Casey Affleck, about to be crushed by floating heads.

Gone Baby Gone

Amy Ryan is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her turn as a mother whose child has been abducted in Gone Baby Gone. A local husband and wife P.I. team, played by Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan. Based on a Dennis Lehane novel (he wrote Mystic River), the movie has a strong sense of the South Boston setting, and an abiding antipathy towards child abuse. It’s a great story and Ben Affleck, in his first time as a director, does a pretty good job in telling it. (He has much greater directorial confidence here, in his first film, than Sean Penn does in Into the Wild, a third film.)

As for the DVD itself, this is an above-average package. The special features on the disc include two well-produced documentaries (one more standard making-of and one on the cast) with lots of excellent behind-the-scenes footage, a full feature-length commentary from Affleck and co-screenwriter Aaron Stockard (which I didn’t have time to listen to) and deleted scenes with optional commentary from Affleck and Stockard. Nearly all the deleted scenes were cuts in Michelle Monaghan’s screen time, which was fine with me, since she was probably the weakest actor/character of the ensemble. Affleck and Stockard aren’t super talkative in this commentary, but are candid about how they trimmed the movie down and shaped it in the editing room.

Crazy director Andrew Dominick inspires Casey Affleck’s crazy performance

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Casey Affleck received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his turn in this languid, lyrical film as the murderer of famous outlaw Jesse James. A case study not so much in celebrity culture as celebrity stalkerdom, Affleck’s Robert Ford is an obsessive fan who wheedles his way into Jesse James’ entourage. He’s the main character, but the studio unsuccessfully marketed Brad Pitt’s hypnotic and explosive performance for Best Actor instead. That and every minor performance in this is absolutely amazing, although I should note that Paul Schneider, as James gang member Dick Liddil, also makes a big impression.

The film, with its slow pace and scattered narrative will not be for everyone. But fans of Malick or the recent films of Gus Van Sandt will rejoice at this beautifully shot, tonally wistful epic. The transfer of master d.p. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is top-notch for a DVD, but true fans of his will probably want to see the movie in HD (if not on a 35mm print). True fans of the movie will also turn up their noses at this bare bones disc, which has absolutely zero in the way of special features. With a movie that had such a contentious behind-the-scenes struggle, and which was recut four or five times over the course of two years, this is ridiculous. When the two-and-a-half hour film was over, I was ready to watch it again immediately with commentary. It’s certainly the type of movie that bears repeat viewing and deep analysis.