Background: There are all sorts of celebrities in the world from the kind that are publicity generated to those that have fame thrust upon them to the kind that find their way into the hearts of millions by virtue of who they are inside. The latter kinds are the special ones that we tend to glorify in death, such was the case with a young Latina songstress named Selena Quintanilla from Texas. For those that just came here from another planet, Selena was a trend setting lady with a growing following struck down just before she crossed over to mainstream pop from her dominated niche of Tejano music when an employee killed her outside a motel in southern Texas 12 years ago. Her last big concert was documented in Selena Live where the lady sang to a capacity crowd in the Houston Astrodome with her group giving their all to make it a special day. The concert documents her singing rather well but what about her life? Well, that was handled pretty nicely by director Gregory Nava in his interesting Selena: 10th Anniversary Special Edition.
Movie: Selena: 10th Anniversary Special Edition details the life and death of the young Latina pop music sensation as told by director/writer Gregory Nava that built his screenplay on the detailed memories of the Quintanilla family and friends. Perhaps best known as the first major vehicle for actress Jennifer Lopez, the movie took a sidestep in father Abraham Quintanilla's thwarted music career but largely focused on the 14 year period from Selena's youthful start at a music thanks to her pushy father all the way until her tragic demise at 23 years old. The movie has some dramatized events and leaned heavily on the rose colored glasses of the family who had to deal with scores of gossip columnists making up stories as Selena became increasingly popular in Hispanic and then mainstream circles.
It would be impossible to define the role of Selena without mentioning how Jennifer Lopez, a New York Puerto Rican, transcended her own heritage to play the Mexican American singer from Texas. I venture to guess that if given a picture of the two ladies, a great many folks from up north would pick Jennifer as being the "real" Selena thanks in large part to the movie's dedication to the young singer; sidestepping some of the headlines that proved largely false, focusing on family as the mainstay reason for the talented gal's success. The other versions of Selena's story seem to be fraught with the kind of "based on a real life story" falsehoods needed to generate publicity and critics were not particularly kind to this version thanks to the relative lack of conflict (remember, it was a tribute to a family member with the family given an unprecedented veto power on the script in return for their cooperation).
Despite all this, Abraham allowed himself to be portrayed (incredibly well by Edward James Olmos) as an overbearing father that pushed his kids to their musical success; their genetic gifts getting the kind of encouragement that few others would have but for his involvement. The early portion of the movie detailed young Selena's hardships with bratty students, a poor economy, and the loss of playtime for practicing her craft but also the joys encountered when audiences started to listen and appreciate her. While the later portions of the movie are largely defined by Jennifer Lopez's portrayal of the starlet, her younger years were well covered by Rebecca Lee Meza (a native of Texas herself) too; the extended version showing additional footage of her in school and learning to be a better performer.
The majority of the movie took place as Selena was older and on the verge of success. In Texas, she was recognized as a gifted young singer long before winning scores of awards, always drawing crowds once her "sound" was established. The story flowed fairly smoothly as the band was on the road gaining in popularity, the Mexican concerns (that she might not be Mexican enough for the fickle crowds south of the border), her romance to guitarist Chris Perez, the first recording contract (another extended scene), and the inevitable dark cloud that was her slayer. Rather than dwell on the death and scumbag killer, they were shown with just enough material to make the point and then move on to show the hordes of fans emotionally touched by her passing with candlelight vigils to an extended montage of home video footage to her English language cross over hit that came out after she passed away. Most of the extended footage seemed to come from the syndicated version of the movie though none of the edits from that version were noticed so it appeared to be the best of both worlds in my eyes. Melodrama at its best for fans of a beautiful young singer with a great sense of performing style might be the best way to describe the movie; one that was accessible to the general public rather than just fans which was why I thought this tribute version for the Tenth Anniversary was worth a rating of Recommended rather than my typical beliefs for double dips; even if an anamorphic widescreen in high definition would have really caused me to sit up and take notice.
