Nashville. 3 discs. color. 160+ min. Robert Altman, Paramount Pictures , dist. by Criterion Collection, www.criterioncollection.com. 2013. DVD/Blu-ray ISBN 9781604657906. $39.95. F
Probably most widely known for his third film, the breakout hit M*A*S*H, Altman (1925–2006) made some three dozen feature films but none better than Nashville (1975). With 24 characters coming together over five days in the country music capital, this intimate epic nimbly juggles multiple plotlines that culminate in a tragic concert rally for a maverick presidential candidate. Politics, sexism, ambition, and adultery are among the themes in Altman’s deftly satirical but not condescending examination of a slice of American society nicely summed up by the line, “This isn’t Dallas, it’s Nashville!” VERDICT Selected for preservation by the National Film Registry, this magnum opus belongs in every collection, particularly in this newly refurbished edition complete with a making-of documentary among its extras.
Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. color. 113 min. Drew DeNicola & Olivia Mori, September Gurls Prods., dist. by Magnolia Home Entertainment, www.magpictures.com. 2013. DVD UPC 876964006101. $26.98; Blu-ray UPC 876964006118. $29.98. Rated: PG-13. MUSIC
This first feature-length documentary by codirectors DeNicola and Mori traces the history of 1970s Memphis power-poppers Big Star, rock music’s arguably ultimate cult band. The film tells the commercially ignored but critically acclaimed group’s story through an extensive and well-edited collection of archival video and audio footage and new interviews with surviving band members, friends and family, critics, band associates, and a slew of musicians influenced by the group’s ultramelodic pop sound. Conversations with Big Star drummer Jody Stephens and bassist Andy Hummel, who died during production, are prominently featured, but band cofounders and fellow singer-guitarists Alex Chilton, who died in 2010 after resurrecting the group, and Chris Bell, who died in 1978 after a failed solo career, appear only in old footage and on the wonderful sound track. The filmmakers focus on how bad luck, bad record contracts, and bad blood between Bell and Chilton combined to keep Big Star from rising above perpetual cult status. VERDICT Recommended to anyone who enjoys music documentaries, including both longtime Big Star devotees and potential new fans.
The Welcome: A Healing Journey for War Veterans and Their Families. color. 93 min. Kim Shelton, Two Shoes Prods., dist. by Cinema Guild, www.cinemaguild.com. 2013. DVD $99.95; acad. libs. $310 (Rental: $125). Public performance. PSYCH
This award-winning documentary chronicles a five-day retreat for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and their family members. The retreat, held over Memorial Day weekend 2008 and led by Michael Meade of the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, culminated in a public poetry reading in Ashland, OR, the veterans’ gift to Oregon citizens. A racially and ethnically diverse group of male and female veterans of the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars formed themselves into a sharing, caring, and creative community to address their struggles with PTSD and their acceptance back into American society. The film and the ongoing Welcome Home Project offer viable means of conquering PTSD and providing pathways for full social restoration of our veterans. VERDICT An extraordinarily powerful and moving exploration of our roles and responsibilities in welcoming these men and women home. Containing adult language and visceral, emotional situations, it is very highly recommended for most library collections.
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Damian Lewis Double Feature: Much Ado About Nothing; Friends and Crocodiles. color. 198+ min. Brian Percival & Stephen Poliakoff, BBC Worldwide America, www.bbcamerica.com. 2013. DVD UPC 883929332762. $24.98. SDH subtitles. F
Daniel Day Lewis: My Brother Jonathan. 247+ min. Anthony Garner. DVD UPC 883929323272. $29.98.
Daniel Day-Lewis Triple Feature: How Many Miles to Babylon; The Insurance Man; Dangerous Corner. 276 min. DVD UPC 883929324972. $19.98.
