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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 10:44 pm 
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Excuse any naivety, I do wonder if this has been a complaint for quite some time, but perhaps I had my rose-colored glasses on in what I'd call "Back in the good old days."

These "good old days" were around the 2000s, before the blu-ray onslaught, but even those early blu ray releases seemed grand.

Lately, it's felt as though the comprehensive nature of Criterion that I remember held up releases, has been lacking--and perhaps I'm mis remembering the spiel, but there once was something about them, "scouring the globe" for all they could find on a film.

But I've noticed it outside of just the lacking extras I'm perceiving. Have y'all seen the menu on their release of The Player? It doesn't even seem like they handled that disc.

I know for quite some time transfer have been criticized, compression issues, even some transfers that seem to be ports or not handled in-house.

What I'm attempting to get to is: This didn't seem to previously be the case.

The DVD release of Mr. Arkadin, Battle of Algiers, Short Cuts and so many more from that era seemed so carefully put together, comprehensive, and "ultimate." I had the same expectation for a lot of modern releases that I'm surprised are either light, or just re-use so many previous releases extras--barely even thinking to create new interviews a lot of the time, or even acquiring known features that they seem to cast aside.

I know in recent days it's been clarified that if they feel something is obsolete, like a commentary, and there's a more detailed one available, they won't include it and favor the other. But it feels beyond that. From the Lynch releases, to Punch-Drunk Love and many more, I'm simply surprised by the issues all around I've noted personally, and here and around other internet outlets.

In these "good old days" I speak of was I just an ignorant high school kid, amazed by anything CC would swing my way, or has there been a widely noticed drop in "quality".

Don't get me wrong: I'm happy when they give us a lot of things. I've been amazed with the past half-decade or more's worth of titles, and we keep getting gold. Sometimes often over-looked films. I wonder if there's a rush, perhaps? They do have a schedule to keep...


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 10:46 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:02 pm 
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Yes, companies often change, but memories of companies can remain.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:06 pm 
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If anything was to effect Criterion's releases getting lighter, it would be their decision to stop Dual-Format releases that would've done it (which kind of did when it comes to booklets).

But with releases like Godzilla, On the Waterfront, The Gold Rush, and very recent ones like Inside Llewyn Davis, The New World and Eraserhead, Criterion still does huge supplement releases when they have the capability. I think they tend to focus on few extras that provide a lot of insight on different aspects instead of featuring lots of overlapping, gratuitous extras.

As for Punch Drunk Love and Mulholland Drive.. you gotta look at what's available. Both directors aren't interested in having their films analyzed. Sandler probably wasn't available for an interview and Mulholland Drive is filled with interviews. Some shorts and the TV pilot would've been interested, but clearly something kept them from providing it.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:38 pm 
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This is probably quantifiable- certainly, if you think exclusively of commentaries, they have gone from being a defining feature of a major release to something we get maybe once every two months, particularly if you aren't counting ones already produced. There are absolutely still remarkable, stacked editions- The Lodger has a second feature, a scholarly interview, an interview with the composer, a visual essay, an audio adaptation, and a few library interviews- but certainly we're getting more and more that has maybe half an a hour of new content.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 1:01 am 
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Criterion seems to ebb and flow on supplements, but for some period they used at least to price those bare-bones releases down. I think the last $29.95 Blu we got was Bitter Rice. However, they used to release bare-bones DVDs at $39.95, like the "Lean" Dickens films, so the current state isn't too novel. We still get some really well-stacked releases in Digipaks, so it's not all bad. Still feeling the loss of the Nicholas Roeg commentary from Criterion's release of Don't Look Now though.

I have my crackpot theory on how Criterion could have made dual-format a success and kept everyone happy.

Once upon a time, Criterion made the bad decision to uniformly price all DVDs at $10 (or more) less than the BluRay releases. This set up a price disincentive for people to ever move to BluRay, and an instant hostility to dual-format among the DVD crowd since they hated the "price increase" for dual-format (despite receiving immediate benefit and "future-proofing" their collections.)

