New DVD Releases (8/16): Jane Eyre, The Big Lebowski, Hoodwinked Too! The Killing

Jane Eyre (Universal, 2011) — The affecting, seamless performance by Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) as the titular lost girl found is reason enough to see the latest adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, directed by Cary Fukunage (Sin Nombre). The story of love, loss, and some really mean people in 19th-century England is beautifully if somberly photographed by Adriano Goldman — the fog is enveloping, and candles emit an eerie glow. The film also features compelling performances by Michael Fassbender as Rochester, Amelia Clarkson as the young Jane, and the always reliable Sally Hawkins as rotten Aunt Sarah. It does feel a bit overlong, though. PG-13; 121 minutes. Grade: B+ (also on Blu-ray)

The Big Lebowski (Universal, 1998) — The umpteenth time through the Coen brothers’ comic crime classic, centered on a long list of losers embroiled in an alleged kidnapping plot, and a viewer appreciates even more the brilliance of the casting — a never-better Jeff Bridges as protagonist The Dude, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi as his bowling-league pals, John Turturro as an over-the-top Latin lover named Jesus, and Julianne Moore as a kinky artiste, as well as terrific turns by Peter Stormare, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ben Gazzara, Tara Reid, and Sam Elliott. Then there’s the ferociously funny script, which feels improvised but isn’t. And the nutty dream sequences and musical numbers, too. The Blu-ray edition also includes a 28-page book, a digital copy, and multiple extras, some of which were available in earlier editions. R; 117 minutes. Grade: A+

Hoodwinked Too! Hood VS. Evil (Anchor Bay, 2011) — The far superior 2005 Hoodwinked , co-directed and co-written by siblings Cory Edwards and Todd Edwards, and Tony Leach, was a funny, clever animated retelling of Little Red Riding Hood’s adventures, with a wonderfully twisted plot and winning voice performances. This time, Hood and Co. are called on to find the missing Hansel and Gretel. Hayden Panettiere, as Red, leads the voice cast, which also includes Patrick Warburton as The Wolf and Glenn Close as Granny. Rookie feature director Mike Disa helmed the production, which, for multiple reasons, including a laborious script, feels like it’s two hours long. PG; 87 minutes. Grade: C- (also on Blu-ray)

Also out are a trio of horror flicks, all available in DVD & Blu-ray: The Final Destination (New Line, 2009), the fourth (and not-quite-final) in the gory series, which oozed back last weekend with No. 5; Priest, with Paul Bettany as the titular character in the futuristic thriller (Sony, 2011); and John Carpenter‘s The Ward (Arc, 2010), the revered director’s first feature since 2001’s Ghosts of Mars.

Available on DVD & Blu-ray, variously: The Criterion Collection edition of Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing (1956); Robert Redford‘s The Conspirator; Kate Hudson romcom Something Borrowed; slasher-movie classic A Nightmare on Elm Street; Stallone actioners Demolition Man, Assassins, and Cobra; and John Candy comedy Armed and Dangerous.

Oscars 2010: “The Hurt Locker” Wins Big; “Up in the Air” Shut Out

Sometimes Oscar even gets it (mostly) right: The Hurt Locker cleaned up with six awards last night, including best picture, best director (Kathryn Bigelow), and best original screenplay (Mark Boal).

Bigelow had been widely expected to win for her direction of the riveting Iraq War drama, and in so doing she became the first woman to take home that award. But most Oscar guessers were about evenly split on whether best picture would go to her film or James Cameron‘s extraordinarily expensive and extraordinarily profitable 3-D sci-fi spectacular Avatar. The better film won in both top categories, IMO.

Boal’s win was a bit of a surprise, as some had expected that Quentin Tarantino might take a home win in this category, for his violent, funny, wildly imaginative Inglourious Basterds. QT’s film, though, only won in the category of supporting actor (Christoph Waltz).

An even bigger upset was in the category of best adapted screenplay, with Geoffrey Fletcher winning for his adaptation of Saffire’s tough-but-uplifting urban drama Precious.

The majority of the categories played out about as expected, although it was interesting to see another left-field choice win in the foreign-film category: Argentina’s The Secret in Their Eyes trumped two wildly acclaimed films — The White Ribbon and A Prophet.

Tallies: The Hurt Locker won 6 out of 9; Avatar won 3 out of 9. Precious (6 noms), Up (5 noms) and Crazy Heart (3 noms) each won 2. Inglourious Basterds won 1 out of 8. Shut out: Up in the Air (6 noms), District 9 (4 noms), Nine (4 noms), An Education (3 noms), The Princess and the Frog (3 noms).

Why did Avatar lose out in the big categories? Patrick Goldstein, writing in the Los Angeles Times, offers this insight: “My suspicion is that academy members still find it difficult to believe that films largely created and sculpted in the computer–whether it’s “Avatar” or the long string of brilliant Pixar films — can be just as worthy and artistic as the old-fashioned live-action ones.”

How’d I do? I made predictions in 15 categories. I guessed wrong in four. Score: 11/15.

Best Picture – The Hurt Locker. My guess: Avatar.

Best Director – Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (my guess).

Best Actor – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart (my guess).

Best Actress – Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side (my guess).

Best supporting actor – Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds (my guess).

Best supporting actress – Mo’Nique, Precious (my guess).

Best animated feature – Up (my guess).

Best documentary – The Cove (my guess).

Best foreign language film – The Secret in Their Eyes, from Argentina. My guess: The White Ribbon. As I said – plenty of wild cards in this category, and one of them won.

Best adapted screenplay – Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious. My guess: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air.

Best original screenplay – Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker. My guess: Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds.

Best music (original song) – “The Weary Kind,” by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett, Crazy Heart (my guess).

Best art direction – Avatar (my guess).

Cinematography – Avatar (my guess).

Visual effects – Avatar (my guess).

For the complete list of Oscar winners and nominees, click here.

Which Movies Deserve Oscar Noms? NY Times Critics Weigh In

If film critics ruled the Oscar world, how would the top nominations play out?

New York Times
critics A.O. Scott, Manohla Dargis, and Stephen Holden put their choices on the line in a piece published today.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there wasn’t much consensus among the critics in the eight categories they considered, starting with their Best Picture picks (previewed, of course, in their already published Top 10 lists).

The Hurt Locker was the only film given the nod by all three critics, while two out of three critics picked Oscar favorite Up in the Air, A Serious Man, the unevenly received Where the Wild Things Are and dark horse Funny People.

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), unanimous; 2 out of 3 for critical favorites Joel and Ethan Coen (A Serious Man) and Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours), and surprise pick Steven Soderbergh (The Informant)

Best Actor: George Clooney (Up in the Air) and Colin Firth (A Single Man), unanimous; 2 out of 3 for Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart); and no more than 1 each for the rest of the field.

Best Actress: 2 out of 3 for Oscar favorites Carey Mulligan (An Education) and Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), and Yolande Moreau (Seraphine)

Best Supporting Actor: 2 out of 3 for Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker), and odds-on favorite Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Best Supporting Actress: 2 out of 3 for likely winners Mo’Nique (Precious) or Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), as well as Juliette Binoche (Summer Hours) and Samantha Morton (The Messenger).

Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker), unanimous; and 2 out of 3 for Joel and Ethan Coen (A Serious Man)

Best Adapted Screenplay: 2 out of 3 for Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach (Fantastic Mr. Fox), Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious), and Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner (Up in the Air).

For the entire slate of NY Times critics picks, click here.