These five releases are timed to capitalize on their Oscar buzz, but anyone who followed the awards campaigns closely will have a strong sense of deja vu while viewing the extras. “Brokeback Mountain” producer-scribe Diana Ossana first read Annie Proulx’s story about gay cowboys in the New Yorker, we’re once again reminded in one of its underwhelming featurettes. And say, “Memoirs of a Geisha” sure had a long gestation period before it made it to the bigscreen, the double-disc reiterates. Not surprisingly, the extras on “The Squid and the Whale,” the smallest, and arguably most personal of the bunch, seem the freshest on post-kudocast viewing.
Helmer-scribe Noah Baumbach eschewed a traditional running commentary for “Squid and the Whale,” his story about divorce in mid-’80s Brooklyn. Instead, he holds forth on a series of topics as stills flash onscreen. He touches on the usual indie casting and production travails, and addresses the pic’s quasi-autobiographical nature. But author Phillip Lopate really presses him about that subject while interviewing him in a separate Q&A sesh.
After going back and forth a few times, Lopate gets Baumbach to admit he, too, feels guilty about mining his personal life for his art.
“Brokeback Mountain’s” four extras feel puffy by comparison, though showbizzers will no doubt smirk at Randy Quaid’s positive remarks, given that he’s since sued producers for misrepresenting the pic as a low-budget film.
“He really does most of his work in casting,” Quaid says of helmer Ang Lee in one featurette.
“Capote,” “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Memoirs of a Geisha” do a better job mixing fresh elements in with familiar anecdotes about the making of each. “Capote” serves up an interesting docu on the writer; reminiscences about Edward R. Murrow give George Clooney’s earnest behind-the-scenes tales added heft on “Good Night, and Good Luck.” And “Memoirs of a Geisha” serves up featurette after featurette, each as handsomely crafted as the movie itself, if lacking in visceral punch.
These extras might be sufficient for viewers who didn’t pay attention to massive kudos coverage, but they can’t help but disappoint ardent fans of the movies who have had already feasted on information leading up to the Academy Awards. For them, there’s always the films themselves.