kottke.org posts about Criterion Collection
Last weekend, Sarah alerted us that the Criterion Collection movies on Hulu were available to watch for free all weekend long. It was a classic kottke.org post: here's something of very high quality that everyone can experience right now. Spot on, nailed it, I personally got excited and I would have taken full advantage had I not been out of the country.
The funny thing is that Hulu's Criterion movies are almost always nearly free. There are many films -- like Hoop Dreams, Babette's Feast, A Woman Under the Influence, and Rashomon -- that are totally free right now, just click the links and they start playing. But the rest of the Criterion films (looks like there's dozens if not hundreds of them) are very nearly free all the time, all available if you subscribe to Hulu Plus for $7.99 per month. Dammit, I don't want to do this but I'm trotting out the hoary cups of coffee metric here: for the price of two cups of coffee, you can watch as many Criterion-caliber films in the next month as you want, until your eyeballs pus over and burst from all the electromagnetic radiation pulsing into your retinas. And you also get all three seasons of Arrested Development!
Thank you, G.O.B. Most iPhone apps are either free or nearly free. Hundreds of classic works of literature are available on your favorite reading device for free or nearly free. There are enough freely available longreads out there to gag Instapaper. And let's not even get started on YouTube, it's a cultural fucking goldmine. Louis, you were right: everything is amazing and nobody's happy. Because who has two thumbs, disposable income, an interest in excellent films, and is not subscribing to Hulu Plus because it seems like too much money and too much effort? This spoiled idiot right here.
In a deal last year, Criterion movies went from one paid online service to another (Netflix to Hulu Plus).
However from now through Monday February 18th, all Criterion movies are free on Hulu for anyone in the US. No sign-up or log-in required.
Some recommendations: Yojimbo, Schizopolis, Hoop Dreams, and Zazie dans le métro.
Update: The free weekend has ended and most Criterion movies are back behind the Hulu Plus paywall but there are still a handful of Criterion movies available to watch for free on regular-Hulu including Hoop Dreams as well as Zatoichi, Quadrophenia, and The Long Voyage Home
Back in July, we covered the Criterion Collection release of The Royal Tenenbaums. Recently, Criterion Collection posted a gallery of 9 books and magazines from the movie, which because of said gallery, I want to watch right now.
Everyone knows [X], what this post presupposes is maybe [Y].
See also The Royal Tenenbaum portraits. (thx, alex)
Speaking of Wes Anderson, The Criterion Collection is releasing The Royal Tenenbaums on Blu-ray in August (pre-order at Amazon). In this age of watching streaming movies on small screens, there are still many that are better in HD with surround sound. (via @moth)
Favorite Tumblr of the week: Fake Criterions, featuring mockups of Criterion films that would never get made. For example:
Note: a surprising non-fake Criterion is Michael Bay's Armageddon. Well, it does feature Steve Buscemi and Oscar winners Billy Bob Thornton and Ben Affleck. (thx, george)
Vice has a list of the ten most dubious films included in the Criterion Collection...they call them little fuck-ups.
3. The Rock - Director Michael Bay, 1996
Ugh. That's right. I failed to mention up top that there are not one, but two Michael Bay films in the Criterion Collection. It's the kind of shock-inducing information you need delivered in increments. If they wanted to include an Alcatraz movie, uh, why not Escape from Alcatraz? Perhaps Criterion felt they needed a couple of signature "explosion" films to represent the genre. But given that logic, why not throw in Every Which Way but Loose to represent the "truck driver with an orangutan sidekick" genre too?
Also, Michael Bay is doing a remake of Hitchcock's The Birds? What? WHAT??
The Criterion Collection just launched their new web site, complete with the option to watch several movies online. It's $5 for a week rental and that's applied toward the cost of the film on DVD or Blu-ray. Not sure about the quality...the excellent intro movie on the home page says "high quality"...not sure if that means HD or what. There are only 17 movies online -- including Au Revoir Les Enfants, Solaris, and Lord of the Flies -- but they'll be adding more as time goes on. (thx, jason, who did the illustration for the intro clip)
Gizmodo recently paid a visit to the headquarters of the Criterion Collection as they begin the process of releasing all their movies in HD on Blu-ray.
But with that huge uptick in resolution for the consumer, Criterion is faced with a lot of problems that they didn't have when their masters were converted to standard definition for DVD. After all, they're often dealing with old films, created before there was fancy low-grain filmstock and digital processing. And with the technology they have today, how much restoration and processing is too much?
Really, the mission of Criterion is "trying to replicate the original experience of seeing that movie when it was first released," according to Phillips. While they certainly have the ability to process old films until they look like they were shot on a DV cam, that's not the goal.
It's difficult to know if Blu-ray will actually take off as a format, given the competition from other methods of obtaining HD media (iTunes store, HD cable, etc.). It might become a niche option like the Criterion Collection itself but a welcome one all the same. We watched The Darjeeling Limited the other night on the Starz HD channel on Time Warner Cable. It was 1080p but compressed enough that if you're paying attention, you can see artifacts, especially with fast motion. But the worst part is that Starz didn't bother to show the film in its original aspect ratio, which, with Wes Anderson movies, is more than half of the point! They chopped off the sides to fit a 2.39:1 film into 16:9. So for fans of films that deserve to be seen as the director intended, Criterion on Blu-ray might be the only option.
Bottle Rocket, Wes Anderson's first film, is getting the Criterion treatment in both DVD and Blu-ray formats. Lovely cover. (via goldenfiddle)