Category: DVD Report

The DVD Report #660

Ford v Ferrari was nominated for four 2019 Oscars and won two for Film Editing and Sound Editing. It was also nominated for Best Picture and Sound Mixing. As such, it falls behind 1966’s Grand Prix, which was only nominated for just three Oscars for Film Editing, Sound, and Sound Effects, but won all three.

Auto racing films have been movie staples at least as far back as 1932’s The Crowd Roars, directed by Howard Hawks and starring James Cagney, Joan Blondell, and Eric Linden. They were very popular through the mid-1960s with Blake Edwards’ The Great Race starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Natalie Wood; and John Frankenheimer’s aforementioned Grand Prix, starring James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand, and Toshiro Mifune, culminating in 1971 with Lee H. Katzin’s Le Mans, starring Steve McQueen. More recently we’ve had such successes as 2013’s Rush directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl; and the long-running franchise, The Fast and the Furious, which began in 2001 and was still churning out prequels and spinoffs as late as 2019.

Based on a true story, James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari is about the Ford Motor Company’s mid-1960s revenge on Italian race car champion Ferrari which its owners sold to Fiat in a bidding war with Ford. Ford spent more money developing a race car that would beat Ferrari at the racing pinnacle Le Mans than they would have spent buying the company. Carroll Shelby (played by Matt Damon) was an automotive designer and retired race car driver who was put in charge of developing the car and British race car driver Ken Miles (played by Christian Bale) was the man he picked to test the car and drive it at Daytona and eventually Le Mans. That they succeeded against the odds was never in doubt if you know the history of the Ford-Ferrari feud. What makes the story interesting is the tension between Shelby and Miles and the Ford executives who put obstacle after obstacle in front of them.

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The DVD Report #659

Grand Illusion was the first foreign language film honored with a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars.

We know that all the Oscar winners for Best Picture through 2018 have been released on DVD and/or Blu-ray, but what about the winners for International Film, previously known as Best Foreign Film or Best Foreign Language Film? The record there is much spottier.

With more than sixty winners to date, we don’t the space to list all the films that have been released, but we can discuss a few highlights.

Oscar’s first decade (1928-1937) did not single out foreign language films. Oscar’s second decade (1938-1947) started out with France’s Grand Illusion, directed by Jean Renoir, earning a Best Picture nomination and ended with an honorary award given to Italy’s Shoeshine, directed by Vittorio De Sica. Grand Illusion is available on DVD and Blu-ray. Shoeshine is available on Amazon Prime.

Oscar’s third decade (1948-1957) started out continuing to present foreign films with honorary awards including those given to Italy’s Bicycle Thieves, directed by Shoeshine director Vittorio De Sica, and Japan’s Rashomon, directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune. Both are available on DVD and Blu-ray.

The current practice of nominating five films from different countries from which to select a winner began with the 1956 award which was won by Italy’s La Strada, directed by Federico Fellini and starring Anthony Quinn and the director’s wife Giulietta Masina. Fellini also directed the second competitive winner, Italy’s Nights of Cabiria, starring Masina. La Strada is available on DVD and Blu-ray. Nights of Cabiria is available on DVD but hard to find.

Oscar’s fourth decade (1958-1967) honored such masterworks as Sweden’s The Virgin Spring and Through a Glass Darkly, both directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring Max von Sydow, and Italy’s 8 1/2, starring Marcello Mastroianni, the third winner directed by Federico Fellini. The decade also saw awards go to two exquisite films from lesser known directors, France’s Sundays and Cybele, directed by Serge Bourgignon and starring Hardy Kruger, and Czechoslovakia’s Closely Watched Trains, directed by Jiri Menzel. They are all available on DVD and all but Closely Watched Trains are available on Blu-ray.

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The DVD Report #658

Parasite, which has been winning the lion’s share the foreign language film awards doled out by the various critics’ groups and organizations for films released in 2019, is the latest from director Bong Joon Ho, best known in the U.S. for his 2013 debut American film, Snowpiercer.

