Staff Picks: Movies
Staff-recommended viewing from the KPL catalog.
The great movie directors have always shown an interest in exploring the subject of growing up and the themes of adolescent awakening, rites of passage and the sometimes complex depiction of individuals straddling both adulthood and childhood. As many different kinds of filmmakers as there are, so to have these kinds of movies been varied, both in terms of genre, point of view and style. Childhood it would appear from some of the beloved films that have been inspired by the subject, is messy, complicated and rendered as a darn right miserable experience.
Youth’s opposite condition, the aging process and growing old has also been explored with both tenderness and horror. Sometimes depicted with gritty realism, other times with romantic sentimentality, many of these films examine the way that the elderly either flourish by growing open to new and different ideas about what it means to live or in some cases, investigate the many difficulties that the elderly are confronted with. Here is a brief list of some of the great films that tackle the subject of both youth and the elderly with intelligence, artfulness and humanity.
Harry and Tonto
Harold and Maude
Away from Her
On Golden Pond
The Up Series
The Straight Story
Murmur of the Heart
My Life as a Dog
Mon Oncle Antoine
Stand by Me
Kid with a Bike
Spirit of the Beehive
The Ice Storm
Harry and Tonto
Sleepwalk with me is about a comedian who has REM disorder disease. Matt is a comedian who is currently working as a bartender and Abby is his girlfriend. They go to his sister’s engagement party and his parents and friends are putting pressure on him to get married. His sister had been seeing her guy for only two and half hears while Matt has been with Abby for eight years His girlfriend is great, can sing, people love her. I think one of the telling lines is when Matt tells his sister everyone thinks Abby is amazing; mom and dad think she is amazing, our friends think she is amazing. I think everyone thinks the best thing about my life is my girlfriend. Matt is not ready for marriage and the pressure causes him to sleepwalk. At his parent’s house during a sleep walking episode he thinks the hamper is a jackal and he is kicking it. Matt gets an agent and she sends him on some comedy gigs. They are scattered about the east coast and involve a lot of driving and time away from home. He becomes exhausted and the sleep walking episodes get worse. His comedy, however, gets better. At one comedy club a veteran comedian talks with him off stage and Matt makes a joke about marriage. The veteran says that’s funny you should use it in your show. Matt’s comedy gets funnier as he jokes with the audience about marriage, making fun of it. One night Abby comes home at 4 am very drunk and starts to pack a suitcase, Matt wants her to stay and agrees to get married in the summer. As we watch Abby plan for the wedding and Matt touring and doing his comedy act we see his sleepwalking progress until finally he thinks a missile is coming at him (signifying the upcoming wedding) and he jumps out of a second story window. This is a deadpan humor type of story; the most humorous parts are his sleepwalking dreams. It’s a real type of story, real issues, real struggles, real relationship problems, with comedy sprinkled in especially in the sleepwalking dreams.
Sleepwalk with Me
After watching the Academy Award winning film (Best Foreign Language Film) Amour, a film of tremendous emotional intensity and tenderness, I needed to view a film that took me away into a fantasy world comprised of silly hijinks, screwball comedy and that starred classic Hollywood actors. I found that film in the classic 1938 comedy, Bringing Up Baby, a hilarious romp of absurdity and folly that was the perfect antithesis to Amour’s touching but grim story of the final weeks of an elderly couple’s marriage. Both pictures represent the best and breadth of the library’s film collection, one that has a little bit of everything.
