Sad Hill Media

Film & Lesser Arts with Will Ross, Devan Scott, & Daniel Jeffery.

Nov 25, 2009

Home Video Lookout

by Will Ross

This is the first of what will hopefully be a new series of posts. Here I'll talk about DVD and Blu-Ray releases I love or really want. The easiest way to see most classic art films is now on home video, so it makes sense to discuss it and recommend some. Also, it's much easier to write short blurbs about films than full reviews, and I've been lacking motivation lately.

You'll probably see a lot of Criterion releases mentioned here, since, frankly, they release by far the consistently best movies on by far the consistently best editions, loaded with excellent and revealing special features and the best picture and audio quality and remastering possible. They often run $40-$60 CDN on both DVD and Blu-Ray, but it's always worth the investment.

Upcoming Release


I loved this, the debut of English director Steve McQueen (no relation to the actor). It's a gritty, at times disturbing telling of the true story of imprisoned IRA members. Michael Fassbender plays Bobby Sands, the man who led his fellow IRA prisoners in a hunger strike, demanding to be recognized and treated as political prisoners. Fassbender (you may remember him as a British film critic in Inglourious Basterds) gives a wonderful performance which he was clearly dedicated to in body and soul: Near the end of the film his body is so rail thin that he must have lost an extraordinary (and very unhealthy) amount of weight for the role. He's got star-power written all over him, but hopefully in the future he'll be able to find great roles he doesn't have to starve himself for.

The film is slow, very cerebral, and indulges itself with many wordless aesthetics. One of the most memorable scenes is the single, 17 minute static wide shot preceding the film's devastating third act. In it, Sands debates the morals of the coming strike with his priest. The only moving parts of the scene are the distant body language of the actors and the smoke wafting up from their cigarettes, which practically develops a presence and character of its own. The actors nail it, making the risky shot pay off, and grounding the film's otherwise unceasing imagery in a literal discussion.

The film is set for release on Criterion DVD and Blu-Ray (check out that gorgeous cover art!) on February 16.

Already Released

Nirvana: Live at Reading

Despite their indelible impression on music, Nirvana-mania was short lived. A new generation that does not recognize the name or face of Kurt Cobain is growing up, and besides a DVD release of their classic MTV Unplugged show and an unreleased single (You Know You're Right) there never seemed to be much room left to expand on their legend. Except for Reading. The set is exemplary, showing the band at the peak of their powers headlining a major festival before success and Courtney Love made a complete cynic out of Cobain, and now it's out on CD or in a CD/DVD set. It serves as a perfect companion to Unplugged: While that showed them at their most melodic and pop-friendly, Live at Reading is a full set of hard-hitting, teeth-gnashing Nirvana hits without a slow song to speak of.

Both the CD and DVD make for a great experience, and having both in a set doesn't feel redundant at all: The DVD of the show is filmed without any panache save for a fast editing pace, but that's just fine because Nirvana didn't need any fancy camera movements to prove how intense they were. A lot of great moments, like the mysterious "Tony" who spends the entire show save for two songs dancing blissfully on the stage, the false-start of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" turning into a sarcastic, sloppy chorus of Boston's "More than a Feeling", and the blood on Kurt's guitar in the set's smashing finale, can obviously only be seen on the impeccably restored footage on the DVD. The CD, on the other hand, cuts out the bits of the show between and before songs that don't make sense if they can't be seen, and the music holds up well when it's the sole focus of the experience. The sound quality on both the CD and DVD is excellent. It's one of the great live rock albums, miles ahead of the only other officially released live electric set from the group (From the Muddy Banks of Wishkah), and it stock's the legend of one of the most influential rock bands. No less than what Nirvana deserves.


Post a Comment