Friday, January 24, 2014

Some great DVDs viewed in 2013

This will be a short list, mostly because I bought a new computer and lost most of my files during the changeover.  They are in no particular order, simply because I don't want to expend the effort necessary to rank them, and especially since I know quite well that, on another day, I might rank them differently!

The Man from Earth:  I thought enough of this film to buy my own copy.  It's the fascinating tale of a man who tells his friends and coworkers that he's thousands of years old and their response to that revelation.  It's one of the best SF films I've viewed in many years.   For more information, check out the post I did on it last year.

Doktor Fautus:  based on the novel by Thomas Mann about a composer who makes a pact with the devil.  I haven't read the novel in some time, so I can't comment on the fidelity of the dramatization.  I will say though that it was an enjoyable film, even if much of it seemed strange to me, which might be caused by my failing memory, maybe.  .  .

1984: finally after many years Netflix found a copy to send me.  It's the version with John Hurt as Winston Smith and Richard Burton as O'Brien.  It was quite good as far as it went, but there was no way that any film could present the image upon which the tyranny of Oceania rested--"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

12 Angry Men:  starring Henry Fonda as Juror 8, the lone man who, at the beginning of the jury's deliberations, insists that they take time to discuss the case inasmuch as a guilty verdict would result in the death penalty. It's an exploration of the effects of prejudice on our  perception of others and the judgements that result. What was equally fascinating was the discovery that there were two foreign versions of this film, both very close to the US version.  The Russian version's title is 12, and while it follows closely the US version, there are some differences.  The Hindi language version is titled Ek Ruka Hua Faisla, and it is very close to the US version.  For more information, see the post I made of the three last year.

A Dance to the Music of Time: based on the novels by Anthony Powell.  The film is a condensation of Anthony Powell's series of novels published under the same title as the film: A Dance to the Music of Time.  The novels are published in four parts:  First Movement, Second Movement, Third Movement, and Fourth Movement, and each of the four parts consists of three novels each.  A symphony typically has four movements, so that suggests a lengthy and complex treatment of  various themes.  The film begins with a disparate group of people who meet while they are in school.  The narrative follows one man from that point and down the years through the post WWII era.  We see how he grows and develops and the way those people he had met during his academic years drop away and then reappear during this period.  I found the film absorbing enough to go out and get the books.

Europa Report:  an SF adventure/exploration film.  It's somewhat reminiscent of  2001 in that the ship is headed towards Jupiter, or to be more precise, Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter.  It's a skillful blending of NASA film clips and fiction.  They have obviously studied NASA technology and methodology to create a very believable film of the way a journey to Europa just might take place.  It's one of the better SF films I viewed last year.

Appalachian Journey: One night over a decade ago I was driving home from work and was listening to PBS radio KUAT-FM.  It happened to be the broadcast from Lincoln Center, a chamber music event.  It featured, among others, Edgar Meyer, Yo-Yo Ma, Mark O'Connor with special guests James Taylor and Alison Krauss.  I was instantly captivated by the liveliness of the music--country, bluegrass, jazz, blues, and barnyard melodies.  During an interview,  Edgar Meyer stated that the program tonight was duplicated on a CD they had produced: Appalachian Journey.  I immediately went out and purchased the CD.  I then went out and searched for other CDs featuring Edgar Meyer, and I think I now have at least 5.  A short time ago, I discovered that the concert at Lincoln Center had been filmed, so I immediately added it to my queue.  Now I can listen to the CD and see them in my memory on stage.  If you're not familiar with Edgar Meyer and his unique musical universe, you should check it out.

Steel Helmet:  one of the few war pictures that I enjoyed watching.  It is very different from the usual patriotic war films that came my way.  It tells of Sgt Zack, a loner whose outfit had been wiped out by the North Koreans, and his encounter with several stragglers, a Korean boy, and an American unit searching for a Buddhist temple to be used as a forward observation post.  The film came out in 1951, during the Korean War, and those expecting the typical John Wayne patriotic war film must have been shocked by what they saw.  One reviewer called it an anti-American and pro-communist propaganda film.   By today's standards, it probably isn't that shocking, but back then it had to be disturbing to many.

If I were told that I had to buy at least one war film, this would probably be the one.

THX 1138:  This was one of George Lucas' early efforts.  It's based on the film he produced and directed during his studies at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.  It's a fascinating picture of a future USA where being unhappy and feeling any emotion but happiness is against the law.  It also has one of the riskiest sequences I've ever seen in any film--a long period of time wherein the characters are set against an all-white background, where even the simple furniture is white.  The characters' faces and hands provide a startling contrast.  Of course, Lucas has to include a car chase scene, something he couldn't do without, even back then when he was producing films that had interesting plots and characters and weren't just excuses for action, action, action.

It is one of the eight DVDs that I have in my personal collection.

Twelve O'clock High:  one of the few war pictures I have watched several times, probably mostly due to the fine performance by Gregory Peck, one of my favorite actors.  As an HQ staff officer, he finds it necessary to remove a friend from command of a bomber unit based in England during WWII for he feels the commander has gotten too close to his men and can't make the hard decisions necessary.  Peck's character then takes command and isolates himself from the unit, thereby triggering resentment from the men who had gotten used to the previous commander's more paternal style.        

Zorba the Greek:  I had heard much about this film many years ago and eventually watched it.  I found the music so infectious that I bought the soundtrack for the film.  I also so enjoyed the story that I bought the novel of the same name by Nikos Kazantzakis.  I was hooked and over the years have purchased as many of his works as possible.  I think my collection of his works exceeds ten books. Zorba is a free spirit, and his behavior and attitude might disturb many.  The Englishman he mentors is at the exact other end of the spectrum--uptight and constrained--and this provides the conflict in the film.   At the end, the Englishman returns to England, but he isn't the same person who came out here.

This is one of the few DVDs that I may add to my collection someday.


  1. Fred,

    I always look forward to your film reviews. Thanks for posting a list of your favorites!

  2. Cheryl,
    Thanks for your kind words.