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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » America's Greatest Monuments: Washington D.C.
America's Greatest Monuments: Washington D.C.
Other // Unrated // September 23, 2008
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted October 24, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Show:

Washington DC is home to over 150 monuments and memorials, some famous and some obscure.  The Smithsonian channel came up with the good idea of making a show that explored and discussed some of the more prominent monuments in our nation's capital.  The result, America's Greatest Monuments is a brief overview of the more well known places in Washington.  Unfortunately this hour long program tries to cover too much ground and ends up not really revealing much that's new or informative.

The show looks at 11 monuments all together, discussing the meaning behind the memorial as well as the facts behind they're creation.  While there are a couple of interesting facts thrown out, I didn't know that the Jefferson Memorial was blocked for years by Republicans in Congress since Jefferson was a Democrat, and some unusual sights, like the "Kilroy was here" carving purposefully inscribed in the WWII memorial, most of the information is well known.  The Tomb of the Unknowns is the final resting place of an unidentified soldier from WWI, WWII, and Korea.  The Marine Corps Memorial is patterned after an iconic Pulitzer Prize winning photograph.  The Washington Monument was halted part way through construction due to the civil war.  While this is a nice overview, there wasn't much depth.

The best memorials inspire emotion.  Who can't walk the length of the Viet Nam Memorial and, no matter what your opinion of the war, walk away unmoved by the seemingly countless names carved in black stone that reflect the viewer's image?  It's hard not to think of the Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech when looking at the Lincoln Memorial, and feel sadness at a young president who was shot down when staring at Kennedy's Eternal Flame.  That's what this documentary lacked.  Each monument was only give a few minutes, less than five minutes on average, and the discussion was a bit to dry.  The dates of construction were given and the architect(s) named and any controversy surrounding the placement or content was mentioned along with a brief description of the monument, but the show rarely connected with the viewer's emotions or succeeded in making them feel proud or grateful.

A lot of this was due to the speed of the show.  With so much ground to cover, the monuments flew by rather quickly.  While inscriptions on walls were often highlighted, they were rarely on the screen long enough to read.  This not only gave the show a rushed feel, but lessened the impact of the monuments that were shown.

The memorials and monuments profiled is this show are:

FDR Memorial
WWII Memorial
Washington Monument
Jefferson Memorial
Kenndy's Eternal flame
Lincoln's Memorial
Arlington Cemetery
The Tomb of the Unknowns
Viet Nam Memorial
Marine Corps Memorial
Korean War Memorial
 

The DVD:

Audio:

The DD 5.1 track was pretty much overkill on this show.  The narration and all of the interviews were firmly centered on the screen and while the background music did come from the rear speakers, it never created an engulfing feeling.  There were no audio defects worth mentioning.

Video:

Originally presented on the Smithsonian HD channel, I was disappointed to find out that not only was this not released in HD, but the SD DVD isn't even anamorphically enhanced.  The 1.78:1 image is okay, but soft and not nearly as detailed as I was expecting.

Extras:

There are no extras aside from a reel of trailers for other Smithsonian shows.

Final Thoughts:

This was a great idea, but it fell flat in the execution.  An hour long show could have been created around any one of these monuments, and to cram 11 into less than an hour is just pushing it too much.  This would be a good overview for an elementary school child who was going to DC for the first time, but most adults will already know the pertinent information contained on this disc.  Make this one a rental.
 

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