Staff Picks: Movies
Staff-recommended viewing from the KPL catalog.
Federico Fellini’s most well-known film and a classic of Italian cinema, 8 and 1/2 continues to stand-up as a trailblazing film that introduced viewers in 1963 to an overly self-conscious form of storytelling that mixes fiction, memoir and dreamy surrealism together as a prophetic statement about the nature of celebrity, the mass media and the pressure to create art even when uninspired. Self-referential, wildly imaginative and irreverent, this classic film points the finger at the film industry and increasingly aggressive media while humorously mocking the hollowness of fame. Poking fun at both himself and his critics (both Catholics and Communists), Fellini delights in highlighting the absurdity and emotional alienation of those forced into positions of creating successful commerce while their personal life grows increasingly dysfunctional. See a trailer here.
8 and 1/2
I am just smitten with Call the Midwife. Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, this BBC-produced series takes us back to the beginning of Worth’s career as a nurse-midwife in east end London during the post-war 1950s. We see her first arrive at Nonnatus House, where she and several other midwives minister to the varying social and health needs of their patients and families.
Jessica Raine portrays Jenny as kind, caring, and extremely sheltered. She knows naught from personal experience of bug infestations, dealing with the complications of syphilis, the desperation that drives 15-year old girls into prostitution. Over time, she shows her grit, combined with deep compassion, to become a fine midwife.
Still, it’s Nurse Camilla Fortescue Chumley Browne (Miranda Hart,) better known as ‘Chummy,’ who steals the show for me. When we first see her, she quips, “pa used to say ‘long dogs need short names.’” As she struggles to build her nursing skills, wrestles to learn bike riding (their primary form of transportation to their patients,) and overcome Sister Evangelina’s obvious disdain, she grabs the funniest lines and breathtaking moments.
Though based in the ‘50s, the show doesn’t lack for graphic intensity. You’ll see live births and hear the raw, honest language of the EastEnders. Set aside several hours, so you can watch without pause. Fortunately for all of us, the next season is on order and in our catalog, so we can place our holds now!
Call the Midwife
Normally when the character of Veronica Mars calls for backup, she’s summoning Backup, the intimidating canine that accompanies her when she’s heading into a dangerous situation—which, as a sharp-witted, young-adult private investigator in the fictional town of Neptune, California, she often is. But last week, Mars called for backup from a different source: fans of the much-loved, short-lived eponymous television program on which she originated. On April 13th, Veronica Mars the television show—which went off the air in 2007 after a mere three seasons—made headlines when its creator, Rob Thomas (no, not that one), and star, Kristen Bell, launched a Kickstarter project that would fund a feature film, giving new life to a cult classic and furthering the adventures of one of TV’s most beloved heroines.
For those of you unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it’s a website where motivated folks can announce projects for which they want to raise money—films, music albums, business ventures, etc.—and the general public can contribute donations, usually for some sort of tiered reward. Creators set financial goals and have a limited amount of time (30 or 60 days) to reach them. If they hit their mark, they get all the money they’ve raised to that point; if they fail, they get nothing. The “Veronica Mars Movie Project” set the highest goal in Kickstarter history: they needed to raise two million dollars in 30 days. They did it in 11 hours, becoming the fastest project on the site to hit that amount of money. As of this writing, the project has raised nearly $3.7 million—well over its goal.
If you’ve seen Veronica Mars, there’s a good chance you loved it enough to kick in a few shekels (as I assuredly did). If you haven’t watched the show, then now’s a good time to jump in head-first! Here’s the basic premise: Veronica is a high-school (later, college) student who moonlights as a private investigator for her detective father, Keith. He was once the town sheriff, but was removed from office in disgrace after accusing a local billionaire of killing his own daughter, who was Veronica’s best friend. This made both father and daughter unpopular around town. In each episode, Veronica tackles a mystery, while also investigating a season-long crime. Despite the fact that it never caught on with a large audience, VM developed a strong cult following thanks to its loveable characters, strong plots, clever writing, and hilariously quotable dialogue. So check out the DVDs of all three seasons—you won’t regret it.
While End of Watch’s storyline doesn’t break new ground (Cops vs Drug Cartel) in terms of fresh subject matter, the affecting bond between the two LAPD officers and the remarkable performances delivered by the actors Michael Pena and Jake Gyllenhaal are enough to recommend this gritty, police drama, written by David Ayer (Training Day). See a trailer here.
End of Watch
In preparation for St. Patrick's Day, be sure to stop in and check out some of the many films that we own that feature the Emerald Isle. We have biographies, history, travel, documentaries and feature length films that highlight the rich and vibrant culture of Ireland.
