Nothing But The Best – A Review
NOTHING BUT THE BEST- A REVIEW by Michael Vincent
Available from Darwin Ortiz
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It has been seven years since Darwin Ortiz released a triple DVD set to the marketplace. This new collection comes from L and L Publishing and it is fantastic. This new project is different to any of his previous releases for a number of reasons.
Firstly, with the exception of five effects, all of the material has appeared previously on DVD and in book form; “Darwin Ortiz At the Card Table”, “Cardshark” and his last effort “Scams and Fantasies”.
In the last five years, Darwin has released two additional DVDs, both shot and released by International Magic featuring material that appears on this new release. Only one item hasn’t been published yet.
You may be wondering what sets this new project apart from Darwin’s previous DVD releases.
With “Nothing But The Best”, Darwin has taken material he has been performing for well over thirty years and decided to revisit them in the DVD format, (shot in High Definition,) to showcase how he now performs for laypeople, illustrating many of the concepts he has written about in his ground-breaking books “Strong Magic” and “Designing Miracles”.
This new project also features many new technical enhancements Darwin has added to his routines, which have appeared in print. Many of the effects have become classics and it is a real treat to see them again presented to a new and very appreciative audience.
The collection of material represents some of his finest creations. Each DVD begins with what I personally consider to be the most important part of any DVD project and that is a live performance of the material. Not a single presentation of an effect and then the explanation, but a “show”. The performances are, quite frankly, wonderful and I believe this is where the real value of this DVD product will be found.
On Disc One, Darwin opens with a routine from his first book “At The Card Table”, “The Vegas Shuffle”. I have used this effect since its first publication in 1988 and it is a powerful gambling routine that starts out as an impressive piece of card control and ends with an impossible climax. The next two items in this set features “The Psychotronic Card” and “Four To One”. The central piece in this act is the stunning “The Unholy Three”. This effect can’t really be followed because it is one of the most astonishing effects ever created. The remaining three items are Darwin’s wonderful creations “Museum Piece”, “Test Your luck” and a performance of a brand new item called “Best of The Best” which is not explained and is as yet unpublished.
The last three items in this performance set are strong effects, which provide a perfect balance to the act due to the powerful impact of “The Unholy Three”; they allow the audience time to catch their emotional breath. The last item, “Best of The Best” is a perfect finish to the act because it brings the audience down to earth with a soft landing after the rollercoaster ride of card magic they have just witnessed. This is a very powerful lesson in act construction.
I should also point out that during the explanations Darwin shares his latest technical developments of routines. For example, he has completely reworked the opening sequence of “Museum Piece”, which allows for a smoother handling and shows off a humorous dialogue between Darwin and an audience member.
The routines are explained in Darwin’s excellent teaching style and as an added bonus, he provides many hints and tips in the theory section; topics relating to “The Magical Experience”, “The Audience is not The Enemy”, “Meaning”. Each Disc contains a Theory Section, which will provide useful information for all card men to consider. You can think of the Theory Section as Darwin’s verbal commentary from his books “Strong Magic” and “Designing Miracles”.
On Disc Two, the material features “Beyond Collecting”, “Passing Through”, and “Hard Target” (which featured on a DVD Darwin made at an appearance for The International Magic Convention.) This is strong powerful card magic and the L and L crowed respond favourably. This set completes with Darwin’s long-standing effect “New Hitchcock Aces”, “The Marker,” “Darwin’s Wild Card” and “Supercharged Nine Card Location”, his brand-new interpretation of his routine.
I believe Darwin’s routine for the ever-popular “Multiple Selection” is the first where the audience feel they have shuffled the deck prior to the revelations. The biggest problem with a routine of this type is the long drawn out selection procedure. Darwin shares his latest developments to overcome this dead time. The ideas and concept taught here are worth the price of the DVD and can be incorporated into any existing routine you may do.
The Theory Section interspersed between the excellent teaching portion cover the “Conviction and Conditions”, “Causality” and “The Critical Interval”.
The Third Disc continues in the same vein with a powerful performance set featuring, “Jumping Gemini”, “The Lucky Deck”, “Modern Jazz Aces”, “The Dream Card”, Darwin’s Three-Card Monte”, “The Ultimate Card Shark”, “Mexican Poker” and the outstanding “Blind Aces”.
A note about Blind Aces: This routine is a classic example of maximum impact achieved through a very simple means. This routine is based on J.K Hartman’s “Upper Cut Aces” form CARD CRAFT. Darwin has taken a great production of the four aces and applied some audience psychology, a little sleight of hand and theatrical staging to create a memorable “happening”, all done with a borrowed deck; this routine is a postgraduate course in how to sell an idea. The audience’s psychology will do the rest.
There is a lot to absorb here because there is so much going on in terms of the technical management of the act, the build up and balance of the routines and also, how each routine registers strongly without treading on each other. The balance of the act is a delicate thing and this performance in particular demonstrates how mastery in so many areas of a magical performance is critical for success. Part 3 of “Strong Magic”, along with this performance will give you a crash course in the construction and build up of an act.
This DVD also represents a first in the Darwin Ortiz collection; this is the first time “The Ultimate Card Shark” has been explained. I would advise you to study this routine in conjunction with the written explanation on page 73 of “Darwin Ortiz At The Card Table”. Darwin’s explanation is deliberately terse due the technically advanced nature of the piece. He shares his thoughts on “The In-Transit Action, “Pacing” and “Handling with Hecklers” to complete Disc Three.
It has taken me a while to write this review because I feel this is an excellent product and was worthy of a detailed evaluation. I have watched all three Discs several times while writing this review and I believe all lovers of elegantly crafted card magic will gain a lot from this new DVD release.
It was a brave move by Darwin to re-introduce his material to the market place in this way. It could be considered a “re-hash” of previously released material, which to some degree would be correct. However, to think in terms of a “re-hash” is to undermine the quality of the material and the underlying message not immediately apparent. Study between the lines, don’t be a passive observer.
The value to be gained from this product will be different for each of us. The universal value will come from studying the performance set and the explanations with a fine observant eye, keeping some questions in mind.
What can I learn from this?
How can I use this to improve the quality of my own performance?
What can I learn about act construction?
What can I learn about identity-driven magic?
What can I learn about audience rapport and connection?
All of these questions will be answered and a lot more.
If you own Darwin’s earlier DVDs and watch them in relationship to “Nothing But The Best”, I think you will find it revelatory, I did. The one thing I have taken away from watching these new DVDs is the process of personal growth an artist must go through to actualise one’s own potential and authentic self-expression. The Darwin Ortiz that appears on his first video “At The Card Table” is not the same individual appearing on “Nothing but The Best”. As an artist grows in his self-expression this must have a positive impact on his material and how he relates this to his audience. I believe this is what makes this an important contribution to card magic and magic as a craft.