GRAVITY_3DWith less than a week before the Academy Awards are handed out, two of the Best Picture nominees arrive on disc: Gravity (with ten nominations in all) and Nebraska (with six nominations).

Gravity (Warner, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, Digital HD, On Demand), directed by Alfonso Cuarón and starring Sandra Bullock as a civilian and George Clooney as a veteran astronaut who are trapped in orbit when a disaster destroys their shuttle while on a space mission. The biggest hit among the nominees, this is sure to pick up Oscars in the technical race and Cuarón is a favorite in the Best Director race if only for the sheer achievement of this completely-imagined film and immersive experience created out of performance, a few props, a camera that is constantly in motion, and 360 degree digital imaging.

It is “a perfect fusion of cool, heady moviemaking and warm, human emotion,” proclaims Cinephiled’s James Rocchi. “There have been comparisons to Avatar in Gravity‘s ambition and reception; the difference is that while Cameron pushed the technical envelope with Avatar, that envelope was full of rote characters and too-familiar stories. Gravity also marks a milestone of technical accomplishment, and if the story could use a touch of polish or confidence in some of the newer material it lays over age-old saga-of-survival bones, it also has far more heart and soul and emotion than Avatar‘s showy, clattering hollow toybox of tech tricks.”

All disc editions feature the short film Aningaaq, directed by co-writer Jonás Cuarón, which presents the other side of Dr. Stone’s radio conversation on the Soyuz capsule, and the feature-length “Gravity: Mission Control,” an in-depth look at the creation of the film with emphasis on the complex special effects and digital imaging in the film. Also features the 36-minute “Shot Breakdowns” of five key sequences and the Ed Harris-narrated featurette “Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space,” which looks at the state of man-made debris currently in orbit around the Earth, plus an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.

NebraskaNebraska (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD, On Demand), directed by Alexander Payne, is far more low-key, a meandering road movie starring Bruce Dern as a cantankerous old man who insists on heading out to pick up the million dollar award that his junk mail certificate promises. Will Forte is the son that grudgingly offers to drive him, just so the old man won’t try to walk all the way. Photographed in black and white along the highways and small towns of Montana and Nebraska, which gives the film an aged, weary, live-in quality, it begins as an acerbic character study but eases into a perceptive film about family and history and how life changes people along the way.

Dern picked up a well-deserved Oscar nomination (his first since Coming Home in 1979) for his performance as the foggy old Woody Grant, played without a trace of self-consciousness or actorly ticks, and he gives the character dignity simply by his doggedness and frankness. Woody has nothing to prove anymore and Dern doesn’t either. He’s already earned and it comes through here. Equally good is June Squibb in a smaller role as Woody’s plainspoken wife, who has come to simply accept Woody as is. When they finally settle in together at the impromptu family reunion, their byplay feels like it’s been decades in the making.

Read Danny Miller’s interview with Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Dern and co-star Will Forte on Cinephiled .

The Blu-ray includes the featurette “The Making of Nebraska” and a bonus DVD and UltraViolet digital copy of the film. The DVD features no supplements.

BlueWarmestBlue is the Warmest Color (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand) was not nominated—thanks to Academy rules for foreign films, it wasn’t eligible due to the timing of its French theatrical release—but it took home the Palme d’Or at Cannes and its two stars, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, shared the Best Actress prize. It also became the center of furious critic tug-of-war for months afterwards and those controversies stole the conversation from what the film is actually about: first love, overpowering desire, the excitement of discovering yourself and the fear of what others may think of you. Adèle (played with so much vulnerability by Exarchopoulos) is a young woman who finds herself with another woman (Seydoux), an artist whose self-confidence is as attractive as her physical beauty. The graphic (though not explicit) sexual coupling in the opening act is all anyone seems able to focus on. Sure it’s provocative, but this is no peep show or erotic spectacle. It’s about letting all boundaries go and giving in to desire and pleasure, about devouring another and being devoured. And it’s about Adèle’s fear of embracing her identity and her love in front of the world. As the original French title of the film, La vie d’Adèle: Chapters 1 & 2, suggests, Adèle is a work in progress. Kechiche explores her stumbles on the way to finding herself.

This is a basic offering from Criterion, which usually fills its releases with top-rate supplements (the Criterion page features the following note: “A full special edition treatment of this film will follow at a later date”), but it does include a booklet with an essay by B. Ruby Rich and the digital transfer is approved by the director.