Wiener Dog Nationals is a cute children movie. We have a family with a mother who has died recently but not that recent, like 2 years ago. So we have a father raising 3 children; one is 18 and the other 2 are like boy age 8 and girl age 6. The boy discovers a picture of his mother as a child with a wiener dog (dachshund) and she used to race the dog and win trophies. Nowhere in this movie do we hear anyone say dachshund it is always Wiener dog, just like the title of the movie. For his birthday he wishes for a wiener dog. He names it Shelly because he got it from a shelter. He and his sister are in a fast food place and there is a girl signing up people for the Wiener dog races, what are the odds. Morgan Fairchild is a rich lady who plays dirty tricks to try and eliminate Shelly from competing in the race. She has won for the past 2 years. The movie is your typical child movie, Morgan Fairchild is shown doing nasty things and being rude so you hate her. The boy with the dog is nice and friendly with the other contestants especially a dog called handshake who can do one trick, bet you can’t guess what it is, yep Shake Hands. His owner is a girl of about 8 same age as the boy. The dad meets and falls in love with the girl (Alicia Witt) who was signing up people for the race. Shelly wins Nationals. Happiness reigns for all in the end. Two things that did bug me about this movie, when cleaning up from the birthday, the dad tosses the left over cake into a garbage bag. Who does that, you keep the cake and have more of it later. The second was more of a continuity issue. Shelly hurts her paw. They show her raising her right front paw as if it is hurt but they bandage the right rear paw. I even rewound to make sure I saw the correct paw. But hey, I wasn’t watching this for accuracy just for a good time. It’s cute, if you have children or just like these movies Check it out at KPL.
Wiener Dog Nationals
Famously shy and reclusive writer/director Terrence Malick burst into the spotlight with his extraordinary debut Badlands(1973), a classic of American filmmaking starring a young Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen. The library has recently picked up the expanded and refurbished Criterion Collection edition which features recollections from the two actors and the art director. Fans of Malick’s impressionistic and painterly films (The Thin Red Line, Tree of Life, Days of Heaven, The New World) will certainly want to see this version in all of its restored vibrancy. After watching this amazing film, loosely based on the Charles Starkweather murders of the late 1950’s, I’ve attempted to come up with a short list of significant directorial debut films that we currently have in our collection.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
The Night of the Hunter
A Bout De Souffle (Breathless)
Knife in the Water
Killer of Sheep
The 400 Blows
The Trouble with the Curve is about an aging Atlanta Braves baseball scout, Clint Eastwood, who uses his experience and gut to pick a player vs. the modern way with computers. Clint Eastwood is a cantankerous man who loves baseball, misses his dead wife and has a love but leave me alone relationship with his daughter, Amy Adams. They convey all this to us in the first few minutes, by showing Clint Eastwood home alone, stumbling into a coffee table and kicking it out of the way and, my favorite, getting a can of spam and eating directly out of the can. (Side note, shortly after seeing this I bought a can of spam. I did not eat it directly out of the can mainly, because my wife is still alive and would not let me, but I did dump it out on to a plate and cut off a hunk and ate it raw, after first verifying that it is fully cooked.)
Philip is one of the new upcoming modern computer wise scouts with ambition and is trying to push Clint Eastwood out of the way. The movie centers around the scouting of a likely looking baseball player in North Carolina; do the Braves sign him, do the Red Socks, is he a good pick? OK, so now let’s add in some other things. Clint Eastwood is losing is eyesight, Amy Adams is his lawyer daughter and lets spice it up, Justin Timberlake is a scout for the Red Socks and likes Amy Adams.
You do not have to know about baseball to like this movie but if you do it probably enhances it for you. Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake have drinking contest about past players and infamous plays. Personally, I did not know who or what they were talking about but still enjoyed their competition, drink if you do not know. I wasn’t drinking Justin and Amy were.
The movie gets its name from a type of pitch, The Curve, they also call it the change up unless I got that confused with one of those other pitches. Amy Adams and Clint Eastwood see Bo Gentry as having a major flaw in that he cannot hit a curve ball, hence the title of the movie. They talk about Bo hitching and his hand drifting. I have no idea what that means but you do not have to, Clint Eastwood knows and it is this personal seeing with his own eyes, hearing the clink of the bat that makes him a better scout than the computer. There was one part of the movie that I can relate to on a personal level, there is a batter who is up just before Bo Gentry and Gentry says get a hit so he, Gentry, can get up to hit. This poor little scrawny, glasses wearing guy is now praying to God to get him on base. He gets hit with the ball and gets to walk to his base. On his way he is saying to God, perhaps you misinterpreted my request. This part of the movie, while not in any way the major thrust of the movie, hit home for me. How many times was I up to bat and said the same prayer and sadly it was in Softball (which for those who do not know, is a bigger ball and as its name implies softer). You rarely get to take your base for getting hit by a softball. My prayer was broader than this guy’s, he wanted to get on base thus preserving Gentry’s ups. My prayer was just let me hit it, I did not care where it went just let me hit it.
