In an inauspicious Tokyo subway station, 85 year-old master sushi chef Jiro Ono works each day to improve his craft and humbly offer his customers a dining experience that is simple yet sublime. Jiro Dreams of Sushi tells Jiro’s remarkable story. The documentary is a meditation on work and great sushi, as well as a zen koan about the unreachability of perfection and the beauty inherent in a life spent attempting to reach it. Foodie’s will love this film, but the added storyline that develops with Jiro’s two son’s, who are both sushi chef’s themselves, will appeal to all.
Jiro Dreams Of Sushi - Trailer from curious on Vimeo.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
The Story of the Weeping Camel is an enchanting documentary that follows a family of herders in Mongolia's Gobi region. It is birthing season for the family’s herd of camels and the last birth of a rare white colt is particularly difficult. The mother camel quickly rejects and refuses to nurse the newborn animal. The family becomes increasingly concerned for the colt’s survival and decides to try a nomadic singing ritual to coax the mother into nurturing her young. They send the two eldest sons to the nearest village to find a musician for the "hoos” ritual. The mother camel eventually accepts the colt.
This is a story of hope and healing. It unfolds slowly and beautifully depicts desert life while honoring its real life actors.
The Story of the Weeping Camel
If you enjoy the romantic comedy genre and don’t mind English subtitles, the movie Delicacy might be for you. Starring Amelie actress Audrey Tautou, Delicacy is a creatively anodyne yet enjoyable film about tragedy, mourning, and second chances at love. Combining the kind of predictable rom-com tropes with just enough charm and sweetness, fans of quixotic romance will likely accept the film’s lack of originality for its bountiful amount of sentimentality and tenderness. It's emotional candy for the holiday season.
We come to literature or of certain books in strange ways, sometimes circuitous, often by chance but how we get ‘there’ is of less importance than the experience we have inside of the interior worlds that our favorite books evoke. I often pick up a book when I’ve read that a particular book or author has some sort of relationship to a favorite author of mine. Usually the relationship is only tangential and often what the writers have in common is less about stylistic similarities than the sort of common themes, concerns and tones that are explored. The name of W.G. Sebald always seems to pop up in reviews, essays or on lists of great writers. Though I have not read any of his transgressive, category-less books, I recently stumbled across a documentary film that maps out his work and discusses his artistic contributions to literature. Both fascinating as a biographical introduction and as a documentary film that explores Sebald’s book The Rings of Saturn, Patience: After Sebald, has now intensified my interest in his highly praised books.
Patience: After Sebald
Oslo, August 31st is a beautiful and affecting film that will leave viewers amazed by its humane and sensitive treatment of the subject of drug addiction and depression. The film unfolds over a single day and as the film suggests, is set in the hip and fashionable parts of Oslo. We follow Anders around Norway’s capital city as he leaves his upscale, suburban drug treatment center for a job interview. His anxiety about the future is clear from the opening scenes. The trajectory of plot is presented in a straightforward and well-paced way, periodically weaving the poetic musings and memories of unseen voices (one assumes they are Anders, his family and friends into the narrative mix). Anders visits old friends for affirmation but he can’t seem to relate because of their seemingly comfortable lives. But are they comfortable? Are they happy? Will Anders utilize his intelligence, talent and strong upbringing to transform his life of addiction, fear and shame or will he sink deeper into a pit of psychic despair? I picked this movie up without knowing anything about it and I’m glad I did. This is one of the most sincere, honest and compassionate portraits of a troubled soul I’ve seen in some time.
Oslo, August 31st
Lucky for me, who just found out how good The Good Wife is, KPL has the first 3 seasons. I’m really into it now but I am a little confused by a few things. Such as, why would they make such a likable and disgustingly fine looking guy like Lemond Bishop (played by Mike Colter) a drug dealer? Why does Alicia Florrick seem to make so much sense and why is she so likable as the good wife? Isn’t she supposed to be the loser? What’s going on with Kalinda? Are they going to end up killing her off? This curious mind wants to know….but, like everybody else this Chicagoan transplant will have to wait.
The Good Wife
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 Cosmos with 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
The New York City art world in post-war America was dominated by the rise of Abstract Expressionist painting. Led by iconic painters like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning, abstract painting and its theoretical exponents tended to be an exclusive man’s club. However, there were several female painters who emerged during the late fifties and early sixties who are now recognized for their creative talents and artistic output. One of these pioneering figures was Joan Mitchell, a painter whose gestural works often hang upon the same museum walls today as her better known male counterparts. This documentary weaves together a strong and personal portrait of her life as a midcentury painter working through her romantic relationships and the frustrating battles with the gender politics of the art world. She spent much of her life in France, finding inspiration from nature and the physical universe.
Of course BMX is totally rad. It always has been
and always will be. Somehow, my early ‘80s Mongoose is still with me after all
these years and I still feel as cool as ever when I tool around the
neighborhood with my kids. Mat Hoffman went far beyond the concrete blocks and
plywood of my own pre-teen years in search of big air. Another in ESPN's 30 for 30 series, The Birth of Big Air documents
why Mat Hoffman is legendary in the world of BMX. He and his
friends and family constructed their own massive halfpipes in an unrelenting quest
to fly higher. Why? Who knows? But there is something uniquely human in the way
people will work really hard, even putting themselves in mortal danger, to
achieve their dreams. Plus it’s super fun to watch people do big jumps on BMX
bikes. Next time I ride around the block I’ll probably do some bunny hops.
