his / her […]