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Beastie Boys Kurosawa

Criterion’s February 2008 newsletter has a “top ten Criterions” list from the Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch. Four of the ten films on his list are Kurosawa titles, with Seven Samurai at the very top.

Another curious point that the newletter mentions regarding Yauch is his new film distribution company Oscilloscope Pictures, with Criterion admitting that they were “little concerned that Adam intended to compete with Criterion, but then we thought it over and, honestly, we have been doing this for a long time and are not threatened by Adam’s new company”.

This could be read to suggest that Yauch’s company will be releasing material similar to Criterion. Now, if this indeed is the case, and if Yauch will have say over the titles that are chosen for release, the fact that his top ten Criterions list includes four Kurosawas could be an equation very interesting to us. Now, whether Oscilloscope Pictures is really interested in delving into Kurosawa territory, or has something altogether different in mind, I cannot say, but at least there is that possibility.

In any case, since the newsletter doesn’t yet seem to be available online, here is Yauch’s list:

1. Seven Samurai
C’mon, I gotta tell why this movie is good? You tell me!

2. Walkabout
Saw this one when I was in junior high school and it stayed with me. Glad to see it in the collection.

3. Nights of Cabiria
I don’t know what to write. I just love this movie.

4. Yojimbo
I guess you have figured out by now that I am really not going to review any of the films that I picked.

5. Sanjuro
But I do like the folks up at the Criterion Collection. Those are my people up in there.

6. Rushmore
They are a really great team that’s into some bugged-out, esoteric shit.

7. And God Created Woman
Peter is like the bigwig. He’s the head honcho.

8. The Harder They Come
Susan has her ear to the street. She always looks for some interesting stuff to put out.

9. Rashomon
When I was hanging out up there Heather was working on the audio. But now she switched over to some other department.

10. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Sometimes I get free DVDs from Criterion, but not always. I wanted to get one of each, you know, like the whole collection, but they said, “No, Adam, we don’t do that.”



Jeremy Quintanilla

Yeah, I read this email last night, I had a feeling you would post something about it. Its cool he is a fan of Kurosawa, I used to be a fan of Yauch back in my high school days.

I too was a bit puzzled about the competing with Criterion comment, it could just be a joke of sorts.
I was under the impression that Oscilloscope was to buy film festival movies-the ones that were passed by larger studios–sort of like what heineken beer is attempting to do at one point.
His website list equipment for recording, and nothing for restoration and distribution. I dont think he will release any old movies, after all Criterion would have such a large advantage and knowledge on the ordeal competing with them wouldnt be the wising thing to do-money wise


Jeremy Quintanilla

Well I was right-minus the distribution part, Oscilloscope will purchase festival movies and get them distrusted. They will have no part of releasing old movies. It will just be another new distributer to add to the list of hundreds that come and go every year.

BTW what does an Oscilloscope have to do with movies? Something like Histrogram would make more sense at least


Vili Maunula

what does an Oscilloscope have to do with movies?

I think the Criterion newsletter mentioned that Oscilloscope Pictures is a division of the Beastie Boys Oscilloscope Laboratories.


Jeremy Quintanilla

Oh, that would make sense.
It would be cool to see another company releasing old movies to the scale of criterion, but I dont think that will happen.

LOL I said distrusted instead of distributed-damn you firefox spell check


Vili Maunula

You are probably right, Jeremy.

A company like Criterion would of course be badly needed for the European markets. There are plenty of country-specific companies releasing old films, but with their markets being limited to single countries, it makes no financial sense for them to undertake any restoration work on the scale that Criterion operates these days.

I wonder if Criterion might ever feel secure to license their transfers to non R1 companies. Of course, it still remains to be seen whether Criterion goes on with region encoded discs when they start putting out material on Blu-ray.


Jeremy Quintanilla

I think the whole region coding thing is stupid anyways.

Its purpose in the beginning was to prevent dvd release at different times to flood another region. Say a movie is out of dvd in America, but still in theaters in the UK, you wouldnt want people getting the American dvd and hurting the UK theater sales. But few would even bother importing the dvd, if would be cheaper to just go the the theater-or steal off the internet.

Region coding dvd only movies, like Criterions is just dumb if someone from elsewhere wants to watch a movie why stop them.

At any rate your top end dvd players can easily play all regions, the expensive dvd players always “forget” to disable certain hidden service menus 😛

I just hate dealing with PAL and NTSC, something that cant really be avoided- you know with you damn Europeans and your 50 Hz electricity 😆

Its a hassle to doing the conversion with editing software and having to break the copy protection just to do so. –btw you could just watch it on your computer without having to do anything, other then getting some good DVD playing software

Criterion should release in European markets, so its cheaper and easier to get a hold of them for everyone outside the US. I dont know why its only a US thing, maybe something with cost and licensing with the owners of the movies.


Vili Maunula

Sure, going around the region coding is no big deal, but since it is still a deal, it means that importing something like Criterion’s R1 DVDs to Europe is not as tempting for retailers as it would be if there were no region codes. Which leads to the fact that Criterion releases are not really all that commonly available here. I guess there would be a niche market right there, start mass importing Criterion films and sell them for the European markets cheaper than what people can order from the US due to the postage and taxes.

As for why Criterion chooses to release in R1, probably those holding the rights to the movies dictate this decision. It would, obviously, lower the value of their product (i.e. selling rights to different parties) if Criterion put out region free releases.

HDDVD would not have had region encoding, if I remember correctly, and currently something like three quarters of the released Blu-ray discs have been region free. So, there is hope that the madness might end. In any case, I would not be too keen having to learn another region code map, after I finally got familiar with the DVD one. It saddens me as a European that Japan has been given to the US. Traitors!

I have, by the way, always wondered why it is so difficult to make equipment for the American markets that displays both PAL and NTSC (and SECAM)? I think all or at least most TVs and DVD players in Europe have been able to display all of these formats for at least the past decade. Or have I somehow been cheated?


Jeremy Quintanilla

I dont know why PAL and NTSC TVs are not available in the US. It doesnt matter digital format TVs will take over soon and PAL and NTSC will no longer be factors.


Vili Maunula

That’ll be great, indeed.

Finland, where I am currently (for a month longer), just switched to all-digital broadcasting on Saturday. The majority of broadcasting had been all-digital already since last summer, but on Saturday they pulled the plug on all analogue broadcasting.

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