Picture: Selena: 10th Anniversary Special Edition has almost as much confusion surrounding the aspect ratio as the initial release of the movie did years ago (that one was a flipper with a full frame version on one side and a letterboxed version on the other). Having both versions and enough free time on my hands to check them all against one another, I can tell you that the new version is a letterboxed (not anamorphically enhanced) 2.35:1 ratio widescreen just like the previous version's widescreen was presented in. The first disc on the new set lasted 127:18 minutes and looked very similar to the previous one, with a fair amount of print scratches, dust, and other minor blemishes that you really have to look for. There was a certain amount of shimmer when a lot of lines were parallel to one another and some grain was evident but it otherwise looked pretty decent. The director's cut of the movie lasted 133:44 minutes and did seem to be cleaned up a little bit; still looking essentially the same as the original but sporting a markedly higher bitrate than the original DVD flipper (tending to be in the mid 5 Mbps to mid 6 Mbps on the newer versions). The tech specs aside, the flesh tones were accurate, there were no noticed compression artifacts, and the amount of edge enhancement was dropped a notch on this latest release. The scenes were filmed using a variety of styles; employing a lot of intimate close ups when the family or friends were around but a lot more expansive in the concerts or on the endless road to success shown so often.
Sound: The audio on both discs was the same as previously provided using a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English with a 448 Kbps bitrate. There were optional subtitles in English, French, and of course Spanish that all appeared to be dub-titles with little interpretation noticed as some anime tends to get these days. The audio was much like the video in that any improvements were minor, perhaps even figments of wishful thinking on my part (having watched each version in a row and not having two identical set ups to do an AB testing). Still, the soundstage was basic and the music was not as clear as it could have been; invoking the feel of the concerts rather than canned performances (coming across as though done in a combination of post production and via Selena's live performances). Because the Quintanilla family consciously made the decision to use Selena's actual recordings rather than let Jennifer Lopez (an accomplished pop singer these days but not so much back then) sing, there was some lip synch issues but overall this matter was handled pretty well. If you're looking for an aggressive score or vocal track, this won't be it but it was a nice mixture of songs and vocals to punctuate the gal's career; and to the best of my recollection, none of the music was cut, including the two short bits from Guns & Roses.
Extras: The two disc set had substantially better extras than the first version released to the public. Disc one had the original theatrical cut of the movie and a 30:23 minute long feature called The Making of Selena. There were numerous clips from when the movie was actually made mixed in with some new interviews and voice-overs. The director and Abraham Quintanilla (Selena's father) seemed to get the lion's share of the screen time but Edward James Olmos, the rest of the family, and others associated with the movie also presented their ideas about the movie. Putting to rest some of the critics, it was made clear that the movie was made as a tribute to Selena more than a dramatic "enhancement" of events; the family having veto power over all major aspects of the movie, pointing out how other movies made on her life were as responsible for this accurate version. There was also the theatrical trailer for the movie and a set of nine deleted scenes (most of which did not look as good as the movie itself. They were Food Stamps, Off To School, Getting Some Exposure, Payment For Performance, Getting the Record Deal, Bus Construction, Worried Parents, Selena & Abie's Limo Ride, and Selena Falls (though they were not in the listed order). They totaled 11:54 minutes and added some depth to the movie, though I could see why most of them were cut from the final version.
The second disc had the new director's cut version of the movie lasting 133:44 minutes and as near as I could tell, most of the scenes that fleshed out the new version were the ones in the cable television version of the movie. There was only one extra on this disc though and that was an 18:56 minute long anamorphic widescreen feature called Selena: Queen of Tejano. Rather than focus on the making of the movie or related topics, this one employed a series of clips, pictures, and footage from the family archives along with the interviews of the family and friends. Ten years later, the tribute-like aspect of the family's comments were sweet and won't be anything new to fans but it did give them another chance to pay their respects and provide their version of how the Selena phenomenon occurred (even including extensive comments from Jose Behar; the guy at EMI that signed the group to their recording contract).
Final Thoughts: Selena: 10th Anniversary Special Edition served in many ways as a great companion piece to Selena Live; each providing fans with a different way to remember the young lady. The addition of some deleted scenes to the movie seen for the first time on DVD, superior extras that were updated solely for this release, and the inclusion of the original as well as director's cut of the movie made this tear jerker tribute to Selena well worth an upgrade to those of you that can appreciate the quality of the show. In short, Selena: 10th Anniversary Special Edition was a solid little flick that might be seen as a television movie of the week to those unfortunate enough to have missed the whole Selena phenomenon but the courage of the family for allowing Nava and Hollywood into their grief in order to provide a positive message for her fans is to be admired; the movie certainly better than the vast majority of biographies on more levels than I can count.