Criterion Sets ‘Marriage Story,’ ‘War of the Worlds’ For Blu-ray in July

The Criterion Collection Blu-ray slate for July 2020 will include the 1953 sci-fi classic The War of the Worlds, 2019 Oscar winner Marriage Story, Preston Sturges’ 1941 screwball classic The Lady Eve, and 1997 Palme d’Or winner Taste of Cherry.

The War of the Worlds, adapted from the H.G. Wells alien invasion novel by producer George Pal and director Byron Haskin, arrives on Blu-ray Disc and DVD July 7 with a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, and a new alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack created by sound designer Ben Burtt and presented in DTS-HD master audio on the Blu-ray.

The film stars Gene Barry as a nuclear physicist and Ann Robinson as a librarian who attempt to help the military fight off a devastating Martian attack on Earth’s cities. The Technicolor film received an Oscar for its special effects. The story was continued in a 1980s TV series with Robinson returning as her character.

Extras on the Criterion edition of The War of the Worlds include an audio commentary from 2005 featuring filmmaker Joe Dante, film historian Bob Burns and author Bill Warren; “Movie Archaeologists,” a new program on the visual and sound effects in the film featuring Burtt and film historian Craig Barron; “From the Archive,” a new program about the film’s restoration featuring Barron, Burtt and Paramount Pictures archivist Andrea Kalas; an audio interview with producer George Pal from 1970; “The Sky Is Falling,” a 2005 documentary about the making of the film; The Mercury Theatre on the Air radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds from 1938, directed and narrated by Orson Welles; a radio program from 1940 featuring a discussion between Welles and H.G. Wells; the film’s trailer; and an essay by film critic J. Hoberman.

The War of the Worlds

Due July 14 on Blu-ray Disc and DVD is The Lady Eve, written and directed by Preston Sturges, and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. The Criterion version includes a new 4K digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.

Aboard a cruise liner sailing up the coast of South America, Stanwyck’s conniving card sharp sets her sights on Fonda’s nerdy snake researcher, who happens to be the heir to a brewery fortune. But when the con artist falls for her mark, her grift becomes a game of hearts-and she is determined to win it all.

Lady Eve extras include audio commentary from 2001 featuring film professor Marian Keane; an Introduction from 2001 by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich; an Interview from 2020 with Sturges biographer and son Tom Sturges and friends; a new video essay by film critic David Cairns; costume designs by Edith Head; a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film from 1942 featuring Stanwyck and Ray Milland; an audio recording of “Up the Amazon,” a song from an unproduced stage musical based on the film; and an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and a 1946 profile of Sturges from Life magazine.

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Marriage Story, Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actress for Laura Dern, arrives on Blu-ray Disc and DVD July 21. The Netflix original movie from writer-director Noah Baumbach stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson in Oscar-nominated performances as a couple whose marriage falls part, with Dern playing a divorce lawyer. The cast also includes Alan Alda, Julie Hagerty and Ray Liotta. The film earned six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.

The Marriage Story Criterion edition includes a new 4K digital transfer supervised by Baumbach, with a 5.1 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new interview with Baumbach; “The Players,” a new program featuring interviews Johansson, Driver, Dern, Alda, Hagerty and Liotta; “The Filmmakers,” a new program about the production of the film, featuring interviews with Baumbach, editor Jennifer Lame, production designer Jade Healy, costume designer Mark Bridges and producer David Heyman; “The Making of Marriage Story, a new program featuring behind-the-scenes footage; new interviews with composer Randy Newman and Baumbach about the film’s score; a new program featuring Baumbach walking the viewer through a key location from the film; trailers; and notes on the film by novelist Linn Ullmann.

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The first Iranian film to win the Palme d’Or (shared with The Eel), director Abbas Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry arrives on Blu-ray July 21 with a new 4K digital restoration, a new English subtitle translation and uncompressed monaural soundtrack. The drama follows the middle-aged Mr. Badii (Homayoun Ershadi) as he drives around the hilly outskirts of Tehran looking for someone who will agree to dispose of his body after he commits suicide, a taboo under Islam. Extended conversations with three passengers (a soldier, a seminarian, and a taxidermist) elicit different views of mortality and individual choice.

