Daniel Day-Lewis portraying Abraham Lincoln in the film "Lincoln."
Sometimes the ultimate success depends on timing. Imagine being a good-to-great fighter when Muhammad Ali dominated boxing, or having a solid baseball team when the Yankees ruled the world.
In another year, Denzel Washington’s excellent performance in Flight (now on DVD and Blu-ray) might have won him yet another Academy Award. Or, if Washington were not in the way, Bradley Cooper might have been striding to the Oscar dais. Joaquin Phoenix, Hugh Jackman, maybe some year. But not this one.
Because all those guys faced the unstoppable force that was Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln.
Day-Lewis became the first winner of three Best Actor Oscars for his performance as our 16th president, a performance that made the movie more powerful than the sometimes sluggish pace would have allowed.
Mainly the story of the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which banned slavery throughout the United States, the movie — which was released on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday — can be gripping thanks to the intensity of the debate in it, its blending of the characters’ personal and political issues, and the impressive cast around Day-Lewis, including Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, David Strathairn, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
But it is Day-Lewis’ Lincoln, whether talking politics or dealing with his family, who drives the film — and whose presence demands the best of the performers around him. You do not step on camera with this man unless you are bringing your best game.
It is being released in several different video packages: a four-disc Blu-ray/ DVD/ digital combo (DreamWorks, $28), two-disc Blu-ray/ DVD set ($24.50) and a single-disc DVD-only set ($17.99).
The lone extra on the single DVD is a piece about telling Lincoln’s story. The two-disc set adds a segment about shooting the film in Richmond, Va. The four-disc set includes both those pieces plus a closer look at Day-Lewis’ performance, the movie’s pursuit of period authenticity and other elements.
Available now, and worth your attention, is Love for Levon (StarVista), from a tribute concert for singer-drummer-actor Levon Helm, who died of cancer in April, 2012.
Helm was best known for his work with the Band, the ensemble that toured with Bob Dylan and made some memorable music on its own including "Life Is a Carnival” (which Helm co-wrote), “The Weight,” and “I Shall Be Released.” He was also famous with music lovers for Midnight Rambles, shows he would put on with musician friends in a barn on his land in Woodstock, N.Y. The October concert at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., raised money so Helm’s estate could keep ownership of his home, barn and studio — and the Rambles could go on.
The packages include a set with two DVDs and two CDs of music from the show ($34.99); two Blu-rays with two CDs ($39.99); a two-DVD set without the CDs ($24.99); two Blu-rays without the CDs ($29.99); and just the CDs ($13.88).
Performers include John Mayer, My Morning Jacket, Joe Walsh, Grace Potter, Lucinda Williams, Mavis Staples, Gregg Allman, Allen Toussaint, Roger Waters, and more. There are gems throughout — such as guitarist Jorma Kaukonen on “Trouble in Mind,” Allman’s “Long Black Veil,” and David Bromberg and Joan Osborne on “Don’t Do It.” The DVD/ Blu-ray extras include rehearsal footage and interviews with the performers.
Also of note: A Royal Affair, Oscar-nominated for best foreign-language film (Magnolia, $26.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray). The costume drama focuses on the romance between the Queen of Denmark and a commoner, based on an erotic novel.
Down video road
How the West Was Won, the Western drama starring James Arness, brings its first season to DVD on July 9; the set will also include the TV-movie The Macahans, which set the stage for the series. Strictly Ballroom comes to Blu-ray on April 30. The thriller Beautiful Creatures will be on DVD and Blu-ray on May 21.