What makes a Criterion film?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by DanielN, Jan 22, 2003.

  1. DanielN

    DanielN Stunt Coordinator

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    I am interested in renting/buying some Criterion films to see what its all about. After reading their website I am still confused. What qualities does a movie need to have to make the Criterion collection? Does it need good cinematics? Great story? Great plot? All of the above? Looking at the list there are some movies that I feel are questionable to say the least. Will Lord of the Rings be a Criterion film for example? Its already considered one of the best of all time.

    Ok enough rambling...any info would be helpful. Thanks in advance [​IMG]
     
  2. Matt Pelham

    Matt Pelham Screenwriter

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    "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"

    Also it helps to be able to obtain the rights to the film, so Lord of the Rings for example, would never be released by Criterion because New Line won't sell the distribution rights to Criterion.
     
  3. Matthew_Millheiser

    Matthew_Millheiser Supporting Actor

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    Most of the time, it's about whether or not they can get the rights to the film. Back in the laserdisc days, this was a hell of a lot easier than it is now -- hence their numerous "mainstream" LD releases (Ghostbusters, King Kong, The Fisher King, Singin' In The Rain, etc..)

    In the DVD age -- where everybody and their mother is cranking out special edition DVDs -- they are a lot more limited in their selection. Plus, since they generally don't want anything to do with crap -- Michael Bay films notwithstanding -- that lowers the pool of available/interesting titles.

    Big mainstream, blockbuster studio releases will, for the most part, never be part of the Criterion Collection. They're revenue producers for the studios, and they will want to shepherd them in-house.

    Besides, would you really need a LOTR: FOTR Criterion release? What on Earth could they do that New Line/Peter Jackson hasn't done already?
     
  4. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Back in the early-mid LD days (where quality was very hit-n-miss and extras were a rarity) Criterion set the benchmark for quality and added-value features. Not to mention they spearheaded the OAR revolution in that format.

    Nowadays most major studios are so adept at cranking out quality transfers with tons of extras that unfortunately Criterion's influence has diminished in the DVD format. DVD is way more mainstream than LD ever was, which is why studios are loathe to part with their home video rights and why Criterion has to basically rely on getting older, classic films that studios don't think will fly off of the shelves at Best Buy.

    Still I buy Criterion when I can, if I like the title, just to support the company for what they've done over the years. An argument can be made that DVD would not be what it is today without Criterion.
     
  5. Jun-Dai Bates

    Jun-Dai Bates Stunt Coordinator

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    As far as I can tell, the decision-making at Criterion goes something like this:

    It starts with a list of films that Criterion can get the rights to. This is a pretty extensive list, but it does not include the libraries of Warner, Sony, Fox, Kino, New Yorker, or Wellspring (does Wellspring have a library?).

    From this list, films are picked based on consumer input and employee consensus. My understanding is that Armageddon is the only film about which some members of Criterion had doubts. For the rest there was a consensus that the film was worth working on.

    Then, there is the issue of elements. If good film elements are not available, there's not much Criterion can do until some show up, or a massive restoration work is undergone (Criterion does not have the resources to do massive restoration work themselves). Oftentimes films are probably thrown their way because the restoration is already being worked on (I think this is the case for 8 1/2. The film was restored and transferred in Italy by some other party, and Criterion got to release it on dvd)--in these cases Criterion probably puts the film at the top of their list, and if everyone in the company is interested, begins working on the title. Other times, Criterion probably starts the ball rolling and does the restoration themselves (I think Grand Illusion was restored by Criterion). For the rest of the films, a good print is found, minor restoration work is done, the film is transferred, and digital cleanup is done on the transfer to pick out the dirt and scratches from the transfer.

    Money is the final issue. Criterion can't afford to do only films like the 400 blows and Grand Illusion. I once heard something to the effect that every release like Armageddon or Traffic allows Criterion to release 3 or 4 titles like the 400 blows. Armageddon and the Rock are two special cases, because Michael Bay specifically wanted to work with Criterion, and so he prepared special features while he made the films, and he convinced BV to license the film to Criterion at an affordable price. If the restoration and transferring work is going to be expensive, the film would have to be damn good to make it to a Criterion dvd. If the film elements are already good, and Criterion can make a lot of money off of the film, then the film doesn't have to be as good, but it should at least exemplify something. So when Criterion is doing well as a company, they will probably release more films that are obsucure and/or part of the 'canon' of great films. When Criterion is in a more troublesome financial situation, you'll probably see more dvds targeted towards a more mainstream audience, with the goal of keeping Criterion in the black.
     
