Storytelling (2001)

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Released 13-Jun-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Dolby Digital Trailer-Egypt
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 83:19
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Todd Solondz
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Selma Blair
Robert Wisdom
Paul Giamatti
John Goodman
Lupe Ontiveros
Jonathan Osser
Mark Webber
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Nathan Larson
Belle & Sebastian


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes, yes, including dope.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, listen to the song playing over the end credits.

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

Plot Synopsis

    Storytelling is the latest offering from "controversial" writer-director Todd Solondz. By "controversial", it really means that he is the Marilyn Manson or Howard Stern of film-making - everything he does is intended to create a reaction in the audience, but his films often ring more "fake" than true, being produced simply to shock people and nothing more. With Storytelling, he has managed to create a perversely enjoyable, and extremely funny, attack on political correctness. Probably the single greatest blight on modern society, political correctness has often come in for its share of ridicule, but Storytelling would have to be about as acidic an attack as it has yet suffered. So what is the most effective way to combat political correctness? Show us the very models of politically-correct living, and how it has turned their lives into complete misery.

    Storytelling is in two completely unrelated parts. The first, and shorter of the two at just under 30 minutes, is Fiction. This story revolves around a writing student named Vi (Selma Blair once again trying to do away with her "good girl" image). Vi is dating a classmember with Cerebral Palsy, and struggling to come to terms with the way she wants to live her life. The second part, titled "Non-Fiction", is about both the opportunistic (and rather bad) documentary maker Toby Oxman (Paul Giamatti) and the focus of his documentary, Scooby Livingston (Mark Webber). Toby, a career loser, has just received a grant to go ahead and make a film about teenagers in suburbia. He chooses Scooby more by chance than by anything else, but as the process of documenting Scooby's last few months at high school, and his family life (including father Marty, played by John Goodman, and his lovably evil little brother Mikey portrayed scarily well by Jonathan Osser), it becomes clear that he holds nothing but contempt for his subjects. There really isn't much that can be said about the stories without giving them away, so suffice it to say that they can be hilarious at times (although "Non-Fiction" tends to drag a little towards the end), are scathing in their attack on political correctness, and (intentionally) quite extreme in their depictions of life.

    Generally, the performances are good. John Goodman is perfect (and perfectly cast) as the father who just cannot work out how to motivate his under-achieving son. Jonathan Osser is a stand-out, stealing almost every scene he is in, as a determined and earnest child who is just not aware of the power of his own fictions, and Selma Blair makes good use of what little she has. Mark Webber is also good in the thankless role of Scooby, playing the almost completely unsympathetic character with as much pride as possible. There are a few wasted characters here though, as Franka Potente only smokes her way through two short scenes, and Xander Berkeley gets only a single scene as the school guidance officer. These characters feel a little "tacked-on" and reduce the effectiveness of the story a little.

    Storytelling is the kind of movie that is at once entertaining and disturbing to watch. At some times it is easy to be laughing out loud, but when you realise what you are laughing at, it is clearly no laughing matter. It is with this sort of movie, however, that the most interesting viewing experiences are to be had - what is right, what is wrong, and where do you stand?

    A final note to make about Storytelling is related to censorship. This version of the film is not censored. There is a certain sex scene (known as "the" sex scene) that was covered by a red box during the film's U.S. theatrical release. This was done in order to avoid an NC-17 rating there. Here, we have the sex scene intact (no red box), with an MA rating. Be warned - this is not a "nice" sex scene. It is meant to be, and is, quite shocking and jarring. There will be many put off by it, but in context, it is hilarious (in a very, very dark way), and quite necessary.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a good quality video transfer, although the low budget origins of the production are obvious. The only real problems are entirely source related, coming from sequences shot on video tape.

    Presented at 1.78:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced. The theatrical aspect ratio was 1.85:1, so I suspect we have a slightly open matte version here - either way it is very close.

    The overall nature of this transfer is a little soft, but only enough that fine detail is suppressed somewhat. There is a constant presence of low-level grain, but never enough to over-shadow the image for the film-based material. The shadow detail is good, presenting well defined darker areas, and still allowing for detail resolution, although there are a few shadows that cannot be penetrated. From time to time during the "non-fiction" story the "documentary" footage is used - and it is of horrendous quality, including some very obvious and almost inescapable grain from 70:05 to 70:50, and it has very bad shadow detail. This is entirely attributable to the video source of the material, but nonetheless it still looks awful. There is no low-level noise in the film-based material, although the constant noise in the video material does become distracting.

    Colours are a little on the soft side. The bright credits come through well, but apart from those this film has a very "low-budget" look, as the colours and lighting seem to be more just what was filmed at the time, and not carefully considered.

    The consistent grain leads to some background pixelization, and there are a few instances of "ghosting", but those aside there are no compression artefacts. There is only a very small amount of aliasing, but this is most likely due to the softer nature of the transfer. There is a little telecine wobble during the credits, and more noticeable wobble on the "Fiction" card at 2:19. Artefacts are a bigger problem, although mostly for the video material. The film-based material is quite good apart from a steady stream of very small artefacts most noticeable during the opening credits (such as at 0:11 and 1:04), but present throughout the film (as at 42:51). The video material suffers from over-brightness, is badly washed out, and also contains numerous nasty tape breakdowns such as at 45:05, 45:27, and 60:10. Fortunately, this material is limited in its use, and really does not detract overly much as it is intended to have a "documentary" look.

    The subtitles are accurate, placed under the character that is speaking, and well paced. They do miss the occasional word, but not enough to cause any harm to the intent of the dialogue.

    This is a single layered disc, and as such does not have a layer-change.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer is good, although once again, it reflects the nature of the film, delivering solid dialogue without any extra "enhancements". As with the video transfer, the audio presented during the video-based segments is of a much lower quality than the rest of the material.

    There is a single soundtrack present on this disc, being the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps).

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times. There is a small amount of background hiss present, but this is most likely due to the use of location audio, and is preferable to bad sync. The video-based material presents a considerably greater amount of hiss to the point that it actually becomes annoying.

    Audio sync is spot on throughout the transfer, and is never a problem.

    The music is credited to both Belle & Sebastian and Nathan Larson. Scottish band Belle & Sebastian were responsible for the "Non-fiction" section, while Nathan Larson composed for the "fiction" section. Both scores are more than adequate, although the Belle & Sebastian section can be a little on the "quirky" side at times, and as such is not quite as good at immersing the viewer in the production.

    The surround channels are basically only used to carry the score. They get little in the way of ambient effects, and nothing in the way of directional sound design. Given the nature of the film, this is not such a drawback, but it would have been nice to hear a little more ambient use.

    The subwoofer is used well, if not extensively, to back up the score. There are no sound effects that call for its use, but when it does come it is nicely restrained.

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

Extras

    The only extra present on this disc is the theatrical trailer.

Menu

    The menu is static, themed around the movie, and is 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, this trailer only previews the "non-fiction" section of the movie, and quite badly at that.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Unless you desperately want to see a red-box in a non-original aspect ratio version of the film while listening to a 2.0 soundtrack, then there is no difference between the two.

Summary

    Storytelling is a confronting, and extremely funny (albeit dark), movie that launches an all-out attack on political correctness. One for those who aren't easily offended and who have an off-centre sense of humour.

    The video quality is good, with the only real problems being source based.

    The audio quality is eminently listenable, however do not expect an awesome surround sound demonstration.

    As for extras, there is a theatrical trailer, and nothing else. For such a controversial film, this is a little disappointing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Saturday, November 02, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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Comments (Add)
Censorship... - grug (there is no bio.)
RE: Censorship -
RE Censorship - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)