The 7 Best Movies to Buy or Stream This Week: ‘The Shape of Water,’ ‘I, Tonya’

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Now that the Oscars are a ways in the rearview and those “winner” stickers can be slapped on as they leave the warehouse, no less than three of this year’s big contenders (and one also-ran) land on disc and demand this week. Also, an atypical Scorsese picture joins the Criterion Collection, and two undervalued silent comedies make their Blu-ray debut. Let’s take a look:

ON BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD

The Shape of Water: Guillermo del Toro is, in many ways, as much an architect as a storyteller – his films construct magical worlds, and you just want to crawl through the screen and live in them. His Best Picture winner concerns a merman, a mute janitor, a closeted gay ad man, and a Russian spy whose allegiances are tested by his love of science. Oh, and it has Michael Shannon as a sadistic government agent, telling Biblical stories and ripping off his fingers. In other words, to quote Stefon, this movie has everything – but most of all, it has a heart, telling an honest-to-goodness inter-species love story with grace, charm, and affection. And, like so much of Del Toro’s work, it’s somehow constructed out of popular culture remnants, while taking flight as its own, singular creation. (Includes featurettes and trailers.)

I, Tonya: Craig Gillespie’s dramatization, and reexamination, of one of the biggest tabloid stories of the 1990s is based – per its opening credits – on wildly contrary (and “irony-free”) interviews with the major players in the bonkers story of figure skating rivalry and for-hire knee-capping, particularly skating champ Tonya Harding (a blazingly good Margot Robbie), her physically abusive boyfriend Jeff (Sebastian Stan), and her emotionally abusive mother (newly-minted Oscar winner Allison Janney). It’s a funny movie, mining considerable humor from its hare-brained caper and its own structural cleverness, but there’s genuine social commentary and character drama happening here, and Gillsepie handles that difficult material with even greater finesse. (Includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, and trailers.)

Call Me By Your Name: Luca Guadagnino’s movies (which also include I Am Love and A Bigger Splash) are sun-soaked treats, in which beautiful people while away their days swimming and eating and fucking; you just want to walk into the screen, Purple Rose of Cairo-style, and hang out there. But they’re never merely about sensuous pleasures, a fact that holds firm in his latest – an (Oscar-winning) adaptation of Andre Aciman’s novel, in which a 17-year-old son of an American professor experiences first resentment, then lust, then love for a visiting grad student. Guadagnino beautifully captures the potent mix of desire and idealism that defines such an affair; he also, unexpectedly, portrays the heartache at such a relationship’s end with both maturity and sensitivity. It’s rare to find a film that’s both a sexy frolic and a melancholy weeper, but we have one here, so let’s treasure it. (Includes audio commentary, featurettes, and music video.)

The Disaster Artist: This dramatization of the making of the Bad Movie masterpiece The Room has so many inside jokes, big reveals, and little winks to the source material that it’s hard to know exactly who it’s for; I can’t imagine seeing it without seeing The Room, and its celebrity-testimonials opening sequence aside, not that many people have seen The Room. But the people who have are going to love this. And to be fair, there’s more to it than just the origin story of a particularly inexplicable (yet quotable!) piece of junk; director/star James Franco and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (The Spectacular Now) slyly explore the artist’s essential need to risk looking stupid and how that confidence can translate to blissfully bad art, but also – audience implication alert! – how the desire to point and laugh at bad art so often does a disservice to all involved. (Includes audio commentary, gag reel, featurettes, and trailer.)

ON BLU-RAY

The Age of Innocence: Martin Scorsese’s 1993 adaptation of Edith Wharton’s classic book (new to the Criterion Collection) is a tonal outlier in his formidable filmography – it’s a far quieter and contained picture, at least on its surface – but upon closer examination, it reveals deep ties to his recurring concerns. It is, first and foremost, a quintessential New York story, and while its Manhattan socialites may run in different circles than the cabbies of Taxi Driver or the gangsters of Goodfellas, they’re no less petty or gossipy. But the refined production and costume design, and the period setting, don’t tamp the filmmaker’s stylistic exuberance; he’s as richly attuned to detail as ever, his camera moves with its typical exhilaration and grace, and though these characters may not explode the way Travis Bickle or Tommy DeVito do, their psychological intensity is no less visceral. (Includes new interviews, archival featurette, and trailer.)

It’s the Old Army Game / Running Wild: His early, silent comedies are typically treated as something of a footnote in the career of W.C. Fields, unfairly but understandably; after all, the mumbled asides and theatrical pronouncements of his subsequent talking pictures would become all but inseparable from his screen persona. But the early movies (the few that survive, anyway) have a lot to offer, so kudos to Kino-Lorber for bringing two of them to Blu-ray. Army Game is the must-have, a family comedy (later adapted for sound into his classic It’s a Gift) that pairs Fields with the marvelous Louise Brooks, who brings her signature style and personality to the typically colorless loving-daughter role. Running Wild has not (to put it mildly) aged as well, being as it is the story of a “timid soul” family man who is turned, via hypnosis, into “a lion” who rampages through the city beating people up (including his stepson), but it does find W.C. working – until then – in an effectively restrained mode, and provides opportunities for some fine little moments of peerless physical comedy. (Both include audio commentaries and new scores.)

Source: The 7 Best Movies to Buy or Stream This Week: ‘The Shape of Water,’ ‘I, Tonya’