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|People of the Forest: The Chimps of Gombe [VHS]
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You can learn a lot in 20 years--just ask Jane Goodall. She spent much of her life with the chimpanzees of Gombe in Tanzania and changed the way we see these bright, playful animals. Filmmaker Hugo von Lawick followed her progress and shares the fruits of his labor in People of the Forest, an epic look at birth, life, and death in the jungle. The individual personalities of the chimps stand out so clearly it's sometimes a strain to remember these creatures aren't human, and their struggles with other tribes, predators, and the forces of nature are alternately thrilling and heartbreaking. The photography is lush--with 20 years of footage to pick through, it should be--and Donald Sutherland's narration is clear and unobtrusive. People of the Forest lends a strong sense of empathy to the viewers and leaves us with greater respect for our closest cousins. --Rob Lightner
|The Story of English, Programs 1-9 [VHS]
Lowest new price: $129.95
Lowest used price: $49.99
Encompassing history, geography, sociology, drama, language, arts, and more, The Story of English takes viewers on an unforgettable journey through the history of the English language. Host Robert MacNeil travels the world to illustrate the language's global influence. Part travelogue, part linguistics, part history, and all fascinating, the series is a unique blend of solid scholarship and engrossing entertainment.
|The Compleat Beatles [VHS]
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List price: $14.95
This documentary chronicles the career of the "Fab Four".
|PBS American Visions The History of American Art and Architecture [VHS]
Lowest new price: $43.89
Lowest used price: $22.22
"What can we say about Americans from the things they've made? When we look at them through the lens of their art, what do we see?," host and acclaimed TIME magazine art critic Robert Hughes asks. This extraordinary series presents a panoramic view of American history as reflected by artists in every medium and genre, from "primitive" portraits of the Colonial era to the complex visions of the present day. Explore the luminous, almost sacred work of early-American landscape artists. The varied experiences of 19th century America appear in the paintings of John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt and Winslow Homer. Discover how a uniquely American modernism was forged at the 1913 Armory Show, and ponder the creative genius that blossomed during the '20s, the Depression years and the exciting, innovative periods following World War II.
Titles are: "The Republic of Virtue," "The Promised Land," "The Wilderness and the West," "The Gilded Age," "A Wave from the Atlantic," "Streamlines and Breadlines," "The Empire of Signs," and "The Age of Anxiety."
|The Decline of Western Civilization Part II-The Metal Years [VHS]
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List price: $14.99
Heavy Metal Documentary
|Wings of the Luftwaffe - Fighter Attack (Wings Collection) [VHS]
Lowest used price: $12.59
The brilliantly designed and deadly fighters of the World War II German Air Force are examined in detail in this installment of Discovery Channel's Wings Collection. Focusing on three particular planes--the FW 190, the Messerschmitt ME109, and the world's first operational jet fighter, the Messerschmitt 262--the documentary gives the history of each and details how they were strategically deployed. Making an intelligent digression to the early days of military aviation, museum specimens of German fighters from World War I are shown to illustrate how German engineers pioneered advances in single-seat fighters. In the 1930s, Germany was forbidden by the terms of the Armistice to develop military aviation, but the Nazi war machine began to build up a new generation of fighters in secret. And when war broke out, the Germans had two excellent fighter planes, the FW 190 and the Messerschmitt 109, ready to wage formidable air battles with the Allies. This video demonstrates through archival footage and articulate narration how those two planes were used effectively in such actions as the Battle of Britain and in Germany's ferocious defense of its cities against the crushing Allied bomber formations. A fine job is also done showing how German designers struggled to make an operational jet fighter that, if it had been deployed earlier, might have affected the course of the war. This is an insightful look at the planes that essentially defined the Luftwaffe in World War II. --Robert J. McNamara
|National Geographic's Amazon: Land of the Flooded Forest [VHS]
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List price: $19.98
Journey into a tropical jungle of staggering beauty. Here, torrential rains annually transform the dry forest floor into a watery world where some of the most extraordinary and uncommon wildlife flourish. In waters 50 feet deep, you'll encounter graceful river dolphins navigating through flooded treetops and the usually lethargic three-toed sloth swimming agilely among the branches. Watch an arrowhana fish leap through the air to grab a beetle perched on a tree trunk, and meet two masterful hunters - the electric eel and the notorious piranha. In AMAZON: LAND OF THE FLOODED FOREST you'll witness the wonders of nature in what has been called "the greatest evolutionary theatre in the world."
