How quickly times change. When I was a kid, you might have to wait months – even years – for your favorite theatrical releases of the year to land on home video. For some international and independent titles, you might cling to battered VHS copies for decades until a prestigious distributor like the Criterion Collection saves those titles from obscurity. These days, however, films can go from theaters to the streaming market simultaneously and be added to the Collection just a few months later.
On Friday, Netflix announced that four of its 2019 releases would be joining the Criterion Collection at some point in 2020.
Martin Scorsese‘s “The Irishman,” Noah Baumbach‘s “Marriage Story,” Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert‘s “American Factory,” and Mati Diop‘s “Atlantics” were among the best features of last year – both “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story” landed within the Top 5 on our list – and Criterion has wasted no time in adding them to their canon. These four titles will join Alfonso Cuarón‘s “Roma” among the Netflix titles given the prestige treatment.
One could quibble that enshrining these features mere months after their public release is a bit short-sighted. After all, the Criterion Collection often selects titles that have benefitted from decades of retrospection. They have become synonymous with ‘film canon’ because they operate from a position of historiographical strength. While each of the films mentioned above are among the best of 2019, plenty of features that finish on critical Top 10 lists in a given year fade into obscurity. Some deservingly so.
Then again, even if we feel differently about “The Irishman” in 2030, it will still be an essential work in the context of Scorsese’s career. In fact, each of these films carves out an important narrative within this period of Hollywood filmmaking. And if access to movies is nine-tenths of a canon, having each of these titles available on Criterion’s streaming service ensures that people will watch them for decades to come.