It’s the first of the month, so the streaming services have changed up their catalogs – which means we’ve got three ‘90s and ‘00s classics at your fingertips. And this week’s disc selection includes new Blu-ray editions for big hits from two of our favorite studio filmmakers.
Requiem for a Dream: With Darren Aronfsky’s horror-ish thriller mother! headed to theaters later this month, Netflix has put his most terrifying previous film back in their library. (Or maybe it’s because of co-star Marlon Wayans’s recent Netflix original Naked. Also terrifying!) This adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr.’s addiction narrative remains a harrowing work, relentless in its pace and grimness, with some of the most nightmarish images Aronofsky’s ever put to film, and that’s saying something. Plus, it’s a nice reminder of a time when Jared Leto wasn’t openly obnoxious.
Pulp Fiction: Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 indie game-changer comes and goes fairly frequently from Netflix, but it’s back again (just in time to pair up with last month’s return of Jackie Brown), and it’s as fast, funny, nasty, and muscular as ever. But when a movie has permeated the popular subconscious this thoroughly, it’s easy to forget its nuances; we’re so hung up on the Royale with Cheese and Ezekiel 25:17 that we skim over the profundity of its closing sequence, the charm of its romances, and the genuineness of its redemptions. It was, in many ways, the great American movie of the 1990s; more than two decades hence, it’s still rich and rewarding.
The Silence of the Lambs: As with Pulp Fiction, the memorable quotes and moments in Jonathan Demme’s 1991 grand-slam Oscar winner have become such pop culture shorthand that we often forget the complexity of what surrounds them. But revisit this one and you’ll find a complicated portrait of women in the workplace, a thoughtful exploration of the challenges of transcending class, and a thrillingly unconventional deployment of the subjective camera. Plus, y’know, “fava beans” and “an old friend for dinner” and all that.
Rebecca: Alfred Hitchcock’s first American release was also one of his biggest hits, and his only Academy Award winner for Best Picture. It’s been out on Blu-ray before, but never in the handsome and fully-loaded Criterion Collection edition that hit DVD years ago; now, finally, they’ve upgraded it, and it’s worth the double-dip. Adapting the novel by Daphne du Maurier, Hitch cranks up the Gothic atmosphere, loads up the sexual subtext, and gets a career highlight performance from Joan Fontaine (Laurence Olivier’s not too shabby either). It’s a bit more traditional, in its storytelling and execution, than what we’d come to think of as a “Hitchcock movie.” But among sweeping ‘40s literary adaptations, you can’t do much better than this. (Includes audio commentary, documentaries, new conversations, archival interviews, test footage, casting gallery, radio adaptations, and trailer.)
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?: Sidney Pollack’s 1969 adaptation of Horace McCoy’s novel concerns a dance marathon contest with a $1500 prize, but it s not, to put it mildly, a rah-rah underdog sports story. James Poe and Robert E. Thompson’s screenplay adroitly captures the kind of tension and conflict that can bubble up between people in close proximity over a brief but intense period, and Pollack indulges in a fair amount of dreamy experimentation, contrary to his usual style. Ultimately, it’s not a sports movie at all; it’s a story of Depression-era desperation, with a fair amount of piercing and bitter showbiz commentary. Yes, it’s a metaphor – but one Pollack and his stellar cast (including a fierce Joan Fonda) wield gracefully. (Includes audio commentaries, featurette, and trailer.)