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:




Swing Vote [Blu-ray]


(Joshua Michael Stern, 2008)






Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Treehouse Films

Blu-ray: Touchstone Home Entertainment



Region: All

Runtime: 122 min

Chapters: 12

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: January 13, 2009



Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC



English 5.1 DTS-HD (48kHz/24-bit), Spanish DD 5.1 Surround



Feature & Bonus: English SDH & Spanish



• Commentary by Writer/Director Joshua Michael Stern & Writer Jason Richman

• Inside the Campaign: The Politics of Production (12:43)

• Deleted & Extended Scenes (10:28)

• Previews in HD



The Film: 7
With the 2008 American presidential election just behind us, Swing Vote sets up the unlikely – one might even say, implausible – scenario by which the election, now in an electoral college dead heat, comes down to the vote of one man whose ballot was caught in an electrical malfunction. Since New Mexico's rules, we are told, allows for the recasting of the vote "in a timely manner", the two presidential candidates – the incumbent Republican played by Kelsey Grammer, and the Democrat, played by Dennis Hopper – arrive in Texaco, New Mexico (where the smartest person appears to be Costner's daughter) to court – make that: pander to – er, make that: bribe – that one vote.

Ordinarily I am not a fan of Kevin Costner. I can count the number of movies I like him in on one hand (Silverado, No Way Out, JFK, The Untouchables and Field of Dreams). To which group I must now add: Swing Vote.

I like what San Francisco Chronicle's Mike LaSalle had to say about the, so I'll quote him a bit:

"It's not easy to play a stupid guy. The temptations are everywhere - to wink at the audience as if to say, "I'm smart, actually" - or to try to make being stupid a form of adorable. Kevin Costner plays a good-natured idiot in "Swing Vote," a middle-aged man who has squandered what little potential he had in favor of life as a hard-drinking good-for-nothing, and he gives a remarkable performance.

The movie's real interest isn't in political issues so much as in presenting Bud as an archetype of a certain kind of American, living on the fringes, with little sense of the world around him. The script, by Jason Richman and director Joshua Michael Stern, is very good at showing us the thought patterns of a guy who really doesn't know how life works or how to comport himself outside his limited sphere. The scenes between Bud and the political honchos that come courting him are painfully accurate portrayals of someone whose social compulsion is to bring everything down to a comfortable level of clowning, even if it means being perceived as a buffoon. Costner has the internal workings of this guy down, and he's well matched by young Madeline Carroll, who plays his precocious, loving daughter, an adult's mind in a child's body."

Excerpt of review from SF Chronicle located HERE



Image: 7/8
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.

I found many of the outdoor shots - as photographed, more than likely - more overexposed than I thought right. I checked the image on other displays and I admit that my set-up is a touch bright and contrasty. (I just installed a new projector and it won't be calibrated for a couple weeks yet. If this results in a re-evaluation I shall update my remarks.) I realize we're in the desert here, but I felt the brightness was carrying things a little too far. Otherwise, the desaturated picture has some intentional grain (again, the desert sand, I imagine), and it's sharp, sometimes enough so to result in the occasional, fleeting halo.














Audio & Music: 7/7
For this dialogue-driven movie, the DTS-HD mix does the job nicely: it renders voices clearly, well-located, and properly balanced. The surrounds don't really have much to do except supply a faint aura of ambience. The music s off with sensible dynamic range – it never gets in the way, yet offers strong support.




Operations: 7
Busy, but unanimated clever menus, where every click comes down like a guillotine. Lots of information, though, with every pop-up window.


Extras: 5
There's not a lot here, but I don't see as how a movie like this expects more. There's a pleasant enough commentary by writer/director Joshua Michael Stern & co-writer Jason Richman where they discuss the cast and production but, curiously, refrain from delving into the politics. The featurette: "Inside the Campaign" is more or less EPK stuff glossing over casting and locations. It's nice that all the extras are in HD, but none of them are must-sees.



Bottom line: 7
Think: Gary Ross & Ivan Reitman's 1993 film, Dave - much grimmer and without the charm. Dave is political fantasy that avoids making a point. Swing Vote is a lesson in social responsibility in a stew of political satire. It loses it's way briefly, but gets back on track and somehow manages a satisfying ending. I'd give this video a thumb's up if it weren't for the image.

Leonard Norwitz
January 10, 2009









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