Movies

Bonus Features’ Brave New World

Bonus Features' Brave New World

It’s intuitively obvious to the casual observer that the home video market has changed substantially in the last decade. But one thing we don’t talk about much is how the shift from disc-based delivery to purely digital movie storefronts like Vudu, iTunes, and Kaleidescape has changed the nature of the supplemental materials designed to enhance movie appreciation or document the filmmaking process. What really brought this all home for me last week was an amazing little featurette in which director Denis Villeneuve deconstructed one of Dune‘s most pivotal scenes. 

 

The segment is part of Vanity Fair‘s ongoing “Notes on a Scene” series, which of course means it won’t be included with the upcoming home video release of the film given that it wasn’t produced by Warner Bros. or Legendary Entertainment.

 

And for reasons I’m not sure I could fully articulate in an article of finite length, that realization upset me at first. I want this featurette to be part of a permanent collection, attached to the film itself, either in a digital library or on a disc sitting on my 

shelf. I, in a sense, want to own that clip in some form.

 

Which, when you think about it, is silly. Unless Vanity Fair gets banned from YouTube (hardly likely) or YouTube disappears altogether, Villeneuve’s exhaustive breakdown of the “Gom Jabbar” sequence isn’t going anywhere. No matter the format in which I ultimately purchase Dune 

late this year or early next, no matter how packed with bonus goodies it may be, or no matter how threadbare, this fantastic 17-minute cinematic supplement will remain out there in cyberspace, ready to be consumed no matter when the urge strikes.

 

So, why was my initial impulse, after viewing it, to be sad that it won’t be codified as an official bonus feature and collected with all of the studio-approved supplements we’ll no doubt eventually be able to buy? Well, for the past three decades or so, I’ve been conditioned to view the supplemental material created for a film as an essential element of that film’s home video release. It started with those wonderful Criterion Collection LaserDiscs of old and continued with the amazing special-edition DVDs and Blu-rays created by documentarians like Charles de Lauzirika, Van Ling, David Prior, and Laurent Bouzereau. 

 

In those days, of course, it made sense for documentaries about the filmmaking process, audio commentaries, and puff promotional featurettes to actually come on the same disc—or at least on another disc in the same package—with the film itself. It was such an entrenched model that it has been replicated in the era of digital delivery, kept alive by the likes of iTunes, Vudu, and Kaleidescape, all of whom generally offer some sort of bonus goodies if such are available. 

 

But now that physical media has ceased to be the main vehicle for home movie consumption for most people, is there really any valid reason for this model to persist as the only method of supplementing movies? Well, my heart and my brain are in disagreement over this. 

 

The more I think about it, the more I see the advantages of this more de-centralized, less ordained method of distributing and consuming bonus features. After finishing that “Notes on a Scene,” I stumbled upon an incredible conversation between

Steve Hullfish and Dune editor Joe Walker on the Art of the Cut video podcast.

 

Would that ever appear on a two-disc special edition 4K Blu-ray release of Dune? Almost certainly not. Too many f-bombs; too much discussion of films from other studios. But it’s one of the most engaging and informative “bonus features” I’ve consumed in 

quite some time, largely due to the fact that it isn’t official, studio-sanctioned, or in any way promotional. Or at least it doesn’t feel like it.

 

But make no mistake about it: Most of these bonus materials to be found on YouTube are still undoubtedly studio-blessed, and are acceptable only because they’re created by media entities perceived as proper and legitimate. But what about the independent content creators who continue to make valiant attempts at analyzing and deconstructing films like Dune, only to keep getting shut down by illegitimate copyright strikes? 

 

Writer and critic Thomas Flight, for example, recently posted a fantastic analysis of Hans Zimmer’s score that really helped me articulate why it works for me when most of the composer’s music rubs me the wrong way. His video essay also helped me understand that Villeneuve’s Dune is essentially an opera, a realization I would have eventually come to on my own after 

a few more viewings once the shock wore off (shock that someone finally made a good film out of Herbert’s book, to be specific). But still, I appreciate the catalyst.

 

The problem, though, is that Flight has had to re-edit his video significantly, multiple times, just to avoid the algorithm-driven copyright trolling that’s rampant on YouTube, and the complete version of this particular video essay can only be found on Nebula—a streaming 

service many independent content creators are migrating to simply because YouTube always sides with established corporate media entities and takes a “guilty until proven innocent” stance when it comes to Fair Use. And that’s a real shame, because there’s no way anything as elucidating as Flight’s thoughtful analysis will end up on the special-edition home video release of Dune.

 

So, needless to say, there are advantages and disadvantages to this great decentralization of cinematic supplemental material. On the one hand, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to film commentary and deconstruction. Some filmmakers, like Rian Johnson, have even taken to using the podcast format to deliver audio commentaries for films while they’re still in theaters. Of course, if you follow that link, you’ll find the commentary for his Knives Out is no longer available now that the film is on home video proper. 

 

And for someone like me, who came of age in the era of film collecting, that tenuousness is as scary as it is exciting. 

Dennis Burger

Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including high-end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of Alabama with his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound American Staffordshire Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.

The Best Way To Experience David Lynch’s “Dune”

Dune (1984)

A 21st-century film incarnation of Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi epic Dune has just been released in theaters. There has been much anticipation and excitement, and a fair amount of trepidation, for this movie among fans of the book. Part of that fear had to do with the outcome of David Lynch’s 1984 version. More or less slammed and ultimately dismissed by most critics and fans when it came out, Lynch’s vision for Dune has gone on to be reassessed by many who appreciate what he did accomplish before the financial rug was pulled out from under the project, forcing its hasty completion.  

