A Week With The Criterion Channel

Baylor Thornton, Writer

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Film enthusiasts everywhere, we have been saved. A Manna from Heaven has come to save us all. In our age of streaming as the dominant entertainment platforms, there is far too much focus on the recent and the mainstream. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and whatever else all have little to no interest in the classics. That is, save for a new streaming service, that exclusively deals with the essentials. A platform where we can find endless hours of brilliant content, in departments of iconic classics, innovative foreign films, and weird cult favorites. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Criterion Channel.

Yes, there is now a Netflix for cinephiles. Provided by the beloved Criterion Collection, there is now an essential streaming service to get our arthouse fix. When I heard they were doing this, I signed up immediately. Mainly because, they’ve already tried once before, and sadly it didn’t last long. Filmstruck was a similar service Criterion made with Turner Classic Movies, and while it was a brilliant product, Warner Media discontinued it after two years. But by popular demand, Criterion is continuing the dream.

Right off the bat, the website design is already an improvement. Filmstruck didn’t have much in the way of navigation tools, and we instead had to scroll through a disorienting A to Z list of every single film. And while we can still do that, Criterion Channel has made it a point to offer more categories and subgenres for us to choose from. Some of these playlists include Happily Ever After, Columbia Noir, Crimes From the Heart, Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project, and more. There’s also a number of interesting ways to watch a film here. If you want to see Brad Bird give a short introduction to City Lights, you can. Ditto for Guillermo del Toro on Time Bandits and Barry Jenkins on the Three Colors Trilogy. There’s also options for double features, and pairings of shorts before the feature. Before I watched How To Get Ahead In Advertising, it played a strange and disturbing animated short of Richard E. Grant pulling out his teeth. As weird at it was, it did fit alongside the succeeded film. There’s also some bonus features alongside the films, including commentary tracks, audition tapes, and featurettes. I can appreciate these bells and whistles, because every other streaming platform has the movies and nothing else.

On top of the previously mentioned How To Get Ahead In Advertising, which I found a deliciously insane cult classic, I also watched five other films in the past week. Next I watched Italian classics Bicycle Thieves and 8 ½, Bergman’s Gothic masterpiece The Seventh Seal, the most adorable gangster musical ever made Bugsy Malone, and Orson Welles’ brilliant pseudo-documentary F for Fake. All of these were on my radar for a while, and I’m glad I was finally able to experience them. Because Criterion specializes in the types of films that can be hard to find otherwise. The audio and visual quality is also as good as possible, unlike the grain and buffering that often comes with streaming services. Next on my Watchlist I have Rashomon, The Red Shoes, The 400 Blows, Solaris, Breathless, and even Mothra vs Godzilla. The diversity of films already available is really something. I can’t wait to jump right back in, and I hope you do the same.

The Criterion Channel is currently streaming for $10.99 a month.

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