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when a Criterion doesnt seem like a Criterion

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#1 of 16 Louis Letizia

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Posted November 18 2008 - 09:22 AM

With the looming december release of WHITE DOG , i got to thinking about the Criterion discs that have thus far been released that had no criteria to be a criterion release. Although I am anxiously waiting the release of WHITE DOG - it was mediocre at best, a classic case of not living up to its mystery. I am all for Paramount catalog titles being released but the only one released thus far that deserved a criterion treatment has been ACE IN THE HOLE. In place of IF..., I would have put LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR and substituted HANDLE WITH CARE for THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD. But, leaving the Par/Criterion releases out of it-why oh why did ARMAGEDDON and THE ROCK as well as THE BLOB get the royal treatment? Which Criterion releases do you believe did not deserve this boutique label? What is The criteria in Criterion?

#2 of 16 Jack Theakston

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Posted November 18 2008 - 09:59 AM

From their website:

How does Criterion decide which films receive the “Criterion Treatment”?

We aim to reflect the breadth of filmed expression. We try not to be restrictive or snobby about what kinds of films are appropriate. An auteur classic, a Hollywood blockbuster, and an independent B horror film each has to be taken on its own terms. All we ask is that each film in the collection be an exemplary film of its kind. Of course we can’t just pick movies and put them out. The process of getting the rights to release a film can take years. Even if we want a film, we can’t work on it unless the film’s owners grant us the rights. Why so few films from South Asia or China?”—and we’re continually working to fill those gaps.
-J. Theakston

#3 of 16 ted:r


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Posted November 18 2008 - 10:30 AM

It should be noted that "Armageddon" and "The Rock" came out yonks ago (40 and 138, respectively), "The Blob" is a cult film and Samuel Fuller is a cult director.

I'm afraid you lose me with "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold", one of my top 10 films of all time. And Jonathan Demme's "Handle With Care" would be appreciated mainly by cultists, same as "The Blob" (different cultists, perhaps!)

At the end of the day, Criterion puts them out and we as the consumers have to make a choice to buy or not buy. To expect any company to please you 100% of the time is, of course, absurd. And you have a right to express your opinion on what they should or should not release. But, if you ask me, Criterion gets an A+ as far as these things go.
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#4 of 16 Simon Howson

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Posted November 18 2008 - 10:57 AM

Didn't Michael Bay tell the studio he wanted Criterion to do the DVDs for his films, so Criterion was paid accordingly. They didn't decide to do those films, they did it because they were paid to.

#5 of 16 Patrick McCart

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Posted November 18 2008 - 11:42 AM

Criterion can release a comprehensive Ed Wood set and I wouldn't object. They're not just about film selection, but presentation. Armageddon is a ridiculously dumb movie, but it's presented in a scholarly way on DVD.

I think some people can be a little too pretentious or unfair for some releases. Home Vision released a complete box set of Norman McLaren films, but I've read some negative comments on the basis his films were not as deserving as unreleased Golden Age animation. I'm sure plenty thought Criterion's Stan Brakhage collection was a waste of time, too.

#6 of 16 SilverWook



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Posted November 18 2008 - 01:12 PM

I seem to recall when Criterion released both Michael Bay films on Laserdisc some people were a bit horrified. Posted Image

Criterion unleashed The Blob on LD way back in 1988.

#7 of 16 Jeffrey:K


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Posted November 18 2008 - 01:22 PM

Originally Posted by Louis Letizia
In place of IF..., I would have put LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR
Surely IF... is a Criterion title if ever there was one. You don't think it belongs on a boutique label?

#8 of 16 Mark_TS



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Posted November 18 2008 - 02:01 PM

im sure the occasional ARMAGEDDON or a THE BLOB help pay the rent, and give them the cash flow to release things like GRASS AND WILD STRAWBERRIES, THE MIRROR, and YOJIMBO etc-(top of head title examples)
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#9 of 16 Jack Theakston

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Posted November 18 2008 - 03:12 PM

Another point you guys are missing is that Criterion has deals with certain distributors. They've got one with Jack Harris, which is why THE BLOB and EQUINOX are both out on DVD (both worthy films, in my opinion), or Richard Gordon, with those Boris Karloff films released last year.

Yes, you have to put out stuff people will actually buy to keep the rest afloat.
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#10 of 16 Martin Teller

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Posted November 18 2008 - 03:26 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_TS
im sure the occasional ARMAGEDDON or a THE BLOB help pay the rent, and give them the cash flow to release things like GRASS AND WILD STRAWBERRIES, THE MIRROR, and YOJIMBO etc-(top of head title examples)

I wish Criterion would release The Mirror!!!

