Election appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite the movie’s low-budget roots, the transfer came across well.
Sharpness usually satisfied. A few shots could be a smidgen on the soft side, but those remained in the minority, so the film largely appeared accurate and well-defined.
No signs of jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and edge haloes stayed absent. Print flaws failed to show up, and grain became a benign facet of the image.
Colors stayed on the subdued side, and they satisfied. The image used a natural palette much of the time, though a sickly green tint came into some shots to match the mood. The hues fit the project nicely.
Blacks seemed dark and deep, while shadows appeared smooth and clear. This ended up as a highly satisfying presentation.
As I'd expect from this kind of movie, we get a pretty unassuming DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, though it complemented the picture to an acceptable degree. The front soundstage offered a decent amount of depth and range, as it placed sounds across the three forward channels.
While the rear speakers didn't get much of a workout, they contributed to the overall effect. A few scenes boasted decent usage of the surrounds, though one would be hard-pressed to find anything memorable.
The quality of the audio was always fine, with dialogue that sounded natural and concise. Music showed nice range and delineation, and effects – a pretty minor aspect of the track – were clean and clear. Nothing special stood out here, but the audio was more than adequate for this sort of flick.
How does the Criterion release compare to the 2009 Blu-ray? Audio was largely similar, though the Criterion’s mix offered a little more range and immersiveness.
Visuals provided a more obvious upgrade. The old Blu-ray was mediocre, whereas the Criterion version showed superior colors, blacks, shadows, delineation and cleanliness. The Criterion set became a much needed step up in picture quality.
The Criterion release includes new extras and one holdover: an audio commentary from director Alexander Payne. During this running, screen-specific chat, Payne discusses how he came onto the project, the script and the adaptation of the source novel, themes and symbolism, locations and sets, cast, characters and performances, deleted scenes, music, production design, and costumes.
When I initially reviewed the DVD back in 1999, I didn’t think much about the commentary, as I felt it was slow-paced and lacked much depth. I guess the intervening years have shown me some really bad commentaries, so this one looks much better by comparison. Really, my only minor complaint comes from the moderate amount of dead air, as Payne goes silent a little more often than I’d like.
Nonetheless, Payne covers most of the movie, and he offers a lot of good notes. He goes over both production specifics as well as more introspective topics, so he balances out the chat well. I still wouldn’t call this a great commentary, but it’s a good one with quite a bit of useful information.
Called The Passion of Martin, Payne’s UCLA thesis film runs 48 minutes, 53 seconds. No one will call it a classic, but it shows glimmers of talent and it’s fun to see Payne’s earliest work.
Mattin also includes a text statement from Payne about it as well as a 10-minute, 47-second introduction. In it, Payne talks about his early interest in films as well as influences and aspects of his time at UCLA. Payne offers some useful notes about his formative days.
A new Interview with Actor Reese Witherspoon goes for 10 minutes, 15 seconds. Witherspoon discusses how she got cast in the film as well as aspects of her experiences. Though not a deep chat, Witherspoon offers a smattering of good insights.
From 2016, truInside: Election presents a 40-minute, 37-second program. It involves Payne, Witherspoon, critics Amy Nicholson and Matt Singer, author Tom Perrotta, producers Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger, former MTV Films VP David Berger, former MTV Films president Van Toffler, co-screenwriter Jim Taylor, casting director Lisa Beach, journalist Mary Elizabeth Williams, editor Kevin Tent, former MTV Films Executive VP David Gale, Papillion-La Vista HS Director of Communications Annette Eyman, extras casting director Brian Tobin, costume designer Wendy Chuck, and actors Matthew Broderick, Matt Justesen, Lana Rogal, David Wenzel, Nicholas D’Agosto, Chris Klein, Frankie Ingrassia, Jessica Campbell, Delaney Driscoll, and Mark Harelik.
The show looks at the project’s origins and development, story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, design choices, editing, and music, an alternate ending, and the movie’s release/legacy. “truInside” brings us a pretty rich and informative overview of the production.
An archival feature, we get some local news coverage of the Election shoot. Shot in 1997 by Omaha’s KMTV, the reel goes for one minute, 31 seconds and gives us a slice of the production. Payne and Broderick discuss the use of Nebraska locations in this brief but fun clip.
In addition to the film’s rrailer, we finish with a booklet. It presents credits, photos and an essay by critic Dana Stevens. The booklet completes the set well.
A barbed look at high school politics, Election provides an amusing and tart affair. Complete with good performances and clever situations, it provides an entertaining ride. The Blu-ray offers very good picture with appropriate audio and a nice array of bonus materials. Election continues to entertain after almost 20 years, and the Criterion release becomes its best iteration to date.
To rate this film, visit the 2008 review of ELECTION