Staff Picks: Movies
Staff-recommended viewing from the KPL catalog.
Can you imagine your wife has a brain injury and does not remember being married to you. That's the premise of the movie "The Vow" and it is based on a real live wife who had a brain injury and forgot her husband. She never did get her memory back, but she is still married and has two children. The movie has a car crash causing the brain injury and then to keep us interested tosses in issues with in-laws, a bit of infidelity, and old flame who she does remember. Rachael McAdams plays Paige the wife of Leo played by Channing Tatum ( and yes he does take off his shirt showing his magnificently sculpted abs) . The movie starts off with the car crash and the hospital scene, then does a flashback to show us how much in love they were. I thought they did a good job with her waking up and seeing Leo for the first time. She assumes he is her doctor, a very reasonable thought. Paige has lost the last 4 years, and in her mind she was still in law school, and engaged to Jeremy, not an artist and married to Leo. The movie unravels for us the tale of why she left law school and ditched her fiancé Jeremy. Leo faced with having a wife who does not remember him at all, tries to spark her memory, failing to make that happen he tries to re woo her and make her fall in love with him all over again. Paige's parents want to control Paige and take her back to their home and try to mold her back into the person they want her to be. This is a good romantic movie, a good one to watch with your special someone.
Every wonder what happened to Cliff from Cheers? Well, he is working as a barber in a small village outside of Las Vegas. John Ratzenberger (Cliff) is in a movie called “The Village Barbershop” along with Shelly Cole. His name in this movie is Art and Art is not doing well. His wife, the love of his life, has passed on and now his fellow barber and co-owner has also died. Art is in debt, the landlord want to kick him out as he has not paid his rent. Art advertises for a replacement barber and after seeing an assortment of odd applicants, along comes Gloria. Gloria has recently found herself to be pregnant and her boyfriend just told her he has found someone else and they are getting married. Art does not want to hire a female barber but as she also can do bookkeeping he hires her to do his books, something his partner used to do. Gloria of course wheedles her way into being Art’s partner partly by winning him over with her charm and partly by threatening to sue for gender discrimination. The movie is one of those Hallmark type movies. We see Gloria and Art grow on each other, start to care for each other and help each other overcome life’s difficulties.
The Village Barbershop
Lovely Still. Robert Malone (Martin Landau) meets Mary (Ellen Burstyn), who looks great for being 76 years old at the time this movie was made. Robert comes home from working at the grocery store to find Mary in his house. She says she was checking on him, to make sure he was all right as his car was crashed into his garage. Mary then asks him out on a date. Robert is ecstatic and in love. They go on horse drawn carriage rides, romantic walks, and even sled riding. There is also an undercurrent. Mary’s daughter Alex (Elizabeth Banks) keeps cautioning her mother to not get hurt emotionally. We see Mary with a pill bottle that she drops in the sink. Every morning just before Roberts alarm goes off we see his dreams, multi colored dreams with vague shapes in the background. When he is with Mary these dreams go away. At times I was wondering is Mary real? Her name is Mary and it is a Christmas tale. Will Mary die? This is what appears to be a Hallmark story of love for old people and is named as such Lovely Still but it has something else going on. I was thinking this was going to be just a Hallmark love story when it took a twist and I have said too much already. Watch this when you are feeling a need for a heart tug, an emotional warming, a tale of true love.
