BUY THIS NOT THAT : Criterion vs 88 Films – MATEWAN Edition!


If Region does not matter (which if you have a Region Free player, like you should, region ceases to matter; you become uniquely freed of the tyranny of geographical gatekeepers. That’s the freedom physical media gives you that you will lose, with quite a few other freedoms, in a solely streaming world) than as a smart, savvy, prepared film fan the determination of which of these releases is the best, becomes an examination of the finer details and is the topic we hope to come to some conclusion on in this article.

Now without further ado:


Sane transfer. No discernible quality difference. Films tie in this category. 1/1.


While 88 FILMS gives us a slipcase over the Amaray case, I do feel Criterion’s clear full art Amaray case, remains the best on the market. Superior to the Blue partial art adorned Amaray cases the majority of the field still uses, including in this case 88 films. I do think the sturdy slipcase saves 88 Films an easy loss in this category, So this criteria is a tie. 2/2. Both Criterion and 88 Films are so far batting a 1000.


I broke this off from packaging, as this concentrates on the embellishments on the packaging rather than the quality of the packaging.

1.Okay so looking at the embellishments, let us talk COVER ART.

88 Films the Amaray case art is inferior, however they wisely use the same iconic moment as Criterion for their slipcase artwork.

You would be forgiven for thinking they are using the same image as Criterion, but have just changed the color grading; however that is not the case.

When you really study the two covers you see 88 films has chosen a different frame from that climatic scene, as you can tell by the positioning of the foreground character, and his distance to the opposing party. The 88 films cover is taken with the protagonist having walked 1 or 2 steps closer to bloodshed.

It is a really subtle change to have made to the cover art, not better or worse, but inventive and appreciated. To have this later 88 FILMS release, in the slipcase artwork be advanced 1 or two frames from the previous Criterion cover. A nice thematic and conceptual and referential and chronological touch.

I think Art-wise I might lean a little more toward the Criterion release, with its sepia tones, the majority of the gun in frame, and the protagonist’s face turned a little toward the viewer, but it really is very close. 88 Film’s striking black and white palette, is also vastly appealing. But for the minor differences I point out, sepia tone, gun in frame, face more toward camera, CRITERION by the narrowest margin takes this one.

2. Now going to the typography portion, 88 films again makes changes to the logo that are at once subtle and striking. They keep the same movie font as the Criterion release however they thicken the characters, and make two nice typography improvements of book-ending the title by enlarging the first and last letters, and introducing a competing black/white motif in the letters themselves. And John Sayles’ credit on the film becomes larger and more noticeable.

If 88 films had stopped there, it would have been an easy win for them in terms of typography, however they decide to add a title blurb, IT TAKES MORE THAN GUNS TO KILL A MAN, which just comes off as unnecessary and trite (not to mention untrue, guns kill men just fine, as this film can attest) rather

than what they were seemingly going for of deep and meaningful.

It takes away from the successful tone and improvements of the title masthead. As it is, while the title blurb is insipid, it is not enough to undo the improvements 88 Films have made to the Masthead/Title. So typography by a very narrow margin goes to 88 FILMS.

3. And the last section in this segment, the tie-breaker so to speak to determine who wins this category is “Back of the Cover Blurb”. While I appreciate 88 FILMS adds images to the back cover, Criterion’s lyric back-cover overview of the film is so much better than 88 FILMS largely uninspired write-up. Criterion’’s write up perfectly evokes the complex and nuanced world you are about to enter, 88 film’s description seems to belong to a much more stereotypical and uninteresting film. Back of Cover blurb goes to Criterion; Criterion wins this section. Criterion pulls ahead 3 to 2.


This is not a category I put a lot of weight n, but 88 films clearly has the better disk art, and criterion just uses a good looking but art free sepia toned disk.

Goes to 88 FILMS. 88 FILMS evens it up 3 to 3.


The menus for both companies are well laid out and relatively simple, what it really comes down to is music choice. Criterion menu is accompanied by a subtle, laid back instrumental refrain. 88 Film’s menu is accompanied by the harsh, raw, overpowering, but achingly beautiful vocals that play a dramatic, and unexpected part in the film. As someone returning to this film, getting a dose of that music immediately is welcome, however if viewing this film for the first time, that music should really first be experienced as part of the film. Also as much as I love the strident vocals on the 88 Films menu, I can see that looping audio getting abrasive if you are not in the mood or the mindset for it. So both for a 1st time viewer, or if you will have the menu up for an extended period, the Criterion menu is the more palatable. Plus I love Criterion’s fluid pop-up menus. Winner Criterion, and back in the lead at 4 to 3.


  • CRITERION gives us mostly new (at the time) 2019 Features: DIRECTOR’S COMMENTARY (2013 – I love commentaries, and this is, like the film itself, a compelling and rich one), UNION DUES PRODUCING MATEWWAN (26:17), SACRED WORDS (31:28), AN INTERVIEW WITH COMPOSER MASON DARING (18:46), INTERVIEW WITH NORA CHAVOOSHIAN(14:43), THEM THAT WORK JASON BROWN DOCUMENTARY ON THE IMPACT OF MATEWAN (27:57)


  • 88 FILMS gives us four new2022 features. Daniel Griffith helmed, Richard Elliott & James Blower produced COMPANY MAN REMEMBERING MATEWAN 2022 KEVIN TIGHE INTERVIEW (10:35) , UNION DUES PRODUCING MATEWAN, INTERVIEW WITH PRODUCER MAGGIE RENZI (19:11) riveting interview, I could not stop listening to her (discusses everything MASTERS OF LIGHT, WHO NEEDS SLEEP, Robber Barons,etc), then GATHERING STORM:COMPOSING MATEWAN, AN INTERVIEW WITH COMPOSER MASON DARING (12:26), and finally FIRE IN THE HOLE:DESIGNING MATEWAN-INTERVIEW WITH NORA CHAVOOSHIAN. These are voice over interviews and not on canera interviews like the Criterion release, which is understandable given the distance issues, and the lingering pandemic issues. But 88 Films does a good job of interspersing the audio interviews with movie clips, snapshots, etc.

Both of the companies do a fantastic job with their features. But with the commentary and documentaries Special feature’s goes to Criterion. It is just more feature rich. Criterion picks up steam with the score now 5 to 3.

The Booklets/Pamphlets/Writings

And final grading criteria, the Booklets.

A.S Hamrah’s writing for Criterion’s MATEWAN pamphlet is an enriching overview of not just this film but the career of Writer/Director John Sayles. In beautiful and impassioned writing A.S Hamrah, much like Sayles’ MATEWAN call us to recollect the missteps of the past to more adequately prepare us to make the wise choices of the present and the future.

His Career is unique in American cinema, no other writer-director who began making his own films post-STAR WARS has managed to achieve as much while staying as true to his ideals.”

Seth Hogan in 88 FILMS booklet delivers a rich recounting on the Reagan Era America into which Sayles’ MATEWAN the film was sired, As well as a deeper understanding into MATEWAN the historical place, and how that place still lives in the American landscape, places always at risk of ruin, and places always in need of filmmaker’s like Sayles… to bring them to light.

Both writings are essential, so this is a Tie. That brings us to a final grade of 6 to 4. Winner… CRITERION. That said if, like myself, you are a huge fan of this film and can afford to get two versions of this film the 88 FILMS release comes recommended, as the four new features are great additions to the story of MATEWAN the film.

Well I hope you enjoyed this post, this was a very detailed deep dive into the pluses and minuses of two releases and was a lot of work but also a lot of fun.

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