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HTF Podcast Episode 5: Visiting Criterion Collection

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by Brian Dobbs, Jul 16, 2019.

  1. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I’ve started but haven’t gotten too far yet. I’ve never viewed much less owned a Criterion release. When they were the DVD hotness in the late ’90s or early 2000’s I didn’t have money for their expensive discs. And when I later had the money, it seemed like the buzz had diminished. And today...do they do blu-Ray or 4K? I think of them as DVD makers.

    But I think I never really understood what they were, why I’d buy a criterion release of a movie I could buy normally that already had commentaries and so on.

    That’s a long way to ask: is this podcast accessible to someone who doesn’t know from Criterion? :)
     
  2. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    They do Blu-ray but are not releasing in 4K yet.

    Criterion was basically the first third party distributor - they were pioneers and now companies like Kino and Twilight Time and Olive all have business models that are more or less inspired on the Criterion model, which is to license and release someone else's content.

    There are kinda two categories for Criterion releases: releases where they are the only company issuing a title on physical media at all, and releases where they're putting out a special edition of a title that the original studio had already released.

    They have fans for both of those releases. They brought a lot of things to disc that fell between the cracks of what major studios would release. And then they also did a lot of great special editions; they basically invented the audio commentary back in the 1980s. They were the ones that really popularized the idea that physical media could and should include bonus material - they started that trend with Laserdiscs. And I think, for instance, because they did such great special editions for titles, that fans of that more popular content then started being a little more interested in trying out the more obscure things that Criterion was bringing to disc in the first place. So besides being a licensee that put out physical media, their choices of what to put out was seen as a curation of sorts.

    They've certainly cultivated an aura that if it's a Criterion release, it's an "important" film and something you should own. So if nothing else, their branding has been remarkably successful.

    People still have a lot of brand loyalty towards them. I don't want to say it's misplaced per se, because they've put out stuff that's earned that loyalty. But I think they have cultivated a mystique that sometimes causes people to abandon logic when discussing them. For instance, when "Superman: The Movie" hit its 40th anniversary last year, there were some people very vocal that Criterion should release it. It didn't matter that Warner Bros had already put out a phenomenal Blu-ray edition loaded with special features, or had announced a UHD disc. Some people felt that it would somehow be better if it had the Criterion label.

    Ultimately, they're a boutique home video label that has managed to pioneer what physical media meant to collectors in the early days, and have continued to put out interesting releases ever since. But they're not a mystical, infallible company either. At this point in my collecting life, I'm rather agnostic on who actually puts out a new release. To close with another example, in recent years, Sony has been remastering their back catalog of Frank Capra and Cary Grant movies in 4K; some of those movies they've released themselves, others they've licensed out to Criterion. It's all Sony's masters. It doesn't make a difference to me if the physical disc comes from Sony or Criterion. But there are a lot of collectors who feel that it is intangibly better if it's Criterion that puts it out over Sony.
     
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  3. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Cinematographer

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    Nobody asked about THE DEVILS? :)

    Vincent
     
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  4. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    I have several titles, and probably most of them aren't available anywhere else. I've been buying them since they were founded. My first title was For All Mankind about 30 years ago, which I've bought on LD, DVD and now BR. Some are movie series, like the Qatsi Trilogy, the Del Toro set, Dekalog, Three Colors and so on. Then there's always the Bergman box, 'cause I just couldn't let that one pass. There are some others that had a regular release, that just wasn't up to par for me, like Fincher's The Game or The Princess Bride, ones with substantially different, multiple versions like The Tree of Life and Brazil, which I bought on DVD, then again on BR. Some are just movies that needed restoration and no studio was probably ever going to release, like The Magnificent Ambersons.

    I also just try to buy some Criterions, because I've always appreciated what they do and I want them to stay in business.
     
