Insights from home entertainment industry experts. Home Media blogs give you the inside scoop on entertainment news, DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases, and the happenings at key studios and entertainment retailers. “TK's Take” analyzes and comments on home entertainment news and trends, “Agent DVD Insider” talks fanboy entertainment, “IndieFile” delivers independent film news, “Steph Sums It Up” offers pithy opinions on the state of the industry, and “Mike’s Picks” offers bite-sized recommendations of the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases.
Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right
Independent films did exceedingly well at the 68th Annual Golden Globes, with wins for Best Picture and Best Actress (Annette Bening), Comedy or Musical, for Focus Features’ The Kids Are All Right, which is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
That film’s win again raises the question as to how films benefit by having been released on DVD before major awards shows. Crash and The Hurt Locker famously won the Best Picture Oscar over bigger movies, possibly in part due to their easy availability on disc building hype. The Kids Are All Right was released on DVD and Blu-ray by Universal Studios Home Entertainment in November of 2010. The only other film nominated here that was available on disc was Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, although that film and the other nominees (Red, The Tourist and Burlesque) didn’t exactly give Kids a run for its money, critically speaking.
Indies, in total, won eight major awards at the ceremony. The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Co.) got a Best Actor win for Colin Firth, and Barney's Version (Sony Classics) scored a Best Actor, Comedy or Musical, win for Paul Giamatti. The Weinstein Co.’s The Fighter won Best Supporting Actress (Melissa Leo) and Supporting Actor (Christian Bale), Drama. Additionally, Denmark’s In a Better World won Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Mini-Series / TV Movie went to Sundance’s Carlos.
“We applaud the independents that have won tonight in a tough race,” said Independent Film & Television Alliance President-CEO Jean Prewitt. “HFPA’s nominations and awards have again highlighted the breadth of fine film-making from both studios and independents.”
The King’s Speech (which will be released by Anchor Bay Entertainment, the first Genius title releasing by Anchor Bay after a deal signed Jan. 4), Barney’s Version (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), The Fighter (Paramount), In a Better World (Sony Pictures) and Carlos (MPI/IFC) have yet to be slated for home video release.
By: Billy Gil
Katie Aselton and Dax Shepard
A one-night stand seven years into marriage is proposed as the solution to a couple’s doldrums in The Freebie, coming to DVD Jan. 11 ($29.99) from Phase 4 Films.
Katie Aselton, a former Miss Teen USA contestant and current writer, director and actress, said the idea for the movie came to her while shooting the breeze with a friend.
“When you're having a glass of wine with a friend, those are the sort of things you talk about,” she said. “The point of what we were talking about was, ‘Remember how easy it was to be single ... and you could just be whoever you wanted to be?’ When you're in a relationship, you owe it to that person to talk over every single thing. Sometimes you just want to give your husband a fake phone number and say, ‘Don't call me.’”
Aselton was looking for something to sink her teeth into after not getting the kind of experience she wanted to as an actress. Her husband, Mark Duplass (writer/director of Cyrus, with brother Jay Duplass), suggested taking his approach — if you’re not getting the projects you want, come up with your own.
“I was just a frustrated actor who was just sitting around,” said Aselton, who may be exaggerating a bit — she and her husband co-star FX’s fantasy football TV show “The League.” “My husband, who’s a big do-it-yourselfer just said, ‘You should just do it on your own!’”
Aselton said everything fell into place from there, with Aselton in the lead actress role, but casting her male counterpart proved more difficult after the first actor didn’t work out. Dax Shepard of “Punk’d” fame came on board at the 11th hour. His addition proved crucial, as his performance has been garnering rave reviews after the film aired at Sundance.
“I met Katie for the first time about five hours before we started shooting,” Shepard said. “Our second day of filming was all of our intimate, bedroom scenes. I have no explanation as to why we had good chemistry, but I know that if we hadn't, the movie would have been very flat.
“We got lucky. She's awfully cute though, so that certainly helps.”
The situation for The Freebie’s Annie (Aselton) and Darren (Shepard) doesn’t quite go as planned, but Shepard thinks it could work for some couples.
“There are a couple billion relationships happening around the world, and I'm sure every conceivable permutation is being played out somewhere,” he said. “I don't think there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to love someone.”
Despite coming up with the concept, Aselton is dubious of the prospect of infidelity working to strengthen a couple’s relationship.
“Beyond that first night, it's work after that,” Aselton said. “One night away from what you have now is probably not worth it, especially if you like what you have. The idea of exploring this couple that is sort of over-therapied in their own minds, where they think they are the couple who could completely sort of challenge tradition and monogamy and social ideas and they’re the ones who could rise above and beyond all that — I liked watching them fall on their ass.”
Of the DVD release, Aselton said home video means “everything” to independent films such as this one.
“Most of these small films, that’s where their life is,” she said. “It's hard to do well theatrically in the market today. For the most part, most of us do a theatrical release so we can get great reviews for a DVD release because that really is where we will find our audience. I think if people are going to be spending $14 for a movie, you're going to want to go see big productions … you're gonna see Inception.
