Despite strong competition from "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Days of Glory," Germany's "The Lives of Others," which arrives Tuesday on DVD, won the Oscar this year for foreign language film. The gripping dramatic thriller marked the film debut of writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
Set in 1984 in East Germany, "The Lives of Others" revolves around a secret agent (Ulrich Mühe) of the Stasi -- the country's secret police -- assigned to spy on a popular playwright (Sebastian Koch) who could be a political subversive.
But it turns out that a member of the Communist Party's central committee is attracted to the playwright's girlfriend. The film went on to make more than $60 million worldwide.
Mühe, who gives an indel- ible performance as the spy, died of stomach cancer last month.
Couch potato alert: 'Ugly Betty'
Two comedy series that premiered last September make their DVD bows Tuesday. One release is an absolute no-brainer -- the ABC charmer "Ugly Betty," nominated for several Emmy Awards, including comedy series and actress (America Ferrera). "Ugly Betty" has won Golden Globes in the top categories, and Ferrera also picked up a Screen Actors Guild Award as the plucky ugly duckling who works at a top fashion magazine in New York City.
But the other series? One has to scratch one's head to figure out the logic behind releasing the first season of "'Til Death" on DVD. The Fox comedy starring Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher as a curmudgeonly married couple with newlywed neighbors languished on Thursday nights in the ratings until it was moved after the "American Idol" results show on Wednesdays.
Seeds of success in student films
"Reel Talent: First Films by Legendary Directors" offers 12 flicks made by popular filmmakers while they were attending cinema school at USC. Three of the films were made by George Lucas, including "A Man and His Car"; Robert Zemeckis is represented by two, including "A Field of Honor," which won the Student Academy Award over three decades ago. Also featured on the disc are Richard L. Bare, Stephen Sommers, James Foley, Richard Kelly, Shawn Levy, Jon Turteltaub and Kevin Reynolds.
-- Susan KingCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun