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My Favorite Year (Blu-ray Review)

Warner Archive Collection’s September releases includes the Peter O’Toole film My Favorite Year. The film is inspired by real life instances that happened to the one and only Mel Brooks while writing for Sid Caesar. The film also stars Suspiria icon Jessica Harper and was the feature film directorial debut for actor Richard Benjamin. There are many characters and such based upon real life Hollywood personalities. The film is a pretty popular one, receiving a pretty warm reception when announced finally to be put out onto the Blu-ray format on September 17th. Its available now, which you can secure yourself a copy of this little classic by using the Amazon link that follows the review and also helps this website out a little here and there.

Film 

Young Benjy Stone (Baker), tyro comedy writer/production assistant on “King” Kaiser’s (Joseph Bologna) Cavalcade of Comedy TV show, is overjoyed when his childhood idol, swashbuckling screen star Alan Swann (O’Toole), gets booked as the host. But when Swann is discovered living on the dipsomaniac side of the street, King wants to sack him from the show. Desperate to defend his hero, Benjy makes a plea on his behalf. Annoyed by Benjy’s temerity, King puts Swann under Benjy’s charge with the caveat that if Swann falls off the wagon while they are rehearsing, it will cost Benjy his job. All goes almost smoothly until Swann finds out Cavalcade is broadcast live and he’s “not an actor, (he’s) a movie star!”

Well, I had never seen My Favorite Year before, but now I’m pretty smitten with it. This delightful movie charmed the socks off of me. The comedy works, the camaraderie and relationships are top tier, and it provides a bit more boisterous and big noise to the kind of comedic drama like that Woody Allen was known for in the 70s and 80s. No, this isn’t a Woody Allen film, but it sure plays like one.

Mark Linn Baker, who I primarily associate with the 1980s sitcom Perfect Strangers, was such a sight to see in this film as I have not much experience with him in anything else. Especially as a lead performer. Coming off as a bit much (On paper), Baker rescues the role and really gets you on his side, rooting for him and feeling for the guy. There is a scene where he and Jessica Harper are on some sort of 1950s meet-cute date and you see his passion and childhood love for swashbuckler films as he watches one. And honestly, this film may deal with another time, but it has a large voice on genre films and how people always seem to gloss over them. That message felt light, but deep to me reading into in this film that may not have intended to be that level.

Let me not overshadow Peter O’Toole as a drunken, washed up Errol Flynn in the film. Its almost a parody to which O’Toole is such a fine actor, but damn is the man fantastic. You love him and you hate him, but overall you understand the guy through the course of the film. Yes, there is that in the writing, but damn if it isn’t because O’Toole this thing goes in spades. At the very end, you can just read EVERY SINGLE THING from his eyes in that moment. Its absolutely amazing.

My Favorite Year is a new favorite movie of mine. Its a great look at making television back in the 1950s, meeting your heroes, fandom, learning to stand up for yourself and more. Plus, its quite funny and lovable all at the same time. This little film from the year I was born is definitely getting one of those retro recommends from me!

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: My Favorite Year arrives on Blu-ray for the first time featuring a “brand new remaster”, which likely means a 2K transfer as there aren’t any further restoration details. It looks very elegantly cinematic in its appearance. The picture is a little naturally soft due to how its lit and keeping things natural in many darkened settings. Grain is pretty heavy, leading to some natural details and giving the film a pretty classy feel. Those who enjoy more polished, dnr’d and cleared up images will probably find this to be rough, but purists should find themselves pretty happy.

Depth:  The film carries a pretty natural, free looking appearance thanks to the grain being left intact. Movements are natural and cinematic with no motion distortion issues present.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty solid and on the darker end of the spectrum in terms of Blu-ray transfers. Darker areas are a bit grainy and the saturation allows you to see some window boxing around our leads’ heads as they look down from a building. No crushing witnessed on this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty natural and bold in the image, especially with fancier fabrics in play. Many of the more rustic items come in well saturated and stronger in the image.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent. Due to the softer nature of the picture, texture and detail tends to be smoother in further out shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: My Favorite Year comes with a pretty solid stereo track that has a good balance and manages to present the film pretty accurately.  This isn’t some movie demanding an engaging experience from an action angle, but its has an audio track as good as a well restored vintage Woody Allen film would. And that’s about the best you could ask for here.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is key in this mix and its handled very well, not without a couple analog shortcomings at times, but overall this works very well.

Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • by director Richard Benjamin

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:43)

Summary 

My Favorite Year was an adorable movie I’d heard of, not known much about and finally saw via this review only to have my pants charmed off by it. Warner Archive Collection has given the film a terrific transfer with some solid audio to accompany it. There aren’t any new extras, but a nice commentary with the film’s director is carried out. Fans of the film can finally own it and I argue this film is begging to find itself some new fans like myself.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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