Monday, December 14, 2009


Charles Sturridge, 2000 (9.1*)
Longitude is a tv miniseries dramatization of the life of British inventor John Harrison, a carpenter and amateur clockmaker, brilliantly portrayed by veteran actor Michael Gambon. In the early 1700's, ships at sea could not calculate their longitude due to the motion of ships which prevented pendulum clocks from operating accurately. Navigators estimated speed and current drift and estimated their positions on charts, and just one degree of error resulted in many shipwrecks and deaths. Queen Anne offered a prize of 20,000 lbs to anyone who could solve the problem, so in order to save lives, John Harrison, who made wooden clocks more accurate than metal ones, took up the challenge.

Juxtaposed with his story in perfect synchronicity is the modern story of Rupert Gould (Jeremy Irons), who is attempting to restore Harrison's clocks (to his neglected wife's frustration) and get them operative again so they can take their proper place in a museum of history. Director Charles Sturridge does a masterful job of not only integrating the two stories, but of also keeping us engrossed in a history lesson for nearly four hours. Only the British could pull this off, making what reads like a boring story of clock invention into a riveting drama upon which thousands of lives depend. Based upon the history book by Dava Sobel, one of the best history films ever made.

Quote: The watch beats five to the second, a slight recoil being perceptible at each beat, and goes for 30 hours. The plates are of brass, polished but not gilt. The pivot holes are jeweled as far as the third wheel, that is to say, those of the balance, staff, detente, contrate wheel, fly, fifth, fourth, and third wheels. The jewels are rubies, and the end stones diamonds. It is a masterpiece, weighing only slightly less than the brain that conceived it. (Irons, as Rupert Gould)


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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