For Your Consideration
Directed By: Christopher Guest
Starring: Catherine O'Hara, Harry Shearer, Eugene Levy, Christopher Guest, Bob Balaban, Michael McKean, Jennifer Coolidge, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, and Ricky Gervais
For those of you who are keeping score at home, I just want to make something very clear: Martin Scorsese: zero Oscars; Three 6 Mafia: one.
- Jon Stewart at 2006 Oscars
In celebration of Academy Awards season, Warner Independent Pictures is treating us to the DVD debut of Christopher Guest's "For Your Consideration", a cautionary tale of the dangers of Oscar buzz.
"For Your Consideration", the latest outing from Christopher Guest and his usual company of improvisational comic actors, tells the story of the havoc wrought on all of the marginally talented individuals involved in the production of a zero-budget film called "Home for Purim" when it receives the faintest whiff of internet-generated Oscar buzz.
In a departure from his most recent films, Christopher Guest has abandoned the "mockumentary" approach for "For Your Consideration". This is a bit of a risky move, since part of the humor in "Waiting for Guffman", "Best in Show", and "A Mighty Wind", arose from how the "camera" was smarter and more aware of what was happening than the participants in the "documentary". This allowed Guest to "sell" the humor a bit while allowing the actors to play things completely earnestly and deadpan. This is mitigated somewhat by having the "Home for Purim" participants subjected to the various forms of celebrity television journalism including EPK interviews, celebrity gossip shows, morning news shows, late night talk shows, and PBS-style sit down in a dark room at a well-polished table shows.
The film is very funny in a bone-dry style. Even though its satirical targets are proverbial fish in a barrel, they are annoying enough fish that they still deserve to be shot. The large ensemble cast is uniformly great, with nearly everyone being given a chance to shine. One notable addition to the usual large ensemble is Ricky Gervais, who pulls off an amusing take on an executive seeking to broaden the appeal of the movie by inquiring if "Home for Purim" can "tone down" its Jewishness. The handful of scenes we get to see from "Home for Purim" are comic gold. It is an overacted, overwritten period southern gothic Jewish melodrama with dollops of lesbianism and mortal illness. As a side note, if there were an Oscar awarded for ridiculous hair, this film would likely hog all of the nominations, with Fred Willard's orange faux-hawk the likely front-runner.
All of that being said, one weakness that I think prevents "For Your Consideration" from rising quite to the level of Guest's best films, my favorite being "Best in Show", is that the story line from which the various improvised scenes are hung is not particularly strong. While the film begins and ends focusing on the arc of Catherine O'Hara's Marilyn Hack, it goes on all sorts of tangents in between that diffuse the focus without establishing the arcs of the other characters as strongly. The many amusing moments and satirical zings do not quite add up to a satisfying whole.
The quality of the 16:9 enhanced video is disappointing. There is a constant haze of grain over the image. It appears to have been shot on 16mm film even though it was not using the "mockumentary" techniques of Guest's previous films. Digital video artifacts are visible when the compression has trouble keeping up with the grain. I noticed no distracting halos around high contrast objects.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track offers pleasing fidelity. The surrounds are used sparingly for light environmental ambience, and most of the mix is focused on dialog anchored in the center channel. Notable exceptions occur in the clips from the "Home for Purim" film, which feature a humorously overblown orchestral score in wide stereo.
The first extra is a screen-specific audio commentary from Guest and Levy. A lot of the commentary is given over to identifying actors and discussing their history with them which can be a bit dull. The track is somewhat redeemed by bits of very deadpan dry humor, discussion about their working methods, details about the elaborate back-stories they create for the film's characters, and interesting production trivia. I was most surprised to learn that the look Catherine O'Hara sports in the later parts of the film was achieved strictly through make-up and manipulation of her facial muscles without the aid of any latex appliances.
Next up is what the DVD packaging refers to as "Over 30 Minutes of Hilarious Bonus Material". More specifically, it is a collection of 18 clips, including deleted scenes, alternate takes, and a couple of bloopers that runs for about 38 minutes if you choose the "play all" feature. Not every one of the 18 clips is a winner, but most of them are very funny. My personal favorites are two segments featuring John Michael Higgins' out of control publicist mistreating underlings.
Also included is a "Home for Purim" poster gallery showing eight stills of posters created for the film within the film, many of which were not used in the finished movie.
Finally, we have the film's theatrical trailer presented in 16:9 enhanced widescreen with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound.
When the disc first spins up, you are greeted with skippable promotional trailers for "The Painted Veil", "Music and Lyrics", and "Lucky You" all are presented as letterboxed 4:3 video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound.
The film comes in a standard Amaray-type hard plastic case with no insert.
While falling a bit short of his best work, Christopher Guest's "For Your Consideration" still has plenty of laughs at the expense of Oscar-buzz inanity. The video quality is a bit disappointing by modern standards, and the audio is perfectly fine for the material. Extras include a moderately informative audio commentary and some very funny deleted scenes.
Edited by Ken_McAlinden - 7/21/2009 at 06:40 pm GMT
Edited by Ken_McAlinden - 7/21/2009 at 06:48 pm GMT