Remember last week, when we were all, “Oh, finally, the last of the Oscar movies?” Whoops, forgot about Best Picture and Best Actress nominee The Post. (Sorry, Steve.) It’s out this week on disc and demand, alongside a modest new father/son comedy, while a new brother/sister drama lands on Netflix. All that, plus a ‘30s and ‘50s classic joining the Criterion Collection, below.
6 Balloons: Marja-Lewis Ryan’s intense micro-drama runs a tight 75 minutes, but the relationships and conflicts are clear immediately, and she trusts the viewer to fill in the required backstories. Abbi Jacobson is suitably serious (but not without her dry wit) as a young professional riding a rising tide of crises and freak-outs as the surprise party she’s painstakingly assembled for her boyfriend is potentially derailed by the realization that she has to take her younger brother (Dave Franco, also excellent) to detox. The central metaphor of Ryan’s otherwise ace screenplay doesn’t quite work, and there is a sense that the picture ends just as it gets going. But it’s a movie that understands co-dependency from the inside, as well as the helplessness and hopelessness of trying to cure someone else’s addiction.
ON BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD
The Post: When it came out last December, Steven Spielberg’s dramatization of the battles between The Washington Postand the Nixon White House (and within the paper itself) over the publication of The Pentagon Papers was praised to the heavens for its echoes of contemporary politics and gender struggles. Some of that stuff lands; some of it is embarrassingly clumsy. What’s fascinating about The Postis that the parallels to the present aren’t what make the movie work – it’s the throwback quality of its best sequences, the ways in which it recalls the classic Newspaper Pictures of the ‘30s, ‘40s, and beyond, the action-movie thrill Spielberg sneaks into scenes of people standing in rooms talking (because they’re smart people, and the dialogue is sharp, and the stakes are high). The cast is staggeringly good – and it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that in the company of Hanks and Streep, Bob Odenkirk is still the stand-out – and at its best, The Posthas the hang-out lightness that’s made latter-day Spielberg pics like Bridge of Spiessuch a treat. (Includes featurettes.)
Humor Me: “Other people think I’m funny!” Nate’s dad (Elliot Gould) keeps telling him, and if nothing else, Humor Me is a valentine to literal Dad jokes – here rendered in black-and-white, like old-timey comedy two-reelers, but with dick punchlines. Even if Dad’s jokes were funny, Nate (Jemaine Clement) wouldn’t be in the mood to hear them; his latest play has been cancelled, his wife has left him for a billionaire (and taken their son with her), and he’s resorted to taking the spare room in dad’s house at an “adult lifestyle community.” You can map out the story beats within ten minutes, director Hoffman’s visual style often veers into overdone cuteness (which mirrors the broadness of the humor), and I’m still not entirely sold on the notion of Clement as an everyman; he seems not only not of this country, but of this galaxy. But co-star/romantic interest Ingrid Michaelson is utterly charming, and the infinitely reliable Gould finds the pathos in what could’ve been a sitcom characterization. It’s a cute movie. Nothing wrong with that. (Includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, and theatrical trailer.)
ON BLU-RAY / DVD
The Awful Truth: “I can’t marry him, ‘cause I’m still in love with that crazy lunatic and I can’t do anything about.” So says Lucy (Irene Dunne, divine), the soon-to-be-divorcee who can’t shake her departing husband Jerry (Cary Grant) – who’s also having some trouble moving on. Sometimes playful, sometimes absurd, sometimes surprisingly sexy, this winkingly sophisticated screwball comedy from director Leo McCarey is fall-down funny, thanks to the sharp script and expert playing by Grant, Dunne, and Ralph Bellamy. But the leap to greatness comes in the closing scenes, which are played with a longing and warmth that delicately swings the picture into sheer perfection. (Includes new and archival interviews, video essay, and radio adaptation.)
The Color of Pomegranates: Soviet director Sergei Parajanov 1969 look at the life of Armenian singer Sayat-Nova is, to put it mildly, not your typical musical biopic. It’s frankly more a meditation than a narrative (not something you’d say about Rayor Walk the Line), where the dialogue is sparse and the emphasis instead placed on mood, sound, and vision. The images are jaw-dropping, a parade of tableaux that are bizarre, witty, or breathtaking (and sometimes all three at once). A stunning piece of work, for those with the right kind of adventurous spirit. (Includes audio commentary, documentaries, video essay, new interviews, and new experimental short.)