The Birth of Big Air
As an avid reader of comic books, I would often stumble upon an ad for the television show Burn Notice. The ad reminded me of an awful USA Network television show from the 90’s called Silk Stalkings, so I never bothered to watch. It wasn’t until I was home sick channel surfing did I discover the greatness of Burn Notice. Creator Matt Nix has developed a show that pays homage to some great TV and movies. This show has successfully combined the jack-of-all-trades archetype of MacGyver, the ex-spy vibe of the Bourne movies, the exotic locale of Miami Vice, and the delightful campiness of CHiPs. Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan) has just been blacklisted, or burned, from the spy business and dumped in his hometown of Miami. While investigating into who burned him, he passes the time helping out people in need with his ex-IRA girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and Navy SEAL buddy, Sam (Bruce Campbell). This show is for fans of TV series that like to keep you on the edge, never quite revealing who is behind the sinister plot until the bitter end. After watching all five seasons I understood why the show is advertised in comic books, it is pure, unadulterated escapism.
ESPN Films' Catching Hell is the captivating tale of Steve Bartman and how he became a city-wide pariah and scapegoat. Who is Steve Bartman you ask? Award-winning director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Darkside) first introduces the viewer to former Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, a man who knows a little something about having an entire city’s rage and anger directed at him and his family. During the 1986 World Series, Buckner infamously allowed a ground ball to dribble through his legs, allowing the New York Mets a Game 6 victory that would subsequently propel them on toward a Game 7 victory, thus denying the long suffering Red Sox fans a championship. Buckner was universally blamed by the Boston fans and media while the poor play of his fellow teammates went unacknowledged. In Buckner, the fans had their scapegoat and target to vent their frustration toward.
Bartman, like Buckner would also find himself at the center of a bizarre twist of fate during the 2003 National League Championship Series between the equally futile Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins. Five outs away from a place in the World Series, Bartman’s actions would forever link him inextricably to Chicago Cubs history. Gibney’s well directed documentary asks us why we scapegoat some while not others and to what extent do we take our love of sports too far.
The Fab 5 is a smart and nuanced documentary that will appeal to University of Michigan basketball fans that followed the meteoric rise of these five young men from highly touted high school blue chippers to college basketball icons. From the initial recruiting process of the Michigan coaching staff to the off-court legal problems faced by one of its star players, the film successfully weaves together the known and unknown while thoughtfully providing background regarding the experiences of these teenagers who were thrust under the media’s microscope from the beginning. The film does a nice job of discussing the high stakes world of collegiate basketball, the pressure to succeed and the high’s and low’s of the Fab 5’s on-court success and disappointment.
The Fab 5
The writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson takes his time and thoughtfully chooses the kinds of stories he wants to tell. To this end, his patience has left fans of his dynamic pictures with only a handful to ponder and obsess upon. Luckily, the small number of films to which he’s made (6 in all) in no way diminishes the artistic strength of the work. In fact, one might argue that with the possibility of a minor hiccup in Punch Drunk Love (a decent but not great film) that both his reputation and talent continue to grow. He is among a small number of my favorite directors working today who make powerful, smart and compelling films that eschew Hollywood conventions. His films are not easy to emotionally or intellectually abandon, as they have a unique way of sticking to your pyschic bones well after the roll of the end credits. His newest success, The Master, already christened as a tour de force by some, opens nation-wide today. We’ll have to wait a few months before it becomes available for purchase but you can always take a look back at his previous films (There Will Be Blood, Hard Eight, Magnolia).
There Will Be Blood
The award winning comedy Modern Family is comfort food television. It's a sugary snack that leaves you with a warm heart and feeling a bit gooey on the inside. Exaggerated characters full of zaney cluelessness crisscross through the lives of their siblings and parents, screwing things up for one or more of their family members. Because these characters only exist in TV Land, they always pull together to resolve the mishaps with a lesson learned and a family hug by the end of the show. It's not a show that will sit along side the Seinfeld's of the comedic world but for a few hours, you can rest your brain and let slip a few chuckles at these disfunctional clans as they navigate contemporary issues.
"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen", with Ewan McGregor,
Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas. The title says it all. A good friend of
mine, JD, recommended this DVD, I watched it and liked it so much I told my
wife she had to watch it. The premise is that there is a Sheik in the Yemen
with tons and tons of money who loves fly fishing for salmon and equates it
with a religious experience. He also wants to do something for Yemen, provide
water for agriculture. Emily Blunt handles the Sheik's finances and finds Ewan
McGregor, a fishing expert, to help her make the Sheik's dream come true. Kristen
Scott Thomas is the Prime Minister's PR person (this takes place in England)
and sees this as a good PR piece. Ewan says it is impossible and starts to list
all the reasons why, Emily counters them, you need water, the sheik has built a
dam, you need cool temperature, the temperature in that part of Yemen is cool, Ewan
says it will cost 50 million and Emily doesn't even blink. The story is nice,
the interactions of the people is what captivated me. Sheik Muhammed played by
Amr Waked was an excellent portrayal of a sheik. He had the beard, the soft
demeanor, the handling of the beads while he talked. This and many other movies
are available in our AV department.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
The documentary Jazz on a Summer’s Day (National Film Registry selection) is a one of a kind film that brings to life in lively Technicolor, the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, featuring live performances by musical legends like Louis Armstrong, Gerry Mulligan, Anita O’Day, Mahalia Jackson, and Thelonious Monk. Pieced together by art director and still photographer Bert Stern, the expressionistic film is mostly absent of dialogue or narration. However, the visual energy and kinetic tone of the film captures much more than just the great music of the day by extending its images beyond the stage to capture the colorful fashion and style of the late fifties (delight in the myriad of cool sunglasses and hipster chic), not to mention costal scenes shot of yacht races and summertime Newport life.