If a year prior to introducing dual-format they had changed the pricing as follows, all would have gone more smoothly: If the DVD release had only 1 disc, price both the DVD and the BluRay releases the same at $29.95. If the DVD release had 2 discs, price both the the DVD and BluRay release the same at $39.95. (Extrapolate as sensible on sets.) Then they could have continued this model with the dual-format pricing and there would have been no whining because there would have been no "price increase" associated with it.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 2:19 am 
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I know one likes to wax nostalgic about the good old days - but there have always been bigger & lesser releases. Even for 2017 - there's a great share of titles that should equal the examples you've given (Tampopo, Othello, Blow-Up, etc).

That said, I choose not to complain about extras anymore - until I've seen them myself. I remember quite a few people were hissing about Blood Simple - and the apparent paltry amount of extras - until they actually watched those extras - specifically the Coen telestrator feature (which we voted as the best supplement of 2016). So its easy to complain about quantity when first announced, but the quality might more than make up for that. So who knows, maybe that interview with Geoff Dyer on Stalker is three hours long and covers every conceivable topic.

But do remember: Criterion are a business - and one that lives / dies based on customer satisfaction. As we've seen with releases like The Uninvited + I Married a Witch - both had supplements added + the price dropped after people sent in emails to complain.

So if you think a release deserves more / better, send Criterion an email and tell them to add things like a commentary or an interview you've found (I know someone on here sent them some material that ended up in the booklet).


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:39 am 
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I understand LightBulbFilm's claim but I'd tend to see Criterion releases not to be lighter and lighter, but more precisely the amount of lighter releases to be higher than in the past (meaning it's not an overall baseline, but some lighter releases being more numerous than in the past).

Criterion still often deliver "caterpillar" releases which are very hard not to be pleased with : A Brighter Summer Day, The Asphalt Jungle, Dreams, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Blood Simple, The New World, His Girl Friday, Tampopo, ...

But there are releases like Canoa, 45 Years, Fox and His Friends, The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum, Muriel or The Time of Return, Clouds of Sils Maria or Le amiche which are all relatively light on extras (both in length and quality), and I don't think Criterion used to release so often this kind of lighter releases.


There's also the issue (IMO) that after pausing upgrades for so long, some of the few titles that got bumped have been based on dated masters (Woman on the Dunes, Night Train on Munich and of course The Exterminating Angel), but that's another story.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 5:21 am 
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Minkin wrote:
That said, I choose not to complain about extras anymore - until I've seen them myself. I remember quite a few people were hissing about Blood Simple - and the apparent paltry amount of extras - until they actually watched those extras - specifically the Coen telestrator feature (which we voted as the best supplement of 2016). So its easy to complain about quantity when first announced, but the quality might more than make up for that. So who knows, maybe that interview with Geoff Dyer on Stalker is three hours long and covers every conceivable topic.
This is a fair point. I wasn't happy with the Punch-Drunk Love supps until I actually saw them and thought they were pretty in depth. Same with Mulholland Drive.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:43 am 
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I think the issue is more that they're getting access to "bigger" titles far more frequently now, ones that would have more than likely received more attention "back in the day." With these "bigger" titles we may probably expect huge special editions but aren't getting them making it more apparent. I feel because they now have access to all of these titles they probably can't give the same attention to each release. As mentioned before they have always had stacked releases but then they always had other releases that had only a handful of things on it, though usually for titles you wouldn't expect them to go all out on (or maybe I'm the only one that wouldn't expect a huge special edition for La commare secca).

