Now that the dust has finally settled, and my credit cards have had a week to regain their solid form, it’s time to look back at the Barnes and Noble Criterion Collection sale, and evaluate my purchases.

There’s no doubt that all of my twitter followers knew about this sale because I was hyping it for weeks after I found out it was happening.  I even wrote up an article on Inside Pulse – Movies about the sale.  This sale was an incredible bargain, and I wanted as many people to know about it as possible, especially my fellow film fans.  Luckily a few of my friends were able to pick-up some titles during the month, including a huge grab by KabutoHunter, buying the AK 100: 25 Films of Akira Kurosawa collection (with a MSRP of $400, and B&N sale price of $200).  Fifty percent off anything is must-see, but fifty percent off the Criterion Collection is must-buy.

For those that don’t know what the Criterion Collection is all about, let me provide their mission statement:

“Since 1984, the Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films, has been dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements. Over the years, as we moved from laserdisc to DVD, Blu-ray disc, and online streaming, we’ve seen a lot of things change, but one thing has remained constant: our commitment to publishing the defining moments of cinema for a wider and wider audience. The foundation of the collection is the work of such masters of cinema as Renoir, Godard, Kurosawa, Cocteau, Fellini, Bergman, Tarkovsky, Hitchcock, Fuller, Lean, Kubrick, Lang, Sturges, Dreyer, Eisenstein, Ozu, Sirk, Buñuel, Powell and Pressburger. Each film is presented uncut, in its original aspect ratio, as its maker intended it to be seen. Every time we start work on a film, we track down the best available film elements in the world, use state-of-the-art telecine equipment and a select few colorists capable of meeting our rigorous standards, then take time during the film-to-video digital transfer to create the most pristine possible image and sound. Whenever possible, we work with directors and cinematographers to ensure that the look of our releases does justice to their intentions. Our supplements enable viewers to appreciate Criterion films in context, through audio commentaries by filmmakers and scholars, restored director’s cuts, deleted scenes, documentaries, shooting scripts, early shorts, and storyboards. To date, more than 150 filmmakers have made our library of Director Approved DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and laserdiscs the most significant archive of contemporary filmmaking available to the home viewer.”

Basically, the Criterion Collection promises the highest audio and video quality discs of some of the most important films in cinematic history.  Not only is the A/V quality exceptional, but the discs are stuffed full with special features, or “supplements”, as they call them.  The one thing the Criterion Collection does better than anyone else is put a film into its historical context, which is appreciated by someone like me who is constantly trying to bolster his film knowledge.  The Criterion Collection is a film collectors dream.

On July 11, 2011 – one day before the sale began – I was the proud owner of a modest 12 criterion collection films, including 2 DVDs (Chasing Amy, and Man Bites Dog), and 10 Blu-ray Discs (Antichrist, Blow Out, Cronos, Diabolique, House, M, The Night of the Hunter, Repulsion, The Thin Red Line, and Videodrome).  Now that the sale has ended, I am the (even prouder) owner of 31 Criterion films, including 7 DVDs, and 24 BDs.  Yes, I more than doubled my collection during this sale, which is quite ridiculous.  In my defense, this was the first Criterion sale that I’ve encountered since I began writing about film critically, and thus went nuts.  Coming in to the sale, I had an idea of which movies I wanted to look at, but I definitely ran across – and purchased – some that were not on my radar once the month began.  Having a birthday in the month of July helped as well, as I received a Barnes and Noble gift card, and two Criterion movies as gifts.

My Barnes and Noble purchases can be broken down into four different trips (all BDs were bought for $18 thanks to my B&N membership, unless otherwise noted):

Trip #1 – July 12, 2011

The Criterion Gods were with me this day because I had a rare half-day at work, and was able to run to the store in the early afternoon. I had this trip pretty well planned out, but still managed to find something not on my list.

DVDs:
The Life Aquatic with Steve ZissouTrailer/Criterion/Amazon

BDs:
The Great DictatorTrailer/Criterion/Amazon
Modern TimesTrailer/Criterion/Amazon
*Seven SamuraiTrailer/Criterion/Amazon
SolarisTrailer/Criterion/Amazon
The Times of Harvey MilkTrailer/Criterion/Amazon

Modern Times is a film that I have been wanting to pick-up ever since I started looking at the Criterion Collection, so I knew I had to get it on day one of this sale.  The Times of Harvey Milk was given a glowing review on the Criterion Cast podcast due to the copious amount of supplements, so that was a must-buy.  Solaris looked like fun sci-fi fare, and The Great Dictator was listed on most of the Criterion Cast’s “Favorite Criterion Releases of the Year So Far” lists, so I had to get it. The one that I hadn’t planned on purchasing was The Life Aquatic.  The price was so low, though, I couldn’t turn it down ($8).  The reason I have an asterisks (*) next to Seven Samurai is because that was one of my birthday gifts from my girlfriend.  We had to order that one, but I received it in the mail a few days later.  Total spent for the day: $80 + tax.

