Posts Tagged ‘The Academy Awards’

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Spine #839

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 02:45:27

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 32.99 Mbps

Notes: This title was previously released by Paramount as a Blu-ray/DVD combo and in a standalone DVD edition. This Criterion collection represents a significant upgrade but doesn’t carry over Paramount’s two supplements. A 2 Disc DVD edition of the Criterion Collection is also available.

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“I had been a dad for about seven or eight years, and I wanted to express something about childhood. You know this now: when you have a kid, it puts you so much in the present tense with their lives, but you can’t help but churn through your own life at that age. It’s such an interesting refraction. So I was thinking a lot about development and childhood. I wanted to do something from a kid’s point of view, but all the ideas that I wanted to express from my own life were so spread out. I couldn’t pick one year, one moment. I was going to maybe write a novel—some little weird, experimental novel. And it hit me, this film idea: What if I filmed a little bit every year and just saw everybody, this family, age? The kids would grow up, the parents would age. In a way, it’s a simple idea, but so damn impractical.” –Richard Linklater (Interview Magazine)

Boyhood isn’t simply a remarkable film; it is a miracle on celluloid. Having recently won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Film, it isn’t terribly surprising that the film received as many as six Academy Award nominations (Best Picture, Best Director – Richard Linklater, Best Original Screenplay – Richard Linklater, Best Supporting Actor – Ethan Hawke, Best Supporting Actress – Patricia Arquette, and Best Film Editing – Sandra Adair). What Richard Linklater has accomplished with this film is nothing short of extraordinary. A few reviewers have noted a similarity with Michael Apted’s series of Up documentaries, but Boyhood is something very different.

The cast of Boyhood had to commit to a film that would take twelve years to complete.

“I called up Patricia [Arquette], who I had only met once, and she jumped aboard. I sat down with Ethan and told him what I was thinking, and he wanted to do it. Then I started casting, looking for kids. Lorelei, my daughter, demanded to have the part. I had the luxury of, every year, just tapping in. I would hang out with her and Ellar, the boy, and just try to pick up where they were at their age, what I felt they could do that year, and then work stories around all that. But pretty soon Lorelei was the sullen teenager who did not want to do it anymore… She’s like the person on the TV series who wants off. ‘Can you kill my character?’ [laughs] I’m like, ‘No. That’s a little too dramatic for this movie.’” –Richard Linklater (Interview Magazine)

Instead of writing a screenplay for his project, Linklater made a detailed outline of the major events that he wanted to occur. A short script was written every year for each individual shoot. This allowed Linklater to incorporate the personality of the actors into the film in an organic manner.

“All the marriages, divorces, moves, big stuff—I knew he’d go to college and I knew the last shot of the movie from the beginning. The photographer thing? I knew by high school he’d be expressing himself. I thought he’d be a writer. Knowing Ellar [Coltrane] himself at that point—he’s living in a music town, his dad is a musician; I thought he might be in a band. I thought I’d be filming band practice. The film would go where he wanted to some degree. That’s not what happened. He ended up with an interest in photography. I thought, ‘Great.’ I like that more. That’s closer to who I was [at that age]. I was taking pictures. I was observational. It was more fitting. That’s a good example of us going in his direction.” –Richard Linklater (Interview with Brian Tallerico)

Of course, there were many logistical headaches involved with a twelve year production model.

“I didn’t know that heading in, but you can’t contract for more than seven years—which is a good thing, especially when working with children. This was all a wing and a prayer. It was a life project that everyone committed to. Certainly, a few people shifted around. But we all make our life commitments—whether it’s to a family or a partner or a career.” –Richard Linklater (A.V. Club)

The cast and crew would shoot for about three days every year during the twelve year period. This might sound easy, but each shoot required a lot of preparation.

