A review of the Criterion Channel
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
For fans of film, the Criterion Collection can be described as a film school in a box. Even famous actors and directors use or reference the hand-picked collection of DVDs and Blu-rays as inspiration for their work. The collection releases a variety of films from around the world with some of them having restored film transfers that are supervised and approved by the director. All films are presented at the highest quality—just how the director would want you to see the film.
The collection also offers other special features like a history of the film, how the film was made, and explaining how the movie is significant to cinema with audio commentary (a field they innovated in). Some of their releases are presented in special packaging that goes above and beyond in enhancing the film. This includes their release of The Princess Bride, which they presented in the form of a storybook—just like in the movie. While watching a film on the big screen is the best way to appreciate it, a lot of people are using streaming services—and unlike DVD and Blu-ray, streaming does not offer these special features.
Criterion’s approach to offering their releases is to use movie theatres, DVDs, and Blu-rays—but they also have made their own streaming service called The Criterion Channel. The channel has access to most of the films that they are offering, special programming, and a section where they present a selection of films that centre around a specific theme, actor, or director. For instance, they are currently presenting a selection of films by French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard and his frequent collaborator the late Anna Karina.
While I still watch their films on DVD and Blu-ray, I use the service as a digital copy that allows me to watch them on-the-go, or show the movies to another person. Their streaming service also has original programming that is made exclusively for them. This includes Adventures in Moviegoing, a show where famous people talk about their favourite films, movie-watching experiences, and curate a list for the viewer to enjoy. In the first episode, Bill Hader talked about his first experiences with Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 and why he thinks Children of Men is the greatest film ever made. Recently, Patton Oswalt hosted an episode and talked about his love for Australian cinema, the fact that every generation has a different approach to film, and the joy of watching every film of a director’s filmography. I also watch all the films of Wes Anderson, and even he uses the streaming service!
Another show that I like—Observations on Film Art—explains the various tools of filmmaking including dissolves, widescreen composition, and camerawork. There is also the history show Art-House America, where they explore the history of art-house cinemas around the United States and the importance and inspiration of the movie theatre.
At around the same cost of standard Netflix at $14.63, The Criterion Channel has essential movies to experience for the first time, watch, and then re-watch—and additional programming and features that will make you appreciate film more.