“Unless you are a part of the small few who want to support independent film, you're going want to get your money's worth and then you'll save these small movies for the small screen.”
The Freebie DVD includes a commentary with Aselton and Shepard.
By: Billy Gil
Steve Buscemi in Handsome Harry
Steve Buscemi is an actor who knows how to make an impression. Though he appears at the beginning of Handsome Harry, coming to DVD Dec. 28 from Screen Media Films ($24.98), the celebrated character actor’s shadow hangs heavy over the film about an aging ex-Navy man who finds his old buddies to atone for an unfortunate attack they inflicted upon their friend.
“My work is the same whether it’s one scene or many scenes,” says Buscemi, who recently has seen his profile raised even further as the lead in Martin Scorsese’s Atlantic City crime drama “Boardwalk Empire,” on HBO. “I knew it was an ensemble-type film. I like those kinds of films. Bette Gordon, who directed, is an old friend, and she was one of the directors from the East Village days of the ’80s that was doing independent film before it was labeled independent film.”
The film stars Jamey Sheridan (“Trauma,” “Law and Order: Criminal Intent”) as Harry, a man who can’t shake a past event involving his old navy crew beating one of their own when they find out he’s gay. Buscemi stars as the friend who brings it all back when he calls Harry out of the blue, to say that he’s dying and wants to make amends. The film also stars Aidan Quinn and Campbell Scott as members of the ex-Navy crew Harry visits.
“It’s timely with the whole — hopefully — repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell because a lot of the argument seems to be about the culture of the military and ‘will they be able to adapt,’” Buscemi says. “I just think at the heart of it, it’s bigotry.
“I think it’s ridiculous that gay men and women are not allowed to serve openly. I know this film doesn’t address that in an obvious way, but it does address the culture of certainly not all the military but especially back when this film takes place, that this male-dominated culture could not tolerate even a hint of homosexuality, and that to me is a pretty sad and tragic story.”
Sheridan, who also serves as a producer, says the film does have an anti-DADT message, but it also works on many other levels.
“It was, for us, a cross between film noir and Greek tragedy,” Sheridan says. “It was about a guy who has erased himself and has hidden himself from himself, and succeeded. I saw him as a man in a blackout, like a drunk can go into where they don’t even know where they’ve been or six months or two weeks. And then, slowly, the psyche comes up, with Steve Buscemi and a fateful phone call and then slowly the layers are peeled away from Harry’s eyes.
“I must say there is a part of me that wanted to speak to the gay community, but I think it was on a much deeper level than Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I wasn’t thinking that specifically. I was reaching to much deeper things I think.”
He and Gordon did commentaries for the Handsome Harry, which appear on the DVD alongside a behind-the-scenes featurette.
By: Billy Gil
Clarkson and Siddig in Cairo Time
Actress Patricia Clarkson has a knack for playing complicated and often-unsympathetic characters who are rendered so real you can’t help but feel there’s a reason to every one of their actions. Whether it’s been as a manipulative drug addict in a reoccurring role on “Six Feet Under” or as a mother whose caustic nature is mirrored by the cancer destroying her body in Pieces of April, for which she was nominated for the best supporting actress Academy Award, Clarkson has never shied away from difficult roles.
Her latest is as a woman waiting for her husband’s delayed arrival in Cairo who embarks upon an unexpected romance with an old friend of his (Alexander Siddig) acting as her guide, against a vibrant Egyptian background, in MPI/IFC’s Cairo Time, on DVD ($24.98) and Blu-ray ($29.98) Nov. 30. Clarkson took time out from acting as a judge for the London Film Festival to speak with me.
IndieFile: What drew you to this project, and what generally draws you to specific films?
Clarkson: I'm drawn to the script first and foremost. I really think a script begins and ends with its content. With Cairo Time, it was the lack of words that drew me, oddly. There was the still simplicity of the script and a character I really haven't played before. I'm always looking for something that will take me in a new direction and truly challenge me. I'm looking for something that's going to transport me and wile me.
IndieFile: Your roles often encompass women who are quite difficult in an unflattering way, while other times you have played more angelic, wifely roles (The Green Mile). To what do you attribute that?
Clarkson: I don't know, I guess maybe the character for me comes first. We seek what we want. I want to play a complicated character, I am drawn to women that are complicated — whether they’re sympathetic or unsympathetic doesn't matter to me.
IndieFile: Your career seems to have been on an upward trajectory for the past 15 years or so. Do you think the rules of Hollywood have changed or are changing for women over the age of 40 and 50?
Clarkson: We keep hoping. I mean, look, I think Hollywood will always have a certain amount of ageism. In essence it will always be a youthful medium, but I do think independent film has helped radicalize and shaken the industry. With the rise of independent film — even though right now it's in a different place, with a lack of distribution — I do think with the rise of independent film, people realize, oh, there is an audience, and these films are incredibly exciting, and these films take people to a different place when you allow women of a certain age to carry them and when those characters are really truly a large part of the film and are integral to the film and are the most colorful part, and not secondary. That's what's shifting I think, hopefully. It's still somewhat difficult.