“Logistically, things were just off the charts. Crazy… Each time you have to get a crew, you’ve got to rent just for a three-day shoot, you still have to do all of that stuff: Get production insurance, tech-scout, [and] location-scout, cast the additional parts, get the crew together, [and] make deals. So weeks and weeks each year… We had a cast and crew of over 450 people who came through in various capacities for various times. We had a core crew that was there the whole time, with quite a few people who put in nine years or more. And there are probably 10 or 12 [people] who did either 11 or 12 years.” –Richard Linklater (The Dissolve)

This allowed Linklater to edit the film in the same piecemeal fashion that the film was shot. The editing process could then inform what he would shoot the following year.

“We would edit every year, attach it to whatever had gone before and then edit the whole thing again if we had the extra time. Then I could kind of hang out with that for a year, watch it, think about it, how to incorporate my incrementally aging cast, work that into my ideas and—it was just a fine life project. But that gestation time was incredible. Most movies, if you think about it, you put all your thoughts up front, and then you’re shooting, you’re on your toes, you’re making adjustments and dealing with reality, but you’re rendering what you conceived and then you’re editing that. This was in a much different order. I could edit, [and] then think, then I’m writing and shooting and editing again. So it was unlike any film ever.” –Richard Linklater (Indiewire)

It seems incredible that Linklater was able to find financing for such a project, and many studios passed without giving the project any real consideration. Fortunately, the director had worked on previous productions with IFC, and they agreed to finance the project. Their faith in the director has certainly paid off.

Boyhood defies articulate description. It isn’t quite like anything that has preceded it, and yet it seems vaguely familiar. It is difficult to account for the familiarity. Are we somehow reliving something in our own lives through the characters on the screen? The answer to this question is impossible to answer.

Those expecting the typical ‘coming of age’ melodrama might become irritated to some extent. Linklater shows the audience the small moments that make up a life. We are shown the little moments that people cherish in their mind, but that carry little to no importance to anyone besides the person who holds that particular memory. This is the film’s greatest achievement in many ways, because the viewer adopts these moments as he invests in the film. All of these things somehow become personal. We understand these little moments, even if they are different from our own memories. Somehow, we find ourselves adopting these moments (at least for the duration of the film). Perhaps this is due to the dreamlike nature of the film.

One might think that Boyhood would be rather episodic (perhaps with chapter headings that indicate each year). Instead, the film flows without interruption like memories played out in a dream. It is a dream that I plan to have again and again.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is housed in the clear case that has become the standard for The Criterion Collection. F. Ron Miller’s original artwork is brilliantly conceived and is vastly superior to even the film’s original one sheet artwork—not to mention Paramount’s earlier Blu-ray art which utilized the same photograph as the aforementioned poster. An added bonus is the wonderful illustrated booklet included inside the case with the two Blu-ray discs which features an essay by Jonathan Lethem.

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The disc’s menus utilize footage from the actual film coupled with a song that featured in the film. I admit to not knowing the title of the song but it should be said that the result is quite pleasant. The passing of time seems to be the menu’s core theme and it is really a very nice little montage of moments that follow Mason’s growth and development.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars 

As is their usual practice, the technical details of Boyhood’s transfer is detailed in the booklet provided in the disc’s case:

Boyhood is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a DFT Scanity film scanner from the original 35mm original camera negative.” –Liner Notes

 The result is quite lovely. The filmmakers were able to maintain the continuity of the image’s texture throughout the twelve year production, and this 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer accurately showcases this achievement. The texture of the film’s 35mm photography remains intact without ever becoming inconsistent. Actually—with the exception of the occasional fleeting scratch—there aren’t any problematic blemishes to report. Clarity is always excellent and color is vivid while remaining natural. There are no discernable digital artifacts to distract the viewer either. This seems to be a marginal improvement over Paramount’s transfer, and this is likely due to Criterion’s maxed-out bitrate. In any case, there is certainly no reason to complain with the fine quality of this disc’s image.

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 Sound Quality:

 4.5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track doesn’t sound much different than the one that Paramount offered on their 2015 release of the film. This isn’t particularly surprising because that track was quite solid. While the 5.1 mix isn’t likely to give high end speaker systems much of a workout, it does represent the filmmaker’s intentions. Boyhood is an epic drama with a very simple sound design that is appropriate for the film. The mix is made up of the same quaint sounds that viewers hear daily and these sounds are given some subtle separation that never calls attention to itself. Dialogue is heavily favored and is always clear and well-focused.

