REAL Added Value...
While I'm in a bit of transition state, and having not gotten a
piece out to The Bits in too
long a period, I'll offer a short piece, not much longer than "A
I've been quite vocal about my dislike for junk added value
features on DVDs.
It always makes me wonder precisely what the marketing people are
thinking when I pick up a DVD that lists among its special features:
Wide-Screen (or family friendly) transfer, Menus and other items
which are simply part of the DVD, and without which the DVD simply
isn't a product.
Within the other arena of "extras" are documentaries and
pseudo-documentaries, both new and old, which sometimes serve to
allow the distributors to get away from the "bare bones"
concept of publishing... something that is not at all problematic.
There is nothing wrong with a great transfer of a film with
absolutely no added extras, as long as it's made available at a
price that's fair. Paramount does this with many of their titles,
and their products are wonderful. Of course, they also hit the high
end of the spectrum with some great special editions.
But all to often, we are gifted some old promotional films, created
for television, that give little information about the actual
filmmaking process, and serve only to show the actors mugging it up
behind the camera, along with a few shots of the director looking
I hate talking-head documentaries, and while they are necessary,
there are also ways of getting around them either by cutting away to
other things, or moving outside of a sealed room.
We have been getting so many of these "cookie-cutter"
Bouzereau or Bouzereau-esqe documentaries in the past couple of
years, that I've feared that the people putting together these DVDs
for us had totally forgotten what quality was.
But we can now see the other side of documentary boredom. Kevin
Brownlow's Photoplay Productions has been contracted for several
upcoming "event" documentaries, the next to be found as a "boxed
set only" extra along with the forthcoming Garbo
Most recently I've come across not one, but two documentaries on
the same disc, which have raised my hopes for quality materials
while escaping the horrific spate of "back-slapping"
self-aggrandizing pieces, in which everyone loves everyone else to
death. "Wow! What a great experience working with (fill in the
name)! I've learned so much from them which has enabled me to hone
So from that other studio... the one kind of out the back gate of
Universal... down the road a-piece over by Olive... that one... have
come two very nice documentary extras, as part of a recent special
The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie
Editing is educational nirvana.
Directed by Wendy Apple, and photographed (get this) by John
Bailey, this 98-minute documentary is a college-level course on the
history, aesthetics and functionality of motion picture editing.
With interviews of over 40 film editors and directors, The
Cutting Edge is the real thing - a well thought out,
properly produced documentary with a reason for being, that hits
scores of 100 in all aspects.
How often have you wondered why a certain editing decision was
made, or why a piece of film was cut as it was? Here's your chance
to find out, as many of today's top (ie. Academy Award-winning) ACEs
discuss the work ethics and decision-making processes that have
brought us some of the best cut sequences in film history.
An integral element of the documentary is a visit with Walter
Murch, in the fully-electronic cutting room of Cold
Mountain. Returning again and again (intercut with all of
the other interviews), you'll have the chance to watch a sequence
from the film in its creation.
I've a feeling that until we receive the next Photoplay
installment, this is the best extra to be found on any DVD,
The other documentary that I enjoyed was from TCM, written and
directed by Mimi Freedman (who is credited, wearing a number of
hats, along with the Greif Company, for a number of films in the
Intimate Portrait series, all
produced for television).
The Essence of Cool, made with
the full cooperation of the McQueen family, is a 90-minute look at
the life and career of Steve McQueen, undeniably one of the most
interesting, accomplished and sometimes difficult actors in the
20-year period from 1960 through 1980.
I haven't seen the other work from Greif, but Essence
is not a "back-slapping," condescending, "Great
working with him" piece.
Coming off as respectful, loving and honest, the film gives us a "warts
and all" look at one of the most important and successful
actors of the 20th century, who made a career on his own, and ended
up on the production (ie. participation/ownership) end of many of
his films, 13 of which were produced under the Solar banner.
This is what a quality documentary extra (that purports to tell the
story of a films' star) is all about. With its companion piece on
film editing, it's about as far as one can get from those other "made
for DVD" extras, while still using the same hardware and
software in their creation.
These feature-length documentary films come highly recommended.
For those wondering where you can buy them, the answer is that
you'll find both on the new Bullitt:
Special Edition... from that other studio. The
Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing will also be
released separately on 9/6 (SRP $14.98).