Monday, February 12, 2007

Muriel Awards: Best DVD Release


"It’s becoming a bit of a DVD reviewer’s cliché to trumpet the latest spectacular Criterion release as the best thing the company’s ever done, or as a candidate for best DVD of the year. How much easier it would be to avoid using this burnished chestnut if the company would just stop creating DVD editions that could honestly be said to be the best of the year. And what Criterion has done with Richard Linklater’s superb evocation of high school life in small-town Texas in 1976, Dazed and Confused, will justify all enthusiastic descriptors, clichéd or not. The elements of a great disc are all there: a de rigueur all-new high-definition transfer (supervised by the director and cinematographer Lee Daniel); a Linklater audio commentary that highlights the director’s unique ability to be laid-back and verbose at the same time; a 50-minute documentary on the making of the film, which began shooting in 1992, that surpasses the standard “making-of” featurette by co-opting the cool, yet energetic observational style of the movie itself (it includes footage from the 10-year anniversary cast reunion); and Criterion’s usual top-drawer optional English subtitles.*


But beyond the digital treats, Criterion’s Dazed is a triumph of packaging—there’s a 72-page book, designed like a high school notebook, featuring essays by Jim DeRogatis on the music, Kent Jones on the movie, profiles of Linklater and the film by Chuck Klosterman and John Spong, and page after page of 'Profiles In Confusion,' yearbook-style portraits of all the film’s characters, major and minor, and even a reproduction of the film’s original one-sheet, all tucked in a psychedelic doodle of a slip box that looks like every PeeChee I ever disfigured in my pre-college days . You can get just as lost in Criterion’s package for the disc of this brilliant picture (not only a great high school movie but perhaps the best movie about small-town life I’ve ever seen) as you can in the movie itself.


* Full disclosure: I created those English subtitles for Criterion—it’s my day job. It may not seem like it, but there’s art as well as craft in rendering readable subtitles for movies that honor both the material and the intended audience. And it’s always more fun doing that kind of work when the movie is as wall-to-wall sharp and smart as Dazed and Confused. And, oh, yeah, I graduated high school in a small town in southern Oregon in 1977. This movie looks like a documentary to me." ~ Dennis Cozzalio


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10 comments:

lucas said...

how do i write this without sounding crass?

I love Linklater more than almost anyone, but how does anyone not vote for the Janus set? I seriously thought it would get at least 9-10 1st place votes.

Kza said...

4. Idiocracy
5. Idiocracy
6. Idiocracy

;-)

Paul C. said...

I knew this category would be somewhat contentious, and I wasn't sure whether to include it or not. I'm still not sure I made the right choice, and it might not be coming back next year. Still, if nothing else, these awards have certainly stirred up discussion...

Lucas, I understand your point here- the Janus set was such a monumental release that it can't be ignored. And yet a majority of the films in the set- heck, most of the editions of the films in the set- had been previously released, which may have caused some to take their votes elsewhere. Whereas DAZED, film aside, was a completely new animal.

And Kent, Idiocracy was released on DVD in the U.S. on January 9, 2007, which would technically make it ineligible for these awards.

Kza said...

Goddammit!

:-)

Actually, my only problem is that I don't really pay any attention to DVDs as anything other than a movie delivery system, so I had no idea what to vote for. (I love the idea of commentary tracks and all those special features on DVDs, but I never watch them.) But had I remembered that Janus box set, I'd've voted for that.

Greg said...

Given that it had been unavailable for so long, I fully expected The Conformist to get a lot more love, as well as the Janus box set (although I understand Paul's point about most of the films having been made available before.)

Dennis Cozzalio said...

To respond to Lucas with my own reasoning, the restriction that I imposed on myself (Paul had nothing to do with it and never suggested it) was that I would vote only on DVDs I had actually bought and seen. As you say, it would be hard to argue against the Janus set as the most significant, the most complete, the most everything of 2006, but I don't know a single soul who has $850 to shell out for it, including myself. And I think Paul does make a very good point that most of the Janus editions had been previously released-- their inclusion in this fabulous, all-encompassing set was the real news.

It was when I obeyed my own rule that I voted for, and felt comfortable voting for, Criterion's Dazed and Confused as the Best DVD of 2006. I feel it would have been pretentious and presumptive of me to have voted on the glories of any DVD or set of DVDs which I hadn't actually seen, based solely upon what I'd read about them.

lucas said...

I can see that, Dennis, and I certainly don't begrudge anyone their vote (especially for a Criterion release of a Linklater film...I mean, how perfect is that?)

My thought process on it was "If I could only have 3 of the DVD's released this year, regardless of price, which 3 would they be?" I guess I sort of figured, "well, it's not Criterion's fault I don't have enough cash..."

on a side note, I got one of those Janus Films shirts for Christmas. Somehow I feel so much cooler when I wear it. And it's a great shirt for a cinephile to wear because who doesn't love Janus films?

Dennis, you doing anything for my Lovesick Blog-a-Thon today?

i'll shut up now.

Jenny Sekwa said...

Dazed and Confused ISN'T A DOCUMENTARY???

I absolutely agree, Dennis. "Dazed and Confused" was EXACTLY like a typical day/night in my high school life. And who didn't know a WOODERSON or two (hell, I dated one) - "That's what I love about these high school girls, I get older and they stay the same age"

So, yeah. I totally relate. I couldn't write "Dazed and Confused" fast enough on my ballot.

How cool to "meet" another grad of the Class of 77 (I graduated from a small town high school in Connecticut).

30 Year Reunion THIS YEAR - AGGHHHHHHHHH.

Paul C. said...

If I may take off my Admin cap for a second, I did love the DAZED release, although I ended up giving top points to Fox's BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS set. As dicey as Ebert has been as a critic in recent years, the commentary on this may be his best, as his personal experiences with the film and Meyer only serve to augment his already information-packed commentary style. Plus the cast commentary is a hoot- most of the time, I could take or leave them (they're usually little more than dicking around) but the BVD cast is so filled with characters that it's a blast. Heck, just listening to Harrison Page's Russ impersonation is worth the price. Honestly, I'm surprised I'm the only one who voted for this.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Lucas-- Dammit! I'm sorry. I'm so snowed here at work and outside of it that I don't have much time for anything else. And to be honest, I completely forgot about it! My apologies! But I'll link to it right now under my Happy Valentine's Day message!

Paul: BVD was my fourth choice. It is truly a great DVD, and I second everything you said about it. And here too.

Jenny: '77 Rules, as we so wittily loved to say back in the day! That scene on the water tower, I feel like that was a page right out of my own life. Who were you? I was closest to Mike Newhouse (Adam Goldberg), not in looks, but certainly in attitude. As for the reunion, my wife and I are too poor to make the drive back to Oregon from California this year, so I may have to miss out. And I actually wanted to go...