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 Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has given Boyhood a rather special 2-Disc release that is packed with interesting supplemental materials. There is well over 5 hours and 38 minutes of enlightening supplemental entertainment included in total (and over 2 hours and 53 minutes if one excludes the commentary track). Some might complain about the absence of the two Paramount supplements, but rest assured that the territory covered by those features is covered here as well and in more detail.

Disc 1:

Feature Length Audio Commentary featuring Richard Linklater (Writer/Director), Cathleen Sutherland (Producer), Sandra Adair (Editor), Rodney Becker (Production Designer), Beth Sepko-Lindsey (Casting Director), Kari Perkins (Costume Designer), Vince Plamo Jr. (First Assistant Director), Marco Perella (Actor – Professor Bill Welbrock), Libby Villari (Actor – Grandma) and Andrew Villarreal (Actor – Randy)

This engaging track was recorded in Austin, Texas in 2015. It would be reasonable to expect any commentary track running nearly three hours to be filled with lengthy silent stretches but the participants fill the time with plenty of information and anecdotes about the film’s unusual production. Some listeners might ament the absence of the principal cast, but these actors have plenty of opportunity to contribute during many of the other supplements provided on the disc. Actually, if the track has a weakness it is that the sheer number of participants might make deciphering who is actually speaking somewhat challenging (although this particular listener didn’t have this issue).

Disc 2:

Twelve Years(1080p) – (49:28)

Essentially a chronicle of the film’s massive 12 year production, this documentary primarily utilizes interviews and fly-on-the-wall production footage taken throughout the 12 year period. The interviews illuminate some of the unique qualities of working on such a project (such as vast changes in the personal lives of those involved). The actors are literally involving with their characters, and this seems to be reflected in the final film. In some ways, it might be said that the production is only discussed here in a rather general manner but the “behind the scenes” footage makes up for whatever one might find lacking otherwise. This certainly isn’t the standard EPK drivel that one might expect. This is well worth the viewer’s time.

Memories of the Present – (1080p) – (57:35)

This discussion featuring Richard Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, and moderated by John Pierson was recorded in Austin, Texas in 2015. It is a fairly standard panel discussion that somewhat resembles the 2014 Cinefamily discussion that graced the earlier Paramount disc. Similar territory is covered here as the participants candidly discuss the twelve year production. At almost an hour in length, the viewer is given all sorts of interesting information. It is wonderful to have this included on the disc and it is an adequate substitute for the aforementioned Paramount supplement (even when one takes into account the absence of Lorelei Linklater and Ethan Hawke).

Always Now – (1080p) – (30:10)

This is a surprisingly engaging conversation between Coltrane and actor Ethan Hawke. The two actors seem to be having a genuine conversation with one another about their time working on such an unusual production. It is a very nice addition to the disc.

Time of Your Life – (1080p) – (12:29)

Time of Your Life is a video essay by critic Michael Koresky about time in Linklater’s films featuring narration by Ellar Coltrane. Cinephiles who enjoy scholarly examination will find this short piece both instructive and engaging. Several of the director’s films are discussed throughout the length of the essay (Slacker, the Before trilogy, Boyhood). In some ways, this might be the most important supplement because it addresses how Boyhood works as a film. Linklater devotees will no doubt be pleased to have it included here.

Through the Years – (23:59)

This much more engaging than one might expect. A collection of production portraits by photographer Matt Lankes is narrated with commentary by Richard Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, and Cathleen Sutherland. The various commentaries (and some of the photos) were originally published in Boyhood: 12 Years on Film but they somehow elevate the photography.

