Forgiving Fox for Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Here's a bit of a bummer.  Can You Ever Forgive Me?, currently up for three Oscars, and nominee and/ or winner of two Golden Globes, three BAFTAs, two Screen Actors' Guilds, etc has had its blu-ray release pulled, and pre-orders cancelled, to only come out today on DVD.  As a Nicole Holofcener (who wrote the screenplay), though, I'm starting to get used to this, as we saw last year's Every Secret Thing also wound up going DVD-only, and her latest directorial effort, The Land of Steady Habits, is being indefinitely held hostage from physical media by Netflix.  Plus, it's Fox, who notoriously cancelled The Simpsons' annual releases to push traffic to their website and routinely release their programs as DVD-only (like The Gifted), often MOD DVDR-only (like Louie), if at all.  So it's par for the course in 2019.  But I was hoping all the critical praise and Oscar buzz yield us an exception, but no. On the plus side, though, a DVD is still better than nothing, and this one's actually a bit of a special edition.

Update 2/19/19 - 1/1/20: DVDExotica wasn't the only site to voice our disappointment that this film went DVD-only, and the backlash was enough to make Fox do the right thing and release the blu-ray after all.  So now we have the DVD/ blu-ray we always should've had in the first place.  Annoying to have to double-dip, but it sure beats the standard def-only reality we were facing.  It may've been the last good deed Fox did before being gobbled up by Disney.

...Also, I didn't feel it was worth bumping up to the front page, but as part of our on-going New Year's update push, I've also added the blu-ray version of Rifftrax's Live show of The House On Haunted Hill.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? is the true story of author Lee Israel, who started building a sweet little cottage industry of forged letters ostensibly by famous writers when her own career was stalling out.  Fun fact: Holofcener was originally set to direct this film herself, with Julianne Moore in the lead, but that version fell through.  I was initially pretty disappointed, but now that I've seen how well this version turned out, and how absolutely perfect Melissa McCarthy is in the starring role, I'm over it.  And this isn't just a flimsy flick bolstering up its famous lead performances, like Vice, where you're just kind of there to gawk at Christian Bale's transformation into Dick Cheney.  This is a really touching yet consistently funny movie that manages to find a truly moving, relatable heart in Israel's tale.  The celebrated supporting cast of Richard E. Grant (Twelfth Night, Withnail & I), Anna Deavere Smith and SNL's original Jane Curtin is just the icing on the cake.  And yes, once again McCarthy has stuck her husband in her movie, but he's actually quite good in this... it's only when she let's him write and direct them that they get into trouble (see: Tammy, The Boss and Life Of the Party).
1) 2019 initial Fox DVD; 2) 2019 combo-pack Fox DVD; 3) 2019 Fox BD.
It's a 2019 big studio release of a new, shot-on-digital film, so they shouldn't get too much wrong here and thankfully they don't.  The DVD is anamorphic 2.38:1, free of interlacing, and presumably a direct port of the filmmakers' DCP slapped onto disc.  It was just unfortunate to only get it compressed to SD.  So the DVD's soft and fine detail looks mushy with evident artifacting when you get in close.  Black levels are also a little light, which I'll give the benefit of the doubt is an artistic choice, but that does contribute to the murky feel of the picture.  And when I say "the DVD," I mean either, because the one in the combo pack seems to be an exact duplicate, right down to the label, of the one sold separately.  But the blu-ray, of course, is a genuine improvement.  It fixes the aspect ratio to 2.40:1 (same framing; the DVDs are just slightly vertically squeezed), and is naturally a lot sharper and clearer.  The black levels are the same, but they no longer look like a flaw when everything isn't overly softened.

The audio is a strong Dolby 5.1 mix (which is now lossless thanks to the upgrade to DTS-HD on the blu), with a secondary descriptive audio track for the hard of hearing.  There are also optional English subtitles, as well as Spanish and French subs, and Spanish and French subs.
To be honest, once the blu got cancelled, I was expecting barebones, but no, we got a bunch of stuff, both on the original release and carried over onto the blu.  First and foremost, there's an audio commentary by the director and McCarthy.  It's definitely one of those gushing, every single person and thing they see is "the best; I love it" deals.  But they're very enthusiastic, never pause or run out of things to say, and do share a lot of solid behind-the-scenes info you'd never know otherwise.  Then there are deleted scenes (also with optional commentary), these range from an outtake to one which is really like a whole subplot that got removed in a solid chunk.  Then there are four promotional featurettes, which are very minimal.  Only one manages to cross the two minute mark, and they're all full of clips from the film.  But they do also at least give us on-camera interview soundbites from the cast and crew, plus some B-roll glimpses - worth the quick watch so long as you don't go in expecting any kind of substantive 'making of' doc.  Then there's also two stills galleries, including one of Israel's actual forged letters, the trailer, and a bunch of bonus trailers that annoyingly play on start-up.
So it's not quite a loaded special edition, with the kind of serious, in-depth interviews you expect from the very best releases, but it's a pretty solid package.  I think it's safe to assume at least some people behind this disc were initially imaging a higher profile release, and this was all prepared with a proper blu-ray in mind.  After all, pre-orders were taken and then cancelled, as opposed to never reaching that stage at all.  But then some executive got cold feet, just like with the film's theatrical release, which got a lot of initial festival attention, then the domestic release got pushed back and eventually came out quiet and very limited.  My family was certainly on the lookout, waiting to see this throughout 2018 but never could because it didn't open anywhere near us.  And eventually... we got it.  Thanks, Fox, and R.I.P.

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