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Introducing….The Criterion Completist!

March 25, 2012

(It’s a wonderful thing to have like-minded friends with just as much enthusiasm for film as I do. I’ve known Matt Streets for years. Like me, he lives in Chicago and we strike up weekly conversations, discussing our moviegoing. We’ll talk about what we’ve been watching, what we want to watch, and what we’ve discovered – often leaving with some new film to add to our list. Sometimes they may be films we’re  finally catching up with – oh does it feel good to cross them off – while others are brand new finds. Matt has recently offered to serve as a contributing writer for Keeping It Reel and below he shares what his plans are. So, give him a warm welcome !)

 

We’ve all been there: shopping at our favorite local music store or big box behemoth, slowly perusing the aisles of DVDs for a gift or some box set of that hot new TV show, as you come across them.  Those beautifully packaged deluxe DVD editions with that mysterious three-quarter “C” logo in the upper-left hand corner.  Covers that instantly grab you with striking images of doe-eyed French children and a fiery samurai, splashed with famous names like Bergman, Kurosawa, Godard, Altman, and Polanski that tease the curiosity and imagination of even the most jaded film fan.

These are the films of the Criterion Collection, who since 1984 have been re-issuing and restoring the greatest films in international cinema.  They are also known for “finding” and rescuing lost films, and helping filmmakers regain acknowledgement and acclaim for works that may have previously been overlooked, ignored or in some cases even suppressed due to censorship or government interference.

Because of their extensive focus on the foreign, experimental and bizarre end of the cinema spectrum, Criterion has also gained a bit reputation of being snobby, exclusionary and out of touch with the modern movie-going experience.  But one thing that absolutely cannot be debated is their passion for film, and for trying to bring these forgotten classics to a wider audience.  True, Best Buy will sell 568 copies of “Fast Five” to every one of Roman Polanski’s “Knife in the Water” but regardless, I’m still happy it’s there.

And that brings us to the point of all this, and these posts in general.  The movies are there, so many intriguing films, all beautifully restored and begging to be watched.  A visit to the Criterion website currently lists 638 titles in the main “Criterion Collection” and 165 titles in their “Eclipse Collection” (stripped down versions of “lesser” films without all the DVD bells and whistles that the main releases have), for a whopping total of 803 films.  They are also releasing new films every week, with 2012 already showing the typical range and breadth of Criterion’s reach:  “Godzilla”, “Traffic”, “Belle De Jour” and “Anatomy of a Murder” are just a few titles that have seen new life in recent editions.

 

 

 

 

Adding a bit of confusion to all this is the video-streaming site Hulu Plus, which has a dedicated “Criterion” section, and seemingly hundreds (maybe every?) of these films available to watch instantly.  However, there are many films listed as “Criterion” movies on Hulu that do not have official Criterion releases to their name.  These may be films that are soon to be released in fancy DVD editions or just movies that Criterion has the rights to and decided to give to Hulu for their site. Regardless, they all have the “C” logo on them, and fit many of the hallmarks of a Criterion release, so they must be also considered at this point.  So if we add those Hulu offerings as well, we are now looking at over 1000 films.  That is a LOT of subtitles and weeping clowns.  And I want to watch them all.

As a lifelong film fan, I’ve always felt a bit guilty that I’ve seen every “Naked Gun” movie, but not Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”,  that I can quote “Tommy Boy” and “Ghostbusters” from beginning to end, but have yet to see Fellini’s “8 ½”.

I understand that movies are meant to be seen and enjoyed as a form of entertainment, but I also regard the genre as a serious and important means of cultural expression.  As The Criterion Completist, I intend to review every single one of Criterion’s releases.  I will pick them randomly and try to knock out one or two a week, and if it’s something that I’ve already seen (by my estimation, maybe 5% of the films), I will watch it again for a fresh viewing.  I will talk about the films on their own merits as well as their relevance to the works of today.

When possible, I will also try to examine the myriad bonus features of these films that Criterion is known for including on the more “deluxe” versions of the DVDs.  I figure that if I can watch and review at least one film a week, and taking in all the new releases that will come out, I should be able to finish this in about 25 years or so.

Gonna go brew some coffee…

 

– Matt Streets aka The Criterion Completist

 

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2012 6:24 pm

    Thanks for the warm welcome David! This is gonna be awesome! Fassbender here I come!

  2. March 26, 2012 1:52 am

    So psyched to start reading your reviews. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your above introduction!
    I doubt my local video store has any Criterion DVDs, but between Hulu Plus, Netflix, and MUBI, I ought to be able to mostly follow along, watching when I have the chance.

    • criterioncompletist permalink
      March 26, 2012 4:16 pm

      Thanks Matthew!
      Yeah, part of the reason I decided to attempt this whole thing is because so many of these great films are now available to stream through sites like Hulu and Netflix. Thanks for reading, I got some good ones coming up!

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  1. The Criterion Completist – Snow Trail (1947) « Keeping It Reel

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