 

Coincident with the release of the 2021 version of Dune, there is a brand-new 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative of Lynch’s version out on standard Blu-ray disc that looks quite lovely, all things considered. There is also a UHD Blu-ray version available, but just looking at the standard 1080p version I was sent for review (full disclosure), it looked like an improvement over the earlier Blu-ray edition I own.  

 

The colors are more vivid in the new transfer, delivering increased clarity even with the apparent film grain. The uncompressed stereo and DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound options both sound really nice (the latter being not overly discrete yet still gently immersive). Overall the package is great, including a bonus disc of interviews with production-team members that were not on the original Blu-ray. There’s also a booklet containing compelling essays discussing the film, its challenges and accomplishments. 

Dune (1984)

That is all fine and good, but there is still that big stumbling block for many people struggling to simply enjoy watching Lynch’s vision for Dune. There is a hint in that last sentence that may help some of you get over this hump. Hold on to that thought for a moment . . .

 

First, let’s address the undeniable fact that Lynch’s Dune is admittedly . . . let’s call it . . . challenged. Lynch himself even talks about the film’s problems openly in the booklet, from a 1997 interview. There we learn some fascinating but important details, such as how he spent much time discussing the story with the author to get inside it, line by line. He also reaffirms, “Dune’s notions come from Frank’s book, but I interpreted them.”

 

So it’s not like he was out in the wilderness on his own on this. On the contrary, we learn that he was reined in a lot by executive producer Dino De Laurentiis and producer Raffaella De Laurentiis, among others, adding to the challenges in making the film just over two hours long. Also, apparently dad and daughter De Laurentiis liked his Elephant Man-inspired aesthetic, but Eraserhead not so much.

 

The history of cinema is littered with movies ravaged by senior executives controlling the purse strings. In fact, one of the last films I wrote about here at Cineluxe was Fritz Lang’s groundbreaking 1926 science-fiction film Metropolis, which was ripped apart by the studios before it even had a chance to get to market. There were concerns about the its length and its chances to recoup the astronomical multi-million dollar costs incurred in production as the first full-length science-fiction film. 

 

That said, there is much dazzling eye candy to like—and even love—in Lynch’s Dune. But you’re going to need to do a little bit of homework to prepare for watching it in order to best appreciate it. And that is the purpose of this review.

 

STEP 1: GET INTO LYNCH’S EARLY MINDSET

If you’ve never seen them before, I would advise that before watching his Dune you go back to experience Lynch’s prior films: Eraserhead and The Elephant Man. Whether or not you like them, the look and feel of both of those works—which were done in black & white—are part of the reason he was hired to work on Dune. If you’re not familiar with his often shocking and breathtaking visual approach, then parts of Dune will simply seem weird, wild, and even cheesy to the unprepared. Lynch’s Dune is ultimately rooted in classic horror, perhaps some film noir and avant-garde  cinema, even more so than old-school science fiction. 

 

This ain’t Star Wars, kiddies. 

 

STEP 2:  WATCH SOMSCI-FI FROM THE ‘50s AND EARLIER

It’s important to have a certain appreciation for early sci-fi movies to grok the look and feel of Lynch’s Dune. He wasn’t a particular fan of science fiction apparently but watching this (and this is simply my personal opinion, folks) it seems there are inevitable touchstones referenced, perhaps subconsciously.

 

You should certainly watch Metropolis and peek at some of the serial films. such as Buster Crabbe’s Flash Gordon and Commando Cody, from the 1930s and ‘40s, which had a certain Art Deco splendor and innocent low-budget-production charm. I would also recommend watching Forbidden Planet—particularly to see some of the epic sets depicting the breathtaking underground machine spaces of the Krell (aliens), which reminded me at times of scenes of thhidden underground water worlds on planet Arrakis in Lynch’s Dune

 

Heck, it couldn’t hurt to watch the 1960 version of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine for its proto Steampunk vibe. If you can find them, watch some early episodes of the often overlooked (but beloved my many) high-camp 1960s TV series Lost in Space!

 

When you are inside the space ships and shuttles of Dune, they have this wonderful antique space-buggy look that is about as far from Star Trek or Star Wars space travel as one can get. That doesn’t make them any less good . . . in fact, that is half of the charm of Lynch’s Dune.

STEP 3: CONSIDER THE SPECIAL EFFECTS IN CONTEXT

Many of the sets and characters in Dune are amazing for a film made in the early 1980s, well before computer-generated production was commonplace. So when you look at the sets, consider that they actually constructed all those palaces with real tiles and all that glitz and glamour. The look of these environments is quite astonishing at times. 

 

If you’ve never seen any of the films of Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts, 20 Million Miles to Earth, etc.), you also should see some of those to appreciate the stop-motion animation and animatronics abundant in Lynch’s Dune—especially for considering how they brought the giant and wonderful worms to life.  

 

One of the things that’s curious about Lynch’s Dune is that periodically there are these clunker lines delivered and awkward low-budget acting moments. I don’t know if this was intentional or just the way things came together in the final assembly of the project, but if you watch this as if it was a horror fantasy from the 1930s, ‘40s or ‘50s, it becomes more acceptable. If you’re anticipating Lord of the Rings or The Matrix or whatever, well, this isn’t that kind of a film.

 

That doesn’t make it any less good . . .