HOME is a different type of movie, maybe because it is French. The movie starts out by trying to show how this family is a nice family unit, brother gets along with sisters, everybody is happy. They happen to live next to a section of highway that was never opened. They live the idyllic life or do they? Maybe they live this idyllic life because there are no obstacles. When they open up the highway and hundreds of cars are going past their home, their life crumbles. The oldest daughter likes to sunbathe and when the highway opens up, truckers honk their horns and cars beep. One day the family notices the daughter is gone. No Note, No Message. Nothing. Do they panic, do they call the police, do they think she was abducted, NO. They think oh well, she was probably picked up and moved on. Maybe it's because they are French but to me, if this was a real idyllic life, the daughter would not have taken flight without notice. The family then tries to continue to live next to the highway. Next to it mind you, not near. They are smack dab against the guard rails. They do not even have an access to their house. They have to park on the other side of the highway and try and get across when the traffic is light or go a mile up and cross through the water drain that runs under the highway. When the constant noise gets to them, they wall up the home with cinder blocks and noise deadening material. Of course then they have no ventilation nor sunlight and that brings it own set of problems. I'm sure this movie is fraught with hidden meanings and undertones that can be studied at length in some college classroom. To me it was sad and frustrating. I kept urging them to move, or get a lawyer or something but no they walled up the home with cinder blocks.
Most filmgoers know Christopher Nolan from his work as the director behind the recent Batman films and Inception but it was the film Memento that unleashed Nolan’s talent for sinister and suspensful movies that underscore his interest in the darker elements of human nature. Nolan’s work is also interested in exploring the elasticity of narrative and how the various constituents of a story fragmented and detached from a linear unfolding, impact the viewer’s experience and expectations. Fans of his films should definitely see his first film, the playful thrillerFollowing, a Paul Auster-like nightmare where identities are swapped and nothing is as it seems. One can see in this early attempt at disorienting the viewer’s grasp of time and plot, a precursor to the brilliant Memento.
As a punk rock skateboarder in the 1980’s, Another State of Mind was the most authentic depiction of life as a teenager involved in the underground music scene that any of us had seen put to film. It could only be found on late night cable television during the eighties and early nineties (you were lucky if one of your friends had a VCR and made a copy of it) and so I leapt at the opportunity to add the DVD release to our documentary film collection, hoping it would appeal to a newer generation as well as those who experienced the eighties punk scene first-hand. Made in 1982, at the time of hardcore punk’s heyday, the film takes the viewer on a cross-country journey with legendary Southern California bands The Youth Brigade and Social Distortion. There is plenty of live footage of the bands playing but the filmmakers primarily concentrated their focus on detailing the experiences of the band members as they struggled to survive the daily grind of touring in an old school bus. There’s also quite a bit of attention given to providing voice to kids the bands met along the way as well the occasional teenage denunciation (targets include: Reagan politics, middle-class conformity, religion, etc.). It certainly brought back some fond memories of my youthful days of DIY music and culture. See a clip here.
Another State of Mind
Wayne White has worn many creative hats over the years (art director, painter, puppeteer, music video director, set designer, animator, comic book illustrator, and so on) but what is most striking about this incredibly accomplished artist is his enthusiasm for integrating humor, levity and fun into his work, a rare mission for someone who has been embraced by both the entertainment industry (Pee Wee’s Playhouse) and the fine art world of museums and galleries. Like most, I knew nothing of his life or work until I saw the wonderful documentary portrait of this high energy personality called Beauty Is Embarrassing. You’ll learn about White’s humble, Southern origins and about his artistically constituted family (including his wife Mimi Pond). There are also tender moments in between the laughter and absurdity where White discusses his upbringing and the support he had growing up from his parents. This is a great film that will inspire your inner artist and rebel.
Beauty is Embarrassing
In Richard Linklater’s Bernie, a surprise hit released in 2012, Jack Black delivers a dialed down performance worthy of award recognition. Black belts out Gospel standards, dances to show tunes and brings a dramatic depth and sympathy to the role that one rarely finds in his oeuvre of slapstick comedies. Bernie is based on a true crime set in East Texas. Black plays the lovable but quirky Bernie, the assistant funeral director who when not comforting his beloved widows, befriends the town matriarch, a mean spirited woman made of money, played by legend Shirley MacLaine. From there, Bernie’s life of piety and service spins out of control when he deviates from his saintly deeds and finds himself confronted with the truth and consequences of his actions.
