Armchair Vacation: How To Watch (Most Of) Criterion’s November Releases Right Now

It’s the middle of the month, so you all know what that means; Criterion new release announcement time.

Including various big time choices ranging from oft-rumored and now-confirmed Heaven’s Gate all the way to Hulu Plus favorite and absolutely insane horror gem Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell, Criterion may have outdone themselves once again, something that seems to happen with each and every nnew announcement. However, while most will likely wait for the respective DVD and Blu-ray releases of each of these films, why should you? In honor of Criterion’s announcing of their November 2012 releases, here is a special, Criterion New Release Edition of Armchair Vacation, giving you just how you can see exactly what Criterion will be giving us come three months from now.

5. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy Of Life

Easily the month’s biggest announcement physically, and arguably its biggest canonically (although this writer will be getting to his pick for the month’s ‘biggest’ release in just a moment), Criterion has announced that three films from controversial and iconic filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini will hit come November. Including The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales and Arabian Nights, the list of films may not be as well known as something like Gate, but it is easily one of the most talked about releases this year. Slotted as, for all intents and purposes, this year’s BBS box set or Three Colors that Criterion put on shelves this time last year, it has some relatively huge shoes to fill, and I must say, it does so. The three films are really great and are truly unlike anything you’ll ever see, and thankfully, you can see them on Netflix in all of their glory. I’m partial to The Decameron, but when you are dealing with three really great films from one of cinema’s most controversial figures, you’ve got a box set that may not live up to Criterion’s hype given the monsters they’ve given us the last few holiday seasons, but this is easily one of the company’s biggest releases this year.

4. When Horror Came To Shochiku

If one thing has become more true than ever, it’s that while people may be calling for its demise, Criterion’s Eclipse series has become an absolute collection of gems from all kinds of genres. Coming in November, the company is releasing their most interesting set yet, entitled ‘When Horror Came To Shochiku,’ and gives us four fantastic, and for a lack of better word, insane, collection of horror gems. Leading the way is far and away the most talked about addition of the box set, Goke, Bodysnatcher From Hell, a film that has absolutely taken Hulu Plus by storm. I had the pleasure of watching the film when it was added just around a year ago, and I absolutely adore it. Think Hausu but distinctly more terrifying and sans some of the childlike humor. It’s candy coated, it’s as energetic as a testosterone fueled football player, and it’s as visually inspired as a Looney Tunes cartoon on fast forward, all wrapped up in a really outstandingly tense and taut narrative that is as fun and charming as anything Criterion has put out since the aforementioned cat-centric comedy/thriller. Toss in the equally off the wall The X From Outer Space and you can see both of these films, currently, on Hulu Plus. Full disclosure, both Genocide and The Living Skeleton are currently not available on Hulu, but given Criterion’s love for the channel, that won’t be staying that way for too long. I cheated, so sue me.

3. Heaven’s Gate

Yup, it’s finally here. Without much time between the starting of a rumor nearly a month or so ago, only to be followed shortly thereafter by an amazing wacky drawing, it has finally hit. Michael Cimino’s much maligned and era-ending Heaven’s Gate has hit the Criterion Collection, and while it doesn’t have the greatest of covers in Criterion history, it is easily the most talked about Criterion new release in months. Available to stream on Netflix, the film itself has become a massively controversial work, originally considered one of the biggest failures in cinematic history, it has recently found a second life on re-visiting by many of this new generation. I myself am mixed on the film, finding it to be absolutely audacious, but also one that did usher out an entire era of American filmmaking. Without a doubt one of the most important films of its generation, hopefully this seal of approval will give it the spotlight that a film like this deserves and allow for a bit of retrospection.

2. Rashomon

Speaking of finally being here, it doesn’t get much more anticipated than this. Featuring one of the greatest bits of artwork this writer has ever seen, Criterion will be re-releasing Rashomon on Blu-ray, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The film is easily one of the greatest films ever made, and has been, asides from something like say, any Ozu film, the most requested Blu-grade on the planet. It’s a masterpiece worthy of a thousand Blu-rays, but if there is one that we get here stateside, it’s best left in the hands of Criterion. Remember, Janus Films has toured a new print of the film, doing so a handful of years ago, so this has been something in the works for years. It’s a brilliant film, with brilliant photography that’s received a brilliant new sheen of brilliance via its brilliant box art, and it can’t get here fast enough. It’s available on Hulu Plus.


That all said, absolutely nothing compares to the much anticipated release of Godard’s Weekend. The film, also one that Janus has toured around featuring a brand new transfer, is currently streamable on Hulu Plus, and is one of Godard’s most superb works. It features his esoteric sense of dark humor, his gorgeous and colorful photography, and is easily one of Godard’s most accessible works, whatever that may mean. Very much Godard’s truest ‘fairy tale,’ the film is beautifully crafted, bleak as any other apocalyptic feature, and intellectually as dark as any film can get, it’s easily one of Godard’s most inspired works, as well as being one of the most distinctive and singular pieces. It features great performances, and is atop this writer’s list as Criterion’s most interesting release so far this year.

Bring on December!

Joshua Brunsting

Josh is a critic, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, a wrestling nerd, a hip-hop head, a father, a cinephile and a man looking to make his stamp on the world, one word at a time.