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Orwell Rolls in His Grave

Go Kart Films // Unrated // June 7, 2005
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Scott Lecter | posted September 26, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

align="left" hspace="5" vspace="5" width="200" height="150">One
of the best things about writing for DVD Talk is having an editor
that trusts his staff of writers. We are never stifled,
influenced, or told what to say about a particular title simply
to cater to a certain studio or DVD release. Having this kind of
freedom is what allows us to be extremely honest and not follow
any bandwagon buzz about a highly anticipated disc. That being
said, I think what we have here at DVD Talk is probably pretty
rare in the grand scheme of the media (be it TV, radio, Internet,
etc) world. And while may people might think the Internet is the
last truly free medium, I'd wager to say that there's plenty of
dishonesty and manipulation afoot there as well. It may not be on
as quite a large scale as television, but the next few years will
probably prove crucial in determining just how "free"
the Internet stays.

All this might just sound like so much soap-boxing, but these are
precisely the issues that Robert Kane Pappas chooses to tackle in
his eye-opening documentary Orwell Rolls in His Grave.
He uses George Orwell's classic novel 1984 as the backdrop
for the film, inserting quotes and anecdotes throughout the
feature. The claim Pappas attempts to make is that we are
beginning to exist in an Orwellian world of doublespeak, lies,
conglomeration, and monopolies. His real point, however, is that
free media is paying the price of this Orwellian existence.

align="right" hspace="5" vspace="5" width="200" height="150">Pappas
uses many different examples and arguments throughout his film,
but much of the attention in Orwell Rolls in His Grave
is given to the 2000 election, the war in Iraq, and George W.
Bush in general. He mainly focuses on how the media perceives
these events and how this same media chooses to portray the
events to the American public. What Pappas uncovers is not only
surprising, but also disturbing and frightening in a way that few
people probably realize. His arguments may seem trite or minor
now, but the ultimate ramifications of the policies and practices
that Pappas reveals will, most likely, prove to have a lasting
effect on the way Americans receive and process their daily news
and other programming. Whether it be media conglomeration,
government control of the airwaves, or unanswered questions and
unaired news segments, Orwell Rolls in His Grave shows
an America that is slowly having its notions of democracy usurped
by a government spoon-feeding its citizens their own form of
sanctioned media. A frightening suggestion, indeed.

align="left" hspace="5" vspace="5" width="200" height="150">In
addition to the use of news stories and stock footage, Pappas
employs the help of several media experts, an ex-60 Minutes
producer, a United States Congressman, and even a few famous
faces to show how the mixing of business, politics, and ideology
are creating this Orwellian world. Tim Robbins makes a brief
appearance – in the form of a press conference clip –
but Pappas's main celebrity selling point is some footage of
filmmaker Michael Moore. The problem with this footage, however,
is that it consists mostly of Moore cracking jokes and doesn't
necessarily further the film's argument. It's almost as if Pappas
had this footage and decided to insert it in his film because it
would give him a "name" to sell the film. It's scary to
think this might be the case with a film about truth and honesty
in media, but unfortunately, that's the impression I got from the
Moore footage.

Pappas, nevertheless, does an adequate job of presenting his
subject and getting his point across. Orwell Rolls in His
does go in circles a bit and despite the intelligence
of his interviewees, they don't prove to be all that exciting or
interesting. The film is, essentially, a series of "talking
head" interviews and, for that technique to fully succeed,
the participants need to be incredibly charismatic or have
something really groundbreaking to say. Unfortunately,
the interviews in Pappas's film often drag on too long and become
muddled in too much jargon and not enough easily understandable
concepts. I mean, this is a documentary about media being
truthfully and understandably conveyed to the masses, right?

align="right" hspace="5" vspace="5" width="200" height="150">The
film also seems to have come a little late, as the American
public has seen so many of these incendiary documentaries in the
last few years. Michael Moore, for better or worse, has made an
entire career off this type of film. Pappas, ultimately, proves
to know what he's doing with his film, but it may just prove to
be too little, too late. Still, Orwell Rolls in His Grave
is an important film that does an adequate job of opening one's
eyes to the frightening prospect of a government-sanctioned media
world where we might never really know what's the truth and
what's just spin.



align="left" hspace="5" vspace="5" width="200" height="150">Orwell
Rolls in His Grave
is presented in a 1.33:1 full frame
format that looks pretty much like you'd expect it to look.
Aside from a few minor problems, this documentary looks just
fine. The interviews are all clearly detailed and color
saturation is good. Flesh tones are accurate and, aside from a
few washed out images (that are obviously a result of older
source material), the stock footage and stills all look
excellent. This isn't exactly a very stylistic film, so
don't expect to see lavish colors and tricky camerawork, but
the various interviews and news footage is presented well. The
only major problems I could find are some slight flicker, a
noticeable layer change, and one instance of some jumpy
pixelation. Otherwise, this visual presentation manages to get
the job done without bringing much attention to itself.


The audio on this disc is presented in a Dolby 2.0 stereo format
that does exactly what it intends. It provides crystal clear
dialogue and narration, and doesn't allow the cheesy music
or few sound effects to overwhelm the rest of the soundtrack.
This film consists of mostly "talking head" interviews,
and they always come across as clear, crisp, and distinct.
Don't expect to hear anything particularly spectacular from
this track and you won't be disappointed.


Although it's split up into thirteen different segments on
the disc's menu, the only real extra feature on this disc is
the inclusion of a little over an hour of bonus footage.
There are more interviews, outtakes from several of the
film's speeches, and even the experts offering up some
solutions to the problem. While it's nice to have these
extra bits of footage included here, most of the information is
pretty bland and longwinded, and it soon becomes clear why these
scenes were left out of the film.

Final Thoughts:

align="right" hspace="5" vspace="5" width="200" height="150">Robert
Kane Pappas might be treading familiar ground with his
documentary Orwell Rolls in His Grave, but he does prove
to bring a fresh approach to the table. His film is often
surprising in its honesty and blunt portrayal of a media world
that appears to be slowly transforming into a heaping dose of
Orwellian doublespeak, conglomeration, and government-controlled
images. While the film may be incredibly dry at time and might
appear to be a case of too little, too late, Pappas still manages
to create an intriguing and important film that deserves to be
seen. Go Kart Films has done a fine job of providing a
serviceable audio-visual presentation and a nice collection of
bonus footage, but the film is easily the main attraction of this
recommended disc.

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