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Final Words:

Fans of Boyhood have been hoping for this release since shortly after the film hit theaters. As a matter of fact, Richard Linklater promised such a release in an interview with Hypable on early as July 13, 2014. When asked what fans could expect, he spoke enthusiastically:

“We’ve got a ton of behind the scenes stuff. We made this in the era where everyone has a digital camera so we unearthed an interview from year one with Ellar, Lorelai, Patricia and myself. Patricia interviewed me in 2002. I hadn’t seen this since we shot it, Ellar had forgotten quite a bit of it but he got to see himself as a wide-eyed six year old. For people who like the movie, I think there will be a lot of cool little treasures.” –Richard Linklater (Hypable, July 13, 2014)

Of course, a lot of people were disappointed when Paramount released their 2015 Blu-ray. Cinephiles were uncertain if the promised Criterion release would ever see the light of day. Luckily, it has finally surfaced with excellent results. Criterion’s release of Linklater’s critically lauded film is a definite upgrade.

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Review by: Devon Powell

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Distributor: Sony Pictures

Release Date: October 04, 2016

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:55:35

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio:

Spanish (Castilian) Mono

Spanish (Latin American) Mono

French Mono

German Mono

Portuguese Mono

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Finnish, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Hungarian, Turkish, Hebrew, & Arabic

Ratio: 1.37:1

Notes: This is the Blu-ray debut of this title, but it was previously released in various DVD editions.

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Frank Capra and Gary Cooper on the set of “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.”

“Beginning with Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, my films had to say something. And whatever they said had to come from those ideas inside me that were hurting to come out.‎” –Frank Capra (The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography)

Mr. Deeds Goes Town (based on the 1935 short story Opera Hat by Clarence Budington Kelland) is undoubtedly one of Frank Capra’s most celebrated films. It marks the beginning of a string of Capra films that honor and champion the struggles “common man,” and his efforts won the director his second Academy Award. (The film was also nominated in the Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Sound Recording categories.) The New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review named it the “Best Picture of 1936,” and it is very likely that the movie deserved the honor.

The film follows Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), a man living a simple and anonymous life until he inherits a vast fortune from a late uncle. A crooked attorney (Douglas Dumbrille) brings Deeds to New York City, where the unassuming heir is the object of unwanted media attention. When wily reporter Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur) gains the trust and affection of Deeds, she uses her position to publish condescending articles about him—until she actually comes to know him. Love blossoms between the two as Bennett’s big city cynicism withers into nothing. It is exactly the sort of “Capra-corn” that audiences would come to expect from the director.

It isn’t difficult to understand why depression-era audiences responded to a film that follows the story of a man who inherits a vast fortune and decides to redistribute the wealth among the less fortunate only to be double-crossed by his cynical big city lawyers (who actually try to have him declared insane so that they can control the wealth). Capra was preaching to the initiated.

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The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is the third release in Sony’s (hopefully) ongoing “Capra Collection” series which launched two years ago with Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Like their previous Capra releases, this disc is housed in attractive “Collectible Digi-book Packaging” with an all-new essay by Film Historian, Jeremy Arnold. The text is beautifully illustrated with rare photos from the film’s production, and this makes for a uniquely attractive package.

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The disc’s static menu is also quite attractive and features music from the film’s score. The overall result is an extremely elegant presentation that is easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Sony Pictures should be commended for their 4K 80th Anniversary restoration of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, which by all accounts was in desperate need of a proper restoration. Rita Belda explained this meticulous process in the liner notes:

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town fared a bit better than some films from that era, because the studio created duplicating negatives in 1935 and 1949 which were used to create prints. But in 2014, the original camera negative for Mr. Deeds was in poor physical condition with numerous notches and stressed perforations (making the physical element less stable and prone to breakage) and was missing footage in nearly every reel.

The 4K restoration of Mr. Deeds is not the first time this film has seen the loving care of preservationists. In the early 1990s, a comprehensive restoration was complete by the Library of Congress, using nitrate elements (primarily the nitrate dupe negative from the 1930s), creating preservation fine grains: the source for the video transfers previously available. This photochemical work was limited by the fact that much of the damage in the nitrate materials was printed across to the new safety materials, and in 2004 when Sony Pictures created a new HD transfer of the film, hours of restoration were needed to try to improve on printed in scratches and dirt, not to mention the softer image quality resulting from mutigenerational elements. Digital tools have developed over the years, and the fixes done ten and twenty years ago are easier to achieve. But the real achievement in the restoration of Mr. Deeds comes from the ability to scan the original negative as its source.

