L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz


Introduction: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

The LensView Home Theatre:




Election [Blu-ray]


(Alexander Payne, 1999)






Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: MTV Films & Bona Fide Productions
Video: Paramount Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 1:42:57.864

Disc Size: 27,667,906 kb

Feature Size: 26,979,276 kb

Average Bitrate: 36.21 Mbps

Chapters: 18

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: January 20th, 2009



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC



Dolby TrueHD Audio English 3672 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3672 kbps / 24-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48
kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps



English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, none



• Commentary with Director Alexander Payne



Description: A high school election goes awry when Jim McAllister, a popular teacher and student government advisor, determines to sabotage the campaign of Tracy Flick, the over-achieving student who ruined the life of his best friend, a fellow teacher, by getting him fired after they had an affair. McAllister encourages Paul Metzler, a sweet but dumb jock sidelined by a broken leg, to run for class president against Tracy. After Jim unwittingly steals his kid sister Tammy's girlfriend away from her, she also enters enters the race on the "I don't care" platform.




Election is scheduled for release on the very day our new president takes his oath of office. In Alexander Payne's deliciously cruel satire of high school life, Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) is a teacher who meets his match in the person of his student, Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon.)

Ms. Witherspoon had small roles in movies and TV until Matthew Bright's amazing and underappreciated 1996 film, Freeway. In it she plays Vanessa Lutz, a runaway teen who gets picked up while hitchhiking by freeway serial killer, Bob Wolverton, played by Kiefer Sutherland. I mention this movie because of the similarity between Vanessa and Wolverton on the one hand and Tracy and McAllister on the other. In both cases, the man assumes he has the upper hand because he is older, more experienced, cleverer and, after all, a man. In Freeway, the man gets the wind knocked out of him in some sassy, unsavory, but most deserved ways that would make a card carrying feminist blush. In Election – well, I'll let you see for yourself.

Tracy is running unopposed for high school class president. Little does she know that social studies teacher (social studies!) McAllister has had it in for this most popular of overachievers, particularly since she helped nail Dave Novotny, his colleague and best friend for a dalliance with her (well, a little more than a dalliance) that sent him sent packing out of his profession. Novotny is played to whimpering perfection by Mark Harelik, who might be recognized for his numerous supporting performances in dozens of TV shows.

McAllister innocently (ha!) encourages popular footballer, Paul Metzler (Chris Klein in a charming, dopey performance) to run against Tracy – in the spirit of – er, a more democratic election. One thing leads to another that eventually provokes Paul's unpopular nihilist lesbian sister (Jessica Campbell) to jump into the fray. Dirty politics and election tampering are the rule here, with expected and unexpected results.



The Movie : 8

Image : 7/8 
NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Paramount's previous anamorphic DVD was a pretty good effort: sharp, good color, but grainy to the point that it seemed to have a sheet of fine ash covering the image in the average and darker scenes. The Blu-ray is a little brighter, with more differentiated colors, as is expected for the medium. Colors "pop" better – and I believe the slight boost of color and contrast is consistent with the intent of the film. Grain is still present but never to the point of distraction, as it was occasionally on the DVD.
















Audio & Music: 8/8
Now here's a curiosity I've not seen before: The DVD indicates "5.1" both on the box and in the metadata that my player brings up. However, the Blu-ray indicates "5.0" on the box, but "5.1" as read by my PS3. Which would you believe! Election is a dialogue-driven movie so we don't really expect much in the surrounds except a little ambiance. What we really hope for – and get – in the upgrade to uncompressed audio is snappier, crisper dialogue. The music is a bit fresher and more transparent as well. I should also mention that the story is told by Broderick and Witherspoon in alternating voiceovers. In a welcome change to the rule, both speak English in character. Here's how it's done, boys and girls, and any would be actors, too.





Operations: 8
There's very little to the unanimated menu page, though what's there is a piece of cake to navigate.


Extras: 6
As with the DVD release, the Blu-ray limits its extra features to Alexander Payne's Commentary where he discusses his characters and how he framed his shots to capture their peculiar dramas. He also shares his remembrances of Omaha, where he grew up, and how he tried to make certain he captured the look of the high school all the way down to the way kids walked through its corridors of learning..


Bottom line: 8
I've always been a big fan of this sharp, witty satire on dearly held middle-American values. Witherspoon and Broderick are ideally cast. The high definition image is better than acceptable, but not demonstration quality. The audio is clear, if not remarkably worthy of upgrade. If you don't already own the DVD, I'd give the Blu-ray a Thumbs Up. Otherwise, I'd rent first to sort out a purchase. One final observation about the rating, which is "R" "for strong sexuality, sex-related dialogue and language, and a scene of drug use." I don't get it. Never did. The rating seems politically and religiously motivated more than anything else. I'd give it PG-13 at most.

Leonard Norwitz
January 8th, 2009









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