This beautiful documentary explores one of the most unusual geographic regions on earth, where water and land life intermingle six months of the year. When rains raise the Amazon river basin into the treetops, fish feed off fruit trees and families hurry to hoist their floorboards above water level. Guided by an expert Amazon biologist, National Geographic's cameras capture in lush color some of the forest's most intimate events: a delicate watson bird protects its chick from an approaching boa, a male "water monkey" releases a cloud of babies from the nest in his mouth, tiny sea turtles dip into the water for the first time. The film also explores the heartbreaking depletion of the area's natural resources, by both natives struggling to survive and outsiders eager to clear land for mass crop production. The endangered Amazon offers a poignant reminder of the fragile interdependency of all creatures. --Claire Campbell
|Salt Lake City - Once Upon a Time [VHS]
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List price: $19.95
|Oscar's Greatest Moments - 1971 to 1991 [VHS]
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To answer the first and most important question: no, this compilation of Oscar broadcasts from the 1970s through the '90s does not feature the infamous duet of "Proud Mary" between Rob Lowe and Snow White. This being an officially sanctioned documentary look from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, anything extremely embarrassing has been conveniently excised. Minor and cute gaffes, sure; political statements, no problem (thanks, Vanessa Redgrave); famous no-shows, upfront and center (George C. Scott and Marlon Brando); fashion statements, let's take a long look (Cher, step right up!). But, if you're a fan of the Oscar show, you might wonder: where's the camp? The cheesiness? The fun? Granted, a look at production numbers goes from the sublime (Isaac Hayes doing the "Theme from Shaft," Aretha Franklin belting "Nobody Does It Better") to the ridiculous (Debby Boone and a host of deaf children performing "You Light Up My Life," Sheena Easton in an excruciating production of "For Your Eyes Only"), but this is a pretty serious look at Hollywood's most famous awards ceremony. Highlights include Bette Midler's trashing of the Best Song nominees of 1980, Billy Crystal's early (and funny) opening monologues, a fashion montage featuring Oscar poster girls Anjelica Huston and Jane Fonda (check out Fonda's innumerable hair transformations), and Louise Fletcher's touching acceptance speech for Best Actress in 1975. However, like the awards show itself, this documentary runs a little long on self-congratulation and a little short on humor. Someday someone will put together Oscar's Campiest Moments, but for now you'll have to make do with this official, straight-faced look at the awards. --Mark Englehart
|CNN's Millennium Boxed Set [VHS]
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List price: $23.98
A thousand years in 10 hours is an ambitious project, to say the least. But the team at CNN succeeds with its now-typical aplomb, as the team that brought us Cold War shares with us Millennium. "We know the history of our own country," narrator Ben Kingsley intones. But this series purports to give us "history from a global perspective, not through the eyes of the West." Using reenactments and impressive computer graphics--used with inspiration for everything from rebuilding the 11th-century Pueblo Bonito to representing Freud's idea of the subconscious--the history of the world for the past 1,000 years is re-created. Each episode covers 100 years, from the 11th century's "Century of the Sword" to the 16th century's "Century of the Compass" to the final 100 years of the millennium in "Century of the Globe." Segmented by time and place, Millennium focuses on five topics in five separate locations in each episode. The wealth of topics is mind-boggling: the spread of Islam, Mongol conquests, the rise of Gothic spires across Europe, Australian Aborigines, the trail of Marco Polo, Black Death, Chinese naval power, the Ottoman Empire, the religious conversion of the Mayans, the Mogul Dynasty, science, slave trade, the Industrial Revolution, to name just a fraction of the stories told. Granted, given the constraints of covering 1,000 years in a mere 10 hours, the video may leave you longing for more, but what a way to whet your appetite for history. --Jenny Brown
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