I undertook this self-imposed assignment because I had discovered over the previous year or two an unexpected depth and resonance between my inner life and what I was discovering when watching the small but growing collection of Criterion DVDs that I'd accumulated to that point. It became apparent to me that some kind of common thread could be discerned that tied these films together, beyond just the obvious "brand name" imprint that placed each title in nice numeric sequence for the benefit of completist collector types like myself. That thread wasn't necessarily a rigidly defined philosophical or aesthetic perspective - indeed, strong disagreements and implacable hostilities can be found between some of the auteurs whose films sit side by side on my shelf. It was more like an evocative power to stir up some kind of strong reaction, whether it be sadness, laughter, compassion, regret, wistful longing, or even, in a few cases, a profound state of mystical reverie, an alteration of consciousness that reorients for a short while our sense of placement in the world. Of course there are many great films that will never sport the famous Criterion logo (in any of its variants) but I felt going into January 2009, and believe even more confidently now, that each of the Criterion titles offers something capable of stirring up that sense of awe and amazement that a great movie can provoke. I'll probably be challenged in the months and years ahead as I contemplate titles like Armageddon, the Beastie Boys videos or any of the low-budget B movies that make for fun but presumably shallow viewing - but I'll give 'em a fair look in any case and let you know what I find.
Given the realities of squeezing my viewing-and-blogging time around the requirements of full-time employment, family commitments and other sources of amusement, and my lack of any formal training in the cinematic arts, I've taken a more subjective approach in writing about these films than one typically finds in standard movie reviews. My hunch is that the essays I record here will be of limited interest to people who haven't seen the film in question, and even if they have seen it, I may not touch on some aspects of the film as deeply or as thoroughly as a reader would wish. To compensate for that, I started linking to other good articles on the particular film in discussion. Each time a film's title is mentioned, a different link is inserted. I'm not sure if readers have discovered that or not. Usually the first link will be to the criterion.com page, but then after that I'll link to essays that offer a lot more information. I want this blog to provide a helpful resource to anyone who loves these films or is merely curious about them, even though I don't strive to be authoritative in my assessment of the films themselves. This is a series of snapshots of how the movie impacted me at the particular time of my life that I watched it.
Let me also take this opportunity to encourage comments if anyone wants to engage in further discussion on a film. Though I am usually quick to move on to the next film in my series (time is of the essence, you know) I remain open to popping in DVDs that I haven't watched in months if someone wants to interact with me on a particular title. Another option would be to find me on Twitter or Facebook, which both provide fun formats for exchanging opinions on our favorite movies (and other things.) Feedback from readers interests me quite a bit actually - I'm intrigued to know what people in other countries have to say about what they see here, so please take the time (and chance) to contact me and I will definitely respond!
Writing this blog has been a fun project that I enthusiastically intend to continue for years to come. Criterion will issue their 500th spine number early next year and I've only written 100 reviews so far! And as much as I've enjoyed learning about the earlier decades of cinema history this year, there are so many great, substantial films coming up as I dig into the 1950s that I seriously wonder if I'll be able to hit that century mark again in 2010. That's the goal I'll set for myself, loosely though - who knows exactly what life will demand of me over the next 12 months? If I hit that mark, I'll land somewhere in 1960, according to my list (I'm still deciding whether or not which of the short Stan Brakhage films will warrant an individual review.) That's a lot shorter time span than the roughly 30 years I covered in 2009. It looks like 2010 will be a year in which I spend a lot of time focusing on the 1950s - so I hope the new year gives us all plenty of Happy Days!