DVD Reviews
by Leslie Raymond
spring 2005

One duty of my cherished job
as an Information Desk Clerk
at the Ann Arbor District Library
has been to write DVD reviews.

Here they are...

A Decade Under the Influence: The 70s Films that Changed Everything
By Richard LaGravenese and Ted Demme, 2003

The distinct cultural landscape of the early 1970s developed hand-in-hand with
the widespread socio-political tendencies of the late 1960s.  Characteristics
specific to the time included a humanist response to war, respect for the
rights of women and minorities, and a healthy skeptisicm regarding authority.

With a style that grew out of prevalent popular attitudes, early 70's cinema
challenged the Hollywood industry star-system model that had dominated
movie-making for over half a century. Distinguished by an irreverent desire to
make movies for the sheer fun of it, friends and associates worked with tiny
budgets, for little or no pay, often shooting during the off hours of another
production in order to borrow the movie camera.

What they lacked in resources they made up for with determination and character.
Thanks to the support and enthusiasm of B-movie mogul Roger Corman, this
movement spawned the next generation of Hollywood stars-- in both acting and
production-- including Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, John Cassavetes, Martin
Scorsese, Robert Altman, and Francis Coppola to name a few.  With the massive
popular success of Easy Rider, the gilded gates of Hollywood opened, welcoming
this fresh new energy into the dusty fold.

Lara Croft Tomb Raider
directed by Simon West, 2001

While the often-criticized storyline of this action narrative may leave
something to be desired, the star of the movie IS something to be desired. The
real gem of Tomb Raider is Laura Croft, played by Angelina Joline, the
powerful, sexy, intelligent, athletic, and FEMALE protagonist. This is not to
be underrated.  In a market overrun by stale male and female stereotypes, the
Laura Croft character is a refreshing change.  Although the film has been
accused of being sexist, most reviewers themselves have objectified the heroine
in terms of her body—her smile, her breasts, her thighs, etc.  More images of
robust, sturdy, formidable women in our media landscape would be a healthy
reflection of and inspiration to people of every-day life.

Born from a video game, the action-hero Laura Croft has been compared to a
female Indiana Jones-plus-Batman character, but should be taken as one of the
most dynamic female characters of contemporary western pop culture in her own
right.  Angelina Joline underwent considerable training to become/create Laura
Croft, to the degree that she did many of her own stunts, and even outperformed
two stunt-women in one instance.

Joline herself is known as strong, talented, gorgeous, capable, engaged, and
fully non-traditional woman, carrying herself with respect while bucking our
notions of how women conduct themselves.  We need more of this kind of model--
especially on the Big Screen—- a model of the fully capable, life-embracing,
decision-making FEMALE.

Third Annual Media that Matters Film Festival, 2003

People and stories go hand-in-hand.  Where Hollywood conveys the
metastory, independent media imparts details about who we are and how we
live, depicts the world’s variety, and often seeks common ground while
embracing difference.

The Media that Matters Film Festival has been awarding and providing an
outlet for short films and videos on such subjects as human rights,
media rights, sustainability, and civic engagement since 2000.  The
festival tours the globe, streams on the internet, and is distributed
via DVD.

The Third Edition DVD contains public service announcements, personal
documentaries, and experimental films. Subjects include a celebration of
teenage girls’ individuality, bullying in school, prison rape, and
explorations of racial stereotyping.

Voyage in Time (Tempo di Viaggio)
by Andrei Tarkovski and Tonino Guerra, 1983

Voyage in Time is a journal-film made by the distinguished Russian
filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, chronicling an exploration of the Italian
landscape with Tonino Guerra, eminent Italian screenwriter, as they
discuss and create the groundwork for Tarkovsky’s film Nostalgia.
Guerra’s endearing devotion to his native soil is apparent as they tour
significant Italian sites of interest, but Tarkovsky seeks a setting
that will mirror his internal world that is occupied by a quiet
melancholy for his Russian homeland.  This dynamic enriches their
friendship and dialog as they collaborate on the new film, one that will
masterfully construct the sense of dislocation that consumes the Russian
director in his exile.