In honor of the month of the Academy Awards , all of the February Bonus Points columns will focus on Oscar-nominated movies of past and present. I begin today with "Tootsie," the cross-dressing comedy that earned 10 nominations back in 1983.
Watching the new 25th-anniversary edition DVD ($19.98), it's easy to see why director Sydney Pollack and several members of the cast -- including star Dustin Hoffman in one of his most beloved roles -- earned such accolades from their peers. "Tootsie" is most definitely a child of the cinematic '80s; one need only listen to that soft-rocking musical score to confirm that. But with its impeccable comedic timing and themes of gender inequality that still resonate today, it's the rare movie about a guy in drag that exhibits both intelligence and real insight into human behavior. With all due respect to Billy Wilder, this DVD can proudly and appropriately stand next to "Some Like It Hot" on any home entertainment center shelf.
Happily, it also comes with a strong set of extras, including Hoffman's first screen test as Dorothy Michaels, nine deleted scenes and, best of all, the wonderful one-hour documentary, "A Better Man: The Making of 'Tootsie.'" Pollack, Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Terri Garr and other key contributors to the "Tootsie" experience discuss everything from on-set creative differences (there is behind-the-scenes footage of Hoffman and Pollack having heated but friendly arguments) to Hoffman's decision to grab Pollack's (ahem) private parts while filming a key scene.
For a movie that celebrates the power of women in the workplace, there is one bit of irony about "Tootsie": The fact that, as Hoffman and Pollack tell it, comedy vet Elaine May drastically punched up the screenplay, inventing Garr's character and adding new plotlines that finally made the picture sing, but gets gets no screenwriting credit. That goes to the two men -- Murray Schisgal and Larry Gelbart -- who also worked extensively on the script. Of course, the low-profile May may not have minded. But Dorothy Michaels would not have stood for it.
Weepiest Bonus Point: At one point during the documentary, Hoffman breaks down in tears as he recounts how, by playing Michaels, he learned what it felt like to be a less-than-attractive woman. "I said to my wife, 'I can't believe men are that callous.' It's like a Venetian blind they close over me," he says, his bottom lip starting to quiver. "They look at me and I disappear."
More Oscar nominees arriving on DVD today: "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," which earned a Best Actress nod for Cate Blanchett, and "The Assassination of Jesse James," which gave Casey Affleck his first nomination in the supporting actor category. Also worth noting: 1960s's Best Picture winner, "The Apartment," gets the special-edition treatment.
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"Across the Universe" developed something of a cult following despite mixed reviews. See what all the fuss was about now that the Beatles-infused film is on DVD. For more options, check out this full list of today's DVD debuts.
Releases worth marking on the calendar:
PHOTOS: 'Tootsie' and 'Across the Universe' -- Sony Home Entertainment