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DVD Zone: May

| April 28, 2006 | 0 Comments

Capote
Sony Pictures Classic


How’s this for a trade-off: You write a book that makes you the most talked about writer of your time, but the process of writing it affects your life so much that you never complete another one. Such is Truman Capote’s lot.

Although he had previously published two novels, Capote was known mostly as an essayist and short-story writer. Sent by The New Yorker magazine to Holcolm, Kansas in 1959 to write about the grisly murder of the Clutter family, Capote soon became aware that he would unearth far too much for simply a feature article, and set out to write what he would call a “non-fiction novel.” Four years later, In Cold Blood was published. Capote tells the story of those four years.

Directed by Bennet Miller and written by Dan Futterman, the film has a great feel for the era, and the wonderful cinematography by Adam Miller gives it just the right look. Capote and fellow author Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird) research the story in a small town that is first resistant to outsiders, yet eventually comes to trust them and accept them as their own.

While the author’s obsession with the story — and arrested suspect Perry Smith in particular — grows, the film reveals a Capote that will do what he has to to control his situation. Whether it’s bribing the prison warden for unlimited access, or lying to Smith about the book’s title.

Played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman (for which he won the Academy Award), Capote becomes torn between not wanting the two to be executed, yet unable to finish the book until they are. And although he was openly gay at a time when that kind of lifestyle was simply not discussed, the film never uses it as the driving force behind Capote’s actions.

Special features are sparse, with only a making-of segment, two commentary tracks (one by Hoffman and Miller, and one by Bennet and Miller). There’s also a portrait of the author that doesn’t delve deep enough to satisfy the unfamiliar, and doesn’t give fans of Capote anything they don’t already know.

For awhile, the surest way to cop an Oscar was to play the handicapped. Now the trend is the bio-pic. In this case, Academy voters got it right.

Film: ***1/2 Features: **

The Zen Of Screaming
Loud Mouth

So you want to be a rock ‘n’ roll star? Well listen now, to what diminutive vocal instructor Melissa Cross says. Screaming is fine and screaming is good — as long as you do it right.

The crack staff here at “DVD Zone” usually don’t consider instructional videos as fodder for coverage, but The Zen Of Screaming isn’t your typical how-to. This is the first instructional video geared exclusively to the hardcore vocalist.

Cross shows how to channel your energy, muscle control, and breathing in ways that not only will make you sound better, but keep you from shredding your vocal cords after the first few songs. If you’re fronting a hardcore band, this will easily prove invaluable.

It’s really a simple observation: Your voice is an instrument just as much as a guitar, bass, or drums. Why would you not treat it as such? You wouldn’t go onstage with broken strings or drum heads, so why would you do it with your vocal cords? And if you feel like you might look a bit silly doing warm-up exercises before a show, get over it. The results will far outweigh the self-consciousness.

With interviews and testimonials from such vocalist as Andrew W.K., Shadows Fall’s Brian Fair, and Lamb Of God’s D. Randall Blythe among others, Zen shows extensive warm-ups and breathing techniques that not only benefit singers, but will also help anyone simply wanting to speak better.

Cross is a wonderful presence, and lays it out in simple language. Plus, while a lot of what she says may seem obvious, it’s often overlooked or ignored, such as the most important thing an up-and-coming vocalist can do: be yourself. Don’t try to hit notes you can’t, and don’t try to sound like someone else. You may want to sound like your favorite singer, but it simply ‘ain’t gonna happen.

Extra features include extended interviews and outtakes, plus a separate audio disc with all the warm-up exercises.

DVD: ***

Timothy Hiatt

Category: Columns, Monthly

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