Nominated for six Oscars, the exhilarating tragicomedy is about a family of four poor Koreans who one by one ingratiate themselves into the lives of a wealthy Korean family, displacing the family’s previous help. Slowly we come to realize that although the poor family may be parasites in the home of the wealthy, their wealthy employers are also parasites living off the toils of the poor. It’s all played out in Hitchcockian style in which stairs play a pivotal role inside both the fabulously designed wealthy house and the slum apartment house the poor family calls home as well as connecting stairs on the road between the two.

Bong is himself nominated for three Oscars for Best Picture, Direction, and Original Screenplay. The film is also nominated for its intricate Production Design, fast-paced Editing, and International Film, the new name for foreign language films. The cast is headed by Bong regular Song Kang Ho as the father of the poor Kim family with Chang Hyae Jin as his wife, Choi Woo Shik as his son, and Park So Dam s his daughter. Lee Sun Kyon heads the wealthy Park family with Cho Yeo Jeong as his wife, Hyung Jun-Jung as his son, and Jun Siso as his daughter. Lee Jung Eun and Myeon-hoon Park have key supporting roles.

Universal’s Blu-ray release features a Q&A with Bong.

Twenty years ago, the film that won the lion’s share of the foreign film awards was Pedro Almodovar’s All About My Mother, newly given a 2K restoration by the Criterion Collection.

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The DVD Report #657

Pain and Glory is Pedro Almodovar’s third film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best International Film (previously known as Best Foreign Language Film) following 1988’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and 1999’s All About My Mother. Almodovar was himself nominated for his direction and screenplay of 2002’s Talk to Her for which he won in the latter category. Those films, as well as 2004’s Bad Education, 2006’s Volver, 2011’s The Skin I Live In, and 2016’s Julietta and others have received recognition from the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and other awards organizations. Almodovar is Spain’s best-known director since Luis Bunuel (Belle de Jour, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie).

Pain and Glory may well be Almodovar’s best film. This semiautobiographical film compares favorably to Federico Fellini’s equally semiautobiographical 8 1/2, which it emulates.

Antonio Banderas, receiving his first Oscar nomination, is superb as a famous Spanish writer-director who loses the will to make another movie due to ill health. Instead of going to the doctor, he self-medicates with heroin until a chance encounter with a former lover gives him the impetus to quit his addiction and seek medical help.

In addition to Banderas, there are outstanding performances by Asier Etxeandia as his actor friend, Leonardo Sbaraglia as his former lover, Asier Flores as Banderas’ character as a boy, Cesar Vicente as the older boy he teaches to write, and Penelope Cruz and Julietta Serano who share the role of his mother at different ages.

Pain and Glory is available on Blu-ray and standard DVD. Blu-ray extras include a Q&A session with Almodovar, Banderas, and composer Alberto Iglesias (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).

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The DVD Report #656

Holiday was such a huge hit in 1930 that they remade it eight years later. Ironically, the much better 1938 version was a flop at the time, but has long since been considered one of the greatest sophisticated comedies of all time whereas the 1930 version has been all but forgotten.

Based on Philip Barry’s 1928 play, the 1930 version faithfully follows the stage version except that it adds a brief scene at the end where the New York heroine gets in a car to go to the docks to join the hero on his cruise to Europe. It leaves it to the audience to figure out whether she will get to the ship in time. The 1938 version eliminates the uncertainty by adding another scene in which the hero and heroine are reunited.

Ann Harding received an Oscar nomination for the 1930 version with her portrayal of the younger sister of Mary Astor whose fiancée Robert Ames turns down her wealthy father’s offer of a job because he wants to take time off before settling down, causing Astor to dump him and Harding to jump at the chance of joining him in his carefree lifestyle.

This type of film would soon be shunned by audiences of the Great Depression, but by 1938 audiences had become used to films in which fun was poked at the rich, and although no one in the audience would be cavalier enough to turn down a job they desperately needed, they could fantasize about being in the position of the hero now charmingly played by Cary Grant who is much more relatable than Ames. Katharine Hepburn as the sister of the girl he is engaged to is now the older, rather than the younger of the sisters, adding a layer of complexity to her character.

