Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Criterion Channel Is A Classic Movie Feast

The Criterion Channel, which launched last year in the wake of the shuttering of the Turner Classic Movies-Criterion Collection collaboration Filmstruck, is the streaming arm of the Criterion Collection, the highly regarded maker of robust Blu-rays of classic and international movies.

In its first year, the Criterion Channel has quickly accrued the kind of devoted fanbase that belonged to Filmstruck, the death of which spawned an outcry from Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and dozens of other filmmakers. Wes Anderson, in a recent piece of fan mail, called the Criterion Channel a “Louvre of movies.” Its many avid viewers include Barry Jenkins, Rian Johnson, Sofia Coppola, Josh and Benny Safdie — and most movie buffs that can afford $10.99 a month.

Like a cinema, Criterion Channel has its own weekly listings. Friday nights are for double features. Wednesday belongs to female filmmakers. Matinees of family-friendly movies debut on Saturday. Shorts get showcased Tuesday. And of course, you can sift through and select at will.

But part of the pleasure of the Criterion Channel is not having to meander through a digital sea of choices. The bedrock of the Criterion Channel, like any repertory cinema, are its series. There have been collections of ’70 sci-fi, films with the scores by Quincy Jones, a centennial celebration of the great Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, heist movies and pre-code Barbara Stanwyck films.

Most series come with a mix of familiar titles and deep cuts, offering both primers for beginners and discovery for more die-hards. Sometimes the series are inspired by simple curiosity — wanting to know Jean Arthur’s filmography better — or a desire to expand the interest of others.

The Channel is weighing other measures, possibly hosting films that had their festival premieres canceled or the planned series of shuttered arthouses. It’s one more way that Criterion is fulfilling its role as a lifeblood for the movie lover.

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