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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Environment > Behavior > Psychology > Study > Cell Phones > Health > Radiation > Politics > Wa > Boredom (2013)/Mobilize (2014/Disinformation DVDs)/The Prosecution Of An American President (2013/First Run DVD)/Roger & Me (1989/Warner Blu-ray)/Salt Of The Earth (1954/Film Detective DVD)

Boredom (2013)/Mobilize (2014/Disinformation DVDs)/The Prosecution Of An American President (2013/First Run DVD)/Roger & Me (1989/Warner Blu-ray)/Salt Of The Earth (1954/Film Detective DVD)

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

We have all kinds of controversy, truth to power and humor in the following documentaries and a classic political film drama that remains the only U.S. film in U.S. film history censored nationally by the federal government.

Albert Nerenberg's Boredom (2013) is an amusing, usually informative and sometimes speculative look at what being bored is, how it affects us and why is it so under-discussed and not researched. It is not too boring at 61 minutes in its regular-speed version and does have some good moments, yet I think it could have been a little longer and asked even more questions. Not that the humor makes it smug or the like, but I would have liked this to work more effectively and maybe have some kind of revelation since it is rarely-covered ground. Still, at least someone finally brought it up as a topic.

Extras include a sped-up version of the program that does not work and is barely amusing, plus two more clips: Stages of Boredom (3 minutes) and The Mountain That Boredom Built (4 minutes)

Kevin Kunze's Mobilize (2014) tells us that despite the compactness and improvements in cell phone technology, they may be as deadly and unhealthy as ever. In fairness to the companies that make and distribute the product, there are warnings about usage, but this program wonders if it is too little, if having children have cell phones is a major health issue and if there are hidden dangers. Fair enough in a program that look at the rise of the cell phone and where we are with the $20 Billion+ industry now. Running a much healthier 84 minutes, it is definitely worth a look and a must-see for anyone who has a cell phone, especially if they are obsessed with the one they have.

A trailer is the only extra.

David A. Burke and Dave Hagen have co-directed The Prosecution Of An American President (2013) for legendary legal prosecutor and writer Vincent Bugliosi, a man who is hardly a bleeding liberal who is still rightly furious about George W. Bush and thinks the entry in Iraq was so bad, so intentional, so careless, so irresponsible, so ignorant and so horrid, he and his book have built a case that he should be prosecuted for mass murder!

We've heard this about him and many presidents over the years, but there was a certain callousness (et al) W. Bush showed (like saying he did not know where Bin Laden was and was not concerned) that more than likely upset more people across the country and political spectrum than has been reported. Michael Moore has pointed out many such things about W. Bush as well, but Bugliosi goes out of his way it make a legal case why what he and his administration did should have never happened, should never happen again and goes into minute detail (especially in the book he published on the subject, hard as that was to get published) on how this could/should be prosecuted legally if the will was there.

Hard not to agree on some key points and it is great to see someone even more strongly spell out how this worst administration to date was so reckless. Forget about how the Republican Party, Fox News and the Military-Industrial Complex would be defending him, it is worth discussing (especially if he skipped getting Bin Laden early on as one scene suggests) and if enough people decide to seek justice, it could happen against anyone committing a crime. On the other side of this, any president could be accused of the same thing as so many killings happen at U.S. hands in wars and covert operations when wars are not happening, bringing up another side of the argument. The one piece of justice Bugliosi and non-W. Bush fans can be happy about is how much his legacy is in doubt and how his 8 years continues to cause permanent damage to the Republican Party. However, that is not enough and that leads to one final question: could the United States survive another administration being so out of control? Bugliosi can take some comfort that he has left a permanent record of how to deal with such an unprecedented situation in the future should it turn up again.

Extras include six deleted scenes that further enhance his position, including showing Bush having a great time while people are being killed and risking their lives.

Michael Moore unexpectedly put himself on the map worldwide with his documentary Roger & Me (1989), which had its share of promotional confusion and from who Roger was (he looked like Roger Ebert and there was that poster art (featured on the Blu-ray cover) of him pointing a microphone at an empty chair), then the focus became about a live rabbit begin killed and there were those political attacks on the film. What was going on here? All that, combined with some stellar reviews made this a hit documentary, something at the time that was considered impossible or very rare if it was not a music concert.

Partly biographical, Moore was born and raised in Flint, Michigan, which happens to be the birthplace of both General Motors (an automotive company that eventually surpassed Ford to become the biggest car company, then biggest company outright in the world at one point) then also become the birthplace of the United Auto Workers (UAW), a union that made sure got paid a fair, livable wage. Unions peaked in 1950 as big companies (staring with the Taft-Hartley Act) wanted to slowly lower wages, but WWII had just ended, the Cold War had arrived and that generation wanted what they got and would get it.

Footage of Moore growing up is followed by newsreel, TV and industrial and promotion film footage of the many great times GM delivered to their workers, customers and themselves when

they paid people well and worked with them. So by the end of the 1980s, what happened? GM started closing manufacturing plants in the U.S. under the odd cover of trying to save the company and keep profits high, but they were already having record profits, so what was wrong here? They were also building new plants in Mexico, using their saving it diversify and abandoning their birthplace. Why?

Moore purposely never answers most of the questions he poses so his audience can figure it out and to get us all to ask more profound questions. At the time, GM seemed like an unbeatable, unstoppable, mega-profit juggernaut though foreign import cars were cutting into profits a bit. But part of it was the political rollback mentality to erase history (throwing away the UAW roots and their own is a great way of saying they don't owe anyone anything) as if they just magically appeared as a giant multi-national corporation all by sheer will and the employees were just disposable fodder.

