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New DVDs: How the West Was Won

In today’s New York Times, your correspondent drinks the Blu-ray Kool-Aid, and likes it! Never a satisfying experience in any of its cut-down, resized versions, “How the West Was Won” recovers something of its original grandeur in Warner Home Video’s new hi-def edition, transferred with care from the original Cinerama elements. For the first time, you’ll know what Jean-Marie Straub was talking about when he called John Ford’s “Civil War” sequence one of Ford’s greatest achievements.

The Blu-ray “Adventures of Robin Hood” is dazzling, too — not least because the hi-def format restores a sense of film grain to the image. That shrink-wrapped effect is gone; this is one video that looks almost like a movie.

157 comments to New DVDs: How the West Was Won

  • nicolas saada

    I’m a fan of ISHTAR myself, but confessing it makes me feel like a strange creature from outer space.

  • Brian Dauth

    Brad, what you wrote struck home. I remember going to see Eastwood’s PALE RIDER at a theatre on the East side of NYC. The audience was negligible, and I had the distinct impression that the film was being dumped (interestingly it was the same theatre that Kubrick’s FULL METAL JACKET would be dumped into two summers later).

    Coppola would release seven feature films in the ’80’s (his most prolific decade), but each new work was (mis)pereceived as another nail in his artistic coffin rather than as examples of an artist exploring the limits of his medium.

  • In post-1980 Hollywood, I enjoy a lot of films made in Old Genres: genres of films that flourished in Classical Hollywood: musicals, romantic comedies, biopics, science fiction, whodunit mysteries.
    Adrian Martin wrote an article (whose name I sadly cannot recall) denouncing “film nerds”: folks obsessed with supernatural horror, extremely violent or gory action films, low brow comedies. These are the New Genres: genres that did not have much emphasis back in the old studio days. I tend to have much less interest in such films.
    Liking Old Genre films seems like a natural outgrowth of liking studio era Hollywood in general. It affects my (often positive) views of 1980’s films. If I like musicals, why shouldn’t I enjoy “Grease 2” (Patricia Birch)? And if romantic comedies are good, why be surprised that I enjoy “Valley Girl” (Martha Coolidge)?
    Unfortunately, I seem to stand alone in this…
    I enjoy some better examples of these in the 00’s: musicals like “Bride and Prejudice” (Gurinder Chadha) and “Honey” (Bille Woodruff) seem fun. So do romantic comedies like “Guess Who” (Kevin Rodney Sullivan) or “Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!” (Robert Luketic).
    But you can really stand alone in this. The only well known cinephiles who like Teen Comedies are Robin Wood and Adrian Martin. I like them too…
    If you tell folks you like “Woman in the Moon” (Fritz Lang), they say, “Mike, what an intellectual you are!’ But if you tell them you like “Fantastic Four” (Tim Story), you get bemused looks. But both films are “science fiction stories with idealistic scientist heroes”.

  • PS: this also affects views of world cinema.
    Rajio no jikan / Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald (Koki Mitani) is one of the most delightful modern Japanese films. But if you tell people it’s a comedy, you can see them losing interest…

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘Rajio no jikan / Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald (Koki Mitani) is one of the most delightful modern Japanese films. But if you tell people it’s a comedy, you can see them losing interest…’

    Mike, I’m so glad you like RAJIO NO JIKAN! I was thinking foreigners are not understanding this kind of Japanese comedy because so small movie to them.

  • Helen

    I also found Welcome Back, Mr McDonald thoroughly delightful and have recommended it often (although I can’t say many people have taken up the suggestion, sadly). The comedy in Welcome Back is very accessible to Americans. My Favorite Year, Tune in Tomorrow, and Noises Off are ’80s/’90s American films in the same vein.

  • Since I was one of the first to hijack this thread into a round of generalized (and probably unproductive) 80s-bashing, I feel a little bit bound to respond to some of you who’ve chimed in or counterargued.

    Adrian, yes, I wish could engineer a (one-third-) generational bypass from about 1981 to 1989. I haven’t seen a lot of the films you named, and most of the rest (“Purple Rain,” “Gremlins,” Hughes) I dislike. I agree with Brad that everything good about (American) cinema was on the margins during those years, and as a kid/teenager I remained totally unhip to it — for me “movies” meant only the live-action cartoons of Spielberg/Zemeckis/Donner or the bland middlebrow self-involvement of Attenborough/Pollack/Kasdan Oscar bait. I mean, is there ANY other moment in the 20th century when a culture-junkie-inclined kid could actually be turned off by the movies?

    Of course, since I’ve now seen a zillion films, I can come up with 30 or 40 from the 80s that I love too — certainly “Love Streams,” and also “Choose Me,” “Sherman’s March,” Rivette’s “Le Pont du Nord,” “Jean de Florette,” “Near Dark,” Albert Brooks, Michael Mann, Resnais, Hou. But as I dig around for gold from the 80s I’m surprised at how consistently I’m disappointed. Personally I’ve yet to frame the decade as anything other than a transitional moment between the New Hollywood of the 70s and the reinvigorated “indie” movement of the early 90s.