Extras include Project, Kiarostami’s 39-minute 1997 sketch film for Taste of Cherry, made with the director’s son Bahman; a new interview with Iranian film scholar Hamid Naficy; a rare 1997 interview with Kiarostami, conducted by Iranian film scholar Jamsheed Akrami; the film’s trailer; and an essay by critic A. S. Hamrah.

Criterion previously announced the July 14 release of the Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits Blu-ray boxed set collecting five kung-fu classics starring the international martial-arts legend.

Sarandos: Awards, Movie Marketing Drives Netflix Viewership

Netflix is again spending millions marketing select movies (The Irishman, Marriage Story, etc.) for industry acclaim, including the upcoming Academy Awards on Feb. 9.

While Irishman has generated much of the media attention and nominations, Marriage Story has taken home the awards hardware, notably for supporting actress Laura Dern.

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Speaking on a pre-recorded fiscal interview Jan. 21, chief content officer Ted Sarandos wouldn’t disclose how much the company is spending on awards marketing, but suffice to say the dollar amount has grown in recent years.

Netflix generated 34 Golden Globes Awards nominations, including 17 for movies. Netflix earned 24 nominations for the 92nd Oscars — topping all other studios and media companies. Martin Scorsese’s Irishman generated 10 noms, Marriage Story, 6, The Two Popes, 3, and Klaus is up for best animated feature film.

Netflix spent $2 billion marketing movies and TV shows in 2018, which included industry awards. The service spent $15 billion on original content in 2019.

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“It’s how we’re choosing to bring the incremental spending to the table in terms of the bigger breadth and scale of films,” Sarandos said, adding that the marketing increase hasn’t been at the expense of original TV series, including adding 130 local language series worldwide.

“So to me, I look at [marketing spend] as the growth — the benefit to the business is the growth [in viewership],” he said.

 

Platforms Avoid Netflix Movies in Pre-Oscar Showcases

Netflix earned an impressive 24 Oscar nominations ahead of the 92nd Academy Awards on Feb. 9 — largely around two movies: Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story.

Walmart-owned Vudu.com and exhibitors Cinemark, AMC Theatres and Regal Cinema have launched pre-Oscar events showcasing best picture nominated films — with the exception of Netflix’s titles.

That’s because Netflix — per longstanding policy — does not abide by Hollywood’s traditional theatrical release strategy affording exhibitors exclusive 90-day access. Instead, the streamer mandates all original movies be made available across all distribution channels (including theatrical) at the same time.

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This has angered exhibitors and industry insiders domestically and abroad (i.e. Cannes Film Festival) for years — the result being Netflix movies are largely ignored by major theater chains.

Indeed, Cinemark’s “Annual Oscar Movie Week Festival,” which runs from Feb. 3 to 9, enables consumers (for $35) to screen all nominated films — with the exception of Netflix’s titles. Vudu is taking preorders for Oscar-nominated titles, with the exception of The Irishman and Marriage Story (which have not been slated for a digital sellthrough release).

“I don’t see the utility of making a film available on VOD or in theaters, if it’s available for free to anyone with a subscription or trial account at Netflix,” said Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter. “Netflix would rather people sign up for a free trial and watch these films than it would care for the 50% to 65% it might earn from a movie ticket or VOD.”

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Last year, Netflix’s first Oscar nominated best picture title, Roma, was also ignored by major exhibitors. It went on to win for best director (Alfonso Cuarón) and best foreign-language film (Mexico’s first) — but no best picture. The movie reportedly generated about $200,000 in revenue from pre-nomination screenings over the extended Thanksgiving weekend at select indie theaters in Los Angeles.

The imbroglio made headlines when director Steven Spielberg suggested movies that forgo the traditional theatrical run should not be considered for Oscars. The Academy’s annual board of governors post-Oscar meeting nixed that idea.

Netflix responded (on Twitter) at the time stressing “we love cinema” and ubiquitous distribution. “These things are not mutually exclusive,” the streamer tweeted.

While Roma did become Netflix’s first film to be included in The Criterion Collection on Blu-ray Disc and DVD (due Feb. 11), it arguably left millions of dollars in box office revenue on the table.

“If Netflix wants to really be a movie company, and not just a highly successful television company, why won’t they consider the traditional movie business model?,” John Fithian, CEO of the National Association of Theater Operators, wrote in a 2018 blog post. “Wouldn’t Netflix make more money and establish a much deeper cultural conversation by offering a true and robust theatrical run first, and offering exclusive streaming to its subscribers later?”

