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dvd review

Feb 26 2009

John Adams: A Review

by Jimmy L

I’m no history buff, but recently I thought it would be interesting to read something about one of our overlooked founding fathers, John Adams. Unfortunately, the book (John Adams by David McCullough) is 752 pages long—too long for a passing interest, especially with 5 other books on my bedside table. So, with J’nai’s post about how to talk about books you haven’t read in mind, I will now talk about how much I loved this book. How do I know?  Simple: the book has been made into an HBO miniseries.

I half-expected it to be boring, as historical recreations often are. But I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was! So far, I’ve finished the first disc and I can’t wait for discs two and three (I’m #22 and #17 in the respective queues (and yes, library staff have to wait for holds just like everybody else!)).

The series covers Adams’s life from his days as a lawyer in Boston after the Boston Massacre up to the years after his presidency, including his death. Paul Giamatti gives a great performance as John Adams, but what really makes it work is the whole cast. The founding fathers come to life with David Morse as George Washington, Stephen Dillane as Thomas Jefferson, and Tom Wilkinson as Benjamin Franklin. You can really taste the dynamic in congress as these men and their radically different personalities clash and come together towards a common goal.

I’ve not mentioned Abigail Adams (played by Laura Linney) yet. Though she was not an official politician, the series gives us a glimpse into how influential she was for John. I got the sense that she grounded him, and kept him honest. Her intellect and wisdom was a good complement for John’s passion and integrity.

You should really check out this series. I found it highly entertaining and educational as well. History doesn’t have to be boring!

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Nov 13 2007

DVD Recommendation: Civilisation

by Chris S

My wife recently had to take an entrance exam for graduate school and had to study up on some of the great figures of western civilization.  So we decided to watch the DVD edition of Civilisation: A Personal View by Lord Clark, a television series originally produced in the late sixties by BBC 2.  Kenneth Clark acts as tour guide and museum curator as he leads the viewer from the beginnings of the middle ages all the way to present day.  He follows the development of civilization through the lens of the arts, including visual arts, literature, and music that truly express the great potential of humanity as creators and not destroyers of society and beauty.  The series was produced and released during the turbulent sixties and serves as Lord Clark’s answer to a time of great cynicism that grew under the threat of global nuclear annihilation.

Visually stunning, with lovely classical music and insightful commentary, Civilisation pleases the mind, the heart, the ears, and the eyes.

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