Staff Picks: Movies
Staff-recommended viewing from the KPL catalog.
Yasujiro Ozu’s Late Spring (1949) is one of the most moving dramas you’ll ever see about the intersecting tension between social norms, generational conflict and familial love, a theme that the great Japanese director masterfully explored with a fierce intelligence and a tender poetry in his post-war films. Late Spring is the story of a daughter who is so dedicated to her father’s well-being that she eschews her family’s urging to marry. At the age of 27 and unmarried, her single status is deemed a problem to be solved by her loving father, persistent aunt, and cynical best friend. Why marry for the sake of fulfilling an outdated social tradition that isn’t necessarily a guarantee for happiness in modern Japan she argues. While her thoughtful and understanding father may agree with such an argument, there exists few options for her future that don’t include either an arranged marriage or one born out of romantic love. Each character is so richly rendered and conceived that antagonists are excluded altogether. Everyone seems to have a legitimate point of view which is a quality that highlights the respectful and sympathetic nature of Ozu’s grasp of character. Highly recommended viewing. For a clip go here.
Have you ever thought what it would be like to be just a Head. You could not move your arms of your legs. The Intouchables is a story about such a man and his caregiver. Philippe is a French aristocrat who has a great life until his wife gets a disease and dies and Philippe who was always into high adventure, goes paragliding and crashes. He crushed his 3rd and 4th vertebrae and is now a quadriplegic. The movie is about the relationship of Philippe and Driss. Philippe is interviewing numerous caregivers, they all have great credentials and PHDs. Driss is applying because in order to draw is benefit (unemployment check) he need to show he is actively looking for a job, he has no real desire to have this job. He talks to Philippe in an off hand manner, “don’t get up”. Philippe likes him because he doesn’t treat Philippe as an invalid. Driss is offered and takes the job. We are given glimpses into what Philippe has to do every day. Massages for the arms and legs, strapped in a chair so he doesn’t fall out, turning pages with a stick in his mouth. Driss asks him if he ever thought of just shooting himself. Philippe says yes but I cannot move my arms or legs so I am stuck. Luckily for Philippe he is rich. He says the Doctors can keep him alive until he is 70. Philippe introduces Driss to the arts, and music, Bach etc. Driss also shows Philippe what he considers good music Earth, Wind and Fire. Driss is a kid from the streets. He introduces Philippe to smoking marijuana to help with the pain. When Philippe has to travel they go the van and Driss says no way is he loading Philippe in the back of the van like a horse, he puts him in the front seat of a muscle car and roars down the road. This is a story of a developing friendship. This movie is foreign and in French so if you do not understand French, you could take a crash course on our Rocket Language lessons, free if you have a library card or for this you could turn on the subtitles. The thing that really touched me is that this is a true story. At the end of the movie they show the people that this movie was based on.
Have you ever thought what it would be like to be just a Head
Paul Newman starred as a dynamic antihero in several movie classics throughout his long career like The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The Texan novelist Larry McMurtry has had many of his works adapted to the big screen and television including Lonesome Dove, Brokeback Mountain, Terms of Endearment, and The Last Picture Show. In 1963 the two came together for the making of Hud, one of Newman’s greatest performances. Newman plays Hud Bannon, the bad son who ruins everything he touches, including the bumpy relationship between his moralistic and principled father, his impressionable nephew Lon and the housekeeper Alma, wonderfully played by Patricia Neal. When not carousing with married women, Hud engages in drunken brawls and tension-filled conversations with his father about the future of the family ranch. Newman is brilliant at playing the hard-living, self-absorbed son who perceives situations only in terms of selfish opportunism. Directed by Martin Ritt (Norma Rae, Sounder, Hombre, and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold), Hud still stands up as a subject-rich, gritty, family drama set amongst the austere landscape of Texas.
I still remember the feeling. I was living in Washington, D.C. It was my first time living in the big city as an adult. I missed the woods, the countryside, the quiet calm of my hometown in the Midwest. That D.C. summer was so hot. When you stepped outside, you felt like you were instantly encased in Saran Wrap, so cloying was the humidity. My roommates and I didn’t have air conditioning, so we sought relief at the movies.
I lost myself for two hours, watching a group of boys frolic through the woods, narrowly escape a speeding train and a vicious dog, discover another boy’s body. I could feel the cool of the green forest and the pull of childhood summers. When we left the movie theater, I was shocked by the brightness and the return of the feel of Saran Wrap. I was so immersed in Stand by Me that, at first, I didn’t remember where I was!
Great movies can do that to you.
