Friday, May 1, 2015


I’m excited about a recent development for this blog – I’ve worked out a deal with the brilliant film critic Doug Pratt to feature one of his reviews from his insightful and thought provoking monthly newsletters.

Amongst the more than three dozen Home Video releases Pratt features in his May/2015 Newsletter, he writes about Tim Burton’s latest, “Big Eyes” (The film is still very enjoyable as history and as a succinct look at the dichotomies of popular art, but running 105 minutes, by its end you feel like it has given you more of an overview of what happened to the characters than a real understanding of why it happened) and “Prometheus,” Ridley Scott’s recent return to SF/”Alien” territory. Pratt doesn’t like the movie (the effects rarely add to the film’s thrills, such as they are… and are certainly not enough to rescue the obnoxious movie as a whole), which is consistent with many who saw the film and shared his oppinion,
especially SF/”Alien” hardcore fans. Personally, I found a lot in “Prometheus” that I really liked, but want to see the movie again, which is what I strongly suggest people do a few years from now, because I think only then will the accomplishments of the movie be fully appreciated.

But on this blog I share with you Mr. Pratt’s thoughts on a movie which depicts the major dramatic beats of an artist’s life, while sublimely capturing the essence of the painter’s work, and how he was able to  achieve such a high creative level of artistic achievement. I admit a bias in choosing this particular Pratt review -- I love the work of J.M.W. Turner. If I was to have a private gallery showing of the two artists that I admire the most, I would be showing off the work of John Singer Sargent… and J.M.W. Turner.

EXCERPT From  May 2015 Issue
Doug Pratt

One of the most sublime and satisfying films of 2014, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner explores everything from the social mores of the early Nineteenth Century to the ennui of aging, through a biographical portrait of the English painter, J.M.W. Turner. 
It is a film that must be seen on Blu-ray, and the outstanding Sony Pictures Classics release (UPC#043396445673, $35) rises to the occasion. Letterboxed with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1, the colors are consistently precise and the image is constantly intoxicating. The DTS sound is also highly satisfying and best amplified to a maximum level. The environmental sounds and Gary Yershon’s striking musical score complete the transportation of the viewer to the film’s world. 

Timothy Spall, heretofore consigned to playing Charles Dickens and Harry Potter villains, lands the role of a lifetime as the title character, often harrumphing his way through conversations or personal reflections instead of using actual words, although you know precisely what he means in
every instance. 
Running 150 minutes, the film begins at the height of Turner’s success and follows him until his death, through his refined but still bickering interactions with his fellow artists, his incredible relationship with his father, who worked quite happily as his servant until age took its toll, his uncomfortable but practiced obsequiousness with his patrons, and even a romance, which brings a surprising amount of cheer to what had otherwise seemed to be a diminishing emotional life.

The cinematography, of course, is influenced by classical paintings, not only Turner’s works, with which it sometimes magically merges, but with Dutch paintings of middle class interiors lit only by candles and weak oil lamps, and other inspirations.  What the film strives for, in addition to exploring Turner’s psyche as a person and a painter, is to create as rich a sense as it can achieve in looking at what day-to-day living was like, what conversations were like, what meals were like and what the world was like at the dawn of the Industrial Age.

It was the invention of the camera, which gets some nice dramatic space in the film, that propelled painting into Impressionism. Turner was ahead of that curve, and is that way at the start of the film, but while the movie cannot answer why or how he developed that style—gloriously hazy visions of land and seascapes—it does portray his compulsion to sustain that vision, in essence his reflection upon the desire to hold onto a spiritual nirvana as the world became more frighteningly ordered.
There is an audio track that describes the action (“Billy strolls across an expanse of sunlit grass.  The leather satchel hangs from his shoul­der.  Using his umbrella as a cane, he heads towards a lush hill, topped by a small stone building.  In single file, dark brown horses with shaggy manes follow after the painter.”).

French, Spanish and Portuguese audio tracks, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles, a trailer, a lovely minute-long deleted scene that could easily have been left in the film, and two very good promotional featurettes, running a total of 49 minutes, looking not only at how the outstanding production design and cinematography were achieved, but identifying the other painters who appear in the film as characters and providing details of what their work looked like. 

 Leigh also supplies a commentary track for the film, which is supported by English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitling.  He elaborates further upon the material covered in the featurettes, and also delineates the historical foundation for each sequence and how he worked with the cast and the crew.  The talk would be sufficiently worthwhile for the reflections it offers on Turner alone, but to also include Leigh’s insights on his filmmaking process makes it all the more valuable.

The above review by Mr. Pratt from his newsletter was included in its entirety. If you are a Blu-ray and DVD fan you can see that Doug Pratt has your back with the specs on each home video release (I mention this because the previous blog excerpt on Pratt’s review of “Game of Thrones – Season 5” did not include the Home Video Disc Specs). For a collector of Movies/TV Series/Media on DVD-Blu-Ray, Pratt’s Newsletter has been my bible for years.

Once again -- I couldn’t be more thrilled to have the thoughts of Doug Pratt as a regular part of this blog!