Staff Picks: Movies

Staff-recommended viewing from the KPL catalog.

Shoot the Piano Player

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.

Movie

Shoot the piano player
ICRSHO140D
RyanG

Inside the Louvre

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!

Movie

Louvre City
10479006
Elysha Cloyd

The Sight & Sound Poll

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:

  1. Vertigo
  2. Citizen Kane
  3. Tokyo Story
  4. La regle du jeu
  5. Sunrise
  6. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  7. The Searchers
  8. Man with a Movie Camera
  9. Passion of Joan of Arc
  10. 8 1/2

Movie

Passion of Joan of Arc
ICRPAS050D
RyanG

Best of Foreign Language Films

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.

Essential directors:

  • 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

Essential Films:

  • Ashes and Diamonds
  • Werckmeister Harmonies
  • Aguirre, The Wrath of God
  • Umberto D
  • Bicycle Thieves
  • L'avventura
  • The Conformist
  • Breathless
  • Contempt
  • Vivre sa vie
  • Pierrot le fou
  • Tokyo Story
  • City of God
  • Amores Perros
  • El Topo
  • Cinema Paradiso
  • Breaking the Waves
  • Insomnia
  • My Life as a Dog
  • Fanny and Alexander
  • Battleship Potemkin
  • All About My Mother
  • Red, White and Blue Trilogy
  • Wild Strawberries
  • Persona
  • Wings of Desire

Movie

Masculin feminin
ICRMAS180D

 

RyanG

Mid Year Picks

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.

Movie

The Turin Horse
10721845

 

RyanG

Yep, It's a Masterpiece

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.

Movie

Stalker
10062516
RyanG

100 of My Favorite Movies

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
Goodfellas
My Left Foot
Dog Day Afternoon
Au Hasard Balthazar
Breathless
Petulia
Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
The Mission
The Elephant Man
The Breakfast Club
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Badlands
Tree of Life
Umberto D
Star Wars
Miller’s Crossing
Raising Arizona
Buffalo 66
The Apartment
The Professional
Cool Hand Luke
Ordinary People
Magnolia
All the President’s Men
The Graduate
Night of the Hunter
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Memento
Bulworth
Rebel Without a Cause
The Way We Were
Rushmore
The Royal Tenenbaum’s
Submarine
Amelie
Annie Hall
Manhattan
Wild Strawberries
A Few Good Men
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Adaptation
L.A. Confidential
Clueless
Coal Miner’s Daughter
Dead Man Walking
The Shawshank Redemption
Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Drugstore Cowboy
My Own Private Idaho
Goodwill Hunting
Platoon
The Deer Hunter
Fargo
Giant
JFK
A Streetcar Named Desire
Full Metal Jacket
Anchor Man
Groundhog Day
Little Big Man
Kramer Vs Kramer
Heathers
The Hours
Uncle Buck
Sixteen Candles
The Last Picture Show
Paper Moon
Naked
Lone Star
Do the Right Thing
Frankie and Johnny
Taxi Driver
Metropolitan
My Life as a Dog
Norma Rae
Wings of Desire
Seven
Raging Bull
Rain Man
Silence of the Lambs
Tender Mercies
Thelma and Louise
This is Spinal Tap
Raiders of the Lost Ark
E.T.
When Harry Met Sally
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
The Age of Innocence
Short Cuts
The Big Lebowski
In the Mood for Love
Days of Heaven
Glengarry Glen Ross
American Beauty
Ice Storm
Jude
Schindler’s List

Movie

The professional [videorecording]
COL74749D
RyanG

Say Hello to My Little Friend (His Name Is Oscar)

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.)

Movie

Moneyball
COLMONEYBALLD
DanHoag

Rare Exports a Christmas Tale

Rare Exports is not your ordinary Christmas tale and certainly is not for kids. In this movie Santa is the Finland version. Santa PUNISHES bad kids. He whips them with a stick and makes them bleed, he puts them in a pot of boiling water. The movie plot is that Pietari a young lad lives with his father who herds reindeer. Some big giant company is excavating a mountain to free an evil Santa who has been frozen and buried many years ago. On a certain night each year Reindeer run through Pietari's town and his father and most of the village herd them into a giant corral and that's how they make their money for the entire year. I'm not sure how they know which night but they do. Well this time all the reindeer are found slain, hundreds of carcasses strewn about. This is tied to the unearthing of the bad Santa even though he is still frozen. His "elves" steal every heat producing device to thaw him out. The elves are not your typical short cute elf with pointy ears. They are old frumpy naked men who do not speak. You'll have to watch the movie to see how Pietari and the villagers deal with the evil Santa and the lack of their income. Oh and this movie is in their native tongue so there will be subtitles.

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Movie

Rare Exports a Christmas Tale
OSLOSC034D
Gary

The Rhythms of Life

The clanging of bells hung around the necks of goats, the elderly herder and his incessantly barking dog, and the soft whistle of an Italian breeze. Great films don’t always need a lot of dialogue and this one is no exception. A poetic and haunting film full of rich and mysterious images, director Michelangelo Frammartino forces the audience to surrender not to the language of a fabricated and plot-driven dialogue but rather to the meditative sounds of our mundane lives, the stirring rhythms of life—birth, death, ritual, and nature are presented as long, visual poems. This film is much better experienced than described so I won’t say much other than to suggest that Le Quattro Volte (The Four Times) is one of the year’s most enigmatic films, once again, reinforcing the idea that a skillful use of economy and delicacy can produce a profound and moving piece of art.

Movie

Le Quattro Volte
KINLFDVD785D
RyanG