DVD Splurge: March, 2013
A smorgasbord of cinematic treats, now available on home video.
The Ballad of Narayama
The Skinny: The retelling of an evocative Japanese folk tale, Keisuke Kinoshita’s elegant production — about a woman in a remote mountain village facing the end of her days with determination and grace — is beautifully rendered and nearly hallucinatory in its power.
Linkage: The Ballad of Narayama: Blu-ray Edition
The Skinny: As the title might suggest, the film is a documentary following both the migration of strange and wondrous birds through Manhattan’s Central Park, and the equally strange and affable bird aficionados who follow their movements with near-obsessive attention.
Studio: Music Box
Linkage: Birders: The Central Park Effect: Blu-ray Edition
Celeste & Jesse Forever
The Skinny: As a romantic couple, it doesn’t get much cuter than Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg, even as they undergo a divorce they strive to make as painless as possible for them and their multitude of mutual friends. Co-written by Jones, the film makes the concept of a rom/com almost completely bearable.
Linkage: Celeste and Jesse Forever: Blu-Ray Edition
The Skinny: The marriage of David Cronenberg and Don Delilo would seem as perfect as strawberries and cream, and the film does not disappoint. Bonus: One of the more peculiar and cringe-inducing proctology exams you will see this — or hopefully, any other — year.
Studio: Entertainment One
Linkage: Cosmopolis: Blu-ray Edition
Chronicle of a Summer
The Skinny: The very source of the term “cinema verité,” the film is essentially a series of interviews with Parisians during the summer of 1960, about their lives and political views, each starting with the essential (and eternally confounding) question: Are you happy?
Linkage: Chronicle of a Summer: Blu-ray Edition
The Skinny: A big-picture documentary about the small things you begin to notice in a dying city, this acclaimed piece from Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, captures the essence of the dying American dream, even as its being sold and shuttled out to other, cheaper markets across the world.
Downton Abbey: Season 3
The Skinny: The third season of this seminal Masterpiece drama finds the Crawley family once again the lightning rod of political and emotional upheaval, with the world around them changing by the second.
Studio: PBS Distribution
Linkage: Downton Abbey: Season 3: Blu-ray Edition
The Skinny: At the top of a lot of critics’ best of 2012 lists, Leos Carax’s hallucinatory narrative is vibrant, absorbing and wildly unpredictable. Ostensibly about a single day in the life of a man named Monsieur Oscar as he rides in a limousine through Paris, the film concerns identity politics, narrative chicanery, and the transformative power of filmic melodrama.
Linkage: Holy Motors: Blu-ray Edition
How to Survive a Plague
The Skinny: Another of the Oscar-Nominated documentaries of 2012, David France’s moving portrait of the birth of ACT-UP and TAG as responses to the world’s criminal inaction in the early years of AIDS manages to be both galvanizing and essentially heartbreaking at the same time.
Linkage: How to Survive a Plague
Keep the Lights On
The Skinny: A one-night stand between two men develops into a full blown relationship of sorts, with the all requisite emotional crescendos and craters inherent in the form.
Studio: Music Box
Linkage: Keep the Lights On
The Kid With a Bike
The Skinny: The Bros. Dardenne return with another one of their seemingly small stories that somehow go on to employ much larger reverberations, this involving a deserted child, his bike, and the woman who is desperately trying to connect with him.
Linkage: The Kid With a Bike: Blu-ray Edition
The Skinny: William Friedkin’s trailer-trash black satire is chock full of scenes that make you wince a lot more than smile. You will never look at a bucket of KFC the same way again.
Linkage: Killer Joe: Blu-ray Edition
The Skinny: The timelessly whimsical story of a boy who refuses to grow up and the kids with which he surrounds himself gets the full-bore, multi-media treatment with this release, including BD/DVD and digital, as well as a storybook app that let’s you try your hand at flying.
Linkage: Peter Pan: Diamond Edition
The Skinny: German auteur Wim Wenders takes a long, loving look at the late, spectacular modern dance choreographer Pina Bausch. A documentary that feels much more like an homage to a lost friend and artist than a cold examination of the form.
Linkage: Pina: 3D Blu-ray Edition
Rust and Bone
The Skinny: Off-beat and slightly disconcerting, this French love story of sorts from Jacques Audiard is also so full of memorably beautiful imagery and impressive performances from leads Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts, it sticks in your head for weeks after you see it.
Linkage: Rust and Bone: Blu-ray Edition
Searching for Sugar Man
The Skinny: Unbelievably shot largely on an iPhone (how’s that for product endorsement?), this Oscar-winning doc tells the story of a remarkable musician and a group of die-hard fans that refused to let him go.
Linkage: Searching for Sugar Man
Sex and Lucia
The Skinny: Truth in advertising. There is plenty of both Lucia and Lucia having carnal encounters in Julio Medem’s thought-provoking cypher of a film, but there is also a strong element of fantasy, dreamwork and subconscious sublimation as well. One woman’s escape from a horrible tragedy becomes an elusive, oft-confusing tale of multiple realities all coming up against each other.
Studio: Music Box Films
Linkage: Sex and Lucia: Unrated Director’s Cut
The Tin Drum
The Skinny: Günter Grass’s novel about a little German boy who refuses to grow up past the age of three throughout the Nazi movement and subsequent world war, as imagined by Volker Schlondorff. Absurdist and often surreal, the film still strikes a significant chord about the nature of societal pressures and our lemming-like ability to cease individual morality.
Linkage: The Tin Drum: Blu-ray Edition
Two Lane Blacktop
The Skinny: A thoroughly American document of alienation and driving faster than you can think, Monte Hellman’s ground-breaking 1971 film features two nameless characters (played by James Taylor and Dennis Wilson) whose only allegiance is to the open road and the next race off in the distance.
Linkage: Two-Lane Blacktop
The Skinny: A feel-good documentary about a high school football team that nevertheless has to earn its positive message. This rag-tag group of underprivileged kids from Memphis prove to have enough heart to power their entire school with their success.
Studio: Anchor Bay
Linkage: Undefeated: Blu-ray Edition
The Skinny: A charming, witty animated film more or less about finding your place in the world — in this case, the world of aging video games. Does for pixalated video game characters what Toy Story did for cowboy dolls.
Linkage: Wreck-It Ralph: Blu-ray Combo Edition