The last day of February brings the Blu-ray releases of the Marvel blockbuster Doctor Strange, and The Criterion Collection edition of the Before Trilogy. Oscar winner Manchester By the Sea and nominee Nocturnal Animals came out last week, so here are reviews of what to expect from each film!
The Before Trilogy – Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection has lavished the Before trilogy with new transfers of Before Sunrise and Sunset and in-depth bonus features on all three.
Sunrise is so clear yet you still see the grain of the film. In daylight, the Venice sights are bright. At night you get a slight flicker but it feels authentic as they were running around the city with a minimal lighting crew. There is no night in Sunset so it’s more consistent but I also felt the least interesting visually. It has an orange tint to it. Midnight seems to look the same as the Sony Home Entertainment release three years ago. Greece looks beautiful and it’s hard to tell if Venice or Greece look better. Why is Paris the least visual city in the Before trilogy? It doesn’t matter. It’s about them talking.
The bonus features are also long conversations like the ones between Jesse and Celine. Linklater and Hawke discuss the Before trilogy with a critic Kent jones and it still feels like saying new things 20 years later. The original behind the scenes is only six minutes but it has different sound bites. After 22 years, perspective changes Sunrise. I’m sure they’ve talked about rewriting on set before but it feels as natural as the movies. Julie Delpy joins them midway via satellite, sharing the story of her drunk audition.
Two Linklater experts point out parallels between the movies I didn’t get on my own, although maybe I could have if I watched them all back to back. They go deeper into the “living in moment” spontaneity with Nietzsche and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The use of time is significant in each film, and not uniform across he trilogy. Their theory that all three films exist simultaneously is a stretch, but i’s interesting. They say the camera takes sides and they’re right. When it stays on Jesse that’s sympathetic to him. Considering there are very few scenes without both of them together, that’s a huge decision.
The 86-minute American Masters documentary on Linklater’s career is a Sundance film itself. Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny is a biography of Linklater from childhood to the present. It includes clips of his early short films, and addresses his conflicts with the studios on Dazed and Confused and The Newton Boys. The only movie it skips is Suburbia.
Before Midnight includes the same extras from the original release, but a new 30 minute behind the scenes piece (in black and white) shows Hawke and Delpy workshopping a scene on the set. It’s as electric as watching Jackie Chan choreographing stunts!
Manchester By The Sea
Academy Award winner for Casey Affleck’s performance and Kenneth Lonergan’s screenplay, Manchester By the Sea can wreck you. The Blu-ray looks beautiful with clear shots on the water and the sky over Mancheser, as well as snow covered Quincy mid blizzard. There is a slight flicker here too, something I notice a bit more in modern films shot digitally, but not exclusive to them as we saw above.
The Conversation with Kenneth Lonergan is a commentary, the same as there would be with a moderator so I don’t know why they qualify it. The details Lonergan discuss involve the authentic details of Manchester and surrounding areas and the logistics of establishing relationships with the supporting cast’s sporadic schedules.
Behind the scenes runs 16 minutes. For such an emotionally complex story, the actors speak to the complexity in that time. Three deleted scenes include more Kyle Chandler flashbacks and more emotional shots of the funeral. I mean a little Michelle Williams crying goes a long way.
All the surreal visuals of Marvel’s most mind-bending movie look great in HD. You can see the complete detail of cities kalaidoscoping and the bright colors of astral weapons, the psychadelic mind trip and the very cosmos itself. Plus you’ve got all the real locations of Kathmandu and Hong Kong showing off their true splendor.
Six featurettes run an hour but they’re superficial collections of sound bites. It’s probably more valuable to turn off sound and look at behind the scenes snippets of how sequences were actually put together. A moment about The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) talks about progressiveness of making it a woman but doesn’t address controversy of casting a Caucasian woman.
Director Scott Derrickson goes for two hours straight in a commentary and that unfiltered analysis is more valuable. He details process of getting the job, the history of the comic and every aspect of Doctor Strange. He speaks coherently about the Swinton casting, as he did on the press circuit. He has some sensitive reasons for protecting Asians from stereotypes that could be perpetuated had he cast that way. It’s not a definitive answer, but a reasonable discussion.
In Marvel’s Phase Three preview you can see a shot of Thor and Hulk fighting side by side and Concept art for Black Panther. The “Team Thor” Short is a Taika Waititi style comedy like What We Do In The Shadows with a superhero.
Not my favorite of the Oscar nominees but Nocturnal Animals did earn some acclaim. The Blu-ray captures the high contrast of high fashion cinematography. Dark, sharp scenes let shiny hair and flawless foundation penetrate the frame. The story within the film has a more sun soaked western look.
Three bonus features total 11 minutes and cut right to the chase with analysis. Although as someone who found the film superficial, maybe I’m biased to think there isn’t more depth to go into. Maybe die hard fans want more but I think it’s a fine start. Tom Ford discusses the themes explicitly and the actors chime in with some character analysis.