Blu-ray commentary: “Hollywoodland”

I’ve always been a big Superman fan, although I actually enjoy him more on screen than on the page. Thus it was with great interest that I originally saw Allen Coulter’s film Hollywoodland about the life and tragic death of George Reeves, the first man to portray him on television. The movie combines a look at Reeves’ life along an investigation into his death by fictional private eye Louis Simo (as portrayed by Adrian Brody). I did a lot of extensive research for this movie, which was a lot of fun considering I have a good knowledge of the character across various media. I crammed as much as I could in the two-hour running time.

There are interesting parallels between the life of the late George Reeves and that of Hollywoodland star Ben Affleck who was using the film as a vehicle to legitimize him to a Hollywood crowd that thought of him as more of a pretty face. George Reeves was someone who was not comfortable being pigeonholed as the Man of Steel because he also wanted to have a more serious film acting career. Back in those times, television was not considered a serious medium for real actors. Affleck was the opposite in that he wanted to be in a big superhero role, having failed with Daredevil and finding moderate success later on with Batman. But Affleck is also someone who craved a more serious career, and he later found it particularly with his directorial efforts. On top of exploring the careers of both men, I delve into the history of Superman on film, television, and in comic books. I also compare and contrast Coulter’s movie with classic noir films along with a lot of other trivia and information. This was a lot of work but a joy to put together.

The following is review coverage for my audio commentary work on Hollywoodland. I will add more as other reviews surface. Click on the logo to go to each review site directly.

“Bryan Reesman’s passion and personality shine through in his newly-recorded and exceptionally well-researched commentary. I jotted down so many highlights in my notes that I could probably double the length of this review if I were to list them all. Reesman discusses the ways in which Hollywoodland takes liberties with what happened and where, the visual contrasts delineating Siro’s storyline from Reeves’, the course that Reeves’ career would likely have taken had he survived, details about each of the lurid tales of Old Hollywood glimpsed in the ‘squashed stories’ clippings, the ways in which the film plays both with and against the conventions most associated with film noir, and further theories about what may have transpired that night. From its many invisible visual effects to The Black Dahlia being released virtually alongside it to a detailed account of the iconic ‘Hollywood’ sign’s history, this is another in a long line of world-class commentaries commissioned by KL Studio Classics.”

“Kino’s new commentary track is by the fast-talking Bryan Reesman, who seems enthused by everything on screen. He points out the great actress Lois Smith (who is still working at age 90) and reminds us that Diane Lane and Bob Hoskins had worked together over twenty years earlier on The Cotton Club. Reesman also points out the absolutely fearless actress Molly Parker, reminding us of her movie Kissed, which ought to have killed her career forever. Nope, she’s done quite well. [I cut promos for Kissed at MGM/UA — when the executives found out what the movie was about, the assignment evaporated.]

It’s an odd coincidence that Focus Features’ Hollywoodland came out in late 2006 just as Warners was preparing a huge marketing push for all things Superman. The movie was a natural crossover plug for the other studio’s full franchise, but in his commentary Bryan Reesman details the grief the producers experienced getting the rights to reproduce the Adventures of Superman title sequence — the Warner legal department did not cooperate.”

“The use of the film noir structure, another homage to classic Hollywood, sets Simo up as a mirror to Reeves, reflecting on his own career as he untangles the fate of his case subject. As noted in a newly recorded commentary track by entertainment journalist Bryan Reesman, what emerges is the parallel story of two men striving to become more than what anyone around them is willing for them to be, and struggling to take stock of the things in their lives actually worth living for.

Reesman also finds a lot of interesting contrasts between Reeves and Affleck, who unlike the man he’s playing had no problem stepping into the realm of comic book heroics. Affleck had played the title character in Daredevil in 2003, but the film was too poorly received to blossom into the franchise that perhaps the actor expected it too when he signed on.”

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