A Few Words About A few words about...™ Hoffa -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Oct 28, 2012.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist

    Feb 8, 1999
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    Robert Harris
    I recall my initial reactions to Danny DeVito's Hoffa, which I saw theatrically in 1992.

    First and foremost, was the performance by Jack Nicholson. I rate it among his best. The supporting cast was equally superb, and beautifully directed.

    My next thought was "what unbelievably great transitions!"

    Hoffa holds up today, and stands the test of time, while many films do not.

    All of this would be moot if Fox's new Blu-ray of what I consider to be a brilliant film did not live up to the quality of the base element.

    And I'm thrilled that it does. In spaces.

    The new Filmmaker's Signature Series Blu-ray is very much like watching a 35mm print in your home theater. Just beautiful.

    Resolution, color, densities, grain structure, shadow detail, all appears to have been translated from film to disc intact. Audio, which comes to us via DTS-HD MA, is perfect. Originally presented in major cities in prints blown up to 70mm.

    A wonderful film.

    A great Blu-ray.

    Image - 5

    Audio - 5

    Very Highly Recommended.

  2. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

    Jan 6, 2001
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    West Hollywood, CA
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    T R Wilkinson
    Couldn't agree more, as I said in the War of the Roses thread, those Hoffa transitions were a huge influence on my filmmaking.
    I wore this out on the LD box set and this disc is glorious.
  3. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

    Sep 13, 2003
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    I wasn't a huge fan of HOFFA when I first watched it theatrically- in fact, the only time I've ever watched the film. It struck me as being technically very precise and controlled, but left me cold. In retrospect, my memories of it remind me of my reactions to certain films of David Fincher films that don't work for me- technically incredible, but maybe a bit too precise, if that makes sense. Still, glad to hear this Blu-ray getting getting great notices, maybe it's time for me to revisit this. No doubt, Mr. DeVito is a gifted filmmaker who obviously LOVES the medium.
    FoxyMulder likes this.
  4. rsmithjr

    rsmithjr Screenwriter

    Oct 22, 2011
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    Palo Alto, CA
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    Robert Smith
    This is the kind of review that causes me to buy something I wouldn't otherwise have bought.
    The studios should start thinking that excellent work on the mastering etc. will result in more sales.
    Thank you.
  5. lark144

    lark144 Second Unit

    Feb 22, 2012
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    mark gross
    +1 There are films that, while wonderful, I don't necessarily need to own, and I think HOFFA is one of them. However, Mr. Harris' review has caused me to reconsider. Since buying a Blu ray player last year, I confess that I am collecting much more towards a consideration of the cinematic qualities of the release, and therefore find Mr. Harris' column extremely helpful.
  6. Reagan

    Reagan Supporting Actor

    Aug 23, 2002
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    Saw a 70mm blow up of Hoffa on its release in late 1992. As is the case with 70mm blow ups, fantastic audio. Another cool thing (back then) was that the previews were also 70mm blow ups as well. And guess what also had fantastic sound? The preview for Body of Evidence.

    So that's my lasting memory of seeing Hoffa in 70mm. The great audio of a preview for a really bad Madonna movie. Memories are funny things.
    sidburyjr likes this.
  7. 7 May 4, 2016
    Last edited: May 4, 2016
    Reggie W

    Reggie W Cinematographer

    May 31, 2004
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    Pallookaville, USA
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    Gregory Arkadin
    The other day I was getting my haircut and a nice discussion about movies broke out. Jack Nicholson came up and I lamented how I've missed seeing him on the big screen. The last Nicholson film I saw in a theater was The Departed in 2006...so, it's been a decade since I went to a movie theater to see a Nicholson film and really he was a supporting player in this. The last three films he made were The Bucket List (I still have yet to see this but this was his last lead role), I'm Still Here (cameo as himself in this oddball faux documentary), and How Do You Know (in a supporting role for his friend James L. Brooks). Had I known in 2007 that The Bucket List was going to be the last chance I would get to see Jack Nicholson star in a major motion picture I would have made the trip to the cinema to check it out...they tend not to tell you these things in advance. There are mixed messages on if Jack is retired or just waiting for something that interests him to inspire him to work again but honestly...it seems unlikely we will get another film that stars one of the greatest screen actors of all time.