George Cukor directed the 1938 version with more verve than Edward H. Griffith did the original. Doris Nolan was good as the other sister, but aside from Hepburn and Grant, acting honors in this version went to Lew Ayres as the girls’ alcoholic brother, the role played in the 1930 version by Monroe Owsley who died of cardiac arrest following a car accident in 1937. The impromptu party given by Hepburn and Ayres for Grant’s friends Edward Everett Horton and Jean Dixon while the rest of the house is attending Grant and Nolan’s New Year’s Eve engagement party is the film’s highlight. Grant, who began his career as an acrobat, gets to show that he can still perform some of his old tricks.

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The DVD Report #655

1917 may well be on its way to becoming the fourth film about World War I to win an Oscar for Best Picture, following Wings (1927/28), All Quiet on the Western Front (1929/30), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

Those films and few others about the war have even been nominated for Oscar’s highest honor. The only others have been Seventh Heaven (1927/28), A Farewell to Arms (1932/33), Grand Illusion (1938), and Sergeant York (1941).

1917 has just begun its wide release and will not be available on home video for some time, but the previous nominees and winners are available. In fact, this may be a good time to catch up on previous films about the “war to end all wars.”

My list of the ten best previous films about the war are The Big Parade (1925), Four Sons (1928), Journey’s End (1930), All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Westfront 1918 (1931), Broken Lullaby (1932), Pilgrimage (1933), Paths of Glory (1957), Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), and Gallipoli (1981).

King Vidor’s The Big Parade was the first anti-war film from which all others are derived. John Gilbert, in his greatest role, is the privileged son of a well-to-do banker who eschews a military commission to join his buddies as a foot soldier. He goes from being a carefree young soldier in France where he has a fling with a young farmgirl to a hardened veteran in the course of a year, returning home less a leg to find his fiancée has been two-timing him with his brother. Determined to return to France in search of the missing farmgirl, the film’s emotionally powerful ending still earns the tears it elicits.

John Ford’s Four Sons focuses on the German mother (Margaret Mann) who loses three sons to the war and one (James Hall) to America. Ford was heavily influenced by F.W. Murnau’s making of Sunrise on the Fox lot at the same time. The result is a film that looks very much like a Murnau film with Ford’s winning brand of sentimentality affecting the film’s emotional highs. The eventual reunion between mother and surviving son is as moving as anything Ford has ever done.

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The DVD Report #654

The Peanut Butter Falcon, Wild Rose, and Luce are three under-the-radar films that have factored into year-end 2019 awards but are not considered major players in this year’s Oscar race.

The Peanut Butter Falcon was among the Top Ten Independent Films of the Year singled out by the National Board of Review. Documentary filmmakers Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, who co-wrote and co-directed the film, have received numerous First Film nominations and wins for this, their first narrative film. Star Zack Gottsagen has likewise been singled out for several awards for his breakthrough performance including the Newcomer Award from the Hollywood Critics Association.

Nilson and Schwartz met Zack, who has Down Syndrome, at a camp for disabled and non-disabled people several years before making the film where he expressed his desire to become a movie star. They wrote the screenplay built around his dreams and desires. The title of the film, which is told in a sweet, folksy Mark Twain manner, is the name Zack gives himself when he runs away from his care home in his quest to become a wrestler. Aiding him on his journey are small-time outlaw on-the-run Shia LaBeouf (Honey Boy) and kindly nursing home employee Dakota Johnson (Bad Times at the El Royale).

The supporting cast includes John Hawkes (The Sessions), Thomas Haden Church (Sideways), and Bruce Dern (Nebraska). Dern, who has several scenes with Johnson, appeared with her father Don Johnson in Django Unchained), her mother Melanie Griffith in Mulholland Falls, and her grandmother Tippi Hedren in Marnie.

The Peanut Butter Falcon is available on Blu-ray and standard DVD.

Wild Rose has won numerous awards for its breakthrough direction by Tom Harper (TV’s War & Peace), screenplay by Nicole Taylor (TV’s Indian Summers), and performance by Jessie Buckley, who was also memorable two other 2019 roles in Judy and TV’s Chernobyl.

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The DVD Report #653

Judy, newly released on Blu-ray and standard DVD, is a musical drama about the last days of the legendary Judy Garland, or to be precise, about her five-week run of concerts at London’s Talk of the Town (now the Hippodrome Casino) in early 1969, a few months before her death in June of that year.

