February 10, 2010

A Serious Man

Also this week: We Live in Public, Bronson, The Time Traveler's Wife, The Life and Times of Tim, The Stepfather, The Sarah Silverman Program

Highlight of the Week

A Serious Man (Alliance) The ’00s was as middling as it was prolific for the once-failsafe Coens, yet the brothers saved their best and most personal film of the decade for last. A Serious Man just received Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay nods at the forthcoming Academy Awards and is the only truly challenging contender. Comic yet nihilistic, stoned yet sobering, rocking yet based in religion, it’s the pick of the Oscar litter. And the failure to acknowledge the movie’s star, theatre thesp Michael Stuhlbarg, in the Best Actor category is pure mishegas. The same goes for Roger Deakins’ gorgeous photography — which is stunning in high-def. This DVD release also boasts several useful extras, including a fine 17-minute making-of, a glimpse at how the ’60s period look of the film was created, and a nifty Yiddish-to-English translation for all you goyim.

Also Available

We Live in Public (Mongrel) Best known for 2004’s sensational DiG!, Ondi Timoner’s latest years-in-the-making doc follows the frenetic trajectory of “the greatest internet pioneer you’ve never heard of.” Fifteen years ago, Josh Harris was the coolest kid, founding what one could call the first-ever YouTube. After selling his share, Harris built an underground community in which people lived entirely under his surveillance. After that, he upped the ante with a 24/7 multiple webcam broadcast of he and his girlfriend’s every moment (vivid toilet-cam included). This may sound a little too sci-fi, but it’s for real. The film justly earned the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at Sundance ’09, giving Harris his tardy credit as visionary and all-around oddity. Extras: two commentaries: one with Timoner, one with Harris.

Bronson (Alliance) I’m no censorship monger, but it’s somewhat wretched that the real-life Bronson is receiving the attention he so craves for punching his way to become Britain’s most prominent prison inmate. Then again, he has certainly made an art of it. Bronson is operatic anarchy, and Tom Hardy plays the beast to perfection. Akin to Andrew Dominik’s Chopper, both biopics enthrall us even as we curse ourselves for loving every stylish minute of it. I know I’m not the only person eager to see a Bronson vs. Chopper spin-off. Extras: monologues, interviews, making-of, more.

The Time Traveler’s Wife (Alliance) 
A handsome Toronto-for-Chicago setting (hey, is that Broken Social Scene covering Joy Division?) might give the impression that this adaptation is as carefully mounted as its much-adored source. Eric Bana, as the inconvenient time traveller, and Rachel McAdams, his inconvenienced wife, are straight shooters, but their unique relationship feels undercooked. The culprit is a lightweight screenplay that substitutes cohesion for convention. Back to the Future made more sense than this. Extras: making-of.

The Life and Times of Tim: Season One (Warner) In the tongue-tied tradition of improvisational, lo-fi animated fare like Dr. Katz and the superbly charming Home Movies, this R-rated HBO series concerns twentysomething schlemiel Tim (voiced by creator Steve Dildarian), who stutters his way in and out of increasingly off-putting scenarios. For those not smitten with the first few episodes, stick around; it hits its stride mid-season. Extras: 10 awkward moments.

The Stepfather (Sony) If you like your horror with a coat of emo, you might enjoy this remake of the waaay superior 1987 cult gem that starred Lost’s Terry O’Quinn as a waaay more convincing psychopathic patriarch. Nip/Tuck’s Dylan Walsh bears an uncanny likeness to Steve Guttenberg, which is its own brand of bizarro horror. Extras: unrated cut, commentary, gag reel, more.

The Sarah Silverman Program: Season 2, Volume 2 (Paramount) When it comes to perverse comedy, Sarah Silverman is your gal. Fans of Jesus is Magic will dig this, while those who were on the fence will probably stay put. The solid supporting cast, including the almost-always awesome Brian Posehn, doesn’t disappoint. Extras: commentary, animated shorts, behind-the-scenes.