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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Art > Design > Filmmaking > Modernism > Stage > Musical > Eames: The Architect & The Painter (2011/First Run DVD) + Most Valuable Players (2010/Virgil DVD)

Eames: The Architect & The Painter (2011/First Run DVD) + Most Valuable Players (2010/Virgil DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-/C+     Documentaries: B/C+



Here are two documentaries on the arts and how they play in our lives.



Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey examine the work of Charles and Ray Eames in Eames: The Architect & The Painter (2011) which traces their story back to Charles Eames co-creating a new kind of chair that won an award, though he could not actually produce it.  Ray is not his brother, but the woman who would become his wife and creative partner for four innovative, groundbreaking, landmark decades as they reinvented furniture, art, graphics, modernist design, film and post-WWII Americana in ways as important as Andy Warhol’s interpretations of them and was made permanent even more so when they started to work for big corporations like IBM.


James Franco narrates the 84 impressive (and not long enough) minutes of this long overdue documentary look at the team that reinvented America and whose influence is still with us today and will be for good.  The makers also tell us about the people, interview their friends, go to many locations, have secured the use of priceless film footage and it is a must-see doc as much as Helvetica (reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) is about a dynamic era past, yet still with us.


Extras include seven additional clips including Cranbrook, Pilgrimage, What Do You Do For Fun?, L.A. Unrestrained, Scripts, Rat Driving and Charles’ Uniform.  I wish there were more extras too.



Then we have Matthew D. Kallis’ Most Valuable Players (2010) about a group of high schools in and around Lehigh, Pennsylvania that have their own awards show called The Freddie Awards that celebrate acting in plays held by the various classes, sometimes doing the same musical.  It is interesting, has some good moments, but is more of a surface, let-the-camera run work (much like the recent documentary on A Chorus Line) that simply does not delve deeply enough into what is going on, who the people we see are or how much they really know or understand what they are doing.


Though the participants obviously are serious about this, it becomes no surprise as this starts to drag that they finish a musical number and the director points out that they look bored and do not believe anything they are doing.  Why?  Because just performing this material and having fun doing it is not sufficient in bringing it to life and there is a lack of excitement and energy that holds back all the performances throughout with few exceptions.  There is talent, but nothing and no one stuck with me.  I never said to myself that anyone of these teens could be a star in the making, which makes watching this so odd.  Theater and musical fans will find more in this than most, but something is missing here.


Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by the makers, 12 additional clips, a trailer and an outtake reel.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on both are shot on video sources, likely HD, but also add some archival low def video and Eames adds plenty of 35mm, 16mm, Super 8mm and 8mm archival film footage.  The results are about even.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Valuable is barely better than the Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix and did not pay off on the music moments like it could have, while the lossy Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix on Eames has its share of monophonic archival audio, both again on par with each other.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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