George Washington appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a good but not great presentation.
Sharpness was generally positive but had ups and downs. Most of the movie offered solid delineation, but occasional soft spots occurred. Still, the majority of the film looked pretty concise. I noticed no issues with jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes failed to occur. I didn’t sense any overt digital noise reduction, and print flaws were minor; I noticed the occasional small speck but nothing more.
Colors offered a strong point for Washington. The movie displayed a warm, golden look most of the time that came across with positive clarity and richness. Black levels appeared deep and dense, while shadow detail was clear and appropriately heavy for the most part; a couple of slightly dense scenes occurred, but nothing problematic occurred. In the end, the film offered good visuals but it could be a little inconsistent.
In addition, the DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack of George Washington worked fine for the material. The soundfield largely remained oriented in the front channels; in that realm, the forward spectrum showed reasonably good stereo imaging for the music and displayed decent general ambience for effects.
There wasn’t a lot of unique audio from the sides throughout the film, but the mix displayed a nice sense of environment. The surrounds worked along the same lines; they reinforced the overall tone of the flick with moderate use of music and effects from the rear, but they didn’t provide much in the way of distinct audio.
Sound quality seemed good as a whole. Dialogue was distinct and natural, and speech showed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects were accurate and clean, without any distortion. Those elements also demonstrated good bass when appropriate, such as for the exaggerated thumps heard in some scenes. Music offered nice fidelity and depth as well, with clear highs and tight low-end. The track wasn’t anything special, but it seemed solid for the material.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original 2002 DVD? Audio seemed a bit warmer and more robust, while visuals appeared more accurate and concise. Even with some criticisms about the transfer, this became a good step up in quality.
The 2014 Blu-ray duplicates the extras from the 2002 DVD. We begin with an audio commentary that includes writer/director David Gordon Green, cinematographer Tim Orr, and actor Paul Schneider. All three were apparently recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. I say “apparently” because although it’s clear they usually sat together, the piece seemed to show some edits that made it come across as though a few segments featured them separately.
In any case, much of the commentary clearly came from group sessions, though not surprisingly, Green dominates the piece. Despite my disdain for the film itself, I find this track to offer a fairly compelling experience. Green nicely discusses his inspirations for the film and what he wanted to do with it. He also covers various technical and practical issues, while the others kick in some helpful tidbits as well. Green and company can’t change my negative opinion about George Washington - indeed, some of their statements confirm my suspicions in regard to some elements - but I appreciate the attempt to clarify their intentions.
We discover some films that predate George Washington. First up is Pleasant Grove, Green’s 1996 student film that functioned essentially as a demo reel for Washington. The videotaped feature runs for 14 minutes and 55 seconds and it basically acts like a shorter version of the main flick. Actually, it only offers a few of Washington’s elements; we see just one kid - named Garland, he strongly resembles George - and a few adults.
However, some of Grove’s scenes were lifted without much change for use in the later film, and it features the same languid pacing and tone. It might make sense to watch Grove before you see Washington, as I believe the latter would be more compelling when viewed second. As much as I dislike Washington, it looks much better compared to the woefully amateurish and awkward Grove. Man, I thought the acting was bad in the feature flick; I don’t know if I’ve ever seen performances as weak as those in Grove!
Pleasant Grove can be viewed with or without commentary from Green, Orr and Schneider. Again, Green dominates, but Orr adds some remarks about how he got into cinematography, and Schneider provides some insightful statements about his own work. Green relates how he came to make the flick and his own film school processes. It’s another nice track.
Another Green short appears in the form of Physical Pinball. Made in 1998, this 20-minute and 28-second film features Candace Evanofski and Eddie Rouse from Washington.
Unlike the freeform Washington and Grove, Pinball actually attempts a minor narrative. Evanofski plays a tomboy who gets her first period, and her Dad (Rouse) has to deal with these changes. It’s nothing much more than what you’d find on an “Afterschool Special”, but it’s significantly more interesting than Green’s other works featured here.
Apparently Clu Gulager’s 1969 short A Day With the Boys served as an inspiration for Washington, and that 17-minute and 58-second film appears here in its entirety. Day focuses on a wordless period in which we watch some young boys romp around before they apparently kill and bury a businessman. It’s trippy in a Sixties way and seems almost as pointless as Washington; it’s another example of style over substance, and I don’t care for it.
After this we find one deleted scene. An eight-minute and 27-second clip, this snippet shows Rico as he organizes a meeting of concerned citizens. Essentially this shows one long take of a bunch of stupid people who try to solve problems despite their lack of intelligence.
How dumb are these folks? Rico the moron seems like the brightest of the bunch. It’s actually funny as a satire of well intentioned but clueless sorts, but it wouldn’t have fit within the final film; it focuses too much on the adults and seems a little too “on the nose”.
The deleted scene can be viewed with or without commentary from Green, Orr and Schneider. This is a spotty track that doesn’t fill the entire clip, but it delivers enough useful information to merit a listen. We hear some remarks about the shoot and find out why it didn’t make the cut; clearly they recognized how poorly it melded with the rest of the movie. It’s a short but interesting discussion.
In the Cast Reunion section, we find 15 minutes and 55 seconds of interviews with the young actors of Washington. Conducted on September 15, 2001 by David Gordon Green, we hear from Candace Evanofski, Donald Holden, Damien Lee, Curtis Cotton and Rachael Handy. They don’t give us a lot of insight, but it’s interesting to see the real personalities of the kids, especially since some of them seem very different from their characters.
Cotton comes across as a kid with a budding ego as he tells us about his natural acting talent and lets us know he’s better than Denzel Washington. If he seemed to be joking, this’d be entertaining, but I think the kid was serious. Since apparently Cotton never acted again, I guess Hollywood missed its chance at the next big star.
By the way, a look at IMDB shows that virtually none of the then-young actors from Washington went on to much work in show business. A few got a handful of jobs but no one achieved success. Based on her IMDB picture, though, it appears Handy developed into a gorgeous woman.
After this we get a Charlie Rose Interview with Green. This clip lasts for 14 minutes and 38 seconds. Although it’s a solid little discussion, a lot of the material appears elsewhere on the disc, so much of the chat becomes redundant. If you don’t have the time for the full commentary, the Rose piece acts as a substitute, but otherwise it doesn’t add much new information.
Finally, we get the movie’s theatrical trailer as well as a booklet with some text information. Green provides a “Director’s Statement” while we also find pretentious comments from film critic Armond White. He stretches desperately to locate meaning in nothingness, and he fails.
A second disc provides a DVD Copy of the film. It replicates the same extras as the Blu-ray.
George Washington exists as a self-indulgent film exercise. All attempts to pretend otherwise appear destined to misfire. The Blu-ray offers generally good picture and audio as well as a strong selection of supplements. Washington leaves me totally cold, but its fans should feel pleased with this release.