Staff Picks: Movies

Staff-recommended viewing from the KPL catalog.

100 of My Favorite Movies

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 Mission
The Elephant Man
The Breakfast Club
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Tree of Life
Umberto D
Star Wars
Miller’s Crossing
Raising Arizona
Buffalo 66
The Apartment
The Professional
Cool Hand Luke
Ordinary People
All the President’s Men
The Graduate
Night of the Hunter
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Rebel Without a Cause
The Way We Were
The Royal Tenenbaum’s
Annie Hall
Wild Strawberries
A Few Good Men
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
L.A. Confidential
Coal Miner’s Daughter
Dead Man Walking
The Shawshank Redemption
Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Drugstore Cowboy
My Own Private Idaho
Goodwill Hunting
The Deer Hunter
A Streetcar Named Desire
Full Metal Jacket
Anchor Man
Groundhog Day
Little Big Man
Kramer Vs Kramer
The Hours
Uncle Buck
Sixteen Candles
The Last Picture Show
Paper Moon
Lone Star
Do the Right Thing
Frankie and Johnny
Taxi Driver
My Life as a Dog
Norma Rae
Wings of Desire
Raging Bull
Rain Man
Silence of the Lambs
Tender Mercies
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
Short Cuts
The Big Lebowski
In the Mood for Love
Days of Heaven
Glengarry Glen Ross
American Beauty
Ice Storm
Schindler’s List


The professional [videorecording]

Say Hello to My Little Friend (His Name Is Oscar)

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.)



Dublin Kisses

Kisses is a small-scale but affecting film that showcases the impressive talents of its two young actors. Emotionally and physically abused tweens Dylan and Kylie, set out on a twenty-four hour adventure in the big city in hopes of escaping their domestic problems. Searching for Dylan’s big brother, who allegedly lives in Dublin, these two tough yet sweet kids from the suburbs discover that the city possesses both a dangerous and exhilerating side to it. Kisses effectively mixes together a romantic tale about childhood innocence with the grim depictions of an unforgiving urban environment.



My Own Private Idaho

Gus Van Sant is a major American film director and writer whose early work (Drug Store Cowboy and My Own Private Idaho) along with others like Quentin Tarantino, Whit Stillman, Spike Lee, and Steven Soderbergh revitalized American cinema in the early part of the 1990’s. His most commercially successful film Good Will Hunting solidified him as an important director that could straddle the art house/commercial fence and introduced the acting and screenwriting of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Here are some of Van Sant’s most lauded works.


My own private idaho

New to KPL

Having recently taken over the responsibilities of selecting films for our audiovisual collection, I’m excited to report about some of the new titles that I’ve recently ordered. Some are here in the building and others are on their way. Why these films you ask? Well, these are personal favorites of mine that I would argue with great adoration and zeal that because of their artistic merits warrant their inclusion within our diverse and varied cinema collection. Some are big name classics and others are great films that have either languished in obscurity or have been appreciated only by its ardent fans. Some may have already been part of our collection in years past and now have a second chance at falling into your hands. I hope you enjoy these movie treasures.

  • The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
  • Ghost World
  • Carnal Knowledge
  • Coming Home
  • Blow-Up
  • Heathers
  • Hoop Dreams
  • Killing Fields
  • Lone Star
  • Little Big Man
  • My Left Foot
  • My Private Idaho
  • Il Postino
  • My Beautiful Laundrette
  • The Professional
  • Splendor in the Grass
  • Silence of the Lambs



Some Summer Suggestions

I watch more films than the average person, so while the allure of the Lake Michigan shore often takes priority during these warm, sunny months, I've still managed to find some time to view several exceptional films that are worth checking out.

  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Classic political satire from Frank Capra)
  • La Vie En Rose (French biopic on singer Edith Piaf with an amazing performance from Marion Cotillard)
  • Vivra Sa Vie (Classic from the French New Wave master)
  • Avatar (Lot's of CGI without much of a plot, at least not an original one)
  • Metropolitan (A cult indie classic from influential director Whit Stillman)



World Cinema Classics

This is following upon Ann's earlier post about the depth and diversity of our film and television collection. I'd also like to point to the marvelous array of foreign language movies and in particular those that have been released by the Criterion Collection. There is no better way to introduce yourself to the rich body of world cinema then to explore Criterion's growing pool of cult films, many of which have never found a broad audience here in the United States. I'm referring to Larisa Shepitko's heartbreaking The Ascent (Russian), François Truffaut's memorable new wave coming of age story The 400 Blows (French), Hong Kong action hits like John Woo's The Killers (Cantonese), the highly influential masterpiece Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa (Japanese), and Steven Soderbergh's provoking narrative about drug trafficking Traffic (Spanish/English).


Essential art house. Rashomon [videorecording]

Great Films Over the Past Decade

Looking for a great film to watch after the kids have sleepily gone to bed after tearing open their gifts? Cozy up with a leopard skin Snuggie and warm glass of egg nog and put in a dvd of one of these critically acclaimed films.

  • There Will Be Blood
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Half Nelson
  • Memento
  • Adaptation
  • Amelie
  • The Fog of War
  • In Praise of Love
  • Man on Wire


Half Nelson





A Journey North

Gregory Nava’s masterpiece El Norte, often cited as an updated and re-imagined “Grapes of Wrath”, is one of the most hailed and accomplished films of the 1980’s, yet has largely gone unnoticed by the film-viewing public since it was first produced in 1983. Now, a distinguished addition to the must-see Criterion Collection, I hope that this groundbreaking film will find its way into the hands of more viewers and be recognized for its rich and powerful depiction of two young Guatemalan teenagers journeying northward to escape injustice while encountering both personal triumph and heart wrenching tragedy along the way.


El norte [videorecording] = The north

Slumdog Millionaire

Over the weekend I watched Slumdog Millionaire, English director Danny Boyle’s movie about a poor boy in Mumbai who wins millions on a game show but who is accused of cheating. The movie was the darling of 2009, garnering a boatload of awards, including nine Oscars, five Critics’ Choice, four Golden Globes and seven awards from the British Academy Film Awards. I liked Slumdog Millionaire. It isn’t Danny Boyle’s best work, but it may be his most ambitious. Nor is it the best movie for demonstrating child poverty in Mumbai. A better one is the heart-rending work from 1988 Salaam Bombay.

Danny Boyle creates atmosphere well. Slumdog’s gritty scenes of poverty and desperation reminded of his earlier and perhaps best film, Trainspotting, which follows the gritty, heroin-laced lives of five disaffected boys in Edinburgh.

I also couldn’t help but be reminded of Charles Dickens. I’ve been enjoying Masterpiece Theatre presentations of Dickens’ works over these last few months — David CopperfieldOliver TwistLittle Dorrit, and The Old Curiosity Shop.  Slumdog Millionaire is a story that Dickens could have written. The brother Salim in Slumdog Millionaire is a chip off the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist. Both lead gangs of child criminals, both answer to dangerous men who manipulate and motivate the boys through their desire for material possessions.

Charles Dickens’ books offered strong commentary on social class and cast light on the awful state of child poverty. His books ultimately caused the enactment of child labor laws. While Slumdog Millionaire is a story that Dickens might have enjoyed, I also think it is one that would have made him sad and frustrated to see the plight of children in today’s world.


Slumdog Millionaire