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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Say Anything (20th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]

 

(Cameron Crowe, 1989)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Gracie Films

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: A

Runtime: 1:40:20.472

Disc Size: 35,522,009,508 bytes

Feature Size: 24,000,135,168 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.57 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 3rd, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video  1080p / 23.976 fps

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2489 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2489 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, French, Spanish, Chinese (Traditional & Simplified), none

 

Extras:

• Audio Commentary by Cameron Crowe, John Cusack & Ione Skye

• An Iconic Film Revisited – 20 Years Later – in HD (21:57)

• A Conversation with Cameron Crowe – in HD (9:31)

• Alternate Scenes – in HD (11:05)

• Deleted Scenes – in HD (13:17)

• Extended Scenes – in HD (24:39)

• Vintage Featurette – in SD (6:58)

• To Know Say Anything is to Love It Trivia Track

• Theatrical Trailers & TV Spots

• Photo Gallery

 

 

The Film:

For the two or three of you that didn't catch this iconic movie at its theatrical release or since on the tube or in its many incarnations on video, what we have here is a 20th anniversary excuse for its appearance on high def. And why not? We have Cameron Crowe, the man who began life at Ridgemont High as writer – Say Anything would be his first whack at directing and writing both, and I guess he took his title seriously. His cast, as it was with Ridgemont High, perfection: John Cusack at his most self-effacing, Ione Sky at her most lovely and disarming girl-next-door, and John Mahoney before Frasier's cane.

Cusack made what should have been his breakout film for Rob Reiner, The Sure Thing, five years earlier, but it was really Say Anything that would cement his off-hand style into the public consciousness. Audiences would remain lukewarm about Ione Sky, on the other hand – and on the evidence of this movie, I can't quite see why. She continues to work, but hasn't found anything quite as potent as this movie. Mahoney's intensity about fatherhood and his expectations for his daughter nearly upsets the balance in what remains for the longest time a piece of late teen angst about uncertainty. We really feel dad's hopes as well as his anguish about his daughter's future.

The Movie: 7
Cusack is Lloyd Dobler – liked by just about everyone, but a young man without ambition or prospects – except two: kickboxing and a desire to spend the rest of his life loving the overachieving valedictorian of his high school class, Diane Court. For her part, Diane, who just happens to own a pair of disarming, gorgeous blue eyes, hardly knows he exists – but, as we soon learn, much the same can be said for just about anyone at school, so narrowly has been her (and her father's) vision about a Fellowship in England.

School is over, the pressure is off – some – and she accepts a date with Llloyd to an all-night party at which Lloyd serves as Keymaster – a kind of sobriety monitor – and Diane mingles and begins to learn about how small her world has been until now. It's the stuff that sets the stage for falling in love, and we can see it coming better than she does – or Lloyd for that matter.

Besides the amazing amount of texture that Crowe writes for these people, what I especially liked was that Lloyd's confidents are a pair of girlfriends, rather than jocks, and that when Diane introduces him to her family, Crowe avoids blatant sarcasm and humiliation and instead opts for what is not stated but felt by everyone. Dad says it later, and often: Lloyd is a distraction. Dad is right, even if he is a bore – in both senses of the word.

The title is interesting, for it applies not, as one might expect, to Lloyd and Diane, but to Diane and her father – as in, "you can say anything to me – trust me." And when she does, that homily is put to the test – big time. This is where the movie looked like it was heading – until about halfway into it when the IRS knocks on the door and lets dad know he is under investigation - and this is where Crowe loses me. I don't mind that dad may have skeletons, I don't mind that he's two-faced about integrity or about means justifying ends. I don't mind the triangle – in fact, I rather admire it – Dad is not portrayed as some ostrich or dimwit. Diane loves and respects her father. They're close, perhaps a little too enmeshed for her emotional health. What bothers me is the sudden intensity of it all. I'm all for three-dimensionality of character, but for me, it's as if Crowe is working out some other personal issue and sticking it here.

Meantime, Cusack and Skye go about stealing our hearts, without giving their elders the finger.


 

Image: 7/8   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Clean, mostly sharp, but thin and a bit flat (the movie is, after all, routinely lit) – this despite a modest increase in black level. One marvels at the immediacy of the picture, however. When I took my eyes off the action long enough to take a critical view of things, I was impressed by how directly I seemed to be seeing the movie. If there were disturbances in the transfer, I simply wasn't aware of them. The lack of blemishes, dirt and scratches or missing frames was unexpected. Grain is very modest. Flesh tones are a bit pinkish, but Ione's peaches & cream complexion remains scrumptious through it all. I can't imagine this film looking better.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 6/8
Despite the uncompressed audio, the evidence is that Crowe and company didn't anticipate how much play their movie was going to get. The sound isn't worn out, it's simply uninteresting, which is not to say that it isn't faithful to the original. Dialogue is clear and full bodied and well balanced with the music, whether from the score or in the scene. There is modest ambient crowd noise at the big party scene and more subtly in the halls and rooms of the convalescent home. The music selection, from Depeche Mode to Peter Gabriel, is not only a treat but sets the stage wonderfully.

 

Operations: 7
Lots of extras mean lots of hidden windows. Perhaps because there are so many, this didn't seem to bother me quite so much. Weird, huh.

 

Extras: 7
For this 20th Anniversary release Fox has added several new features to those we know from previous DVDs: The "Iconic Film Revisited" gives us the four principals today: Crowe, Cusack, Skye and Mahoney talking about their original expectations for the movie and what has turned out to be an exceedingly popular and timeless. There is an interesting twenty-minute roundtable introduction to the movie with vintage production stills standing in for talking heads – a welcome relief. In the "Conversation with Cameron Crowe," which tends to reprise much of the material in the new other features, the director/writer has a way of congratulating himself with such little fanfare that it seems like someone else saying all these wonderful things about him.

The Deleted, Extended and Alternate Scenes are all in a kind of modified HD – that is, the data shows "AVC" and image fills a 16x9 frame, but the bit rates are comfortably below 10. No reason why they should be higher, really, and these segments look just fine for the purpose. "I Love Say Anything" looks the best and says the least – or says what it says redundantly from the mouths of several people who recall what they love about the movie. The Extended Scenes are almost monochromatic – not really to their detriment, I thought. The "Vintage Featurette" is little more than an extended preview, as expected, in standard definition. At one point, the narrator describes the movie as a "modern Romeo & Juliet." Really?! The Photo Gallery is nice for its being in HD.
 

 

Bottom line: 8
Say Anything came along just as the John Hughes phenomenon had crested (The Home Alone series was an ordeal yet to come.) Like the Hughes teenage movies, Crowe nails the rhythms of teen speech and the pulse of what drives them. The comic elements here are considerably quieter than for Hughes, even compared to The Breakfast Club. And perhaps even more than Hughes, Crowe respects his characters, he doesn't exploit them or make them look ridiculous. Same for the adults. It's really not all that easy to write a piece with no bad guys as such. And though dad has stepped over the line, he is by no measure a mean person. I feel Crowe disturbs the emotional balance of his movie a couple of times, but engaging performances win us over. The image quality is a little dullish, thorough no fault of the transfer, and the audio lacks finesse, but with the addition of a few new bonus features, this new Blu-ray is kinda, sorta necessary.

Leonard Norwitz
November 11th, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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