Criterion Catch-Up, Part 2: Broadcast News (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

I don't watch a lot of rom-com's but, hey, when a movie's good it's good.  And Broadcast News is great.  Now, some of you Broadcast News fans out there probably just braced at me calling it a rom-com, because it certainly has a lot more than just that going on in the film.  It's a witty satire of American television journalism, and another of James L. Brooks' great comic takes on humanity.  But still, at its heart...
William Hurt is an anchor man who's cursed with success, based on his good lucks rather than his talent or intelligence.  Meanwhile Holly Hunter and Albert Brooks are dedicated, sincere journalists whose ambitions are constantly thwarted by the mundane bureaucracy of the news division they work for.  They're trapped in a bit of an unfortunate love triangle that mirrors their struggling careers, and they all live under the shadow of the great network anchor, Jack NicholsonRobert Prosky, Joan Cusack, and (in a tiny role) John Cusack, co-star.
William Hurt is always great, and drawing in the forces of Albert Brooks and Jack Nicholson onto one screen is what we go to movies for.  Some of Hunter's ennui with being a working woman in a man's world might not have aged well; and not unlike Sidney Lumet's Network, all the jaded cynicism directed towards TV news feels downright naive compared to how it's all turned out in 2017.  But James Brooks is a master (bearing in mind that I'll Do Anything was not his fault), and this is some of his best work.  It sure took the Criterion Collection long enough to give it a proper special edition.
I'd been living with 20th Century Fox's no frills DVD since it was originally released back in 1999.  And you guessed it, being that old, it's sure not anamorphic.  But that's all we had all the way up until HD.  Admittedly, I think the 2004 UK DVD might've been anamorphic, but really, this is how we treat our American classics?  It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including best picture, director, lead actor, lead actress, supporting actor (Albert Brooks, of course!) and original screenplay.  You'd think they could at least give us a DVD that fills up our whole screen here in its home country?  Well, yes, finally Criterion did just that, releasing separate DVD and blu-ray editions in 2011.  I've got both here, along with the original 1999 disc.
1999 Fox DVD top; 2011 Criterion DVD mid; 2011 Criterion blu top.
So yeah, just the fact that the original DVD is non-anamorphic makes the Criterion an essential upgrade.  Criterion's new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative really handles the grain nicely and brings out the crispness.  It's not just the HD, even the Criterion DVD is noticeably sharper and clearer than the Fox disc.  The Criterion is slightly matted to 1.83:1, which gives us a sliver more around the edges than the 1.82:1 framed Fox DVD.  One thing I can't help but notice after our previous Criterion comparisons, though, is that their color timing is greener again.  This time, though, I would accept that it may be more a case of Fox being overly red, but still, I'm waiting for the day when somebody at Criterion announces: "my god, my monitor's been mis-calibrated for years!"  😜

Audio-wise, Fox gave us a respectable stereo mix (and a French dub for the easily amused), with English and Spanish subtitles.  Criterion ditches the foreign language options, but upgrades that stereo mix to a freshly transferred DTS-HD track, and optional English subs.
Extras-wise, Fox gave us nothing but a fullscreen trailer.  La De Dah.  But Criterion understands what the people want!  First up, we get a very affable audio commentary by Brooks, backed up by his editor Richard Marks.  Next, there's a neat little documentary about Brooks, which runs a little over half an hour, with several of his key past collaborators, including Marilu Henner and Julie Kavner, taking us through his history in television and film.  More exciting, though, is a collection of deleted scenes, including an alternate ending, with optional commentary by Brooks.  And in an instance of Criterion digging extra deep, which I really appreciate, they conduct an all-new on-camera interview with Susan Zirinsky, the real-life counterpart of Holly Hunter's character that Brooks based her on.  Then Criterion throws in the original EPK, including standard promo featurette and almost 20 minutes of on-set interviews and B-roll footage.  We also get the trailer and an 19-page booklet with notes by film critic Carrie Rickey.  Top marks all around, that's how you make a satisfying special edition.
Seriously, jokes about green tints aside (look at Nicholson's shirt color, that's a genuine white; it's fine... right?  What color shirt is that guy standing next to Albert supposed to be wearing?), this is a top notch release from Criterion.  And thank goodness for that, because the alternatives are miserably slim.  But this release doesn't need poor competition to shine; it could compete with the best work of any blu-ray label.  There's nothing but good news to report about Criterion's edition of Broadcast News.

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