Staff Picks: Movies
Staff-recommended viewing from the KPL catalog.
A classic is a work of art that can stand the test of time and remain relevant, fresh and engaging years after its creation. It possesses the internal mechanisms and universal themes to produce pleasure and awake interest in its audience year after year. Its appeal will carry on long after trends and fads dissolve into the dustbin of historical detritus. The films of John Hughes are unquestionably considered classics today by both the navel gazing critic and the new movie fan alike. Hughes worked mostly in the 1980’s, mostly concentrating his writing and directing on intelligently conceived teen comedies (The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful) that possessed depth, dimension and pathos, characteristics that were rare for youth-centered movies of the eighties. Hughes had a string of hits that he either wrote or directed beginning with Sixteen Candles (1984) thru Home Alone (1990).
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a hilarious romp that follows the afternoon adventures of a school skipping Ferris, his girlfriend Sloane and his best friend Cameron, launched the career of Matthew Broderick and also featured a cameo from a young Charlie Sheen. Arguably one of Hughes’ best “teen” films, it continues to feel unsullied by time, even today, twenty six years after it was released.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
The Guard is a dark comedy set in a small town in Ireland. It's also a throwback buddy film where two cops from different backgrounds work together to fight crime while insulting eachother. It has its tender moments but for the most part, The Guard is all about the genre and complying with the dictates of cliche. The great character actor Don Cheadle plays an uptight FBI agent sent to provincial Ireland to bust a drug ring. Along the way, he encounters the eccentric and verbally unfiltered policeman Gerry Boyle, who has his own method of conducting police investigations. The two bristle at one another’s approach, disliking the other’s personality but like all buddy films, they come to find common ground in bringing the bad guys to justice.
On a recent day, whilst in the midst of reflecting upon the great breadth of films we own at KPL and those I’ve watched, I challenged myself to list 100 of my favorite movies while acknowledging that such a list was neither full nor accurate (the problem of memory). I’m sure I’m missing some very obvious choices but here they are, in no particular order and with almost no employed criteria involved whatsoever. Later on this year, I'll add another 100 to the mix.
Harold and Maude
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
There Will Be Blood
My Left Foot
Dog Day Afternoon
Au Hasard Balthazar
Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
The Elephant Man
The Breakfast Club
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Tree of Life
Cool Hand Luke
All the President’s Men
Night of the Hunter
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Rebel Without a Cause
The Way We Were
The Royal Tenenbaum’s
A Few Good Men
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Coal Miner’s Daughter
Dead Man Walking
The Shawshank Redemption
Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
My Own Private Idaho
The Deer Hunter
A Streetcar Named Desire
Full Metal Jacket
Little Big Man
Kramer Vs Kramer
The Last Picture Show
Do the Right Thing
Frankie and Johnny
My Life as a Dog
Wings of Desire
Silence of the Lambs
Thelma and Louise
This is Spinal Tap
Raiders of the Lost Ark
When Harry Met Sally
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
The Age of Innocence
The Big Lebowski
In the Mood for Love
Days of Heaven
Glengarry Glen Ross
The professional [videorecording]
If you love movies like I do, you may have been waiting anxiously for the Academy Award nominations that were announced this morning, which is kind of like opening day for Oscar season. And if you’re a hardcore fanatic like I am, you try to see as many of the nominated films as possible before the Big Night. Thanks to the nearby Rave Cinema, which often shows more independent and limited-release films than its in-town competitors, I can often catch many of the nominees in a timely fashion. But for some of the more esoteric films, I often find myself driving to places like Grand Rapids, Lansing or Ann Arbor, as I have already done this season. (Crazy, I know, but I did use the word “fanatic” to describe myself.) For those of you normal folks who’d prefer their cultural horizons to be expanded without breaking their odometer, I thought I would mention all of the year’s Oscar-nominated stuff that you can get right here, right now at KPL.
Four of the Best Picture nominees are available now on Blu-ray and DVD:
The film Hugo had the most Oscar nominations with 11, which included Best Picture, Director (Martin Scorsese), and Adapted Screenplay. As of this writing, it does not yet have a release date for Blu-ray or DVD, but you can read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick’s Caldecott-winning book upon which it was based. Howard Shore’s score was also nominated and is currently on compact disc.
Other Best Picture nominees not yet available on Blu-ray or DVD but based on books you can read now include Kaui Hart Hemmings’ The Descendants (5 nominations), Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close(2 nominations), and Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse (6 nominations).
Beyond the Best Picture list, there are plenty of currently available films that received Oscar nominations today:
David Fincher’s adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s mega-popular mystery The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo received five nominations; it’s not yet available on Blu-ray or DVD, but you can read the book, check out the original Swedish version, or listen to Trent Reznor’s score (which was, in my opinion, the Academy’s biggest snub this year).