The duplicate original negative was evaluated, repaired and scanned at 4K by Cineric, in New York. Employing wet-gate scanning eliminated countless scratches in a tried-and-true technique developed in photo-chemical restoration but practiced by few facilities offering scanning services today. This provided a cleaner basis than any of the duplicate materials with their multitude of printed-in damage and utilized the best resolution material which made the digital restoration work (completed by Prasad) more efficient and effective. But there was still plenty of restoration work to be done, especially on the shorter sections of film that had been lost from the original negative—sometimes a few frames to nearly half a shot or more. For these materials, we turned to the duplicate nitrate negatives and were able, using digital restoration and color correction, to insert just the frames that had been lost from the alternate elements. Scott Ostrowsky, [the] colorist at Sony Pictures’ DI facility Colorworks, worked to minimize the difference in contrast, density and shading in the alternate materials, and blend the frames into the scenes, as well as grading of the final picture to bring out all of the details captured in the original photography.’ –Rita Belda (Liner Notes, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” Restoration in 4K)

This painstaking work appears to have paid off in spades. If the result isn’t a perfect print, it is certainly a tremendous improvement over previous prints (and previous Home Video transfers). One doesn’t imagine that a better print will ever be forthcoming in the foreseeable future. This is a truly amazing transfer that can only be described as revelatory! The strength Joseph Walker’s cinematography finally reveals itself as the remarkable feat that it was (and is). Fine detail and clarity is incredible even considering the natural layer of grain that adds an old school film texture to one’s viewing experience (purists should be happy to find that this hasn’t been artificially scrubbed away). Contrast is well balanced and blacks are deep without crushing. There doesn’t even appear to be any pesky digital artifacts to mar one’s appreciation of the image. This is truly a beautiful job.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars 

Of course, the sound elements of the film were also given special attention by Sony’s restoration team.

“…and the transfer of the original variable density track was critical to the success of the audio restoration. This work was completed by Chace Audio by Deluxe, where special attention was given to maintaining the full dynamic range of the original recording, but minimalizing distortion and noise in key scenes, such as where Deeds and his new servants test out the echoes in the great hall.” –Rita Belda (Liner Notes, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” Restoration in 4K)

 A film of this era is obviously going to have a number of limitations to its audio track, but this lossless 2.0 Mono track is a serviceable representation of the source. Dialogue is always clearly rendered and is certainly approved upon here. Those who have seen previous transfers of the film should certainly notice a marked improvement. Music sometimes needs more room to breathe, but this is really an issue with the original elements. Any sound issues are a result of the technological limitations of the 1930s and were simply impossible to fix. Listeners shouldn’t have any trouble enjoying this track.

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 Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Audio Commentary by Frank Capra Jr.

Those who have heard other commentaries from Frank Capra Jr. will know what to expect from this interesting track. His style is casual and conversational but focused as he discusses his father’s work on the film, and the background information about the production is consistently interesting despite a less than articulate disposition. Unfortunately, there are long stretches of film where he goes completely silent. This could have become bothersome if the film weren’t so engaging on its own. It is certainly worth the occasional listen.

Frank Capra Jr. Remembers Mr. Deeds Goes to Town – (11:11)

Frank Capra, Jr. discusses the circumstances surrounding the production of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and gives an overall appreciation of the film. Statements are illustrated with stills from the production, promotional artwork, and footage from the film itself as one expects from this sort of featurette, and the result is an engaging and informative conversation about the film. One might wish for a comprehensive documentary about the creation of this Capra classic, but such a program would be rather difficult to produce. Most of those with any “first hand” knowledge have now passed away.

Theatrical Re-release Trailer – (01:28)

The film’s re-release trailer is rather traditional in its approach as viewers are shown scenes from the film itself. This is a nice artifact and it is really nice to have it included here, but one wonders why the original theatrical trailer hasn’t been included.

Vintage Advertising Gallery

This is a small collection of stills (mostly lobby cards) that were used to promote Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. It is interesting to see how the film was marketed to the public.

