Criterion CEO shares his print picks (plus a Q+A!)
For today’s 5+5 we’ve got art picks and an interview with Jonathan Turell, CEO of Criterion Collection and Janus Films, two outfits that are surely familiar to the cinephiles among you. Running these two legendary film companies with his longtime partner Peter Becker is quite the claim to fame, but it’s his role as Uncle Jon to my bestie Jason Polan that brought him—along with the rest of his excellent fam!—into my orbit. Naturally Jason’s art is in the mix here, along with selects that speak to his early career, (flight) paths not taken and favorite family traditions. Read on for his take on these selects, and once you’re done with all the art ogling, I recommend heading on over to The Criterion Channel for a carefully curated selection of films that’ll break you out of your streaming rut.
— Jen Bekman
5 Perfect Picks
1) Animal Locomotion: Plate 626 (Galloping Horse) by Eadweard Muybridge
When I first started working, in addition to publishing editions of movies on laserdisc, we published other important works of art on disc. We released a disc of images by Muybridge, an artist I had never heard of. Not only did his work illustrate the very beginnings of motion pictures, it first of many new introductions into the art world for me.
2) Gary's Thick Shakes by John Margolies
Nothing as good as ice cream. This is also one of my wife's favorites. We're fortunate to travel and mark many of our trips by the ice cream we eat along the way. Hilton Head Ice Cream on the Island. SoCo Creamery in Great Barrington, MA. An ice cream shack that we stopped in (both ways) on a trip to Vermont. I've managed to never have a brain freeze from ice cream and it always brings a smile to my face.
3) Fly TWA: New York, a 20x200 Vintage Edition
I love to fly. Had my eyesight been better, I would have loved to have been a commercial pilot. I'm into all things planes and airlines and my first flight to Europe was on TWA from NY. My first flight after 9/11 was on TWA to New Orleans. While I'm now a Delta and Jet Blue flyer, I still find it hard to imagine a sky without Pan Am blue and TWA red.
4) Girard Dolls, Books and Plants by Mary Finlayson
I had never seen this before I browsed through 20x200. I love the pop, the colors, the plants, the books. The one on Calder particularly caught my attention. I've always loved his mobiles. Everything about this makes me smile.
5) 50 (+1 for good luck) Giraffes by Jason Polan
Jason was my nephew. We have his giraffes all over our house. I remember watching him teach our youngest son "how to draw a giraffe" and not only did Jason publish that series of "how to draw" but Jason used my son's drawing as his Facebook profile picture. Jason tried to capture the goodness and simplicity in all. We miss him.
5 Q's + 5 A's
1) What's your favorite museum?
Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. I've been many times. You can touch a rock from the moon! I worked at NASA in DC in 1979 and I was at the Museum for the 10th anniversary of the Moon Landing. The Apollo 11 crew was there to celebrate. It was awesome.
2) What's your most coveted coffee table book?
A toss up between two - M.C. Escher - I love math and the drawings that seem to be impossible, and Al Hirschfeld. Growing up, I'd spend hours Sunday mornings looking for Ninas with my mom.
3) Do you prefer a single statement piece or a salon wall?
I like bold, so single statement.
4) You've got $5m you have to spend on one piece of art. What would it be?
The amount is above my pay grade so can't actually say what I'd spend that amount on. Having an original by one of the masters doesn't do it for me. I'd like something huge that I can put in my backyard, that moves, floats, uses math and gravity.
5) At Criterion, you’re committed to presenting the films you edition as their creators would want them seen—which reminds us a lot of the work we do here with our Vintage Editions. Can you tell us a little about the research and care that goes into that process?
At Criterion and Janus Films, we're story tellers - stories of the films we release, stories of the films we program theatrically and on the Channel. We try to tell those stories as the people who made the movies would want them told. Janus is a family business and I had the privilege of working with my father for 5 years and now enjoy that privilege of working with one of my sons. Film as art is a common theme that comes up over and over. One story that's my father's but worth retelling; My father was a filmmaker - he won the Academy Award for Best Short Documentary in 1979 called Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist. When he was working on a project on the films of Hal Roach, he set up an interview with Mr. Roach and had gotten the Director, King Vidor, to ask Roach the questions. One of my father's questions for Roach was did he ever consider the movies to be "art" or was he just making things for the moment? Vidor asked Roach the question and Roach answered that he didn't think it was art but made for the moment. When Roach finished, Vidor turned to the camera and said that as a filmmaker he'd like to answer the question. He went on to say as the director of many movies including THE CROWD and THE BIG PARADE, he believed that when he was making movies, he thought that he was making art - "something that would last." Then he paused for a long moment and looked back into the camera, "No, I guess if that were true, I would have saved a print."
The 411 on Jonathan Turell
Jonathan Turell joined Janus Films in 1981 and has led with his partners through the introduction of the cable, home video, and digital markets. He was one of the founding partners of The Voyager Company, which launched The Criterion Collection on laserdisc. Along with Peter Becker, he has overseen Janus and Criterion's growth from laserdisc to DVD and Blu-ray and recently launched their SVOD service, The Criterion Channel. He is a self-proclaimed aviation nerd and associate produced FOR ALL MANKIND, the Sundance-winning documentary on the Apollo lunar missions. In addition to classic cinema, one of his favorite films in the collection is THE IN-LAWS (just ask about his first meeting with Peter Falk). He and his wife have four boys and live in Westchester County, NY.