$9.99 (Blu-ray) (2008)

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Released 3-Mar-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 77:59
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tatia Rosenthal
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Etgar Keret
Tatia Rosenthal
Josef Ber
Tom Budge
Joel Edgerton
Leon Ford
Samuel Johnson
Claudia Karvan
Case ?
RPI ? Music Christopher Bowen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (4608Kb/s)
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (4608Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

In an era when serious stories are told through every medium, including animation (Persepolis, Waltz With Bashir), it was perhaps only a matter of time before someone seized upon the idea of turning some of the quirky, insightful stories of Israeli writer Etgar Keret into an animated film - this time using the medium of stop motion. For Keret writes short stories full of everyday realities sprinkled with flights of fancy that are wonderfully suited to stop motion animation.

Rather than create a portmanteau, film director and co-screenwriter Talia Rosenthal blends the stories into a nearly seamless whole. The rigidity of a plot, though, is the least of the concerns of both writer and director. Rather the film is a snapshot of a group of interconnected lives.

The film focuses on the residents of a pretty average apartment block in an unnamed Australian city. A whole cross section of the community is represented in the apartment, from the unhappy businessman and his two very different sons, to the widower and the slacker. The $9.99 of the title is the cost of a book - but not just any book. It is no less than The Meaning of Life. Non-achieving Dave (the less successful of the businessmanís sons) buys the book as his ticket to happiness and finds in it everything he hoped for and more!

$9.99 is a quirky and bittersweet experience. It begins with a shock - a homeless man (Geoffrey Rush) blows out his brains when the businessman, Jim, (Anthony La Paglia) won't buy him a coffee. Not to worry as the man comes back as an angel, albeit a dishevelled and unpleasant angel. Everyone is searching for meaning in their little lives or stolidly resisting the search. Ron (Joel Edgerton) has just split with his girlfriend Michelle (Claudia Karvan). The reason? When he proposed to her he said he was "willing" to marry her, not that he wanted to! Meanwhile Jimís other son, Lenny (Ben Mendelsohn), is obsessed with a pretty model in their building, an obsession that takes a disturbing turn.

$9.99 gained unwelcome publicity last year when Ken Loach withdrew his own film from the Melbourne Film Festival complaining that the state of Israel had paid for Rosenthal to come to the screening. A pity, for this is as apolitical a film as you could get. Some viewers may be familiar with Keretís work from the This American Life podcast. He also scripted Wristcutters: A Love Story and won the 2007 Golden Camera at Cannes for Best First Feature (won by Samson and Delilah last year) for Jellyfish. He reaches for the eternal yet makes the journey funny and sad in equal parts. Witness the scene where widower Roy, now a big friend of the angel, takes one step too many convincing the angel to show how he can fly. Or the tiny stoners that populate Ronís apartment, perfect companions for him in the absence of his girlfriend. It is worth stressing that although animated, the film is not for kids as it features claymation sex scenes and adult themes. A thoughtful and enjoyable experience.

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Transfer Quality

Video

$9.99 was shot on 35mm film. It is presented on Blu-ray in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio which seems to be consistent with the original aspect ratio.

The film is a combination of stop motion animation and CGI. Whatever the format it looks stunning in Blu-ray. The colours are wonderfully vibrant and the transfer is razor sharp. Lighting is used to good effect and is well defined. There are no artefacts or blemishes.

Take a look at the opening as the sun comes up on the block of flats to see the level of detail in this transfer.

Rather than aiming for very lifelike skin tones Rosenthal instead creates an artistic, painted look to the characters. The plasticine is roughened and the paint strokes are well defined and obvious. This is an artistic decision.

The grungy apartments, with pizza boxes and empty beer bottles are lovingly created. There is no hint of compression and the blacks are deep and inky. The test Blu-ray sent for review was on a single layer disk. I imagine the final release will be the same as the length of the film and the lack of extras don't call for much more.

There are subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired which give a good account of the on-screen action.

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

Audio

$9.99 comes with three soundtracks, all English; a True-HD, DTS-HD Master Audio (both 5.1) and a Dolby Digital 2.0 running at 224 Kb/s.

No prizes for guessing which two are the best. Those wanting to perform the ultimate showdown of High Definition audio formats won't have much luck though - the tracks are pretty much identical. I thought the DTS-HD was perhaps a little louder but not any better.

The surround capabilities of the film are not pressed but there is a real depth and expanse to the track which is very appealing.

The dialogue is clear and easy to understand. Lip synch is a hard call given the caterpillar lips on the characters!

Music is by Christopher Bowen. The score is a perfect fit for the film - simple, unadorned yet pregnant with meaning. The score is nicely separated and sounds immediate and crisp.

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

Extras

There are no extras! Some can be found on the official website for the film including a fair bit of Making of material.

R4 vs R1

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

†† This Blu-ray has yet to be released in other Regions. The DVD has been released in Region 1 and includes two short films by Rosenthal. Why aren't they on this release?

Summary

Forget all the jokes about whether this film is worth more than $9.99. It is. Keretís meanings and his whimsical style may render the psychology and meaning somewhat elliptical but this only encourages repeated viewings.

The Blu-ray quality is stunning in both sound and vision but the lack of extras is a disappointment. One question that lingers is the size of the models and the sets so a making of feature would have been welcome.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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