In a perfect world, Woody Allen would have made a lot of sexy-cynical movies like "Vicki Cristina Barcelona" in the past two decades -- the period that followed his great creative run from "Annie Hall" to "Crimes and Misdemeanors."
That didn't happen, so his fans have had plenty of time to argue over the merits of fare such as "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion," "Bullets Over Broadway" and "Match Point." I always find something to like about Allen's later-period films, but rarely something to love.
This time, I fell hard for "Vicki Cristina," the improbable tale of four still-youthful romantics sharing a summer of love and sex in Spain.
The movie has all the hallmarks of classic Allen: beautiful and talented actors, a city worth lusting over, deadpan narration written by the director, and of course the understated punch line that stays with you for as long as you let it.
On Blu-ray and DVD, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" holds up to repeated viewings thanks to its easy charm and sexy stars. Not to mention Barcelona and its artsy Gaudi goofiness.
Allen hits the Catalan tourist highlights, but the sense of place feels more organic than on his other recent European films.
Too bad "Vicki Cristina" didn't get the just-happy-to-be-nominated slot in the Oscars' best picture race, but the movie did win best musical or comedy film at the Golden Globes.
(Question: Which was it, a musical or comedy? Well, the Spanish soundtrack is superb and there's plenty of wry humor along with the dark matter, but ... whatever works.)
Allen continues his overseas adventures, daring to film Almodovar's star Penelope Cruz in the city of "All About My Mother." The hot-blooded, over-the-top part in "Vicki Cristina" brought her an Oscar for best supporting actress.
I thought Javier Bardem was even better as the Barcelona artist who beds the ying-yang American tourists played by Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson. Bardem and Hall also received Globes noms. (Perhaps a reward to Hall for getting through the line, "Let's not get into one of those turgid categorical imperative arguments.")
Too bad Johansson was totally overlooked in the awards season -- yes, Johansson. They should hand out ensemble awards at these trophy trots once in a while (see "Juno").
On Blu-ray, "Vicki Cristina Barcelona" looks exactly as it did in a good theater -- a golden cast and soft focus, with a surprisingly muted palette considering the bold colors for which the host city is known. A few scenes are oddly lacking in contrast, which I believe was the case in cinemas.
The audio is in Dolby Stereo, so remember to turn off the 5.1 settings in order to savor the gorgeous mix of classical guitar pieces and contemporary Spanish music, picked with Allen's usual care.
There are no extras on the Blu-ray or DVD, probably Allen's decision.
Also circling the DVD blog's players are John Frankenheimer's telefilm "George Wallace," starring Gary Sinise; Douglas Sirk's breakthrough "Magnificent Obsession" from Criterion; and season 2 of the 1960s alien adventure "The Invaders."
New and notable DVDs and Blu-rays:
The Bourne Trilogy (Blu-ray set, Universal)
Cheers: The Final Season (Paramount)
City of Ember (Fox)
El Norte (The Criterion Collection)
The Express (Universal)
George Wallace (Warner)
The Gospel According to Al Green (Acorn Media)
Holly (City Lights Home Entertainment)
The Invaders: The Second Season (Paramount)
Lakeview Terrace (Sony)
The Last Detective: Complete Collection (Acorn)
Magnificent Obsession (The Criterion Collection)
Mary Poppins: The 45th Anniversary Edition (Disney)
Screen & Stream is the new home of DVD Spin Doctor, which has merged with Download Movies 101 at the new site. Please visit Screen & Stream for Blu-ray & DVD reviews -- as well as online video news -- written by bleary-eyed L.A. entertainment writer Glenn Abel.