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Ironweed (1987)

Jack Nicholson , Meryl Streep , Hector Babenco , Hector Babenco  |  R |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Jake Dengel, Paul A. DiCocco Jr., William Duell
  • Directors: Hector Babenco, Hector Babenco
  • Format: Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Lions Gate
  • DVD Release Date: February 24, 2009
  • Run Time: 143 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,076 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Ironweed" on IMDb

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
89 of 92 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To Comfort The Dead July 27, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
In highschool I came across a poem called The Projectionist's Nightmare, I don't recall the name of the poet but the poem's message is still very much with me. It described a wayward bird inside a movie theatre, where an audience was watching two poeple "being nice to each other". The bird crashes into the screen, its blood slithering onto the image, the spell is broken, the fantasy dispelled and the audience screams. Hector Babenco had already made this poem in substance in 1985s Kiss Of A Spider Woman where his lead character, a prisoner, escaped his miserable surroundings through memories and fantasies of a propaganda film. Two years later Bebanco would make Ironweed, and his lead character Frances Phelan (Jack Nicholson) is well past the dreaming stage, the only fantasies he has are of ghosts from his past.
Ironweed is a film many people would find slow. Nothing much happens and the characters don't change. The stark grim atmosphere and the dead end conditions unrelenting. There is no hope in the story of Frances Phelan. He has abandoned his family 22 years ago after dropping his 13 year old baby to its death. The film starts with him visiting his dead baby's grave for the first time, and then follows him around as he joins his companion Helen Archer (Meryl Streep) and his friend of sorts Rudy (Tom Waits). All three of them are alcoholics, and we watch as they wade through the alleys of Albany 1938 looking for a place to sleep . They get robbed, they see a homeless prostitute from Alaska die of cold and they get into fights. But there is no emotional release in their anger or in their better moments. You'd expect there to be emancipated joy when Streep sings in a bar in front of a full house, or rage when a bunch of kids rob them of all their money.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A VERY GOOD MOVIE June 15, 2005
No, this is not a typical Nicholson project, but it's the better for that. I mean -- "About Schmidt" or "Ironweed" -- the former is good, the latter nearly great. The fact that Nicholson is playing so off-character makes this a role well worth seeing him in. Streep is good, Tom Waits is GREAT as Rudy. The film is not for depressives, however. PLEASE RELEASE THIS IMPORTANT FILM IN DVD FORMAT!! With all the toppings, please.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Non-OAR Release! Product Details are Correct! February 21, 2009
This film has been released for the first time on DVD in a horrid Full Screen only version. Not sure why, but I thought the days of non-original aspect ratio releases were over. Apparently not.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This Title Is NOT Pan And Scan February 27, 2009
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Before everyone freaks out about the aspect ratio, be aware that this film was shot flat and hard matted at 1.85:1 for its theatrical run (I know because I was a projectionist who ran it back in '87). In a nutshell, this means that it was shot at 1.33:1 and then shown with an aperture plate cutting off the top and bottom so it fit the theatre screen.

The version on this DVD is full frame. There are doubtlessly small bits of the sides cut off, but much more is shown at the top and bottom. Is this the way the director intended it to be seen? I don't know (some directors such as Kubrick preferred full frame). I'd be happier knowing what Hector Babenco's thoughts were on the release, but at least the film's not a 2.35:1 pic that really IS pan and scan and missing lots of peripheral info.

And more importantly, I'm happy to have the damn film in ANY ratio on DVD finally.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fullscreen (NOT ANY MORE) February 9, 2009
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is a great film. Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson were given a great story (by William Kennedy), and they responded with greatness. I've been waiting for it to come out in DVD, largely because my VHS copy is a pan-and-scan, fullscreen (1.33:1) version, and this film deserves to be seen in its glorious widescreen (1.85:1) theatrical version. Unfortunately, the "product details" indicate that this DVD is "fullscreen", and it has been confirmed (2-24-09) by two people (Neil and Brad) that it is the fullscreen version. [Brad even commented that it looked like a copy of the old VHS pan-and-scan tape].

August '09 EDIT: Butch Johnson, a projectionist, gave the film a 3 star rating (on Feb. 27, 2009); he commented that this film was originally filmed in a fullscreen (1.33 : 1) aspect ratio, and "cropped" on the top and bottom for commercial "widescreen" theatrical distribution. Comparing this fullscreen version with the widescreen version (which can be seen on youtube in installments, numbered: 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) Mr. Johnson's claim appears quite valid. Consequently, although there's certainly something to be said for a film that fills our widescreen television screens, this DVD does not appear to be a pan-and-scan; it actually lets us see more of the "original" film, in--paradoxically--a smaller "blackboxed" 4X3 area.

UPDATE APRIL 2013: Hosanna! The Bluray widescreen (1:77:1) version of this film is vastly superior to the previously released fullscreen version. As mentioned in my two previous paragraphs, the top and the bottom of this newer version have been trimmed, but the film is now available the way the director intended, and it packs a much stronger wallop. The video quality of the bluray version is greatly improved, and it makes for a considerably richer movie experience. Enjoy!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm watching it as we speak & I love this movie
I'm watching it as we speak & I love this movie!! I saw it 20 some years ago & loved it then, so very glad I got to buy it & watch it whenever I want!! Read more
Published 1 month ago by meaner
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Michelle Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars May not be for everyone.
Nicholson, Streep, and Waits. May be a little slow for some, but the acting is fantastic.
Published 3 months ago by John C.
5.0 out of 5 stars I just love some of these type of raw movies that sometimes ...
I just love some of these type of raw movies that sometimes finds it hard to convey the meaning of it all. Nicholson, Streep, Tom Waits...all great with additional cast. Read more
Published 3 months ago by MetalMX
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor Blu-Ray quality
I won't get into the movie itself--it's one of those flicks that you'll like it or not, so you might as well just get it if you're curious. Read more
Published 3 months ago by John Signer
5.0 out of 5 stars Ironweed
Ironweed is one of my favorite movies. I have read all of author William Kennedy's books. The story takes place in the author's home town of Albany, New York. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Walter Ryan
5.0 out of 5 stars Ironweed is a great ensemble movie
Superb acting, great set design, wonderful story. Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep give amazing and heartfelt performances in this moving period piece.
Published 7 months ago by Margaret Rose
4.0 out of 5 stars Ironweed
the film I find to be vulgar ... the only reason for buying it is because of Meryl Streeps singing in the movie and her usual superb performance .TML
Published 7 months ago by Thom mykel
5.0 out of 5 stars Ironweed - Perfect Catharsis from two master actors
Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep are at their best in this very honest, harsh look at alcoholism, homelessness, and mental illness in Depression era America. Read more
Published 7 months ago by David Milam
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie
Two of the premier actors of their generation put on a stunning performance, as does the city of Troy, NY where I was partially filmed
Published 8 months ago by TroyBoy
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Full screen?
You're quite right, IMDb has changed the aspect ratio from 1:33 to 1:85 in tech. specs. since I last looked at the site. So apparently this film was widescreen when released and my many viewings of the VHS release have dulled my memory. I have since received the copy I ordered and am sad to... Read More
Feb 25, 2009 by birdman |  See all 6 posts
Someone correct me, but isn't that Ted Levine in the box car playing the banjo and singing Waits Poor Little Lambs? Years before he played Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs. And Buffalo Bill is what Franny calls himself as he wakes Waits' Rudy passed out on the street. Strange coincidence.
Mar 28, 2011 by Robert Wheatley |  See all 2 posts
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