|S E A R C H D V D B e a v e r|
(Alexander Payne, 1999)
Review by Leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: MTV Films & Bona Fide Productions
Region: FREE / 'A'
Runtime: 1:42:57.864 / 1:43:08.932
Disc Size: 27,667,906 bytes/ 46,584,030,178 bytes
Feature Size: 26,979,276 bytes/ 29,876,158,464 bytes
Average Bitrate: 30.21 Mbps/ 32.71 Mbps
Chapters: 18/ 15
Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Blu-ray Case
Release date: January 20th, 2009 / December 12th, 2017
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Dolby TrueHD Audio English 3672 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3672
kbps / 24-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48
DTS-HD Master Audio English 3701 kbps
5.1 / 48 kHz / 3701 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz /
1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, none
English (SDH), none
• Commentary with Director Alexander Payne
Audio commentary from 2008 featuring
Bitrate Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Description: A high school election goes awry when Jim McAllister, a popular teacher and student government advisor, determines to sabotage the campaign of Tracy Flick, the over-achieving student who ruined the life of his best friend, a fellow teacher, by getting him fired after they had an affair. McAllister encourages Paul Metzler, a sweet but dumb jock sidelined by a broken leg, to run for class president against Tracy. After Jim unwittingly steals his kid sister Tammy's girlfriend away from her, she also enters enters the race on the "I don't care" platform.
Perky, overachieving Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) gets on the nerves of history teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) to begin with, but after she launches her campaign for high-school president and his personal life starts to fall apart, things spiral out of control. In Alexander Payne’s satire Election, the teacher becomes unhealthily obsessed with cutting his student down to size, covertly backing a spoiler candidate to stop her from steamrolling to victory, and putting in motion a series of dirty tricks and reckless promises with uncanny real-world political parallels. Adapting a then-unpublished novel by Tom Perrotta, Payne grounds the absurdity of his central dynamic in the recognizable—the setting is his hometown of Omaha, and the accomplished cast is rounded out with nonprofessionals—and distills his closely observed take on deeply flawed humanity to its bitter but stealthily sympathetic essence.
Ms. Witherspoon had small roles in movies and TV until Matthew Bright's amazing and underappreciated 1996 film, Freeway. In it she plays Vanessa Lutz, a runaway teen who gets picked up while hitchhiking by freeway serial killer, Bob Wolverton, played by Kiefer Sutherland. I mention this movie because of the similarity between Vanessa and Wolverton on the one hand and Tracy and McAllister on the other. In both cases, the man assumes he has the upper hand because he is older, more experienced, cleverer and, after all, a man. In Freeway, the man gets the wind knocked out of him in some sassy, unsavory, but most deserved ways that would make a card carrying feminist blush. In Election – well, I'll let you see for yourself.
Tracy is running unopposed for high school class president. Little does she know that social studies teacher (social studies!) McAllister has had it in for this most popular of overachievers, particularly since she helped nail Dave Novotny, his colleague and best friend for a dalliance with her (well, a little more than a dalliance) that sent him sent packing out of his profession. Novotny is played to whimpering perfection by Mark Harelik, who might be recognized for his numerous supporting performances in dozens of TV shows.
McAllister innocently (ha!) encourages popular footballer, Paul Metzler (Chris Klein in a charming, dopey performance) to run against Tracy – in the spirit of – er, a more democratic election. One thing leads to another that eventually provokes Paul's unpopular nihilist lesbian sister (Jessica Campbell) to jump into the fray. Dirty politics and election tampering are the rule here, with expected and unexpected results.
The Criterion is advertised as "New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised and approved by cowriter-director Alexander Payne." The colors alter and are far better balanced without being overly bright in Criterion's 1080P. Skin tones are cooler and far more realistic albeit a bit green-leaning. There is a slight shift in the frame and the ratio is marginally distorted on one of the transfers. The Criterion looks beautiful and film-like in-motion. The new BD has very fine grain absent on the Paramount.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Subtitle Sample Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Audio & Music:8/8
Now here's a curiosity I've not seen before: The DVD indicates "5.1" both on the box and in the metadata that my player brings up. However, the Blu-ray indicates "5.0" on the box, but "5.1" as read by my PS3. Which would you believe! Election is a dialogue-driven movie so we don't really expect much in the surrounds except a little ambiance. What we really hope for – and get – in the upgrade to uncompressed audio is snappier, crisper dialogue. The music is a bit fresher and more transparent as well. I should also mention that the story is told by Broderick and Witherspoon in alternating voiceovers. In a welcome change to the rule, both speak English in character. Here's how it's done, boys and girls, and any would be actors, too.
I could distinguish no difference in the audio. The score by Rolfe Kent (Cinema Verite, Sideways, Up in the Air) sounds rich and delightful. It has great depth and there are a few deft separations that come across impressively. The Criterion has optional English (SDH) subtitles on their Region 'A"-locked disc.
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Criterion include the audio commentary from 2008 featuring director Alexander Payne, plus much more. There is a new 11-minute interview with Payne where he describes his early passion for film - including Silents. There is a new 10-minute interview with actor Reese Witherspoon who states that every week someone talks to her about the Tracy Flick character. The Passion of Martin is Payne’s 1991 UCLA senior thesis film. It's very good and runs over 3/4 of an hour about a lonely photographer who gradually develops a rather unhealthy obsession with a young woman he once met by sheer chance. Tru Inside: “Election,” is a, 40-minute, 2016 documentary featuring on-set footage and interviews with cast and crew including critical analysis. There is a brief Omaha local-news reports on the film’s production and a trailer. The package has a liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Dana Stevens.
I've always been a big fan of this sharp, witty satire on dearly held middle-American values. Witherspoon and Broderick are ideally cast. The high definition image is better than acceptable, but not demonstration quality. The audio is clear, if not remarkably worthy of upgrade. If you don't already own the DVD, I'd give the Blu-ray a Thumbs Up. Otherwise, I'd rent first to sort out a purchase. One final observation about the rating, which is "R" "for strong sexuality, sex-related dialogue and language, and a scene of drug use." I don't get it. Never did. The rating seems politically and religiously motivated more than anything else. I'd give it PG-13 at most.
The film remains a classic - a microcosm of modern, and often distasteful, political realities - satirizing over-achievers, infidelity, academia and much more. Brilliant and one of the more re-watchable comedies in the past 20-years. Criterion produce a great package for fans of the film - a new 4K transfer and a stack of new extras. Strongly recommended!
November 9th, 2017