Friday, February 19, 2016

Favorite DVDs viewed during 2015

Following are some of the DVDs that I watched during 2015.  Since I don't watch TV, I have considerable time now to read and to watch films in the evening.  Some of the DVDs I have viewed were originally TV shows that are now available at the local public library or on Netflix.  While I might be a year or more behind the world on the TV shows, I figure I've actually gained time by not having to watch the commercials, whether they are marketing products or politicians.


Foyle's War,  S8.
A great mystery series set in England first during WWII and then during the Cold War.  It's one of few "must watch" shows on TV.  It's BBC, naturally.

Another great TV series from BBC--featuring Agatha Christies's Miss Marple.  I re-watched all of the Jane Marple episodes this year (with Joan Hickson naturally) and consider this one to be the best of a great series.

Murder on the Orient Express:  (two versions)
This, of course, is based on Agatha Christie's novel of the same name.  I watched the 1974 version and the recent (sorta) BBC version with David Suchet as Poirot. The two versions are quite different.  The 1974 version has a cast list that almost empties out Hollywood and is much lighter in tone.   It is the longer of the two versions, so it includes more of the story than the BBC version.  The BBC version is much darker and shorter, so the questioning sessions of the suspects are shortened or eliminated.
Watch both.

This film is based on a short story by Robert A. Heinlein, "All You Zombies."  I have no idea of the relevance of the title to the story, so don't ask me.  It is very close to Heinlein's story, but it is set in a frame that has nothing to do with Heinlein's tale.  However, the core of the main character's machinations through the use of time travel remains the same.  All I will say is that the story, and therefore the film, plays games with the paradoxes of time travel to an extent almost unique in SF.  The myth of the Ouroboros has come alive.

The Hound of the Baskervilles:
In a rut here.  It's the BBC dramatization of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's best known Sherlock Holmes' novel, with Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke  (naturally).
Again, I spent time re-watching many of the Brett versions during the past year and consider this to be the best of a great series.  I have a few more to go, so there may be another one listed for 2016.

This is another one I've watched before and decided it was time for another viewing.  It's based on Stanislaw Lem's enigmatic novel of the same name.  It's an SF First Contact novel and film, but calling that doesn't do it justice.  It's one of those films that needs and rewards several viewings.  It's the version directed by A. Tarkovsky.  There's another version out, and I will look around for it.

The Dirty Dozen:
A great fantasy war film that stars Lee Marvin, one of my favorites, along with Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine, John Cassavetes, Jim Brown.  George Jaeckel, Richard Kennedy, and a host of other familiar names.  Sheer fun.  This is at least my second and probably my third viewing.  I think the cast enjoyed making the film as much as viewers enjoyed watching it.

In Harm's Way:
Another WWII film set in the Pacific this time, rather than in Europe.  It features John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Patricia Neal, Carroll O'Connor, George Kennedy (again), and a host of other familiar names.  Great fun.  And, no, it's not a guilty pleasure film, for I see no reason for feeling guilty about watching it.  It's probably my third? fourth? viewing, and it won't be my last.

To Have and Have Not:
WWII again--the first film starring Bogart and Bacall.  That says it all.  Again, I've seen this one several times before and most likely will chalk up one or more viewings.

Another re-watching.  Special effects says it all.  I watched the sequel, but I think they made a mistake when they moved closer to matching the real world and lost that startling digital effect.  


Glass: A Portrait of  Philip Glass in Twelve Parts:
A documentary on the minimalist composer Philip Glass--a very well-done  film on Glass and his compositions through the years.  Major problem is that it's too short,  as the good ones always seem to be.

Into Great  Silence:
Life in a French Carthusian monastery--hypnotic, with images doing the talking.
It took sixteen ears for the German filmmaker Philip Groning to get permission to make the film, with certain conditions:  no narration, no artificial lighting,  and no crew.  If one knows nothing about the Carthusian order, then a little research would be useful prior to viewing the film.  The film is two hours and forty-nine minutes long, but it didn't seem that long to me.

History of World Literature:
A Teaching Company Production: a series of lectures on world literature which includes Asian, European, African, South American literatures.  It inspired me to read The Dream of the Red Chamber (aka The Story of the Stone) last year.  And, this year I will dust off my copy of The Tale of Genji.  Again too short.

Comparative Religion:
Another Teaching Company Production.  The title says it all--a comparison of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism--their differences and similarities.

Dark Energy:Dark Matter--
Yet another Teaching Company Production-cosmologists have come to the conclusion that estimates of the visible matter in the universe indicate there isn't enough to explain the makeup of the universe. So, they postulate a form of energy and a type of matter that are invisible in order to explain the composition of the universe and its increasing rate of expansion.

The Three Tenors: The Original Concert in Rome:
Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras singing individually and together great arias and popular songs.  A feast for the ears.  The human voice at its best.
The first of several concerts.

The Seville Concert: John Williams
Great music for the guitar played by one of the best guitarists in the world.  The visuals aren't bad either.

It must be significant that seven of the ten favorite dramas (not including documentaries) were actually a second or third or even a fourth viewing last year.  What does this say about the more recent productions?


  1. To Have and Have Not is a personal favorite.

    I've seen the more recent (2003?) version of Solaris and liked it. I need to see the original 1972 version. Isn't it really long? That doesn't matter to me, though, if it's worth watching.

    1. Cheryl,

      "To Have and Have Not" is a favorite of mine also.

      The Tarkovsky version of _Solaris_ is 169 minutes long, but I didn't think it was too long at all. The most recent version with George Clooney (Is that the one you are referring to?) is in my Netflix queue right now and will be coming up soon.

  2. Cheryl,

    Ooops. looks like I won't be watching the Clooney version of Solaris soon. It's now in the SAVED section at Netflix.

    1. Fred,

      Yes, it's the one starring George Clooney that I saw.

    2. Cheryl,

      As I mentioned earlier, the Clooney version is in the SAVED section of Netflix, and the library has only the Tarkovsky version. I wonder if that's a value judgement.

  3. we viewed the "foyle" and loved it as well; kitchen is a wonderful actor, too bad he isn't seen more... we've also seen about half of the rest on your list, but i never heard of the predestination one before, although i've read a lot of heinlein-where can i get it? we also cut off the commercial tv-truly a wasteland of the human spirit, as someone said, in favor of netflix...

  4. Mudpuddle,

    I saw Michael Kitchen in a film, possibly a TV mystery series, in which he played the villain. He was his usual cool, unflappable self and therefore a really dangerous and evil bad guy. Yes, he's an excellent actor.

    I got the DVD of _Predestination_ from Netflix. The local library has the DVD also.

  5. Which are your favourite Sherlock Holmes films? And who's your favourite actor portraying Holmes?

    1. Di,

      My favorite actor is Jeremy Brett and my favorite films are _The Hound of the Baskervilles_ and _The Sign of Four_.

    2. What do you think about Benedict Cumberbatch in the role?

    3. Di,

      He's OK. I also think he has copied some of Jeremy Brett's mannerisms.

  6. Foyle's War is an absolute winner! My top DVD/Netflix experience in 2015 was Broadchurch, a very disturbing tale of murder and detection in a seaside English town; the director's/photographer's metaphorical motif of reflections (mirrors and windows) would have made Hitchcock proud.

  7. R.T.,

    I think Hitchcock was probably one of the most influential directors of the 20th century.

    1. I think so too. Even many crime TV series today are full of references to his works.

    2. Di,

      Too bad that many horror directors didn't learn the lesson taught by Psycho--hints and clever camera editing are far more effective in depicting terror than explicit gore and dismemberment.