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Why the Criterion Collection is Worthy of Jazz Hands

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.

Stay Updated:

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.

Another excellent option for Criterion news is to follow its facebook page, which updates regularly but not so much that it becomes irrelevant. There’s also a Twitter page.


About filmbouillabaisse

I love balance and equilibrium. I shrink from all views/methods extremist, obsessive, and militant. Except when it comes to cinema.

5 responses to “Why the Criterion Collection is Worthy of Jazz Hands

  1. I love Criterion – they always choose the best films, though I’m still questioning their inclusion of Le Havre.

  2. James ⋅

    That spine picture is tantalising. It’s about the 3-letter words for me: Kes and Che. Fish Tank might be interesting too.

  3. L. Palmer

    Criterion makes the world a better place.

  4. I recently got Night of the Hunter (an amazing, underrated film) on Criterion’s DVD release and it is awesome! Besides the great audio and video transfers that they always do, there’s like an hour of footage of Charles Laughton directing between takes. I only wish they didn’t charge thirty bucks for one movie, but the quality is unimpeachable.

    • Robert Mitchum’s whistling in that film has scared me literally for the majority of my life.

      Speaking of Charles Laughton, I would love it if they put The Canterville Ghost on Criterion, but I don’t think it is super likely in the near future. I love getting any New Wave movies on Criterion (and Grey Gardens had immensely good special features). Roger Ebert even said that it’s the only way to watch Bergman films.

      They are quite expensive! I tend to check them out of the library.

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