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New on Disc: 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' and more …

15 Dec, 2014 By: Mike Clark

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Blu-ray)

Sony Pictures, Drama, $19.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold.
Sony has given Mr. Smith the kind of deluxe treatment we don’t see very often from them anymore, a 75th anniversary treatment of a top-drawer Frank Capra film that looks better than it has in decades with its lustrous black-and-white visuals.
Extras: The Blu-ray boasts recycled but standout featurettes from the long-ago DVD release and digibook packaging with a Jeremy Arnold essay and the kind of glossy, high-test paper stock that gives still photos super-snap. Revered academic Jeanine Basinger from Wesleyan University talks of her works with the Capra archive, and the late Frank Jr. (on his commentary and several featurettes recorded many years ago) really knew how to communicate an anecdote.
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Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for a sex scene and brief language.
Stars Julianne Moore, Xander Berkeley.
Writer-director Todd Haynes’ second feature was filmed just as lead Julianne Moore was coming into her own. She plays a vapid but not unsympathetic upscale San Fernando homemaker whose unexplained allergies may be in her mind yet at least to some degree have to be real. The tone here is almost exactly the opposite of what we got in disease-of-the-week TV movies from the same era, though this is actually a 1995 release set in the late ’80s with the symbolic aura of AIDS hanging over more story threads than not, though AIDS is never specifically mentioned.
Extras: Haynes and producer Christine Vachon have it exactly right on the supplements here when they emphasize that many or even most critics didn’t know what to make of the film. Moore has a tough role, though to hear her speak in a kinetic 36-minute Haynes-Moore discussion here, she seems to have to had an automatic sense of what her character was about and even where to place herself in — or take advantage of — Haynes’ striking framing. Included on this release as well is an early and once thought-to-be-lost 1978 Haynes short called The Suicide, about a bullied male teen.
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