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Ken Burns: The National Parks: America's Best Idea: [Blu-ray]

Peter Coyote , Nevada Barr , Ken Burns    Unrated   Blu-ray
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Product Description

THE NATIONAL PARKS is the story of an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence: that the most special places in the nation should be preserved for everyone. The series traces the birth of the national park idea in the mid-1800s and follows its evolution for nearly 150 years, chronicling the addition of new parks through the stories of the people who helped create them.

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Will Make You want to visit a national park April 6 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is a Ken Burns documentary, beautifully photographed and researched. Some of the newer parks are not as well represented, but it is enlightening nevertheless.
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5.0 out of 5 stars love it March 31 2014
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
excellent educational and all together enjoyable piece of american history original photography and the hosts were amazing recommend it to my best friends
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars National Parks. Americas best idea Jan. 4 2010
Format:DVD
The best DVD collection I have ever acquired.
Story and video are just first class.
I would recommend this collection to everyone in the USA and Canada. Wonderful photography and excellent illustration of the fight that was necessary to protect the natural beauty of North America. John Muir should go down in History as a legend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spiritual Renewal...National Parks May 10 2010
Format:DVD
The DVD set, the National Parks Americas Best Idea is a historical journey of the National parks. I like the presentation, It is moving to see philanthropist give so much for the common good of America. You don't have to be American to enjoy the product. The problem is, after you watch the DVD set once, you may not have tie to watch it again.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  431 reviews
157 of 169 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A VISION REALIZED Sept. 29 2009
By Randy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I live in Gardiner, Montana (location of the Roosevelt Arch) and work in Yellowstone, and I experienced firsthand the genuine passion and forthright efforts of Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan and their staff as they took their vision and turned it into a poetic masterpiece. Their years of hard work not only in Yellowstone but throughout the entire national park system have paid off, and we are the lucky beneficiaries of their skillful and spirited tenacity.

This film speaks gently and lovingly of the National Parks idea. The majestic vistas, the enlightening interviews, the background music -- woven together they demonstrate the power of "place", and fill us with a desire to further protect and honor these sacred sites.

We cannot live without the land, and we cannot live well without understanding our past. "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" is an authentic rendering of those very truths, and like all things good and beautiful, will be experienced and revered for ages to come, just as will the national parks themselves.
92 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars America's Best *IDEA* Sept. 29 2009
By Jon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Not sure why people are complaining about not getting more geological data or wildlife info. This documentary is about the IDEA of our National Park systems which includes inspirations and motivations. As history lover's review says...it's how (and why) our National Parks came to be. I'm sure Burns included the term "idea" for good reason. The idea that Burns goes after seems to be a philosophy against commercialism and greed which makes sense after seeing the first episode. Who cares if spirituality was one of the inspirations though? For many, appreciating nature is a spiritual or at least meditative experience regardless of what they do or don't believe. So far this documentary is organized much the same as Burns' other films. Nice music, nice scenery captured in nice camera work with nice photographs- all interwoven with Park Rangers, historians, writers and other experts on the people and places mentioned. So far so good! Leave it to Burns to use National Parks to provide another reminder that not everything in this country is money motivated. If the rest of the episodes are as good as what I've seen it'll be worth a purchase.

e: Now that the series is over I can say I really enjoyed it. I feel pretty much the same as my initial review above. I do agree with some of the other reviews that this series didn't feel as cohesive as some of Burns' other films but it was still a really good one. I thought the narration and interviews had a more "scripted feel" to them. Another small gripe was that although I enjoyed the music (especially the guitar-work) I wish there was more variety. I wish they had recorded more music for this specific film so that songs weren't reused as much. It didn't detract from the film all that much though. And there is still quite a bit. When it was all said and done, not only did I learn about interesting things about interesting people and places, this film inspired more appreciation for our National Parks from me. That's enough for me to say it's worth a watch and worth owning. Recommended.
154 of 172 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good-enough content, poor HD Dec 10 2009
By D. DEGEORGE - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
Although the series suffers somewhat from repetitiveness occasioned by the need to keep re-orienting viewers as multiple story sequences are interrupted for long periods of time while first one, then another, thread is begun, I am glad that I was patient enough to view the entire collection. If you like Ken Burns's thorough and somewhat laid-back style, you will find it agreeable here as in his other series, even if this is not quite his best effort. One should bear in mind that this is primarily an historical documentary, not a travelogue or guide to the parks.

