MY FAVORITE YEAR
It’s kind of ironic that one of my favorite movies from the 1980’s happens to be about the 1950s and the golden age of television. MY FAVORITE YEAR ($20) tells the story of what happened behind-the-scenes on the TV show Comedy Cavalcade; during the week that swashbuckling movie star Alan Swann (Peter O'Toole) made a guest appearance. MY FAVORITE YEAR offers its hilarious and sometimes poignant tale from the viewpoint of Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker), the comedy program’s junior writer, who just happens to be big movie fan and an even bigger fan of Alan Swann.
Unfortunately, Swann has a notorious reputation, so when he shows up for his first rehearsal dead drunk, the TV show’s star, King Kaiser (Joseph Bologna), wants him fired. Benjy pleads for Swann to be reinstated, which happens, but Kaiser slaps on the proviso that Benjy become Swann’s guardian for the week- thus keeping the actor sober, out of trouble and at every one of the show’s rehearsals. Of course, Benjy finds that Swann’s love for life, women and alcohol are difficult to contain, which leads to a number of hilarious escapades for him and the charismatic actor, for whom he is responsible.
MY FAVORITE YEAR is a beautifully written movie with so much quotable dialogue that I end up reciting it along with the actors every time I watch it. The performances are universally excellent, which also adds to the film’s repeatability factor- heck, I must have seen MY FAVORITE YEAR at least twenty times. Peter O'Toole was seldom better than was in MY FAVORITE YEAR and I can guarantee that the celebrated actor was never funnier. O’Toole’s efforts in this wonderful film even garnered him Academy Award and Golden Globes nominations. Mark Linn-Baker carries much of the movie on his shoulders and he never fails to deliver, thanks to his impeccable comic timing. Bill Macy and Lainie Kazan also produce a number of hysterical moments with their fine supporting performances. The delightful supporting cast of MY FAVORITE YEAR also includes Jessica Harper, Anne De Salvo, Basil Hoffman, Lou Jacobi, Adolph Green, Tony DiBenedetto, George Wyner, Selma Diamond and Cameron Mitchell.
Warner Home Video has made MY FAVORITE YEAR available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. The image on the DVD is rather uninspired, which seems to be related to the film element and not the transfer itself. Much of MY FAVORITE YEAR looks as though it were either shot through a filter, or the film element used for the transfer is an extra generation off the camera negative. Everything appears just a little bit soft and diffuse throughout the course of the movie. Despite the slight softness, I can’t say that the image is truly lacking in definition. For the most part, colors appear a bit subdued, although, the warmer hues tend to stand out- particularly the reds. Flesh tones appear reasonably natural, or at the very least in the pink. Blacks are accurately rendered, contrast is fine and shadow detail is respectable. The film element itself, displays a number of age related blemishes, as well as some noticeable grain. Digital compression artifacts remain well concealed throughout.
The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack certainly gets the job done, but it seems a little flat. Still, music is reproduced with respectable fidelity, so the track is worth amplifying to enhance the score and incidental music. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced, which helps to make each and every joke crackle. A French monaural soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features as well as a few extras. Director Richard Benjamin is featured on an interesting running audio commentary that offers a lot of production details. Benjamin’s talk is a little slow going, but fans will find it well worth their whiles to listen to everything he has to say about MY FAVORITE YEAR. A theatrical trailer, cast & crew listing, plus a Peter O’Toole filmography close out the extras.
MY FAVORITE YEAR is a joy of a movie that has tremendous repeatability value. While the presentation on DVD seems a bit lackluster, I think fans will find the disc worth checking out.
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