Clint Eastwood is struggling to hang on to being useful, more than that, to being independent. He is getting older, computers are encroaching in on him, his eyesight is failing. Amy Adams sacrifices her promotion, her boyfriend, in order to be with her dad and help him. Ok so did you get the gist of this movie, it involves baseball but it is more than a movie about baseball, it is a movie about family love, old age, scum who try to push you out of the way and about what is really important in life. And hey if that is not enough for you, then watch Justin Timberlake and Amy Adams both are cute as a button.
The Trouble with the Curve
Have you ever thought what it would be like to be just a Head. You could not move your arms of your legs. The Intouchables is a story about such a man and his caregiver. Philippe is a French aristocrat who has a great life until his wife gets a disease and dies and Philippe who was always into high adventure, goes paragliding and crashes. He crushed his 3rd and 4th vertebrae and is now a quadriplegic. The movie is about the relationship of Philippe and Driss. Philippe is interviewing numerous caregivers, they all have great credentials and PHDs. Driss is applying because in order to draw is benefit (unemployment check) he need to show he is actively looking for a job, he has no real desire to have this job. He talks to Philippe in an off hand manner, “don’t get up”. Philippe likes him because he doesn’t treat Philippe as an invalid. Driss is offered and takes the job. We are given glimpses into what Philippe has to do every day. Massages for the arms and legs, strapped in a chair so he doesn’t fall out, turning pages with a stick in his mouth. Driss asks him if he ever thought of just shooting himself. Philippe says yes but I cannot move my arms or legs so I am stuck. Luckily for Philippe he is rich. He says the Doctors can keep him alive until he is 70. Philippe introduces Driss to the arts, and music, Bach etc. Driss also shows Philippe what he considers good music Earth, Wind and Fire. Driss is a kid from the streets. He introduces Philippe to smoking marijuana to help with the pain. When Philippe has to travel they go the van and Driss says no way is he loading Philippe in the back of the van like a horse, he puts him in the front seat of a muscle car and roars down the road. This is a story of a developing friendship. This movie is foreign and in French so if you do not understand French, you could take a crash course on our Rocket Language lessons, free if you have a library card or for this you could turn on the subtitles. The thing that really touched me is that this is a true story. At the end of the movie they show the people that this movie was based on.
Have you ever thought what it would be like to be just a Head
When I started watching John Dies at the End I knew it was science fiction and that it was different. I wasn’t really ready for how different it was. It was a real Mind Tripper. And even though I had talked about this movie with our resident movie expert at KPL, Dan, I was not ready for the girl to turn into a bunch of snakes. Dan did not forewarn me about that and he knows I have a phobia about snakes. I was scurrying to grab the remote control and fast forward not carrying what dialog I missed. If you are not bothered by snakes this movie has it fair share of bugs and other disgusting looking creatures. John and some others are enticed by a drug called Soy Sauce which we find is linked to an alternate reality’s world attempt to take over our world. Dave is John’s best friend and it is up to the two of them to stop the invasion. Time travel is involved, Dave is constantly getting calls from future John. The movie has a lot of action, then seems to stop for dialog period where Dave is talking to a reporter or the police or John on the phone then it jumps back into action and people explode or have their head blown off by a shotgun and then set on fire and they may or may not die. I would say that Dave and John are pretty laid back dudes, not much frazzles them. When pieces of meat from the freezer start coming together to form a meat monster they take it in stride, tell it to hang on a second while they make a phone call. They then hand the phone to the monster who takes it and he listens and then falls all apart, end of monster. This is a movie for adults not children and it is for adults who are willing to just be entertained and not try to point out the flaws in the time travel and are ok with someone finding their cut off head, putting it back on and fastening it with fishing line then looking for the guy who cut off his head.
