As we move closer to the end of the year, we move closer to “Top Ten List” territory. We have several lists in the works here on the site, and I’d like to kick things off with a list of Ten Criterion Collection Blu-rays that you need to have on your holiday wish list (if you don’t already own them all).
2010 was the first full year that I had access to a Blu-ray player, and I could not be happier about my decision to upgrade. I’ve found every Blu-ray release to be a revelation in sight and sound.
I’m going back and forth, as to whether or not this constitutes my “Top Ten Criterion Collection Releases Of 2010.” These are my favorite releases of the year, and ones that I think every living, breathing, Blu-ray owning, person needs to have in their collection.
Below you’ll find my ten Blu-rays that I’m suggesting, and if you own them already, consider spreading the love and buying them for a friend or family member. Also, keep in mind that I’m going to add a few runners up after the list, if you want even more suggestions. I’m not great at top ten lists, mostly because it’s so hard for me to list why one film is slightly more important than another, so keep that in mind.
We’ll be recording a bonus episode in the upcoming week, discussing our favorites of 2010, so keep an eye out.
What have been your favorite Criterion releases this year? What is on your wish list right now? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Wes Anderson seems to have a guaranteed in with Criterion, and it was long suspected that the Darjeeling Limited would make it into the Collection. This new transfer is absolutely gorgeous, and the Blu-ray is packed with supplements. From a skype-commentary with Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Jason Schwartzman, to a really fun conversation between Anderson and James Ivory, this Blu-ray absolutely earns the right to exist in the Collection.
Whatever you may think of the stylistic choices that Anderson uses in all of his films, it is hard to argue that he is not making beautiful modern films with classic sensibilities. If you find this Blu-ray under the tree this year, I’d head straight to the audio essay from Matt Zoller Seitz, in which he compares the film to Kubrick’s 2001.
In director Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, three estranged American brothers reunite for a meticulously planned, soul-searching train voyage across India one year after the death of their father. Armed with eleven suitcases, a laminated itinerary, a can of pepper spray, a supply of over-the-counter painkillers, and a host of family conflicts ready to erupt, Francis, Peter, and Jack eventually find themselves stranded alone in the middle of the desert’”at which point an unexpected new chapter in their journey begins. Featuring a sensational cast, including Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, and Anjelica Huston, The Darjeeling Limited is a dazzling and hilarious film that takes Anderson’s work to deeper places than ever before.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION:
- New high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Wes Anderson (with DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition)
- Hotel Chevalier (part one of The Darjeeling Limited)
- Audio commentary featuring Anderson and cowriters Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola
- Behind-the-scenes documentary by Barry Braverman
- Discussion between Anderson and filmmaker James Ivory on the music used in the film
- Anderson’s American Express commercial
- On-set footage shot by Coppola and actor Waris Ahluwalia
- Video essay by critic Matt Zoller Seitz
- Audition footage
- Deleted and alternate scenes
- Original theatrical trailer
- Stills galleries from James Hamilton, Laura Wilson, and Sylvia Plachy
- PLUS: An insert featuring an essay by critic Richard Brody and original illustrations by Eric Chase Anderson
Easily one of the most surprising films that has come across my desk in 2010, Revanche is an incredible piece of work. We spoke at length about the film earlier this year with Laremy Legel, as a featured discussion.
The Blu-ray doesn’t feature a commentary track with GÃ¶tz Spielmann, but it does feature an in depth interview with the director, as well as a short film that he had directed years ago. Both of those key supplements easily serve as an insight into the filmmakers philosophy on life, art, and movie making.
It is an incredibly beautiful film to look at, smart in how it portrays tension, and natural in it’s dialogue. The lack of music also strips away the divide between your life, and the world of this story. I can’t wait until we get some more GÃ¶tz Spielmann into the Criterion Collection.
A gripping thriller and a tragic drama of nearly Greek proportions, Revanche is the stunning, Oscar-nominated international breakthrough of Austrian filmmaker GÃ¶tz Spielmann. In a ragged section of Vienna, hardened ex-con Alex (the mesmerizing Johannes Krisch) works in a brothel, where he falls for Ukrainian hooker Tamara. Their desperate plans for escape unexpectedly intersect with the lives of a rural cop and his seemingly content wife. With meticulous, elegant direction, Spielmann creates a tense, existential, and surprising portrait of vengeance and redemption, and a journey into the darkest forest of human nature, in which violence and beauty exist side by side.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION
- New, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by director GÃ¶tz Spielmann (with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- New video interview with Spielmann
- The Making of ‘Revanche,’ a half-hour documentary shot on the set
- Foreign Land (Fremdland), Spielmann’s award-winning student short film, with an introduction by the director
- U.S. theatrical trailer
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Armond White
8. Modern Times
Criterion’s first foray into the Charlie Chaplin library that they recently acquired in 2010, Modern Times is an incredible package. With their new transfer, they’re able to present this classic like it’s never been seen by a modern audience. I’d imagine that not since this film was first premiered, have people been able to see this film in such a clean, and cared-for, print.
The Blu-ray features gorgeous art from Sam’s Myth (who designed both the cover as well as the interior booklet and accompanying art), and is a real joy to sit beside all of the recent artwork. Sam is a real asset to Criterion, and I eagerly await the new releases from Criterion, to see what he’s designed next.
As is often the case with Criterion, the supplements are just as important as the feature film contained within. From scholarly audio commentaries, to interviews, short films, and video essays, you clearly are getting your money’s worth.
Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin’s last outing as the Little Tramp, puts the iconic character to work as a giddily inept factory employee who becomes smitten with a gorgeous gamine (Paulette Goddard). With its barrage of unforgettable gags and sly commentary on class struggle during the Great Depression, Modern Times‘”though made almost a decade into the talkie era and containing moments of sound (even song!)’”is a timeless showcase of Chaplin’s untouchable genius as a director of silent comedy.
- New, restored 2K-resolution digital transfer, created in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- New audio commentary by Charlie Chaplin biographer David Robinson
- Two new visual essays, by Chaplin historians John Bengtson and Jeffrey Vance
- New program on the film’s visual and sound effects, with experts Craig Barron and Ben Burtt
- Interview from 1992 with Modern Times music arranger David Raksin, plus a selection from the film’s original orchestral track
- Two segments cut from the film
- All at Sea (1933), a home movie by Alistair Cooke featuring Chaplin and actress Paulette Goddard, with a new score by Donald Sosin and a new interview with Cooke’s daughter, Susan Cooke Kittredge
- The Rink (1916), a Chaplin two-reeler
- For the First Time (1967), a short Cuban documentary about first-time moviegoers seeing Modern Times
- Chaplin Today: ‘Modern Times’ (2003), a program with filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
- Three theatrical trailers
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Saul Austerlitz and a piece by film scholar Lisa Stein that includes excerpts from Chaplin’s writing about his 1930s world tour
7. Paris, Texas
This was another film that I hadn’t seen before Criterion released it. This was teased at, during last year’s All Tomorrow’s Parties, and I didn’t really know what to expect before finally watching it. I’m so grateful that Travis put this on our schedule of films to discuss right after the DVD and Blu-ray hit stores.
It is a heartbreaking, gorgeous piece of American art, told from a German directors perspective. It’s hard to pick one film from Wim Wenders career to label as his masterpiece, but this has to be among the very best.
The Blu-ray is again packed with supplemental material, and will provide all of the context you’ll need to fully understand the directors intent, and the cast and crews perspective. Don’t be thrown off, as I was, by the misleading title. Paris, Texas will take you across the country and back, digging into the human condition, warts and all.
New German Cinema pioneer Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire) brings his keen eye for landscape to the American Southwest in Paris, Texas, a profoundly moving character study written by Pulitzer Prize’“winning playwright Sam Shepard. Paris, Texas follows the mysterious, nearly mute drifter Travis (a magnificent Harry Dean Stanton, whose face is a landscape all its own) as he tries to reconnect with his young son, living with his brother (Dean Stockwell) in Los Angeles, and his missing wife (Nastassja Kinski). From this simple setup, Wenders and Shepard produce a powerful statement on codes of masculinity and the myth of the American family, as well as an exquisite visual exploration of a vast, crumbling world of canyons and neon.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION:
- New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Wim Wenders (with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- Audio commentary featuring Wenders
- Video interview with Wenders by German journalist Roger Willemsen
- Excerpts from a 1990 documentary on Wenders, featuring interviews with Wenders, cinematographer Robby MÃ¼ller, composer Ry Cooder, actors Harry Dean Stanton, Dennis Hopper, Peter Falk, and Hanns Zischler, novelist Patricia Highsmith, and director Samuel Fuller
- New video interviews with filmmakers Allison Anders and Claire Denis
- ‘Wim Wenders Hollywood April ’84,’ a segment from the French television program Cinéma cinémas, showing Wenders and Cooder at work on the score
- Deleted scenes and Super 8 home movies
- Gallery of Wenders’s location-scouting photos
- Behind-the-scenes photos by Robin Holland
- Theatrical trailer
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Nick Roddick, interviews with Stanton, writer Sam Shepard, and actors Nastassja Kinski and Dean Stockwell, and excerpts from Wenders’s book of photos Written in the West
Another long rumored title, Steven Soderbergh’s Che was something we had anticipated being in the Collection, and I couldn’t wait to dive into this Blu-ray set. While it was a topic of debate, as to how this film should be viewed, I found having the ability to watch both films at my leisure, the perfect environment to absorb this epic tale.