Jazz on a summer's day
I was pleasantly surprised by the young Detective Endeavour Morse! This episode was not another overly done remake. In the PBS's newly released episode of Endeavour, the melancholy Inspector Morse’s past comes alive through the role of young Detective Endeavour Morse (played by Shaun Evans). I thought Shaun Evans did a great job of introducing the demons from Morse's past. It was a new beginning.
Inspector Morse has always seemed like a lonely, solitary sole without true friends that went home alone and drank alone and in Endeavour I saw the heartbreak build. I saw when he went from not drinking to being a drinker. I never knew Morse's first name and now I know it was Endeavour. Jesse Stone played by Tom Selleck is our American version of the British Inspector Morse in, of course, our more brutish American way. I like both characters, though. There are other British examples, such as, Jane Tennison from Masterpiece's Prime Suspect played by Helen Mirren and then there's Wallander, the Swedish TV version played by Sir Kenneth Charles Branagh. If you are a Masterpiece Mystery buff and haven’t already seen Endeavour, you can find a copy at one of our KPL branches.
Have you ever wanted to just slap a spoiled rotten whiny rich kid? Frank takes it a step farther. In “God Bless America” Frank has been told that he has only a few months to live, he lost his job, he is divorced and his kid doesn’t want to see him. Frank decides to kill himself. But while watching television he sees a spoiled rotten rich kid complaining that the car she got for graduation was the wrong car. So Frank finds her and shoots her dead. Roxy, a 16 year old girl, sees Frank do this and convinces Frank to take her with him and go find others who are also deserving of death. They have long conversations of just who those people are, one group is people who high five. Frank teaches Roxy how to shoot and in response to his praise she quips she just pretended the targets were members of Glee. Frank and Roxy go on a Bonnie and Clyde shooting spree, Roxy even buys hats for both of them so Frank can look like a gangster and she looks like Patty Hearst. I found this movie entertaining but it’s not for those who are easily offended.
God Bless America
Jack Cardiff was the twentieth century’s biggest name in cinematography. Camerman: the life and work of Jack Cardiff documents his long and storied career as a remarkable innovator of the art of shooting films. Having worked with the most famous actors and directors from the 1940’s on, Cardiff shares intimate details about the movie industry men and women who he worked with and filmed including Michael Powell, Alfred Hitchcock, Marilyn Monroe, Kirk Douglas, Charleton Heston, Sophia Loren, and Audrey Hepburn. Cardiff applied his interest in painting and light to his work with the Technicolor film that came of age after World War Two. His relationship with director Michael Powell during the late 40’s was incredibly fruitful having resulted in some of the most expressive and beautiful images put to the big screen including classic films Black Narcissus, Stairway to Heaven and Red Shoes. Film buffs will love this!
Cameraman: the life and work of jack cardiff
Our film collection offers a wide variety of educational and documentary portraits of many fascinating and noteworthy individuals whose contributions, in most cases, left a significant mark on the historical record. Whether you’re a history buff or a student looking to supplement print resources, don’t forget to browse our biographical works. Over the years we’ve blended artsy documentaries like The Fog of War, I’m Still Here, Man on Wire, Tarnation, and In the Realms of the Unreal: The Mystery of Henry Darger with PBS portraits of Ansel Adams, Mark Twain, Ronald Reagan, Frida Khalo,Woody Gutherie, Walt Whitman, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Here’s a sampling of some of the persons you may want to learn more about:
George H.W. Bush
John and Abigail Adams
Robert E. Lee
Frank Lloyd Wright
Charles and Ray Eames
Oddballs and Miscellaneous
The Fab Five
Fog of war
Technically, I've missed the mid-year mark but here's a list of my picks for recommended film viewing. I'm sure other titles will end up on the year-end tally (I suspect P.T. Anderson's The Master will be my number one) but here's a start.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
In no way deserving of the hype that this buzzed about indie has received but certainly warrants watching. A five year old protagonist's cute face and acting chops can't save this picture's flaws but many will find its story uplifting and moving.
Damsels in Distress
Indie darling and pre-Wes Anderson autuer of the twee aristrocracy, Whit Stillman returns with a film that will no doubt divide audiences along love/hate lines.
The Turin Horse
Bleak, hopeless, painfully unfolded end of the world fair shot in a sumptuous black and white that will appeal to the existentialist-leaning devotees of Bresson, Bergman and Tarkovsky. No Michael Bay stuff here.
The Deep Blue Sea
A somber story of heartache and loss expressed through the fine acting of British actress Rachel Weisz.
Gerhard Richter Painting
A straight forward documentary that will likely appeal to those familiar with the world's most famous living painter's role in the shaping of post-war art.
The Turin Horse
There are quite a few similarities between the 1945 British drama Brief Encounter and the newly released Deep Blue Sea. Both stories are set in post-war England, a drab and darkly lit place where background buildings show the ill effects of Germany’s bombing raids and where the sun rarely shines. Both tales bring to light the inner frustration of women caught in difficult situations where the sum of their choices and regrets, understood as matters of the conflicted heart, may lead them down the road toward unhappiness or social stigma. Rachel Weisz is simply brilliant at playing the unhappy wife who falls for a younger, ex-fighter pilot to escape her bland, loveless marriage, only to find out that life is rarely forgiving when the comforts of privilege and stability are stripped away. I’ve always enjoyed the acting of Weisz and I’m hoping her performance receives some attention come award season. The film’s reoccurring score is also a lush and beautiful lament that captures the somber tone perfectly.
Brief Encounter, directed by the great British director David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, Bridge on the River Kwai) also tackles the subject of temptation and fidelity (see also: In the Mood for Love). A lonely but relatively content housewife meets a stranger at a railway station, sparks fly and the two develop a romance that may or may not lead to something further. Both films have very straightforward, traditional plots that rely heavily upon the authentic, emotional turmoil of conflicted characters and the choices they make and their subsequent consequences.