Renée Zellweger, in her first important new film role since 2006’s Miss Potter, transforms herself into the emaciated, booze and drug-fueled superstar at the end of her tether, eerily capturing her look, walk, and demeanor. It’s a cliché to say that an actor is the real-life person they are playing, but that has never been truer than it is here with Zellweger uncannily impersonating a woman who died the year she born.

Zellweger is not the powerful singer Garland was for most of her career, but her interpretation is close enough to capture the still strong interpretations Garland gave her classic songs as she neared the end. Her last appearance on stage, when she is unable to perform her signature song and the audience rises to sing it to her instead, is the film’s most goose-pimply moment. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for days after seeing the film.

Aside from Zellweger, there are good supporting performances from rising star Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose) as Garland’s unflappable London assistant and Finn Wittrock (If Beale Street Could Talk) as Mickey Deems, her fifth and final husband. The rest of the cast, however, is a mixed bag, with hulking 6’4 ½” Richard Cordery ludicrously cast as 5’6″ Louis B. Mayer in the film’s heavy-handed flashback sequences.

The success of Judy on the heels of the Freddie Mercury and Elton John musical biographies, Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, respectively, bodes well for the genre with Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in the currently filming Respect with an announced biography of Janis Joplin also in the works. The same can’t be said for the future of adaptations of Broadway musicals with the disastrous reception accorded Cats, but if the forthcoming film version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights and Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story prove successful, there may be hope yet for the often promised, but never fulfilled, film versions of Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard and Follies to actually get made.

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The DVD Report #652

The Irishman movie posterThe Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Two Popes are among the most critically acclaimed films of 2019 but don’t look for them on home video any time soon.

These three films, all of which have figured heavily into year-end awards consideration, were given limited theatrical showings in major cities and then mass released on the Netflix streaming service. The only place to find them now is on Netflix, which has thus far not released any of the films it owns exclusive rights to on home video. That will change in February when the Criterion Collection releases Netflix’s big 2018 awards champion, Roma, on Blu-ray and standard DVD. Whether these three new films will eventually be released on home video remains to be seen.

Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is a 3-and-a-half hour gangster epic based on Charles Brandt’s 2004 book, “I Heard You Paint Houses,” about real-life mobster Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) who, as he was approaching death at the age of 83 in 2003, alleged to have been the hit man who killed Teamsters Union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) in 1975, as well as numerous other men in his younger days. The film chronicles Sheeran’s association with Hoffa and crime boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and many other mobsters.

The film’s special effects include a de-aging process that allows DeNiro and Pesci, who are both 76, and Pacino who is 79, to appear much younger throughout most of the film. Indeed, Hoffa was just 69 when he disappeared.

The film may be lengthy, but never boring. It is, however, a bit of a chore to sit through it all at once, so home viewing in this case has a benefit over being figuratively glued to your seat in a theatre.

Also featured are Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, and various other players, but it’s DeNiro, Pacino, and Pesci who have been the recipients of most of the praise for the film along with Scorsese’s direction and Stephen Zallian’s screenplay.

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The DVD Report #651

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino’s most accessible film ever.

In an era in which there are supposedly no real movie stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are real movie stars. What’s more, DiCaprio plays one, albeit one of fifty years ago, with Pitt as his friend and stunt double as well as his chauffer in this nostalgic look at a Hollywood that is no more.

DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton was the star of a hit western TV series in the 1950s but has drifted into bad guy roles on other people’s shows in the late 60s as he struggles to make a bigger splash in feature films. He lives in a gated community in which his new next-door neighbors are Roman Polanski, fresh from the success of Rosemary’s Baby, and his wife Sharon Tate (played by Margot Robbie), who at the time was best known for Valley of the Dolls. Pitt’s Cliff Booth lives in a trailer, drives his dilapidated old car to DiCaprio’s house where he leaves the car, and picks up DiCaprio who he drives around in his Cadillac, Pitt having lost his driver’s license due to one too many drunken driving arrests. That’s the set-up. As with all Tarantino’s films, the plot veers from reality into a fantasy world in which historic events are skewered. To say more would spoil the fun.

Robbie as Tate has the most substantial supporting role while other actors such as Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Timothy Olyphant, Nicholas Hammond, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Damian Lewis, and the late Luke Perry pop in and out.

If you enjoyed Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Basterds, and The Hateful Eight, you’ll most definitely enjoy this one.