Trip #2 – July 16, 2011

This was my most modest trip to B&N during the entire sale.

DVDs:
The Royal TenenbaumsTrailer/Criterion/Amazon

BDs:
Bottle Rocket – Trailer/Criterion/Amazon
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Trailer/Criterion/Amazon

This trip should be subtitled the “Wes Anderson Experience”, seeing as I bought two of his films.  I honestly hadn’t planned on purchasing any one of these films before I walked into the store, but after holding a bunch of different movies, comparing supplements, and prices, I feel like I made some smart choices.  The Royal Tenenbaums DVD was merely $9, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button BD was only $10.  I’ve never seen Ben Button, but David Fincher is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, so I figured I would take a shot in the dark.  I was in the mood for a cult comedy (this is around the same time I watched – and fell in love with – The Big Lebowski for the first time), and for only $18, I had to pull the trigger on Bottle Rocket.  The cover art alone is worth the money.  Total spent for the day: $37 + tax.

Trip #3 – July 21, 2011

This trip ended up costing me a ton more than any Criterion Collection movie because, on the way back from Barnes & Noble, my car engine died. This was the start of a terrible (birthday) weekend, but I was able to gain a ton of good movies, see my family, and move into a new house over the three-day weekend, so it wasn’t all bad.

DVDs:
Hoop Dreams – Trailer/Criterion/Amazon
Vampyr – Trailer/Criterion/Amazon

BDs:
Beauty and the Beast – Trailer/Criterion/Amazon
Naked – Trailer/Criterion/Amazon
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Trailer/Criterion/Amazon

This was one of my favorite trips simply because of the fact that I was able to find Hoop Dreams out of nowhere ($11.25), and had an extra 20% off coupon that the cashier used on two items accidently.  (It was shaping up to be a great weekend, and then the trip home happened.) Beauty and the Beast just released that week, so I was happy to add that to my collection, and Naked looks like my type of film: great acting and an interesting story.  Fear and Loathing is a cult classic that I had to finally buy, and was the other one that I received cheaper than I should have ($14.40).  Vampyr was another one I was eyeing from the start of my collecting days, and finally bought it on the cheap ($14.40).  Now I’m just hoping they don’t release it on BD anytime soon! Total spent for the day: $76.05 + tax.

Trip #4 – July 29, 2011

This was the trip that was never supposed to happen. I claimed on twitter that Trip #3 was “officially” my last trip, but my girlfriend changed those plans when she gave me a Barnes and Noble gift card for $50. Ever grateful, I headed to the store for one (real) last trip.

DVDs:
*Science is Fiction: 23 Films by Jean Painlevé – Trailer/Criterion/Amazon

BDs:
8 1/2 Trailer/Criterion/Amazon
High and Low – Trailer/Criterion/Amazon
Robinson Crusoe on Mars – Trailer/Criterion/Amazon
Wings of Desire – Trailer/Criterion/Amazon

I actually received the Science is Fiction collection from my family for my birthday, but I decided to lump it into this day for ease of listing.  Though I had a $50 gift card, I ended up picking up one extra film than I intended.  Robinson Crusoe on Mars is a movie that I pick up – literally – every time I walk into a Barnes & Noble, and I finally decided it was time to just do it.  High and Low came out a few days prior to this trip, and the fact that it was based off a mystery novel, and directed by Kurosawa, helped in my decision to purchase.  Wings of Desire is what the Nic Cage City of Angels is loosely based off of, and it got high marks from a friend of mine.  Finally, 8 1/2 is one of those “you should have seen this by now” films that is filled with supplements and needed to be in my collection.  Total spent for the day: $72 + tax (minus the $50 gift card).

There is no doubt my Criterion collection will continue to grow.  In fact, since I started writing this post a couple days ago, I have already picked up another film on Blu-ray: Crumb. The more the merrier, as far as I’m concerned.  Sure, I spent about $215 (+ tax) out of pocket, but that’s an incredible savings, and now my film collection is that much more complete.  Collecting isn’t for everyone, but I enjoy it, and the Criterion Collection are some of the most important, and pretty looking films in my stack.

Did you partake in the sale?  If so, what did you end up buying?  I’d love to compare our shopping notes from that month that was the Barnes & Noble Criterion sale.

Branden Chowen
Editor-in-Chief at Cinefessions

Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.