 

STEP 4: HANG IN THERE, IT GETS BETTER

Whilit is well known and acknowledged that Lynch’s Dune is flawed, yet there is much greatness to relish. I have enjoyed it by simply considering it a series of loosely interconnected vignettes, not worrying about gaps in plot line or literal understanding of everything that happens on screen. I’ve read the first Dune book so I know the basic storyline. Thus I can just flow with Lynch’s journey as if I was a space-time traveler myself zipping through hyperspace at the push of a button. 

 

There are wonderful moments of brilliance worth appreciating on their own merits. The scene where the visually disgusting Baron finally gets his due, getting sucked up into the mouth of a giant worm, is utterly satisfying and feels like a moment from a film made many decades earlier. Thfinal battle scene where Kyle McLachlan goes head-to-head with Sting is fabulous (with the death scene reminding me of the nightmare sequence in Eraserhead where key character Henry’s head rolls on to the ground). 

 

If you watch Dune with an open mind, a willingness to suspend disbelief, and a readiness to make leaps at points that defy logic, you can immerse yourself in the genuinely fun and compelling universe Lynch created. Put yourself into a different mindset of early 1980s filmmaking by a director trying to go boldly in a different direction where none had really gone before to bring Frank Herbert’s Dune to the silver screen. A fantastic voyage awaits you.    

Mark Smotroff

Mark Smotroff breathes music 24/7. His collection includes some 10,000 LPs, thousands of CDs & downloads, and many hundreds of Blu-ray and DVD Audio discs. Professionally, Mark has provided Marketing Communications services to the likes of DTS, Sony, Sega, Sharp, and AT&T. He is also a musician, songwriter & producer, and has written about music professionally for publications including Mix, Sound & Vision, and AudiophileReview. When does he sleep?

Movies to Deny Reality By

Movies to Deny Reality By

I was recently at a dinner party where most of the other guests were in their late twenties and early thirties. Halfway through the evening, the conversation turned, with an odd inevitability, to psychopharmacology, with everyone at the table jockeying for bragging rights based on how successfully they were being sedated.

 

Status was determined, in part, based on your success at straddling submission and resistance—admitting you needed the drug, but asserting your individuality by never quite taking the full dose or exactly following the doctor’s instructions. There were many tales of people bravely trying to ween themselves from their dependencies. Funny thing is, no one had ever completely made it there.

 

Pot then reared its head. All involved indulged in weed on top of their stupor-inducing medications; nobody seemed to have a problem spending their existences constantly holding the world at arm’s length—or farther. Another refrain—seemingly unrelated, but actually very much joined at the hip—was that they were all in some way victims engaged in a heroic struggle against some nebulous form of The Man—that their underdog status somehow made them powerful—missing the irony that they all undeniably derived solace from their subservience to authority figures.

 

There’s so much I could say about this, but, at its heart, it’s no different than all the elaborate bragging, insecurity, and denial that used to be associated with cigarettes. Massive industries push essentially oppressive products with steep downsides by

Movies to Deny Reality By

suggesting they’re romantic (i.e., cool) and (feeding off that most corrosive of contemporary fads) empowering, and the sheep bleat in unison having been convinced they won’t be complete without them.

 

The big difference is that all cigarettes can do is kill you—they can’t steal your soul.

I realized as the AA-like confessionals wore on that this was my missing link, the thing I’d been searching for to explain the appalling current state of the movies. Simply put, movies are now created for an audience in a trance, with the purpose of jolting them out of their stupors but in a way that always safely returns them to the sleep of reason at the end, their heads full of empty dreams of power, without ever even hinting that there’s a larger, more complex, nuanced, and ultimately more satisfying reality to explore.

 

It explains the blind addiction to fantasy, to action films, to pornographic levels of violence, to horror comedy—which is becoming all comedy, the giggly adolescent fascination with obscenities, the infantile scatological fixation, wall-to-wall sarcasm, the obsession with constant cutting, shock edits, pounding noise—wrecks, and crashes, and other destruction, zombie films and the graphic portrayal of the degradation and annihilation of the body, the masochistic fetishization of darkness, the mad embrace of fascist armoring, weaponization, and fictions of unbridled power, of vengeance, killing sprees, and torture. The rabid, numbing list goes on and on. These aren’t movies—they’re shock generators, not dissimilar from the notorious “Danger: Extreme Shock” machine at the center of the singularly defining Milgram experiment. 

 

But all of this way predates Milgram and his attempts to fathom the Nazi within us all. The parallels with Plato’s cave are inevitable. It’s been all but a given of society since Altamira that, presented with the choice between pretty pictures and 

reality, most people will opt for vague shadows that lose all meaning the second somebody snuffs out the light. The big difference is that there’s nothing remotely pretty about contemporary films, which tend to be relentlessly and sadistically nasty and brutish—but, sadly, not short.

 

We’ve allowed ourselves to be yoked 

Movies to Deny Reality By

to a cinema fit only for inhuman consumption, for keeping the emergent generations of pod people both quiescent and sated. Inherently desensitizing and degrading, the movies have become an assault on any meaningful sense of individual self. Finding something worth watching, in the human sense, has become like tip-toeing through a minefield where practically every square inch of turf is primed to go off.

 

But what if you haven’t bought into the lie that there’s power in being pummeled, if you happen to believe aggressive action should be deployed only rarely, judiciously, and as a last resort, that life is meant to be something more than constant bloodsport and a dehumanizing feeding frenzy? That there’s something to be said for restraint, sensitivity, and, yes, wit?

 

Society still needs canaries—in fact, those cheeping sentinels are perched at the very tipping point of the culture, their piffling weight the only thing keeping us from slipping completely into the corporately engineered, politically sanctioned nihilistic void. But they’re now being snuffed out almost as fast as they come into existence. The day the last one keels over will be the day the wheels come off for good. 

