Too much, too soon?

Posted by · 2:28 am · March 21st, 2009

I’m not as outraged as some are by the news that “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is to be granted a Criterion Collection DVD release in May — as has been pointed out, if not one but two Michael Bay films have made the cut in the past, the label’s aesthetic standards are a bit of a mystery. And “Button” is, at the very least, an immaculate piece of craftsmanship.

I am, however, a bit puzzled. Why does “Button” get to jump to the front of the queue while an assortment of  classics have to wait years for this seal of approval?  (For the sake of context, other titles in Criterion’s ‘coming soon’ pile include “Last Year at Marienbad” and “The Last Metro.”) And more importantly, isn’t it bizarre that this is David Fincher’s first title to get the royal Criterion treatment? Whether you like the film or not (and I admit I’m in the “not” camp), I haven’t heard many people suggesting that it’s his most significant work.

If you ever needed a textbook illustration of the difference an Oscar nomination can make, I think we have one right here. Your thoughts?




→ 19 Comments Tags: , , , | Filed in: Daily

19 responses so far

  • 1 3-21-2009 at 4:41 am

    John Foote said...

    How about a Criterion release for “City Lights””The African Queen”, “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Seven Beauties”, ‘1900″ or “Chinatown”. Seriously, “Benjamin Button”?? Not outraged, just very puzzled.

  • 2 3-21-2009 at 5:22 am

    Nigel said...

    They occasionally release a new film, and I’m not sure what standards they use. But Wes Anderson has enjoyed Criterion releases for a number of his titles.

  • 3 3-21-2009 at 6:10 am

    Troy S. Williams said...

    Se7en was a Criterion laser disc. It was a pretty big deal back then. New Line simply stepped up and released a great Platinum Series version of it.
    Actually, it probably is only a Criterion because the studio did want to invest the money manufacturing / marketing a special edition of a simply “meh” movie.

  • 4 3-21-2009 at 8:10 am

    Ben said...

    Alot of this stuff likely has to do with licensing and what studio and director is willing to go along with Criterion’s terms, etc. I don’t know the insides of the DVD industry, but I suspect your answer has to do with that.

  • 5 3-21-2009 at 11:34 am

    Michael McKay said...

    Ditto what Ben said…

  • 6 3-21-2009 at 11:59 am

    Chase Kahn said...

    They also announced a blu-ray/DVD update-remastering of ‘The Seventh Seal’, though…

  • 7 3-21-2009 at 5:43 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    No big deal that it’s a Criterion release. I like the movie and in time it’ll find a much more vocal and supportive following.

  • 8 3-21-2009 at 9:44 pm

    andrew said...

    I for one am thrilled its getting such nice treatment, and this isn’t the first time they’ve given the Criterion treatment right off the bat

  • 9 3-22-2009 at 3:21 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    The inclusion of not one but two Michael Bay films, not to mention ignoring movies without a proper US DVD release that really need the Criterion treatment (like Chimes at Midnight and Face to Face) pretty much makes the Criterion Collection a joke to me.

    The addition of David Fincher’s most boring and turgid film comes as no surprise to me at this point.

  • 10 3-22-2009 at 10:00 am

    Ben said...

    I still think too many here and in the film world just presume Criterion sits around all day and just decides what film to do next. It has to do with not surprisingly, money, and willingness to cooperate.
    If x studio (or whoever owns the rights, which is sometimes more tricky with older and more obscure films) doesn’t want to agree to whatever criterion’s terms are (or vice versa, it’s not going to happen). And if the film is somewhat contemporary they’ll want the co-operation of the director and other talent involved.

    I just find it somewhat annoying that people are using this as another way to pile on Ben Button. I didn’t hear the outrage when The Life Aquatic got this treatment or something. And does it matter if this special edition came from Criterion or was a really nice edition from Paramount?

  • 11 3-22-2009 at 3:16 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    I have to defend by Button by saying it’s far from David Fincher’s worst. I think Panic Room was a waste of time and money for all involved.

  • 12 3-22-2009 at 3:53 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    At least Panic Room had a plot and decent performances…

  • 13 3-22-2009 at 4:40 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    Tilda Swinton and Cate Blanchett didn’t suck in the movie.

  • 14 3-22-2009 at 7:13 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Now it doesn’t have a plot? Boy, you have sunk so low.

  • 15 3-23-2009 at 1:03 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    Hyperbolic and immature insults didn’t work on me when Kris Tapley threw them, and they won’t work now. Grow up and start defending Button the way you would if it was good, not resorting to ad hominem because you didn’t catch the mountain of problems with Fincher’s totally overhyped (and overpraised, in the case of a very small, very loud internet community) film the way I and others much smarter than me did.

    /3rtfu11, I’ll grant you that Tilda Swinton was okay in the film, but not Blanchett.

  • 16 3-23-2009 at 6:59 am

    Mike said...

    I agree with you /3rtfu11 Panic Room is Fincher’s worst. I am a HUGE Fincher fan and liked Button a lot (if not for its display of craft).

    Ben you are correct, why does it matter is Paramount releases an in-depth dvd/blu-ray or Criterion does it? No matter what one will get made. Criterion often releases movies that changed the game and in terms if vfx, Button changed the game.

    This is most likely also a way to get more of the general public aware of Criterion and their awesome discs. They tried the same with Armageddon and Pearl Harbor, but Button is much worthier title than those 2…

  • 17 3-23-2009 at 7:02 am

    Ryan Adams said...

    “If you ever needed a textbook illustration of the difference an Oscar nomination can make, I think we have one right here. Your thoughts?”

    Not so sure about that, Guy. The Oscars never heard of most Criterion releases. The most significant Criterion titles are way too esoteric for the Academy.

    And here’s a list of the 46 films with the most nominations:
    http://www.filmsite.org/oscars2.html#2

    At a glance, I think the only two to get the Criterion treatment are Rebecca and Benjamin Button.

    (Thanks for the tip to the Red Riding trilogy. Wow. Just wow.)

  • 18 3-23-2009 at 9:11 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Fair point, Ryan. I was thinking maybe it was the Oscar nomination that has helped tip Fincher into the bracket of ‘respectable’ auteurs, but you’re right — Criterion’s standards are less milquetoast than that.

    As for “Red Riding,” glad you sought it out — such stunning work. I can only hope it gets a theatrical release Stateside, as has been hinted.

  • 19 3-23-2009 at 3:54 pm

    Patryk said...

    Stunned that Criterion would put any $$$ behind this, while “Face to Face” has been unreleased and unavailable in any format. I was still in junior high school when it was released, so I never have had the chance to see what many have said is Liv Ullman’s greatest performance. I have been hearing rumors about Criterion having “Face to Face” in its hands, but this is too much.