The DVD Report #687

Tender Mercies earned Robert Duvall his only Oscar out of seven nominations for his portrayal of a broken-down middle-aged country singer on the mend. Previously nominated for The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, and The Great Santini, and subsequently for The Apostle, A Civil Action, and The Judge, his was that rare situation in which a multi-Oscar-nominated actor actually won for his best performance.

Nominated for five 1983 Oscars overall, the film won two. The other was the second win on three nominations for writer Horton Foote who won for his original screenplay. A previous winner for his 1962 adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, he would be nominated again for his 1986 adaptation of his 1953 play The Trip to Bountiful.

For director Bruce Beresford, it would be his only nomination for Best Director. Previously nominated for his 1981 adapted screenplay of Breaker Morant, he failed to be recognized by AMPAS for his direction of 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy even though that film went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture of its year.

Duvall is superbly supported by Golden Globe nominee Tess Harper as the motel owner who becomes his second wife and the source of his redemption, along with Ellen Barkin as his estranged daughter, Betty Buckley as his ex-wife and a fellow singer who became rich and famous with his songs, and Wilford Brimley as Buckley’s manager.

The excellent Kino Lorber Blu-ray includes audio commentary by film critic and author Simon Abrams, and an archival documentary feature with interviews with Duvall, Harper, Beresford, Foote, and others.

Also newly released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber are Cry Freedom, Diva, Wake Island, and The Eagle and the Hawk.

Richard Attenborough’s 1987 film Cry Freedom, told in the mold of Attenborough’s Oscar-winning Gandhi, is about black South African freedom fighter Steven Bilko, whose story is told by white journalist and editor Donald Woods who risks his life to tell it. Told from Woods’ perspective, the film is more about him than Bilko, but it’s a riveting one played with passion by Kevin Kline as Woods and Oscar-nominated Denzel Washington as Bilko. Penelope Wilton plays Kline’s disapproving wife.

Extras include audio commentary by film historian Eddy von Mueller.

Jean-Jacques Beinex’s 1981 film Diva launched the Cinéma du look movement with this stylish thriller about a postal carrier who illegally tapes a concert of a reclusive opera singer played by American soprano Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez. The award-winning French classic is highlighted by a celebrated chase through the Paris Metro.

Extras include two commentaries, seven interviews with the filmmakers, and two scene-specific documentaries.

John Farrow’s 1942 film Wake Island was rushed into production shortly after the events depicted in the film. The first realistic film about World War II, it was nominated for Oscars for Best Picture, Director (Farrow), Supporting Actor (William Bendix), and Original Screenplay. Although it would soon be matched and then overtaken by other films about the war, it remains an engrossing one.

Extras include audio commentary by filmmaker and historian Steve Mitchell and author Steven Jay Rubin.

Based on a story by John Monk Saunders (Wings, The Dawn Patrol), Stuart Walker’s 1933 film The Eagle and the Hawk was made by Fredric March between The Sign of the Cross and Design for Living and Cary Grant between She Done Him Wrong and I’m No Angel, the two Mae West films that cemented his career.

The film is a meditation on grief in which American flyer after flyer is killed during World War I until it drives their commanding officer (March) over the brink. March’s performance is one of his best, and Grant delivers an equally strong one as his rival. Third billed Carole Lombard, whose character is called “The Beautiful Lady,” is supposed to be an angel of death but she’s basically wasted in her one scene.

Extras include audio commentary by film historian Lee Gambin.

Also newly released on Blu-ray are Clara’s Heart from Warner Archive and The Comfort of Strangers from Criterion.

Robert Mulligan’s 1988 film Clara’s Heart was the next-to-last film from the Oscar-nominated director of To Kill a Mockingbird. It provided Whoopi Goldberg with her best screen role since The Color Purple and earned Neil Patrick Harris a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor in his screen debut at the age of 15.

Goldberg plays a Jamaican woman who takes a job as a maid to a wealthy suburban Maryland family grieving over the loss of an infant daughter. As the parents (Michael Ontkean, Kathleen Quinlan) grow further distant and apart, she becomes the only stable influence in their impressionable teenage son’s life. Both Goldberg and Harris as her young charge are terrific in this long missing title on home video.

The only extra is the film’s trailer.

Taken from the novel by Ian McEwan (Atonement) with a screenplay by Harold Pinter (The Go-Between) and directed by Paul Schrader (First Reformed), 1991’s The Comfort of Strangers is, like Don’t Look Now, a horror film set in Venice. With actors like Natasha Richardson and Rupert Everett as the vacationing Brits and Christopher Walken and Helen Mirren as the mysterious couple they encounter, it is exceptionally well acted, but the film’s greatest assets are the cinematography by Dante Spinotti (L.A. Confidential) and the score by Angelo Badalamenti (Mulholland Drive). It’s a tasteful horror film, but it’s a horror film nonetheless with an unsatisfying ending. Pinter’s typical unfished sentences don’t help. In short, it’s not for all tastes, so plan your viewing accordingly.

Extras include new interviews with Schrader, Walken, and Spinotti, as well as archival interviews with Richardson and McEwan.

This week’s new releases include the Blu-ray releases of The Sign of the Cross and All I Desire.

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