 

I’d like to believe we can do better than this, that we’re still, in core and meaningful ways, somehow better than the selves we see reflected on our screens, the crude and dispensable beings we’re defined as in pop culture. But, as with the canaries, with each day the evidence of those better selves becomes harder and harder to discern and the vile, blind phantasms take on more palpable form. 

 

Just because this is what they want to serve us doesn’t mean we have to accept it. Unthinkingly lapping up manipulative fictions, we’re eating ourselves alive.

Michael Gaughn

Michael GaughnThe Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review, Sound & Vision, The Rayva Roundtablemarketing, product design, some theater designs, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and now this.

The Last Blu-ray Disc

The Last Blu-ray Disc

I had a bit of an epiphany this week. In case you haven’t heard, the long-awaited 4K HDR home video release of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is upon us. It’s available now on Kaleidescape and iTunes. It hits UHD Blu-ray and Vudu on July 6. 

 

The choice of where and how to purchase this one weighed way more heavily on me than any movie-buying decision should, if I’m being honest about it. Ultimately, I decided on the UHD disc for a handful of reasons. For one thing, the disc comes with a MoviesAnywhere code, so I’ll have access to a high-quality digital stream no matter where I am. 

 

But perhaps more importantly, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is one of those movies I occasionally need access to no matter the circumstances. I’m not saying it’s my favorite film or anything. I’m not saying I think it’s even the best of its decade. I’m merely saying that there is a handful of movies—this being one of them—I turn to for a pick-me-up when nothing else is doing the

trick. The unique, quirky jubilance of this ironically ironic comic-book adaptation just makes me happy in a way few other movies do.

 

And sometimes I need that fix even when the internet is down (especially when the internet is down!). Or when I’m sick in bed, three rooms removed from my Kaleidescape system. And the only way to fill that specific need is with a good old disc-shaped polycarbonate sandwich.

 

But something occurred to me as I was adding Scott Pilgrim to my Amazon shopping cart: I think this may be the last of that sort of movie ] I don’t already own in physical form. I 

bought the big 27-disc Star Wars UHD Blu-ray collection when it came out, and I swore that would be my last movie disc purchase. Then The Lord of the Rings came along and proved me wrong. I have The Wizard of Oz on 4K disc. The Big Lebowski too.

 

If I bothered to sit down and make a list of all the movies I could potentially find myself needing to watch even in the throes of an internet outage or a period of convalescence, I’m starting to think Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the only bullet-point on the list that doesn’t already exist in disc form on the shelves of my media room.

 

And, hey, I reserve the right to change my mind. It’s entirely possible some filmmaker will come along in the next few years and make a movie that scratches a similar itch, as unlikely as that seems given that I’m approaching the age where people stop liking new things. For now, though, I’m feeling pretty confident July 6, 2021 will mark the end of an era for me. That date will (probably) be the final time I purchase a movie on disc.

 

It’s weird. That’s realization feels simultaneously momentous and inconsequential.

Dennis Burger

Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including high-end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of Alabama with his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound American Staffordshire Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.

REVIEWS

Black Widow (2021)
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Life in Color (2021)
Luca (2021)
Sweet Tooth (2021)
The Cineluxe Hour

EPISODE 20 | THE STATE OF THE STREAMING ART

Demo Scenes: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Demo Scene: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
(Chapter 1, 0:00–14:12)

If you’re a fan of old movies, you’ve probably figured out by now that 4K HDR can be a hit-or-miss affair for films actually shot on, you know, film. Without access to the original camera negatives, HDR remasters of these old flicks can look dodgy and inconsistent—often worse than the old HD releases. Thankfully, though, the new Indiana Jones trilogy (yes, trilogy!—I said

what I said) is an example of older films being brought into the modern home video era with stunning success.

 

All of the films have been fully restored from the original negatives, with subtle applications of computer wizardry just to clean up things like bad compositing and wires and errant reflections. And each successive film looks better than the one before it.

 

Here’s the thing, though: If you’re looking to pop in some archeological action-adventure as a home cinema demo scene, finding a self-contained clip within the movies isn’t easy. Once the ball starts rolling (literally and figuratively), the action just keeps cranking along until the closing credits.

 

But one of the most spectacular demo scenes comes right at the beginning of the third movie, The Last Crusade. It’s basically a self-contained short film with an inviting beginning, rousing climax, and rip-roaring conclusion, all within a span of 14 minutes. It’s also some of the consistently best-looking and -sounding material in the entire franchise.

 

The scene opens in 1912, with a young Indiana Jones (played by River Phoenix) riding through the Utah desert with his Boy Scout troop, when he stumbles upon grave robbers and manages to abscond with the precious artifact they’ve stolen. There’s a thrilling chase on a circus train. There’s a pit of snakes. There’s a lion. Then there’s a flash-forward to 1938, where a grown Indiana (Harrison Ford) is yet again trying to get his paws on the same crucifix. 

You’ve seen the movie. You know how it goes. But here’s the thing: I don’t think you’ve ever seen it look (or sound) like this. Compared to the old Blu-ray release and digital HD version, this new 4K HDR remaster of The Last Crusade doesn’t look like an oversaturated cartoon. The color palette is more subdued, but also richer, more nuanced, more natural. Still, it’s punctuated by splashes of color far beyond the capabilities of Blu-ray. Indy’s scarf, the rich saturated colors of the illumination his father is studying—these hyper-color elements give the imagery the punctation it needs to look vibrant and dimensional without looking like a toddler got ahold of the Hue and Saturation knobs of your projector.