Blu-ray extras include five features on the making of the film and twenty minutes of deleted scenes.

Hustlers is a film about shallow, unlikeable characters. To be precise, a group of strippers who get rich drugging and robbing their clients. Marketed as a film about female empowerment, it is not that despite having been directed by a woman (Lorene Scafaria). All the women are portrayed as losers with only top-cast Constance Wu seen as having any qualms at all about what she is doing. Jennifer Lopez has a much-heralded supporting role as the ice-cold ringleader of the group, but much of the praise seems to be garnered toward her ability to pole dance at 50, rather than for any previously hidden great acting talent.

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The DVD Report #650

The Goldfinch was one of the year’s most eagerly anticipated films until the critics got hold of it and audiences decided to give it a pass. The film version of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has its faults, but it is a film that deserves to be seen.

The main criticisms of the film come from people who have read the Dickensian novel and miss the rich characterizations in the 800-page work that are only hinted at in the film. People who haven’t read the novel are more inclined to appreciate it. Not having read Tartt’s 2013 novel before seeing the film, I nonetheless had a couple of peeves with the way the film played out.

My biggest peeve was the non-linear progression of the film that weaves back and forth between the past, present, and future with the two actors playing the protagonist as a 13-year-old and a twenty-something character, unlike the novel which proceeds in linear fashion.

Even though it’s obvious early on that the boy Theo, whose mother died in an explosion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has stolen the titled painting from the museum and carried it out under his coat, that information isn’t given the audience until well into the film. Similarly, the close bond between mother and son that is explored in the novel is not seen in the film until it is shown in flashback near the end of the film. This throws the film off-kilter because although we sense that the negative things the boy’s deadbeat father says about her are untrue, without having seen their relationship early on we can only assume that he is lying.

Although we do see the boy interact with the mother of a friend who takes him in, we don’t feel the loss of their later separation as much as readers of the novel because that years-long separation only lasts ten minutes of screen time. It undercuts the poignancy of the reunion which is key to our understanding of why the now grown man agrees to marry the woman’s daughter even though it’s clear that he and the girl don’t love each other. It’s because he yearns to be part of her family.

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The DVD Report #649

All About Eve and Now, Voyager, the two films containing Bette Davis’ greatest performances, have been given new 4K transfers for their Criterion Collection Blu-ray releases, both with tons of extras.

All About Eve was the first film to receive 14 Oscar nominations, the most of any film through 1950. Its record has since been equaled by 1997’s Titanic and 2016’s La La Land, but never topped. It was also the first film since 1942’s Mrs. Miniver to receive five acting nominations and remains the only film to have received four female acting nominations which went to Davis, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, and Thelma Ritter. It won 6 of its nominations including Best Picture, Supporting Actor (George Sanders), and both Direction and Screenplay for Joseph. L, Mankiewicz, who won the same two awards the previous year for A Letter to Three Wives. Mankiewicz’s back-to-back wins in both categories has never been equaled.

Based on a 1946 Cosmopolitan short story by Mary Orr called “The Wisdom of Eve,” the film about an ingénue who insinuates herself into the lives of a famous Broadway actress and her circle of theatre friends was supposed to have starred Claudette Colbert as the star and Baxter, who resembled her, as the ingénue but Colbert injured her back filming Three Came Home and had to drop out. Davis took over the role with just two weeks’ notice, resurrecting her then dormant career.

The new release contains so many extras that a second disc had to be included to accommodate them. Imported from Fox’s 2010 Blu-ray release are two commentaries, a feature-length documentary from 1983 about Mankiewicz, episodes of The Dick Cavett Show from 1969 and 1980, a 2001 documentary on the making of the film and a second documentary on Mankiewicz from 2010. New features include an interview with costume historian Larry McQueen.

1942’s Now, Voyager was made at the height of Davis’ reign as the queen of the women’s picture after both Irene Dunne and Ginger Rogers turned it down.

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The DVD Report #648

Cold War was nominated for three 2018 Oscars, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Directing, and Best Cinematography, all of which it lost to Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, the first time two foreign language films had vied for these awards in the same year.

