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Bill Duhigg <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Sat, 26 Jan 2002 11:46:16 -0800
text/plain (43 lines)
I too am 'just' an enthusiast and have held back, enjoying, and agreeing
with, the enlightening posts from more qualified members.

It was a good TV show and many people learned about SLC.  Documentarians
have a budget of time and money and must limit their focus by picking a
'spine' for their story.  Burns' admitted focus is always Race.  For Twain
he could have ignored Race for Politics and Politicians and still filled 4
hours.  (I would have found 'Twain as Commentator on his Times' a more
interesting, and humorous, program.)

The show really had few truly substantive errors.  Burn's feet _should_ be
held to the fire regarding scholarly accuracy of quotes and narrative: it is
not _that_ hard to get it right.  The statements of his interviewees should
also be fact-checked; oral history is rarely History.

Even before the Twain show I had my doubts about the
veracity/appropriateness of the stills Burns uses:  unless it clearly
pertains to the narrative moment, I just enjoy it as another curious old
photo.  I can cut him some slack when it comes to precision in pictures;
sometimes the 'just right' photo doesn't exist and the next best can give a
sense of the times.

(Maybe some pictures should include captions;  E.G., the Florida, MO,
birthplace photo:  "Clemens' home circa 19xx".  It really wouldn't distract
the viewer and shows more scholarly concern.)

My biggest problem with The Ken Burns Style is one which is pervasive in all
film and TV: the continued use of the Talking Head.  This was decried in
college R-TV courses 20 years ago and I think we've lost ground.  With the
size of today's TV screens it can be especially irritating:  I don't need to
see _that_ person's head so large.  And we rarely get to see the motions of
people who talk with their hands.  All in all it makes for a program I am
less likely to watch again.  The director has limited what I can look at;
there is less to draw me back.

Burn's works often stray towards radio with still pictures:  sometimes I
think I could get as much out of them if I did something else while
_listening_, and that is a sign of bad (or ill-utilized) TV.

Bill Duhigg