Magnolia (1999)

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Released 31-Oct-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Featurette-Colour Bars
Featurette-Frank T.J. Mackey Seminar
Featurette-Mackey Informercial
Trailer-Teaser
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots-9
Music Video-Save Me
Featurette-Making Of-Magnolia Diaries
Notes-DVD Credits
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 180:54
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (97:40)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Jeremy Blackman
Tom Cruise
Melinda Dillon
Philip Baker Hall
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Ricky Jay
William H. Macy
Alfred Molina
Julianne Moore
John C. Reilly
Jason Robards
Melora Walters
Case Village Roadshow New Style
RPI $39.95 Music Jon Brion


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   In the same style as Robert Altman's Short Cuts, Magnolia triumphantly chronicles the lives of several people over a single day in Los Angeles, with chance encounters, relationships and an underlying shared sense of alienation, death and loss ultimately tying them together. It's not a film that can easily be summed up in a couple of paragraphs, but one which definitely deserves your attention.

   Performances here are uniformly excellent, from Tom Cruise's mysogynistic 'seduce and destroy' seminar stud, to Julianne Moore's unfaithful wife to a dying man. I was most moved by Philip Baker Hall's masterful portrayal of a game show host, attempting to make it through a taping as cancer infiltrates his bones.

   Paul Thomas Anderson is an interesting director, as he's one of the few out there that will fight to the death to have his vision communicated to his audience. This insistence upon complete creative control doesn't always work in his favour, though; I wasn't alone in finding his last film, Boogie Nights, meandering and overlong. Flawed as they may be, however, his intelligent scripts, superb casting choices and obvious compassion for humanity make his films required viewing for the movie buff.

   From the opening titles of Magnolia, it is apparent that Anderson is maturing as a director and as a storyteller - gone are the show-off camera tricks and prolonged scenes, replaced with a steadier, more confident grasp of pace and style. Though the film is over 3 hours in length, it sucks the viewer in and manages to stop time for virtually the entire length of the picture. Anderson still has to learn to accept constructive criticism about his films (even his cast were telling him in advance that Magnolia was overlong), but after watching it, I'm eagerly anticipating his next picture.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is preserved, with 16x9 Enhancement.

    The Panavision process provides fantastic detail, and the transfer reproduces it faithfully. However, I noticed occasional artificial edge-enhancement that detracted from the otherwise excellent picture. Shadow detail is very good, and I noticed no obvious noise or grain.

    Colour is very rich, but not over-saturated. The cinematography borrows from the Boogie Nights school of heightened reality here, and is quite exceptional.

    I noticed no film artefacts, and only occasional aliasing, which is to be expected from a transfer as sharp as this one.

    The RDSL layer change is at 97:40 and is a little jarring, coming milliseconds after a character finishes a sentence.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The disc contains two Dolby Digital audio tracks, English 5.1 and English 2.0 surround-encoded. I generally listened to the 5.1 track, but did compare it at various times to the 2 channel mix. The 5.1 track is mixed well above reference level, so be prepared to turn down it down slightly from your usual listening level.

    Dialogue is clear, natural and intelligible at all times except for the start and end of the film, where the accompanying music is at such a high level that it nearly drowns out the centre channel dialogue. This doesn't occur to quite the same extent in the stereo mix. It appears to be an artistic decision rather than a transfer flub.

    Audio sync is fine.

    The soundtrack consists of a score from Anderson compatriot, Jon Brion, and songs by Aimee Mann. The score is great, with recognizable motifs running throughout the film. Mann's songs crop up at key moments in the film, and even form the foundation of a scene midway through the picture, when the majority of the cast sing along to the song, Wise Up.

    The surrounds are used in a manner consistent with drama, that is, subtle score envelopment, appropriate environmental cues and minimal directional pans.

    The LFE channel is used sparingly. There are a couple of extremely dynamic moments in the film, and the suddenness of the sound increases the perceived volume immensely (to approximately 1,000,000dB, if the amount I jumped is any indication).

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Village don't classify this disc as a Special Edition, only specifying that it has special features. Unfortunately, an audio commentary isn't included, which the disc would have really benefited from. As it is, the extras that are on the disc aren't enough to really let the viewer get behind the scenes.

Frank T. J. Mackey Seminar

    A deleted scene, illuminating some of Mackey's distasteful tactics to prey on women. The reason for removing it from the film is not disclosed.

Mackey Informercial

    The informercial that opens the film is shown in full here, in all its tasteless glory.

Teaser

    Widescreen, DD 5.1.

Theatrical Trailer

    Again, a DD 5.1 trailer, which struggles to get the gist of the film across in a mere two and a half minutes.

TV Spots

    Nine in all, one of which was not used to promote the film.

Music Video - 'Save Me' - Aimee Mann

    Directed by P.T Anderson, and utilizing the device of having Mann singing the song in the film locations with the cast sitting about looking all miserable and stuff.

Making Of Documentary - "Magnolia Diary"

    Not so much a documentary as a bunch of behind-the-scenes video footage, slung together without narration or explanation. While entertaining, it fails to answer a lot of questions the viewer may have about the film or the process of making it. A commentary really should have been provided, especially as Anderson is very entertaining to listen to.

Colour Bars

    Hmmmm, these bars run on a long time. Wonder what happens if I just sit and watch them for a while?

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Essentially, there are no real differences between the two versions. Of course, the R4 version runs 4% faster, which means you get 8 minutes of your life back over the course of the film. I suggest you use these 8 minutes to make a delicious, creamy pudding.

Summary

    Magnolia is a tremendous achievement from a gifted, individualistic writer/director. See it, then relish the fact that Anderson could conceivably be writing and directing for another 40 years. Highly recommended.

    The video quality is close to reference quality.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras that are here are reasonable, but the film deserves much more. The dual-disc presentation leads you to expect far more than you receive.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Paul Dossett (read my bio here or check out my music at MP3.com.)
Sunday, November 05, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer 103S DVD-ROM with Hollywood Plus decoder card, using S-Video output
DisplayMitsubishi DiVA (78cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationYamaha DSP-A1
SpeakersFront L/R: Richter Excalibur SE, Centre: Richter Unicorn Mk 2, Surrounds: Richter Hydras

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Comments (Add)
faulty 5.1 track?!? - millhouse
why is it out of print? - Anonymous
Not out of print yet - rob_da_bank (I'm not ready for a bio Lois)
Not OOP -- seen new copies (with the newer OFLC logo) around for $9.95 - Anonymous