Staff Picks: Movies
Staff-recommended viewing from the KPL catalog.
Physicist and author Briane Greene is a fine communicator. He explains mind bogglingly counter-intuitive new physics theories in PBS's four-part Nova program The Fabric of the Cosmoswith a sense of humor and economy of language that is in itself admirable. As a child, I enjoyed watching Carl Sagan's Cosmos on PBS with my family. Who could forget that great ambient Vangelis score and the spaceship of the imagination? Not to discount Cosmos - it's still well worth watching - but Brian Greene's four part series is delivered with shinier animations and has its own fine score by another European electronic artist: Ed Tomney. You can borrow the entire program on DVD from KPL or stream it directly online from PBS. Check it out!
The Fabric of the Cosmos
Today my morning coffee was served to me by a non-Native American wearing a headband with feathers. Some employees at this coffee shop even donned headdresses, while others
wore bandanas around their necks and western-style plaid shirts. I
can't say I was surprised, as culturally insensitive Halloween costumes
have grown inexplicably popular, or at least become much more visible due to the Internet, in the last few years. So popular that a group of students at Ohio University have created two campaigns raising awareness about the issue.
This incident was all the more poignant, and timely, because I
recently watched Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian,
a 2009 documentary that traces portrayals of Native Americans in
Hollywood films, from the silent era to the present, and explores
the ways those portrayals shape non-Natives' understanding of
Native culture and history. The film features interviews with
actors, directors, and American Indian activists, including Sacheen
Littlefeather, John Trudell, and Russell Means. Some of the films
discussed include One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Dances WithWolves, Flags of Our Fathers, Smoke Signals, and The Fast Runner,
all of which are available at KPL.
This documentary is entertaining, informative, and breaks down common
assumptions and stereotypes. Those feather headdresses? They're worn for
ceremonial purposes, and only by American Indians of the Great Plains
Another movie about Snow White, this one is darker and has some big stars, Snow White and the Huntsman. The girl from the Twilight movies is Snow White, her step mother is played by Charlize Theron. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) is the huntsman. And what is really wild, Ian McShane is one of the seven dwarves. I watched the movie with my mother-in-law and she kept saying that Snow White isn’t so pretty, she snarls instead of smiling and her two front teeth look like chicklets. The premise of the movie is the same as all the Snow White movies, Snow’s mom dies and her dad remarries. In this movie the Step mom (now queen) sticks a knife in the king instead of doing the honeymoon and snow white is locked away in a tower like Rapunzel. The step mom has a magic mirror and the mirror tells her if she cuts out Snow Whites heart she will remain beautiful and immortal. This is where I was thinking, hey Chris Hemsworth is an immortal, they should hook up. But in this movie Chris is a huntsman and the Queen orders him to find Snow White (who has escaped to the forbidden forest) and cut out her heart. One of the coolest parts was the seven dwarves. I kept looking at them and thinking they look familiar. And indeed they were familiar but not as dwarves. They did some sort of thing like they did in Lord of the Rings and made them appear to be dwarves. They did a real good job of movie magic.
Snow White and the Huntsman
Shoot the Piano Player is French New Wave director Francois Truffaut’s homage to the American noir and crime genre. Filmed in 1960, the story centers on a classically trained pianist named Edouard Saroyan, whose life has hit the skids after the tragic death of his wife, leaving him emotionally broken and looking to escape. Taking on a new identity to erase his past, Saroyan becomes Charlie Kholer, a sad and introverted piano player working in a Parisian dive bar trying to forget his life as a successful concert hall musician. Unfortunately for Charlie, his criminally minded brothers get him involved with a robbery gone badly. From there, his life spins out of control even as his romantic life begins to look up. Sad, funny and poignant, this is one of Truffaut’s best films.
Shoot the piano player
On a recent rainy day, I found myself wandering down to the lower level of Central Library to browse the AV collection. I stumbled upon Louvre City which was a great find. This film looks at the work of the operations employees at the Louvre - moving paintings, cataloging and labeling statues, researching works, and developing exhibits. I think the neatest part of the movie was watching the museum staff move massive oil paintings. We see staff unrolling and stretching an enormous oil painting, and later using dozens of men to lift and move the painting into place so that it can be hung. They didn't show how it was hung, but surely that was another huge and labor intensive feat. I have wondered how the mammoth paintings in art museums are moved before, and now I see that it takes a great amount of manual labor!
The back of the case from the DVD states, "Louvre City is a celebration of the ordinary processes of work in an extraordinary setting." The collection at the Louvre is phenomenal by any standard, being one of the foremost art museums in the world. It is easy to forget or lack understanding of the background work that goes in to making this museum what it is. The movie is titled Louvre City because of the great number of people who work there - over 2,000 according to the museum's website. There are so many people it is almost a city in itself, and they are all devoted to sustaining and sharing the museum's collection.
Sometimes I talk to patrons about the library and they are surprised by the number of background things that have to happen for our operations to run smoothly. Staff at public service desks are our front line but they are supported by the work of many other people who are not seen by the public on a day to day basis. This movie shared with me the same type of insight about this museum; I never realized the amount of work and logistics that went into making a museum what it is. I appreciate museums all the more now for putting in all this time and energy to preserve artifacts for future generations to enjoy and learn from. If you are someone with an interest in museums and/or art I think you would probably really enjoy this interesting movie!
I’ve been impressed with Sally Hawkins, ever since I saw her in Happy-Go-Lucky. She plays a much different role as Rita O’Grady in Made in Dagenham, but her performance is equally impressive. In Dagenham, England, O’Grady is a seamstress at the local Ford plant in the 60’s. She and the other women in her bargaining unit vote to strike for equal pay.
