Since the web began to offer a global audience to personal thoughts, back in the 90s, I’ve considered a campaign of reviewing every film I see, even if only briefly, as time allows. So, I thought the viewing of my first blu-ray might be a good point to mark the transition from sporadic to consistent.
A Serious Man will please those who hark back to the earlier, more experimental output of the Coen brothers and lament their more mainstream ventures of recent years. Of course, the reality is not so polarised. The movie definitely lives at an opposite pole to the garbage that was The Ladykillers, and has none of the tributes to conventional comedic values that made Burn After Reading so easy to watch. At the same time, it also doesn’t have the (in my view heavy handed) darkness of No Country For Old Men or the fairytale life affirmation of Raising Arizona and The Hudsucker Proxy. The best characterisation of A Simple Man I can give is that it represents the Coens’ venture into a style much more typical of Jim Jarmusch. It also has quite striking stylistic similarities to Hal Hartley’s The Unbelievable Truth, one of my favourite ever films. The central pairing of Michael Stuhlbarg and Richard Kind is entertaining, if a little gross at times. Definitely worth checking out of you’re a Coen Brothers fan and you don’t mind doing a bit of hiking through a narrative, rather than being propelled through it at high speed.
And the whole blu-ray experience. Our CRT TV finally got stuck in standby irretrievably, a week ago yesterday, so we sallied out and replaced it with a Panasonic Viera, LCD 32 inch. Not spectacularly specified, but LCD technology is now a match for mid-range plasmas and they’ve sorted out the viewing angle issue. The room size also doesn’t really warrant a massive screen. SD picture quality is excellent, and that’s an important factor as there is likely to be a heck of a lot of SD programming for quite a while to come. Blu-ray is of course very clear and very sharp, and it has a noticeable edge on upscaled DVD. 1080p has just over twice the resolution of standard def. Those are the figures. That’s the effect. Party on. For those of you who are wondering, yes Dolby TruHD and DTS-HD do downscale automatically to their legacy counterparts, seamlessly. The overwhelming answer to the blu-ray question is “Why would you not?” And, er, forget Blockbuster: their blu-ray selection is crap. Rent them from the library for half the price.