The Best Blu-Ray and DVD Releases
of 2012 as decreed by Greg KlymkiwThis was a stellar year for Blu-Ray and DVD collectors that it's been difficult to whittle my personal favourites down to a mere 10 releases. So hang on to your hats as I'll be presenting a personal favourite release from 2012 EACH and EVERY single day that will comprise my Top 10. At the end of all the daily postings, I'll combine the whole kit and kaboodle into one mega-post with all titles listed ALPHABETICALLY. My criteria for inclusion is/was thus: 1. The movie (or movies). How much do I love it/them? 2. How much do I love owning this product? 3. How many times will I re-watch it? 4. Is the overall physical packaging to my liking? 5. Do I like the picture and sound? There was one more item I used to assess the material. For me it was the last and LEAST area of consideration - one that probably surprise most, but frankly, has seldom been something I care that much about. For me, unless supplements really knock me on my butt, their inclusion is not that big of a deal. That said, I always go though supplements with a fine tooth comb and beyond any personal pleasure they deliver (or lack thereof), I do consider the educational value of such supplements for those studying film and/or those who might benefit from them in some fashion (film students or not). So, without further ado, here goes.
Greg Klymkiw's 10 Best Blu-Ray & DVD Releases of 2012 (which will be compiled in alphabetical order in one final mega-post). Today's Title (more to follow on subsequent days) is none other than:
Goin' Down The Road
Down The Road Again
dir. Donald Shebib
It's only fitting that the best English Canadian film, the country's most defining historical work of cinema and the lovely sequel made over 30-years later is given such a stellar home entertainment release by Union Pictures in a terrific DVD/Blu-Ray double disc.
"In Goin' Down the Road, Shebib does what the Cassavetes of Shadows knew how to do, and he does it better." - Roger Ebert
"There is scarcely a false touch . . . at times one forgets [Goin' Down the Road] is an acted film." - Pauline Kael
Greatness in any work of art is distinguished as something or someone achieving the highest, most outstanding levels of magnitude, significance and importance. Based on this, there is simply no question that Donald Shebib's Goin' Down the Road is a great movie. Its tremendous force, power and lasting value is one that is achieved by very few amongst so many. The picture, on so many levels, represents the quintessence of greatness, but must also be regarded as a work that expresses a wholly indigenous cultural representation of a country that has lived in the shadow of the cultural and economic dominance since its very inception.
GOIN'DOWN THE ROAD (*****): Two young men - Joey (Douglas McGrath) and Pete (Paul Bradley) - are leaving their home behind. Maybe forever. And there is, to be sure, a certain melancholy when you say goodbye to the place of your youth, but when all that's left is stagnation and unemployment, perhaps goodbye, farewell or good riddance are the best sentiments after all. And when you're facing a brave new world like Joey and Pete are doing from behind the steering wheel and dashboard of a 1960 Chevy Impala - blasting down an open road, chugging stubbies of beer, throwing their heads back, laughing and smiling whilst their eyes twinkle with that special gleam of hope that only an open highway can bring - their loins immediately gird themselves for whatever opportunities new horizons will bring.
The story, like most great stories, is on its surface, very simple. Beautifully written by William Fruet from Shebib's original story idea, we follow the aforementioned two dreamers from a small town in Nova Scotia and their search for a better life in the big city of Toronto. Not anchored in the familiar, they manage to make it over a few hurdles, but soon the weight, breadth and scope of big dreams that a concrete jungle squashes like a barbell dropped on a watermelon is too much and in desperation they're faced with doing whatever it takes to survive. A reckless act is what forces them to move on, ever-searching for that pot of survival that surely must be at the end of the road - if, in fact, the road even ends.
Stylistically, though the film is a drama, the overall documentary tradition of cinéma vérité springs immediately to mind while the pictures unspools. Though the look is grainy (due to varying light conditions and a 16mm to 35mm blowup) and often handheld, the late Richard Leiterman's photography magnificently renders an overwhelming sense that what we're watching is reality and not fiction. Leiterman's compositions are beautifully wrought and most importantly, balanced to provide maximum dramatic impact with care, subtlety and the highest level of artistry.
DOWN THE ROAD AGAIN (****): 30 years later, Joey is leading a quiet life in Vancouver, retiring from his job as a Canada Post mailman. He hasn't seen Pete in years, until he receives the sad news that his wild, old pal has passed away. He is charged with Pete's ashes, a written request to "take them home" and a series of letters which he's instructed to open and read only at certain intervals.
Joey, is most definitely on the road again, headed cross country on an odyssey to scatter Pete's remains on the East Coast. He meets up with their old girlfriends Betty (Jayne Eastwood) and Celina (Cayle Chernin) from Toronto and soon, the pilgrimage includes every Canadian's favourite perky gal pals and Pete's daughter.
The journey proves funny, bittersweet and romantic. Shebib's screenplay deftly blends footage from the first film with the contemporary tale and the film finally explodes with sentiment, emotion and an extremely satisfying surprise ending.
This restored deluxe edition of Goin' Down the Road and its excellent sequel Down the Road Again are packaged with Bluray, DVD, Digital Copy and tons of extra features including the brilliant SCTV parody of the movie. In Canada, this special edition is available via Union Pictures. It's a first rate piece of sell-through home entertainment and well worth buying instead of renting.
Of special note is Don Shebib's commentary track over Goin' Down the Road. It's not only full of the sort of details one would want from such a track - the sort most directors are incapable of properly delivering when they do (save for a select few). In fact, much of what Shebib has to say about the making of the film is - in and of itself - a kind of basic how-to blended with an inspirational you've-got-to-do-what-you've-got-to-do-to-make-your-movie.
I especially urge young filmmakers to watch the film repeatedly, study it, listen to Shebib's commentary - more than once - and wipe the repulsive grimace of entitlement I see on so many of your faces when you think you can only make your magnum opus with every filmmaking toy known to man and a crew size unbecoming of any real independent filmmaker.
Most all, let this groundbreaking work of Canadian Cinema, inspire you NOT to create some impersonal calling card that ONLY delivers the message, "Look Ma, I can use a dolly. I have nothing to say, but at least I'm employable."
Think about telling a story that's actually ABOUT something, a story that exposes you and your voice as honestly as possible and most of all, to place everything in rendering a work rooted in humanity - work that reflects our condition, our place in the universe, our hopes, our dreams, our disappointments.
THEN, watch, study and listen to Shebib 30 years later after a stellar career in which he honed his craft to where it's at now.
I recently picked up a couple more copies at some insane Giant Tiger Boxing Day sale where a whole mess of Canadian BluRays were selling for $5 (and where in one store, I scooped up every copy to bestow upon close friends as gifts)..
Alliance has been handling the direct sales on behalf of Union Pictures and a few months ago I quipped that this release was "not just some fodder to be shoved into Giant Tiger discount bins, but a genuine classic of Canadian Cinema." Well, it appears this Classic of Canadian Cinema, along with a number of good Canadian films were in Giant Tiger discount bins.
I'm not sure how many are left, but make no mistake - this is one of the Ten Best Home Entertainment releases of 2012, so if you can't find it at Giant Tiger for $5, try ordering it from Amazon.