The Quiet Man
Rattle and Hum
Beckett on Film
The Swell Season
The Wind That Shakes the Barley
My Left Foot
Rick Steves' Ireland & Scotland
A Love Divided
The Butcher Boy
If you like sweet and charming dramas with a pinch of humor, may I suggest the film Liberal Arts. How I MetYour Mother’s Josh Radnor wrote, directed and starred in this film about an increasingly disaffected thirty-something suffering from a bad case of nostalgia for his college days after he finds himself stuck in an emotional rut. After being asked by one of his former college professors (Richard Jenkins) to come back to his Ohio alma mater to attend a retirement dinner, Jesse realizes how much he misses the excitement, innocence and idealism of being nineteen, intellectually hungry and feeling optimistic. Such euphoria leads him to Zibby, a classical music-loving sophomore co-ed (Elizabeth Olsen) who is talented, precocious and drawn to Jesse’s enthusiastic love of books and because he's not the typical college boy she's interested in. As their relationship develops, the issue of their age gap comes into play while Jesse’s former professor struggles with his own anxiety about his post-employment future. Liberal Arts is definitely sappy in places and oozes with maudlin marrow but if you can get past some of the movie’s weaker elements, you’ll find the core of the story’s message about aging with grace relatively well-intended and affecting.
Another Oscar season has come to a close, and it was quite a successful one at that. There were very few upsets or surprises, which helped this movie geek dominate his Oscar pool, getting 21 out of 24 correct – a tie for my all-time best. The Academy made up for snubbing director Ben Affleck by awarding Best Picture to the well-deserved Argo. The visually-stunning Life of Pi took home the most of the night with four, including one for director Ang Lee, who managed to turn what many felt was an unfilmable book into a crowd-pleaser. Skyfall became the first James Bond film to win an Oscar since 1965’s Thunderball. Lincoln ’s Daniel Day-Lewis became the first person ever to win Best Actor three times. And Pixar’s Brave just beat out the video-game-themed Wreck-It Ralph for Best Animated Feature, which is ironic considering poor Ralph spends his entire movie trying to win a trophy just so people will love him. You’ve earned top score from me, Ralph.
If you’re behind in your Oscar viewing, a handful of these award-winners are available for home viewing now, right here at the Kalamazoo Public Library:
Several of the Oscar winners are coming soon, and you can place a hold on them now:
Check back for the availability of Silver Linings Playbook, winner of Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence); Les Misérables, winner of Best Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway), Makeup & Hairstyling, and Sound Mixing; and Amour, winner of Best Foreign Film. The release dates of these films will probably be announced soon.
So what did you think of the Oscars? What were you glad to see win? Which categories would you have preferred to go differently? What was your favorite film of 2012?
The Grey is about a plane crash in the Alaska wilderness and the survivors being hunted by wolves. Ottway (Liam) is hired to protect the pipeline guys. They show him shoot a wolf right in the beginning of the movie, thus establishing him as a good shot with a rifle and their defender. I thought The Grey was going to be all about Liam Neeson protecting the survivors of the plane crash and indeed it was but no gun. I guess if he had a gun it would have been too easy. The movie starts out showing the men working on the pipeline, Ottway shoots the wolf then we are in their bar at the base camp and we get sort of introduced to the characters. Then it’s off to the plane and pretty much right away the plane crashes and the movie gets going with its major thrust of surviving the wolves. I mean the movie is called The Grey. Liam organizes the remaining men, a wolf attacks, Liam tells all the men about wolves and that they will hunt in a certain radius of their den etc. thus setting up the rest of the movie. These wolves are HUGE, more the size of a black bear and they are very organized. There is a scene where the men are sitting around the fire and they hear the noise of two wolves in the trees. They say what was that? Liam tells them that was the Alpha male putting down the challenger. Then Diaz, one of the men around the fire, challenges Liam. Why are you in charge? Diaz pulls a knife and wants to fight. Liam, of course, stomps on a fire log, disorients Diaz and beats him. So just like the alpha wolf putting down the challenger so does our human male. Another time they are all around the camp fire and all the wolves start howling. Apparently it sounded real enough that my little puppy perked up and listened and started growling at the television. In a touching moving emotional part of the movie they are all telling stories and Liam recites a poem his dad wrote: “Once more into the Fray. In to the last good fight I’ll ever know. Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day” Which reflected what was happening, each day the wolves attacked and killed another survivor. This is a good movie to watch when the snow is blowing and it is cold outside.
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.
Lovely Still. Robert Malone (Martin Landau) meets Mary (Ellen Burstyn), who looks great for being 76 years old at the time this movie was made. Robert comes home from working at the grocery store to find Mary in his house. She says she was checking on him, to make sure he was all right as his car was crashed into his garage. Mary then asks him out on a date. Robert is ecstatic and in love. They go on horse drawn carriage rides, romantic walks, and even sled riding. There is also an undercurrent. Mary’s daughter Alex (Elizabeth Banks) keeps cautioning her mother to not get hurt emotionally. We see Mary with a pill bottle that she drops in the sink. Every morning just before Roberts alarm goes off we see his dreams, multi colored dreams with vague shapes in the background. When he is with Mary these dreams go away. At times I was wondering is Mary real? Her name is Mary and it is a Christmas tale. Will Mary die? This is what appears to be a Hallmark story of love for old people and is named as such Lovely Still but it has something else going on. I was thinking this was going to be just a Hallmark love story when it took a twist and I have said too much already. Watch this when you are feeling a need for a heart tug, an emotional warming, a tale of true love.