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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Poverty > Food > Starvation > Politics > Biography > Photography > Fashion > Filmmaking > Art > A Place At The Table (2011/Magnolia Blu-ray)/Bert Stern: Original Mad Man (2012/First Run DVD)/Bidder 70 (2012/Bullfrog DVD)/Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth Of Wonder (2010/First Run DVD)/The Gatekeepers (201

A Place At The Table (2011/Magnolia Blu-ray)/Bert Stern: Original Mad Man (2012/First Run DVD)/Bidder 70 (2012/Bullfrog DVD)/Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth Of Wonder (2010/First Run DVD)/The Gatekeepers (2012/Sony Blu-ray)/Herman’s House (2012/First Run DVD)/In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye (2013/HBO/Warner Archive DVD)/Joanna Lumley’s Nile (2009/Acorn/Athena DVDs)


Picture: B-/C+/C+/C/B-/C+/C+/C+     Sound: C+/C+/C+/C+/B-/C+/C+/C+     Extras: B/C/D/C-/B/C/C+/C+     Main Programs: B/B/B/C+/B/C+/B/B+



PLEASE NOTE: In Vogue is only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.



Here is a fine set of new documentary releases you should definitely know about…



Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush have co-directed an impressive, vital documentary entitled A Place At The Table (2011) about the ugly crisis of starvation and poverty that has grown so badly since the early 1980s that 50 million people actually do not know where their next meal is coming from.  Add on to that the increase in cheap junk food, genetically engineered foods that are dangerously not labeled as such (guess who got paid off over that one?), how such engineering only denatures the nutritional content of food, how this is now causing people (along with the lack of quality foods) to have health issues you would only previously expect to see in Third World countries and how corporations and mega-mergers (along with taking advantage of programs meant for small farmers and turning them into wasteful corporate welfare) has screwed up food production as we know it.


Sure, there is a health organic foods movement that is working on a small level (you can never have enough farmer’s markets either) and other countries have rightly rejected engineered foods outright, but this is also about bad government policy cutting benefits from people who need them desperately and treating good people as disposable is creating a crisis that the mainstream media is dangerously and highly irresponsibly ignoring.


The great Jeff Bridges, who has started a foundation and movement to end the starving, is among the fine line of interviewees and we see how this is hurting real people.  These same people are ashamed and afraid to discuss this and their situation, afraid of the stigmatism that some politicians enjoy perpetuating against them (and openly so) in what is one of the most un-American trends I have ever seen in my life.  The richest country in the world has zero excuse to allow this and in the late 1970s, had actually created successful programs that kept this issue at bay.


It’s time to go back to that future.


Extras include Deleted Scenes, Cast/Crew Interviews, Deleted Interviews, AXS TV look at the film, a feature length audio commentary track with Jacobson, Silverbush and Colicchio, the Original Theatrical Trailer and a few more advisory featurettes, all worth your time after seeing the film.



Shannah Laumeister’s Bert Stern: Original Mad Man (2012) takes a look at the life and work of the legendary still photographer (and filmmaker, hew also directed one film, the Jazz music classic Jazz On A Summer’s Day (1959, reviewed elsewhere on this site) considered one of the great music films and sadly, he never made another one.


We see his family, the loves of his life, obsession with women, obsession with images and his ups and downs as an artist and man.  We get a nice section of the 89 minutes here on his work and life with Marilyn Monroe, whose sessions with him were among her best and sadly, last.  It is amazing how he innovated shooting celebrities, nudes, commercial products and so much more, but he did and you know early on when one of his best photography friends was Stanley Kubrick that something special was about to happen.


Kubrick hired him to do the stills for the Lolita campaign (in color, though the film was black and white) and as you watch, you can see more and more how innovative, influential and brilliant he was.  This is a fine documentary also worth going out of your way for.


Extras include a Photo Gallery than can never have enough images and text director bio.



Beth & George Gage’s Bidder 70 (2012) tells the story of Tim DeChristoper’s crashing of a auction for public lands to/for oil/energy companies so they could be exploited, denatured, ruined, slashed, burned and cashed in for quick profits and the retaliation against him despite the fact that said auction was eventually declared illegal, which was his motivation to get involved in the first place.  He falsely bid $1.8 Million to save 22,000+ acres and actually succeeded as the second Bush Administration gave way to Barack Obama, but the energy people were furious they had been foiled so simply.


Running only 72 minutes, it is obvious that he was being targeted and what sore losers some industry people who were up to no good actually are, but it is especially disturbing how his civil rights were violated for standing up for what all American Citizens are allowed to stand up for and this is a case that is far from over if you see this, its results and really think about it.


Interviewees include Robert Redford who makes vital points about how the situation jumps from one injustice to another and how a lack of leadership all around and dirty money are ruining the country in profound ways.  However, the documentary spends not enough time on the facts, does not get into the exposition it needs and sometimes falls into the illicit appeal to pity category in telling its story.  Still, it is a must-see despite its short-comings because the media ignored this almost totally without giving it the serious attention it deserved.


There are no extras.



Christopher Felver’s Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth Of Wonder (2010) is a mixed documentary about the life of poet and founder of the legendary City Lights Bookstore, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who helped usher in the Beat Poets that made the 1960s counterculture possible and the history behind all of this, including a biographical portrait of the man himself.