IndieFile: Even as you’ve starred in more mainstream Hollywood films, your career still seems at least in part devoted to independent film — I’m thinking of movies like this one and Blind Date. Is that something important for you to maintain?
Clarkson: I don't really care about the labels, independent or studio. I do love making independent films, obviously. It's given me a great career path. High Art really shifted everything for me, really placed me into the independent film world. But it was just serendipitous. I just walk into this audition and I didn't know it would really change my life in this single film. It can happen. That's what we always dream of happening, and I was one of the lucky ones that it did. But I didn't set out thinking, oh my goodness, I’m going to make independent films. But I did get swept into this independent film world that I am very much proud to be a part of. I have more opportunities in the independent film world, and I'm drawn to a lot of directors that work in that world. But I do like making studio films. Don't get me wrong.
IndieFile: What’s a film of yours on DVD that you think people who enjoy your work should check out?
Clarkson: I've done so many beautiful films. I want people to see Blind Date. It didn't have a wide release. I want people to see Elegy. I think there's a beauty and power in these films, and maybe not a lot of people saw them. And I loved working with these directors. Married Life, a beautiful film I did with Chris Cooper and Pierce Brosnan and Rachel McAdams. It's got a beautiful style and some people have really found it on DVD lately.
IndieFile: Regarding Cairo Time, how was it filming in Egypt? Had you been there before?
Clarkson: No, I'd never been to the Middle East, I'd never been to that part of the world, so it was sort of art imitating life, my character experiencing this city for the first time. So it was an awakening, a once-in-a-lifetime moment. I was there for seven, almost eight weeks, and I fell in love with the city. I think it's hard not to. I miss the Nile. I recently saw the American Ambassador to Egypt, I saw her in Cairo and in New York, and just we just talked about the power of the Nile and the power of Cairo. The Cairenes who worked on the film will always be a part of me in some ways because it was just a beautiful experience from beginning to end.
IndieFile: Did you do anything special for the Cairo Time DVD?
Clarkson: I have mixed feeling about actors being on DVDs. I love commentaries, I love the extras that come with the DVD, but this movie is so quiet and reserved, I love the fact that Alexander and I aren't a part of it. It's [director] Ruba [Nadda] and the DP talking about this canvas and this completely different world we were a part of. It's such a delicate, quiet film.
(The Cairo Time DVD/Blu-ray also includes an alternate ending, making-of featurette, Toronto Film Festival Q&A and short films by Nadda.)
By: Billy Gil
Nelson and Norton
When it came time for venerable character actor Tim Blake Nelson to direct his latest feature, Leaves of Grass (coming to DVD at $28.98 Oct. 12 from First Look Studios), Nelson looked for one actor in particular to drive the feature: Edward Norton, who plays identical twins in the film, one a scholar (Bill) and the other a pot dealer (Brady).
“We sat down together and had a very productive conversation in which we quickly understood how seriously we take what we do, even if we’re working on something that’s comic,” Nelson said. “And, of course, this movie is somewhat of a hybrid in that it’s comic but it gets pretty serious as well. Armed with the script and what I intended to do with it as well as the enthusiasm of Edward Norton, it was pretty easy to get everyone else to sign on.”
That “everyone else” includes Keri Russell as a sexy local English teacher who helps pull Bill out of his stuck-up ways, Susan Sarandon as his formerly hippie mother and Richard Dreyfuss and Nelson himself in bit roles. In the film, college professor Bill is coaxed by his troublesome brother to come back to Oklahoma, a home he’d rather forget.
Nelson himself is from Tulsa, and he said some of his experiences informed the black comedy whose name is inspired both by Walt Whitman and marijuana. He said in particular Southeastern Oklahoma, where much of the film takes place, has its problems due some of its marijuana-growing residents.
“The dangerous nature of that place … [is that] down any back road you can encounter tattooed people wielding firearms who are more interested in protecting their illicit crops than in property rights,” Nelson said. “It reaches mythic proportions in the state of Oklahoma, and I always wanted to write about that.”
But neither the film, nor Nelson, is particularly judgmental of the Bradies of the world.
“The dichotomy of Bill and Brady is, I guess, born of my own schizophrenia, having grown up in the Southwest and very much continuing to feel very rooted in that place but also having gone out and studied classics on the East Coast and now living in New York,” Nelson said. “The journey Bill goes on and the version of himself he ends up facing when he goes home is just an amplified rendition of what I myself feel as a person.”
And, speaking of his Southern background, Nelson says that of his numerous roles, he gets recognized as Delmar in the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? — especially when he’s in the South, or in Los Angeles or New York.
Nelson said the Leaves of Grass DVD and Blu-ray Disc are “chockblock” with bonus features, including a commentary with Nelson, Norton and producer Bill Migliore, as well as deleted scenes and interviews with the cast and crew.
By: Billy Gil