Oscar Nominees on Home Video: A Viewer’s Guide

The Academy Award nominations are now out (see full list here). Now let the guessing games begin. Predictions and kibbitzing are all part of the fun (my annual accounting of contenders who missed the Oscar cut is here on MSN) and catching up on all the nominees before Oscar night is, for many, part of the ritual.

While many of the front-runners were released late in the year and are still playing in theaters — best picture nominees “The Descendants,” “War Horse,” ” Hugo,” “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” and ” The Artist” should all get a boost this weekend — just as many are already available for home viewing on DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and/or pay-per-view. Here’s a list of those you can see now on a small screen near you. Click on the titles to get to the DVD/Blu-ray reviews.

Moneyball” (Sony), arguably the brainiest sports movie ever, came away with six nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill) and Adapted Screenplay. The Blu-ray and DVD editions offer a few peaks behind the production. Also On Demand.

Midnight in Paris” (Sony), the grown-up romantic fantasy that unexpectedly became Woody Allen’s most financially successful film ever, earned four nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. On Blu-ray and DVD with minimal supplements, and On Demand.

The Tree of Life” (Fox), Terrence Malick’s portrait of one boy’s education growing up in Texas set against nothing less than the origins of life in the universe, picked up nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography, and it is a stunning looking film on Blu-ray, which also features the supplements (there are none on the DVD). Also On Demand.

The rest of the available titles on Videodrone.

New Release: Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’

Strollling through a fantasy

Who would have predicted that Midnight in Paris (Sony) would become Woody Allen’s most financially successful film ever?

On the one hand, the wish fulfillment fantasy of an American screenwriter (Owen Wilson) on a Paris vacation who is whisked back in time and welcomed into the company of the Lost Generation artists of the twenties, is pure lark, a waking dream of delights where the fondest wishes are delivered with idealistic perfection. On the other, Allen’s brings his fantasy to life with such affection and joy that he transports us into his dream come true as a shared fantasy. We, too, are embraced in the bosom of this society, welcomed into the company of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Luis Bunuel, et al. as an equal. All we have to bring is a little wit, and the amiable Wilson does just that.

Allen doesn’t work at convincing us it is anything but a fantasy. In fact, he revels in the fantasy and simply enjoys the experience, as does the tremendous cast he invites to the party. But no one exudes more delight that Wilson, the most open and accepting and amiably sincere of Allen’s stand-ins, strolling into every situation with a grin across his face and an easy acceptance of everyone he meets. No kibitzing malcontent here, Wilson is the soul of generosity. This is a man who just wants to share the joy of his discoveries. He just needs to find someone who values them as much as he does.

It’s also a heartfelt love letter to Paris. Taking his camera to the streets, Allen offers the loveliest walking tour of the city I’ve seen on screen, and in his time travel reminds us of the history that resonates in the very streets and skyline views of the city. Midnight in Paris is surely the most romantic vision of Allen’s career.

Continue reading at Videodrone