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O
DVD disk
Oct 6, 2004 By: The Arrow
O order
Director:
Tim Blake Nelson

Actors:
Mekhi Phifer
Josh Hartnett
Julia Stiles

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The classic tale of Othello is moved onto the contemporary basketball courts of a high school and it works. A young successful black athlete named Odin (Phifer) is convinced by his devious and envious “friend” Hugo (Hartnett), that the love of his life Desi (Stiles) is cheating on him. Odin gets consumed by his jealousy and eventually descends into a world of bitterness, drugs and revenge.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
O" has to be the most depressing flick I've seen in a long time. Once the end credits started to roll, I was silent due to the emotional turmoil brewing inside of me and there was a massive grey cloud raining on my thoughts. For those of you who know the play "Othello" on which this film is based, expect the same ingredients from this update: a somber tale that addresses the universal human themes of jealousy, love, betrayal and revenge. Tim Blake Nelson does a remarkable job in transferring the Shakespeare play to a present day setting and when you take into account what’s going on these days in our high schools, this film couldn’t be more relevant.

The movie itself is formidably directed. It sports a slow, dread filled build-up, showcases lots of poetic images and symbolism galore. The score of the film is very powerful and the acting couldn’t be better. Phifer, Martin Sheen (yes, he still can act) and Hartnett stand out and are captivating to watch. My only complaints with this gem are 1) The overuse of rap music and bad rap at that (my opinion). I would’ve liked the gripping score to be more prominent than the hip-hop tracks and 2) The Julia Stiles character didn’t feel layered enough for my liking. I found her quite bland here and in consequence, the love aspect of the film didn’t reach me as much as it could have. I’m still not sure if it’s the fault of the script or the actress on that one. But overall, “O” is a major achievement and everyone involved in the production should feel proud. Rare are films that manage to move, affect and disturb me, and this one did just that. This is not a light movie, so watch it fully rested and in a peaceful state of mind because it will hit you like a Mack truck.
THE EXTRAS
DISK 1:

Commentary with director Tim Blake Nelson: Nelson gives us a clear and constant commentary, presents us with insight on the music of the film, the basketball scenes and their subtext, the actors, the locations and the production. Dead time is absent but he does, once in a while, give us information about elements that seemed trivial to me. But overall, it’s a good listen.

DISK 2:

Interviews: Here we get little snippets of each individual actor and the director chit chatting about the film. I found the interviews to be a little bit too short but they’re still fun to watch. The figures being interviewed are: Julia Stiles (1 minute 30): Talks briefly about her part, praises her director and comments on the messages of the film. Mekhi Phifer (1 minute 22): Talks about how we can relate to the story, his hopes that the film will prompt discussion and the symbolism behind Odin using drugs. Josh Hartnett (2 minutes): Talks about his role’s motivation and why he thinks his character used drugs. Tim Blake Nelson (2 minutes): He explains what the last line of the film (from Hartnett) means, why he injected the drug element into the story and addresses the message of the film.

Deleted Scenes: We get four deleted scenes with the option of having a Tim Blake Nelson (director) commentary on or off while watching them. With the commentary on, Nelson explains to us why the specific scenes were cut out and comments on the acting at hand. The scenes in question go by these titles: Hugo and Roger - Cafeteria - Drug Deal - Odin and Desi.

Basketball scenes analysis: Director Tim Blake Nelson and DOP Russell Lee Fine give us technical background info on how they shot each respective basketball sequence. The scene titles are: “15 Seconds remaining”, Odin’s Injury and Hawks VS Bulldogs. Each scene lasts between 2 to 3 minutes and the information we get is ok, not more than that. I didn’t go crazy for this extra.

Trailers: We get trailers for “O”, The Wash, Rose Red, American Psycho 2, The Rules Of Attraction and State Property.

Othello 1922: Now here’s an extra that you don’t see too often...a full feature film!!! This version of Othello is directed by Dimitri Buchoweztski and stars Emil Jannings as Othello.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Along with REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, “O” has to be one of the only recent films that managed to hit me hard me on an emotional level. It’s uncompromising, brutal, touching, well shot, well acted and engrossing. The DVD itself has enough meat to satisfy and I highly recommend that you get this one for your collection. This film is living proof that Shakespeare’s tales are timeless. The themes he brought up still talk to us today; they’re about being human.
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