#BREAKYOURALGORITHM

Films from the dusty corners of subscription services

VIRTUAL REPERTORY SERIES

During this time of social distancing, have you started to notice the limitations of your algorithm – whether those provided by streaming services or our own brains? The Brattle is here to help you #BreakYourAlgorithm!

When we are showing films for the public, we try hard to look to the whole depth and breadth of cinema history to provide options that some of our audience may never even have heard of. Likewise, this weekly selection of 2-4 films will draw from the unseen corners of the most popular streaming services – mostly Netflix, AmazonPrime, and Hulu – to present some options that their trusty computer algorithms seem to ignore. We’ll mostly be highlighting films from before 2000 since those tend to be the hardest to find on the streamers and we’ll endeavor to keep a good variety up so that even if you have seen one film, hopefully, another will be new to you. Let’s all do our best to confuse the robots by breaking out of our cinematic comfort zones!

New selections will be announced every Monday and Thursday afternoon.


Date

TITLE

SteamingNotes

Vitals

Desc

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Monday, May 25

SOAPDISH

Streaming on Prime; for rent elsewhere

1991 • dir Michael Hoffman w/Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Elisabeth Shue, Robert Downey Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, Cathy Moriarty, Teri Hatcher, Kathy Najimy, Carrie Fisher • 97 min

A very funny early-90s all-star comedy that provides Sally Field an excellent opportunity to chew the scenery as a soap opera star who finds herself in uncharted personal waters when an old flame (Kevin Kline) and her supposed ‘niece’ (Elisabeth Shue) re-enter her life. Ironically, while Field is playing to the rafters, Kline has a chance to (slightly) modify his bombastic bastard role that he had previously perfected in A Fish Called Wanda and I Love You to Death. Sometimes it’s all a little too much and there’s a zero hour twist that might feel a little insensitive through today’s eyes but, ultimately, this movie is good-natured spoof of one of the most spoofable forms of entertainment.

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Thu, May 21

CAST A DEADLY SPELL

Streaming on Prime and HBO; for rent elsewhere

1990 • dir Martin Campbell w/Fred Ward, David Warner, Julianne Moore, Arnetia Walker, Clancy Brown, Alexandra Powers • 96 min

Credit screenwriter Joseph Dougherty or producer Gale Anne Hurd with the idea of merging the eldritch horror of H.P. Lovecraft with a hardboiled detective neo-noir for this charmingly goofball HBO movie. The great character actor Fred Ward (Tremors) stars as H. Phillip Lovecraft, a private eye in an alternate reality 1940s Los Angeles where magic and monsters are real. Lovecraft is hired by a sinister millionaire (Time Bandits’ David Warner) to recover The Necronomicon, an infamous mystical tome, which has been inconveniently stolen by his chauffeur. Also featuring a very early in her career Julianne Moore and the always reliable Clancy Brown.

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Monday, May 18

COOKIE’S FORTUNE

Streaming on Netflix

1999 • dir Robert Altman w/Glenn Close, Julianne Moore, Liv Tyler, Charles S. Dutton, Courtney B. Vance, Chris O’Donnell, Nead Beatty, Patricia Neal • 118 min

Robert Altman’s Mississippi-shot comedy follows the machinations of a pair of eccentric sisters (Glenn Close and Julianne Moore) as they try to cover up their wealthy Aunt Cookie’s suicide by claiming it was murder. Unfortunately, that means there must be a suspect, and Cookie’s loyal friend, handyman, and cousin Willis (Charles S. Dutton) fits the bill too perfectly. Of course, the plot is rarely as important as the people in an Altman film and COOKIE’S FORTUNE is mostly concerned with being a loving portrait of small-town Southern life filled with memorable characters. The film gets Brattle Bonus Points for casting Hollywood veteran Patricia Neal (The Day the Earth Stood Still) as kooky Aunt Cookie.

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Thursday, May 14

GANJA AND HESS

Now streaming on AmazonPrime (plus Kanopy and Shudder)

1973 • dir Bill Gunn w/Duane Jones, Marlene Clark • 110 min

A wealthy academic (Night of the Living Dead’s Duane Jones) is stabbed by an ancient dagger and finds himself cursed with a lust for blood in this art/vampire film written and directed by Bill Gunn. Anchored by themes of love, faith, and history, this landmark African-American cult movie was recently restored to its original length but still remains something of an obscurity which is sure to send some of our followers’ algorithms into a tailspin.

