Will this be Richard Linklater's year at the Oscars?
The 54-year-old writer-director's 17th feature, Boyhood, a riveting, deeply moving coming-of-age drama that was more than a decade in the making, has won critics' hearts.
The film has swept regional and international awards from Berlin to Chicago and has picked up five Golden Globe nominations, including best picture, best director, best supporting actor (Ethan Hawke), and best supporting actress (Patricia Arquette).
Paramount will release the film on disc on Jan. 6, just in time for the awards season.
So why all the hoopla?
Centered on a boy and his sister, the film features strong writing and stunning performances from its two young leads, Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater (the director's daughter) and stellar turns by Hawke and Arquette as their divorced parents, whose complicated relationship goes through several powerful shifts over the years.
What's truly remarkable about Boyhood is that its stars give consistent, emotionally grounded performances over the 11 years it took to shoot the film.
Linklater's conceit is somewhat reminiscent of Michael Apted's Up documentary series: Shot in seven-year installments, those films have portrayed the lives of a group of British men and women since they were 7 years old in 1964.
For more than a decade, Linklater, his crew, and his cast reunited to shoot new scenes, depicting, in real time, the engaging and at times gripping lives of the members of a typically dysfunctional middle-class family.
It's an unforgettable experience to see the young leads actually grow up before our eyes.
Without the actors' commitment and Linklater's powerful writing, the project would never have worked.
The man deserves an Oscar simply for pulling it off - and with such aplomb.
(www.paramount.com/movies/home-media; $29.99 DVD; $39.99 DVD/Blu-ray Combo; rated R)
Other titles of note
The Americans: Season 2. Enjoy 13 new episodes of what is arguably the best espionage drama on TV today. A stellar Cold War story set in the '80s, it features strong performances by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as married KGB officers living in suburban Washington. Its story lines, strong writing and realistic depiction of spycraft are second to none. Then there are the jaw-dropping sex scenes. (www.foxconnect.com; $39.98; not rated)
Dominion: Season 1. A spinoff of the horror-fantasy film Legion, this Syfy series is set 25 years after a host of angels decided to destroy humankind - all except the powerful Michael. The series follows the lives of a feudal city-state created by the survivors of the angel wars. It's fun viewing. (www.universalstudiosentertainment.com; $44.98 DVD; $59.98 Blu-ray; not rated)
The Night Porter. Liliana Cavani's surreal film is a notable if controversial parable that argues that the destructive power relationships that came to a boil during WWII remain decades later in European politics. It makes its arguments through sex: Set 13 years after the war, it's about a former SS officer (Dirk Bogarde) who runs into the beautiful concentration camp prisoner (Charlotte Rampling) with whom he had initiated a sadomasochistic relationship. (www.criterion.com; $29.95 DVD; $39.95 Blu-ray; rated R)
From Dusk Till Dawn: Complete Season One. Robert Rodriguez's TV adaptation of his 1996 horror film has lots of guns, gals, and vampires. It tells the same story but with amazing detail and characterizations. (http://us.eonefilms.com; $39.98 DVD; $49.98 Blu-ray; not rated)
Cowboy Bebop: The Complete Series (Blu-ray). One of the best Japanese animes ever made, this 1998 series was one of the inspirations for Joss Whedon's Firefly. Set in 2071, it follows the adventures of a group of heroes - well, heroic mercenaries - who travel around the universe in their spaceship, the Bebop. (www.funimation.com; $59.98; not rated)