Newly released on Blu-ray and DVD by Criterion, Cold War had previously been available on those formats outside the U.S. but the film, which was released theatrically by Amazon, was only available from in the U.S. via their streaming service. 2018’s Beautiful Boy suffered the same fate but the Canadian Blu-ray and DVD releases of that film are sold through in the U.S. so presumably there is no deal in the offing for a U.S. release.

Pawel Pawlikowski, whose 2014 film Ida won that year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, wrote and directed Cold War based on the lives of his parents whose life story followed a similar trajectory, meeting several years after World War II, separating, coming back together, separating again and getting back together again several more times until they eventually reunited for the last time, dying together, their lives paralleling the cold war between the Soviets and the Western World.

Lukasz Zal’s sublime black-and-white cinematography is the real star of the film, but the performances of both Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot as the volatile lovers are also commendable.

Extras include a new on-screen interview of Pawlikowski by fellow director Alejandro G. Inarritu.

Also newly released on Blu-ray and DVD by Criterion, 1996’s The Daytrippers heralded what was perceived at the time to be the feature film debut from an exciting new talent, writer-director Greg Mottola. Although Mottola’s subsequent career has been mostly on TV, he did have further big screen success with 2007’s Superbad and its 2009 sequel Adventureland, but that was about it.

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The DVD Report #647

The Farewell was a breakout hit at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival from Asian-American director Lulu Wang that became a critical and box-office hit when it was released theatrically later in the year.

Based on a story Wang has been telling since 2012, the semiautobiographical film is about a young Chinese-American woman (Awkwafina) who, along with her parents and other relatives, visits her dying paternal grandmother in China. Billed as a comedy-drama, the story revolves around the family not telling the grandmother that she is dying. That alone makes calling the film a comedy a bit of a stretch. I think it would be better described as a drama with comedic moments.

Awkwafina, best known for her supporting performance in last year’s Crazy Rich Asians, plays the central character as an enterprising young woman but the screenplay doesn’t allow her to do much more than mope around throughout the film. Shuzhen Zhao who plays the grandmother as a sweet old lady is livelier but neither the characters nor the women who inhabit them come across as particularly interesting. The only character in the entire film that has much of a personality is Chinese-Australian actress Diana Lin as Awkwafina’s thoroughly Americanized mother. She has the film’s best line: “These people are ridiculous. They even hire people to cry at their funerals.”

A pleasant little film, it is considered by some as a possible Oscar nominee for Best Picture, Actress, Supporting Actress (Zhao, not Lin), and Directing.

The Farewell is available on Blu-ray and standard DVD.

Bart Freundlich’s After the Wedding is a remake of Susanne Bier’s 2006 Danish film of the same name which was nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film, losing to Germany’s The Lives of Others.

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The DVD Report #646

Snow Falling on Cedars is a film worth discovering or rediscovering, whichever the case may be.

The new 4K transfer and restoration by Shout Select was supervised by three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson (JFK, The Aviator, Hugo) who earned the fourth of his nine Oscar nominations so far for the film. Also included are brand-new on-camera interviews with Richardson, director Scott Hicks, novelist David Guterson, and composer James Newton Howard. Hicks’ commentary on the 2000 DVD of the 1999 film was imported for the Blu-ray.

Hicks’ commentary helps answer a lot of questions about the film which can be confusing at times. The director explains that this was intentional, that there are three mysteries in the film: the question of the guilt or innocence of the man on trial, the mystery surrounding the long-ago romance of the local investigative reporter and the wife of the man on trial, and the clarity of the event in the opening sequence in the fog.

The film takes place in 1950 when racial tensions ran high between the predominantly white residents of a small island off the coast of the State of Washington in the Pacific Northwest and the Japanese-Americans who were rounded up after the attack on Pearl Harbor and bused to concentration camps in California.

The film’s story is told in non-linear fashion beginning with the death of a fisherman (Eric Thal), the investigation into his death by the town sheriff (Richard Jenkins), and the arrest of his neighbor (Rick Yune) with whom he had an argument earlier that day. It then moves to the courtroom where his trial takes place, presided over by judge James Cromwell with James Rebhorn as the prosecutor and Max von Sydow as the defense counsel. The rest of the film goes back and forth between events in the present and memories of previous events in the minds of the witnesses as a reporter (Ethan Hawke) looks for evidence that the sheriff and his crew may have missed.

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