The Criterion Collection

I don’t know about any of you, but over the past year I have become less and less happy with the selection that Netflix has streaming online. More and more, I have been going over to Hulu+ which I began paying for a while back. I bought Hulu+ for the television shows. I have been so busy it has been almost impossible for me to sit down and watch an entire film, so I have been diving into the shallow pedestrian seas of TeeVee – both current and classic. Hulu has always been a good place for that. Hulu, however, doesn’t have the best interface in the world and I have been having trouble finding what I wanted.

So a month or so ago I sat down and did some work figuring out the site structure and how to find what I want. While doing this I discovered a staggering fact.

Hulu+, starting in February of 2011 started streaming the entire Criterion Collection of movies online. The entire collection.

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So what? – you must be asking. What the hell is that? Criterion Collection? Who cares?

Criterion is a company that is dedicated to putting the best films of international cinema onto digital media (DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming) and doing an amazingly bang-up job of it. Their catalog is up to somewhere around eight hundred films now, with more every day.

If you know me, having access to something like this, from my roku box on the television, to my laptop computers (Hulu+, unlike Netflix, will even work on Linux), to our Kindle Fire…. well, that’s like dumping a big ol’ pile of Heroin in my lap.

Where to start? Well, first off, I found the Criterion Selections after stumbling across a film, I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve been looking for for a while – In the Realm of the Senses. This Japanese film, banned in Japan, has a notorious reputation of being nothing more than high class pornography, with a horrendous, vile, and violent conclusion.

After actually watching the thing, I can report honestly, that the reputation is well earned. So, on to the next film.

What next? I have seen a lot of these over the decades and want to watch them again – but there are a lot that I have never seen… and a few I’ve never even heard of.

I can watch these great classic movies while I’m riding my exercise bicycle. Wait, let me get my list of New Year’s Resolutions out….

Here’s a list from Paste Magazine of ten recommended films, this looks good:

  • The Kid (1921)
  • George Washington (2000)
  • The Seven Samurai (1954)
  • La Jetée (1962) (source material for 12 Monkees)
  • Jules and Jim (1962)
  • The Blob (1958)
  • The 400 Blows (1959)
  • Wild Strawberries (1957)
  • M (1931)
  • The Vanishing (1988)

I’ve seen all but two of these… but it is a worthy list.

Here’s a recommendation for:

  • Knife in the Water (1962)
  • Lord of the Flies (1963)
  • Ratcatcher (1999)

This guy is blogging his way through the whole thing. So is this guy… and this guy too, and this guy.

So many films, so little time.

Any suggestions, please leave a comment.

Roku and roll

Rabbit Ears

Rabbit Ears

 I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Time to die.

—Roy Batty, Blade Runner

My father’s day present arrived in a little box yesterday – Candy bought me a Roku box.

I remember when I was a kid, people had only one television. Now, our house, a family of two when the kids are in school, has five televisions set up, plus any number of laptops (I usually watch entertainment on my laptop). Once, I told my kids we didn’t have VCRs when I was a kid (this was when we were all still watching VHS tapes – which already seems a long time ago) and they said they couldn’t imagine how anyone could get through the day. I tried to tell them that when I was a small child we didn’t even have color TV and they only looked confused, with their eyes scrunched up.

In many ways, I miss the one TV days. There were only three channels so everyone watched television together and they watched the same thing. I had a friend with a large family and I used to like to go to his house where the living room would fill up with family, friends, and hangers-on. My favorite was Saturday Night at the Movies, where second-run films would be edited, chopped up and interspersed with commercials, then sent out over the ether in glorious blurry black-and-white.

In the middle of the extravaganza would always be a Coca-Cola commercial. My friends’ mother would immediately haul herself up from the couch and stride to the kitchen for a cold bottle of Coke – The Real Thang. It was like clockwork. We would laugh but she never figured out what we were laughing about. She never knew that the commercial was sending her out for a cold, sweating bottle, either. She actually thought she was thirsty.

TV

Since everybody across the land watched the same thing every evening there was always a discussion of the evening’s entertainment around the water coolers the next day.

In 1964, I remember when the Beatles went back across the pond. That seemed to be a big deal back then, like it actually mattered where a rock band was physically located. It felt like we would never see or hear from the adorable mop-tops again. Though I was only seven years old, I was saddened by this – it felt like an era was passing.

It seemed like only a few days later (the exact chronology is very fuzzy – I was only seven years old) another British band appeared on Ed Sullivan. There was some buzz among the adults in the room that these kids would now replace the Beatles, so I watched and paid attention. This was almost fifty years ago, but I still remember I had a glass of milk in my hand when they came on.

Right away, I was mesmerized. They didn’t have the energy of the Beatles, but there was something…, something I couldn’t figure out, something that I knew a seven year old kid wasn’t privy to, but something, something special, something somehow unsavory yet seductive about these guys, especially the lead singer.

It was, of course, the Rolling Stones, and I was right – nothing would be the same again.

You can Watch it Here. You can’t imagine the effect this had on a seven year old kid in 1964.

So now, a half century later, in this best of all possible worlds, I spent a few seconds hooking up the Roku (they aren’t lying when they say that hooking it up is simple) and the rest of the evening running back and forth from the TV to my laptop in another room carrying a series of slips of paper with passwords and setup codes until I could get the channels working (they don’t tell you about this part).

So now, we can sit down with a small pile of remote controls in the darkened corner of a back bedroom (we’ll move it to Lee’s massive TV when he goes back to school) and stream the whole world into that little box.

It’s really cool, it really is, but it doesn’t have the effect of a blurry static-besmirched Mick Jagger wriggling beneath a pair of aluminum-draped rabbit ears. It’s not the television’s fault – it’s not the technology – it’s my eyes. They aren’t seven any more. They are worn out now. They have seen too much.

Stones

Stones