ea. vol: 2 discs. color. BBC Worldwide America, www.bbcamerica.com. 2013. F
The House of Eliott: Complete Collection. 9 discs. color. 29½ hrs. with booklet. BBC Worldwide TV in assoc. with A&E Network, dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781621721109. $99.99. SDH subtitles. F
ARTS & HUMANITIES
Robert Williams: Mr. Bitchin’. color & b/w. 89+ min. Mary C. Reese & others, Rhino Films & Foundation Films, dist. by Cinema Libre Studio, www.cinemalibrestudio.com. 2013. DVD UPC 881394117624. $19.95. ART-GENERAL
Bob and the Monster. color. 86 min. Keirda Bahruth, Shaker Films, dist. by Cinema Guild, www.cinemaguild.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9780781514507. $99.95; acad. libs. $350. Public performance; home version MVDvisual, www.seeofsound.com. $16.95. MUSIC
A History of Great Playwrights. 2 discs. b/w. 150+ min. Ron Meyer, dist. by Ambrose Video, 800-526-4663; www.ambrosevideo.com. 2013. DVD UPC 739815005435. $149.99. Public performance; closed-captioned. THEATER
Constitution USA with Peter Sagal. 2 discs. color. 240 min. Steven Ives, tpt National Prods. & Insignia Films , dist. by PBS, shoppbs.org. 2013. DVD UPC 841887019040. $29.99. POLITICS
Unhung Hero. color. 84+ min. Brian Spitz , Breaking Glass Pictures, www.breakingglasspictures.com. 2013. DVD UPC 857965003795. $19.99. PSYCH/SOC SCI
Downtown Dream. color. 45 min. Aaron Matthews, dist. by Icarus Films, 800-876-1710; www.icarusfilms.com. 2013. DVD $348. Public performance; closed-captioned. SOC SCI
Save the Farm. color. 31+min. In English & Spanish w/English subtitles. Michael Kuehnert, Magic Lamp Media, dist. by Cinema Libre Studio, www.cinemalibrestudio.com. 2013. DVD UPC 881394112926. $16.95. SOC SCI
On the Oscar Track
Dirty Wars. color. 86+ min. Richard Rowley, Civic Bakery & Big Noise Films, dist. by IFC Films, www.ifcfilms.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9780788617201. $24.98. SDH subtitles. POLITICS/MILITARY AFFAIRS
In order to report objectively on military operations, journalists must risk leaving the comfort of embedded status, where they may regularly forward military press releases to their editors, or report on their participation in highly controlled combat missions. On one such trip outside the “green zone” investigating an incident in Gardez, Afghanistan, Jeremy Scahill (Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield; Blackwater) and filmmaker Rowley found Navy Vice Admiral William McRaven, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), observing the sacrifice of a sheep in partial reparations for the collateral damage deaths of civilians during a raid for which JSOC denied responsibility. Their further exploration of JSOC, the command that assassinated Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, uncovers a secret organization that kills when and where it wishes, responsible only to itself, reporting only to the President of the United States. VERDICT This Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature is a chilling, excellently filmed and documented look at our military morality and the impact of covert operations on our international reputation. Adult material; highly recommended.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Holistic Gardening with Michael Phillips. color. 5 hrs. Ed Dooley, Mad River Media, dist. by Chelsea Green, 802-295-6300; www.chelseagreen.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781603583961. $49.95. AGRI
Dying Green: Natural Burial and Land Conservation. color. 26 min. Ellen Tripler, dist. by Green Planet Films, www.greenplanetfilms.org. 2012. DVD $49; acad. libs. $95. Public performance; home version $24.95. ENVIRONMENT
HOW WE COMMUNICATE
La Maison de la Radio. color. 99+ min. In French w/English subtitles. Nicolas Philibert, dist. by Kino Lorber, www.kinolorberedu.com. 2013. DVD UPC 738329127725. $29.95. COMM
Director Philibert has created a fascinating behind-the-scenes documentary about Radio France, the French equivalent of NPR or the BBC. The station, an independent entity since 1975, features news, music, cultural programming, interviews, and just about anything else possible for 24 hours a day. What makes this documentary so interesting is that nothing appears to be rehearsed; there are no interviews with those being filmed or voice-overs describing what is visible on-screen. Instead, the viewer gets a firsthand glimpse of real people creating real radio programs without interruptions from the camera filming them. For example, a producer coaches a novice news reader; several reporters gather stories and discuss how best to report them; a newscaster reports on the Tour de France while riding a motorcycle on-site; and musical acts rehearse for broadcast. VERDICT This film is highly recommended for advanced French students, Francophones, and anyone interested in how radio programs are put together.—
Out of Print. color & b/w. 55+ min. Vivienne Roumani, dist. by Filmakers Library, www.filmakers.com. 2013. DVD $295. Public performance. COMM
Filmmaker Roumani uses this documentary to explore the many ways that the written word has changed over time and the rapid changes happening today. Drawing on her background at the Library of Congress and the University of California–Berkeley Library, Roumani presents a balanced examination of writing and publishing in today’s world. The film is narrated by Meryl Streep, and the director includes extensive interviews with authors, booksellers, scientists, educators, and readers. Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com and Scott Turow, speaking on behalf of the Authors Guild, offer contrasting views of the future of books and publishing. The film is neither a prophecy of doom for the written word nor an enthusiastic endorsement of all things electronic. Instead, Roumani raises questions about how the changes in reading, writing, and publishing are changing us and asks viewers to draw their own conclusions. VERDICT This award-winning film is sure to generate a great deal of discussion among audiences.