DVDs: Oscar special
Sunday is Oscar’s golden moment so it is no surprise that a slew of Oscar-nominated films are coming to DVD.
One crucial factor is that most of the 2006 Academy Award nomination leaders are art films and/or edgier material, not mainstream studio blockbusters. So they need awards to fuel their financial success, in theatres and on DVD.
Of the 35 films that received at least one Oscar nomination in the feature categories for 2005, 12 have already been released and the rest are pending.
Here are the titles that are available:
WALK THE LINE
Out on DVD tomorrow. James Mangold’s stirring biopic of legendary country music couple Johnny Cash and June Carter earned five Oscar noms but missed out in the best picture category. Both Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are acting contenders, with Witherspoon cited as the likely best actress winner. Both actors are excellent dramatically and — because their vocal stylings invoke the originals — ace the singing, too.
The DVD is available in the basic one-disc release, in separate full and widescreen editions. It has Mangold’s excellent, thoughtful commentary plus 10 deleted scenes with optional commentaries.
Better is the widescreen-only, two-disc Collector’s Edition that, in addition to five souvenir postcards, has the same first disc plus a second disc of first-rate bonus materials. There are extended versions of three songs, with Cocaine Blues the star entry. Strong featurettes background Cash & Carter, focus on the upheavals of 1968 as the year of crisis and redemption for Cash and explain how Mangold struggled for a decade to make this film.
The crucial thing missing is live performances by Cash & Carter. For that, and a lot of religion, turn to tomorrow’s widescreen DVD release of Gospel Road: A Story Of Jesus (1973), in which Cash talks/sings through a docu-drama about the life of Jesus, with Carter as Mary Magdalene. It is crudely done but heartfelt.
PRIDE & PREJUDICE
Out tomorrow as well. Joe Wright’s lovely reworking of Jane Austen’s classic novel earned four nominations, key among them Keira Knightley as best actress. The DVD is available in separate full and widescreen editions that boast good extras.
Wright’s droll commentary is articulate, as is his participation in the four featurettes which delve into the history of Austen and the making of the film. The highlight is listening to Donald Sutherland wax poetic about Knightley, whom he adores and respects, and watching Brenda Blethyn with her bubbly brood of girls on set.
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK
Out on DVD March 14. George Clooney’s sly second film as a director is less a conventional narrative and more of a poetic mood piece about a political era: The upheavals of Joe McCarthy’s Communist witchhunts of the 1950s. It earned six noms — including best picture, Clooney as best director and the wonderfully subtle David Strathairn, who plays crusading TV journalist Edward R. Murrow, as best actor.
The widescreen DVD will feature a sometimes funny, even silly, but often useful commentary shared by Clooney and co-writer/co-star Grant Heslov. The DVD is good but this is a title that demands more, perhaps even a civics lesson. A special edition DVD would be welcome.
Out on DVD March 21. Bennett Miller shocked Hollywood with the subtle yet explosive quality of his biopic about colourful writer Truman Capote and his controversial research for In Cold Blood. The film earned five noms, including as best picture and Philip Seymour Hoffman as best actor. Hoffman is the front-runner for not merely his mimicry of Capote’s high-pitched voice but his embodiment of Capote’s tragic internal conflicts.
The widescreen DVD will contain a lineup of excellent extras, none of them hype and all created with the same clear-minded care as the film. Among insights, Miller says of casting Hoffman: “It was a huge risk for Phil to take. The possibility of profound humiliation is always there.”
On DVD since Sept. 6 last year; a special edition due April 4. Paul Haggis, who was born in London, Ont., leapt into the public eye by writing Million Dollar Baby. Now his remarkable L.A. race drama has six noms, including as best picture, with Haggis named as best director and for best original screenplay (shared with Bobby Moresco).
The original DVD, available in full or widescreen, has a commentary shared by Haggis, Moresco and Don Cheadle, as well as a punchy featurette on the making of the film and its ambition to illuminate the race struggle. “This is a passion piece,” Haggis says. That is why the special edition due in April is appropriate. Even more is a good thing.
OSCAR’S DVD LIST
Release dates for selected Oscar nominees:
Crash: Sept. 06, 2005
Batman Begins: Oct. 18, 2005
Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge Of the Sith: Nov. 1, 2005
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory: Nov. 8, 2005
War Of The Worlds: Nov. 22, 2005
Cinderella Man: Dec. 6, 2005
The Constant Gardener: Jan. 10
Hustle & Flow: Jan. 10
Junebug: Jan. 17
Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride: Jan. 31
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit: Feb. 7
North Country: Feb. 21
Walk The Line: Feb. 28
Pride & Prejudice: Feb. 28
Howl’s Moving Castle: March 7
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire: March 7
Good Night, And Good Luck: March 14
A History Of Violence: March 14
Capote: March 21
The Squid And The Whale: March 21
Memoirs Of A Geisha: March 28
King Kong: March 28
Brokeback Mountain: April 4
Crash: April 4 (Special Edition)
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe: April 4
Match Point: TBA
Mrs. Henderson Presents:TBA
The New World: TBA
DVDs: Oscar special