Five Must-Stream Movies to Watch on the Criterion Channel in July 2022

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Five Must-Stream Movies to Watch on the Criterion Channel in July 2022

Five Must-Stream Movies to Watch on the Criterion Channel in July 2022

After more than a century of movies to dig through, there’s always something amazing to watch… if you know where to find it, that is.  After all, the glut on content on streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime means that it’s paradoxically almost impossible to find something other than the usual suspects of commonplace hits from the past couple of decades.  Everything from polished little gems to uncommon masterpieces get buried under the endless cinematic shovelware that inevitably occupies the frontpages of the streaming giants these days.

Not so with the Criterion Channel, however.  From carefully curated collections of oddball features to certified classics from the world stage, they deliver the very best that streaming has to offer month in and month out.  July’s selection is no different, with unlikely additions that include technicolor noirs, brooding westerns, late-period masterpieces and pithy little romances of shocking scope and depth.

Five Must-Stream Movies to Watch on the Criterion Channel in July 2022

Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

The brooding film noir that dusted the seedy underbelly of the impotent charm of the Hollywood Studio System are iconic in their singularity: smokey, black-and-white affairs with stark, artistic photography set to the confessional voice-overs of loaded P.I.s and hardened criminals.  There was so much more to these so-called “black films,” however, and so many different avenues in which they broke with their more steadfast conventions.  Highlighted this month is a collection of lush, full-color noir whose brilliant cinematography underscores their fatalistic themes and sordid content.  This cult 1945 psychological thriller, based on the 1944 Ben Ames Williams novel of the same name, is perhaps one of the earliest and best-known examples of its unique film noir form.  Centering on the possessive marriage of a beautiful socialite and a young novelist, this film cherry-picks the best elements of romance, melodrama, woman’s picture and psychological thriller to create a deromanticized tableau of mid-century American life.

Five Must-Stream Movies to Watch on the Criterion Channel in July 2022

The Gunfighter (1950)

Although little noted today among the great mid-century auteurs (like John Ford, Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock), director Henry King is one of the most staggering artists in Hollywood History.  His career spanned six decades, saw the rise and fall of the studio system and produced over one hundred films.  At the forefront of every major artistic development of his time – from sound to color to the increasingly subtle psychological interiority that eventually exploded in the New Hollywood of the 1970s – his expansive body of work paints a delicate, bittersweet portrait of 20th century Americana.  Caught between earlier moments of “Western Noir” and the full-on revisionist westerns of the following decade, The Gunfighter presents the death knell of the mid-century myth of the outlaw hero and the romanticized American West.

Five Must-Stream Movies to Watch on the Criterion Channel in July 2022

Late Autumn (1960)

Setsuko Hara is perhaps the most enduring image of post-War Japanese femininity: encapsulating in her wistful smile and doe-eyed stare the collective strength of an entire generation of women adapting to a new and modern world that was rapidly changing around them.  A sort of gender-swapped counterpart to Toshiro Mifune, her 100+ film oeuvre saw her in collaboration with some of the greatest directors of Japan’s Golden Age of film: men like Akira Kurosawa, Mikio Naruse and, most notably, Yasujiro Ozu.  This late entry in Ozu’s career is a deft reworking of one of the director’s – and actress’ – most celebrated films: Late Spring (1949), the famously elusive drama whose calculated ambiguities have launched a thousand interpretations over the past three quarters of a century.  In an inspired role reversal, Hara plays a mother gently, but earnestly, trying to persuade her single daughter to marry.  In a career, and indeed collaboration, defined by revisionism and refinement of the same basic ideas in perpetuity, Late Autumn provides a fascinating look at how a work of art must inherently change itself to fit with its time.

Five Must-Stream Movies to Watch on the Criterion Channel in July 2022

Raging Bull (1980)

Although the Oscars are almost designed to elicit controversy by crowning one film above all others as the very best in a given year, few years stand out as brazenly as 1980 as a time when the Academy “got it wrong.”  Now, I’m not saying that Robert Redford’s Ordinary People (1980) wasn’t a fine family drama that deftly attuned itself to both its moment in changing family dynamics and the particularities of its well-observed characters, but few today would go the mat for it over Martin Scorsese’s brutal, stylish boxing drama with a top-tier cast of the director’s acclaimed regular’s working at the very height of their craft.  A vicious rebuttal to more romantic boxing films like the earlier Rocky (1976) or the later Cinderella Man (2005), Scorsese and DeNiro’s scathing character study examines the ways in which Jake LaMotta’s violence in the ring necessarily spills into his life outside of it, brutalizing everybody unfortunate enough to be caught in his circle.

Five Must-Stream Movies to Watch on the Criterion Channel in July 2022

Before Sunrise (1995)

Emerging from the unlikeliest of places, Writer-Director Richard Linklater has become of the deftest documentarians of the realities of American life in the blown-up vision of American fiction.  Coming off of the naturalistic performances and elevated dialog of his earliest proto-masterwork Dazed and Confused (1993), Before Sunrise – the first in a trilogy of romances starring and co-written by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy – is an incisive refinement of the style that he would only continue to perfect in films such as Boyhood (2014) and Everybody Wants Some!! (2016).  It’s a sweeping, romantic and infectiously optimistic depiction of love at first sight.  Not my usual sort of film, I was utterly smitten by it the first time I saw it, so much so that my midnight movie soon became an all-night marathon with its sequels.  It’s an incredible achievement by such a young director and on-screen couple, and loudly professes the arrival of the three of them as essential talents of their generation.

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