 

Netflix Leaves Globes With a Whimper

Fueled by 34 nominations, including 17 for movies, Netflix entered the Jan. 5 Golden Globes Awards in Los Angeles a heavy favorite to take home the hardware.

In the end, the SVOD behemoth walked off with just two Globes: Laura Dern’s win for Marriage Story and Olivia Colman starring in the third season of “The Crown.”

Hulu picked up awards for “Ramy” and “The Act,” while Amazon Prime Video won for “Fleabag.” Apple TV+’s high-profile “The Morning Show” failed to win despite several nominations.

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Netflix has high hopes for next month’s Academy Awards, notably with Martin Scorsese’s $150 million mobster movie The Irishman, starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci.

Yet the movie lost out at the Globes to Sam Mendes’ World War I trench warfare film, 1917, from Universal Pictures.

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‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Leads Golden Globes as Traditional Studios Dominate Film Categories, Streamers Take a Handful of TV Trophies

Traditional studios led the way in the film categories, while streamers and Pay-TV networks divvied up the TV categories at the 77th Annual Golden Globes ceremony Jan. 5 in a ceremony held in Los Angeles and broadcast on NBC.

The Golden Globes are presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and are seen as one of the bigger precursors to the Academy Awards.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood won three Globes, including Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy, Best Screenplay for Quentin Tarantino, and Best Supporting Actor for Brad Pitt. The film is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and digitally from Sony Pictures.

Best Motion Picture — Drama went to Universal Pictures’ World War I film 1917, which was recently released in theaters. The film also won Best Director for Sam Mendes.

South Korea’s Parasite won Best Motion Picture — Foreign Language. Universal Pictures will release the film digitally Jan. 14, and on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 28.

Best Motion Picture — Animated went to Fox’s Missing Link, now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital.

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Warner’s Joker won Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama for Joaquin Phoenix, and Best Original Score for Hildur Guðnadóttir. The film, a dark imagining of the origin of the DC Comics Batman villain, is available now digitally, and on Blu-ray, DVD, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Jan. 7.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama went to Renee Zellweger for playing Judy Garland in Judy, which is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digitally from Lionsgate.

A24’s The Farewell, on Blu-ray, DVD and digital from Lionsgate, won Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy for Awkwafina.

Taron Egerton won Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy for playing Elton John in Rocketman. The film also won Best Original Song for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Rocketman is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and digitally.

Netflix did find some love in one movie category, as Marriage Story won Best Supporting Actress for Laura Dern.

Netflix also won in the TV categories with the third season of “The Crown,” as Olivia Colman won Best Actress in a TV Series — Drama after taking over the role of Queen Elizabeth II from Claire Foy, who had previously won for the role in the category during the show’s first season.

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HBO programming won four awards, with “Succession” taking two, winning Best Television Series — Drama for its just concluded its second season, and Brian Cox for Best Actor in a TV Series. The miniseries Chernobyl won Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, with Stellan Skarsgard taking the trophy for best performance by a supporting actor on television.

Amazon Prime Video’s “Fleabag” repeated its Emmy success, taking Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy for creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Hulu series took a couple of trophies as well, with Ramy Youssef of “Ramy” winning Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy, and Patricia Arquette of “The Act” taking the award for best supporting actress on television.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television went to Russell Crowe for Showtime’s The Loudest Voice, on DVD from Paramount and CBS.

FX’s Fosse/Verdon won Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for Michelle Williams, following her Emmy win for the role.

Several presenters and winners took a moment to call attention to the devastating bush fires in Australia. But aside from a smattering of more pointed comments throughout the night, honorees largely avoided the kind of blatant politicizing these kinds of awards ceremonies are often criticized for. Host Ricky Gervais began the event by calling out Hollywood hypocrisy in his opening monologue.

“Apple rolled into the TV game with ‘The Morning Show,’ a superb drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing, made by a company that runs sweatshops in China,” Gervais said to a smattering of shocked laughter. “You say you’re woke but the companies you work for, I mean unbelievable, Apple, Amazon, Disney, if ISIS started a streaming service, you’d call your agent. Wouldn’t you?”

“So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use this as a platform to make a political speech right, you’re in no position to lecture the public about anything,” Gervais continued. “You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So if you win, all right, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent, and your god, and f**k off, OK.”