DVD Alternatives to This Weekend's Theatrical Offerings

With no new wide releases this last weekend of the year, most moviegoers have no choice but to resort to DVD alternatives to the two new art house flicks -- and for-certain Oscar contenders -- debuting in extremely limited release. Hey, it's either this or Jack Black peeing on the Lilliputians in Gulliver's Travels...

INSTEAD OF: Another Year, Mike Leigh's latest wonderful experiment in improvising real life on film, in which Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent's happily married couple contend with friends who can't seem to find the same kind of contentment for themselves...

WATCH: High Hopes (1988), Mike Leigh's first theatrical feature, about the sweet life of a working-class couple in London; it also stars Year's Ruth Sheen. For more of the cinematic treasure that is Jim Broadbent, don't miss the hilarious The Young Visiters (2003), based on an outrageously funny Victorian novel written by a child that is an accidental send-up of the romantic fiction of the era. For another charming romance, if a more conventional one, set in London and featuring a couple who aren't youngsters and are experienced at -- and a bit jaded by -- life and love, check out Last Chance Harvey (2008), in which a visiting Dustin Hoffman falls hard and fast for a lonely Emma Thompson. For another love story in which a London home is as much as a character as the people are -- as is the case with Year -- see the impossibly romantic Truly Madly Deeply (1990), in which the ghost of Alan Rickman haunts the dilapidated but still cozy flat of Juliet Stevenson.

INSTEAD OF: Blue Valentine, in which Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play a young couple who got married under strained circumstances and now find their relationship falling apart...

WATCH: Revolutionary Road (2008), in which Kate Winslet's 1950s housewife chafes against the limits of her life, straining her marriage to Leonardo DiCaprio. For another look at a relationship under pressure from outside forces rather than those within, see Mr. & Mrs. Bridge (1990), in which real-life couple Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward portray a conservative couple in the 1930s and '40s whose values are increasingly outmoded in the modern world. For more of the wonderful Ryan Gosling, do not miss Lars and the Real Girl (2007), an unlikely love story about a lonely man and his relationship with a sex doll (it's not at all salacious, I promise). For more of the lovely Michelle Williams, see her in the girl-and-her-dog love story Wendy and Lucy (2008), a heartbreaking tale of loyalty and friendship.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

MaryAnn Johanson is married to her work at FlickFilosopher.com. (email me)