With Memorial Day around the corner, here are some movies, set in summer (or at least a good chunk of it,) to help you celebrate the season’s ‘unofficial’ start:
Red Hook Summer
The Magic of Belle Isle
A River Runs through It
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (1 and 2)
Clifford the Big Red Dog. Dog Days of Summer (and other family titles)
Stand by Me
End of Watch is a movie shot in documentary style of two police officers in the south central Los Angeles area. It gives you a good insight and feel for Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavela (Michael Pena) as partners. A lot of the movie is the two of them in the locker room, in the squad room or in the car, talking about everything with each other. It really shows you the bond the two of them have. The movie also has many moments of gripping action. Mike says that they see more action in one shift than some officers will see in their entire lifetime. Some police can go their entire career without drawing their gun but not in southern Los Angeles.
Brian is making a film so he is always filming with his camera and he and Mike are wearing button cameras. This gives us the feeling of being part of the action. There is a Latino gang that ironically is also filming and we see them inside their van gearing up for action. They are talking about hitting Tre and his fellow Bloods gang. We see them getting their guns together and a we see them drive by the Bloods and start firing their AK47s and hand guns, hundreds of bullets are fired and then off they drive. Our officers find the burnt out husk of the van dumped. Brian would like to be a detective but as he is a uniformed officer the homicide detectives shoo him away and tell him to stay on the other side of the crime tape. Next we watch the officers respond to a missing children call, only to find a man and a woman obviously high and not in their right mind. The woman is saying her children are missing, the man is saying they are at their grandmas. Brian searches the house and finds the children duct taped in the closet. This is to give us a feel of what their watch is like. Later they pull over a truck and the driver tries to shoot Michael with an ornate looking pistol. They search the truck and find oodles of cash and what looks like a gold plated AK47. Our next adventure is when Brian and Michael are at a house fire and they risk their lives to rescue a bunch of small children. This section of the movie was very powerful and definitely had you on the edge of the seat of your chair, you could almost feel the fire and have a hard time breathing due to the smoke. They are awarded medals and accolades from their fellow officers. Brian, who wants to be a detective, decides to dig deeper into the driver with the ornate gun. He convinces his partner to back him up and they go to the house where the truck came from and they find a room full of human trafficking people. Suddenly there are many ICE agents descending and they tell Brian and Michael to lay low as there may be reprisals.
Now we go back to the personal side of life and Michael’s wife has a baby. Then back to driving around in the squad car talking about the baby when a call comes in to help two officers. When they arrive they find one of the officers with a knife sticking out of his eyeball in his head, and his partner is getting beat on. They get the huge hulk of a man off the female officer but her whole head is caved in and is a misshapen bloody mess. This gives you a feel for the harshness of the streets. There are more personal moments and of course a reprisal happens with a hit put out on Brian and Michael.
This movie has a lot of action, and gives you insight into the life of a police officer. This was modeled after two real live police officers. I think that gave me the most scare. This is not just a movie, this stuff really happens. This movie is not for the faint of heart and there is a lot of use of the foul language to give you the realness of the gangs.
End of Watch
The Turkish film Once Upon a Time in Anatolia was on many end-of-the-year polls of best movies. It’s a slow burning film about a murder and the men who venture into the dark of night charged with locating the deceased’s body. The viewer already knows who did it. The murderer sits between two police officers in the back of a car that traverses the Turkish countryside. It’s actually not about the murder at all but rather about the interior lives of its varied cast of characters. It’s a film about what goes unsaid, that which is communicated only by silence and the elapse of time. It’s a film about a single night and the complicated pasts of men living in a moment.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
This is one of those feel good Disney movies; The Odd Life of Timothy Green. A couple, Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) are told by a fertility doctor that they cannot have children. While feeling sorry about the news they have some wine and make a list of all the things their child would be if they could have one. He would be good at drawing, score the winning goal in soccer etc. They take this list and put it in a very nice wooden box (this shows the depth of their grief, this looked like an expensive box) and bury it in the garden. That night there is a thunder storm, even though the town is in a drought, and this thunder storm only occurs at their house. Timothy Green a 10 year old boy appears in their house covered in mud. At first they think he ran away from home but Timothy calls them mom and dad and he has leaves growing out of his legs. They check the garden and indeed the spot where they put the box has been disturb. This boy must have come from that box and is destined to be their son. OK we are over that hurdle, now to tell the story of Timothy Green and all the wonderful things he does, and how he makes people’s lives he touches better. It is a cute story, it delves into father son relationships and parenting, hopes for your children all that gooey stuff. But it does it in a way that keeps you entertained. That being said I do have two comments. The first is that even