One thing I've learned, though, is that, like Minkin said, the supplements can prove to be far more substantial than they first appear. The Dardenne releases look slim but then the supplements themselves prove to be both lengthy and in-depth.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:46 am 
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Couldn't it also be that the licensing window is shorter for these films? Just anecdotally (from reading this forum), it seems release schedules can be affected greatly by this (remember when BFI changed all priorities to release Tati on blu-ray?) I'd imagine a title that, say, is from Janus films is something they can wait to release longer than a Warner title. Just a thought.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:09 am 
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There may well be a good deal of pressure (in terms of cost or length of the license or economic imperatives more generally) to get a title as major as Stalker to market as soon as possible, whether the extras package ends up being really definitive or not. I imagine they have always had to choose their battles as to which titles get the most in-depth treatment, even more so now that so many titles are available to them. I would not like to be in a position to have to consistently live up to the standards set by their very best releases, which makes me wish there were more American labels of similar size and ambition willing or able to take on some of the titles Criterion cannot give as much TLC as they might deserve.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:48 am 
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While I certainly understand all these as possible factors to explain these lighter releases, I still fail to understand how The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum or Muriel or The Time of Return have ended up being so slim.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:50 pm 

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The dearth of commentaries on recent releases is really frustrating. Do they feel that their consumers aren't interested in them?


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:54 pm 
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beamish13 wrote:
The dearth of commentaries on recent releases is really frustrating. Do they feel that their consumers aren't interested in them?



Directors feel it's best to leave the film up to the viewer precipitation, also they don't think most viewers really care about the input into the film. With Criterion this wouldn't be much of an issue as you'd expect, with the consumer launching for any insight into the thematic aspect of a particular film from a academic. Why they are not chasing out the academia or any film critic I'm not too sure, most likely decline to participate.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:19 pm 
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I'll take really good video essays over full length commentaries (except for Harzog commenting on his own films, perhaps) any day.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:21 pm 
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Also, commentaries are among the most expensive features to create, especially if coordinating it so multiple people are doing it together. It's hard to justify that if they could conceivably get one or two pre-made feature-length Docs on the subject(s) (not that this happened this month, but it's something I think Criterion's been turning to more and more often)


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:39 pm 
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Michael Kerpan wrote:
I'll take really good video essays over full length commentaries (except for Harzog commenting on his own films, perhaps) any day.
I agree. For me commentaries are hit or miss. I would take a commentary on an old film with a film scholar as opposed to a recent film that would have the director, actor or some crew member. But video essays are far more interesting IMO.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:26 pm 
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Ribs wrote:
Also, commentaries are among the most expensive features to create, especially if coordinating it so multiple people are doing it together.
I was wondering how much they cost. Say to get a scholar to do one.

I absolutely love commentaries, more than any other type of supplement, especially when they're done by film scholars.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:37 pm 
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Rayon Vert wrote:
Ribs wrote:
Also, commentaries are among the most expensive features to create, especially if coordinating it so multiple people are doing it together.
I was wondering how much they cost. Say to get a scholar to do one.

I absolutely love commentaries, more than any other type of supplement, especially when they're done by film scholars.
I believe that, more often than not, scholars get paid in DVDs.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 2:57 am 
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this is fairly easy to analyze with data, an important thing to remember is to beware of this, in other words, just because July had three releases with sparse extras, do not extrapolate this single data point (a datum one recently noticed) as indicative of a trend, April had four releases all loaded with extras, also a single data point, also not indicative of a trend.

Based on the first six months of the year, I would have said that Criterion releases are getting more and more stacked, not lighter and lighter, as I thought this year, particularly April, were extraordinary in how loaded with extras every single release has been. July is an outlier to the overall year of 2017, thus far.

So let's look at a large sample of the year, the first seven months of 2017. What's the best way to compare?

the best way to compare would be to tally up the total running time of all the extras on all the releases and then analyze the data to find median, min/max etc. Then you would figure out the odds of having all releases in one month just happening to occur that they all trend toward the min size and see if that is occuring at a rate more often than you would predict. However that would entail an enormous amount of work and would require access to all the releases to gather a valid data set. And what you would probably find is that overall the data is very noisy, any trend would be very weak because you're drawing it out of all 888 (plus second editions) data points. I would guess you'd have a sharp spike for the initial DVD surge and then a gradual leveling off period, another inflection point at the introduction to bluray, and then another gradual leveling off period.