Featuring the expected overlap of his story with other key writers like Ginsberg, Burroughs and the many histories of the events they were part of, this runs a very short 78 minutes and needed to spend more time on uncovering new information and aspects of the lives of those covered, especially Mr. Ferlinghetti.  Watchable but a bit disappointing, it is worth a look from those interested.


The only extra is Ferlinghetti reading his poem “The History of The Airplane”.



Dror Moreh’s The Gatekeepers (2012) is an interview documentary and history of Shin Bet, Israel’s anti-terrorist unit (likely working in conjunction with the Mossad) to battle any threats to the State of Israel and attacks which have now come to be known too commonly as terrorism.  Moreh get to interview all six heads of the organization to date and we also see a rare series of film clips, stills and other its that show how the country has operated and protected itself, including in 1967, when it very existence was challenged yet again.


Nothing here is very shocking, but it is all interesting and when asked about any kind of “occupation” the interviewees explain they never thought to finish such a thing because they were too busy doing what they were doing and in the end, a two-state solution is suggested as the only viable outcome.  The Israelis are not going anywhere and neither are the Palestinians, the latter of which have never received any serious support from outside and have been used as a political football all these decades for anti-Semitic purposes in the extremist Arab fantasy that Israel would cease to exist.


It is a powerful, smart, sometimes painful look at key events that have turned out to have an effect on world politics to this day and became a very useful, even vital text in finding resolution once and for all.


Extras include a trailer, 45 minutes Q&A with Director Moreh and Moreh’s highly informative feature length audio commentary track.



Though not as problematic as Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary (reviewed elsewhere on this site), Angad Singh Bhalla’s Herman’s House (2012) deals with the story of Herman Wallace, who has been in solitary confinement for 40 years, was also a member of the original Black Panthers like Mumia Abu-Jamal and though the documentary does not explicit claim he is a political prisoner like Mumia, hints at this to some extent and makes a more viable argument that solitary confinement should be limited or outlawed.


It is another ugly story about justice and struggle as Mr. Wallace admitted to a robbery but (like the Mumia case) denies he is the killer of someone who is definitely dead.  Jackie Sumell is an artist who decides to build his dream house and that is supposed to be a symbol of his freedom and hoped for freedom to be, but the program takes a brief aside to focus on a young white male who also became incarcerated in solitary for a crime he did commit and how he is adjusting to the outside world.  It is an interesting aside, is underdeveloped and never returned to again.  ON the one hand, it shows the problem is wide spread in that some solitary overdoes things and may target the poor, but it also seems to try to inoculate the documentary of anything racial by showing this happens to more than just African Americans, but then mysteriously forgets about this discourse for its remainder.


Running only 81 minutes, more of a discourse on the troubles with solitary confinement abuse and less of this uneven approach (manipulative or not) would have been a big help and made any potentially positive or powerful statements intended stick better.


Extras include a Director Interview and Deleted Scenes.



The Fenton Bailey/Randy Barbato documentary In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye (2013) is a fine look into the success of one of the most popular, influential and important magazines ever published, Vogue.  First aired on HBO, the rich 59 minutes (I wish this were longer and even addressed the magazine’s famous competitors) has interviews with all the living editors of the publication, how the magazine changed and adapted to the times, how it led the way for the look and fashion of fashion and how it has somehow managed to stay on top.


The big common denominator is that each person involved (including photographers like Bert Stern and Richard Avedon) kept coming up with new, fresh ideas and a shared love of the look, fell and style of what they were doing kept the magazine as exciting as it was relevant to this day.  Nicole Kidman is among the movie stars interviewed and once again, Bailey and Barbato create a winning work worth going out of your way for.


Extras include Inside The Editor’s Eye: Uncut with Additional & Deleted Scenes and Vogue: Defining Fashion featurettes.



Last and certainly not least is Joanna Lumley’s Nile (2009) which is the most successful release here because it is a mini-series, takes the time to really delve into the journey and subject at hand and has the actress and model in prime form taking the trip she always wanted to take.  Turns out the Nile is now the proven to be the longest river in the world and Lumley fearlessly (as in her on screen work) travels its full length no matter what and we discover with her so many great places so few have seen before and others that are tourist destinations.

Lumley has a great sense of wit about her and her brilliant comic side keeps showing up effortlessly in this always interesting 184 minutes journey that shows us a vital side of our planet and many parts rarely seen.  It is a triumph for Lumley, the viewer and those who love nature and our world, but best of all, it fells as if you are taking the trip with her and so many such documentaries these days cannot even muster up the feel of a travelogue.  This one is a major home run.


Extras include profiles on the countries Lumley visited and another solid 16-page booklet from Athena on the program, including an interview with Cam McLeay.




The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Table and Gatekeeper are the best picture performers as expected in being the only Blu-rays on the list, but they also feature some rough newer video, rough older archive video and a few other raw clips as expected, holding back picture quality a bit.  The rest of the DVDs are presented in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image framing and tie for second place having the same issues, though a little softer overall and Ferlinghetti is softer still, being the poorest playback performer.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on Table and Gatekeeper should be the best sound performers as well, but Table has more rough spots than expected, but plays back just fine otherwise.  House tries to have its sound expanded to lossy Dolby Digital 5.1, but should have kept it at lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo like the rest of the DVDs here.  All but Nile have their monophonic moments and none have any serious Pro Logic surrounds to consider.  Thus, sound is just fine overall in all the releases.




To order In Vogue, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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