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The story behind Abe’s story


David James/DreamWorks Pictures


In Blu-ray supplements accompanying “Lincoln” (2012), three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis voices precisely the creative sentiment you might expect: In prepping for his masterfully transformative role, he found a good starting point in historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “A Team of Rivals.” But, he says, it was Abraham Lincoln’s own writings that brought the character alive for him. This shows in the film’s best moments, its glimpses of Lincoln as a charismatic sharer of anecdotes and knowledge. These scenes command rapt attention in a movie that, dare we say it, has its struggles with dialogue, as reenacted debate over abolition and the passage of the 13th Amendment sometimes steps on Steven Spielberg’s customary narrative virtuosity. The discourse is more tightly edited in a collection of production featurettes totaling 75 minutes. (No rehash of the flap over misrepresentation of Connecticut’s congressional vote, and Spielberg, as usual, sits for interviews but not commentary.) The director notes with a laugh that the script’s first draft came in at “HBO miniseries” length and adds that the amendment fight stood out as its own story. We hear from screenwriter Tony Kushner, although the disc unsurprisingly doesn’t consider thematic links between “Lincoln” and the social conscience of Kushner’s Pulitzer-winning stageplay, “Angels in America.” We’re given looks at costume portraits of Sally Field’s Mary Todd Lincoln and others that artfully echo sepia-toned historical photos that inspired the filmmakers. And makeup designer Lois Burwell discusses the art of making Day-Lewis not a Lincoln look-alike, but “a feel-alike.” Indeed. (DreamWorks, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99)



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In his most aggressively risky film, Charlie Chaplin casts himself as a sociopath who rationalizes killing wealthy widows as a means of getting by — and provocatively philosophizes that warring nations do worse. In a project initiated by Orson Welles, Chaplin blows up his image (right down to the mustache), fully locates his voice, and works opposite relentlessly brassy Martha Raye. Still odd, still intriguing. Extras: A 2003 retrospective features analysis from Claude Chabrol, whose film “Bluebeard” was based on the same real-life case as “Verdoux.” A new segment examines Chaplin’s relationship with the American press, which “Verdoux” hardly helped. (Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95)



Julia Louis-Dreyfus segues from distant second to her ex in “The New Adventures of Old Christine” to distant second in D.C.’s power corridors. Louis-Dreyfus elevates any comedy she does, but this one feels overeager to have us recognize just how brash it is. The show has found an audience — the disc is timed to plug season two — but we’d be just as happy with a DVD release of “Watching Ellie,” Louis-Dreyfus’s flawed, forgotten post-“Seinfeld” gig with Steve Carell. Extras: In interviews and commentary, meet creator Armando Iannucci, Oscar-nominated writer of the similarly good-not-great Washington satire “In the Loop.” (HBO, $39.98; Blu-ray, $49.99)

Tom Russo can be reached at
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