What makes this release truly special, is in it’s production as well as it’s content. The documentary on the history of the film, as well as the really interesting look at the first usage of the RED camera show you just how dedicated Soderbergh is as an artist.
The commentary from Che biographer Jon Lee Anderson is fascinating from a historical standpoint, and while I really was hoping for a Soderbergh track, I certainly got more than I could digest in a single viewing from this 2-disc Blu-ray set.
Far from a conventional biopic, Steven Soderbergh’s film about Che Guevara is a fascinating exploration of the revolutionary as icon. Daring in its refusal to make the socialist leader into an easy martyr or hero, Che paints a vivid, naturalistic portrait of the man himself (Benicio del Toro, in a stunning, Cannes-award-winning performance), from his overthrow of the Batista dictatorship to his 1964 United Nations trip to the end of his short life. Composed of two parts, the first a kaleidoscopic view of the Cuban Revolution and the second an all-action dramatization of Che’s failed campaign in Bolivia, Che is Soderbergh’s most epic vision.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION:
- High-definition digital masters, supervised and approved by director Steven Soderbergh, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
- New audio commentaries featuring Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life
- Making ‘Che,’ a new documentary featuring Soderbergh, producer Laura Bickford, actor-producer Benicio del Toro, and writers Peter Buchman and Ben van der Veen
- Interviews with participants in and historians of the Cuban Revolution and Che’s Bolivian campaign
- End of a Revolution, a short documentary made in Bolivia right after Che’s execution in 1967
- ‘Che’ and the Digital Cinema Revolution, an original video piece looking at the RED camera and its effect on modern film production
- Deleted scenes
- Theatrical trailer
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Amy Taubin
Criterion has slowly been going through their first 100 spine numbers, and upgrading the artwork, transfer, and supplements. This new version of Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout is one of the finest re-releases of the year. I hadn’t seen the film before this viewing, but was sure to rent the older version to compare releases during my review process. It is really incredible, how well Criterion did in restoring the image quality, and providing such a beautiful audio track. The supplements are also a real treat, as you get some insight from the actor David Gulpilil, the aborigine boy in the film. The commentary track and interviews give a nice sense of perspective from the actors, and round out the experience in a way the initial DVD release lacked.
We discussed this film back in April with David Bax from Battleship Pretension, and I thoroughly enjoyed our talk. While I wasn’t crazy about Roeg’s Man Who Fell To Earth, Walkabout has truly brought me over to his camp.
The Blu-ray also features beautiful cover and interior art from Neil Kellerhouse, who produces some of the most consistently beautiful art to adorn any movie posters, or home video packaging.
A young sister and brother are abandoned in the harsh Australian outback and must learn to cope in the natural world, without their usual comforts, in this hypnotic masterpiece from Nicolas Roeg. Along the way, they meet a young aborigine on his ‘walkabout,’ a rite of passage in which adolescent boys are initiated into manhood by journeying into the wilderness alone. Walkabout is a thrilling adventure as well as a provocative rumination on time and civilization.
- New, restored high-definition digital transfer, made from a newly minted 35 mm interpositive and approved by director Nicolas Roeg (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- Audio commentary featuring Roeg and actress Jenny Agutter
- Video interviews with Agutter and actor Luc Roeg
- Gulpilil’”One Red Blood (2002), an hour-long documentary on the life and career of actor David Gulpilil
- Theatrical trailer
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by author Paul Ryan
House was another release that was long anticipated by all of us. We began talking about the release late last year as Janus was touring the film theatrically, and it was assumed from there that Criterion would be getting it’s hands on this absolutely unique piece of Japanese filmmaking.