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy received nominations for Actor (Gary Oldman), Original Score, and Adapted Screenplay. You can read the novel from spymaster John le Carré, or check out the original British mini-series starring Alec Guinness.
Flight of the Conchords vet Bret McKenzie received a Best Original Song nomination for the amusingly existential “Man or Muppet” track from—what else?—The Muppets. The soundtrack is available now. The only other song nomination came from the soundtrack to the animated film Rio.
So there you have it: an exhaustive list of currently available materials from this year’s crop of Oscar nominations, complete with links to the items themselves. Whether you use it to browse for some ideas, or turn it into a checklist for immediate consumption is up to you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some driving to do.
(Psst. If your interested in my personal choices for the ten best films of the year, you can find them here.)
Over the holiday I was able to catch up on some film titles from the past year that I had failed to see during the previous twelve months. In particular, I enjoyed two documentaries, Page One: inside the New York Times and Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, that were both listed on KPL staff 2011 Best of Lists. While very different in style and content, the films relate in my opinion because the subject of each documentary seem to be, at least at some level, “in” on the project and are using the documentary format to take a position and very effectively tell the audience something about themselves. In the case of Page One, it’s the NYT convincing us that they remain relevant and the authoritative place for news in an ever splintering media landscape, and in the case of Conan O’Brien, which was filmed in the aftermath of O’Brien’s famously contentious split with NBC and Jay Leno, its O’Brien convincing us that he is an incredibly, almost compulsively, driven entertainer. Both films have compelling characters featured prominently, with Page One its NYT media and culture columnist David Carr – who, after watching this film, I think of as the Keith Richards of journalism – and with Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop it has to be O’Brien himself, he is in nearly every frame of the film and working incredibly hard to entertain everyone near him during his every waking second. I’m glad that I had the time to watch both films, and I recommend using KPL staff picks, our Movies and Music pages, and KPL staff in all our locations to help keep your “to watch” lists full of great titles.
Page One: inside the New York Times
Seeing Robert Duvall's crazy hermit hair on the back of the DVD case for Get Low made me want to see this movie. In Schneider's movie, Duvall has lived alone for 40 years in the Tennesses backwoods trying to pay penance for some past actions that are slowly revealed throughout the movie. During those 40 years, the townspeople have passed along a lot of stories about what he has done and why he lives alone. He has also become the destination for dares amongst the children who are afraid of him, but also intrigued by the mystery.
Feeling his mortality, Duvall decides to commission a funeral party, but one which he will attend, alive. Bill Murray, an owner of a funeral parlor, decides to make it happen. The prickly and humorous interactions between Murray and Duvall are fun to watch.
One day when I walked into my bank one of the very nice employees, who knew that I worked in Reference at KPL, said she had seen a good movie that made her think of me. I was glad she recommended 'The Desk Set' because I enjoyed it very much. Filmed in 1957, the setting is the reference area of the library at the fictional Federal Broadcasting Company. A seasoned cast, headed by Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, works through a comic story line that involves the computerization of the library (already in 1957!). Thinking the computer is there to take over their jobs, the librarians fight mightily to prove that service by humans is superior to any that could be rendered by a machine. In the end, they find out that the computer has been installed to assist them, not replace them, and all is well. Even without the good plot, which takes place during the end-of-the-year holidays, 'The Desk Set' is worth watching just for the furnishings and architecture. Actually, the library and its methods of operation in this film are much closer to the KPL in which I began working in 1969 than to the library of today. Tempus fugit!
Desk Set [videorecording]
The Father of Invention stars Kevin Spacey as a "Fabricator" . In the movie they explain that the definition of a Fabricator is one who takes two things and puts them together to make something new, they also say that the fourth definition says Liar. The movie begins showing Kevin Spacey as a successful business man worth 1.6 billion dollars. They briefly show you some of his successful products and then show his latest AB Cruncher Television remote control. Unfortunately it has a design flaw and has a tendency to lop of peoples fingers. Kevin Spacey goes to jail for 8 years and the movie really begins with his release from jail and his struggle to regain a life in the business field and with his estranged family. Coming out of jail his appearance has changed from crisp business man to dirty ragged long stringy hair homeless man. As the movie progresses he slowly changes appearance loses the long stringy hair. In the transition part he wears clothes picked out by his daughter's Lesbian friend played by Heather Graham. She is not fond of him and in the guise of getting him hip clothes he looks like a loser. Throughout the movie he tries to come up with a new great idea that will put him back on top. One of the best scenes is when Heather Graham is showing him Guitar Hero and she is playing the guitar and he is on the drums, he says what would make this even better, thinking hey I can do my thing and fabricate, is if it had a microphone at which time Heather tosses one at him because the idea has already been thunked.Of course being a movie, he does come up with an idea and it does put him back on top but along the way he realizes family is important and cue the rainbows all is wonderful. I liked the movie. It will not will an award, it will not be on my top 100 list but I didn't feel like I wasted 93 minutes either. I also happen to like Kevin Spacey and Heather Graham.
