BOM BOM DIGGY
I am Jamie, and I have an addiction.
Many of my friends know this. They were plagued by it last week when, in a mad rush, I attempted to keep a particular high from slipping away.
I am addicted to Criterion DVDs. Let’s call them Crackterion. The Crackterion Collection. There are over 150 ways for me to shoot up with Crackterion, and I haven’t tried them all yet. Last week I found out that one of those ways, How To Get Ahead in Advertising, starring Richard E. Grant, was going out of print. It was already going for about double retail on eBay. These things go out of print and the other freaks start paying outrageous prices for ‘em. Salo is the most expensive, I’ve seen it sell for $300 to $600, despite no one liking it very much (it’s one of the two OOP titles I lack). So I was e-mailing people in different states, saying, “Call your local Tower or Borders. Let’s find this disc!” I couldn’t turn one up, though my addiction partner, Christopher McQuain, who now lives in Seattle, found it right away in an outlying suburb. He needed it for himself, though. It’s luck, I guess, because when the Jacques Tati films disappeared, I found Mon Oncle at a closing Tower on it’s very last day of business and got it insanely cheap. (I finally got Advertising for a so-so price on eBay, and if any of the two I have on backorder show up, I can make my money back easy.)
What is so special about Criterion? Here is how they describe themselves: “The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films, is dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements. Criterion began with a mission to pull the treasures of world cinema out of the film vaults and put them in the hands of collectors. All of the films published under the Criterion banner represent cinema at its finest. In our seventeen years, we've seen a lot of things change, but one thing has remained constant: our commitment to publishing the defining moments of cinema in the world's best digital editions. * The foundation of the collection is the work of such masters of cinema as Renoir, Godard, Kurosawa, Cocteau, Fellini, Bergman, Tarkovsky, Hitchcock, Fuller, Lean, Kubrick, Lang, Sturges, Dreyer, Eisenstein, Ozu, Sirk, Buñuel, Powell and Pressburger. Each film is presented uncut, in its original aspect ratio, as its maker intended it to be seen. For every disc, we track down the best available film elements in the world, use state-of-the-art telecine equipment and a select few colorists capable of meeting our rigorous standards, and take time during the film-to-video digital transfer to create the most pristine possible image and sound. Whenever possible, we work with directors and cinematographers to assure that the look of our releases does justice to their intentions. Our supplements enable viewers to appreciate Criterion films in context, through audio commentaries by filmmakers and scholars, restored director's cuts, deleted scenes, documentaries, shooting scripts, early shorts, and storyboards. To date, more than 35 filmmakers have made our Director Approved library of laserdiscs and DVDs the most significant archive of contemporary filmmaking available to the home viewer.”
If the Criterion name is on it, I will gamble with a film and buy it. Even if it’s not an instant favorite, or if the film is flawed, they usually have picked it for a special reason. Because of them, I know now who Douglas Sirk, Samuel Fuller, Wong Kar-Wai, Lynne Ramsay, Rene Clair, Yasujiro Ozu, and the Maysles brothers are; I have tried Fellini, Bergman, and Truffaut; I have seen films I had never seen before from Preston Sturges, David Lean, the Archers, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Luis Bunuel. And they don’t just do art pictures. They’ve done classic ‘50s horror like The Blob, they’ve released Michael Bay films (yeah, I know, but no one is perfect), they did excellent editions of Chasing Amy and Wes Anderson’s last two films. Their double-disc Beastie Boys anthology may just be the best music video compilation there is.
And you know how they sucker me? They number the spines. Yes, they get the old comic book geek in me by making it so I have to have them all or I will be missing something. Someday I will have to buy Armageddon or risk not having a #40, of having a hole between Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter (#39 – which I still need) and Olivier’s Henry V (#41 – got it). They even give you a scorecard in the package, so I can sit there with a Sharpie and mark off the ones I have and look for the ones I need. I have an eBay system set up, with the prices I want to pay to get a good deal on the particular films (they are priced at two tiers--$29.95 and $39.95 retail, depending on the set; I try to get them cheaper on eBay. If I buy retail, I go to Deep Discount DVD or DVD Planet, as they consistently have the best prices). It’s really sick. They prey on obsessive personalities like mine.
I am not admitting my addiction because I wish to overcome it. I only seek understanding, patience. I will not change. As I was typing this, Amazon notified me that my copy of the Crackterion Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas that is coming out Tuesday just shipped. It gave me a thrilling jolt. I refuse to let that go.