Duck Soup (1933) PICK
Grave of the Fireflies (1988) PICK
Hugo (2011) PICK
My Man Godfrey (1936) PICK
Sullivan’s Travels (1941) PICK
New on home video, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo garnered more Oscar nominations than any other film this year — the first time since the 1960s that a family film led the Oscar nominees — and won five awards, tying “Best Picture” winner The Artist.
Like The Artist, Hugo is a nostalgic celebration of the magic of silent film, but where The Artist faithfully re-creates the techniques of silent film, Hugo embraces 3-D, computer graphics and high-tech effects of every kind. (Available editions include Blu-ray/DVD combos with or without 3-D, as well as plain DVD.)
Based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, the story follows an orphaned boy furtively living in the secret spaces of a Paris train station, dodging a vigilant police inspector and trying to repair a small clockwork man. Mixed up in this are a young girl who loves books, a toy shop and one of the seminal figures of the earliest cinema world.
Whatever possessed Scorsese, or anyone, to think that all this could be a story? Like most “Best Picture” nominees this year, Hugo is a divisive film that splits audiences down the middle; for me, its beauty, artistry and passion make up for its narrative and emotional shortcomings.
Bonus features include a 20-minute making-of featurette with behind-the-scenes footage and filmmaker interviews; a 15-minute featurette on the cinema pioneer Georges Méliès and his work; and an eye-opening extra on the film’s mechanical man (not a special effect!). Even viewers unconvinced by the film will find the extras fascinating.
Among new home-video editions of older movies, fans of classic screwball comedy should look for a number of new Blu-ray editions released in honor of Universal’s 100th anniversary.
Among these are a pair of socially conscious Depression-era comedies, My Man Godfrey and Sullivan’s Travels. Godfrey is social satire at its broadest and wackiest, while Sullivan’s, directed by Preston Sturges, is more nuanced and heartfelt. There’s also the Marx Brothers’ masterpiece Duck Soup, a satire of fascism and war that includes innumerable classic routines.
Also returning to DVD is Grave of the Fireflies, a harrowing WWII movie that happens to be anime rather than live action — a beautiful, heartbreaking film about a pair of children in a Japanese coastal village facing bombs and the ravages of war.
CONTENT ADVISORY: Duck Soup: Mild innuendo; comic war scenes. Fine for older kids. Grave of the Fireflies: Wartime sorrows and death; some problematic acts, including looting and telling comforting lies to a child; undefined, allegorical spirituality; limited profanity. Teens and up. Hugo: A couple of unnecessarily suggestive remarks; brief excessive drinking; some potentially upsetting elements. My Man Godfrey: Comic inebriation. Fine family viewing. Sullivan’s Travels: Slapstick and restrained violence; mild sexual references; an invalid back-story marriage that is later dissolved. Teens and up.