If I had three wishes from a genie, one would be for the entire, unabridged Criterion Collection on DVD.
It seems like every cinephile I know has been talking about how excited they are to see Quadrophenia (1979) on Criterion. It came out a few weeks ago and since its release I’ve been marinating on why I love Criterion DVDs to the extent that I do.
Criterion is composed of mainly art house films, including foreign films, in both the DVD and Blu-ray format (and Laserdiscs back in the 90s). Many French New Wave, Fellini, Kurosawa, and John Ford titles are available on Criterion, but also brand new selections, such as Life During Wartime and Certified Copy.
There are many Criterion databases, but my favorite one is on IMDb. If you have an inkling that a film might be a part of the Collection, you are probably right.
The special features on each Criterion disc are without a doubt worth exploring. For instance, on the Grey Gardens disc, additional hilarious interviews of the Beales (the doc’s eccentric subjects) are done by the Maysles brothers. Then however, Little Edie and Big Edie interview the Maysles in a brilliantly-executed switcharoo. When special features on regular discs are so often throwaway padding, it truly is a breath of fresh air to see interesting supplemental material on the films we cherish.
Roger Agrees It’s Awesome:
Roger Ebert, in his memoir Life Itself, (which is going to be given the doc treatment by Uncle Marty), mentioned that during his convalescence from throat surgery, he found therapy in watching Ingrid Bergman films on Criterion. He opined that even though he was very familiar with Bergman films (even meeting the master himself several times), viewing the newly crisp contrast between lights and darks in Persona and Through a Glass Darkly was a life-changing experience.
Where to Watch:
You can find dozens of Criterion Collection films on Hulu+, which is Hulu’s premium service. It charges $7.99/month for this upgrade.
Many public libraries offer Criterion Collection DVDs (as well as regular DVDs and sometimes Blu-Ray) for their patrons to borrow. Check your local library’s online card catalog for Criterion DVDs or ask the friendly librarians for assistance.
Despite the $30-$40 price tag, there are probably several items you will want to purchase for easy repeat home viewing. For Criterion collectors watching their budgets, try the Eclipse series. It is a simpler, more streamlined collection, but still veritably awesome.
There’s a great Criterion e-newsletter that allows you to stay abreast of Criterion news. I like knowing which films have been selected for the Criterion treatment each quarter, and this is a good way to stay informed. Criterion has its own blog, Current, which I find authoritative and entertaining.