Friday, December 31, 2010

Year's End Reflections #2

Today marks the completion of two years since I began my ambitious, self-regulated task of watching all the films in the Criterion Collection in their original chronological order of release. Writing these reviews and sharing my thoughts on the films has provided many rewards, both in terms of relationships initiated or in a few cases deepened through this blog, and in Criterion-related merchandise! I've been on the happy receiving end of some much appreciated advance copies of new product and also a significant number of the Eclipse Series box sets that I review on a weekly basis over at If you read here regularly and haven't yet made your acquaintance with that site, don't hesitate to do so. They are great guys who put together an entertaining and informative podcast and website dedicated to Criterion films and all sorts of other things going on in film and popular culture nowadays.

That particular project has undoubtedly been the biggest development to come out of my work here so far, as my blog caught their attention late last year. That led to me making a guest appearance on their podcast back in February to discuss Jean Renoir's Boudu Saved From Drowning. (I'll apologize right now for my subpar audio quality - the cheap generic PC mic really wasn't up to the task.) Then in the spring, just after I launched a second blog called CR Side Trips, where I intended to write about non-Criterion films whenever I had an occasion to do so, Ryan Gallagher noticed my interest in branching out and asked if I'd be interested in contributing to their site. We tossed around a few ideas, eventually settling on the idea for my Journey Through the Eclipse Series that I began on Memorial Day 2010 and have been updating regularly ever since. (Resulting in the gross neglect of that other blog, now that I have my plate so full! But that's perfectly fine with me.)

Though I greatly enjoy the task and challenge of digging into the Eclipse films, a Criterion sideline brand that  veers even more toward the obscure and eccentric than their eclectic main selection of titles, there's clearly been a marked slow-down in the frequency of my updates here, as I have a firmer deadline for that site (every Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. a new post goes up - usually) than I do for my own. For starters, in 2009, I covered films from 1922 through 1951. This year, I merely covered 1952 through 1957. That's partly because there are a lot more films from the 50s than the preceding decades in the Criterion Collection. But whereas in 2009, I registered exactly 100 essays on various films on this blog (103 posts altogether), this year I've only logged 67, with no new reviews posted here since December 18 (holiday family time explains some of that.) However, with 33 different Eclipse-related columns (including my three-part rundown of the 1934 French epic Les Miserables that just posted its last installment today) and a handful of other reviews (L'enfance nue, Withnail & I, The Magician, Paths of Glory) that I've done for CriterionCast, it turns out that I actually surpassed last year's total... and in the process I think I've become a better writer, more careful observer and certainly more knowledgeable about 20th century cinema at the very least!

I've also created a Facebook page for this blog, that I know some of you reading this already follow. I use it to post additional tidbits about the movies I watch, alert subscribers to new articles I've written and just goof around a little. I could probably do more with that tool... maybe I'll add it to my New Year's Resolution list. In any case, I invite you to check it out and interact with me there, or here in the comments section, if that kind of exchange sounds interesting to you.

All in all, 2010 has been a very satisfying year for me on a personal level and also in deepening my respect for and appreciation of what the Criterion Collection has accomplished in setting such a high standard for providing the best experience possible in digital media for use at home. I was privileged to be part of a couple more podcasts earlier this month, where we discussed Arnaud Desplechin's A Christmas Tale (a film from 2008, just to show that I can talk about new movies, not just old ones) for the main episode, then did a countdown of our Top Three Criterion releases of 2010 for their "bonus disc" segment. I'll also appear on a supplemental podcast (already recorded, not yet released as of today) where we lay out our wishlist for Blu-ray upgrades in 2011! That was a fun discussion and one that I think many readers here would enjoy listening in on.

Thank you for taking the time to read these thoughts, and please accept my gratitude for the attention you give to this blog. It's a project I started for the purpose of on-going education and self-improvement, so it delights me to think that others would find benefit from it as well. Judging from the list of films that Criterion has already announced for release through March 2011, we're in for some great new discoveries and amazing works of art - and I fully intend to keep chipping away at pointing out the treasures their back catalog contains as well!

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