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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The War Room [Blu-ray]

 

(Chris Hegedus, D.A. Pennebaker, 1993)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Pennebaker Associates

Video: Criterion Collection # 602

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 2:02:49.153

Disc Size: 45,870,305,157 bytes

Feature Size: 19,876,233,216 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.99 Mbps

Chapters: 21

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: March 12th, 2012

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2065 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2065 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

Return of the War Room, a 2008 documentary by Hegedus and Pennebaker in which advisers James Carville, George Stephanopoulos, Paul Begala, and others reflect on the effect that the Clinton war room had on the way campaigns are run (1:21:40)
• New pieces in which the filmmakers discuss the difficulties of shooting in the campaign’s fast-paced environment (41:28)
• Panel discussion hosted by the William J. Clinton Foundation, featuring Carville, Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan, journalist Ron Brownstein, and surprise guest Bill Clinton (25:51)
• Interview with strategist Stanley Greenberg on the evolution of polling (10:46)

• Trailer (2:02)
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by writer Louis Menand

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: The 1992 presidential election was a triumph not only for Bill Clinton but also for the new breed of strategists who guided him to the White House and changed the face of politics in the process. For this thrilling, behind-closed-doors account of that campaign, renowned cinema verité filmmakers D. A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop) and Chris Hegedus (Startup.com) closely followed the brainstorming and bull sessions of Clinton’s crack team of consultants—especially the folksy James Carville and the preppy George Stephanopoulos, who became media stars in their own right as they injected a youthful spirit and spontaneity into the process of campaigning. Fleet-footed and entertaining, The War Room is a vivid document of a political moment whose truths (“It’s the economy, stupid!”) still ring in our ears.

 

 

The Film:

A look inside the 1992 presidential race, D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hedgus' documentary The War Room explores the backstage... side of national politics by examining the day-to-day operations of Bill Clinton's campaign staff. The behind-the-scenes leader of the group is James Carville, the demonstrative, charismatic campaign manager who relies on a plain-speaking manner and emotional appeals to motivate his subordinates. He is complemented by the quieter, smoother personality and photogenic looks of young press spokesman George Stephanopoulous. The filmmakers follow these two contrasting personalities from the January New Hampshire primary to Clinton's eventual victory, as they attempt to cling to an overall strategic plan while dealing with unforeseen problems and negative press, as their candidate is saddled with accusations of adultery and draft-dodging. Subplots include the rivalries between Democratic campaign staffs -- which can become amusingly petty, as when they accuse each other of tearing down campaign posters -- and the romantic relationship between Carville and Mary Matalin, chief strategist for George Bush's campaign. Co-director D.A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop, Don't Look Back, Primary) is renowned as an innovator in the use of cinema-verite, used here to show both the mundane complications and the emotional highlights of the modern political process.

***

Exotic location notwithstanding, Rachel Boynton's riveting political documentary Our Brand Is Crisis is a sequel to the Clinton-era campaign vérité, The War Room. Call it spin-meisters abroad: Boynton chronicles the further adventures of ace political strategist James Carville and his associates at GCS as guns for hire in the 2002 Bolivian election. Our Brand Is Crisis, which had its local premiere at the last edition of New Directors/New Films, opens with the October 2003 riots that brought down the government of President Gonzalo "Goni" Sánchez de Lozada, then flashes back one year earlier to Goni on the hustings: Addressing a resplendently color- coordinated (and inexplicably pink) rally, the candidate—a wealthy, American- educated businessman and former president—announces his plan to resolve Bolivia's current economic crisis. Backstage, he's calling his inside-the-beltway advisers for new talking points.

Excerpt from J. Hoberman at the Village Voice located HERE

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

The Criterion Blu-ray of The War Room is advertised as 'New, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by directors Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker'. The fact that the film was originally shot with a 16 mm camera accounts for much of the softness and the grainy appearance of the film. A lot of this is sourced from television shot footage and hence also looks pretty weak with bleeding colors and frail visual characteristics. This is to be expected and still look consistent in the Blu-ray format. Anyone seeking pristine quality wouldn't be getting an accurate representation of the original film. This is how it looks and it is watchable being faithful to the original source.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Predictably plenty of dialogue is scattered in the vérité/documentary and Criterion have used a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 2065 kbps. We can only presume that this exports the film's audio as well as can be technically expected. It is clean and, basically, audible. There are optional subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

Return of the War Room is an 1-hour 20-minute 2008 documentary by Hegedus and Pennebaker in which advisers James Carville, George Stephanopoulos, Paul Begala, Mary Matalin and others reflect on the effect that the Clinton war room had on the way campaigns are run and the lasting effects it had on the country and their lives. In addition Mark McKinno and Frank Luntz, members of the new generation of campaign operatives, discuss the innovations of the war concept room. There is a 41-minute 'Making of...' where the filmmakers discuss the difficulties of shooting in the campaign’s fast-paced environment. Also included is a 25-minute 'Panel Discussion' hosted by the William J. Clinton Foundation, featuring Carville, Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan, journalist Ron Brownstein, and surprise guest Bill Clinton discuss the trials of New Hampshire and other memories of the revolutionary campaign. There is a 10-minute new interview with strategist Stanley Greenberg on the evolution of polling - its nuances and how it is a misunderstood dark art at the center of modern political campaigns. There is a 2-minute trailer and a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by writer Louis Menand.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I struggled through this as I have a strong personal bent against much to do with mythology of mainstream politics. So, I guess from my limited standpoint - this was a poor choice for Criterion - LOL.  To find some positives - my ears do perk up when I hear Carville and Stephanopoulos and I can see many will be very interested in this documentary and the extras. The Blu-ray offers and those keen will benefit from owning the package. 

Gary Tooze

March 14th, 2012


 

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 5000 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.

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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)

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Gary W. Tooze

 

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