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  • Eight Men Out

    Eight Men Out

    ★★★★

    A rigorous retelling of Eliot Asinof’s 1963 book of the same name, Sayles’ filmed adaptation leans less into the legal outcomes of the infamous Black Sox scandal, in which ballplayers conspired with monied gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series for cash. Sayles instead drills into the tension that rapidly evolves between players, journalists, managers and fans as, game by game, the corrupt scheme complexly unfolds. This was Sayles’ biggest budget picture to date, with the cast to warrant it:…

  • Passion Fish

    Passion Fish

    Inspired both by Sayles’ experience working as a hospital orderly and his admiration of Bergman’s Persona, this Louisana-set two-hander pairs May-Alice (Mary McDonnell), a hopeless soap-star-turned-paraplegic with nurse Chantelle (Alfre Woodard) for an update on the traditional women’s picture. Nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 65th Academy Awards, losing out to Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game, as well as Best Supporting Actress for McDonnell, fresh off of her much-lauded Dances with Wolves turn. These nods would lead to some of the best box office returns of Sayles’ career to date, with candid performances that warrant repeat viewings.

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  • Queen of Diamonds

    Queen of Diamonds

    ★★★★

    Shot on location in the desolate daytime desertscape of Las Vegas, Nevada, Menkes’ third feature-length film, which premiered in competition at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival, is a subversive rumination on isolation and despair. Following the titular “queen,” a casino blackjack dealer played by Nina’s long-time collaborator and sister Tinka, the work unfolds in a Jeanne Dielman-esque patience. “The female protagonist is both deeply estranged and psychically powerful,” says Menkes of her film. “Her loner position is the backside of centuries of Western Heroes: she stands in the center as a watcher and victim of a system which is starting to crack.”

  • The Hard Way

    The Hard Way

    ★★★★

    After years of accepting Bette Davis’ cast-off casting offers, under-utilized leading lady Ida Lupino has her chance to dazzle as the worldly, callous creature that would help define her legacy as an on-screen performer. Her hardboiled turn as a pushy, stern “stage sister” to the moderately-talented, sequin-eyed Katie (Joan Leslie) substantiated Lupino’s nuanced talents to the critical elite, earning her the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress. Based on a story by famed American playwright Irwin Shaw,…