Deep blue sea
Casa de mi Padre (My Father's House) stars Will Ferrell. It
is a Spanish language film with English subtitles. It is done is the style of
the overly dramatic telenovelas. Armando Alvarez (Will Ferrell) has lived on
his father's ranch in Mexico his whole life. His father's ranch is in debt.
Armando's brother Raul comes home with his fiancee and says he will pay off the
debt. But Raul's income is from drug dealings. Armando falls for Raul's woman.
A war between Raul and Mexico's most feared drug lord, Onza ensues.
The story is ok but the spoof of telenovelas is what kept me
watching this movie. The mountain lion is made of paper mache and looks that
way on purpose. When Armando and Sonia are riding horses they show real horses
and then the next shot is of them on obviously fake horses. The part I liked
best was when they drove into town and parked their car. The film showed a
match box car driving on a cardboard cutout of a town. When you watch this
movie don't expect high grade CGI, this is a spoof movie of overly dramatic
telenovelas. Just go with it and let it roll.
Casa de mi Padre
The PBS television series The History Detectives, not known for drawing attention to itself, made headlines this week by declaring that they have found and authenticated the Fender guitar used by Bob Dylan at the legendary 1965 Newport Folk Festival. The current owners of the guitar, the daughter of a man who flew private planes for Dylan in the 60’s, claims that her father picked up the sunburst Stratocaster after it was left behind after a trip. Not so fast says Dylan’s representatives, who claim the famous axe is still in the possession of Dylan. Who is right? We’ll just have to see, given Dylan hasn’t stated whether or not he’ll actually provide physical proof to contradict the program’s evidence.
Several months earlier, Dylan and filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker joined forces to film several of his United Kingdom shows. Don’t Look Back is a classic rockumentary that takes you behind closed doors to give you access to a somewhat contrived Dylan and his growing dissatisfaction with fame and with his folkie fans. His sycophantic entourage and their gratuitous mocking of both the press and his contemporaries (see: Joan Baez and Donovan) are weaved in between the footage of Dylan playing songs from his albums Another Side of Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited.
Don't Look Back
Summertime in hot, hot, Michigan means getting out on the tennis courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, trails and of course, diving in the water. For those days where the sweltering weather is prohibitive for even the most dedicated of athletes, be sure to stop by the library and browse our eclectic collection of sports-related documentaries.
Muhammad and Larry
Jews and Baseball
Vintage World Series Films, Detroit
ABC Wide World of Sports: 40 Years of Glory
The Birth of Big Air
Thrilla in Manila
Only the Ball Was White
Jews and baseball
Bobby Fischer Against the World is a fascinating rise and fall portrait of a man that struggled with genius, fame and mental illness. From his troubled childhood to his triumphant victory over the Soviet world champion Boris Spassky in 1972 and concluding with his final days living in national disgrace and exile, Fischer captivated the world with both his extraordinary aptitude for chess and his often peculiar public image. A fair and balanced documentary that presents the perspectives and recollections of those who knew him best throughout his life, Fischer’s tumultuous story is both sad and bewildering.
Bobby Fischer Against the World
The multi-episode series On the Waterways is a fun documentary that takes the viewer along with a young ship crew of college-age adventurers and introduces us to the many individuals and communities that lie alongside a body of water, while highlighting the important role that water has played in the development of towns and economies throughout the United States. Narrated by the late actor Jason Robards, On the Waterways may look and feel a bit outdated but it still stands up as an entertaining and educational examination on the relationship between humans and their environment.
On the waterways
Writer and director Nora Ephron passed away yesterday from cancer. Some of her films include Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, Heartburn, and Julie & Julia. Known for quirky, romantic comedies, Ephron's work lives on here at KPL.
Julie & Julia
I don’t often use the superlative ‘masterpiece’ when describing movies but Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker warrants such a descriptor. This enigmatic allegory that routinely finds its way onto ‘Best Of’ lists was almost never made due to the careless corruption (it has been suggested that Soviet authorities were responsible for the film’s destruction) of the original film stock, which then forced its brilliant director to reshoot most of the film a second time even as his health declined.
Stalker, a parable film known for its long, beautifully developed scenes and cryptic plot, delves as deep as any film before or after into the murky, existentialist terrain that one finds in the cinematic work of masters Robert Bresson and Ingmar Bergman (Tarkovsky’s major influences). One of the most gorgeous films you will watch, Tarkovsky blends vibrant colors with sepia toned silver, with each shot meticulously filmed and edited to emphasize both nature’s beauty and its mysteries.
The film’s three characters (the Stalker, the Writer, the Professor) journey into a mysterious, quarantined off area referred to as The Zone for different reasons. Rumors abound of a secretive room that exists at the heart of this depopulated area that Soviet authorities have surrounded and barred entrance. The room will allegedly grant you a wish of your making. The Stalker, who is paid by The Scientist and the Writer to sneak them past the Soviet guards into The Zone may or may not be who he says he is. With a famous ending that rewards the patience of the viewer, Stalker is like no other film you will experience.
From time to time, a film buried long ago, unknown to most, emerges from its cult status to reclaim its proper place in the pantheon of great cinema. The 1956 documentary On the Bowery is one such film that can make that claim. Introduced by the legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who explains why he identifies with the film both on a personal and historical level (he grew up a few blocks away from where the film was shot), Lionel Rogosin’s On the Bowery takes the viewer to the famously impoverished New York City street known for housing the destitute and those suffering from alcohol abuse. While there is a very simplistic plot setup that frames the film’s three day course, most of the film captures the essence of the Bowery by employing a kind of impressionistic realism that gives the film its gritty, naturalistic look. Rogosin sought to portray his subjects sympathetically, simply showing their persoanl struggles without preaching or romanticizing their plight. The film was added to the prestigious National Film Registry in 2008 because of it groundbreaking stature.