John Dies at the End
I love Morgan Freeman. He has a way of talking. Like when he is teaching the dog to fetch a ball. Morgan Freeman throws it and the dog just lays there. He says “Maybe it’s the word Fetch that doesn’t resonant perhaps retrieve will stimulate some long dormant instinct” or when he is invited to a seven year olds party he says “I greatly appreciate being included in your celebratory plans and I will be sure to mark that special day on my calendar.” In this movie, The Magic of Belle Isle, Monte Wildhorn (Morgan Freeman) is a writer of western novels whose wife died seven years ago and with her passing he gave up writing. We see him arrive at the island brought there by his nephew. Monte is in a wheel chair a bit cantankerous and drinking heavily. He moves in next door to Charlotte O’Neil (Virginia Madsen) and her three daughters. The middle daughter, Finnegan asks Monte to teach her how to use her imagination. Monte becomes her mentor. As time passes, Monte develops a fondness for the O’Neils and they of him. The plot is predicable but who cares, you get a warm feeling of happiness from this movie and that’s all that matters. Monte does write some a story or two, but not a western. It’s about an elephant, the youngest girl loves elephants. Through the story of the elephant Monte lets Charlotte know that he likes her and for those of us too dense to figure it out Charlotte while reading the story says I think he likes me. Monte is invited over for dinner and Charlotte plays the piano. Monte comments that for playing like that he would leave his windows open. Later in the movie when Luke and Joe are trying to buy the rights to the books to make a movie we hear piano playing. Monte tells Luke and Joe that the music is for him and it’s personal so they have to go. Monte lies in bed listening to the music and dreams of sipping wine with Charlotte and dancing by moonlight. He is awakened by the dog licking his face. I don’t think it will spoil anything to let you know that the dog eventually does fetch a ball. They show that very comically. Monte tosses the ball and the dog heads in the exact opposite direction. Monte says “I admire consistency” then the dog shows up with the ball. This could be a Hallmark movie of the week. I loved it mostly because of Morgan Freeman and his portrayal of Monte Wildhorn. Give it a watch some time when you want a warm fuzzy.
The Magic of Belle Isle
It’s pretty easy to argue that movie expert Roger Ebert was America’s First Film Critic, in the sense that he was the country’s most well-known and respected reviewer of cinema. Ebert passed away yesterday from complications due to cancer. Ebert and the late Gene Siskel introduced millions of Americans to thoughtful conversations about both commercial and artistic-oriented films with their Saturday afternoon television show that aired from the mid 1980’s until Siskel’s death in 1999. Ebert’s brilliant reviews, many of which are collected in numerous books, are an excellent starting point for the novice fan of film to introduce themselves to the treasure trove of great movies. Ebert was known for his superb prose, much of which eschewed jargon and obtuse forms of critical theory. He also had a keen ability to criticize films he found intellectually stupefying or devoid of purpose with a biting sense of humor, some of which can be found below.
“The Last Airbender is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here. It puts a nail in the coffin of low-rent 3D, but it will need a lot more coffins than that.”
“Battlefield Earth is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It’s not merely bad; it’s unpleasant in a hostile way.”
“Dice Rules is one of the most appalling movies I have ever seen. It could not be more damaging to the career of Andrew Dice Clay if it had been made as a documentary by someone who hated him. The fact that Clay apparently thinks this movie is worth seeing is revealing and sad, indicating that he not only lacks a sense of humor, but also ordinary human decency.”
“Saving Silverman is so bad in so many different ways that perhaps you should see it, as an example of the lowest slopes of the bell-shaped curve. This is the kind of movie that gives even its defenders fits of desperation. Consider my friend James Berardinelli, the best of the Web-based critics. No doubt 10 days of oxygen deprivation at the Sundance Film Festival helped inspire his three-star review, in which he reports optimistically, ‘Saving Silverman has its share of pratfalls and slapstick moments, but there’s almost no flatulence.’ Here’s a critical rule of thumb: You know you’re in trouble when you’re reduced to praising a movie for its absence of fart jokes, and have to add ‘almost.’”
And one of his most famous disses concerns Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. It "is a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments. One of these involves a dog-like robot humping the leg of the heroine. Such are the meager joys. If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination."