Lisa Cholodenko talks “Kids,” Blu-ray technology, and the Oscar race

By Sean O’Connell Lisa Cholodenko’s “The Kids Are All Right” continues to make waves in the Oscar race, drumming up support in multiple categories as we truck along towards nominations time. While several studios have had to make concessions to get screener copies of their films in voters’ hands, Focus Features wisely released Cholodenko’s hit dra-medy on DVD and Blu-ray in time for the holidays so audiences, critics and key guild members could be reminded of its merits as they filled out crucial ballots.

As the DVD hit streets, Cholodenko called to talk about emotional scenes, Blu-ray technology, recording commentary tracks, and the headlines generated by the Julianne Moore vs. Annette Bening discussion. You went through a similar process as your characters, having a child from an anonymous sperm donation. Were you projecting a bit into your own child’s future when you started writing the dialogue for Joni and Laser?

Lisa Cholodenko: You know, if I was having any fantasia about that, it didn’t really go very far. I think once I started writing this script and inventing these characters, I kind of cut out of my own imagining of what my kid would be going through and just jumped into this family’s situation.

HN: You and Stuart [Blumberg] wrote a scene that, to me, remains one of the most moving and beautiful things I’ve seen on screen this year, and it’s the family embrace outside of Joni’s dorm room. Could you talk about constructing that scene?

LC: Well, I have to give Stuart credit for really getting into the viscera of that scene. I love that scene, and I really felt it. It felt like a great way to bring closure to the film. But I think that he had a sense-memory of his experience going to college and saying goodbye to his parents.

HN: Neither of you have college-aged kids?

LC: No, but I think he was able to conjure that experience of his own as the kid going off to college, and then bringing Julianne [Moore] and Annette [Bening] into it, they certainly supplied their own feeling about it. Annette had just sent her first-born off to college, so she certainly knows what those feelings are.

HN: Your film’s now available on Blu-ray. Are you converting your own personal film library over to Blu-ray films?

LC: Well, we have a few Blu-rays, yeah! I don’t know where technology is heading, though, so I don’t get too overwhelmed by that. I don’t have a massive Blu-ray collection. [Laughs] I am glad my movie is coming out on it.

HN: When you watch “Kids,” do you see a difference from regular DVD to Blu-ray?

LC: You know what, I haven’t watched it yet, because I’ve just gotten my copy today.

HN: So when you were putting the DVD together, what features were important to you, as a filmmaker, to have in there for fans?

LC: Well, when I’m making the film, I’m more focused in the integrity of the film. I haven’t spent a lot of time, in all candor, thinking about how to prepare the best DVD that I can. But I know that for myself, I’m always really interested in what the filmmaker says. Those are things that I like to watch when I’m seeing a film that I like. So I got heavily involved in the making of this DVD. We did [the commentary track] several months after I completed filming … and I remember asking them to turn down the sound. I felt like I knew all of the dialogue and knew the scenes, so I didn’t need to hear them. So I just watched the picture and talked about things that came to mind, whether it was production design or what was going on behind the scenes that day. I just kind of riffed.

HN: We cover the Oscar race on our site, and “Kids” has been discussed for several categories. But we’ve also seen articles trying to pit Julianne against Annette in a “Best Actress” battle. Do you have any comment on the way that race has been portrayed?

LC: I really don’t. I think that they both gave incredible performances, and I’m super proud of both of them. I think that they are very different, but they are both equally vigorous in their own ways. I respect both Annette and Julianne a lot and I feel like that isn’t something I want to get invested in. I support them both, and I don’t want to interrupt that process or be a part of it, really. [Laughs]

“The Kids Are All Right” currently is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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