Chely Wright: Wish Me Away. color. 96+ min. Bobbie Birleffi & Beverly Kopf, dist. by First Run Features, 800-229-8575; www.firstrunfeatures.com. 2012. DVD UPC 720229915212. $27.95. MUSIC/GENDER STUDIES
This documentary was released in conjunction with Chely Wright’s best-selling autobiography, Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer. Both intimately describe Wright’s fears living a closeted life as a successful country singer in an industry not known for its acceptance of diverse lifestyles and her ultimate decision to become Nashville’s first out lesbian star. While Carrie Underwood let “Jesus Take the Wheel,” Wright hit with “Shut Up and Drive” (1997). Trouble for Wright began when the spotlight of fame started leaking light and attention into her closet. This personal portrait documents Wright’s struggles with coming out, a personal, honest, sometimes painful and thankfully nonpolitical journey. Like many young GLBT individuals, Wright blamed herself for anything that went wrong in her own life or in that of her family members—it is an unimaginably heavy burden to carry. Interviewees include family, friends, and many who knew Wright as a child. Those around her speak of protecting her without question, but the directors wisely focus on Wright herself: her words, her music, her story. VERDICT “To thine own self be true” never looked better. Those not familiar with Wright’s music will be delighted with her talent as well as her courageous story.—Gerald A. Notaro, Libn. Emeritus, Univ. of South Florida Lib., St. Petersburg
Jim Thorpe: The World’s Greatest Athlete. color & b/w. 85+ min. Tom Weidlinger, Moira Prods., 510-558-8013; www.moiraproductions.com. 2012. DVD ISBN 9780977103799. $85; acad. libs. $250. Public performance; closed-captioned. SPORTS/BIOG
Jesse Owens. color & b/w. 60 min. Laurens Grant, Firelight Films, dist. by American Experience, PBS, shoppbs.org. 2012. DVD ISBN 9781608836413. $24.99. SDH subtitles.
At the end of the 2012 Olympic Games, NBC’s Bob Costas and Al Michaels briefly discussed how to evaluate the “greatest” Olympian. Perhaps by total medals won, or perhaps by consecutive event gold medals over two or more Olympics. Their conclusion was that the athletic accomplishments of modern athletes like swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt could not be fairly compared with past athletes like Jim Thorpe (1888–1953) and Jesse Owens (1913–80). These two excellent films explore the pervasive discrimination against persons of color in the 20th century that makes athletic comparisons impossible. Director Grant has taken still photos from as early as 1887 and skillfully edited them with interviews with Thorpe’s children, historians, and scholars to create an interesting composite of the man’s life. The loss of his amateur status and his 1912 Olympic medals seem inevitable consequences of Olympic sports culture of the time and Thorpe’s need to make a living when not enrolled at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. A bonus filmmakers’ audio commentary is exceptional.