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Monday, May 11

DAVE MADE A MAZE

Steaming on Prime, Kanopy; free w/ads on Tubi; for rent elsewhere

2017 • dir Bill Watterson w/Nick Thune, Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Adam Busch, James Urbaniak • 80 min

Like BUNNY & THE BULL, this is another apropos comedy about the things we do to pass the time in isolation or deal with frustration – and how it’s possible to become trapped by them. Dave (Nick Thune), a frustrated artist, builds a cardboard fort in his living room while his girlfriend Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) is away and, somehow, becomes lost inside his own fantastical creation. When Annie returns, she leads a band of oddball explorers on a rescue mission. Once inside, they find themselves caught in an ever-changing homemade fantasy world. Filled with an impressive amount of craft-store-gore, DAVE MADE A MAZE is a fun film that ranks with the work of Michel Gondry for sheer handmade imagination.

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Brattle Premiere, August 2017


Thursday, May 7

PAINTED FACES

Streaming on Netflix

1988 • dir Alex Law • 112 min

We started this program with a pair of Hong Kong action comedies and this heartfelt drama gives a backstage glimpse at the origin of the three stars of WHEELS ON MEALS. Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao all rose out of the Peking Opera School where they learned the acrobatic, martial arts, and acting skills that would make them stars. PAINTED FACES is a fictionalized and romanticized (some say overly so) version of their time there. Hung plays his former teacher Master Yu who relentlessly trains his students and only tolerates perfection – but is ultimately driven by a dedication to the children in his care.

Today’s #BreakYourAlgorithm marks a change in our schedule for this program. Don’t worry, we’re still dedicated to confusing your algorithms by unearthing the hidden gems of the streaming services but, from now on, new recommendations will drop every Monday and Thursday.

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Thursday, April 30

DOUBLE HAPPINESS

Streaming on Prime; free w/ads on Tubi; for rent elsewhere

1994 • dir Mina Shum w/Sandra Oh, Stephen Chang, Alannah Ong, Frances Isles, Claudette Carracedo, Callum Keith Rennie • 87 min

Many may have fallen for Sandra Oh’s awesome performance in Killing Eve but indie movie fans have been in on her fabulousness for decades. In this charming woman-directed coming of age film, Oh plays the daughter of Chinese immigrant parents in 1990s Canada. She dreams of becoming a movie actress and living a more carefree life but she butts up against both her father’s loving-but-restrictive parenting and a casually racist society that has her auditioning for waitress roles. When she starts a romance with a handsome grad student – who happens to be white – she must make a choice about her future and her connection to her family. Oh’s performance is buoyant and Mina Shum’s direction deftly weaves daydream fantasies with more straightforward family interactions.

Boston premiere at the Brattle for the 1995 Boston International Festival of Women’s Cinema


Wednesday, April 29

THE WRONG ARM OF THE LAW

Streaming on Prime; for rent elsewhere

1963 • dir Cliff Owen w/Peter Sellers • 94 min

Released just before The Pink Panther, THE WRONG ARM OF THE LAW provides a different perspective on the revered comedic actor Peter Sellers. In this madcap caper film, Sellers plays the Cockney mastermind of a gang of thieves that runs afoul of a rival group who are impersonating the police and ripping off everyone from the crooks to the cops. Needless to say, this does not go over well with either side and – like Fritz Lang’s M played for laughs – the criminal element joins forces with the law to take down the newcomers. A little seen gem, overshadowed by the international success of The Pink Panther which was released in the UK less than a year after THE WRONG ARM OF THE LAW.

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Thursday, April 23

BERNICE BOBS HER HAIR

Streaming on Prime and Kanopy or look for it on YouTube

1976 • dir Joan Micklin Sliver w/Shelly Duvall, Veronica Cartwright, Bud Cort • 47 min

Here’s a short one for your Thursday enjoyment. This made-for-TV adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story is adeptly written and directed by Joan Micklin Silver – fresh off of her debut feature Hester Street and just prior to her production on the Boston-set Between the Lines – and is set in 1920, just at the dawn of the Jazz Age. A boring young woman (Shelley Duvall) visiting her popular cousin (Veronica Cartwright) for the summer tries to improve her image and gain the attention of the young men in town. A simple, charming movie that plays like the origin of a flapper, BERNICE BOBS HER HAIR features all of these 1970s talents (plus the always boyish Bud Cort) at the top of their games.