Demo Scene: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

The new Atmos mix is also simply fantastic, especially in the 1938 sequences, where Indy has been captured on a vessel at sea in the midst of a raging storm. The crashing waves, the whooshing wind—all of it is given extra dimension by the new mix. It feels like you’re in the movie. Hell, it kind of feels like you’re in a theme-park ride, but that works for this franchise. The fact that they managed to add a third dimension to this aging mix without adding new sound effects is astounding. It doesn’t sound like a modern film—that would be stupid. But it does kind of sound like Atmos would have sounded like if it had been around in the 1980s. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dennis Burger

Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including high-end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of Alabama with his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound American Staffordshire Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.

Reviews: Oscar-Winning Films 2021

If we learned anything from this year’s Oscars, it’s that during a time of plague, everybody is Miss Congeniality—everyone, that is, except Aaron Sorkin. The awards were a pretty accurate reflection of the past year, with a bunch of films of middling interest rising to the top because there was nothing better out there to keep them down. That’s not to say there weren’t some intriguing films, but extraordinary ones . . ? Here’s hoping the movies follow the rest of society and rebound in a big way this year.

CLICK ON THE MOVIE TITLE OR IMAGE TO GO TO THE REVIEW

Nomadland (2020)

Picture, Director, Actress

Judas and the Black Messiah

Supporting Actor, Original Song

Minari (2020)

Supporting Actress

Is Christopher Nolan Too Much of a Purist for His (& Our) Own Good?

Visual Effects

The Father (2020)

Actor, Adapted Screenplay

Mank (2020)

Cinematography, Production Design

Soul (2020)

Animated Feature Film, Original Score

My Octopus Teacher (2020)

Feature Documentary

Reviews: Oscar-Nominated Films 2021

Since the studios are sitting on their best films as they wait out the pandemic, the Oscar pickings are awful slim this year. And many of the nominations feel like consolation prizes doled out to anyone who actually had the cojones to release a movie during a time of plague. But there are a few gems (if in the rough) in the otherwise lackluster heap, and hopefully we’ll be able to pluck out a few more nuggets as we pursue our reviews.

CLICK ON THE MOVIE TITLE OR IMAGE TO GO TO THE REVIEW

Mank (2020)

Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, Production Design, Sound, Original Score

The Father (2020)

Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress,
Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Production Design

Minari (2020)

Picture, Director, Actor, Original Screenplay,
Original Score

News of the World (2020)

Cinematography, Original Score
Production Design, Sound

Onward

Animated Feature Film

Over the Moon (2020)

Animated Feature Film

Emma (2020)

Costume Design, Makeup & Hair Styling

Is Christopher Nolan Too Much of a Purist for His (& Our) Own Good?

Production Design, Visual Effects

The Midnight Sky (2020)

Visual Effects

My Octopus Teacher (2020)

Feature Documentary

Nomadland (2020)

Picture, Director, Actress, Adapted Screenplay
Cinematography, Film Editing

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Picture, Supporting Actor, Cinematography,
Editing, Original Song, Original Screenplay

Judas and the Black Messiah

Picture, Supporting Actor
Original Screenplay, Cinematography

Soul (2020)

Animated Feature Film, Original Score, Sound

Wolfwalkers (2020)

Animated Feature Film

Better Days

International Feature Film

Mulan (2020)

Costume Design, Visual Effects

Love and Monsters (2020)

Visual Effects

Greyhound

Sound

John Sciacca’s 4K HDR Wish List

John Sciacca's 4K HDR Wish List

I knew going into this exercise that my list wasn’t going to contain the big, weighty titles Dennis and Mike came up with (though Amélie was on my list in my original draft—one of my very favorite foreign films that I agree with Dennis would definitely look terrific in 4K HDR!) While those two gentlemen have an almost scholarly knowledge of film history, director and cinematographer styles, and influences, I am just happy most times to sit back and be entertained. Having said that, my list definitely mirrors my taste in movies, featuring tons of mainstream titles that have received multiple Academy Award nominations and wins, and includes the No. 2 and 3 top-grossing films of all time! With few exceptions, these are probably films you already own—or have definitely watched—and a new 4K transfer would be a great reason to revisit them.

J.S.

THE ABYSS

Of course, I’m speaking about the longer, fleshed-out Special Edition version that restores a much needed 31 minutes to the theatrical release, but after 18 years, it’s time. And not only would a 4K HDR version be most welcome, so would an HD Blu-ray release! Somehow, this James Cameron film never got past DVD, and it would definitely benefit from the full 4K treatment. With lots of dark underwater shots and bright lighting, The Abyss is another great candidate for a 4K HDR transfer, and all of the water drips and acoustics aboard Deep Core would certainly benefit from an expanded Atmos sound mix.

 

AVATAR

James Cameron’s world of Pandora was so real, some people actually felt depressed when the movie was over. Just think how gorgeous Pandora would look at night in 4K HDR, with all of that bioluminescent plant and animal life glowing on the screen. Still one of the best 3D experiences I’ve ever had, Avatar in 4K would have incredible richness and depth, and would also be a great lead-in to the sequels that are supposedly coming . . . one day. 

John Sciacca's 4K HDR Wish List
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S

This happens to be the 60th anniversary of the film so it’s the perfect opportunity to relive this Blake Edwards classic! And after seeing how fantastic My Fair Lady looked in its recent full restoration with a new 4K HDR scan, I can’t wait to see how Tiffany’s would look. And, of course, any opportunity to revisit Audrey Hepburn is one worth taking.