The movie illustrates how wearing a strike can be. The strikers persevere for weeks, through exhaustion, wavering determination, personal life crises. Wages are frozen, bills pile up, and the workers must keep showing up to stand up for their cause. Add to it, the women employees face huge pushback from the union bigwigs, Ford management, the male employees, and their own husbands. O’Grady leads the fight, ultimately heading a small group of sister union members to meet with the Employment Secretary of England, to garner support for their struggle.
Made in Dagenham is a fictionalized account of a true event. I loved the soundtrack.
Made in Dagenham
This is a 2003 horror thriller. Take a group of kids in their twenties and have them drive into the back woods of West Virginia where a family who after years of inbreeding have produced mutant looking children and you have yourself a classic hunt the fresh meat and kill most of them but the last one (or two usually a couple) turn the tables and kill the mutants and survive the ordeal. This would make a good addition to your horror viewing for Halloween. In this Wrong Turn movie you have stars like Eliza Dushu (known for her role as a Slayer in the Buffy series) and Jeremy Sisto (who looks majorly different than he does now on the TV series Suburgatory but his voice is still the same, very distinctive). We start the movie following Chris as he drives a very nice mustang along the highway. There is an accident which ties up traffic and Chris tries to find an alternate route. Driving through back roads trying to hurry and make up time when WHAM he smacks into the back end of a SUV that is in the road. Turns out the SUV had driven over barb wire that was placed across the road to snare its victims. Of course cell phones do not work so a group of them head off in search of a phone and one couple stay behind with the car. And it begins. The couple who stayed behind are killed in a grotesque manner. We see the girl looking for her boyfriend and she finds his shoe and then BAM a string of barb wire is wrapped around her head through her mouth and practically cuts her in half. It would be just as deadly around her throat but through her mouth gives you the willies and is therefore a better way to kill in a horror movie designed to give you those thrills. Then the hunt is on for the other victims. We see the mutants and their deformed heads and their disheveled appearance. We find their house and see a stew with body parts. These mutant may be deformed, look hideous and probably have not bathed in years but boy are they fast, and strong. You can be running away from them, lose sight of them and then suddenly find them ahead of you blocking your way. You can knock them out of a tree from so far up you can barely see the ground and yet they get up and dust themselves off, laugh manically and scamper away. I saw this movie back in 2003 and when it came through the library as a new acquisition I watched it again and it kept my attention. Check it out, if you are into mutants hunting down teenagers and mutilating them.
The HBO film The Artist is Present chronicles the lead-up to Marina Abramovic's incredibly popular and well-documented retrospective at the MOMA in 2010. Since she emerged as a provocative performance artist in the 1970’s, Abramovic has blurred the distinction between life and art, using her body as both a literal canvas and a means to shock and move her audiences. One of the most interesting take away’s from this well put together film is how seemingly down to earth she appears compared to the intense character and controversial nature of her creative output. I also developed a much more nuanced understanding of her creative themes and intellectual motivations while not necessarily finding the entirety of her work to my liking. However, I dare even the most cynical of us to dismiss her recent (and probably most famous) work wherein which she sat in a chair for three months straight, everyday, simply staring at museum-goers during open hours. Highly emotional, the grueling performance situates the meaning of the work inside the personal responses and experiences of those who exist before her hypnotic gaze. If this sounds like your conceptual artist’s cup of tea, give it a shot.
The Artist is present
Fans of cinema will want to look over Sight & Sound’s most recent poll of 250 of the Greatest Films ever made. Compiled once a decade since 1962, this list is a great primer for anyone interested in watching the most talked and written about works, including silent films, movies from Hollywood’s golden era, contemporary art house flicks and foreign language masterpieces from the 1950’s and 60’s. Comedies, Drama, Westerns, Noir, Romance—it’s all there. Here are the top ten:
- Citizen Kane
- Tokyo Story
- La regle du jeu
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Searchers
- Man with a Movie Camera
- Passion of Joan of Arc
- 8 1/2
Passion of Joan of Arc
The history of cinema is a rich and varied one that can be enjoyed and understood by engaging in works that dot the historical timeline and cross geographic borders. If you’re a film buff who loves discovering classic films and pioneering directors like I am, you’ll certainly want to keep an eye on our collection of historically significant foreign language films. Many of the greatest films to reach the big screen came about in European, Asian and Latin American countries, where filmmaking represents a fundamental piece of their cultural identities. Below, you’ll find a brief list of foreign language films made from the mid 1950’s through today that are transformative works of art that are crucial touchstones in the development of world cinema. Many of these rule-breaking films are now available from the Criterion Collection.
- Jean-Luc Godard
- Francois Truffaut
- Carl Dreyer
- Robert Bresson
- Frederico Fellini
- Ingmar Bergman
- Wong Kar-wai
- Ranier Werner Fassbinder
- Werner Herzog
- Wim Wenders
- Akira Kurosawa
- Michangelo Antonioni
- Andrei Tarkovsky
- Roberto Rossellini
- Pedro Almodovar
- Jean Renoir
- Milos Forman
- Fritz Lang
- Krzysztof Kieslowski
- Claude Chabrol
- Louis Malle
- Luis Bunuel
- Bela Tarr
- Agnes Varda
- Ashes and Diamonds
- Werckmeister Harmonies
- Aguirre, The Wrath of God
- Umberto D
- Bicycle Thieves
- The Conformist
- Vivre sa vie
- Pierrot le fou
- Tokyo Story
- City of God
- Amores Perros
- El Topo
- Cinema Paradiso
- Breaking the Waves
- My Life as a Dog
- Fanny and Alexander
- Battleship Potemkin
- All About My Mother
- Red, White and Blue Trilogy
- Wild Strawberries
- Wings of Desire