Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Documentaries dominate this week's DVD column.
Secrets of the Dead: Dogfight over Guadalcanal
This PBS series re-examines historical events and this episode is compelling even if you're not a history fan.
During the battle of Guadalcanal during World War II, two fighter pilots, one American and one Japanese engaged in one of the more talked about dogfights during the war. While the aerial dual was well documented, there remained many questions about it the primary one being why the American pilot didn't shoot down his enemy when he had a perfect opportunity.
Using the memoirs of the pilots and going to Guadalcanal to find the remains of the American plane, this program provides the answers sought by many aviation and war historians.
The film does more than discuss history it puts it in a human perspective. It looks at both pilots and their lives.
Even if you don't like aviation or World War II history, this film will fascinate you.
For more information, log onto www.pbs.org.
By using clips from vintage dating and sex education films along with interviews with 1990s hipsters, director Obie Benz hoped to come up with a funny yet somehow revealing documentary about how Americans have viewed dating and sex.
The result is an unfocused production that really doesn't say much that we don't already know: kids are attracted, mystified and horrified by the opposite sex and no matter what adults do, we can't prevent confusion and mis-information.
Hearing Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Spalding Grey and Allan Ginsberg recount their sexual development is just stupid. Who cares?
The various dating, sex education and venereal disease film clips from the 1940s and '50s are also supposed to be hilarious and some of them are pretty funny. How the director has positioned the clips in the film, however, feels pretty random.
This two-disc set has all of those vintage films intact and, frankly, they are far more interesting as cultural artifacts. The VD films from the 1940s, intended to convince military personnel of the importance of safe sex, are far from camp, though, and are extremely explicit.
For more information, log onto www.docurama.com.
The 131st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show: Special Collector's Edition
If you're a dog lover like I am, you probably catch a little of the annual broadcast of the venerable contest but never really have the chance to see the entire event until now.
This two-disc set has the complete broadcast and a ton of features. Set aside four hours to see it all.
Although I really liked the show, our dog, Lucky the Wonder Bichon, didn't pay too much attention to it. I think he was a little jealous.
For more information, go to www.newvideo.com
One Punk Under God: The Prodigal Son of Jim and Tammy Faye
Remember Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the PTL television ministry empire? Their son Jay is now a minister and is the subject of a six-part mini-series originally broadcast on the Sundance Channel last year. Made by the same team of filmmakers who produced the documentary "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," this show is one that anyone interested in religion or American popular culture should see.
Unlike his father, whose vision was to build commercial developments with religious themes, Jay simply wants to spread a message of God's unconditional love in ways that clearly impress and confound his father. The younger Bakker has helped set up Revolution, a dogma-free church that has made its home in bars and coffee shops and has reached people who would never go to a conventional church.
The series has several points of conflict. One story line revolves around Jay's decision to embrace the concept of not discriminating against gays, which causes his main financial backer to drop him. Two more concerns are his mother's fight against cancer and his strained relationship with his father.
What fascinated me about the show was how the soap opera/reality show elements were de-emphasized and how the filmmakers showed a young man who is dealing with issues of faith both as his calling and in his life.
For more information, log onto www.docurama.com
G 2007 vy Gordon Michael Dobbs