The fact is, though Moore does not get into it, what GM did was a microcosm of the Reagan Years (which we are still in) where nearly the entire blue-collar manufacturing infrastructure was dismantled and sold for scrap for big short term profits, a rollback of workers rights, civil rights and a cashing out of The American Dream against hundreds of thousands of hard workers who never did anything to deserve being trashed and abandoned. The country has been paying the highest price ever since.

Yet the film also constantly shows the condescending behavior towards those without) soon to joined by many more in large numbers) by these businessmen who want to substitute their high paying jobs of lower paying right-to-work-for-less employment elsewhere, including in Southern States as recommended by a visit of Reagan himself! Oh, and conversion to Evangelical Christianity as substitute for hopelessness and depression, instead of actual financial or personal help.

But then back at GM, no answers and CEO Roger Smith keeps dodging Moore, not just his questions, but the man himself. Of course, it becomes ridiculous from the many places and ways he is rejected and rudely thrown out, to being talked down to to getting to what Smith is really up to. It was (way?) less obvious then, but Moore was implying from the words of GM and their own reps that the company had become super-greedy and one spokesman even says there might be a time GM might not exist. That was very shocking to most in 1989, especially with the phony bright new day in America talk Reagan and company kept pushing.

Moore was seeing Late Capitalism in America for the first time where no one matters but the rich few, that these rich people were betraying the country and its legacy without most knowing it, realizing to or wanting to believe it because the share-the-wealth working ways had more than proven to be the best system of all and it was invented in America. No, GM was on a slow self-destruct that was nothing short of betrayal, that sunk in when they needed their 2008 bailout to avoid that hard-to-believe collapse and haunts the company as of this posting with recalls (which have been fatal when not corrected) that has spread to most manufacturers.

25 years later, Roger & Me looks prophetic, but Moore and many on the Left knew and understood the betrayal going on, something he would become more explicit about in Fahrenheit 911 and Capitalism: A Love Story (both reviewed among his many works elsewhere on this site) reminding us all of the phrase if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Now, we've all been fixed and the damage is as bad, awful and unnecessary as ever. People are starting to get sick of all this finally, but can we get enough real leadership to finally push the clock forward? I like Moore and GM, so it always makes me sad when the film is over to see how much it holds up. If you have never seen the film before, it is a must see, but if you liked and and have not seen it for a while, you should revisit it. It just gets better and more interesting with age.

Extras include the Original Theatrical Trailer and a classic feature length audio commentary track by Moore.

Last and definitely not least is Herbert J. Biberman's Salt Of The Earth (1954), the film as noted above that is the only one ever banned throughout the United States in all of cinema history. Why? Was it because of graphic violence that was too realistic? Was it the first hardcore sex film so shocking that it had to be stopped? Did it tell some dark secret people would kill to keep? Was it a horror film so graphic that the government expected mass riots and madness? Did it show people how to make deadly escapist drugs for free? Did it try to reveal top secret government information like a weapon deadlier than the Atom Bomb? Was it a snuff film where people were being killed on screen for fun after being tortured, et al?

No. It has some moments of fighting, no drugs, a little drinking, no big secrets, no sex and not even a Rock 'N Roll song. So why was it banned? The Hollywood Ten, blacklisted (and usually Jewish) filmmakers banned in Hollywood for supposed Communist activities (which were NOT illegal and even encouraged during WWII after Hitler betrayed Stalin) banded together to make this film with the co-funding of an actual workers labor Union. The drama would be of miners in New Mexico of Hispanic ethnicity trying to hold their solidarity and union together as the greedy mine owners (admittedly a little cartoonish) could care less about their safety and pit them against their Anglo/White male counterparts.

Then the film gets wilder when it attacks the recently passed (circa 1947) Taft-Hartley that the film addresses in limiting Unions (much of which has still not been struck down since), shows the suffering at worst from having any strike and to top it all off, advocates that women come out of the kitchen (as a time the powers that be were trying to return them there after WWII) to protest and picket for their wokring men and that sexism was unacceptable. WOW! All that was actually more dangerous, shocking and subversive than everything combined that I suggested in the first paragraph by those who had in banned in the greatest country in the world.

Anyone who had not been blacklisted, including character actor Will Geer, were automatically added to the list in one of the most disgraceful moments of film censorship ever. Politics aside, the film is not bad and holds up well as a melodrama, with some points and parts dated, yet others (sometimes sadly) as relevant as ever. Of course, it does represent a Left Wing discourse, but one that was needed at such a dark time. Even when one might consider it communist (one could compare it to Eisenstein's Strike (his first full-length film in 1925) on some level) with a mix of good ideas and limits. No matter what, all serious film fans and adults with a brain should see this film at least once to see for themselves. Nice to see it on DVD!

There are sadly no extras, but a restored special edition in Blu-ray would be ideal.

The softest performers here are from the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Mobilize (which can also have a little sloppy editing) and black & white 1.33 X 1 image on Earth (an orphan film, as noted). They're still watchable, but a little rough. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the Boredom and President also have some rough footage as expected for a documentary, but are more consistent throughout, landing in the middle of playback quality of the titles here.

However, the clear visual winner is the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Roger, which can show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film as it comes from a newly restored copy of the film which it turns out no good 35mm or 16mm print was available of. Warner Bros. changed that and now we have this solid performer with the newly filmed footage often looking great and classic film clips really solid for their age. Even if you have seen it before, you'll be surprised how good this looks.

All the sound here is in lossy Dolby Digital presentations, with Boredom, Mobilize and President offering lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, then Roger and Earth offering lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. They are all on par with each other, as the Stereo presentations still have rough sound and mono sound, but Earth is the real rough one being 60 years old as of this posting, so that is to be expected. I still wish Roger had a lossless presentation, but it will do.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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