 

DAS BOOT

One of the greatest submarine films ever made—arguably the greatest—Wolfgang Petersen’s 209-minute epic director’s cut is a claustrophobic, cramped, sweaty adventure as you spend hours trapped in the tight, pressurized confines of a German U-

boat on the run, getting to know the crew and see how they tick and work under pressure. The dark interiors of the sub will definitely benefit from HDR, and a new Atmos soundtrack will expand the already immersive Dolby Digital version.

 

THE INDIANA JONES TRILOGY

The rumor mill says this one will likely be coming later this year to correspond with a new, fifth Indy film, but until the Trilogy actually arrives, these movies will be on the top of many people’s 4K wish list. Perhaps the greatest serial film ever made, Raiders of the Lost Ark is an action classic, and seeing how great the Star Wars films (specifically Empire Strikes Back) looked and sounded, I’ve no doubt these films will become home theater reference titles when they get here! From the sparkle of gold, to the intensity of flames, to the bright reds and deep shadows inside the Temple of Doom, the Indy franchise should look and sound fantastic in 4K!

 

MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD

With a lot of hazy, smoky, foggy images shot over the water, this Russell Crowe-led film will really benefit from the higher bitrates and resolution of a 4K HDR transfer. It also features a fantastic soundtrack and audio mix with lots of creaks and groans from the ship that will truly be elevated (literally!) by a new Atmos immersive mix.(I’ve long used the opening 

scene to demo surround systems in my custom showroom, and even in 5.1 it delivers an immersive experience!) Unfortunately for now, we can only imagine how those cannon blasts, explosions, and splintering wood and shredding sails will sound in a lossless sound mix.

 

THE STING

One of my favorite films, you don’t come to The Sting for terrific audio and video but rather for the story, the chemistry between the characters, and the snappy dialogue. Even still, it would be great to see this movie shined up like a new penny, letting you appreciate the wardrobe and set design like never before, ya folla? And a new audio mix would give Marvin Hamlisch’s ragtime arrangements more room to shine.

John Sciacca's 4K HDR Wish List
TITANIC

At the risk of making this list overly Cameron-heavy, I had to throw in Titanic as well. One of the most successful films of all time, it definitely deserves to sail again in 4K. The lengths Cameron went to to recreate that ship’s first (and last) voyage are legendary (down to redoing the visual effects to make sure the stars were correct for how they would have been that night!), and I’d love to revisit Jack and Rose in full 4K HDR splendor to fully appreciate all of the details and designs. 

 

TRON: LEGACY

From a visual standpoint, this 2010 Tron reboot should look fantastic, with tons of glowing neon lighting inside the computer world overlaid against deep blacks, giving this the potential to be a true HDR tour de force. All of those bright transitions and shades against black can also be a real cause for banding and noise, making another reason why Legacy could look truly reference in HDR. Plus, the Daft Punk mix will (hopefully) get some expanded room to breathe and fill the room with an Atmos mix.

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing for such publications as Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at @SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

Michael Gaughn’s 4K HDR Wish List

Michael Gaughn's 4K HDR Wish List

Trying to come up with a reasonably brief list of titles worth upgrading to 4K HDR is as maddening as lopping off hydra heads. Once you have one nailed down, up pops another equally worthy contender until you feel like you’re going to be devoured by the damn things. So what follows is far from exhaustive and is being put forth knowing full well there are scores of other titles that should have made the cut as well. To help keep things manageable, I’ve limited the list to:

 

♦  Movies from before digital filmmaking went mainstream. These are the efforts most likely to benefit from 4K HDR, if done right.

 

♦  Ones where the elements are likely to be in decent shape. As we’ve said often, UHD can work wonders but it can also be merciless at revealing flaws, so there’s little point in prioritizing titles that will just leave you asking “Why?”

 

♦  Movies as vital and relevant as anything of more recent vintage, as opposed the kind of musty old museum pieces that are easily filed away under “Classics”.

 

And there’s one other criterion: There seemed little point in pushing titles based on their popularity. Blockbusters and fan favorites will inevitably get leapfrogged to the front of any upgrade queue because, while they rarely reflect well on the filmmaking art, they’ve got the built-in advantage of fan rabidity to help ensure ROI.

 

I’ve instead focused on movies based not on their box office but their influence—especially their influence on other filmmakers. These tend to be the films that innovate instead of replicate, that are more likely to be the (sometimes awkward) expression of an individual viewpoint than of a corporate collective. “Big” movies tend to be able to fend for themselves, while more human, inherently, not accidentally, creative efforts need all the advocates they can get.

M.G.

ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS

All of Douglas Sirk’s subversive soap operas from the mid ‘50s should be upgraded immediately. Their influence on filmmaking has been undeniable and huge; by being so true to their era, they’ve aged well; and they’re still reliable roadmaps to how to effectively screw with the system. All That Heaven Allows goes to the head of that list, though, thanks mainly to the genius cinematography of Russell Metty (Touch of Evil, Spartacus), who might have done his best work here, somehow both respecting the subject matter while puckishly revealing its cheesiness.

 

THE BAND WAGON

Technicolor from the ‘50s can look garish if not handled right—partly because the original films already looked pretty gaudy and even the slightest misstep can push that completely over the line. Of course, Technicolor got goosed hardest of all in musicals, many of which have such amped-up palettes that they can be painful to watch now. (I pity the poor tech fool who gets assigned The Pirate.) But The Band Wagon is often considered the best musical ever not only because Comden and Green’s script opts for wit over jokes—an intelligence that tends to spill over into the production numbers as well—but because Vincente Minnelli deployed his Technicolor resources with taste if not always with restraint. Upgrading The Band Wagon could give it an unfiltered immediacy it hasn’t had since the day of its release.