Featuring more art from Sam’s Myth, the iconic orange cat image has become synonymous with the Criterion release, and is perfect for it. The Blu-ray contains an in depth retrospective on the production of the film, as well as a really interesting set of interviews with the cast and crew. The interviews with Obayashi are priceless, and you really get a sense of what he was going for, in making this piece of pop art.
While many associate the Collection with stuffy, high brow, arthouse movies, House reminds us all that the folks at Criterion are really focused on breaking down the walls of pretentious film watching.
You really have no idea just how crazy this movie is until you sit down to watch it, but I promise that you’ll enjoy every last minute of it’s insanity.
How to describe Nobuhiko Obayashi’s indescribable 1977 movie House (Hausu)? As a psychedelic ghost tale? A stream-of-consciousness bedtime story? An episode of Scooby-Doo as directed by Mario Bava? Any of the above will do for this hallucinatory head trip about a schoolgirl who travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt’s creaky country home and comes face-to-face with evil spirits, a demonic house cat, a bloodthirsty piano, and other ghoulish visions, all realized by Obayashi via mattes, animation, and collage effects. Equally absurd and nightmarish, House might have been beamed to Earth from some other planet. Never before available on home video in the United States, it’s one of the most exciting cult discoveries in years.
- New, restored high-definition digital transfer (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- Constructing a ‘House,’ a new video piece featuring interviews with director Nobuhiko Obayashi, story scenarist and daughter of the filmmaker Chigumi Obayashi, and screenwriter Chiho Katsura
- Emotion, a 1966 experimental film by Obayashi
- New video appreciation by director Ti West (House of the Devil)
- Theatrical trailer
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: An essay by critic Chuck Stephens
Another of Criterion’s truly award worthy re-releases, Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes is a film that you all need on your shelves. The new transfer, which was spearheaded by Martin Scorsese is as good as you’ve heard, and you really get the chance to learn about the process in the supplements.
With the Black Swan currently making the rounds in theaters (and doing quite well, box office wise), it is your responsibility as a self respecting film nerd to have this Blu-ray on your shelves. This is a release that you’ll want for your friends, family, and [future] children to enjoy.
I also have to mention the re-release of Black Narcissus, which Criterion released alongside The Red Shoes this past July, as being a truly beautiful, important film that cinephiles need to own.
While we haven’t recorded an episode on this movie yet (I foresee us saving this one for a potential anniversary pick), head over to James’ review of the Blu-ray, to get his impressions.
The Red Shoes, the singular fantasia from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, is cinema’s quintessential backstage drama, as well as one of the most glorious Technicolor feasts ever concocted for the screen. Moira Shearer is a rising star ballerina torn between an idealistic composer and a ruthless impresario intent on perfection. Featuring outstanding performances, blazingly beautiful cinematography by Jack Cardiff, Oscar-winning sets and music, and an unforgettable, hallucinatory central dance sequence, this beloved classic, now dazzlingly restored, stands as an enthralling tribute to the life of the artist.
- New high-definition master from the award-winning 2009 digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- Introductory restoration demonstration with filmmaker Martin Scorsese
- Audio commentary by film historian Ian Christie, featuring interviews with stars Marius Goring and Moira Shearer, cinematographer Jack Cardiff, composer Brian Easdale, and Scorsese
- Profile of ‘The Red Shoes,’ a documentary on the making of the film, featuring interviews with members of the production team
- Video interview with director Michael Powell’s widow, Thelma Schoonmaker Powell, from the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, in which she discusses Powell, the film, and the restoration
- Audio recording of actor Jeremy Irons reading excerpts from Powell and Pressburger’s novelization of The Red Shoes
- Collection of rare publicity stills and behind-the-scenes photos
- Gallery of items from Scorsese’s personal collection of The Red Shoes memorabilia
- The ‘Red Shoes’ Sketches, an animated film of Hein Heckroth’s painted storyboards, with the Red Shoes ballet as an alternate angle
- Audio recording of Irons reading the original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale ‘The Red Shoes’
- Theatrical trailer
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic David Ehrenstein and a description of the restoration by UCLA film archivist Robert Gitt
Terence Malick’s epic arthouse war film has never looked or sounded better than it does on this year’s Criterion edition of The Thin Red Line. This Blu-ray is designed from top to bottom as a tribute to Malick’s incredibly meticulous, and thoughtful work as a director. The transfer is miles ahead of previous DVD releases, and the audio track will shake your walls (particularly when played at full volume, as Malick insists upon when you play the disc). The supplements will keep you coming back for more.