Director Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter brought him huge commercial success and an Oscar Award for Best Picture in 1978. His follow-up movie, the epic Western Heaven’s Gate, became known as a major flop of a film that almost financially ruined its studio (United Artists) and led to the label of Cimino as overbearing, obsessive and overly ambitious. For those interested in the behind the scenes drama of the making of Heaven’s Gate, see Steven Bach’s book Final Cut: dreams and disaster in the making of Heaven’s Gatefor an excellent summary. The Criterion Collection has recently released the director’s cut of this notorious film and it clocks in at over 200 minutes long.
Starring an excellent group of actors like Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Jeff Bridges, and Isabelle Huppert, Heaven’s Gate is a fictionalized story about the class and cultural conflict between the big money interests of the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association and European immigrants who were accused of poaching cattle and land in the faraway outpost of rural Wyoming. Cimino’s vision is grand and evocative of the vast, beautiful American West, warts and all. While neither a perfectly misunderstood masterpiece nor as terrible a film as its detractors have suggested, Heaven’s Gate is worthy of a viewing but be prepared for the long haul.
The Academy Award nominations were announced yesterday, and one of the great joys that I take from Oscar season is that I can get sweet, nerdy revenge on all my Facebook friends who, for months, have cluttered my newsfeed with football jargon and armchair coaching advice (I don't know what "roll tide" means, but it sounds like a new way to help protect my laundry against stains). For a short period of time, all the sports geeks that I know get to hear this ardent movie nut spout off on things like Ben Affleck's snub for directing Argo (seriously, Academy?) or why Supporting Actor front-runner Tommy Lee Jones (from Lincoln) deserves the gold so much less than Django Unchained's Samuel L. Jackson or Leonardo DiCaprio, both of whom were overlooked. But whether you like Oscar pools or fantasy football (which I'm pretty sure is just Dungeons & Dragons for sports fans), you should absolutely check out some of the nominated films, several of which you can get right now at the Kalamazoo Public Library.
Of the nine Best Picture nominees, the only one currently available on DVD is Beasts of the Southern Wild. This must-see film also received nominations for first-time feature-length director Benh Zeitlin, and Quvenzhané Wallis, who was only 6 years old when the film was made and is now the youngest person ever to be nominated for Best Actress. Beasts is also competing for Best Adapted Screenplay, which was written by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin.
Best Picture nominee Argo will be out on DVD and Blu-ray on February 19th, but KPL patrons can put a hold on a copy of the film now. It received 7 nominations overall, including a Best Supporting Actor nod for previous winner Alan Arkin. And while you wait for the film to come out, you can read the amazing true story upon which it's based, written by real-life CIA agent Antonio Mendez (whom Affleck plays in the film).
Best Picture front-runner Lincoln does not yet have a release date for DVD and Blu-ray, but you can check out John's Williams' music from the film, which received a nomination for Best Original Score. Meanwhile, Tony Kushner received a Best Adapted Screenplay nod, having based the book off a small portion of Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln received the most nominations with 12, which include sure-thing Best Actor Daniel Day-Lewis, the aforementioned Tommy Lee Jones for Supporting Actor, Sally Field for Supporting Actress, and Steven Spielberg for Director.
Other Best Picture nominees not yet available on Blu-ray or DVD but based on books you can read now include Yann Martel's Life of Pi (11 nominations), Matthew Quick's Silver Linings Playbook (8 nominations), and Victor Hugo's Les Misérables (8 nominations), which was also adapted from the beloved musical.
Beyond the Best Picture list, there are several films currently available at KPL that received Oscar nominations:
Several more contenders will be available in February: Flight, which received nominations for Best Actor (Denzel Washington) and Original Screenplay (John Gatins); The Sessions, which recognized Helen Hunt for Best Supporting Actress; and Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, which scored nods for Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams).
So come on down to KPL and check out some of these Oscar-nominated films. In the meantime, tell us what your favorite films were this year. What nominations were you excited about, and what snubs got you riled up? What would you choose as the Best Picture of 2012?
Beasts of the Southern Wild