Michael Gaughn's 4K HDR Wish List
BARRY LYNDON

Given the phenomenal job Warner Bros. did with The Shining, it’s impossible not to be antsy to see what they’ll do with what might be the most masterfully photographed movie ever. Clockwork Orange is due out over the next few months, but that won’t give us many clues about how Lyndon will fare, since Kubrick went deliberately low-fi for Orange. But if they can pull this off, it could easily become the reference disc for judging films from before the digital era.

 

BRAZIL

How can you not? Terry Gilliam, with this film, created a style that influenced practically every film and cinematic TV series since. The trick would be upgrading it while staying true to its very deliberate messiness. This is not a film you want looking like it was shot yesterday.

Michael Gaughn's 4K HDR Wish List
CONTEMPT

Not only is Raoul Coutard’s cinematography brilliant, but this film—and specifically, the look of this film—has been so influential that it deserves to be pushed to the top of the Godard list. If you want to cut straight to what was coolest about the look and feel of the ‘60s, watch Contempt. Godard was mocking epics shot in widescreen (in the film, Fritz Lang famously says widescreen is only good for shooting snakes and funerals), but makes an indelible case for it here.

(A quick digression: Foreign films tend to be treated like the Miss Congeniality of lists like this—and I’m pretty guilty of that here as well. Their influence on filmmakers, though, is on par with—and often exceeds—the influence of the stuff from their squeaky-wheel American cousins. But because they’re not big, loud, and stupid, eager to slap you on the back or punch you in the face, we don’t offer them up for consideration as often as we should.)

 

DOUBLE INDEMNITY

How do you pass over the film that single-handedly defined noir? People are still reinterpreting, and outright stealing from, John Seitz’s groundbreaking cinematography to this day. As films like Psycho and Dr. Strangelove have shown, it can be a gamble whether older black & white films will hold up under the upgrade process. But Indemnity was a prestige project for Paramount, so hopefully there would be a decent source to work from.

 

THE GENERAL

Silent films tend to be as easily overlooked as foreign films but many of them are as visually compelling as anything shot today. Singling ones out for upgrades can be a tough call, though, because who knows what kind of shape the elements are in? I’m throwing The General out there because it’s as much an exercise in style as it is in genius comedy—like Matthew Brady photos come to life.

 

THE LONG GOODBYE

Robert Altman’s both affectionate and cynical reimagining of Raymond Chandler continues, like Once Upon a Time in the West (see below), to be hugely influential, and Vilmos Zsigmond’s deliberately funky cinematography could look gorgeous in 4K HDR (despite the flashing). A lot of films aim for grit—this one has it on display in every frame.

 

MANHATTAN

There are at least 15 Woody Allen films from Annie Hall on that deserve to be done in 4K HDR, but given the opprobrium that’s been heaped upon him it’s likely to be a struggle just to get couple of them upgraded. It might seem to be perverse to be pushing for what has become, decades after the fact, his most controversial film, but this is his most ambitious and satisfying work and Gordon Willis’s widescreen black & white cinematography, which isn’t particularly well served by the current HD incarnation, could look spectacular in UHD.

 

MY DARLING CLEMENTINE
OR
YOUNG MR. LINCOLN

John Ford was such a consummate filmmaker that at least one of his films needs to be bumped up soon—but which one? The obvious choice would be The Searchers, but that

seems too obvious. I’d opt instead for either one of these—partly because they don’t carry as much extraneous baggage as Searchers so you can appreciate Ford as an artist without getting dragged into faux notions of myth. (If we were just talking about visuals, a case could be made for the Greg Toland-lensed Long Voyage Home, but that’s not really Ford at his best.)

Michael Gaughn's 4K HDR Wish List
ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST

The influence of Sergio Leone’s epic, cheeky western is pervasive (Tarantino wouldn’t have a career if he couldn’t constantly pillage this film) and its reputation grows with every year. It’s not the most subtly photographed movie, but 4K could make it sublime just by staying true to its sheer widescreen filminess. And then there’s that Morricone score . . .

 

VICTOR/VICTORIA

Blake Edwards was a solid but only occasionally brilliant filmmaker, but Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther, and even The Party would all seem like good candidates for upgrades. Many film enthusiasts would vote for The Great Race, and parts of that would look spectacular, but it’s just too ungainly a film, and not that funny. Victor/Victoria is solid, beautiful, and the laughs still work—4K HDR, in competent hands, couldn’t help but enhance the experience.

Michael GaughnThe Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review, Sound & Vision, The Rayva Roundtablemarketing, product design, some theater designs, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and now this.

Dennis Burger’s 4K HDR Wish List

Over the next three days, we’re going to be publishing our wish lists of movies we’d put at the front of the queue for 4K HDR upgrades. As is obvious from our “4K HDR Essentials,” some older titles have fared really well when brought out digitally in a form that can match their original film releases. Others, for a variety of reasons, haven’t done so well. Our lists represent the ones we think will most benefit from the upgrade.

 

You’ll find that our choices are pretty eclectic and run the gamut from mega-blockbusters to the unjustly obscure. We encourage you to check out all our wish lists to get a good sense of what the UHD re-release market could have to offer over the next couple of years.

—ed.