On the bowery
For steadfast Beatles fan, this HBO documentary by Martin Scorsese is a must-see film. For the casual music buff, you’ll learn all about Harrison’s life as the “quiet Beatle”, from his austere, post-war Liverpool upbringing to life in the Fab Four and thereafter. Harrison’s unique contribution to both the music world and his interest in Indian spiritual practices are fully explored through old interview footage, concert clips and the honest remarks of friends and family like Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Olivia Harrison and Paul McCartney.
George Harrison: living in the material world
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.
Albert Nobbs is a movie set in the 19th century. Glenn Close plays Albert Nobbs a woman posing as a man in order to find work in 19th century Dublin, Ireland. What I loved about this movie is what a fine job the makeup crew did making Glenn Close into a man. Glenn Close play a mousey man to be sure and others in the movie thought him to be strange but you could not even guess that he was a woman. Albert kept to himself and personally I think he was a bit off in his dreams for the future. He was working as a waiter in a hotel and saving his money to buy a shop. He had visions of running a Tobacconist shop but he does not smoke, does not even know how to roll a cigarette.
The movie starts out showing us the hotel staff and their roles and shows us Albert. We do not know Albert is female until one night he is forced to share his room with the painter and a tic starts biting him. In an effort to get rid of the tic he removes his clothes and exposes his breasts. The Painter sees this and Albert is in a panic that he will be exposed. The Painter assures Albert he will not give him away and later in the movie after being pestered by Albert to keep his secret, the Painter (Spoiler Alert) opens his coat showing Albert that the he also is a woman and tells Albert his story. Albert is then fascinated with the fact that Hubert Page (the painter) is living her life as a man and has a wife. Albert fixates on this aspect and wonders how they sleep and did Hubert tell her before or after marriage that he was a woman. Albert wanting companionship decides that Helen, one of the maids, would be a good wife for him and asks her out for a walk. Helen uses Albert to get presents for her. Albert proposes marriage and Helen tells him he doesn't have a clue what it is to date a woman or even how to kiss one. After Typhoid sweeps through Dublin and kills off many including Hubert Page's wife Cathleen, Albert says to Hubert that he could take the place of Cathleen and Hubert and he could run the Tobacco shop together. Hubert tells Albert that that's not going to work that Cathleen was his universe. The movie is not a Disney happily ever after movie. Spoiler Alert. The movie does not end with Albert finding his own Cathleen, instead he winds up dying never getting his shop and all the money he as saved up does not go to the painter which would have made a bit of a happy ending or even to Helen to help with the baby. Instead the hotel owner finds it. Course this helps her keep the hotel open and everyone employed so not a dismal ending at least. The end scene shows the painter holding the baby and talking with Helen about the future. She tells him she is going to be tossed out and the baby taken away, he tells her we can't let that happen insinuating that they will become a unit and Hubert will take care of Helen. An ok ending for all except Albert who died. Course in my opinion he would have failed as a Tobacconist and would have just wasted all his money. I kept thinking the winner is the real estate agent with whom Albert gave deposit of a 100 pounds for the shop and would lose if he did not sign the contract by Monday. Albert saved for years to get enough money to buy a shop. Being dead and all the real estate agent gets to keep 100 pounds free and clear. This movie was about a lot of things, life in the 19th century, woman's rights etc. but I was thinking Hey, become a real estate agent and make some real money.
I’ve really enjoyed watching many of the sports-meets-society series called 30 for 30, produced by ESPN Films. Each film tackles a singular sports subject by broadening the scope of the featured topic by taking into account the social, economic, and cultural determinants as well as the historical impact. The films are well produced and include candid commentary by journalists, athletes and entertainers. One Night in Vegas details the final moments before the rapper Tupac Shakur was killed. The library owns the following films in this series:
Straight Outta L.A.
June 17th, 1994
One Night in Vegas
The Birth of Big Air
The Two Escobars
No Crossover: the trial of Allen Iverson
Little Big Men
Muhammad and Larry
One night in vegas
Every December, the National Film Preservation Board, established by Congress in 1988, chooses up to 25 movies to be added to the National Film Registry (NFR) List. The “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” films chosen must be at least 10 years old, though not necessarily of feature length, nor must they have been released to a theatrical audience (though you will recognize many that have.)
KPL has a great many of these films in our collection. I was intrigued to find a wide variety of movies, such as Halloween, El Norte, Toy Story (I) and Marian Anderson: the Lincoln Memorial Concert (produced in 1939.) Watch several of the shorts from the NFR list in Treasures from American Film Archives and More Treasures from American Film Archives
To learn more about NFR films, check out 2 books from our collection, both with the main title of America’s Film Legacy. The older edition focuses on the first 500 films on the list, while the newer version updates readers about 50 movies more recently added to the list.
To find NFR films in the KPL catalog in the future, choose Movie Search on the horizontal menu, and type “National Film Registry” in the Word or Phrase search field.
Treasures from American Film Archives
Can you name two other Romneys that have run for President? Of course, there is Mitt's dad George, but what about Hugh Romney who ran for President as a clown named "Nobody" in 1976? You might know him better as the 60’s counterculture icon Wavy Gravy, after whom Ben & Jerry named a very tasty ice cream flavor. When I lived in Berkeley, I always hoped I would catch a glimpse of him. We even tried trick-or-treating at his house, but he was not home. So I was excited to see that the library purchased the new documentary Saint Misbehavin’ about his life so far.
