March 25, 2012
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'Descendants' soars onto DVD
By BRUCE KIRKLAND, QMI Agency


George Clooney as Matt King and Shailene Woodley as Alexandra in "The Descendants."

Droll American filmmaker Alexander Payne recently won his second Oscar, this time for collaborating with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash on the screenplay for The Descendants.

Payne is pleased but not impressed. The Oscar embrace is too fleeting, Payne says in a fresh interview from Los Angeles. "Maybe for a while .... it's a very, very short window," Payne offers.

That window is now open for the DVD, Blu-ray and digital downloads of The Descendants. The film's five Oscar nominations -- including for best picture and one for George Clooney as best actor -- helped to raise its profile even more than during its successful box-office run. It produced $170 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. For home entertainment, The Descendants is now available as a stand-alone DVD. Better yet is the excellent two-disc combo pack, combining DVD with digital copy and a Blu-ray loaded with whip-smart extras.

The Descendants is a tragi-comedy about a wealthy Hawaiian family facing personal tragedy. That intimate story is set against the complexities of a major real estate deal, an impending transaction that may lead to pristine Hawaiian land being developed. Payne & Co. adapted the saga from Kaui Hart Hemmings' novel.

Payne's Oscar was the only one that The Descendants earned in February. Ditto for Sideways in 2005, he recalls. "I've won two best screenplay awards and people say, 'Oh, you deserve more!' But don't forget: The only Oscar that Citizen Kane won was screenplay -- and the same with Pulp Fiction and the same with my two so far. So ... whatever ... it's for entertainment purposes only. I'm not talking as Alexander Payne the director. I'm talking from a movie buff's perspective. Those things might help for a while but, ultimately, the film has to stand the test of time and have legs of its own, because nobody remembers the damn Oscars very long."

The Descendants packs a subtle emotional punch for many viewers. Payne, like most directors, is reluctant to chronicle why that happens in any detail.


"I have no idea," he begins. "Look, I just hope they see a well-made film, of course. That's the filmmaker talking. And a well-made film would imply that its narrative effect, which is both comic and poignant, hit home. And that seems to be the case with some sizeable degree of the audience. They laughed and they were touched.

"I also think that the theme of family and trying to relate to your idiotic kids -- and kids trying to relate to their idiotic dad -- that seems to have hit home for some people. And people in Hawaii feel that they were represented fairly for the first time. That might give the film some legs. One hundred years from now, students in Hawaii talking a class in representations of Hawaii in film and literature over the last 200 years will be forced to watch this film." Payne, who often peppers his conversations with acid profanities, laughs at himself, delighting about the possibility.

The Blu-ray for The Descendants has an unusual generous menu of behind-the-scenes material for a Payne production. That is because he hired a film school classmate to produce them, unobtrusively. Another intrigue is Payne's distaste for commentaries. There is none. "I've come to find it pretentious unless the film has legs and you do it years later," he says. "Now you have every Joe Blow doing commentary for his goddamn film." Leave that to the masters, the historians and even the regular filmmakers, but only if they make something that does stand the test of time, Payne says.

My prediction: The Descendants is a candidate, even if it did only win one Oscar.




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