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  5. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    @Josh Steinberg Thanks. :) I remember in my early days on HTF people raving about Criterion Collection releases. I looked on with a little mixture of jealousy and confusion :)

    Maybe I'll take a look at some CC when I get through my viewing backlog and start purchasing anew.

    I expect to listen to the podcast in the next week or so. But this one is a lower priority as it hits topic for which I have a total void in my HTF experience.

    Technically, I was immediately impressed, recognizing the effort and coordination of doing an offsite interview podcast. So kudos to Sam and Brian on that! :)
     
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  6. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I was totally into Koyaanisqatsi in high school when I was introduced to it. I had the cassette tape and listened to it too much. I eventually got the sequel on tape a few years later. I don't think I've ever heard the third in the trilogy. But I was into the music; I never watched the movies past my first viewing in a high school class. And then I forgot about them, never rebought on CD. The tapes are long gone.

    I don't know that Koyaanisqatsi would resonate with me as it did 30 years ago. That was many seasons of life ago. :)
     
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  7. Clinton McClure

    Clinton McClure Casual Enthusiast
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    I’ll get around to listening to this podcast next week on my way to work. I listened to the first four HTF podcasts last week and really enjoyed them. My only criticism is you should drop the sound effects and stop playing all the movie clips. The clips don’t translate well and tend to pull me out of the podcast.
     
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  8. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    They may have. I'm not saying one way or the other, I simply do not know and you can go back to the preview thread to see if someone did. We were very up front that the list of Qs was vetted by Criterion and we kept pretty close to that other than my own that I asked at the beginning to establish the criterion business model and philosophy. They answered the vast majority of Qs that we sent them.
     
  9. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    I'd jump on the subscription train if you don't already have a bunch of their disks (and yeah doubly so if you do!) Soooooo much value there.

    Thank you for the feedback Clinton. It's appreciated even if it doesn't track with our current plans. We've been pretty happy with the positive feedback of the sound clips overall and I think they will remain a signature part of our podcasts. Those are really where we get to put in little nuggets of surprise and delight. (Thank you Tim Apple!). We know that's not everyone's cup of tea but they are pretty important to us so far.
     
  10. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    I think it holds up even more in some ways, despite the laughable '70s polyester clothes and beehive hairdos. There's the ecological element, but the whole "Life Out of Balance" concept is probably even more true today than ever. That's a movie that really benefits form a good sound system, cranked up loud, so you can just get absorbed into it. Some of those shots late in the film with someone just standing there, looking into the camera while people swarm past them can really hit me at times.
     
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  11. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    I just feel the clips tend to be a little too long and too frequent at times.
     
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  12. Brian Dobbs

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    +1
     
  13. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    That's good feedback, thanks. We are still getting our feet under us, and finding the right balance. I can see doing shorter clips more than eliminating clips.
     
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  14. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    BTW there are NO CLIPS in the Criterion podcast!
     
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  15. Message #35 of 102 Jul 18, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2019
    Sam Posten

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  16. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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  17. Clinton McClure

    Clinton McClure Casual Enthusiast
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    I can appreciate that, Sam.
     
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  18. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    I think it was the previous podcast where I felt the clips were going a little too far. The Shelf Shame one.
     
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  19. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    That one is talking about specific examples of bad movies that not everyone may be familiar with. A 10 second clip wasn't really enough to get a flavor of why we groaned over em. I don't know that future ones will have as many that are that long but we will definitely consider that longer clips drag the pace down. Seriously, thanks!
     
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  20. Michael Hofmann

    Michael Hofmann Auditioning

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    Great interview, kudos to everyone involved!

    However, I am extremely disappointed about Lee Kline's comment regarding compression.
    Criterion used to have and still has some major compression issues on certain titles, and these things are not difficult to see for a trained eye. Most recently, e.g. with Blue Velvet -- some sequences are almost unwatchable on an OLED TV due to extreme macroblocking in dark parts of the image.

    I'm quite sure they know their compression could be much better, too, but for some reason are sticking to their third party compression studio.
     
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