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Final Words:

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is one of Frank Capra’s most popular classics, and it is nice to see that Sony Pictures has seen fit to restore the film for future generations. This “collector’s” edition will be available exclusively through Amazon for some time before the film is given a more traditional wide release.

Review by: Devon Powell

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Distributor: Warner Brothers

Release Date: 25/Feb/2014

Region: Region A

Length: 91 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio:

5.1 French Dolby Digital
5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital
5.1 Portuguese Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Ratio: 2.40:1

Notes: This title is also available on Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack and as a 2-disc DVD set. All releases include an Ultraviolet version of the film.

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“I have to say that we were writing the screenplay and we were not thinking about solutions of how we were going to shoot it. Actually, we were very precise about how we wanted it to look and to feel. Actually, when I finished the script, I sent it immediately to Chivo, Emmanuel Lubezki, the cinematographer, because he’s my oldest collaboration, and I said, “Hey Chivo, read the screenplay. It’s one movie – two characters. We can do it in and out very quickly.” I really thought it was going to require a fair amount of visual FX but it was going to be very straight-forward. When we started working on the project and testing, it very soon became clear that the present technology was not going to make it so we had to develop our own set of tools to do the film.” -Alfonso Cuarón

Alfonso Cuarón’s crew was forced to invent new technology and alter established shooting methods in order to get Gravity onto the screen. The story is a deceptively simple one. Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney) are on a seemingly routine mission when disaster strikes. Their shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalski completely alone—tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the darkness. The deafening silence tells them that they have lost any link to Earth and any chance for rescue. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.

None of this sounds terribly different from any number of the other space films that have come out of Hollywood in the past, but Alfonso Cuarón’s direction and Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography take the film into uncharted territory. The film’s aesthetics bring to mind Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the story itself is more digestible to a mainstream audience. Cuarón establishes the language of his film as he is establishing his characters and the basic situation in the film’s impressive first shot. The shot lasts approximately 12 and 1/2 minutes, and it is a very rich 12 and 1/2 minutes. Audiences will hold their breath from that point forward.

Critical reception has been overwhelmingly positive, and the film has earned numerous major honors to date (including Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture and Best Director; Critics’ Choice Awards for Best Director and Best Actress in an Action Movie (Bullock); and the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement. In addition, the film earned ten Academy Award® nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Actress (for Sandra Bullock’s incredible performance), Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Music, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing).

It is easy to understand why the film has been honored with nominations for its cinematography and special effects, but the film’s impressive sound design is just as effective and does much to establish the incredible sense of dread that one feels while watching the film. It is also nice to see Sandra Bullock nominated for her performance, because it is Bullock’s performance that grounds the film and lends credibility to Cuarón’s outrageous story.

Critics have noted weaknesses in the film. Variety’s Justin Chang praised Gravity, but felt that the film’s reliance on a tragic back story marred the film.

“…There are glimmers of artifice, too, in the script’s conception of Stone, who turns out to have a tragedy in her past, an unhealed wound that feels rather needlessly engineered to provide the viewer with a psychological entry point, as well as a deeper stake in her survival. It’s the one on-the-nose element in a screenplay that, given its rigorous intelligence in all other departments, might have done well to trust the audience to stay invested in Stone’s journey without the benefit of an emotional hook…” –Variety (August 28, 2013)

A.O. Scott expanded on this criticism in his otherwise positive review of the film.

“…Nothing in the movie — not hand tools or chess pieces, human bodies or cruise-ship-size space stations — rests within a stable vertical or horizontal plane. Neither does the movie itself, which in a little more than 90 minutes rewrites the rules of cinema as we have known them.

But maybe not quite all of them – come to think of it. The script is, at times, weighed down by some heavy screenwriting clichés. Some are minor, like the fuel gauge that reads full until the glass is tapped, causing the arrow to drop. More cringe-inducing is the tragic back story stapled to Stone, a doctor on her first trip into orbit. We would care about her even without the haunting memory of a dead child, who inspires a maudlin monologue and a flight of orchestral bathos in Steven Price’s otherwise canny and haunting score.

