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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Reading, writing and … aesthetics?

The Spokesman-Review

And now comes another chapter from the ongoing saga “What Movies Can Teach Us.”

Today’s series of lessons comes thanks to an area video store that sells a wide array of DVDs and videotapes – new and used, just-released and reissued, contemporary and classic – along with CDs and the occasional book.

Any questions before we begin? Yes, you in the back there. You want to know what possible value can be had from perusing at random a shelf full of DVD titles? Well, young student, read on:

Aesthetics: We usually think of aesthetics as being that which is good. However, this branch of philosophy is more involved with the nature of critical thinking. And that means bad, too. Which is why “The Ed Wood Box,” which includes six of the schlockmeister’s films – “Glen or Glenda,” “Jail Bait,” “Bride of the Monster,” “Night of the Ghouls,” “The Hunted World of Ed Wood” and, finally, “Plan 9 from Outer Space” – deserves mention. (six discs, $19.99)

Anatomy: It’s not only doctors who need a basic understanding of the human body. What would you do, for example, if you had to give someone an emergency tracheotomy? The answers might not be included in “A Night to Dismember,” Doris Wishman’s ode to Ed Wood, but after watching it you might not care. ($9.99)

Astronomy: Bill Nye the Science Guy may think that Copernicus’ discovery that the sun, not Earth, sits at the center of the solar system is a big deal. But think what “Star Trek – Insurrection (Special Collector’s Edition)” can teach us. There are, of course, the heavenly bodies included in the DVD extra titled “Beautiful Alien Women.” (two discs, $19.99)

Fashion: Forget what the supermodels in Milan are wearing. Most of us would benefit from a few tips on how to improve our everyday wardrobes. And that’s exactly what you can expect from watching “The Best of Carson’s Style,” which is part of the video collection based on Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” series. Here, the bitchy – and I mean that in a good way – Carson Kressley offers tips on “how to achieve that one-of-a-kind style.” (two discs, $19.99)

Diet/Exercise: We all accept the notion that a life with regular exercise and moderate food intake is the least we can do to extend our lives in a qualitative manner. And since one of the best means of exercise involves the martial arts, then the Mr. Miyagi wax-on/wax-off workout should work for those of us willing to give it a chance. They’re included in “The Karate Kid” ($15.99), “The Karate Kid Part II” ($10.99) and “The Karate Kid Part III” ($10.99).

Foreign language: Everyone needs a second language, and what better way is there to learn foreign words and phrases than through film? To pick up that most rhythmic of languages, Italian, you can do no better than watching the films of Federico Fellini. Why not start, then, with “81/2”? The no-extras product put out by Image Entertainment is particularly affordable. ($15.99)

History: In its 229 years, the United States has had several symbols. The most enduring, of course, is Uncle Sam, whose bearded, top-hatted, red-bow-tied image was most likely (no one can say for sure) created, and certainly popularized, by 19th century political cartoonists. So in that spirit, you are assigned to watch “Uncle Sam,” William Lustig’s 1997 horror film about a dead Gulf War veteran who takes vengeance on those he considers unpatriotic. ($13.99)

Literature: Every high school kid knows the joy, sometimes the pain, of being forced to read some of the world’s classic novels. But now, thanks to DVD, you can skip the text and go directly to plot and character. Why not start with the special edition of “East of Eden,” Elia Kazan’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel, starring the great James Dean? (two discs, $19.99)

Sociology: Sociology is the study of society, social institutions and relationships. Which means that if you wanted to look at the hillbilly subcultures of America, you’d most likely consult a sociology text. Or you could just pick up a copy of “Redneck Zombies,” which is an exploration of what happens when some backwoods guys accidentally drink from a barrel of nuclear waste. Make sure to get the, uh, “director’s cut.” ($19.99)

Sports/Leisure: We all need a way to work off our frustrations, and watching sports is one of the more favorite pursuits of the average guy. The only problem with real sports, though, is that the final outcome is always in doubt. (Some of us actually thought that Detroit would defend its NBA title against San Antonio.) There’s no such worry with “The Longest Yard,” Robert Aldrich’s original story about football and prison. Hey, this movie could double for a Penology 101 credit, too. ($10.99)

Happy viewing. All will be included on your final exam.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

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