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Staff Picks: Movies

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.



TV Series on DVD

When I visited some friends in Boston last year, they told me I had to watch their new favorite show, Modern Family, with them.  We laughed, cackled, and guffawed our way through two episodes of Ed O'Neill's (the guy who play Al Bundy in Married with Children) new family sitcom, which finds him newly married to a much younger woman from Colombia who has a child.  From his earlier marriage, he has a daughter who is married and has three children, and a son who is in a same-sex relationship and has adopted a daughter.  The show just won the Best Comedy Emmy Award. 

I was excited that the library bought the first season on DVD so I could see everything that I missed last year.  In fact, this is almost the only way I watch tv shows anymore.  I love being able to watch all the shows in a compact amount of time; sometimes one a night for a few weeks.  It's also great to have the option to watch another episode right away when you are really hooked.

Here are some other shows the library owns that I have really enjoyed watching on DVD:

Friday Night Lights

30 Rock


Six Feet Under



Modern Family




I checked out this movie in two minutes flat

I just searched for, found, and checked out a movie in two minutues flat. And you can too. That's 120 seconds to get a library material! Many of us might be used to getting things that we want fast; but if you think about it, this is pretty amazing. Our library has done a lot to make it that way. Here's how I did it:

  1., clicked on "catalog," then clicked "movie search" (12 seconds)
  2. typed in "inglourious basterds," enter (6 seconds)
  3. told me many copies were available at Central Branch, Audiovisual Collection--in ACTION (7 seconds)
  4. went to lower level, AV department, ACTION, found alphebetically under "I" (26 seconds)
  5. went straight to self check out, right next to movies (4 seconds)
  6. checked out movie using the very fast and easy self check out station (12 seconds)

Ok, I took more like 67 seconds. Try to beat me (no running).

I would tell you what I thought of the movie, but haven't watched it yet; that will take 2 hours, 33 minutes.


Inglourious Basterds

What is Human?

Can you say "Battlestar Galactica" without sounding like the biggest nerd on the planet? Oh, well; there is so much stuff to chew on in this television series that the nerd label is worth it--and besides, nerdy is cool.

Among the many themes that run through Battlestar--biblical themes, Mormonism, mono/polytheism, democracy, marshal law, the military, racism, war--the question of what it means to be human is at center stage. The plot, which is not original, serves as the foundation: humans create human-like machines, which rebel, and create more of themselves, and look just like us. So what is distinctly human about humans? Layer by layer, the humans continue to discover troubling things about the machines that help to answer (or confuse) this question: they have skin, blood, language, religion, government. Can they fall in love? Do they have souls? Should they be considered as equals? All these points are "debated" (sometimes with violence), and worked out throughout each episode.


Battlestar Galactica

KFS Spotlight: Greenberg

For a guy who insists he’s deliberately “doing nothing” with his life, Greenberg’s title character (Ben Stiller) keeps pretty busy. He’s building a doghouse for his brother’s pet while housesitting for him; he's constantly penning letters to businesses expressing his dissatisfaction with the most minute details of their services; he takes up an offer from women half his age to go on a deep-sea diving expedition in Australia, despite the fact that he’s a terrible swimmer.

From the sounds of it, this quirky, aging slacker’s screen saga – last June's Kalamazoo Film Society selection - might make for light viewing with plenty of laughs, except for one detail – Greenberg’s trying to deal with life outside an institution, from which he’s recently been released after recovering from a breakdown of an unspecified nature. Watching his brother’s house, in a city he left behind years ago, gives him an opportunity to reconnect with members of his old social circle, but since social norms are no longer a constraint for him, the expression of his feelings and impulses can be cause for embarrassment, pain, and alienation, as well as a certain poignancy (and laughs – this is still a comedy). Greenberg’s caught in a vicious cycle of feeling discomfort, which feeds others’ discomfort, which further feeds his own.