I will confess that the first time I saw Gravity; I found its talkiness annoying. Not just Ms. Bullock’s perky-anxious soliloquizing, but also Mr. Clooney’s gruff, regular-guy wisecracking. Doesn’t Stone say her favorite thing about space is the silence?” –The New York Times (October 3, 2013)

Most critics felt the need to mention that Gravity has little on its mind and serves only as a thrilling source of entertainment (as if this were not enough). An example of this can be found in Michael Phillip’s review.

“I’m not sure it’s a game-changer, whatever that means in the roiling film industry of the moment. The movie hasn’t much on its mind; some of the writing is pretty clunky; and there’s a rather cheap aspect to the female protagonist’s tragic secret. But “Gravity” is the first movie in a long time I’ve been eager to see again, and quickly, just to re-experience the size and flow of its images, and appreciate the ‘how’d-they-do-that?’ of it all.” -The Chicago Tribune (October 4, 2013)

It is this reviewer’s opinion that a film should be accepted on its own terms. A film is a success if it stirs an audience’s emotions in the manner that the filmmakers intended.  Gravity certainly succeeds in moving its audience and it does so in spectacular cinematic fashion.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray and DVD discs are housed in a standard Blu-ray case with attractive artwork and the case is housed in a slipcover with the same cover artwork.

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The animated menus employ footage from the film supported by Steven Price’s score.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Gravity is a film that warrants a high definition viewing experience, and this 1080p transfer doesn’t disappoint. The quality of the image is as close to perfect as one could possibly expect. There aren’t any noticeable digital anomalies (such as aliasing, noise or banding) present in the transfer and the detail is incredible. One can see textures with perfect clarity. The colors and the contrast are beautifully represented here with perfect black levels. The transfer offers everything that one expects from a high definition transfer.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track offers an incredible sonic experience. Sound plays an especially powerful role in Gravity, and this mix offers a faithful 5.1 representation of the film’s original audio. Some might be disappointed that a 7.1 track wasn’t included, but these people will likely feel much better after hearing this amazing track. The mix is extremely dynamic and always natural. The panning effects suck the viewer into the film and never become distracting. Dialogue is always clearly represented (and well prioritized), and the music and sound effects benefit from the lossless transfer. This is a truly amazing sound transfer.

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Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Gravity: Mission Control – (HD) – (01:46:36)

This comprehensive ‘making of’ documentary is divided into nine chapters:

It Began with a Story – (16:21)

Initial Challenges: Long Shots and Zero G – (10:12)

Previsualizing ‘Gravity’ – (11:38)

The Hues of Space – (10:41)

Physical Weightlessness – (7:48)

Space Tech – (13:02)

Sandra and George: A Pair in Space – (9:37)

Final Animation – (15:01)

Complete Silence – (12:13)

Gravity is a film that warrants a comprehensive account of its making, and this feature length documentary manages to be as entertaining as it is informative.

Shot Breakdowns – (HD) – (36:48)

While these featurettes can hardly be described as “shot breakdowns,” they do provide an interesting look at some of the film’s production challenges. There are five programs included and they cover a variety of different topics:

Behind the Visor – (6:50)

Fire in the International Space Station – (5:42)

Dr. Stone’s Rebirth – (7:54)

The Sound of Action in Space – (7:55)

Splashdown – (8:24)

Collision Point – (HD) – (22:28)

Collision Point is a documentary about Kessler syndrome (named after NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler who first proposed the theory in 1978). Gravity’s inciting incident is based on Kessler’s theories. Ed Harris provides narration for this interesting documentary.

Aningaaq – (HD) – (Intro: 3:18) – (Short: 6:53)

Aningaaq (directed by Jonás Cuarón) is a short film about the Inuit fisherman that Dr. Stone contacts in Gravity. It is worth a look.

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Final Words:

Gravity offers a truly unique home video experience. The excellent transfer and interesting supplementary materials should satisfy even the most discriminating cinemaphiles.

Review by: Devon Powell