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And Everything is Going Fine – The Criterion Collection #617 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 27, 2012 by  



For those who are passionate about Spalding Gray’s work, Steven Soderbergh’s Spalding Gray documentary,”And Everything is Going Fine”, is well-researched, well-planned, well-edited and also is entertaining and fantastic!  No narrative by anyone else but words coming solely from Spalding Gray taken from various footage throughout his career and also personal moments at home.   “And Everything is Going Fine” is a celebration of a distinguished career of one of America’s best known raconteur.  Spalding Gray fans will definitely not want to miss the Criterion Collection Blu-ray or DVD release of “And Everything is Going Fine”.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2012 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: And Everything is Going Fine – The Criterion Collection #617

YEAR OF FILM: 2010

DURATION: 89 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), Color, Monaural

COMPANY: Sundance Selects/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: June 13, 20112

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Produced by Joshua Blum, Amy Hobby, Kathie Russo

Edited by Susan Littenberg

Starring:

Spalding Gray

After the death in 2004 of American theater actor and monologist Spalding Gray, director Steven Soderbergh pieced together a narrative of Gray’s life to create the documentary And Everything Is Going Fine. Brilliantly and sensitively assembled entirely from footage of Gray, taken from interviews and one-man shows from throughout his career, it is a rich, full portrait—an autobiography of sorts—of a figure who was never less than candid but retained an air of mystery.


He is one of the greatest raconteurs in American history.

The late Spalding Gray. The WASP from Rhode Island, the actor who had parts in the films “The Killing Fields”, “Beaches”, “Kate & Leopold” and TV series such as “The Nanny” and “Saturday Night Live”, was known for his acting and written work in autobiographical monologue.

From his experience filming in Southeast Asia, he wrote “Swimming to Cambodia” in 1985 which received its film adaptation in 1987. The monologue would earn Gray a Guggenheim Fellowship and the National Book Award in 1985.

Spalding Gray would continue to gain prominence from his monologue work and his first and only novel “Impossible Vacation”, Gray was seen as the ultimate storyteller, possibly one of America’s greatest raconteurs. A man with an amazing gift of writing and performing with humor and openness. But also a man who battled with hereditary depression.

His mother committed suicide, his father dying before the birth of his first son, the birth of a son that he didn’t want and wanted aborted, but found out how much he would love his child.  A man who enjoyed talking about life but not living it, Spalding Gray was a complex individual.

Remembered best for his monologue work, back in 1993, Spalding would work with young filmmaker at the time, Steven Soderbergh ( “Sex, Lies and Videotape”, “Kafka”, “King of the Hill” and “Underneath”) in the film “King of the Hill”.

Soderbergh who enjoyed Spalding’s novel “Impossible Vacation” would later collaborate with Spalding Gray in bringing his 1993 monologue “Gray’s Anatomy” to the big screen, and so together along with co-writer Renee Shafransky, the film adaptation of “Gray’s Anatomy” was released in theaters in 1997. The film would also be a personal cinematic purge for Soderbergh who wanted to rejuvenate himself after directing four feature films and by working with people that he collaborated with in his short films.

With a small budget and eight days to film, “Gray’s Anatomy” would give him the time to create a film that Soderbergh had wanted and most importantly, work with Spalding Gray.

But life for Spalding Gray would take its turn in 2001. While vacationing in Ireland, Gray would suffer severe injuries in a car accident. Injuries to his body and to his brain and the bout with depression was too much for him to take.

For Steven Soderbergh, the filmmaker had said that after hearing the injuries that Spalding Gray had suffered, instead of reaching out to him, he decided that it was best to keep his distance.

In 2004, after watching Tim Burton’s “Big Fish”, according to Gray’s widow, Kathie Russo, “You know, Spalding cried after he saw that movie. I just think it gave him permission. I think it gave him permission to die.”

Spalding Gray went missing and his body was found several months later in the East River.  Spalding Gray, like his mother, committed suicide.

Kathie Russo had wanted a documentary to celebrate the life of Spalding Gray and she turned to Steven Soderbergh.  Soderbergh who had felt guilty that he had not contacted Spalding wanted to make things right and that is by collaborating with his family, together with his editor Susan Littenberg, going through hours of footage, may it be interviews, family footage and one-man shows throughout his career, creating a documentary to honor Spalding Gray’s life.  But also giving a chance for people to see Spalding Gray in a way that they have never seen him before.

Instead of having someone narrate the story of Spalding Gray, “And Everything is Going Fine” is essentially a film in which Spalding Gray does all the talking about his life throughout this footage, from his younger years up to the challenges he was facing after his accident.

We learn about his relationship with mother and father, how he found out his mother had died, his travels to India, his sexual experiences, the women in his life, his marriage, children and the accident that he was unable to recover from.  Spalding Gray talks about the life he lived but how he enjoyed talking about life but not necessarily living it.

With this release of the documentary in 2010, many familiar with Spalding Gray’s work have called “And Everything is Going Fine” as a posthumous monologue and fitting final monologue for Spalding Gray.  There is no mention of his death or how he died, Steven Soderbergh created a documentary to celebrate Spalding Gray’s life and to remember him for what he contributed to this world when he was alive.

