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Best Boy/Best Man

4.8 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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(Apr 27, 2004)
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

It came out of nowhere to win the best documentary Oscar in 1980, and by now Best Boy should be acknowledged as one of the finest documentaries in film history. Filmmaker Ira Wohl took as his subject his own cousin, 52-year-old Philly, a retarded man who had lived his entire life with his parents. Seeing the physical decline of the parents, Wohl suggested they prepare Philly for living away from home for the first time in his life. This process becomes a beautiful and soul-stirring (and even hilarious) experience, as the people in Philly's life become indelible characters. Many fiction films try to manufacture a kind of movie "magic" out of fantasy, but Best Boy finds it in tiny steps forward, the delicacy of family, and the joy of singing (you may never hear "If I Were a Rich Man" the same way again). Through it all, the irrepressible Philly emerges as a rich man in his own terms.

Twenty years after making Best Boy, Ira Wohl looked in again on his cousin Philly, now over 70 but still as sunny and fond of dessert as ever. Living in a home with other developmentally disabled people, Philly appears even more capable and content in the world. Wohl gets the idea to prepare Philly for his bar mitzvah--a little late in life, but nonetheless an important experience. Best Man doesn't have the deep emotional pull provided by Philly's parents from the first movie, although his loyal sister becomes an important figure in this one. But it's a very nice update on a memorable corner of the world. --Robert Horton


Special Features

  • Two films: Best Boy (1979) and Best Man (1998)
  • Filmmaker biography

Product Details

  • Actors: Frances Reiss, Max Wohl, Pearl Wohl, Philip Wohl
  • Format: Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: New Video Group
  • DVD Release Date: April 27, 2004
  • Run Time: 191 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001GWAU6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,168 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Best Boy/Best Man" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

This incredible two-disc set of the Oscar-winning "Best Boy" and its sequel, "Best Man", is already out in stores so I'm not sure why amazon has a late May release date. (I've seen copies at both Borders and Tower). In any case, in a world of great documentaries, few can top this powerful account of mentally challenged Philly Wohl, the director's cousin, as his aging parents try to get him on his feet before their deaths. If you can get through many of these scenes without crying -- Philly at his new day center watching a new girl friend dance with someone else as confusion falls over his face, Philly singing "If I Were a Rich Man" backstage with Zero Mostel, and, especially, Philly digesting news of his father's death -- then your heart is far more hardened than mine. This film (and its less known sequel, which catches up with Philly 20 years later) does what Hollywood can not with pathetic star vehicles like "Forrest Gump" and "Rainman": make you change the way you look at mentally challenged people and the ones who care for them forever. And, lest you think this sounds like a total downer, you'll be amazed how much you smile and fall in love with these people, as well. Don't miss this one and thank God for companies that Docurama that get these great long-out-of-print films back out there.
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As a worker in the field of MRDD (mental retardation and developmental diabilities), I am always interested to see movies or documentaries about the people we serve. I was surprised to see this well-made film about such "real" people. No "poor retarded guy" schmooz, no extremely horrendous happenings, just a story about a man's life. Philly is a great guy with an exquisite, infectuous lust for life who had me laughing out loud! Yes, I was singing along to "If I were a Rich Man"! His down-to-earth, helpful, at times scared parents and sister mad me almost cry, because too often in our world of MRDD, our clients are alone, without family. Inspiring! Loving! Real!
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By Tupelo on November 7, 2013
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I bought this when it first came out on VHS and now I have it on DVD it is a very heart warming film. You don't see very many films that document a special persons life like Ira did and he did an excellent job. I have loaned this film to several of my friends and we all agree it is a film we will never forget.
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Thank you Ira Wohl for this wonderful story of family, disability and the beauty of Judasim. Ira's production companty is called Only Child Productions, and these films show how much he wants the extended family and intense connection that he missed as an only child. He films his cousins Philly and Frances with love and respect, and they are utterly filmable with their non-selfconsciousness and goodness.
The answer to another reviewer's question is that the song Philly sings in "Best Boy" over the credits and with the psychiatrist is the Anniversary Waltzs (Oh, how we danced, on the night, we were wed...)
A wonderful film for anyone intersted in family, disability or Judaisim.
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Ira Wohl tells his cousin's story with love, respect and honesty. I first saw this at a film festival full of wonderful movies; this was the one that stayed with me. The follow-up, Best Man, doesn't have the visceral impact of the original, but it's nice to see how Philly's life has progressed in the intervening years.
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Best Boy won a best documentary Oscar and quite a few other awards; and the film deserved all of them. This sensitive, realistic documentary takes a loving, sensitive and rarely seen look at the lives of a developmentally challenged man, Phillip (aka "Philly") Wohl and his elderly parents, Max and Pearl. When the film starts, Max and Pearl are already up in years and they're beginning to have numerous medical problems associated with aging; Ira Wohl, both the filmmaker and Philly's cousin, made this film to show just how drastically Philly's life would change when his parents were no longer there to take care of him. The result works beautifully; we get a respectful, dignified look at Philly with his parents Max and Pearl; and there is some footage with Philly's sister as well.

Filmmaker Ira Wohl tracks on film Philly's life over roughly three and one-half years as he moves from being totally sheltered from the outside world, living life in his parents' home and only going out with his parents to the point where Philly goes to a day program for persons who are developmentally challenged--and then to the point where he finally moves into a nearby home for people just like himself. What is wonderful to watch is just how happily Philly adjusts to his new life; he soon becomes restless and bored when he can't get to the day program because of a heavy snowstorm; and he goes to a summer camp away from home--voluntarily--for the very first time living away from his parents even if it is only for three weeks. Philly quickly comes to love every bit of change that he experiences; his lust for life is striking even as his parents Max and Pearl (especially Pearl) yearn for their son to come back home full time again.
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A Kid's Review on August 24, 2008
I recently had the opportunity to review this two set DVD, and like others before me, found it an inspiring and wonderful resource for those involved with disability, specific to the quandary of dealing with disability- independence and adulthood. Twenty years elapsed between the first filming and the latter, which affords the audience a unique front row seat and follow-up perspective not often available, and in particular, an observation that allows the viewer to compare the life of `Philly' (the subject of the documentary), before and after his cousin Ira Wohl, the filmmaker, intervened in his life in a heartfelt, meaningful and profound way.
One burning subject matter that emerges from this documentary is the continuing questions which haunt parents, family members and caretakers of those with significant disability- what will happen to the disabled person after the caretakers are too old to care for their loved one- and ultimately, how does the disabled person maneuver through the world at large when their families, loved ones, and siblings are deceased, what will their lives look like. Not every disabled person has the loving and patient family that Philly has/had, but his situation was/is not unique.
When the first part of this documentary was made, a different set of social and medical standards were in place, and folks like Philly were typically institutionalized for life. Parents were told that it would be `best' for all involved to warehouse their disabled children, and that was the accepted logic that was followed decades ago. It was not for lack of love that parents relinquished their children to institutions, but out of love, listening to the `experts', resolved that there appeared oftimes to be no other choices.
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