Holiday weeks are rarely big ones on the home video front – and that holds particularly true this week, since the regular Tuesday release date falls directly on the holiday in question. But there’s still lots of good stuff: the must-see movie of the week on Netflix, a wonderful new bio-doc on Amazon Prime, and three comedy classics getting a much-deserved Blu-ray upgrade.
Okja : We’ve written a fair amount already about the latest from Korean master Bong Joon-ho, and what makes it great: its oddness, its elegance, the freedom the filmmaker was clearly given by its streaming home. At this point, I’m down to just listing its pleasures: Tilda Swinton’s magnificent dual performance as the bullshitting corporate CEO (hard-selling their “new core values of environment and life!”) and her nasty, Trumpian twin (“We do deals, and these are the deals we do”); the jaw-dropping coincidence of our young heroine being dragged away from her pet, United Airlines-style (“That’s the image! That’s the image that will ruin us!”); the company man who announces “This is what company loyalty looks like!” before he gets biffed in the face with a car door (it’s not subtle, but look, these are not subtle times); the way Jake Gyllenhaal’s has-been TV host sweatily announces, “The kids in America don’t really appreciate me anymore!” And there’s more, so much more. And it’s right there, on the Netflix, so quit screwing around.
ON AMAZON PRIME
David Lynch: The Art Life : “You drink coffee, you smoke cigarettes, and you paint… and that’s it.” That, in his youth, was David Lynch’s notion of “the art life,” right around the time he decided that was the life he wanted to lead – that nothing was more important to him than being an artist, no matter how long it took to make it as one. “I knew my stuff sucked,” he recalls, “but I need to burn through. I had to find what was mine. And the only way to do that is to keep painting.” This moody and informative documentary from directors Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, and Olivia Neergaard-Holm is solely interested in those early years, with particular interest in his Pacific Northwest upbringing (“My world was no bigger than a couple of blocks”), and how all that suburban normalcy gave birth to his darkness and peculiarity – the way flashes of dread and strangeness would invade this idyllic childhood, and alter him forever. Lynch is, as ever, a fascinating figure, full of great stories, odd turns of phrase, and disturbing images; this unconventional documentary does right by its subject, which is no mean feat, and serves as a valuable guide to the psyche of the man who’s currently blowing our minds every Sunday night.
Road to Rio / Road to Bali: KL Studio Classics are up to something wonderful this week, restoring several classic Bob Hope comedies that have knocked around the public-domain in battered, poorly presented versions and giving them the Blu-ray treatment. And they’re a reminder that the movie star Hope of the ‘40s and ‘50s was a very different performer than the lame TV mainstay of his later years – he was sharp, funny, and fabulous. Among KL’s releases are the fifth and sixth films in the Road series, which teamed him with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour for a series of goofy, globe-trotting adventures. They’re both terrific, hysterical and self-aware (the inside jokes, about the movies they’re in and the studio they’re making them for, still feel subversive). And they land at a point in the series where its makers had found its groove: they’re basically big-screen vaudeville shows, with a wise-cracking emcee, a smooth crooner, two-acts, songs, dances, and non-stop entertainment. (No bonus features on Rio; Audio commentary and Bob Hope promo on Bali.)
My Favorite Brunette : This 1947 comedy/mystery is something of an unofficial Road movie reunion, re-teaming Hope with Lamour, and throwing in (spoiler alert for a 70-year-old movie) an unbilled Crosby cameo as its winking final gag. This spoof of the film noir detective movie may be the Hope comedy that’s aged best, since that style has experienced such a renaissance in recent years – and the satire is dead-on, with Hope’s would-be private eye telling his story (in hardboiled voice-over narration, of course) from death row, recalling how femme fatale Lamour got him in way over his head. Peter Lorre, Alan Ladd, and Lon Chaney Jr. pop up in brief, good-sport roles, and the whole thing is stylishly photographed by the great Lionel Linden (The Manchurian Candidate). Best of all, it’s actually a decent mystery, the kind of yarn that could’ve been played straight, but is a blast to filter through Hope’s horny-coward persona. (No bonus features.)