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Tuesday, Nov 28, 2006

Olivier’s Shakespeare: The Criterion Collection [Criterion - $79.99]


Though his versions of the Bard’s classics may no longer be definitive (a certain Mr. Branagh could challenge his claim to such a statement) Laurence Olivier was definitely instrumental in bringing Shakespeare’s plays to a wider mainstream audience. Included here are his Oscar winning turns as Hamlet (1948), along with his nominated work in Henry V (1944) and Richard III (1955). Each film represents a different dynamic in aesthetic approach, as well as illustrating the motion picture’s malleability toward material. As with all titles bearing the Criterion tag, the prints are perfect (especially Richard’s sumptuous Technicolor gloss) and the supplemental material divine. [Amazon]


 


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Tuesday, Nov 28, 2006

A Military Miscellany by Thomas Ayres [Bantam - $15.00]


Did you know Stonewall Jackson only ever bathed in cold water, even in the dead of winter? Or that he refused to read by artificial light, that he believed he only sweated on one side of his body, and that he stared at walls for hours nightly? The American military is full of weird facts like these and Thomas Ayres has collected them all. His “Miscellany” is a great gift for military buffs and anyone who loves crazy trivia. Brilliant about Ayres’ book, too, is just how these fascinating and often completely bizarre facts begin to form a history of the U.S. military that, in perhaps the oddest twist of all, aren’t particularly surprising. Did you know that upon hearing of the Pearl Harbor attack, President Roosevelt collected his thoughts for a full 22 minutes before calling the White House? [Amazon]


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Tuesday, Nov 28, 2006

The Other [Fox - $14.98]
(1972, Robert Mulligan) Starring: Uta Hagen, Diana Muldaur, Chris Udvarnoky, Martin Udvarnoky, Norma Connolly.


It is safe to say that, among the movies made in that defining cinematic decade of the ‘70s, The Other is one of the best—a near-flawless example of tone and storytelling melded with wonderfully effective material and meaning. In the hands of Academy Award nominee Robert Mulligan (responsible for To Kill a Mockingbird and Summer of ‘42, among many others) and adapted by actor-turned-writer Thomas Tyron from his own best-selling novel, this paranormal period piece about psychologically unsound twins takes elements of The Bad Seed and twists them into an amazing American Gothic. Now out on DVD in a beautifully restored print, this story of an old-fashioned family in the middle of a picturesque, pastoral setting scans the surfaces of normalcy—and locates the ugly underneath.  [Amazon]


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Sunday, Nov 26, 2006

Talk about perfectly timed… we’re in a vital election year and Warner Home Video has served up the best DVD set of the season.  The award-winning Aaron Sorkin drama left the airwaves just this past May and already we’ve got the deluxe treatment on offer.  All seven seasons come in a handsome blue box with requisite presidential seal, organized like a nifty set of government files inside—a rare occasion where the bureaucratic aesthetic is pleasing.  The bonus documentaries offer a fascinating look behind the scenes, especially the 30-minute short on the live debate between Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda). Yeah, the price tag is high, but this is some of the best writing and acting on a US TV drama ever, so it’s worth every penny.  Plus, with such lavish packaging, it has “buy me as a present” stamped all over it.  This is an essential addition to the DVD collection of anyone who believes in TV as a true art form. [Amazon]


 


The West Wing - Debate Rehearsal


Tagged as: the west wing
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Sunday, Nov 26, 2006

An amazing motherload for classic film fans, this epic coffee table offering celebrates a half century of preservation and presentation by one of the business’ most significant contributors to cinema. Covering groundbreaking masterpieces by such seminal artists as Jean Renoir (The Rules of the Game, Grand Illusion) Federico Fellini (La Strada, The White Shiek), Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon, Seven Samurai) and François Truffaut (The 400 Blows, Jules et Jim) among many, many others, this linen bound box complete with a 240-page illustrated book, stands as the benchmark in DVD’s brief entertainment tenure. As an overview and a singular achievement, Essential Art House stands as a stunning example of the importance of film as an international forum of expression. [Amazon]


Seven Samurai - Trailer


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