#11 of 16 Louis Letizia

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Posted November 19 2008 - 05:53 AM

This thread actually started in my office when a customer of mine and myself got to talking about movies. She-now a 40/50 something soccer mom-regaled me with her glorious past life of her being apart of the original MTV pioneers (she had something to do with the origin of the spaceman logo of the time-so , literally-a pioneer)-which was in and unitself very cool to me but than she told me of her days at Criterion and how wondrous it was to work there for bonafide movie buffs as ourselves because they had think tanks and handpicked which movies would fit the prestiguous label. Any number of classics we all can name were on that list and she went on to say that no film was really out of their grasp-if they really wanted it. The only times rights isssues would come into play or studios would become involved would be when they truly wanted something like a Woody Allen collection(oh! what plans they had for those!)-but pretty much everything else was up for grabs. During her tenure she pursued MERRY CHRISTMAS MR LAWRENCE and wanted it apart of an Ogisa package ; she wanted ONE FROM THE HEART and APOCALYPSE NOW as well as THE GODFATHER films (about the only dvd's paramount proper does as well as Criterion). All they did was talk film-great films-all day. nirvana to many of us here.
The point of my thread here is not to say that there is not a bouttique place for THE BLOB, ARMAGEDDON and MEN AND MONSTERS -but grouping them with The Kurowsawa films and the Bergman films just seems to dilute the boutiqueness of it-Do we see costume jewelery in the window of Tiffany's? A MacDonald's hamburger on the menu of The Four Seasons? No-because than we would say to ourselves Where is the magic of visiting these places and if we did visit them and saw these items we could get for a fraction of the cost anywhere-why bother? When Paramount comes out with an exceptional release such as THE GODFATHER I rejoice and say to myself- "Wow-they came up to a Criterion level!" Using Criterion as a high water mark. But when Criterion releases a subpar release that seems like it came from a major (very rare i must admit)-it trashes their boutique name. Putting too much garbage into a pristine reservoir qwill make the drinking water very distasteful and after a while you will turn to bottled water. Has Criterion-lite forced us to drink sparkling water for $25 when for $50 we drank-and indulged-in Moet champagne? For a small investment I was able to say i owned a Criterion labeled library and felt a tiny bit special. Now-sprinkled amongst the glistening numbered spines on the top shelf of my bookcase are films i cannot have long conversations about through the night with a colleague, a friend or a date. Now-at the point in my life where I can ponder the secrets of WILD STRAWBERRIES and feel the anguish of A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE- I must also glance at Ben Affleck in a uniform leftover from CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.
I love all movies-popcorn ones as well as arthouse. But there should be an unpolluted area where they can be proudly displayed . As when I close my eyes and reach for any book on my leather bound volumes I do not pull out a sidney sheldon-I would expect the same from Criterion. That doesn't mean i do not have sidney Sheldon novels strewn around, nor PLANET OF THE APES dvd's. Only that theres a place for everything and everything in its place. DVD's are the greatest format for movie lovers and there's room for all kinds. If not-they would be part of an Elite group.....but that is another DVD company altogether.

#12 of 16 Colin Jacobson

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Posted November 20 2008 - 03:06 AM

Originally Posted by ted:r
At the end of the day, Criterion puts them out and we as the consumers have to make a choice to buy or not buy.

Exactly. Folks have always griped about some titles not being "Criterion worthy", but I think that's silly. Criterion can release whatever they want to release - they never said they were just a label for the film snobs. Don't like it? Don't buy it, but don't begrudge others who might like those titles...
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#13 of 16 Thomas T

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Posted November 20 2008 - 03:39 AM

The Michael Bay titles aside (whose inclusion in the Criterion collection has been explained), I don't think there's ANY title that doesn't "seem" like a Criterion. Cinema Art is as eclectic and as diversified as music and if Criterion were a record label instead of a film label, would you have a problem with them releasing Billie Holliday along side Connie Francis! I wouldn't.

#14 of 16 Louis Letizia

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Posted November 20 2008 - 04:22 AM

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films, is dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements. Criterion began with a mission to pull the treasures of world cinema out of the film vaults and put them in the hands of collectors. All of the films published under the Criterion banner represent cinema at its finest. In our seventeen years, we've seen a lot of things change, but one thing has remained constant: our commitment to publishing the defining moments of cinema in the world's best digital editions.

I agree about everyone has the right to buy or not to buy or one man's THE BLOB is another mans CRIES AND WHISPERS. However-keeping sentiments out of this-the paragraph above culled from the Criterion website mentions "important classic" films. You have to admit some are far from important classics-thus straying from their original criteria.

#15 of 16 AdrianTurner


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Posted November 20 2008 - 07:12 AM

Today I happened to see Michael Epstein's 2004 documentary Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate. I thought it was a truly outstanding documentary about one of the beautiful, audacious and obviously controversial American films ever made. And it struck me -- this is the sort of work Criterion should be doing.

#16 of 16 Corey3rd



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Posted November 20 2008 - 01:22 PM

While it's easy to perceive of Criterion as something on par with the Library of Congress' National Film Registry, Criterion is really a video company. They have built up a reputation for quality presentation, but they don't have that much control over what films they can get from the major studios. The reason they have had such luck with Paramount is because that studio seems to have zero clue how to work their vault outside of the warhorses. I liked what they did with the three Centennial collection DVDs so it's not like they don't have the in-house talent.

I find it hard to believe that The Blob somehow "paid" for the more esoteric of titles on Criterion's catalog. I know plenty of folks that enjoyed picking up the Midnite Movies, but weren't willing to cough up $40 for the Blob. Much as I like Eddie Coyle, it goes from buy to netflix because it's going to be pricey. And what's the point of buying a DVD at $40 when you know the Blu-ray will be out in the near future?
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