Stiller’s pitch-perfect performance – not too wacky, not too angst-ridden – is beautifully complemented by Greta Gerwig’s performance as his brother’s assistant, a woman in her mid-twenties whose impulsive life reflects Greenberg’s own. The two forge a tentative bond that’s constantly tested throughout the film, and one wonders if the bond can possibly last when both people live so in the moment. As with the best character-study films, Noah Baumbach’s latest doesn’t force-feed any resolutions – it’s simply enough to watch these characters try to make sense of their lives, even when they don’t live them sensibly... but who does?



What a great movie!

It would be easy to get caught up in Sandra Bullock’s role as Leigh Anne Tuohy, after all she did a fantastic job, for which she won an academy award for best actress. Since I’m very partial to Sandra Bullock, it would be effortless for me to lose sight of the fact that the movie was based on a true story. It’s a story about real people. The Tuohy family showed compassion, courage and unconditional love to a total stranger and changed his life as well as their own. The Blind Side is a great feel-good, do-good story that shows us we make a difference.


The Blind Side

What is Real?

There is a reason why The Matrix was surprisingly popular when it burst onto the scene in 1999, making over 27 million opening weekend and winning 4 Oscars. Ok, a lot of that had to do with the new special effects, the Kung Fu fighting, and the leather. But another reason that the Matrix is my favorite movie of all time is how it discussed, portrayed, and played on the age-old question--What is Real?

Plato imagined that everything that we call 'real' might be a reflection, or shadow, of another real (really real) world. His analogy was that we were tied up in a cave, with a fire lighting the cave wall, and the only thing we ever experienced were shadows of the real world on the cave walls.

The Cave, of course, is an analogy for our sense organs. Rene Descartes picks up on this theme during the explosion of Newtonian science, saying that if our senses sometimes deceive us (illusions, hallucinations, dreams)--then perhaps they always deceive us? Descartes imagines that we are all being controlled by some sort of evil intelligent being capible of deluding our senses consistently.

Enter The Matrix:

    MORPHEUS:    "If real is what you can feel, taste, smell, and see, then 'real' is simply electrical impulses interpreted by your brain."

The Matrix imagines that powerful futuristic machines, given enough knowledge of how the human brain works, have subjected us to a new form of slavery, a "prison for your mind," a virtual world that humans are plugged into.

Of course, all of this is silly, and just philosophical thought experiments used to shed light on our limitations. But what I find amazing is that these silly thought experiments are, if you think about it, possible; and we could never really know either way.



The Tearjerker

The tearjerker is a film that transcends one’s predispositions and cuts into those deep and often impenetrable portions of our shared, collective humanity to move us in ways we never dared to admit. Another view, one much less celebratory, reads the tearjerker as the sort of film that eschews realism for romanticized dramatic effect, that idealizes human relations, or that revoltingly rejoices in the most insidious forms of Hollywood sentimentality. Sometimes intellectually or creatively deeper than acknowledged, but still retaining of the elements of the cheesiness factor, are films that balance both of these tensions and contradictions; films that are both at times lurching toward being maudlin and overwrought and yet at other times depict authentic and truthful depth.

Here is a short list of films that will have you racing for the Kleenex.

  • The Way We Were (1973)
  • Kramer vs Kramer (1979)
  • Umberto D (1952)
  • Sophie’s Choice (1982)
  • Love Story (1972)
  • Terms of Endearment (1983)
  • Bambi (1942)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
  • Glory (1989)
  • An Affair to Remember (1957)
  • The English Patient (1996)
  • The Elephant Man (1980)
  • The Deer Hunter (1978)
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
  • The Mission (1986)
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968)


The Way We Were

That 70’s Film

The 1970’s were arguably one of the best decades for film making in the United States. Many of the major studios began to allow young directors much greater power and freedom to craft artistic pictures and in doing so, gave birth to the last golden age of American cinema. The seventies saw the emergence of decorated and influential directors and writers like Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind), William Friedkind (The Exorcist), George Lucas (American Graffiti, Star Wars), Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Mean Streets), Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather Trilogy, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now), Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven), Robert Towne (Chinatown), Peter Bogdanovich (Paper Moon, The Last Picture Show), Sydney Pollack (Three Days of the Condor, The Way We Were, All the President’s Men) Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico) and Robert Altman (MASH, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye) to name but just a few. Here are just a few of the most interesting films made during this original decade that we currently circulate. Lastly, a great documentary that chronicles this subject, Decade Under the Influence, will soon accompany these other classic films on our shelves.