  6. andrew markworthy

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    Daniel, I think it's safe to say that anything 'art house' that Criterion release is likely to be: (a) as good a quality as you're likely to get and (b) be worth seeing. The more popular stuff they've done (Armageddon, The Rock, The Beastie Boys) is a matter of personal taste, but if it pays the bills and allows them to bring out artistically worthy but commercially less valuable movies, then that's fine.

    It's also worth noting that if you can play R2 discs on your equipment, then several Criterion transfers have appeared under different labels in R2, usually at considerably cheaper prices.
     
  7. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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  8. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Thanks for the link Rich. [​IMG]

    I had not read this interview before and found it quite interesting.
     
  9. DanielN

    DanielN Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks everyone for the info.
     
  10. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    About LOTR...

    New Line certainly gave the film a fantastic DVD edition...but is it bad because Criterion didn't do it? No way!

    One thing about Criterion's releases is that they're almost always of films which wouldn't get release or as good as one by the other studios.

    For example, 8 1/2. Image's DVD is a plain trailer-only DVD with only a good transfer. Criterion had the advantage of having access to the restored version's interpositive, turning that into a high-def transfer, and their signature video/audio restoration tools.

    They also were able to put plenty of worthwhile extras. 8 1/2 is not quite a mainstream film (which makes it even better), so even great studios like New Line (if they had DVD rights) would likely only give it a good 1-disc DVD.

    On the other hand, some public domain films such as My Man Godfrey and Charade have gotten AWFUL DVDs from idiots like Madacy. Criterion got interpositives licensed from Universal, which resulted in much better quality. (Charade looks GREAT)

    Criterion is sort of the big brother of DVD...they're there for mistreated films, overlooked films, and the eccentric ones.
     
  11. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    and as someone who unabashedly enjoys Armageddon, I'm still not sure what makes a male-melodrama-in-space (postmodernized) inherently one of the most evil and reprehensible films ever committed to celluloid (that at least is the prevailing HTF philosophy it seems). I truly don't understand the hatred leveled at this film, other than that it's a fantasy with scifi trappings, but so is star wars. [​IMG]

    Adam
     
  12. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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  13. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    I love fantasy and sci-fi (especially Star Wars). The problem is that Armageddon is (IMPO) bad fantasy with sci-fi trappings. [​IMG]
     
  14. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Well, let's stay focused on this thread's chief, erm, criterion. Thanks! [​IMG]
     
  15. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    okay I can understand both of those positions (analytical distance from the film helps) but I still don't feel either of them while actually watching the film.

    we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming

    I didn't intend to cause the thread to go off track, just interjecting with the idea that there are some here that don't have problems with a Criterion Armageddon, and I think it makes as good a criterion film as say Tokyo Drifter (my most disapointing criterion blind purchase, and that wasn't very disapointing at that).

    Adam
     
  16. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    Regarding "Armageddon", I think it's criticized primarily because everyone knew it would receive a lavish DVD presentation, regardless of who did it, and so there was no perceived need for Criterion to ride in and "rescue it from oblivion" as they are often wont to do.
     
  17. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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  18. Vic_T

    Vic_T Stunt Coordinator

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  19. Jun-Dai Bates

    Jun-Dai Bates Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree that Armageddon is a bad film, but there are four reasons that it is worth Criterion putting out.

    1. Money

    2. Because the film features a good deal of special effects (not all of them good) and it was filmed with a Criterion dvd/LD release in mind, it is an opportunity to include a wealth of knowledge about the production of such a massive film.

    3. It maintains a good working relationship with Di$ney (refusing to release the film would do the opposite), and it is important to maintain that relationship because Di$ney, which owns Miramax, has the US rights to a number of valuable films that Criterion would love to be able to release.

    4. It is an opportunity to include a major blockbuster action film, a category that Criterion is not otherwise likely to get the rights to. Now people can't say "Criterion has a wide variety of films, sure, but where are the action movies?"
     

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