Words by Matthew Spence:
Criterion. A nine-letter word that makes film buffs cheese and cinephiles mosh to a David Lynch score. It’s probably Edgar Wrights’s safe word during sex and [Martin] Scorsese would probably fuck it if it was physically possible. From the outside-looking or average moviegoer, it’s just another movie company: “Big whoop they put out DVDs, who the fuck still buys them in the first place” is what some may believe, which is…. fair. Wiping the condensation off the window, you see the Criterion Collection Inc. is the path that leads you to explore the vast land of film. It’s like that one night out exploring the city life and lights that open your eyes to more than just your street/town. It’s like having that friend who recommends shit x4. A healthy gateway drug.
Help melt the iceberg that’s the mainstream film and you get a range of films that span decades and countries, genres, and impact. This isn’t a piece to regurgitate the never-ending “Marvel vs Cinema”, and “Mainstream movies are unoriginal” blah blah, but instead an appreciation for the piece of film culture that feels just as important today more than ever. They exist to re-release/publish “Important classic and contemporary films” to the peak quality possible.
Which is important, now sure classic can be a subjective idea at this point, cause motherfuckers call anything they like “classic” after an hour of seeing/hearing it, but, that doesn’t change their goal. It’s important, to think of how many films might’ve been wasted away in the pile of films if Criterion didn’t give a retouch release and Spotlight for the next-gen to carry it on to the next-gen after them. Some are renowned like Eraserhead, In the Mood for Love, and pretty much every Wes Anderson movie. Others may or may not ring a bell but the joy of it as the curiosity urges you to want to explore the library. Of course, with no attempt of being Bourgeoisie and up your own ass about it.
Following the Criterion feels like being a part of a fan club to a degree, knowing that so many others are waiting for an upcoming release the way people sneaker heads wait in line for [insert sneakers that I know dick about]. On the constant lookout for the Criterion sale throughout the year, praying to whichever deity that your favorite movie gets a re-release. Fuck making rent, these are real priorities. The Criterion treatment is like seeing your fav movie get an ugly duckling to swan makeover, A “She’s All That” if you will. Loaded with special features that dig deeper into a film, possibly a new commentary track, interviews, retrospective pieces, video essays, written essays, and a bunch of other goodies packed into one party-sized snack pack.
Music nerds wanna sleep in Amoeba, film nerds wanna sleep in the Criterion Closet.
Like a closet though, it still carries some skeletons in it, right next to the 400 Blows and Parasite Blu-Rays. Criterion was called out for its noticeable lack of diversity regarding Black filmmakers in 2020 with a New York Times piece breaking the lack of black filmmakers (and some female directors). With only 9 (at the time) films being directed by Black filmmakers including Spike Lee and Steve McQueen. Instead of ignoring their faults and/or playing ignorant to the problem, President Peter Decker had to take the major L, own up to the problem, and tried to change it: “There’s nothing I can say about it that will make it OK, the fact that things are missing, and specifically that Black voices are missing, is harmful, and that’s clear. We have to fix that.” as he spoke to the NY Times. Taking the Criticism and realizing the faults to improve on, they’ve gotten better and haven’t stalled since then with adding more Black voices and women voices in the collection. Good. [I’m currently looking forward to “Drylongso” by Cauleen Smith release]
With things looking up to progress, let me end with my list of dream picks for Criterion releases.
-Kids directed by Larry Clark
-Juice directed by Ernest Dickerson
-mid90s directed by Jonah Hill
-Paid in Full directed by Charles Stone III
-But I’m a Cheerleader by Jamie Babbit
-The Doom Generation by Gregg Akari
-Waves directed by Trey Edward Shults
-Go directed by Doug Liman
-Gummo directed by Harmony Korrine
-Almost Famous directed by Cameron Crowe
-Napoleon Dynamite directed by Jared Hess
-Idle Hands directed by Rodman Flender (I’m reaching at this point, I don’t give a fuck. Article’s over. Thanks)