Though the Owens film benefits somewhat from the availability of greater film resources from the 1930s (Ohio State University, Big Ten, various newsreels, and documentaries of the 1936 Olympics), it’s the live interviews with spectators and contemporary athletes that complete the picture of Owens’s obstacles in amateur and Olympic competition. The challenge to Hitler’s Third Reich inherent in Owens’s Olympic participation and triumph are presented to great dramatic effect, and the disappointment of his post-Olympic reception in America is quite poignant. VERDICT Both films document important segments of our history of racial discrimination and are very highly recommended.—Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH
Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender. color & b/w. 107+ min. Rhys Thomas, Eagle Rock Entertainment, dist. by Amazon.com. 2012. DVD UPC 801213055890. $14.98. SDH subtitles.MUSIC/BIOG
Made by the same filmmakers responsible for last year’s well-received Queen chronicle Days of Our Lives, this documentary tells the story of front man Freddie Mercury (1946–91). But rather than focus on Mercury the band leader, the film instead documents his early years, personal life, and brief solo career while taking a mid-1980s break from Queen. Producer-director Thomas uses archival footage along with old and new interviews to contrast Mercury’s flamboyantly bombastic stage persona with his much more reserved true character, showing how he really was a “great pretender.” Thomas has unearthed plenty of rare footage, both aural and visual, including snippets of unreleased demos of Mercury dueting with Rod Stewart and Michael Jackson, a flirtatious and funny 1985 TV interview, and clips of Mercury performing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” with the Royal Ballet. Bonus features include the full 1985 interview and a lengthy conversation with opera singer Montserrat Caballe, with whom Mercury sang on the genre-blending album Barcelona.VERDICT Entertaining, informative, and full of wonderful footage of Mercury in action, this film is a worthwhile supplement to Days of Our Lives and should appeal to Mercury’s many fans. [For a review of the book Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender, see ow.ly/fY31b.—Ed.]—Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia
For all the latest reviews in this subject area and more, check out our new Book Verdict site! Book Verdict is fully accessible to all users, though certain content and functionality are only available to subscribers.To log in to your account, click here. To view the new subscription options, Get Started With Book Verdict ProToday.Don’t know if you have an account with us? It’s easy to check and verify your email, or create a new account.
The following titles are reviewed in the January 1 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Series 6. 4 discs. color. 415 min. Carnival Films in assoc. with LWTP, ITV Studios Ltd., dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline.com. 2012. DVD ISBN 9781598288070. $39.99; Blu-ray ISBN 9781598288087. $49.99. SDH subtitles. F/TV
Berlin 36. color. 100+ min. In German w/English subtitles. Kaspar Heidelbach, Gemini Film Eyeworks, dist. by Corinth Films, www.corinthhomevideo.com. 2012. DVD UPC 896137001146. $24.99. SDH subtitles. F/SPORTS
Midsomer Murders: Set 20. 4 discs. color. 400+ min. Bentley Prods., dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline.com. 2012. DVD ISBN 9781598288117. $49.99; 2-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781598288124. $59.99. SDH subtitles. F
ARTS & HUMANITIES
Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom. color & b/w. 96 min. Ian Ayres, dist. by Seventh Art Releasing, 323-259-8259; www.7thart.com. 2012. DVD $59; acad. libs. $229. FILM/BIOG
New Muslim Cool. color. 83+ min. Jennifer Morena Taylor, dist. by Seventh Art Releasing, www.7thart.com. 2012. DVD $79.95; acad. libs. $350. Public performance. REL
The War You Don’t See. color. 96+ min. John Pilger, Strand Films & Dartmouth Films, dist. by Bullfrog Films, 800-543-3764; www.bullfrogfilms.com. 2012. DVD ISBN 9781594588099. $295 (Rental: $95). Public performance; SDH subtitles. COMM/JOURNALISM
Children of Soldiers: Growing Up Under the Flag. color. 52 min. In French/English w/subtitles. Claire Corriveau, dist. by Natl. Film Bd. of Canada, 800-542-2164; www.nfb.ca. 2012. DVD UPC 698193237701. $225. Public performance. SOC SCI
Girl Model. color. 77 min. David Redmon & Ashley Sabin, Carnivalesque Films, www.carnivalesquefilms.com; www.argotpictures.com. 2012. DVD $250. Public performance. SOC SCI/FASHION
Not a Feather, but a Dot. color. 60 min. Teju Prasad, Not a Feather, but a Dot, www.notafeather.com. 2012. DVD $80. Public performance. SOC SCI
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Oz & James Big Wine Adventure California. 2 discs. color. 4 hrs. Simon Kerfoot, BBC, dist. by BFS Entertainment, www.bfsent.com. 2012. DVD UPC 066805311185. $32.98. BEVERAGES
Designing Healthy Communities. 4 discs. color. 219 min. Harry Wiland & Dale Bell, Media Policy Fdn., www.mediapolicycenter.org. 2012. DVD UPC 722301698010. $99. Closed-captioned. ENVIRONMENT