CrashReelLucy Walker tackles an awful lot in The Crash Reel (Phase 4, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital), her documentary on freestyle snowboard champion Kevin Pearce, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after a near-fatal spill while training on the half-pipe for the 2010 Olympics. The sunny, effervescent Kevin seen in home videos and sports interview comes off as the sweetest kid to ever become a sports hero and some of that person is lost to the head trauma. Walker puts his story, and his family’s commitment to his recovery, against the bigger picture of extreme sports and the glorification of risk in a culture that pushes the boundaries without stepping up protection or covering hospital bills. Just as illuminating is Kevin’s plans to return to snowboarding even though another head injury could kill or cripple him. Dad puts it in terms of addiction, which makes the family conversation something of an intervention. It’s an important conversation and Walker reveals the human cost behind the rush through the story of Kevin and others. But the mix of extreme sports documentary, athlete profile, cultural portrait, and expose has more than this almost two-hour film can fully accommodate. This is one case where the personal journey softens the horrifying portrait of a sport that pushes athletes to the limits but refuses to step up with support for the injuries incurred in the rush for ever-greater spectacle.

MuscleShoalsBLURAYWrapMuscle Shoals (Magnolia, Blu-ray, DVD) is the other major music documentary of 2013 (it was overshadowed by 20 Feet from Stardom), the story of the Alabama recording studio where some of the great American songs of the sixties and seventies were recorded: Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” The Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird,” Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” and many more. Features two commentary tracks and bonus scenes and interviews.

Thor: The Dark World (Disney, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD), the second solo outing for the Norse God of Marvel superheroes, was not made available for review. But it’s now out on disc in multiple formats with commentary, featurettes, and deleted and extended scenes among the supplements.

Also new and notable:

MrNobodyMr. Nobody (Magnolia, Blu-ray, DVD) stars Oscar-nominee Jared Leto with Srah Polley and Diane Kruger and the disc features both the 139-minute theatrical version and a longer 155-minute director’s cut.

Lost in Thailand (Well Go, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital), a road-movie comedy that has been called China’s answer to The Hangover, is the highest-grossing film in China’s history. Chinese with English subtitles.

You Will Be My Son (Cohen, Blu-ray, DVD) from France stars Niels Arestrup as a man looking to pass on the family legacy to someone other than his flesh and blood (in French with English subtitles) and Memory of the Dead (Icarus, DVD, VOD) is a supernatural horror with a streak of black comedy from Argentina (Spanish with English subtitles).

Jamesy Boy (Phase 4, Blu-ray, DVD), starring James Woods and Mary-Louise Parker, is reviewed on Cinephiled by Jeff Michael Vice: “In his feature-filmmaking debut, co-screenwriter / director Trevor White can’t resist using some genre clichés …. But he’s smart enough to get out of the way of his cast, which does a lot more with this material than it probably deserves.”

VOD / On Demand exclusives:Frozen-movie-poster

Frozen (Disney, Digital HD and SD), the odds-on favorite for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, debuts as a digital purchase three weeks before disc release.

Also available as a digital purchase in advance of disc is Foreign Language Film nominee The Great Beauty (Criterion, Digital HD and SD, On Demand) from Italy and The Book Thief (Fox, Digital HD and SD) with Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson.

The Great Beauty is also now available On Demand along with the documentary After Tiller, also premiering before disc releases. Arriving On Demand after disc is The Counselor: Unedited Extended Cut (Fox) with Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt.

And available On Demand on Thursday, February 27 is the documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, a portrait of the stage legend that opened in theaters in New York just a week ago.

More releases:TwiceBorn

Twice Born (eOne, DVD)
The Last Elvis (First Run, DVD)
Ice Soldiers (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD)
Scarecrow (Cinedigm, DVD)
The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital)
Pulling Strings (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital HD, VOD, On Demand)
Disco and Atomic War (Icarus, DVD, VOD)
Better Things: The Life and Choices of Jeffrey Catherine Jones (Alive Mind, DVD)
People of a Feather (First Run, DVD)
The Oyler House: Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat (First Run, DVD)
Lesson Before Love (Breaking Glass, DVD)
Fists of Legend (CJ Entertainment, Blu-ray, DVD)
Fujimi Orchestra: Cold Front Conductor (Ariztical, DVD)

Calendar of upcoming releases on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, and VOD