In terms of content, I'd probably give the series four stars; but I was disappointed in the video quality of the new motion-picture footage that Burns's photographers accumulated over six years of hard and dedicated work. I believe that a fundamentally wrong decision was made in the choice of medium. Burns has a love of old-style photography, and the many stunning examples of still photos were a joy to behold. I also agree with him that film is a more pleasing medium than direct-to-video. Unfortunately, it would appear that budget limitations (and perhaps portability considerations as well, as photographers were slogging through wilderness) precluded the use of 35mm film, which would have been ideal. Instead, a decision was made (by whom I have no idea) that 16mm film would be the next best thing. This is the point at which I would have decided to use direct video. Even though it may be a little lacking in warmth compared with film, there is only so much grain that I am willing to put up with in a hi-def production. My consumer-grade HD camcorder makes much clearer and cleaner video than is seen in this series.

There are a couple of points to be made in favor of the Blu-ray version, however. First, those who may be basing their purchase decision on what they saw on PBS's HD telecast should know that the Blu-ray disc is somewhat better; the graininess of the 16mm film really messed up the compression algorithms used in the distribution of the telecast. Also, the stunning still photos, both the old B&W's that were probably shot on 4x5 negatives, and the modern color photos, benefit from Blu-ray versus DVD, if you're willing to pay the price.

None of this criticism of the video is relevant to the DVD; nor will it matter to those with poor eyesight or who watch on less than full-resolution HDTVs or who view from a distance greater than recommended for a given screen size. I for one was hoping for something visually splendid, something like "Planet Earth" or the BBC's "Yellowstone," something, quite frankly, that would help to justify my investment in home theater. The National Parks doesn't do it.
43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Oct. 1 2009
By C. E. Cassidy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
In reading some of the previous comments/reviews, it is apparent that it would behoove some people to look up the definition of 'documentary'. It just might be a revelation that they mainly consist of historical content. If an endless montage of pretty pictures is all it takes to satisfy you (or that is all you can handle), stick to the National Geographic channel. I am not knocking their content, but you won't find this kind of depth/detail there. This series has the perfect balance of beautiful landscapes and historical narration. The point of this documentary is not simply to show the wonderous beauty that the National Parks have to offer. Rather, it is about exploring the origin and necessity of the parks and the journey from a grand idea to magnificent fruition. Learning what it took and the obstacles faced to make the National Parks a reality is very interesting and truly awe-inspiring. We are blessed to have these amazing places that we can all call our own.
45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Ideas Are Often Hard Fought Oct. 2 2009
By Natureshots - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
I have always been in awe when visiting America's National Parks. Like most people, I take these wonders for granted, never had a good understanding of how they came to being. This documentary, though it contains breathtaking scenes, isn't all about the ooohhhs and aaahhhhhs of the National Parks. As the title suggests it's America's Best Idea, the documentary builds on how hard fought the idea was, like many great ideas. Most of us know very little about our national treasures. We may know that John Muir fought hard as a conservationist but many may not know that trying to prevent Hetch Hetchy valley from being dammed and flooded took the life out of him. I remember learning Teddy Roosevelt was a Rough Rider in school but never knew the major role he played at conservation and that even he and all his powers as President could only made the Grand Canyon a National Monument. Those of us who enjoy the great outdoors owe it to Muir and Roosevelt and others such as Stephen Mather and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The idea didn't come easy or free and some people put their lives and/or fortunes into making sure that Nature's Majesties are conserved for all to enjoy. Besides the beautiful scenes, the documentary is very informative and educational and a must for those who enjoy America's National Parks. This series would make a very nice addition to one's video collection and a must for those who enjoy the great outdoors.
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