Dennis Burger's 4K HDR Wish List

One of my favorite college courses was Econ 101, not because of the subject matter but because of the professor. He was notoriously tough and gave all-essay exams, but he had a peculiar practice with those exams. If students took issue with a question, he encouraged us to scratch it out and write a new question in its place, then answer it. If you managed to convince him that your question was better than his question, and assuming he was satisfied with your answer, he’d give you extra credit.

 

Mind you, we don’t get extra credit here at Cineluxe, but when Mike asked me for a list of movies I wanted to see in 4K HDR, I immediately flashed back to that Econ prof. If I sat down and thought about it, I could crank out a list of 100 movies that legitimately deserve the upgrade from HD. The question I want to answer instead is not “What?” but “Why?”

 

Why do I want all of these films released in 4K HDR? That’s the real question I’m attempting to answer here. As such, you could probably substitute any of the titles below for any number of others representative of their era, their style, or the format in which they were finished.

D.B.

AMÉLIE

Apparently admitting this makes me something of a Brooklyn hipster chick, but so be it. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s best film makes my heart happy. I’ve never been overly happy with its presentation on DVD or Blu-ray, though (and little birdies in Hollywood have told me that Jeunet isn’t a fan of the home video master, either). Amélie was finished in a 2K digital intermediate, so I wouldn’t expect much in the way of enhanced detail in a 4K HDR re-release (short of a complete restoration, which the film honestly doesn’t need). But watching Amélie in HD is like watching a bag of sentient Skittles trying to break out of prison and

pounding on the bars in frustration at their inability to truly live free. You can literally see where the colors are raging and straining against the limitations of older home video technology.

 

 

KILL BILL VOL. 1 & 2

When you get right down to it, the real benefit of 4K HDR isn’t the extra pixels or the extra colors. For me, it’s about removing distractions. And although the Blu-ray releases of this over-the-top Quentin Tarantino mashup/homage to schlocky grindhouse cinema and martial-arts flicks are pretty great overall, I still find their limitations glaring. Some of the darker scenes are graded a little too brightly to avoid the loss of all shadow detail, and although primary colors should dominate the palette, there are scenes in both films where there’s a bit too much of a push toward the primaries. I also wouldn’t mind the option to watch The Whole Bloody Affair, the 215-minute original edit of the film that existed before Harvey Weinstein forced Tarantino to either make cuts or split it into two pictures.

 

 

THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR

I won’t pretend that this mid-1970s Robert Redford/Faye Dunaway/Max von Sydow vehicle is the best espionage thriller of all time. It’s a little preachy and neither as engaging as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) nor as thematically coherent as its own spiritual successor, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). But dammit, I still love 

the film despite its flaws and have never been satisfied with any of its home video releases.

 

Every new Blu-ray that comes out sports a drastic shift in overall color balance. That says to me that 8-bit color simply isn’t sufficient to capture the palette of the original camera negative, and the digital wizards working on new masters are having to pick and choose how and where to limit the imagery. I want to see the colors as director Sydney Pollack and cinematographer Owen Roizman saw them, and I’m not saying HDR would guarantee that, but it would certainly make it possible. What’s more,

even the best HD transfers of the film are riddled with moiré artifacts that shine a bright light on just how much extra detail there is to be extracted from the existing elements.

 

I know the film has been restored in 4K. So it shouldn’t be that much effort to actually release it in 4K.

 

 

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Recent 4K HDR releases of black & white films like It’s a Wonderful Life

and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington have demonstrated how monochromatic cinematography can benefit as much from HDR as do the most colorful of films. I’m itching to see if that holds true for my favorite Gregory Peck film and one of my favorite book adaptations in the history of cinema. The Blu-ray release from a few years back was (and still is) fantastic looking, but I have to think there’s ample additional shadow detail to be eked out of the negative, especially in the nighttime scenes, like the one in which Scout, Jem, and Dill save Atticus from an angry mob.

 

 

RAN

Several years back, StudioCanal finished an extensive frame-by-frame remaster of Kurosawa’s loose adaptation of King Lear, with color grading overseen by cinematographer Shôji Ueda. And while this elusive release was a huge improvement over previous home video efforts, it was only made available in HD, despite the restoration being done in 4K.

 

There have been rumors and rumblings of a proper 4K release, perhaps in Australia, maybe in the US. Who knows? Apparently COVID-19 threw a monkey wrench in StudioCanal’s release plans. At any rate, I’m starving for this one. While I would love to see Kurosawa’s black & white classics properly remastered in 4K (if Criterion ever gets around to supporting modern video formats), this vibrant work is the film of his I think would benefit most from the enhanced resolution and especially the expanded color gamut of 4K HDR. Watching the Blu-ray release, you can tell there’s ten pounds of color here crammed into an eight-pound bag.

Dennis Burger's 4K HDR Wish List
THE RED SHOES

I’ve had the wrong impression of Technicolor for my entire life, since I’ve never seen it projected and assumed that home video releases were at least reasonably representative of how the format was supposed to look. Due mostly to the popularity of The Wizard of Oz, we’ve all come to associate the three-strip color process with hyper-saturated colors that appear more painted than filmed. But as the 4K HDR restoration of Oz revealed (at least to me), there’s a ton of chromatic subtlety to be extracted from those old Technicolor films, and I’m itching to see classics like this given more room to breathe, without every color being cranked to 11. Unfortunately, as I hinted at above, Criterion has still yet to hop aboard the 4K train, and the film’s distribution rights are firmly in their hands. If they decide to get with the times anytime soon, I hope this is their first 4K release.

Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including high-end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of Alabama with his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound American Staffordshire Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.