And all this is not a great way to analyze editions, total running time of extras has nothing to do with quality of time of said extras.

We could use a weak and imperfect proxy for the binary idea of "stacked edition" vs "bare bones edition", however. This proxy, which is obviously flawed from many directions, would be: determine the disc count of the DVD edition.

Because if a film has a two disc DVD edition, it is very likely that one of those discs is dedicated solely to extras. if a DVD has a disc dedicated solely to extras, that generally indicates it is a "stacked" edition, and conversely indicates it is NOT a "barebones" edition. The big flaw is the single disc DVD releases are not always barebones by virtue of being single disc, often whether or not a DVD release is single disc or double disc depends on the runtime of the feature--Chaplin's the Kid is stacked with extras, but is only a single DVD edition because the feature is so short. But, disc count of the DVD edition is still a decent proxy for quickly analyzing whether or not Criterion is doing MORE stacked editions at one given time or MORE bare bones editions at one given time.

I would treat box sets as counting as one release and ask "does it have a disc dedicated to extras" thus, Before Trilogy and Scorsese sets do not have a disc dedicated to extras but the Marseille trilogy does have a disc dedicated to extras.


In the first seven months of 2017 we have 37 films on 28 releases, 15 "stacked" editions (two dvd discs) and 13 "bare bones" editions (one dvd disc).

So what is the year-over-year trend?

In the first seven months of 2016 we have 36 films on 32 releases, 15 two dvd discs and 17 one dvd disc editions.

So the year-over-year trend indicates a flat number of films and stacked editions, an increase in box sets and an decrease in the number of barebones releases.

you suggested the early 2000s were a baseline, so let's use 2005:

in the first seven months of 2005 we have 32 films on 30 releases, 7 two dvd disc editions and 23 one dvd disc editions.

Just skimming my spreadsheet, the data generally does not seem to support your hypothesis, most of the years of the early 2000s are like 2005 (a peak year of the dvd boom)

you also mentioned the early years of bluray as another potential baseline, so let's use 2009:

in the first seven months of 2009 we have 26 films on 24 releases, 9 two dvd disc editions and 15 one dvd disc editions.

Again, the data generally does not seem to support your supposition.

what I think is happening is that since criterion used to have lighter release schedules, 3-4 releases per month rather than 4-5 releases (plus upgrades), each release seemed like a "bigger deal" and since their STACKED releases were the exception rather than the rule of their release, (comprising only about 20% of releases in 2005, for example) these releases got all the attention. if the releases get all the attention, that means your memory is only going to recall those releases that garnered attention. Then your brain does the very common exercise of extrapolating what it does remember as a general truth for everything it does not remember. So, twelve years removed from 2005, we don't remember The Phantom of Liberty was the rule, we remember Jules and Jim was the rule. But this is exactly and precisely wrong.

and it's worth remembering that Criterion knows that it's brand identity is that they do releases like Jules and Jim this is why the editions that were two disc "iconic" editions from the DVD boom era are also more likely than not to have been upgraded to bluray. This re-issuing of these editions a second time further cements them in memory as being true of all releases, even though they are not.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 4:29 am 
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I would be careful about stating that 2-DVDs releases are automatically stacked and the 1-disc are not. Criterion had quite stacked 1-DVD releases in the past : Beauty and the Beast, La grande illusion, Madame de, 2 or 3 Things I Know about Her, Band of Outsiders, Behind the Rain, Days of Heaven, etc etc, so the baseline would be much higher than what your data seems to suggest.

On the other hand, you have some 2-DVD not so stacked releases like Something Wild, Clouds of Sils Maria, A Christmas Tale, etc.

But in any case, many many 1-DVD releases were stacked in the past, and I'm not so sure that recent 1-DVD releases are. I would have to go through the whole collection to make sure, but I don't think it's just a recency effect.


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