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DVD RELEASES 2010/4/20

For those of you who don’t have the luxury of traveling the film festival circuit or who don’t live in a big city, now’s your chance to play catch-up with some of 2009’s true standouts. While most buyers will flock to the sturdy Crazy Heart (DVD or Blu-ray) or, god help us all, Avatarded, that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what makes this week so special. Track these movies down if you haven’t already. Especially the first two!

35 Shots of Rum (Cinema Guild) — When it comes to mothers, fathers, and children, movies love to tell tales of bitterness, hate, and dysfunction. But leave it to Denis, one of our finest living practitioners of the craft, to bring a surging gust of warmth to the kitchen table. A love letter to Denis’ mother’s relationship with her own father, 35 Shots of Rum is a functional family drama of the very highest order. It proves that a story about positivity, accord, and love between bloodlines can make for an experience that is as riveting as—not to mention far more soulfully gratifying than—the typical pessimistic fare. Buy it on DVD.

Old Partner (YA Entertainment) — As an experience, Old Partner conjures the feeling of reading a work of classic literature, ala The Old Man And The Sea. It is cinematic, to be sure, with striking digital photography that captures every wrinkle in its humans’ leathery faces, the sad eyes of the farm animals, and the shifting colors of the seasons, and it’s edited with the eye of a narrative filmmaker. But there is an overriding grace that transforms an otherwise simple tale into something much more metaphorically profound. Buy it on DVD.

The Horse Boy (Zeitgeist) — To say that this nonfiction film surpasses your average “case study of an affliction” flick would be a gross understatement, for it is both a thrillingly cinematic and rollicking adventure story, as well as an intimate journey into a family’s most private and tormented moments. (Pamela Cohn) Buy it on DVD.

Pressure Cooker (First Run) — The “kids in competition” film has now become its own well-worn genre, so much so that one can be forgiven for cringing at the arrival of a new one. Especially with regards to something like Pressure Cooker, which follows high school students in inner city Philadelphia who are competing for coveted college scholarships by flaunting their prowess… in the kitchen? But don’t judge a documentary by its poster, for while Mark Becker and Jennifer Grausman’s film does build up to a high-stakes competition, it goes to great lengths to establish the outside-the-kitchen, everyday lives of these teenagers who, unlike their middle to upper-middle class competitors, genuinely need these scholarships to continue pursuing their education on a higher level. Buy it on DVD.

Summer Hours (Criterion) — Olivier Assayas’s drama was one of the best reviewed films of 2009, ending up at the top of many Best of the Year lists. Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.

Vivre Sa Vie (Criterion) — Vivra Sa Vie—or, as it’s known in English, My Life to Live—is my second favorite Jean-Luc Godard film behind Masculin-Feminin. This new Criterion release is loaded with goodies. Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.

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Michael Tully was born and raised in Maryland and now lives on Tennis Court in Brooklyn. His most recent narrative feature, Septien, world-premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was picked up for distribution by Sundance Selects. In addition to directing Cocaine Angel (2006) and Silver Jew (2007), he is also a proud alumni of Filmmaker Magazine's annual "25 New Faces of Independent Film" club (2006). Visit his indieWIRE blog Boredom at its Boredest——for more sporadic personal updates.

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