Father of Invention
Every summer, several of my friends and I travel up north for the annual Traverse City Film Festival. Founded by Michigan native Michael Moore and co-chaired by Hollywood folk like Curb Your Enthusiasm star Jeff Garlin and Borat director Larry Charles, this cinema-stuffed week gives us a chance to soak in all the indie and foreign films, incisive documentaries and beloved classics that our increasingly sore posteriors can handle. (We also find time to relax and simply enjoy the beautiful T.C. area when we’re not staring at the silver screen.) One of our most beloved rituals is getting the whole gang together for a midnight movie of choice; these usually consist of foreign or indie horror films that will never see a wide release in the United States. Several of the ones we have screened have gone on to achieve cult-classic status: brilliant Swedish vampire hit Let the Right One In; Norwegian Nazi-zombie gore-fest Dead Snow; South Korean rampaging-monster movie The Host. In the summer of 2010, we had the opportunity to screen another such instant gem—one that, until recently, had bafflingly avoided a distribution deal: the top-notch horror-comedy Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.
T&DvE is the kind of tongue-in-cheek splatter flick that offers as much joy from satire and humor as it does from excessive carnage. The story follows the two titular hapless hillbillies as they set off for their dilapidated vacation home out in the woods. On their way, they have an unfortunate run-in with a gaggle of snobby college kids who mistake their curiosity for threatening redneck menace. Tensions mount when one of the girls, Allison, has a swimming accident and winds up in the care of a love-struck Dale and an inconvenienced Tucker. The guys try to let the kids know they’ve rescued Allison, but their methods—which include shouting through the woods, “Hey college kids! We’ve got your friend!”—lead the suspicious youth to believe she’s been kidnapped. The college kids mount an assault on Tucker and Dale, but a series of very unfortunate and very bloody accidents (let’s just say bees and chainsaws don’t mix, nor do wood chippers and lunging) result in a body count that only reinforces Tucker’s and Dale’s images as crazed murderous lunatics, while convincing them that the college kids have some sort of suicide pact.
Credit for the success of this film certainly belongs, in part, to first-time feature director and co-writer Eli Craig. But the lead cast for this film cannot be more perfect: 30 Rock’s Katrina Bowden gets to expand her comedy chops as Allison; Dale is played by Tyler Labine, best known for TV’s short-lived Reaper and the recent Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But best of all is Firefly/Serenity MVP Alan Tudyk, a talented movie and TV actor whose comedic timing is unparalleled in Hollywood. He’s simply one of the funniest guys working today.
So if you are in the mood for a great horror-comedy in the tradition of the Evil Dead franchise or Shaun of the Dead, check out Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. And then, maybe, rethink that backwoods camping trip you were planning for next summer, and come spend your late-July inside a movie theater in Traverse City with me.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
Mr. Popper's Penguins
I thought I'd give this movie a try, it looked cute but it had Jim Carrey in it. I entered this movie with trepidation. Jim Carrey can be funny but 98% of the time, to me, he isn't. I find his silly shenanigans not appealing to my comedic tastes. I did like this movie, Jim Carrey was not the Jim Carrey of Ace Ventura but more of the Bruce Almighty type. The Penguins were adorable. I thought for sure they were CGI but seeing the DVD extras I found they were real. I think the DVD extras said it best, Penguins are 10 times better than puppies. I think the story they wrap around the penguins is ok but the movie is the Penguins. And yes there is bathroom humor, after all it is a Jim Carrey movie.
The movie is about a little boy and his relationship with his father and later when grown up his relationship with his family. The typical work before family and then discover that family comes first. Jim Carrey's father was an explorer, hence the sending of the gift of penguins. Jim Carrey is separated from his wife played by Carlo Gugino and has two children played by Madeline Carroll and Maxwell Cotton. Jim Carrey is a big shot acquiring real estate tearing down landmarks building new buildings, the penguins arrive he discovers love. The story is ok but the fun part is watching the penguins. I also enjoyed Ophelia Lovibond who played Pippi. She must have worked hard on her dialog. They had her speak almost exclusively using words that began with a P.
If you can tolerate or better yet fast forward through some of the slapstick parts you will enjoy this movie. If you have a eight year old who thinks a farting penguin is funny then no fast wording necessary.
Mr. Popper's Penguins