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The best new Criterion Channel movies in August 2022 include a classic murder mystery and an underrated DeNiro – The A.V. Club

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In the great streaming wars, the Criterion Channel has consistently been an overlooked service—even here at The A.V. Club. While it may not feature a robust, costly slate of original programming, there are few better places for folks interested in foreign, classic, and independent films. Particularly as those kinds of libraries continue to shrink elsewhere. We’ll be highlighting the best of what the Criterion Channel has to offer each month, from nearly 100-year-old classics to streaming premieres of smaller indie projects.
For August, we’ve rounded up the best new additions to the streamer’s flourishing library, from Orsen Welles’ noir Touch Of Evil to Martha Coolidge’s teen rom-com Valley Girl. In our first in a regular series of dispatches, we’ve also included some recent favorites that were added in the last couple of months.
2 / 12
Myrna Loy and William Powell are the dynamite duo Nick and Nora Charles in the W.S. Van Dyke-directed caper The Thin Man, in which they play the permanently soused couple who find themselves wrangled into a murder investigation while vacationing in New York City. It’s a glitzy, fast-paced, romantic venture, all capped off with a murder mystery dinner party. The Thin Man also includes an appearance from the famed film dog Asta (real name Skippy), who flutters around the sensational pair. Loy and Powell would go on to star in 13 films together, including The Thin Man sequels After The Thin Man, which is also available on Criterion Channel, and Another Thin Man.
3 / 12
Director Stanley Kwan spins a dreamy, time-jumping ghost story in Rouge, starring Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui. The tale starts in 1930’s Hong Kong, where we meet a forlorn courtesan by the name of Fleur, who commits suicide via opium alongside her playboy lover Chan Chen-Pang. We then find ourselves in the 1980s, following two journalists who meet Fleur’s forlorn spirit and decide to help her track down her long-lost love.
4 / 12
Noir is particularly grimy in the hands of Orson Welles, who directs and stars in Touch Of Evil as the imposing, grumbling, and ever-perspiring police captain Hank Quinlan. The Texas-set film starts with an explosive opening shot, forever altering the lives of those on both sides of the border, including Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston, whose performance as a Mexican was nimbly roasted in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood) and his wife Susan (Janet Leigh). Marlene Dietrich makes a late-career appearance in Touch Of Evil as the fortune teller Tanya, who expertly delivers one of the film’s most memorable lines: “Your future’s all used up.” Touch Of Evil is a stark and spiteful look at noir and all it encapsulates—not just a clash between criminality and the law, but the morality that complicates both sides.
5 / 12
In his first lead film role, a young Nicolas Cage dazzles in director Martha Coolidge’s high school-set romantic comedy Valley Girl, loosely based on the teen classic Romeo & Juliet. The film follows the eponymous Julie (Deborah Foreman), who crosses paths with Hollywood punk Randy (Cage) at a raging party. Glittering with ’80s nostalgia, the excitement of young love, and a soundtrack featuring Modern English’s “I Melt With You,” Valley Girl is an underrated offering that arrived one year after Fast Times At Ridgemont High, and one year before John Hughes made his debut with Sixteen Candles, forming part of a trilogy that defined the ’80s teen genre.
6 / 12
A highlight of Criterion’s “Noir In Color” collection, John M. Stahl’s Leave Her To Heaven shows what happens when one woman just wants to hang out with her oblivious man while he’s hellbent on inviting her whole family to their honeymoon. Gene Tierney is rock solid as the obsessive Ellen Berent, who’s willing to take down anyone—and we mean anyone—in order to capture her newlywed’s attention, played by Cornel Wilde. To top it off, the film closes with a sublime courtroom scene featuring none other than Vincent Price.
7 / 12
After penning the screenplays for The Yakuza and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader made his directorial debut with 1978’s Blue Collar, starring Richard Pryor, Yaphet Kotto, and Harvey Keitel. The three portray auto assembly line workers who get fed up with their wack management and corrupt union representation. In order to make bank, they hatch a plan to loot a safe at the union headquarters, making off with something much more valuable than cash: Blackmail material. Described as one of the “great American films of the 1970s,” Blue Collar offers laughs, grit, and a rugged, still relevant look at labor in the U.S.
8 / 12
Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury’s romance in director Mira Nair’s Mississippi Masala is a warm, sensual affair that upends expectations. After her family is exiled from Uganda, Choudhury’s Mina crashes—literally—into Demetrius (Washington) while living in the depths of Greenwood, Mississippi. The duo’s palpable chemistry, set against the globetrotting background of political turmoil overseas and race relations in the South, offers a beautiful juxtaposition between the transcendence of love and the realities of the world, which Nair handles with a delicate, skilled hand.
9 / 12
Celebrate Robert De Niro’s recent birthday with a screening of Martin Brest’s Midnight Run, which follows ex-cop turned bounty hunter De Niro, who catches bail-jumping accountant Jonathan Mardukas (Charles Grodin) after he embezzles $15 million from the Mob and donates it to charity. However, De Niro’s Jack Walsh isn’t the only one after Mardukas, with the FBI, the Mob, and an unscrupulous competitor (John Ashton) on their tail. The oddball pair reluctantly find themselves working together to avoid the growing fleet of pursuers in this cross-country comedy.
10 / 12
Making its streaming premiere from the Donbas, Ukraine, war zone is the tender and robust documentary The Earth Is As Blue As An Orange, directed by Iryna Tsilyk. With a need for an outlet and a passion for filmmaking, Hanna Gladka and her four children turn to recording their daily life in the war-torn region, with all its joys and trauma. The documentary questions art’s role in ongoing times of strife, and exemplifies not only the desire to record our lived experiences, but the absolute necessity.
11 / 12
12 / 12


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