Portrait of the author shocking himself on a vacation to Los Angeles. May 2014
I started this blog in February of 2014, initially simply because I wanted to try out the Octopress static site framework. I went with writing about film because I needed content and I’d already been posting small thoughts to my Letterboxd account for a couple of years. Initially the content here was a mixture of Criterion Collection releases and whatever else I happened to be watching. Quickly though, my thoughts started to morph from a sentence or two, a paragraph at the most, to the longer form work that I post today.
Around the same time I decided to try and acquire the entire collection on physical media. It’s a pretty silly idea as physical media is definitely in its twilight, but there’s just something so satisfying about holding the beautiful packaging Criterion puts together in your hands. Currently I’m at 707 of the released mainline and Eclipse titles, as of December 2017. I only review titles that I’ve already purchased, so that I can watch them in the highest quality available, but other than that I’m not reviewing these in any specific order.
There are very few rules around here. I don’t post on any particular day, or at any particular time. I don’t care about spine number order, or chronological order, or any other predetermined path. I tend to watch releases from a specific box set in the order they are in the box, but even that’s not always true. I want to eventually post something for every single release that has a spine number in the collection. For the box sets that have a single spine number, like Les Blank: Always for Pleasure, I’ll sometimes write one essay for the entire box set. On the other hand, I’ve written a separate essay for each of the titles in the massive Zatoichi box set, and I’m more and more following this pattern.
My rating system is simple; I follow the Netflix model. Five of five means that I absolutely loved it. Four means that I really liked it. Three means that I liked it. Two means that I didn’t like it. One means that I hated it. According to Letterboxd, as of September 2015, my score distribution heavily favors a four, with five and three as the next most used respectively. I don’t find it all that surprising given the caliber of films I’m watching. One important point; I’m not rating these films against each other, just against my enjoyment level at any given moment. Because of that, it’s not useful to try and compare ratings across films. It’s simply a guide for how much I liked each specific one when I watched it.
I want to take a moment to link to some other sites that are on the same mission as I am, all of whom have been at it quite a bit longer than me. Exploring things in chronological order of release is the fascinating Criterion Reflections podcast, by David Blakeslee. He’s up to 1969 as of this writing, and it’s so great to journey with him through the history of cinema. He also helps out over at CriterionCast, a site I’m also a part of, where you can find reviews, as well as podcasts, and basically everything having to do with the collection. You can find shorter thoughts from Matthew Gasteier over at Criterion by Spine. Jamie S. Rich is a comics author who also blogs about the collection at Criterion Confessions. Michele Rosenthal is a super talented Graphic Designer who is illustrating the things she writes over at her Criterion Affection blog. Aaron West produces a variety of podcasts about the collection, as part of CriterionCast. And finally there’s the delightful Criterion Collection as Haiku blog, which is basically exactly what it sounds like. They’re all awesome and deserving of a perusal as well.
There is no commenting feature on this site, but I would love to know what you think about the films, or my entries. The best way to share your thoughts is to tweet @cinemagadfly, or to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.