Criterion Channel: Films releasing in January 2022
Since its inception in 2019, The Criterion Channel has been a goldmine of classic cinema for moviegoers. The channel primarily shows movies already on the Criterion Collection, but also features a ton of other great movies, new and old.
This month, a considerable amount of established cinema classics as well as modern masterpieces are leaving Criterion Channel. From old Hollywood to modern-day experimental cinema, here are 10 masterpieces that will roll off the line in a matter of weeks.
Meet John Doe (1941)
One of the quintessential feel-good movies from a director known for making feel-good movies, Frank Caprait is Meet John Doe revolves around an advertising campaign launched by journalist Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck), who hires a homeless (Gary Cooper) to play the role of a social activist named “John Doe”.
Capra’s uplifting brand of cinema (dubbed “Capracorn” at one point), may seem a bit dated to modern audiences, but the solid storyline of It happened one night writer Robert Riskin paired with the multidimensional performances of Hollywood icons Stanwyck and Cooper save the film from simply being a product of its time. Meet John Doe deserves all the recognition it receives as a jewel of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
One of the most iconic film noir of all time, Otto Premingerin 1944 Laura stars the radiant Gene Tierney in the title role. A murder mystery with a surprise plot in the middle (which won’t be spoiled here), it’s best to go into this film knowing as little as possible.
With beautiful chiaroscuro cinematography of Joseph LaShelle and a killer supporting the cast of Hollywood legends Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, and Judith Anderson, Laura is a surprisingly modern tale that still holds up to this day. it’s part fear of heights, part missing girl, and an entirely original, captivating and influential film noir in its own right.
Ace in the hole (1951)
As is the case with many films of Billy Wilder, Ace in the hole is so brilliant and timeless in its storytelling and directing that if it weren’t for black and white and full screen, you’d think it was a just-released movie. Kirk Douglas stars as a great journalist who will stop at nothing to gain media attention and advance his career, even if it means exploiting others.
A subtle but powerful social commentary on corruption in the media, Ace in the hole is a masterfully made film. It came out just a year after Wilder’s magnum opus sunset boulevard – similarly to that film, it brilliantly peels back the layers of American institutions that thrive on surface-level imagery, be it Hollywood or the press, exposing their ugly, decrepit interiors in the process.
At the water’s edge (1954)
Ranked No. 19 in the American Film Institute’s 2007 list of the greatest American films of all time, Elia Kazanit is At the water’s edge is a surprising social drama that is still highly regarded to this day. The story follows Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), a failed boxer faced with the impossible dilemma of whether to report his corrupt union boss (Lee J. Cobb) or remain faithful to him.
With a stunning performance from Brando and picturesque cinematography from Boris Kaufman, which reveals Hoboken, New Jersey in all its dark beauty, At the water’s edge was a hit upon release, winning eight Oscars. The film still comes off as a masterfully heartbreaking morality story that exposes its inherent grayness. Plus, it features Marlon Brando’s iconic “I could have been a contenda” speech. And it’s a must-have watch just for that.
the hunter’s night (1955)
the hunter’s night was the only film directed by a legendary actor Charles Laughton. Initially panned upon release, the film’s critical reception discouraged Laughton from ever making another film, and viewing it now makes one realize just how ahead of its time it was.
Featuring an iconic chilling performance from Robert Mitchum as a sadistic preacher, the hunter’s night unfolds like the scariest children’s story you’ve ever seen. The film is influenced by film noir as well as German expressionism, resulting in a visually spooky fable that’s still chilling and surprisingly fresh and modern to this day. Oh, how the critics were wrong in 1955.
fear of heights (1958)
Dubbed by Sight and sound magazine as the greatest movie of all time in their latest poll, fear of heights is one of the directors Alfred Hitchcock‘s many masterpieces. Similar to the hunter’s night, fear of heights was also coldly rejected by critics and audiences upon its release. A not typically Hitchcockian suspense, fear of heights tells a heartbreaking story of loss, grief, longing and love.
Hemmed in by the excellent performance of James Stuart and Kim Novak as well as an emblematic score of Bernard Hermann, fear of heights is a Shakespearian tragedy with searing emotion and masterful staging. It’s essential viewing for any movie buff and rightfully deserves its status as the greatest of all time.
The French Connection (1971)
Winner of five Oscars, William Friedkinis cold and gritty The French Connection is considered one of the greatest crime dramas of all time. Based on a true story, it follows two NYPD detectives (played by Hackman Gene and Roy Scheider) working tirelessly to bring down a French heroin trafficker (Fernando Rey).
The film is perhaps best known for its car chase sequence towards the film’s climax, and for good reason: it’s one of the most thrilling and anxiety-inducing scenes ever to be committed to a movie. A masterclass in editing and directing, this scene alone makes The French Connection worth the detour.
daughters of dust (1991)
Julie Dashit is daughters of dust was the first film directed by an African-American woman to receive wide release, and it remains an unsung but highly influential gem. The film’s portrayal of the Gullah culture on the coasts of South America and Georgia is visually poetic, showcasing the stunningly beautiful cinematography of Arthur Jaffa.
Although the film is undermined by a somewhat intrusive synth score that has aged badly, it is nonetheless an important milestone in American cinema. The film languished in obscurity for decades before being rediscovered after being heavily referenced in Beyoncethe visual album of Lemonade, and a restoration and reassessment rightly followed.
virgins who committed suicide (1999)
Sophie Coppolahis directorial debut virgins who committed suicide established a new and unique voice in modern American cinema. Based on Jeffrey Eugenides novel, the film is about a group of young women trying to navigate life under the shadow of their strict and oppressive parents (brilliantly played by James Woods and Kathleen Turner).
Feeling like an unhealthy mix of blue velvet and Picnic at the hanging rock, virgins who committed suicide reveals the darker underbelly of idyllic American suburbia in a unique and poetic way through Coppola’s visually dreamlike adaptation of the source material. Also sporting an outstanding performance of Kirsten Dunst, the film achieved cult classic status and remains one of Coppola’s greatest achievements, if not his best.
Long day trip into night (2018)
Not to be confused with the Eugene O’Neill play of the same name, Bi Ganthe last movie of Long day trip into night is perhaps best known for its final shot, which is 59 minutes long and is in 3D. Besides its technical bravery, the film is a jaw-dropping cinematic experience in its own right.
Very influenced by the cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky, the film is a poetic meditation on memory and nostalgia, as it follows a quietly introspective man (Huang Jue) back in his hometown of Kaili. It’s one of the most original films of the 21st century and a cinematic experience you’re unlikely to forget soon after watching it.
No classroom needed.
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