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The Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 132 Minutes
Starring: William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter
Written and Directed by: James L. Brooks
Retail Price: $39.95
Features: Audio Commentary with Writer/Director James L. Brooks and Editor Richard Marks, Alternate Ending and Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Brooks and Marks, James L. Brooks — A Singular Voice, Susan Zirinsky Interview, Featurette, On-Set Footage, Theatrical Trailer
Specs: 1.85:1 Widescreen 1080p High Definition, English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Subtitles, Chapters (35 Chapters)
Released: January 25th, 2011
First up is an Audio Commentary with Producer/Writer/Director James L. Brooks and Editor Richard Marks.
Brooks dominates this track, as Marks chimes in here and there or when
he's prompted by Brooks. Brooks hasn't seen the film in years, and he's
very enthusiastic and proud of his work here (and rightfully so).
Brooks touches on everything: working with the actors, the last minute
casting of Holly Hunter, inspiration he took from a real newsroom he
visited, the dynamics of the characters, the editing, the visuals,
sets, research and so much more. Brooks raves about his actors, and is
very impressed by them to this day — and he calls the film the most
satisfying creative experience he ever had. This is a very well-rounded
and even track that's an essential listen if you're a fan of the movie.
A real treasure is the Alternate Ending and Deleted Scenes, with Optional Commentary by Brooks and Marks. The alternate ending is preceeded by an audio intro, where Brooks goes on about the background of this never-before-seen footage. Brooks himself has a remarkable story which I dare not to ruin here about what happened the day the ending was shot. Making it more fun is that Brooks hasn't seen the ending in over 20 years, so you're essentially watching it live with him. It makes for a good watch, and was clearly not the right ending for the movie. But as Brooks explains, he struggled in how to close the film.
There are about 20 minutes of deleted scenes, and there's some really fascinating material here. Roughly half of the scenes involve a source that Tom meets, which Brooks explains that he cut for timing purposes and how it made Tom into something else. Some other scenes expand on what's in the final film, and others are enjoyably character moments. Certainly worth watching, with Brooks's comments and without.
Made specifically for this release is a new short documentary about the filmmaker, entitled James L. Brooks — A Singular Voice. Running 36 minutes, it is divided into three parts: it covers Brooks' television work, his most notable films ("Terms of Enderarment," "Broadcast News" and "As Good As It Gets") and the talents he's helped mentor over the years. It can be a little dry at times, but it is quite insightful and gives a great glimpse at the common themes and character types found in his work. Critic Ken Tucker gets the most speaking time, and gives a good analysis of common threads in a typical Brooks project. Julie Kavner (of "Simpsons" fame and "Rhoda") talks about her work on Brooks's programs, working with him and how a "Simpsons" episode (where Homer steals cable) still holds up. Marilu Henner talks about a memorable "Taxi" episode, composer Hans Zimmer talks about Brooks's film work and working with him and ICM honco Jeffrey Berg speaks of the formation of Gracie Films. We also hear from Al Jean ("Simpsons" showrunner) and how Brooks easily found a heartwarming conclusion to a "Simpsons" episode, and Wes Anderson who speaks of his experiences in taking "Bottle Rocket" from a short to a feature. This is a concise piece, and really captures the essence of an extraordinary talent.
A real treat is the Susan Zirinsky Interview. Zirinsky is a veteran CBS news producer, and was partially the inspiration for Holly Hunter's character in the film (all that crying? It came from her). Zirinsky is a hoot here: she's candid, fiercly intelligent and very interesting. Zirinsky played a major part in the film's production. Brooks interviewed her extensively as part of his research, and Zirinsky speaks about their inital meeting and what Brooks asked her about. She has great anecdotes from the set too, namely how she coached the actors and how she personally researched and wrote all the news that's read in the movie — which required a lot more thought than some might realize. Zirinsky is a real firecracker, and it's clear that news is not only her life, but something she's immensley passionate about. This is 17 minutes that is well worth your time.
A 8 minute EPK Featurette is included. It is studio fluff, but still offers some good background on the movie. There's also 20 minutes worth of additional On-Set Footage, which is B-roll and extended interviews from the EPK. It's worth watching too, as James L. Brooks and the actors offer some fun and worthy comments. The movie's original Theatrical Trailer is included too.
Finally, inside the package is a lovely booklet, featuring a fantastic essay by film critic Carrie Rickey. As with every Criterion release, it is a must read.
Criterion has delivered an outstanding Blu-ray edition for Brooks's second directorial outing. The film not only looks and sounds excellent, but offers a trove of well-produced supplements — the documentary pieces, vintage material and deleted footage are priceless. This is a must have for any library.