Tuesday, February 13, is going to be a very good day for DVD releases. In terms of last-minute catching up on Oscar contenders, if you’ve missed them up till now, there are no more excuses: Best Picture nominee The Departed becomes available for your home theater Tuesday, as does Best Costume Design nominee Marie Antoinette and Best Actor nominee Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson.
I’m glad to be able to see The Departed one more time before Sunday, February 25, but I’m probably even more glad to get a chance to catch up on Sofia Coppola’s film, which I dismissed at the time of its release as being of little interest. Yet the more I’ve read about it in the interim makes me think that might have been a big mistake. I don’t know just how Coppola’s vision of Antoinette as a anachronistically rendered teen queen will wash with my sensibilities, but I’m convinced it’ll be worth far more than the tinker’s damn I was willing to part with when it was in theaters.
Speaking of The Departed, the recent news that screenwriter William Monahan, himself nominated in the Adapted Screenplay category this year, has been hard at work on a sequel to the hit film ever since it started raking in the dough last fall is fascinating in that the body count at the end of Scorsese’s film is so very, very high. But if you’re interested in how the filmmakers Wai Keung Lau and Siu Fai Mak, creators of the Hong Kong crime thriller Internal Affairs, upon which The Departed was based, went about solving the sequel question, you’ll get your chance to investigate on Tuesday when Internal Affairs 2 and Internal Affairs 3 make their Region 1 digital bows. And speaking of Hong Kong sequels, Tuesday also marks the release of Jackie Chan’s Police Story 2, the dynamic sequel to Police Story, which was itself released on DVD here in December in its first U.S. domestic version—an excellent disc. Police Story 2 and the Internal Affairs sequels are on the Dragon Dynasty label.
One last Oscar connection: Ennio Morricone, who will be receiving an honorary Oscar this year whether he wants to or not, is honored in a digital way with the release of Ennio Morricone: Arena Concerto, recorded live in Verona in 2002, featuring a concert of the master’s film music conducted by Morricone himself. This might be just the corrective for the Celine Dion performance scheduled as part of the Morricone Oscar tribute.
But that’s not all, folks. Tuesday sees the long-awaited release of Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell’s snapshot of late-‘60s London and rock-and-roll decadence Performance; Andrew Bujalski’s follow-up to Funny Ha Ha-- now getting an official DVD release (it was available previously on Bujalski’s Web site)-- Mutual Appreciation; Federico Fellini’s warm and, of course, slightly strange tribute to stars Marcello Mastroiannni and Guiletta Masina, and also to the stars alluded to in the film’s title, Ginger and Fred; and two excellent offerings from the good folks at Criterion— a spectacular four-disc set chronicling the career of Paul Robeson, entitled Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist, which includes the documentary overview Portrait of the Artist, plus the features The Emperor Jones, Body and Soul, Borderline, The Proud Valley, Native Land, Sanders of the Rover and Jericho; and Sidney Gilliatt’s enormously entertaining WWII murder mystery Green for Danger, featuring Sally Gray, Trevor Howard, Rosamund John and the incomparable Alistair Sim.
But even given all that digital bounty made available on a single day, the release I’m most looking forward to (with Green for Danger coming a very close second), is the appearance, finally, of Neil Jordan’s superb adaptation of Pat McCabe’s novel The Butcher Boy. It stars Eamonn Owens as Francie Brady, a young boy left alone in the shadow of a demented, alcoholic father to fend for himself growing up, and chronicles Francie’s slide from precociousness to thuggery to obsessive behavior, paranoia and, finally, a homicidal thrashing out at both beloved friends and demonized enemies. Owens is spectacular in the role—his performance was, I thought, the best of 1997—and The Butcher Boy skimps not on immersing the viewer in the boiling madness of Francie’s point of view. It’s a visual and aural masterpiece, easily Jordan’s best movie. And it’s the best reason to welcome DVD Tuesday this week, and perhaps for the rest of the year.
UPDATE 2/12/07 10:04 a.m.: This is why I love the comments section. Readers Adam Ross and Flower helped paper over a couple of major oversights on my part that make this Tuesday's DVD release party an even more bounteous event. Adam tells us that the DVD he's most looking forward to is Criterion's sure-to-be-luxurious edition of Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves, and Flower gives some good advice in reminding us not to overlook (as did I) the DVD premiere of Tony Richardson's The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner starring Tom Courtenay and Michael Redgrave. Thanks, guys!