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cinemadaily | Criterion Controversy

cinemadaily | Criterion Controversy

The Criterion Collection is offering a tantalizing, if cryptic glimpse into possible upcoming Blu-ray releases–some announced and some not–on its website in the form of a New Year’s e-card by artist Jason Polan. Could Criterion Blu-ray editions of Antonioni’s “Red Desert,” Malick’s “Days of Heaven,” and Visconti’s “The Leopard” be in the works? Juan Calonge of Blu-ray.com attempts to decipher the clues.

Meanwhile, Newsweek’s Daniel D’Addario calls out the Criterion Collection on several of its recent releases. “If a special-edition DVD is the gold standard of film, a Criterion DVD—with its good-as-new image quality, carefully curated featurettes, and striking packaging—is triple platinum,” writes D’Addario. “These films are Important. They’re practically a syllabus for a Ph.D. in film. Cinéastes will be excited by two upcoming inductees: Roberto Rossellini’s ‘War Trilogy’ and John Ford’s ‘Stagecoach.’ They’re being released alongside the holy grail of film: ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.’ Yes, the 2008 movie most notable for Brad Pitt’s makeup job is being granted a spot on the same list as Renoir’s Grand Illusion (Criterion’s film No. 1) and the rest… If it makes too many risky bets on films like ‘A Christmas Tale’ and ‘Che,’ the company could become just like Benjamin Button—a place that gets younger and younger until it just fades away.”

Stephen Saito over at IFC’s Indie Eye blog responds to D’Addario’s piece, arguing that “Articles like D’Addario’s and Maclean’s writer Jaime Weinman’s would have you believe ‘Ambersons’ and others of their ilk are getting bumped in favor of Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2007 drama ‘The Secret of the Grain’ (one of my personal faves of the decade), but I’d argue just the opposite. Now that DVD sales have receded, it’s likely more studios will come to the table to license out films that will require a more specialized release and will find a comfort zone with Criterion.”

In more DVD news, Dave Kehr has a great article on the rise and shortcomings of Blu-ray in the New York Times, noting that “As an omnivorous cinephile, I’m interested in seeing as much material as possible made available to as many viewers as possible, and Blu-ray doesn’t promise much in that department. For bringing the latest Hollywood blockbusters into homes, Blu-ray is without parallel. But it is less friendly to older films, foreign films and films made with antiquated technologies (like 16 millimeter and analog video)… Blu-ray exaggerates the faults in older material: the dust specks and scratches caused by decades of wear and tear, the softness of detail or harshness of contrast caused by duplication from sources several generations removed from the film that actually passed through the camera.”

Finally, check out Sight & Sound’s list of the top DVD releases of 2009 and IFC’s Michael Atkinson’s rundown of the best films to go direct-to-DVD last year.

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