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Wednesday, April 22

THE MILKY WAY

Streaming on Prime and the Criterion Channel; for rent elsewhere

1936 • dir Leo McCarey w/Harold Lloyd, Adolphe Menjou, Verree Teasdale • 89 min

Directed by classic comedy giant Leo McCarey (Duck Soup, The Awful Truth), THE MILKY WAY is a fun and lighthearted late-career talkie from the renowned silent film clown Harold Lloyd (Safety Last). A hapless, mild-mannered milkman by the name of Burleigh (Lloyd) becomes a boxing champion through a series of improbable events and the help of a shady promoter (Adolphe Menjou). Lloyd is hilarious as the milquetoast hero whose counterfeit success goes to his head but kudos also go to the women in the film who more than capably keep up with the pace and absurdity of it all – especially Verree Teasdale as the promoter’s wisecracking girl.


Thursday, April 16

STARSTRUCK

Streaming on Kanopy and AmazonPrime; free on Tubi; for rent elsewhere

1982 • dir Gillian Armstrong w/Joey Kennedy, Ross O’Donovan, Margo Lee • 105 min

Yeah, so we’re double-dipping – STARSTRUCK is also part of our “Virtual Vacation International” series today – but that just goes to show how much we love this film and what a discovery it feels like. The effervescent Joey Kennedy stars as Jackie, a girl who dreams of becoming a pop star in 1980s Sydney. With hilarious New Wave musical numbers and some very catchy tunes from Split Enz’ Phil Judd, STARSTRUCK hits just the right note of fun for us to power through another day of this seemingly endless shutdown.

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Wednesday, April 15

BUNNY AND THE BULL

Available for rent on Google Play and Apple iTunes

2009 • dir Paul King w/Edward Hogg, Simon Farnaby, Verónica Echegui, Noel Fielding, Richard Ayode, Julian Barratt, Rich Fulcher • 101 min

A most appropriate film to watch during this shutdown… Stephen, an agoraphobe, reminisces about a disastrous European vacation during which he was both dumped and his best friend died. A Gondry-esque creativity dominates the look of the film as objects from Stephen’s apartment recreate the landscapes and locations that he visited. Writer/director Paul King (Paddington) had previously worked on cult TV show The Mighty Boosh and the absurd whimsy of that show (along with cameos by its cast) is on full display alongside a darkness that suits the story.

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Brattle premiere, October 2010


Thursday, April 9

THE LAST DAYS OF CHEZ NOUS

Straming on Netflix, Kanopy; for rent elsewhere

1992 • dir Gillian Armstrong w/Lisa Harrow, Bruno Ganz, Kerry Fox • 96 min

A free-spirited young woman (Kerry Fox) returns home to her older sister’s house after some time away and disrupts the strained balance of life there. At first she irritates her sister’s husband (Bruno Ganz) but things soon become more complicated. A beautiful and wonderfully naturalistic family drama about the way life and love changes over time.

Brattle premiere, April 1993

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Wednesday, April 8

DON

Now streaming on Prime and Netflix; for rent elsewhere

1978 • dir Chandra Barot w/Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman, Pran, Iftekhar, Om shivpuri, Satyendra Kapoor • 166 min

This stone-cold classic of Bollywood cinema is just waiting for discovery on your streaming services. A suave but ruthless gangster named Don (Amitabh Bachchan) is finally captured by the police but is killed during an escape attempt. It just so happens that the chief inspector knows of a man named Vijay who looks identical to Don and enlists his aid to infiltrate the gang. Of course, Vijay comes up against obstacles – including the beautiful but dangerous Roma (Zeenat Aman) who is looking to bring vengeance upon Don. This is a ridiculously entertaining movie with a mix of 70s action, gangster epic, romantic comedy, and insane coincidences – not to mention the requisite musical numbers that pepper most Bollywood films. There is also a 2006 remake streaming so keep your eyes open for the original!