if one comes up with a better way to make a pencil you cannot just say the plant is saved all your jobs are secured. You would have to retool the plant, and make sure there is a market place for said pencil, and personally from looking at it, I would not want to write with it. However it does tie in nicely the leaves on Timothy’s legs with the leaves to make the pencil. My other comment is when Timothy draws Cindy’s boss’ picture and includes the chin hairs. Cindy says Timothy is very honest and outspoken. Mrs. Crudstaff, a very stuffy and stern lady, asks what else has Cindy not told her. Cindy bolstered by Timothy’s actions proceeds to tell Mrs. Crudstaff her honest opinion, that Mrs. Crustaff could be nicer, that her one joke is not funny and that they need to open the curtains to let in light so people can see the objects in the Pencil museum. I thought this was going to be one of those hallmark moments and Cindy gets a raise or at least high praise but nope, she got fired. I liked that twist to what I thought would happen. This is a good family movie, you should give it a watch.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
It’s pretty easy to argue that movie expert Roger Ebert was America’s First Film Critic, in the sense that he was the country’s most well-known and respected reviewer of cinema. Ebert passed away yesterday from complications due to cancer. Ebert and the late Gene Siskel introduced millions of Americans to thoughtful conversations about both commercial and artistic-oriented films with their Saturday afternoon television show that aired from the mid 1980’s until Siskel’s death in 1999. Ebert’s brilliant reviews, many of which are collected in numerous books, are an excellent starting point for the novice fan of film to introduce themselves to the treasure trove of great movies. Ebert was known for his superb prose, much of which eschewed jargon and obtuse forms of critical theory. He also had a keen ability to criticize films he found intellectually stupefying or devoid of purpose with a biting sense of humor, some of which can be found below.
“The Last Airbender is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here. It puts a nail in the coffin of low-rent 3D, but it will need a lot more coffins than that.”
“Battlefield Earth is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It’s not merely bad; it’s unpleasant in a hostile way.”
“Dice Rules is one of the most appalling movies I have ever seen. It could not be more damaging to the career of Andrew Dice Clay if it had been made as a documentary by someone who hated him. The fact that Clay apparently thinks this movie is worth seeing is revealing and sad, indicating that he not only lacks a sense of humor, but also ordinary human decency.”
“Saving Silverman is so bad in so many different ways that perhaps you should see it, as an example of the lowest slopes of the bell-shaped curve. This is the kind of movie that gives even its defenders fits of desperation. Consider my friend James Berardinelli, the best of the Web-based critics. No doubt 10 days of oxygen deprivation at the Sundance Film Festival helped inspire his three-star review, in which he reports optimistically, ‘Saving Silverman has its share of pratfalls and slapstick moments, but there’s almost no flatulence.’ Here’s a critical rule of thumb: You know you’re in trouble when you’re reduced to praising a movie for its absence of fart jokes, and have to add ‘almost.’”
And one of his most famous disses concerns Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. It "is a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments. One of these involves a dog-like robot humping the leg of the heroine. Such are the meager joys. If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination."
Federico Fellini’s most well-known film and a classic of Italian cinema, 8 and 1/2 continues to stand-up as a trailblazing film that introduced viewers in 1963 to an overly self-conscious form of storytelling that mixes fiction, memoir and dreamy surrealism together as a prophetic statement about the nature of celebrity, the mass media and the pressure to create art even when uninspired. Self-referential, wildly imaginative and irreverent, this classic film points the finger at the film industry and increasingly aggressive media while humorously mocking the hollowness of fame. Poking fun at both himself and his critics (both Catholics and Communists), Fellini delights in highlighting the absurdity and emotional alienation of those forced into positions of creating successful commerce while their personal life grows increasingly dysfunctional. See a trailer here.
8 and 1/2
I am just smitten with Call the Midwife. Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, this BBC-produced series takes us back to the beginning of Worth’s career as a nurse-midwife in east end London during the post-war 1950s. We see her first arrive at Nonnatus House, where she and several other midwives minister to the varying social and health needs of their patients and families.
Jessica Raine portrays Jenny as kind, caring, and extremely sheltered. She knows naught from personal experience of bug infestations, dealing with the complications of syphilis, the desperation that drives 15-year old girls into prostitution. Over time, she shows her grit, combined with deep compassion, to become a fine midwife.
Still, it’s Nurse Camilla Fortescue Chumley Browne (Miranda Hart,) better known as ‘Chummy,’ who steals the show for me. When we first see her, she quips, “pa used to say ‘long dogs need short names.’” As she struggles to build her nursing skills, wrestles to learn bike riding (their primary form of transportation to their patients,) and overcome Sister Evangelina’s obvious disdain, she grabs the funniest lines and breathtaking moments.
Though based in the ‘50s, the show doesn’t lack for graphic intensity. You’ll see live births and hear the raw, honest language of the EastEnders. Set aside several hours, so you can watch without pause. Fortunately for all of us, the next season is on order and in our catalog, so we can place our holds now!
Call the Midwife