Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Earlier this year, I made a list of movies that I haven’t seen that I really should see. Some of these films included Best Picture Oscar winners. Others included entries on the AFI Top 100 list. One of those many films which were represented on both those sources is Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment.” It’s just one of those movies that I’ve missed over the years.
And this is one of the reasons I really like reviewing DVDs and Blu-rays for a living. It gives me an opportunity to see some of these classic films when they get a new release. Well, “The Apartment” has just dropped on Blu-ray, and now was my chance to see it. And I was very happy I did.
“The Apartment” tells the story of an office worker (Jack Lemmon) who gets in good with his higher-ups by letting them borrow his apartment in the evening for lover’s trysts. This puts him on a fast track to a promotion, but one of the executive (Fred MacMurray) starts using his apartment for rendezvous with the elevator girl (Shirley MacLaine), whom he’s already fallen for.
The film starts out as a warm and light screwball comedy that was so popular back in the early 1960s. Jack Lemmon is a comedic genius, and under the direction of Billy Wilder, his talents shine. There’s a certain nostalgia that even I feel while watching these old office comedies. While I wasn’t alive (let alone working in an office) back then, a lot of the elements represented the movies and television I watched back in the day.
My wife and I chuckled a this movie quite a bit, seeing all the old office elements which ranged from blatant sexism in the workplace to the archaic equipment like Rolodexes, typewriters and adding machines. “The Apartment” preceded many of these wacky sex comedies before they became too over-the-top, and it works brilliantly as a light romantic comedy.
However, it’s not just a romantic comedy. Things get quite dark and dramatic past the half-way point, offering a depth to the characters that you don’t always see in the aforementioned wacky sex comedies of the 60s. The cast brings the film together, showing Lemmon and MacLaine as more than just comedic performers, but also as those who can hold their own with heavier script elements.
I’m glad to have seen “The Apartment,” particularly in a new high definition transfer. The print could have been cleaned up a bit and restored, but at the very least, it offers the wide scope presentation that was originally seen in theaters rather than a pan-and-scan or reduced letterbox image.
This new Blu-ray comes with an audio commentary from film historian Bruce Block. There’s also the featurette “Inside the Apartment,” which gives a retrospective of the development and making of the film from a TCM or AMC type of perspective. Finally, for Jack Lemmon fans, they can watch “Magic Time: The Art of Jack Lemmon,” which features Lemmon’s son reminiscing about his father’s career. There’s also the original theatrical trailer on the disc.
Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)
Growing up, my memories of Woody Allen and “Annie Hall” were not favorable. Part of it was because my parents hated Woody Allen, so I had little desire to watch his movies. Part of it was because I was six when “Star Wars” lost the Best Picture Oscar to “Annie Hall.” And yes, I carried a grudge.
As an adult, I grew to appreciate Woody Allen’s work. He’s never been my favorite comedian, but his brand of humor works in its own milieu. Now, only a couple years shy of the age of “Annie Hall” protagonist Alvy Singer, I come to this film with a new perspective.
The story follows Allen as Singer, a 42-year-old comedy writer with an entire closet of baggage. Throughout the film, we see him develop a relationship with the perky and compelling titular character (Diane Keaton). However, hang-ups and obsessions lead the relationship to crumble, and Alvy must face his own fears to try to bring things back together.
This is a very personal movie for Allen, although he has often denied that this is about his actual relationship with Keaton (whose original name was Annie Hall). Whether this is true or not, it’s clear that this is the film that really put Allen on the map with his fans and galvanized him into his own style of filmmaking. This film has simultaneously been his career launching pad and cross to bear. And while I’m not an avid fan, I’ve seen quite a few of his films. Until he somewhat reinvented himself in the 2000s, this has been the film he has constantly been trying to live up to.
“Annie Hall” is a funny film, and it’s fresh even today, though it’s not a knee-slapper. Rather, it’s a shrug-your-shoulder-and-grin kind of movie. Allen is at his best when he throws out the one-liner zingers. As someone who has just rolled over the top of the hill that is 40, I can identify with the movie more than I could as a guy in my 20s. Here’s a movie that shows adults who should have it together acting completely immature and silly. It breaks through the facade that you should know what you’re doing – whether it be career, relationship or even where you want to live – when you become an adult.
Watching “Annie Hall” 35 years after it was made is eye-opening. It captures the essence of the pseudo-intellectual of the 70s, showing the hilarious hang-ups that people had (and still have). Pull back the fads and the fashions, and you see a true examination of the insecure adult, wrapped up in an uncomfortable, neurotic shell.
For as iconic of a Woody Allen movie as “Annie Hall” is, you’d think there would be more special features on this Blu-ray. Not so. Like Woody Allen’s comedy, it’s a bit depressing. Only the original theatrical trailer is included.
by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)
In many ways, “Manhattan” seems to be an odd sequel to “Annie Hall.” And it also feels like the movie that Woody Allen was compelled to make to continue and complete some of the repercussions of his earlier New York film.
Again, we see Allen as a middle-aged writer struggling to find a real relationship. He’s dating a seventeen-year-old girl (Mariel Hemingway), which is eerily prophetic to Allen’s future life. But an encounter with his friend’s mistress (Diane Keaton) sends him into another love affair, more of the mind than of the genitals.
Like “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan” can be quite funny at times, though it doesn’t break the fourth wall and seems less narrative. In many obvious ways, “Manhattan” is a love letter to Allen’s New York home. But at the same time, the subtext pokes fun at those who romanticize not just the city, but romance. Like his most recent “Midnight in Paris,” “Manhattan” plays as a love letter to a city. However, the underlying message is to not get wrapped up in thinking about what can be but to enjoy what is. Like Owen Wilson’s speech near the end of “Midnight in Paris,” so much is said blatantly in the opening narration of “Manhattan.”
Allen’s cynicism rears its head in this movie quite a bit, and in many ways he pokes fun at his own audience, though I doubt his die-hard fans catch it. This goes beyond the pseudo-intellectual in the movie line in “Annie Hall.” “Manhattan” is Allen firing back at those folks who overanalyze his own work, again seeming to shrug his shoulders and deny that what he has to say is really all that important at all.
In the end, “Manhattan” is less accessible to the average viewer and made more for the Woody Allen fan. There’s some great moments in the film, but it’s quite a bit more forgettable than his better movies.
With so many comparisons one can make between “Manhattan” and “Annie Hall,” it seems logical that the “Manhattan” Blu-ray would come with the same amount of bonus features, which would be only the theatrical trailer.
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