I knew about his Hog Farm Commune, his run for President, and his work with the SEVA Foundation and Camp Winnarainbow; a performing arts summer camp for inner city kids, but the documentary introduced me to so much more. I did not know that he was a Beat poet in the New York scene before heading to California, that he was the one making announcements at Woodstock like, “What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000,” or that Bob Dylan shared a room with him for a short time and wrote “A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall” on his typewriter.
If you are a fan of Wavy Gravy or have never heard of him, check out this documentary and catch his infectious commitment to change the world for the better.
For those too young to remember or to have lived during the Black Power Movement of the late 1960's, this film will function as an introduction to some of the seminal figures in this political and cultural movement designed to radically reorganize society, redistribute economic power more equitably and shift the Civil Rights Movement toward a more confrontational style. Black Power Mixtape, 1967-1975 is composed of mostly news footage shot by Swedish journalists eager to understand the explosive social issues confronting American society, namely, the role that key civil rights leaders like Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis and the Black Panthers were playing in rethinking the movement’s strategies and goals. Throughout the film, both new and old commentators alike (Erykah Badu, Harry Belafonte, Talib Kweli, and Melvin Van Peebles) share their thoughts about the legacy and importance of these historical figures and their relevance to today’s younger generation.
Black Power Mixtape
In the documentary Stone Reader, filmmaker Mark Moskowitz tries to locate the author of the 1972 novel The Stones of Summer, a book that was critically acclaimed when first published but that dissapeared from library shelves as quickly as its author dropped out of the limelight, never writing another book again. Moskowitz cites the book as one of his favorite reading experiences while in his twenties and is clearly fascinated by the cultural and pyschological power of great literature. He wonders why a writer as talented as Dow Mossman threw in the towell after his initial success. Along the way toward locating Mossman (assuming he does), Moskowitz interviews writers and critics about the creative process in an attempt to better understand what may have driven Mossman's retreat from writing. A small yet affecting film, Stone Reader will reinvigorate your love for the classics and for reading in general.
Comedic straight men are vastly underrated. Ask anyone who the funniest person on Arrested Development was, and they’ll say someone like Will Arnett or David Cross or Jessica Walter. But I’ll defy everybody and say that the MVP of that particular piece of television gold was Jason Bateman, who had to deal with a cadre of loonies while wearing a straight face and lobbing under-the-breath quips and deadpan one-liners that could steal the show from any chicken-dancing cast member. His was a subtly brilliant performance that provided a (mostly) levelheaded balance to the rest of the kinetic comedy going on around him, and he doesn’t get enough credit for it.
Bateman’s heir apparent to the Underappreciated Straight Man throne is Adam Scott. Scott’s been playing a wide variety of roles in both film and television since the nineties; he’s the kind of ubiquitous actor who, if you don’t know his name, certainly makes you think, “Hey, it’s that guy from that one thing.” Some people recognize him from his turn as Will Ferrell’s arrogant younger sibling in 2008’s Stepbrothers; others might know him from his stint on the critically-acclaimed-but-short-lived HBO drama Tell Me You Love Me. Of course now he’s best known for playing Ben Wyatt, Pawnee’s former assistant city manager, recovering Boy Mayor, and Leslie Knope’s go-to grope on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation. Here, much like Bateman, Scott repeatedly finds himself playing it straight to eccentrics like Aziz Ansari’s aspiring entrepreneur Tom Haverford and Chris Pratt’s dimwitted Andy. His comedic timing and down-to-earth wryness have helped turn Parks & Rec into what is easily the funniest show currently on television.
But the series that put Adam Scott on my radar was another short-lived gem known as Party Down. This two-season Starz comedy ran from 2009 to 2010 and follows the exploits of a small catering company in Los Angeles comprised of Hollywood outcasts—aspiring actors, comedians, and writers on the rumpled fringe of success, most of whom are waiting despondently for their big break. Scott plays disillusioned Henry Pollard, whose brief moment in the spotlight as the star of a popular nationwide beer commercial made him a household face, but ruined his career. Now Henry finds himself stuck in the aimless limbo of early adulthood, unsure of what his next step will be and haunted by the career that never was, thanks in particular to the constant stream of people who order him to recite his famous line from the old beer spot, “Are we having FUN yet?” Each time Henry is forced to repeat the catchphrase, Adam Scott lets you see a little bit of his character’s soul dying. It’s another one of Scott’s hilarious straight-man performances in the middle of a great show that ended too soon. So if you’re a fan of Parks and Recreation (and if you’re not, you should be), check out Party Down, because every time Adam Scott says, “Are we having FUN yet?” you’ll say, “Yes, Adam. We are. Thanks to you.”
Now it’s time for you to let us know: Who are some of your favorite underrated comedic actors and actresses?
Charles and Ray Eames were the two most popular American furniture designers during the 1950’s but they were more than just the creative face of mid-century, American modernism. They made a variety of different kinds of films, designed groundbreaking homes, constructed wartime leg splints using plywood, were commissioned to create animated commercials for IBM and much more. Follow this fascinating journey from their humble beginnings at the Michigan-based Cranbrook Academy of Art to the evolution of their successful firm in Los Angeles. Eames: The Architect and the Painter is a dazzling introduction for the lay person and a wonderful celebration of two of the most important artists of the 20th Century for the rabid fans of their coveted chairs.
Eames [videorecording] : the architect and the painter
Thanks to the strong acting performance of Oscar nominated actor Demian Bichir, hopefully more film fans will be drawn to the emotionally moving and poignant film A Better Life. The storyline is straight forward and echoes other journey films of immigrant life like El Norte or In America. The narrative centers on the personal struggle of a single father working to keep his son from gravitating toward the allure of gang life while he works toward starting his own landscaping business amidst the constant threat of deportation. A wonderful and affecting film about the love between father and son, A Better Life balances sentimentality with the material realism of today’s immigrant experience.