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Thursday, April 2

PARTY GIRL

Streaming on Prime; Free on Tubi, Vudu; For rent elsewhere

1995 • dir Daisy von Scherler Mayer w/Parker Posey • 94 min

“Heh-heh-hello!” Those not in their 20s during the mid-90s might have forgotten this awesome indie film from Daisy von Scherler Mayer. An early-in-her-career Parker Posey plays Mary, a, well, party girl who is devoted to a life of fun. When she is busted for hosting a house party and has to borrow money for bail, Mary winds up getting an unexpected job as a librarian to pay it back. What begins as a boring chore, soon becomes a vocation and Mary’s life begins to change.

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Wednesday, April 1

EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY

Streaming for free with ads on Tubi and IMDb TV; For rent elsewhere

1988 • dir Julien Temple w/Geena Davis, Jeff Goldblum, Jim Carrey, Damon Wayans • 100 min

This bonkers late-80s musical sci-fi comedy is just the over the top distraction to whisk you away to another time and place. Manicurist Valerie (Davis) is surprised one day by a spaceship crashing into her pool. When three colorfully-furred but oddly attractive aliens (played by the wacky trio of Jeff Goldblum, Jim Carrey, and Damon Wayans) pop out, Gail decides to befriend them and help them cope with 1980s L.A. culture. Helmed by former Sex Pistols compatriot and music video director Julien Temple, EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY is a film both ahead of and very much of its time… But mostly it is just absurd, madcap fun.

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Thursday, March 26

THE CRUISE

Please Note: Due to licensing changes, this title is no longer available.

1970 • dir Marek Piwowski w/Jan Himilsbach, Stanislaw Tym, Jerzy Dobrowolski • 65 min

Did you know that there was a satirical Polish film hiding on Netflix? Neither did we, but here it is. This 1970 black and white film is beautifully restored with English subtitles. Due to a case of mistaken identity, a stowaway on a riverboat cruise is made the entertainment director. Soon, he has manipulated many of the crew and his fellow passengers to create his own mini-dictatorship complete with arbitrary rules, vague policy discussions, cultural appropriation, and a kangaroo court. The stowaway seems to gain his power mainly because the passengers on the ship become bored with the lazy pace of their leisure. The film culminates in an absurdist pageant put on by the stowaway and his cronies. Populated with mostly non-professional actors and shot in a semi-documentary style, THE CRUISE is full of hilariously low-stakes political discourse and paints a biting parody of life under Communist rule in 1970s Poland.


Wednesday, March 25 • Double Feature

WHEELS ON MEALS

Streaming on AmazonPrime, for rent elsewhere

1984 • dir Sammo Hung Kam-Bo w/Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Biao Yuen • 104 min

If you’re not a Jackie Chan fanatic, chances are you haven’t seen WHEELS ON MEALS and it’s a great one! A fun and exciting Hong Kong action/comedy shot in Spain and starring the so-called Three Brothers: Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, and Sammo Hung. Jackie and Yuen play cousins who run a popular food truck in Barcelona. They soon cross paths with a beautiful young thief who turns out to be the heir to a fortune and the target of a kidnapping plot. Sammo shows up as a bumbling detective and hijinks ensue. The film culminates in a showdown at a castle that includes a legendary fight between Jackie and Benny “The Jet” Urquidez. A super-fun hidden gem on AmazonPrime.

Sadly, this is an English dubbed version but the film is so much fun that you’ll hardly notice.

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LOVE ON DELIVERY

Streaming on AmazonPrime and Netflix; for rent elsewhere

1994 • dir Lee Lik-chi w/Stephen Chow, Christy Chung, Ng Mang-tat • 93 min

Here’s another great action/comedy from Hong Kong lurking way down the queue on Netflix and Prime! You may have seen Stephen Chow in his later masterpieces Shaolin Soccer or Kung Fu Hustle but this mid-90s gem highlights his comedic charms perfectly. Chow plays Ho Kam-An, a hapless food delivery boy who falls for a beautiful judo student but her boorish teacher gets in the way. In a bid to win her affections, Ho Kam-An enlists the aid of a shady guru who teaches him a half-ass kung fu style that turns out to be surprisingly effective. This hilarious film is constantly skewering the tropes of the kung fu combat flick while never fully sacrificing its story. It escalates into one big madcap martial arts showdown as Ho Kam-An faces off against the ‘invincible’ Japanese karate champion.

The online version is in Chinese with pretty good English subtitles.

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