VIDEO:

“And Everything is Going Fine” is a documentary presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and a film that utilizes various film sources.  May it be taped interviews from his one-man shows, television interviews, personal family videos.  So, video quality varies as it focuses on Spalding Gray throughout his career.

There is no doubt that Steven Soderbergh did a lot of research in making sure which footage would be used in the film.  Together with his editor Susan Littenberg, the two manage to craft a film that is well-paced and utilizing the best footage for this film.  So, I’m not going to be picky over the video quality of this documentary.

According to the Criterion Collection, the film was assembled from archival interviews with and performances by Spalding Gray, material primarily in the form of NTSC videotape.  Still photographs were also used as well as home movies over the closing credits.  No new material was photographed.

All the original NTSC videotapes were digitized 1:1 as Avid MXF Media at 720 x 486 resolution.  These files were then upconverted to 2K DPX files (1920 x 1440 inside of 2048 x 1556) in Scratch, using Lanczos scaling to increase sharpness with a minimum of artifacts.  The film was then color corrected in Scratch, with noise reduction later applied as necessary, creating the final color-timed DPX files.  Throughout all of these steps, the original frame rate of 29.97 and the original 1:33:1 aspect ratio were maintained.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Gray’s Anatomy” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Dialogue is clear from Spalding Gray to the other people featured throughout the film. I heard no audio problems during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, the original theatrical audio mix was updated by re-recording mixer Larry Blake from the 1997 stems, the primary change being the upmixing of the music to 5.1 surround.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“And Everything is Going Fine – The Criterion Collection #617” on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of “And Everything is Going Fine” – (20:56) A March 2012 interview with Steven Soderbergh, Kathleen Russo, editor Susan Littnberg on the making of the film, the challenges of making the documentary and more.
  • Sex and Death to the Age 14 – (1:04:15) The first monologue of Spalding Gray, this version was shot in 1982 by Dan Weissman and Brad Ricker.  The monologue was created with the support of the Wooster Group and the original version premiered in April 1979 at the Performing Garage in New York City.
  • Trailer – (2:07) The original theatrical trailer for “And Everything is Going Fine”.

EXTRAS:

Included is a 20-page booklet featuring the essay “The Gray In-Between” by Nell Casey.

Spalding Gray was one of America’s greatest storytellers.  Best remembered for his monologue’s, for those who knew Gray personally, were aware of his family tragedy, his depression and his talent.

But it’s the positive long lasting memory that people remember of Spalding.  What he contributed to American literature to entertaining those who were willing to listen to him talk about life.   No matter if the topic was sad or exciting, he presented his story to an audience with passion.

And what Steven Soderbergh gives to the viewer is no-narrative but giving Spalding Gray a chance to tell people about his life posthumously through his words from various footage.  May it be through TV interviews, footage from his one-man show or even personal home videos, “And Everything is Going Fine” might as well be the final and fitting monologue by Spalding Gray.  There is not many people who can talk about their life, the happy moments to the most embarrassing moments to the most tragic of moments with such precision.  He doesn’t break down, he doesn’t stutter or miss a beat.  He’s a pure professional that can share his life to the audience and everyone in the room may be captivated by his compelling stories.

But while many see Gray’s works as larger than life, Gray is a man who is not perfect.  He has faced depression and took medication for it, he has relationship issues, sexuality issues, there are things that have happened throughout his life and Steven Soderbergh’s documentary wisely features footage from various shows and interviews to give viewers an honest look of the man, no bullshit but giving us the real deal.  And he also interacts and interviews members of the audience, which is fascinating.

As for the Blu-ray release, “And Everything is Going Fine comes with a making of featurette which is quite intriguing as we get to hear from Soderbergh and his editor Susan Littenberg, but also hearing from Spalding’s widow Kathleen Russo.  From the making of the documentary to the challenges that existed, it was rather interesting to watch, especially if you are a filmmaker and want to hear about Soderbergh’s approach to the source material used for the film.

And similar to the release of “Gray’s Anatomy” on Blu-ray and DVD, “And Everything is Going Fine” also features a monologue.  In this case, his first monologue “Sex and Death to the Age 14” which is over an hour long.

Overall, I’m very appreciative to the Criterion Collection for giving Spalding Gray a spot in their collection.  Granted, “Gray’s Anatomy” and “And Everything is Going Fine” is directed by Steven Soderbergh, but what I enjoyed about these two films was that it was less about Soderbergh and more about Spalding Gray.  Gray in his own words, Gray in his own personal style of communicating with the audience.  May it be in the film or posthumously through archival footage.

While Spalding Gray was working on a monologue before his death and a book on the unfinished monologue has been published “And Everything is Going Fine” goes one step farther by bringing us one final monologue featuring Spalding Gray!  And for those who are passionate about Gray’s work, you can expect this documentary to be well-researched (when it comes to picking the right scenes from hours upon hours of footage), well-planned, well-edited and also entertaining and fantastic! Spalding Gray fans will definitely not want to miss the release of “And Everything is Going Fine”.

Recommended!

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