A Better Life
I should warn you that this blog post is not actually about cats, despite the titular tease of feline tomfoolery. So if you were lured in with the promise of kitties doing adorable things, well then, you probably haven’t even bothered to read to the end of this sentence. I only mention cat videos because they are, as we all know, The Reason the Internet Was Invented. Who doesn’t love to watch cute, playful creatures getting themselves into all sorts of mischievous situations? And it doesn’t stop with our solitary enjoyment; once we catch a kitty giving a dog a back massage or playing the keyboard or flushing the toilet ad infinitum, we have to make sure everyone else we know and love sees that video too. We share it on Facebook, we Tweet about it, and we talk about it in our daily conversations. The next thing you know, somebody’s puddy tat has been seen by millions of people virtually overnight. Of course, these memes don’t have to be about cats. They can be music videos, famous quotes, photographs, articles, or any other sort of thing that makes you laugh, think, dance or feel inspired. My point (which I am somewhat habitually and infamously taking my sweet time to get to) is that—before the Internet gave us YouTube and other social media outlets—it used to be a lot harder to create “viral” pop culture sensations.
That’s right, kids. As recently as the late 90s, someone would have to resort to compact discs or—gasp!—VHS cassettes to spread sound or video recordings to their friends. Today, I can give hundreds of my Facebook friends the opportunity to laugh at Rebecca Black’s “Friday” video or the strategic ineptitudes of Leeroy Jenkins with just a few clicks of the mouse. 15 years ago I would have needed a VCR and some gas money to get them to just a few dozen. Fortunately for us, there are two great documentaries that you can check out chronicling the Dark Ages of viral recordings with a couple of infamous examples that you may have missed.
The recently-released documentary Shut Up Little Man: An Audio Misadventure tells the story of two young guys named Eddie and Mitch who, in the late 80s, created a pop culture sensation after recording the nightly screaming matches coming from the apartment next door. Their neighbors were an odd couple; a pair of older, anger-filled alcoholics who fought loudly and incessantly, and their profanity-laced, often nonsensical arguments were so jaw-droppingly shocking (and yet darkly hilarious) that Eddie and Mitch decided to record them lest no one believe the stories. Those sound recordings would be passed from friend to friend until, years later, they would be the source of inspiration for comic books, movies, a play and other culturally-inspired art.
Another documentary—this one from 2010—is called Winnebago Man, and it’s about a former RV salesman named Jack Rebney who, in the 80s, became infamous when the outtakes of a commercial he was filming were passed around, catching him in some notably cantankerous and (again) profanity-filled behavior. Still alive, Rebney is now a bit of a hermit but just as crotchety as ever, and the filmmakers’ interviews and Rebney’s subsequent confrontation with his cult popularity make for a wholly enjoyable look at an early viral phenomenon.
So, dear patrons, what are some of your favorite viral videos? What is it about these kinds of videos that make you want to share them with your family and friends? Curious minds want to know…
And now, a trailer for Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure…
…and a trailer for Winnebago Man…
…and for those who stuck around even after finding out I wasn’t writing about kitties, I’ll throw in a cat video just for you.
Shut Up Little Man: An Audio Misadventure
A classic is a work of art that can stand the test of time and remain relevant, fresh and engaging years after its creation. It possesses the internal mechanisms and universal themes to produce pleasure and awake interest in its audience year after year. Its appeal will carry on long after trends and fads dissolve into the dustbin of historical detritus. The films of John Hughes are unquestionably considered classics today by both the navel gazing critic and the new movie fan alike. Hughes worked mostly in the 1980’s, mostly concentrating his writing and directing on intelligently conceived teen comedies (The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful) that possessed depth, dimension and pathos, characteristics that were rare for youth-centered movies of the eighties. Hughes had a string of hits that he either wrote or directed beginning with Sixteen Candles (1984) thru Home Alone (1990).
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a hilarious romp that follows the afternoon adventures of a school skipping Ferris, his girlfriend Sloane and his best friend Cameron, launched the career of Matthew Broderick and also featured a cameo from a young Charlie Sheen. Arguably one of Hughes’ best “teen” films, it continues to feel unsullied by time, even today, twenty six years after it was released.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
The film review web site rottentomatoes.com gave the documentary film The Interrupters a score of 99 percent “Fresh”. Other movie critics have also been quick to praise the gritty, unromanticized film that brings to light the challenges faced by a small group of urban mediators tirelessly working to halt violence and resolve conflict on Chicago’s most unforgiving streets. Day after day, shooting after shooting, the members of CeaseFire take to the streets in Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods to work with communities on how to better resolve disputes. You’ll learn about the personal stories of these community heroes and why they’ve dedicated their lives to stem the tide of youth violence when the odds are so clearly stacked against them. There is little discussion of the social and economic factors that play a central role in why violence is such an epidemic fact of everyday life in many parts of the United States however even as it refuses to explore solutions or to critically analyze the roots of violence, this striking film is well worth exploring. Here is a video clip of one of the featured interrupters on the Colbert Report.
Like many of the famous rock stars of the 1960’s who lived fast and died young, Jean-Michel Basquiat exploded on to the world art scene in the early 1980’s, made a sizeable impact on the development of painting, was befriended by his idol Andy Warhol, grabbed headlines as an enfant terrible, and then was dead at 27. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child chronicles the meteoric rise and fall of this painter whose relationship to the art world was deeply complicated. Once the beloved darling of the downtown art scene, then castigated as a manufactured, one-hit wonder, Basquiat’s legacy and artistic achievements have been firmly cemented with the passage of time. This is a perfect documentary to watch in celebration of Black History Month.
