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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Waiting For Superman [Blu-ray]


(Davis Guggenheim, 2010)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Electric Kinney Films

Video: Paramount Vantage



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:51:16.086

Disc Size: 41,259,085,492 bytes

Feature Size: 32,975,351,808 bytes

Video Bitrate: 33.17 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February 15th, 2011



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3087 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3087 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -6dB



English (SDH), English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, none



Commentary by Davis Guggenheim and Lesley Chilcott

Four additional inspiring teacher/student stories (31:15 in total)
Changing the Odds: A look at innovative programs that are changing public education (5:34)
Public Education Updates: Changes which have taken place since the making of the film
A Conversation with Davis Guggenheim (1:44)
The Future Is In Our Classrooms (2:09)
The Making of "Shine": the film’s title track by musician John Legend (7:02)





Description: From the Academy Award-winning Director of An Inconvenient Truth comes the groundbreaking feature film that provides an engaging and inspiring look at public education in the United States. Waiting For “Superman” has helped launch a movement to achieve a real and lasting change through the compelling stories of five unforgettable students such as Emily, a Silicon Valley eighth-grader who is afraid of being labeled as unfit for college and Francisco, a Bronx first-grader whose mom will do anything to give him a shot at a better life. Waiting For “Superman” will leave a lasting and powerful impression that you will want to share with your friends and family.


Every morning, in big cities, suburbs and small towns across America, parents send their children off to school with... the highest of hopes. But a shocking number of students in the United States attend schools where they have virtually no chance of learning--failure factories likelier to produce drop-outs than college graduates. And despite decades of well-intended reforms and huge sums of money spent on the problem, our public schools haven't improved markedly since the 1970s. Why? There is an answer. And it's not what you think.



The Film:

The film demonstrates (1) that quality education is possible for even the most disadvantaged students; (2) the cost is low, considering that high school dropouts often turn to crime when they can't find good jobs. In 10 years, the film claims, there will be twice as many skilled, well-paid jobs in America as Americans qualified to fill them.

What struck me most of all was Geoffrey Canada's confidence that a charter school run on his model can make virtually any first-grader a high school graduate who's accepted to college. A good education, therefore, is not ruled out by poverty, uneducated parents or crime- and drug-infested neighborhoods. In fact, those are the very areas where he has success. Consider this: Those lotteries are truly random, as by law they must be. Yet most of the winners will succeed, and half the losers (from the same human pool) will fail. This is an indictment: Our schools do not work.

Excerpt from Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times located HERE

Guggenheim isn’t the only person who realized that capturing the human drama behind this incredibly flawed system would make for good cinema, Madeleine Sackler did, too. Her very similar documentary called The Lottery came out this past spring. Unfortunately, she didn’t have Guggenheim’s reputation, nor vocal support from Bill Gates or even a comparable advertising budget, and so her film has received less attention.

Ultimately, though, what really gives Superman an advantage is the quality of research, in-depth interviews and sheer extent to which it leaves audiences’ heads spinning. The blind selfishness of the American Federation of Teachers and the so-called “lemon dance” of unwanted staff at schools across the U.S. is astounding, but then leaders such as Geoffrey Canada, an education activist, and Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools system, are astounding in positively hopeful ways.

Excerpt from Vanessa Farquaharson at the National Post located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Obviously this is less about image quality and more about the documentary content. Waiting for "Superman" on Blu-ray from Paramount looks to have been shot on digital and the 1.78 image is clean and sharp. There are plenty of vintage 4:3 clips thrown in from The Simpsons to Leave it to Beaver as well as some political clips. We have a dual-layered transfer with a high bitrate. It probably looks exactly as it should via the 1080P rendering. Colors aren't overly bright and the visuals are smooth and consistent. It gives as good a presentation as was intended.














Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 5.1 track at 3087 kbps is far more robust than necessary to handle the narration and mostly dialogue-driven film. There is no aggression or notable seperation. There is some original music by Christophe Beck and it sounds crisp if without dynamic depth or buoyancy. There are optional subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.


Extras :

There are some viable extras - we get a sort of bland commentary by Davis Guggenheim and Lesley Chilcott. A few production details are examined and how the director's evolution as a filmmaker benefited Waiting for "Superman". There are four additional inspiring teacher/student stories running over a half-hour under the 'Deleted Scenes' menu title. Changing the Odds is a look at innovative programs that are changing public education - this runs about 5.5 minutes and the Public Education Updates: points to a website for changes which have taken place since the making of the film. we get an animated Conversation with Davis Guggenheim, The Future Is In Our Classrooms and The Making of "Shine": the film’s title track by musician John Legend.



This is a very important documentary, extremely well-made - and also quite touching. It both identifies the breadth of the education problem and sparks some hope exploring the proposed solution(s). I have a niece who is a teacher and I will give it to her to watch as there are many statistics used to reflect the scope, prevalence and depth of the issues. The system is definitely hurting and it's a shame that this wasn't exposed in the past where the magnitude of the core problems could have been addressed and things sets on a better course than letting it fester to its present, seemingly irrevocable, point. As it stands it will take time for things to improve - if they do at all. The Blu-ray does it's job well and provides a solid presentation - one for those who are keen - will appreciate the opportunity to see. 

Gary Tooze

February 17th, 2011



About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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