The artwork again is provided by Neil Kellerhouse, and while I was a little hesitant at first to embrace it, has quickly grown on me as being unique amongst a sea of lame disc art from non-Criterion distributors.
This is a another Blu-ray that you’ll be able to share with older and younger generations of your family, making it the perfect holiday gift. (Of course, it is terrifyingly realistic in it’s portrayal of the horrors of war, so keep that in mind)
We’ve recently discussed Malick’s Day’s Of Heaven, and I cannot wait to dig into this film with my co-hosts.
After directing two of the most extraordinary movies of the 1970s, Badlands and Days of Heaven, American artist Terrence Malick disappeared from the film world for twenty years, only to resurface in 1998 with this visionary adaptation of James Jones’s 1962 novel about the World War II battle for Guadalcanal. A big-budget, spectacularly mounted epic, The Thin Red Line is also one of the most deeply philosophical films ever released by a major Hollywood studio, a thought-provoking meditation on man, nature, and violence. Featuring a cast of contemporary cinema’s finest actors’”Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas, and Woody Harrelson among them’”The Thin Red Line is a kaleidoscopic evocation of the experience of combat that ranks as one of the greatest war films ever produced.
- New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Terrence Malick and cinematographer John Toll (with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- New audio commentary by Toll, production designer Jack Fisk, and producer Grant Hill
- Interviews with several of the film’s actors, including Kirk Acevedo, Jim Caviezel, Thomas Jane, Elias Koteas, Dash Mihok, and Sean Penn; composer Hans Zimmer; editors Billy Weber, Leslie Jones, and Saar Klein; and writer James Jones’s daughter Kaylie Jones
- New interview with casting director Dianne Crittenden, featuring archival audition footage
- Fourteen minutes of outtakes from the film
- World War II newsreels from Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands
- Melanesian chants
- Original theatrical trailer
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt and a 1963 reprint by James Jones
As with most of the films on my list, Cronos was among my most anticipated releases of 2010. I have no problem in saying that it completely lived up to my expectations. Not only does Hellboy creator Mike Mignola illustrate the cover of the release, his art adorns the disc itself, as well as the booklet. The supplement that I’ve been most excited about since we first heard official rumblings of this release is the short tour that we get through Guillermo Del Toro’s “man cave,” his “Bleak House.” Let’s just say that this ten minute look into Del Toro’s sanctuary is worth the entire cost of this release.
This new transfer is an incredible upgrade from the previous DVD editions. You get two commentary tracks, tons of production stills, the previously mentioned tour through the Bleak House, and more. A brand new supplement on this release is the inclusion of an early short from Guillermo Del Toro: Geometria. While only about five minutes, it certainly shows off Del Toro’s love of special effects, horror, and comedy.
I couldn’t be happier that this release has found a home in the Criterion Collection, and it should be at the top of your wish list this holiday season. I have my fingers crossed that Criterion will somehow get the rights to some other of Del Toro’s works (The Devils Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth), but until then, I have Cronos to keep me up at night.
Guillermo del Toro made an auspicious and audacious feature debut with Cronos, a highly unorthodox tale about the seductiveness of the idea of immortality. Kindly antiques dealer JesÃºs Gris (Federico Luppi) happens upon an ancient golden device in the shape of a scarab, and soon finds himself the possessor and victim of its sinister, addictive powers, as well as the target of a mysterious American named Angel (a delightfully crude and deranged Ron Perlman). Featuring marvelous special makeup effects and the haunting imagery for which del Toro has become world-renowned, Cronos is a dark, visually rich, and emotionally captivating fantasy.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION:
- New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Guillermo del Toro and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- Optional original Spanish-language voice-over introduction
- Two audio commentaries, one featuring del Toro, the other producers Arthur H. Gorson and Bertha Navarro and coproducer Alejandro Springall
- Geometria, an unreleased 1987 short horror film by del Toro, finished in 2010, with a new video interview with the director
- Welcome to Bleak House, a video tour by del Toro of his home offices, featuring his personal collections
- New video interviews with del Toro, Navarro, and actor Ron Perlman
- Video interview with actor Federico Luppi
- Stills gallery
- New and improved English subtitle translation, approved by the director
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Maitland McDonagh and excerpts from del Toro’s notes for the film