On Five

It’s the season when a lot of things arrive on five. Yesterday Tony, who does authoring for us, brought in gorgeously authored doughnuts from the Doughnut Plant on Grand Street, in flavors like marzipan and pomegranate jelly. John Gudelj, our main subtitler, sent the perfect pastry. It immediately set us arguing over the word to describe it: Raspberry tart? No, cranberry galette. Someone threw in cherry walnut, and the battle was joined. Our favorite printer, Glenn Baken, brought us boxes of “Glenn’s Bacon," which he said was extra-delicious because it came from a farm where the hogs are fed nothing but Oreos for their last two weeks. I should have realized it was all a joke, especially when I saw the gorgeous printing on the package, but I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't catch on until “glenn’s bacon oreos” yielded no documents in a Google search.

At the old office, we were split between two floors. The kitchen was on the fifth floor, and nearly every day there was an "on five" email. People brought things in from all over the world. Mochi balls and green tea cookies; exotic, seasonally flavored Pockys from Tokyo; Mexican treats; absinthe candies from Paris and bourbon balls from Kentucky and chocolates from Belgium by Pierre Marcolini (whose website refers to him as "this creator of happiness"). Chocolate koalas found their way up from down under, maple cookies down from Vermont. We’ve had organic “Moose Munch” from Oregon and kippered buffalo from South Dakota, Scharffen Berger chocolates from San Francisco and macaroons from Fauchon, scary green key lime coconut patties from Florida, halvah with pistachios from Israel, and rugelach from Canter’s in L.A. Some treats come with an education (did you know that the honeybell orange, also known as the Minneola tangelo, is a cross between the Dancy tangerine and the Duncan grapefruit?); others with a personal touch—Julie’s homemade carrot cake, Johanna’s cookies, Jamie’s homemade cheese, Deb’s mom’s chocolate covered almonds, Fumiko’s brownies, and Kim’s banana bread (still gooey in the middle).

The point is not snacks. It’s that Criterion is not only a company—we’re a culture. It’s something we all work on, something we create together. Jon and I are proud that even in the roughest times we’ve never missed a payroll, but I think it’s almost as important that we’ve never missed a Friday lunch for the company. When someone takes the trouble to send a postcard or bring back a local delicacy or label every object in the office with a haiku, it’s a gift. No matter how frivolous or silly or indulgent it may seem on the surface, underneath it is a gesture of kindness and respect, and that respect becomes the foundation of Criterion’s culture. The most important product that Criterion is working on at any given moment is the company itself. In the end there is no difference between the respect we show each other and the respect we show the films or our business partners or the filmmakers and scholars and writers who work with us. It all takes practice, and now that we’re all on one floor, it’s all happening “on five.”

I don’t know if we’ll be posting over the holidays, so I just wanted to take this last opportunity to say how grateful I am to all the people who take the time to make the little gestures and have a little fun around here. Here’s wishing everyone at Criterion and all of our friends, colleagues, and customers good will and good cheer, the happiest of holidays, and the very best in the New Year.

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