Immersed in Blu-ray: Year-End Round-Up

The Dark Knight Rises and Lawrence of Arabia top a slew of year-end releases on Blu-ray. Here’s a brief rundown of a few must-own titles for your last-minute home entertainment shopping:

The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Home Video)

While other directors strive to ground their superhero movies with relatable characters, Christopher Nolan has achieved something greater with The Dark Knight Rises: he wraps up his gritty Batman trilogy with an operatic flourish and a sublime catharsis, coming full circle back to Batman Begins. In fact, he makes us forget that we’re watching a superhero movie at all. It’s just terrific drama and myth making.

Lawrence of Arabia (Sony Home Ent.)

The best-looking Blu-ray of the year and a fitting 50th tribute, thanks to Grover Crisp and his team at Sony Colorworks, who did a great 4K restoration (more of an enhancement of Robert Harris’ acclaimed restoration). It looks like the best of both worlds: 70mm and Technicolor dye-transfer; and Freddie Young’s cinematography was never more seductive. At last, we can glimpse the deleted “balcony scene” in the collector’s edition (Robert Bolt at his most poetic).

Empire of the Sun (Warner Home Video)

In a year full of Blu-ray releases from Steven Spielberg, Empire represents his most underrated movie, introducing a 13-year-old Christian Bale for his first cinematic rite of passage. In fact, it was David Lean who first brought J.G. Ballard’s autobiographical novel to Spielberg’s attention. As he relates in Richard Schickel’s Steven Spielberg: A Retrospective (Sterling), the director responded to the youthful “odd duck” obsessed with flight and held captive during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai. A highly spiritual movie and the first one Spielberg made totally for himself, it’s about the death of innocence for its protagonist and the entire world.  My favorite scene is still the boy observing the despairing couple in the Internment camp making love.

Sunset Boulevard (Paramount Pictures)

Billy Wilder’s masterful ode to Hollywood finally gets the deluxe Blu-ray treatment and the results are very pleasing, considering that it was mastered from a dupe negative, with mild grain, good gray scale,  and crisp detail. Made in 1950, Wilder looks forward and back with his usual bittersweet brilliance. And what a great ensemble from William Holden to Gloria Swanson to Erich von Stroheim to Cecil B. DeMille (not to mention Jack Webb). The movies got small, indeed. Featuring the debut of a deleted scene, “The Paramount Don’t Want Me Blues” musical number.

Floating Weeds (Eureka)

While everyone is rightly applauding Eureka’s stunning release of The Passion of Joan of Arc, I thought I’d put in a good word for Yasujirô Ozu’s resplendent remake. It’s about a traveling kabuki troupe that lands in a seaside port, resulting in turmoil for an aging actor who’s reunited with his former lover and illegitimate son. Photographed by legendary cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa (Rashômon, Ugetsu monogatari), Floating Weeds makes its worldwide Blu-ray debut in the UK (region 2) looking as sumptuous as ever in HD.

Rags & Riches: The Mary Pickford Collection (Milestone)

A three-disc set of Pickford favorites makes its Blu-ray debut, featuring The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917), a National Film Registry selection, about parental neglect directed by Maurice Tourneur; The Hoodlum (1919), which finds pampered Pickford slumming on the East Side with her sociologist father; and Sparrows (1926), a masterpiece of  Southern Gothic horror about “lost” children directed by William Beaudine and lauded by Ernst Lubitsch as “one of the eight wonders of the world.”

Magical Mystery Tour (EMI Records)

I couldn’t resist including this famed cult classic on Blu-ray for the first time. The summer of love in ’67 brought forth this freewheeling film project made by the Fab Four resembling the mystery tours of their youth in Liverpool.  Supervised mainly by Paul McCartney, they drew up a pie chart and went on their merry way, playing “Magical Mystery Tour,” “The Fool on the Hill,” “Flying,” “I am the Walrus,” “Blue Jay Way,” and “Your Mother Should Know.” A delightful snapshot of The Beatles from this period.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Blu-ray, Cinematography, Clips, Movies, Oscar

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