Jean-Michel Basquiat: the radiant child
The Guard is a dark comedy set in a small town in Ireland. It's also a throwback buddy film where two cops from different backgrounds work together to fight crime while insulting eachother. It has its tender moments but for the most part, The Guard is all about the genre and complying with the dictates of cliche. The great character actor Don Cheadle plays an uptight FBI agent sent to provincial Ireland to bust a drug ring. Along the way, he encounters the eccentric and verbally unfiltered policeman Gerry Boyle, who has his own method of conducting police investigations. The two bristle at one another’s approach, disliking the other’s personality but like all buddy films, they come to find common ground in bringing the bad guys to justice.
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 Elephant Man
The Breakfast Club
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Tree of Life
Cool Hand Luke
All the President’s Men
Night of the Hunter
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Rebel Without a Cause
The Way We Were
The Royal Tenenbaum’s
A Few Good Men
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Coal Miner’s Daughter
Dead Man Walking
The Shawshank Redemption
Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
My Own Private Idaho
The Deer Hunter
A Streetcar Named Desire
Full Metal Jacket
Little Big Man
Kramer Vs Kramer
The Last Picture Show
Do the Right Thing
Frankie and Johnny
My Life as a Dog
Wings of Desire
Silence of the Lambs
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
The Big Lebowski
In the Mood for Love
Days of Heaven
Glengarry Glen Ross
The professional [videorecording]
Of the films nominated for the best picture award at this year’s Academy Awards, my vote goes to the impressive, sprawling, sublimely beautiful Tree of Life. Terrence Malick is one of my favorite directors and so it comes as no surprise that I’m voting for this ambitious, yet not altogether perfect allegory that mixes the personal with the historical, the metaphysical with the existential with lush, painterly strokes. Tree of Life is more like a romantic painting or an extended tone poem than a linear, Hollywood cliché designed to sell overpriced candy and heart-stopping popcorn and for that reason alone, it will not win.
On a side note, the film's studio has elected not to release this film as a stand-alone DVD in an attempt to boost its Blu-ray sales and to shift consumer buying practices. Unfortunately, libraries are then only able to circulate the extra DVD's that come with the Blu-ray editions.
Tree of Life
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.)
Over the holiday I was able to catch up on some film titles from the past year that I had failed to see during the previous twelve months. In particular, I enjoyed two documentaries, Page One: inside the New York Times and Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, that were both listed on KPL staff 2011 Best of Lists. While very different in style and content, the films relate in my opinion because the subject of each documentary seem to be, at least at some level, “in” on the project and are using the documentary format to take a position and very effectively tell the audience something about themselves. In the case of Page One, it’s the NYT convincing us that they remain relevant and the authoritative place for news in an ever splintering media landscape, and in the case of Conan O’Brien, which was filmed in the aftermath of O’Brien’s famously contentious split with NBC and Jay Leno, its O’Brien convincing us that he is an incredibly, almost compulsively, driven entertainer. Both films have compelling characters featured prominently, with Page One its NYT media and culture columnist David Carr – who, after watching this film, I think of as the Keith Richards of journalism – and with Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop it has to be O’Brien himself, he is in nearly every frame of the film and working incredibly hard to entertain everyone near him during his every waking second. I’m glad that I had the time to watch both films, and I recommend using KPL staff picks, our Movies and Music pages, and KPL staff in all our locations to help keep your “to watch” lists full of great titles.
Page One: inside the New York Times
As a new year is upon us, and we all march onward indefinitely through time, I need to admit something both to myself and to the world; I have made a huge mistake in my life. Sure, we all make mistakes, but this is a big one. What is this mistake I'm speaking of? Well, best I just get it all out in the open. The mistake is...I had never actually watched Carl Sagan's Cosmos...until just a week or so ago.
Why is that such a terrible mistake? Well, if you're asking yourself that question, you must have never seen Cosmos yourself. In that case, I think you can deduce what needs to be done!
In all seriousness though, Cosmos is a brilliant mini-series on all things related to our world, our universe, and our own existence. Deep stuff, right? Of course it is. But, what makes Cosmos so great isn't merely the information it presents to the viewer (that is, of course, an important part). However, it's Sagan's ability to present this information in the most insightful, caring and humble manner that really allows the grandeur of the ideas presented to resonate deep within.
I've attended school practically all of my life, spent countless hours learning about the stars, planets, galaxies, etc., but I never felt like any of it really connected to me. None of it ever seemed as poetic or purposeful as the way Sagan is able to describe and explain it.
Amazing as it may seem, the TV series originally aired in 1980, but the show rarely feels dated. Sure, clothing styles have changed and technology has undergone massive improvements, but the majority of the material still feels fresh and current. It would seem that humanity continues to search for answers to the same questions, now over thirty years in the future.
In short, if you have any interest in this type of subject matter, this is a series that begs to be watched. The 13 one-hour episodes may seem daunting at first, but you'll soon find yourself so enthralled that you'll probably wish there were 13 more.
You can check out all 13 hours on just 7 DVDs, all in one package, at the downtown location. Plus, you can renew as many times as needed - as long as no one else wants what you've borrowed! So, sit back, open your mind, and prepare to take a trip on the "Spaceship of the imagination."
A difficult documentary to summarize, Nostalgia for the Light is one of the best nonfiction films I’ve seen in a while. The film is not about one thing in particular but rather synthesizes relatively tangential subjects into a beautiful lament for innocence lost and memories of lost ones. Beautifully crafted, NFTL ties the scientific quest for understanding the origins of our planet with the somber task of mourning and emotional closure for victims of the Chilean military coup in 1973. Highly recommended.
Nostalgia for the Light