Instructional Media Center

• April Feature •

This month's feature is nature films - listed in no particular order.  In addition to the usual fare, there is a good dose of experimental and articistic endeavors where nature is a theme. Remember "video" in the call# means VHS - those old giant tapes that your parents used to watch.  We have VHS players available for viewing and checkout in the IMC.  Enjoy!

Planet Earth - QB631.2 P536 2007 DVD
Renowned nature documentarian, Sir David Attenborough, lends his narrative to this 5-disc set commissioned by the BBC.  One of the most expensive nature documentaries ever shot, and the first in HD, Planet Earth is exactly that - the entire planet broken down into eleven 50-minute episodes covering all the major environmental habitats.  Along with the usual harrowing predator/prey scenarios, there is an endless array of stunning visual cinematography that illuminates the wondrously artistic nature of nature.

The Living Planet - QH366.2 L658 2003 DVD
Also narrated by Attenborough and similar to the Planet Earth series, this 1984 documentary highlights habitats across the planet with a focus on how animals and plants adapt and adopt each other for survival.

Homemaking - QL751 .T75 1991 v.5 video 
Another Attenborough classic, this documentary follows animals in their quest to build abodes with some amazing results.  Checkout termites – a community that constructs a complex of arthropodic luxury, complete with amenities including security, heating, air conditioning, nurseries, gardens, and sanitation systems - or the weaverbird who makes its nest from thousands of pieces of interwoven grass, which it then dismantles if it fails to attract a mate.

The Nature of Sex - QL761 .N37 1993 video
It took two+ years of covert, voyeuristic cinematography to give birth to this comprehensive, six-episode series detailing the diversity in sexual instinct across species.  While some mating rituals are more obvious environmental adaptations for propagation of the species, others provide an intriguing look into the anomalous manifestations of animal desire.  Also covered – interesting models of child rearing.

Journey to Planet Earth - DVDs are cataloged under different call numbers
This ongoing series, narrated by Matt Damon, is part nature documentary, part conservation infomercial.  At its best, the series highlights natural phenomena in crisis as a result of concomitant human consequence.  Predation, pollution, and exploitation of the earth’s natural resources are the running theme here and there is some alarming data in that regard.  Pick your poison – Reed College library has all available episodes of the series going back to 2003.

Spiral Jetty - N6494.E27 S65 2000 DVD
An earth sculpture of sorts, Spiral Jetty is the work of American artist Robert Smithson.  Created in 1970, the structure was built on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake and is only visible when the lake falls to an elevation of 4,198 feet.  Constructed out of black basalt rock, the jetty is now white and pink due to salt encrustation.  The DVD follows the construction and analysis of Spiral Jetty as one of the worlds most famous “earthworks”.

The National Parks:  America’s Best Idea - SB482.A4 N385 2009 DVD
America’s self-appointed historical documentarian, Ken Burns, gives his usual treatment (the story of America as told through the subject of…) to our national parks.  Once again, Burns manages to produce an exceedingly long, yet compelling look at a uniquely American phenomenon. His penchant for grandiose narration, nostalgia, and photo panning (now called the Ken Burns effect in video editing) combines to provide a narrative that is predictably saccharine, yet genuinely heartfelt, hopeful, and even spiritual at times.

Jean Painleve - TR800 .J435 2003 DVD
French artist/actor/director/anarchist/son of the prime minister, Jean Painleve (1902-1989) was a renaissance man of sorts, compiling a surrealistic resume of artistic endeavors.  He is probably best known for his underwater cinematography, some of the earliest and most artistic work of the genre.  This DVD is but a small sampling of the 200+ films he shot during the course of his long life, highlighting some of the more well known shorts of his career.  Note - The DVD is PAL format and will not play on U.S. region encoded DVD players.

Winged Migration - QL698.9 .W564 2005 DVD
An amazing stratospheric journey following nature’s ultimate endurance athletes as they travel thousands of gravity defying miles to warmer climes for some avian style vacation.  Beautiful cinematography documents the exhaustive journey, in which birds of a feather flock together across continents and oceans with inspirational and occasionally heartbreaking outcomes.

March of the Penguins - QL696.S473 .M37 2005 DVD 
Emperor penguins prefer to procreate in the coldest, darkest reaches of the earth, at the worst time of year.  If you’re a champion of the underdog, cheer on the sturdy birds as they endure the annual, endless barrage of misfortune and seasonal affective disorder that makes Portland in January look like a tropical paradise.

Crowfilm - Full Frame Documentary Shorts, Vol. 2 - PN1995.9.D6 F85 2004 DVD
This collection of documentaries features work by Reed's own Ted Davee, providing a look into the secret lives of crows. Head over to the AV Department and let him know what you think.  And checkout his new movie "How the Fire Fell" here  - EP Davee

Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy working with time - NB497.G64 A4 2004 DVD
From the catalog – “Follows Andy Goldsworthy's bohemian free spirit all over the world as he demonstrates and opens up about his creative process. From his long-winding rock walls and icicle sculptures to his interlocking leaf chains and multi-colored pools of flowers. Goldsworthy's painstakingly intricate masterpieces are made entirely of materials found in Mother Nature - who threatens and often succeeds in destroying his art.”

Koyaanisqatsi - PN1995.9.E96 K69 2002 DVD
A montage of slow motion and time lapse photography across the United States with a soundtrack by Phillip Glass and not a single word of dialog.  According to director Godfrey Reggio  "it's not for lack of love of the language that these films have no words. It's because, from my point of view, our language is in a state of vast humiliation. It no longer describes the world in which we live." Another theory is that he was too cheap to pay for the requisite celebrity narrator.

Baraka - GN473 .B373 2008 DVD
Robert Frick (Koannisqatsi cinematographer) directed this stylistically similar film.  Here’s an excerpt from Roger Ebert’s excellent review. “On one level, the film is a 96-minute travelog. On another level, it is a meditation on the planet. The director, Ron Fricke, has taken his 70-mm camera all over the globe to photograph natural and human sights. Some of them are as ordinary as the traffic in Manhattan. Some are as awesome as a solar eclipse. Some are as desperate as the tribes of scavengers scuttling like crabs over the garbage dumps of Calcutta.”

The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey - GC65 .J235 2005 DVD
The first and probably last celebrity-scuba-documentarian, Jacques Cousteau, made underwater cinematography and marine conservation cool.  As co-inventor of the “aqualung” and pioneer of extreme marine exploration, Cousteau’s contributions to the field are unparalleled.  This 6-disc set is a compilation of his 1978 television series, which follows Le Capitaine as he explores the great seaways and maritime myths of world. 

Our Daily Bread - SF140.L58 2005 DVD 
A surprisingly artistic look behind the doors of the industrial complex that harvests nature, repackaging it for human consumption.  The film does not pass judgment, choosing instead to simply document the juxtaposition of nature and technology in film sequences that are visually engaging despite the inevitable implications.