March DVD releases say goodbye to awards season, usher in new season of drama
By T. T. Stern-Enzi
Asking Anne Hathaway and James Franco to host the Academy Awards was an open invitation, likely the first truly meaningful nod to the next generation of performers in line to claim a seat at the adult table. The DVD proof that substantiates their right to this honor arrived on March 1, almost immediately following the Oscar telecast. Hathaway snagged a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Love & Other Drugs (along with co-star Jake Gyllenhall), but failed to attract a much more coveted Best Actress Oscar slot. Far too much attention centered on Hathaway’s naked efforts to tug our heartstrings as a sexy Parkinson’s patient who is unwilling to lay down and suffer.
Franco fared better in Danny Boyle’s follow-up, 127 Hours, to his Academy Award winning Slumdog Millionaire. Hours, based on the life-affirming true story of Aron Ralston, a reckless, yet experienced climber who endures five days trapped under a boulder in a canyon before tapping into deep personal and spiritual reserves to do what he must to free himself. The film and Franco’s Best Actor nominated performance are both stunning for their bravado and ingenuity, although the documented experience simply may have been too much for audiences to handle on the big screen.
Both performers and their films will likely enjoy a bump from these DVD releases. Love, despite the serious illness at the heart of its drama, has an indomitable free spirit in Hathaway that buoys the illness angle. Hathaway brandished the same charm during the Oscar’s nearly Titanic-scale sinking. 127 Hours, much like its over-exposed star Franco, should shine brighter now that the harsh glare of the spotlight is gone because the focus will get back to the film itself, which more sensitive audiences can watch at their own pace and discover even more details of Ralston’s story and the making of the film.
Another young, rising star, Ryan Gosling, joins Hathaway and Franco on the March DVD release schedule with All Good Things, the psychological thriller from Academy Award nominee Andrew Jarecki (Best Documentary: Feature, Capturing the Friedmans), which explores, in a fictionalized framework, one of the most infamous New York missing persons cases in history. Spanning 30 years, the film sifts through the details surrounding the marriage of a wealthy real estate heir (Gosling), the disappearance of his wife and the suspicion of his involvement, which continues. The most compelling aspects of this March 29 offering (making it an intriguing must-have) are the bonus features. Primarily the first-ever audio commentary of Robert Durst, the subject of this original true crime saga.
The March 29 arrival of the first season of the new David Simon series Treme caps off a fantastic month of DVD releases. The acclaimed creator of the HBO series The Wire set his sights on New Orleans, in the months following Hurricane Katrina seeking to document the aftermath of the crisis as residents attempt to pick themselves up, with little meaningful assistance from an ill-equipped federal response bureaucracy. As he and his team did with the city of Baltimore, Simon concentrates on the people, the characters that define New Orleans, which means we see not only actors playing musicians and restaurateurs, and Mardi Gras performers struggling to reclaim what the rising waters could not take from them, but also real musicians associated with the region (Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Kermit Ruffins), top chefs familiar with the local cuisine (Tom Colicchio David Chang, Eric Ripert and Wylie Dufresne), and actual Mardi Gras chiefs like jazz great Donald Harrison Jr. It is this blending and blurring of fiction and fact that makes for great storytelling and heralds Treme’s anxiously awaited second season with newly minted Oscar winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter) on the bandwagon once again.
Reach DCP film critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at firstname.lastname@example.org.