The Last Picture Show

Carnal Knowledge

Harold and Maude (VHS) 

Little Big Man

Annie Hall

Kramer Vs Kramer (VHS)

Paper Moon


Paper Moon


The new documentary film Obscene tells the story of maverick book, magazine and film publisher Barney Rosset. Name an author or book in post-war America that was considered dangerous or that was banned and chances are, Rosset was centrally located near the controversy. A committed First Amendment activist, Rosset fought the politics of banning books by aggressively contesting legal and cultural obstacles throughout his time at the helm of Grove Press and Evergreen Review. No doubt a controversial subject, Rosset’s court room victories allowed libraries and book sellers to introduce some of literature's most popular books, many of which today are considered part of the literary canon. Some of the books and authors discussed include Samuel Beckett, Che Guevara’s diaries, William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer.



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

The White Ribbon

I had been waiting anxiously to see the film The White Ribbon for some time, due in part because it was directed by Michael Haneke and in part because it nominated for the best foreign film Oscar in 2009.  Michael Haneke directed the film Cache, a French thriller that I really enjoyed.  I expected The White Ribbon to have the same slow-building suspense and beautiful cinematography as Cache, and I was not disappointed.  The movie revolves around the people of a small village in Germany just before the beginning of World War I.  As mysterious “accidents” befall members of the community, the villagers (and the audience) are left wondering who could be so brutal to his/her fellow man.  The village pastor uses a white ribbon in the movie as a symbol of innocence, but it quickly becomes clear that no one in the village is entirely innocent.  As the suspense builds, the World War I backdrop becomes particularly pertinent: it perfectly reflects the growing unease and tumultuousness in the village and reiterates the subject of lost innocence.

The White Ribbon is a fairly long and slow movie, with a subtly creepy feeling that pervades the story.  If it’s an action-packed thriller you want, this is not the movie; however I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys intelligent, beautiful film making and a good mystery.


The White Ribbon

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)



The Theater of Politics

Given that yesterday was a day for punching voter ballots, here is a list of some of my favorite films about politics.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

All the President’s Men (1976)

Wag the Dog (1998)

In the Loop (2009)

Bob Roberts (1992)

Bulworth (1998)

JFK (1991)

Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)


All the President's men [videorecording]



Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story

Fran Junker, who retires in August from the Oshtemo Branch of the Kalamazoo Public Library after more than 33 years of knowledgeable, devoted, caring service, recommended this MOST EXCELLENT MUST-SEE DVD titled: Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. Dr. Ben Carson is one of the leading Pediatric neurosurgeons in the world; he works at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD.

Ben and Curtis, his brother, were raised by their single mother in Detroit, Michigan. The story takes us into their home where Ben and Curtis watch too much television instead of doing their homework, much to the disgust of their mother who determines to change her sons’ lives. She insists that they study and read and she encourages them to achieve goals and to be successful . She instills priceless values of Faith in God and a belief in their own ability to accomplish whatever they desire. She tells them: “use your mind and develop your God-given gifts. You’re smart boys, but you both can do better. You got all the world in here. You just got to see what you can’t see”. We watch Ben’s physical and academic growth. Ben’s weaknesses, heartaches, trials and triumphs throughout his life are exposed.

The rewards of Dr. Ben Carson’s intelligence and medical expertise are intensely magnified when in 1987 the world awaits the outcome of his surgery performed on conjoined twins born in Germany . This inspiring story of Dr. Ben Carson is appealing to all ages. Thank you, Fran, for recommending this spectacular MOST EXCELLENT MUST-SEE DVD.


Gifted Hands: the Ben Carson story

Abstract to Pop Art

The documentary film Painters Painting: A Candid History of the New York Art Scene 1940-1970 is an excellent introduction to the ideas and inspirations behind the explosion of American, post-war art. Packed with rare and archival footage, the film is a who’s who of New York artists (Barnett Newman, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Motherwell), all of whom are today considered transformative visionaries associated with the development of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. Emile de Antonio’s wonderful film will attract those both familiar with this highly influential time period in addition to younger artists whose works will undoubtedly be created within the shadow of these pioneer painters. Below is a clip from the film, featuring Barnett Newman discussing the problems of modern painting that he and his contemporaries sought to explore.


Painters painting [videorecording] : a candid history of the New York art scene, 1940-1970

Tom Barnaby’s sidekicks

In Midsomer Murders Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby of Midsomer County is on his third assistant detective and I have to say that I have liked them all. First there was Detective Sergeant Troy, who sometimes makes the wrong calls, suspects the wrong suspect and says or does the wrong things. Troy and Barnaby seemed to be a great fit as they tangled with some much unexpected murderers. Then there was Scott, the city-slicker, who Barnaby seemed not to like but grew into. Barnaby came to rely on Scott’s smooth talking ways and warm sometimes distracting smile for the ladies.

Now we have Detective Constable Ben Jones who relates well with the villagers in a down-to-earth way and engages well with Barnaby and his family.

These episodes continue to pile up the bodies, keeping Chief Inspector Barnaby and Doctor George Bullard, the coroner, very busy and away from home in the lovely English countryside where everything seems peaceful and idyllic.


Midsomer Murders

I give it a month

Leap Year

I give it a month, anyone used to $600 shoes and Louis Vuitton suitcases is not going to like slaving away in a backwoods inn. Add to that, it is in Ireland and she is used to big city and likes a big city life, she will quickly tire of working in an inn.

The movie is cute, When Amy Adam's boyfriend of 4 years does not propose on their 4 year anniversary, Amy Adams decides she will do something about it.  Her boyfriend goes to Ireland, why I do not remember, and there is an Irish Tradition that the woman can propose to the man on the 29th of February. Now, why she doesn't communicate with her boyfriend while in the states I do not know. Why she thinks she has to go to Ireland and propose instead if just saying to her boyfriend "Hey, lets get Married", but then there would be no movie. Of course (spoiler alert) she meets someone, falls in love, changes her entire life and gets married to him. It is filled with funny situations even if it is not very realistic. But then if it was, I would have been bored and not watched.  So if you are looking for a romantic comedy and are willing to let go of reality, you can pick up this movie at KPL.


Leap Year

“Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world”

The French film director Jean-Luc Godard was arguably the centerpiece of the La Nouvelle Vague (New Wave). This loosely associated group of French directors and critics were heavily indebted to the contributions of the Italian Neorealism movement (Federico Fellini, Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini e.g.) and came to prominence in the late nineteen fifties and early sixties, seeking to revitalize French cinema with paradigmatic changes to the classical style of Hollywood movies, their plots and aesthetic approaches to narrative and editing techniques. Godard, who continues to work today, created some of world cinema’s most recognizable and influential films; his most important and conventional, produced between 1960 and 1967. For the beginner, I would recommend delving into Godard’s self conscious tales of cinematic referentiality, satiric deconstruction, and counter cultural politics in chronological order: Breathless (1960), Vivre sa vie (1962), Alphaville (1965), Pierrot le fou (1965) and Weekend (1967). A very stylized director who broke with traditional movie-making norms and cinematographical techniques throughout his long career, Godard's influence can be witnessed throughout contemporary movies as well as in the sort of jump-cut editing found in television commercials and MTV videos.



The Beaches of Agnes

The Beaches of Agnes is a clever, Surrealist mash-up that chronicles the life and memories of Belgian director/screenwriter/editor/producer Agnes Varda. Employing both documentary and memoir, Varda whimsically stitches together her recollections using photographs, scenes from her films, and playful reenactments that retell her story, from her childhood in coastal France, her success as an influential film maker during the sixties and seventies, to her long marriage to French director Jacques Demy. In addition to being a love letter to the great film makers of French cinema, this is a fun, lively and visually experimental piece that locates the nebulous nature of memory as one of the primary characters.


Beaches of Agnes

The Coen Brothers Abide

When talking about directors who consistently make provocative, intellectually-inspired films that are commercially successful while not slighting of the audience’s acumen, the conversation must include the films of the Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan). Known for their genre bending, dark comedies, the Coen’s have made some of the most memorable films of the past two decades, including the adapted No Country for Old Men, which won Best Picture in 2007, Fargo (1996), Raising Arizona (1987), Miller’s Crossing (1990), and the cult masterpiece, The Big Lebowski (1998). There have been a couple of missteps along the way (Intolerable Cruelty and The Lady Killers) but for the most part, their unique vision of human destiny embodies a distinctive mixture of gallows humor, richly drawn characters, and absurd circumstances that often pit their protagonist against both the quirks of chance and the poorly conceived decisions of individuals. While I wouldn’t characterize their newest film A Serious Man as one of their best movies, it remains as one of last year’s better films that will likely satisfy the devotee. What do you get when you engage a Coen Brothers film? A little bit of crime fiction, a dash of film noir, a teaspoon of odd ball comedy, a bag of literary and film allusions, topped off with a pinch of both real and implied violence thrown in. Of their 14 full length films, the following selection is arguably their most important.

No Country for Old Men (adapted from a Cormac McCarthy novel)


Miller’s Crossing

Barton Fink

The Big Lebowski

Raising Arizona


big lebowski

Get In the Loop

The British comedy In the Loop is an uproarious, political comedy akin to satiric classics like Wag the Dog or the imitable Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Bumbling policy wonks, hawkish politicos, a peace loving general, and a foul mouthed British government official find themselves either fighting against or fighting for the invasion of Iraq. Fast paced, witty and outrageously scathing in its characterization of those who run the British and U.S. governments, In the Loop pulls no punches at laughing at the slapstick-like antics in this fictional account of the lead up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.


In the loop

Award Winning Movies at KPL

It wasn’t always so easy to catch movies that cleaned up at awards ceremonies – just as The Hurt Locker did during this year’s awards season, capped by its Best Picture win at this week’s Academy Awards presentation – if you’d missed them in the movie theater during their initial runs.

Becoming a serious film buff in the mid-‘70’s, I’d come away from awards show viewings making mental notes about films I’d missed so I’d remember to catch them in a second run (pre-video boom, award winners could clean up at the box office on return engagements), or perhaps when the film made its debut on network TV, which could take a while (pre-pay channel days, I waited two, perhaps three, years to see Annie Hall - somewhat cut and with commercials - on the small screen). Campus film group showings, or bottom billings on drive-in double features, might have been outside opportunities to view these films in a timely manner, but generally, if you missed them in the theater, you’d be waiting a while to see them again. 

It’s rare these days for any film studio to hold back a title from DVD release just based on awards nominations, at least when the films aren’t end-of-year releases, to keep it on movie screens. What seems to be more common now is for studios to strategically plan DVD release dates just after awards season for maximum sales and rental impact. Precious and Up in the Air – both major awards season contenders and winners – just made their DVD debuts Tuesday, only two days after the 82nd Academy Awards ceremony. Both those titles, as well as The Hurt Locker and a slew of other awards season winners and nominees, are available for KPL patrons’ viewing enjoyment – no need to wait too long to see them… check our holdings and borrow, or reserve, them today! 


The Hurt Locker

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]

New Movies @ KPL

This is not a blog post about any particular movie, rather it is to call attention to our strong, current movie collection generally.

As I read movie reviews, see the announcement of what is playing at the Little Theatre on campus, or hear a friend mention a good movie, I jot down the title and check our holdings. We usually have the movie in our collection OR have it on order OR will order it as soon as available on DVD.

New titles are added to our catalog on Tuesdays. To see the listing in the KPL catalog, click on “New Items”, then “New DVDs.”

I’ve just added these titles to my list of “movies to watch sometime”: Amelia Earhart, Big Fan, and Inglourious Basterds. They are all in our collection already.



All Good Things...

As those of us who find ourselves obsessed with the television show Lost all know; the final season of the brilliant and intriguing, perhaps to the point of annoyance for the casual viewer, television show begins on Tuesday night. All of the speculation over “how will it end?” has me thinking not only about the wrapping up of LOST (Is Whitmore/Ben/Jacob good or bad, Is the island an alien life form? What do Hurley’s numbers mean?), but about the pressure to satisfy and surprise the shows fans that comes with concluding any popular television series. I am old enough to remember the end of M.A.S.H and the hubbub surrounding that shows final episode, including a run on army surplus stores for “M.A.S.H. party” supplies that has never been equaled, and who can forget how collectively let down viewers were by the final episode of Seinfeld? One of my personal favorite series endings comes from the HBO series Six Feet Under in which (spoiler alert!) the final scene shows how each of the shows characters will meet their ultimate demise. Ending a much beloved show can be tricky business, and for every great finale (see: The Sopranos, Cheers, The Fugative) there is an ill-conceived dud that tarnishes the overall assessment of some otherwise decent shows (see: Seinfeld, X-Files, St. Elsewhere). We will have to wait and see which side of this coin the LOST finale lands on.



Reading and Watching the Hours

There are times, be they often rare, when a brilliantly written book full of narrative depth and lyrical splendor becomes re-imagined through the camera’s lens and smartly adapted for the cinema without losing any of its literary power. Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, an almost perfectly conceived novel that won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction was adapted for film in 2001 by Stephen Daldry, the director of the recently Oscar-nominated film The Reader (also adapted from a book). Like Cunningham’s book, the film is visually lush in its expressive hues and tones, often focusing on the evocative luster of flowers, the glowing and bucolic gardens of provincial England, or Mrs. Brown’s richly frosted birthday cake.  Philip Glass’ somberly toned score is a harrowing body of music that brilliantly ties the narrative pieces together (Three different women, plots, settings and time periods), underscoring the intensity of despair and want that seethes below the placid facades of the primary characters--Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Brown and Clarissa Vaughan.  Daldry deftly handles the story’s inventive unfolding, showing his talent for translating the essence of a book to the medium of film, while a star studded cast (Meryl Streep, Ed Harris, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman) give great performances.


The hours [videorecording]

New Zealand's Fourth Most Popular Folk Duo

I just finished watching the second (and final) season of HBO’s Flight of the Conchords. I’m not usually a fan of musical comedy, but the New Zealand duo always manages to make me laugh with their witty parodies of pop music. The show follows Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement as they try and fail to make it in the New York music scene, all while dealing with an inept manager and the creepy stalking tendencies of their solitary fan. The second season highlights include an episode directed by Michel Gondry, a guest appearance by Art Garfunkel, and a hilarious West-Side-Story-inspired dance number.


Flight of the Conchords

Forecasting Fun: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

I was a little too old for picture books when Judi Barrett’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs was first published in 1978 (though I’ve since encountered it during my own child’s storytimes, and am particularly fond of Ron Barrett’s whimsical illustrations). Not having any sentimental attachment to the original work made it easy for me to enjoy the animated film adaptation, released in theaters late last summer (and now out on DVD).

Gone is the framing device of the original story, which has a grandfather spinning a tall tale during his grandkids’ mealtime about a town where food falls from the sky for no apparent reason. In the movie version, a young inventor devises a machine that can turn water into food, which he sends into the clouds above his depressed fishing community so it can enjoy more culinary choices than the steady stream of sardines it’s used to consuming. Once the tasty treats start falling, the former failed scientist becomes a local celebrity... until things go terribly wrong, and disaster borne of mad science must be averted.

The pace of the film is frantic - which can’t be said of the book - but it’s by no means a mean-spirited film, so I’d recommend it to parents who don’t mind getting the kids revved up with high-speed screen antics. Parents shouldn’t be bored, either – there’s some sly satire thrown in the mix, and I especially enjoyed spotting all the ‘70’s and ‘80’s electronics cast-offs the hapless hero uses in his makeshift laboratory. Regardless of its faithfulness to the source material, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is still a satisfying movie treat.


Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs