I very much agree with Cary about Burns' documentaries after "The Civil War." As I said, he had some
ground to cover in the CW documentary that wasn't common knowledge all over the country. There
wasn't a consensus academic version of CW history, there was one version taught in the "blue states"
and one version taught in the South, with variations or excerpts taught everywhere else. Plus, he
had Shelby Foote as a source, and thus access to Foote's research and first-hand sources. It's been
disappointing to see subsequent Burns productions, because I thought the CW was quite well done,
education and interesting. I've watched it all the way through several times and still feel that
Before he got into long-form docus, Burns made a good short one, "Coney Island." It may have been
more the work of his brother, but I think he was involved.
Of the post-CW documentaries, I like "Baseball" but I agree with previous critiques that it needless
gets into racial politics at every possible turn and also doesn't present anything all that
compelling or new. The reason I like it is that it gathers a bunch of different narratives into one
place better than I've seen elsewhere. The followup that was broadcast on the second go-around deals
in more detail with post-1970 baseball. To be honest, though, I've been a fan since I was a kid and
there's really not much I revel in post-1980 except the 1986 Mets and Ken Griffey Jr.'s career. I do
think Burns gave short shrift in the original documentary to the 60s and 70s, which were glory days
for the game.
As for Jazz, WWII and the National Parks, totally agree with all the criticisms, and I couldn't even
plow through the ones after Jazz. Jazz was so infuriating that I admit a morbid fascination
compelling me to watch each night, to see how angry it could make me with the over-simplifications,
the distortions and the misrepresentations.
Regarding slow panning over photographs, it was one of the first studio-camera techniques detailed
in my standard-issue textbook for making public-access cable shows in the 1980s, so it was
completely established and hackneyed by the time Burns started making productions for PBS.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Cary Ginell" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, April 05, 2013 5:13 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] revisiting an old thread -- jazz anthologies
Burns' documentary style is extremely limited and stylized - used no matter what the subject. It
worked on "The Civil War" but is a drag everywhere else. I couldn't even sit through one episode of
his stupefyingly boring documentary on the National Parks. I hate the fact that on certain image
presentation software programs, a slow zoom is called the "Ken Burns effect." I'm sure the
manufacturers knew that Burns didn't invent the zoom-in on a still photo, but to assume that the
public believes it is just as arrogant as if Burns had called it that. Even so, I'll bet they had to
get Burns' permission to use his name to describe the effect, and Burns likes to get his ego
massaged, so he said yes.
> Date: Fri, 5 Apr 2013 17:08:29 -0400
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] revisiting an old thread -- jazz anthologies
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Among other egregious things about the Burns jazz series was that it spent
> at least 10 minutes on the Benny Goodman 1935 tour of the U.S., while
> covering Charles Mingus's entire life in about 3 minutes. Also, more than
> anything else, the series was just boring. Considering the subject, that is
> quite an accomplishment.
> Matt Snyder
> Manuscripts & Archives Division
> The New York Public Library
> [log in to unmask]
> Tel: 917-229-9582