    All that said, as I drove home from my haircut I was thinking about pulling a Nicholson film out of my collection to revisit. This month due to some recent releases the theme in my home theater is period gangster films and while Hoffa is not really a gangster film it is a period film and there are gangsters in it. So, I decided to add Hoffa to my list of films in May.

    So, last night I watched this blu-ray, one of the "Filmmaker's Signature Series" from 20th Century Fox and all I can say is "Wow!"

    Now, I did see this film in a theater way back in 1992 and I recall I liked it but I don't remember loving it. I watched this blu-ray once when it first came out and I guess that was 4 years ago now. Somehow when I think of absolutely beautiful films this film just has not been one that pops into my mind but when I watched this film last night I was in awe of what a beautiful piece of filmmaking this is. DeVito seems to have been heavily influenced by Sergio Leone here utilizing intense close-ups of his actors faces and their eyes and contrasting these with wonderful shots that bathe us in the landscapes these characters inhabit.

    It may have taken 3 viewings but I now feel this film is...well...a masterpiece. Maybe it is that it had been a long time since I have seen a film that was shot like this and DeVito and his DP Stephen Burum put on a clinic here. Maybe it was that I was just so enthralled watching Nicholson again in a starring role after not having seen him for so long. Everything in this film is brilliantly done from the direction, acting, photography, writing (David Mamet really at the peak of his powers), and it may well be one of the most wonderfully edited films ever made. I honestly can't believe I did not fall in love with this film at first sight. I think I took it for granted when it came out and maybe missed how wonderful Nicholson actually is in this because of the manner of speaking he adopts for the role.

    Two things went through my head as the picture ended:

    1. I can't wait to watch this again...and nearly just restarted it at the end of the credits roll.

    2. I ached for another chance to see this on a big screen in a theater again.

    This truly is a tremendous motion picture and should have been recognized as one of the best films of the decade it was released in. I feel guilty for not recognizing long ago what a great film this is and it never seems to get a mention when people are talking about great films of the 1990s. Maybe in 1992 many of us compared this picture to Goodfellas and that film being such an epic from Scorsese overshadowed Hoffa and colored how we felt about it. Maybe we felt DeVito was just trying to be like Scorsese and did not give him the credit he so richly deserved. I don't know but with time and some distance I now feel I egregiously overlooked this film and I think it has remained sort of overlooked by most people.

    Vincent in a comment above mine calls this film very "technically precise" and he is right. The attention to every detail in this film is flat out jaw-dropping. It's the kind of obsessiveness we attribute to people like Kubrick, Leone, or Hitchcock. The transitions alone, as noted by Mr. Harris above, are worth the price of admission. When do you ever say that about a film? People also sometimes say Kubrick and Hitchcock leave them cold...but I'd hate to think of a world without their pictures.

    So, what I'm saying is give this one another watch. Or if you have never seen it...well...take a trip back to 1992 when Jack Nicholson was still starring in major motion pictures and Danny DeVito had crafted this beautiful love letter to cinema. He should be quite proud of this film...very few people can make or have made something like this.
    Vegas 1 likes this.
  8. 8 May 7, 2016
    Last edited: May 7, 2016
    Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

    Dec 16, 1998
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    This thread being revived inspired me to watch Hoffa for the first time ever -- it was free via Amazon Prime. As background, I have lived my entire life in southeastern Michigan where Hoffa is sort of a legend, and my dad was a Teamster for 30 years.

    Anyway, I found Nicholson's performance to be very good (when is it not?). DeVito didn't really stand out, IMO. The biggest thing that bothered me, though, was the setting for Hoffa's last meeting. In these parts, the Red Fox restaurant in very suburban Bloomfield Township is an unofficial historical landmark as the last place Jimmy Hoffa was seen, yet this film depicts that place as a remote, rural Roadside Cafe in the middle of nowhere. I understand "Hollywood history" and artistic license, but as someone who's lived through the Hoffa story it was hard for me to get past. I'm sure that people from anywhere else in the country (or world) wouldn't think twice about this, but it really bugged me for some reason.

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