Now playing on the Criterion Channel
Hey there, cinephiles! We’re doing a slight overhaul on the Criterion Channel column. Now, I’m going to be posting shorter columns every Thursday with three picks for you (and sometimes me) to explore. If you’re subscribed to Criterion Channel and want to offer some recommendations, please feel free to include them in the comments!
Newly added: A Separation (2011)
In 2012, A Separation became the first film from Iran to win the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. (Director Asghar Farhadi later won a second Foreign Film Oscar for his 2016 movie The Salesman.) It’s a fraught family drama that confronts the disconnect between the law and morality. At the start, a moderate Iranian couple seeks a divorce, because the wife wants to take their daughter abroad while the husband wants to stay and care for his senile father. Their situation becomes more complicated when the husband is accused of pushing his father’s caretaker down and causing her to miscarry. A Separation examines the inherent conflicts between gender, class, religion, and justice in the Iranian legal system. But this is not just an activist film, it is also intensely moving and powerful as a human drama.
Leaving July 31st: But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)
An outstanding ensemble cast, led by Natasha Lyonne, helps make Jamie Babbit’s campy comedy about conversion therapy, But I’m a Cheerleader, a modern queer classic. Lyonne’s high school cheerleader character would rather fantasize about her teammates than play tonsil hockey with her jock boyfriend, so they ship her to a camp to brainwash the gay out of her. RuPaul, looking masc in a “Straight is Great” T-shirt, is one of the counselors tasked with indoctrination. Cathy Moriarty is the iron-fisted leader. Clea Duvall befriends Lyonne and tries to help her find her true self. The cast also includes Michelle Williams, Melanie Lynskey, Julie Delpy, John Waters regular Mink Stole, Dante Basco (Rufio from Hook), Richard Moll, and Harold and Maude‘s Bud Cort.
A Classic to Catch Up With: Down in the Delta (1998)
STREAMING FOR FREE WITHOUT A SUBSCRIPTION. As someone who came of age as a movie nut in the ’90s, it’s hard not to sentimentalize that era as a great time for American cinema. While there is always plenty of middle-of-the-road stuff released, distributors found ways to turn personal stories into big bucks and prestigious awards. This included a diverse collection of work from black filmmakers, like Kasi Lemmons’s Eve’s Bayou, Theodore Witcher’s Love Jones, Robert Townsend’s The Five Heartbeats, and Forest Whitaker’s Waiting to Exhale, as well as a ton of great comedies and crime dramas. In this same wave of filmmaking, poet and memoirist Maya Angelou made her sole effort as a film director, Down in the Delta. It’s a family drama led by Alfre Woodard, with Wesley Snipes, Esther Rolle, Mary Alice, and Loretta Devine also in the cast. I haven’t seen it, so join me in getting caught up this week on the Criterion Channel.
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Justin Remer makes movies, directs music videos, and plays in the bands Duck the Piano Wire and Elastic No-No Band when he is not writing movie reviews. His folk-rock documentary MAKING LOVERS & DOLLARS is currently streaming on Amazon.