Thursday, December 31, 2009

What we're listening to: Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective

I arrived late to this particular party (just about a year late, in fact). Merriweather Post Pavilion, by Animal Collective, was released in January 2009, and is now making appearances on best-of-the-year lists. I can hear why, but I must warn the unadventurous among us: the disc may not be for everyone . . .

Sonic is the best word I can think of to describe the album. The disc is heavy on overlapping vocals and sounds, and on first listen, the music can be a bit overwhelming. It requires repeated listens to hear, take in, and appreciate it all.

With it's contagious beat and simple (not simplistic) lyrics, one of my favorites on the disc is "My Girls," which is a song about providing for his daughter and wife-- not a subject of too many pop/rock songs. Another favorite is "Daily Routine," which has frantic keyboards interjected into the syncopated beat. "Taste" seems like you're in a trippy videogame.

The songs are all different in content, but the same in eccentricity.

Find it in the catalog!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Top Ten Movies of the Decade

Playing favorites with ten years of cinema? Not an easy task. I could finesse this list indefinitely and still feel that I've left something out. The movies included on this list have left an indelible impression on me. I remember watching Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love when it was first released by Criterion; watching Maggie Cheung slowly walk up and down that beautifully lit stairway to buy noodles. I remember the frisson that went through me as I watched Naomi Watts collapse in on herself in David Lynch's masterful fever dream Mulholland Drive. I remember Samantha Morton as the title character in 2002's Morvern Callar, tentatively running her fingers along a door-frame as she waits for her friend to answer. (Not since Greta Garbo has an actor or actress been able to express so much with their hands.) And I will never forget the devastating and near-wordless opening scene of There Will Be Blood, as Daniel Day-Lewis damages his body and his psyche with his repetitive and lonely trade.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

DVDs out December 28th & 29th

9: An animated post-apocalyptic adventure, in which a rag doll named 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood) is humankind's last hope. Filmmaker Shane Acker expanded his short film of the same name into this feature-length production.
Find 9 in the catalog!

Jennifer's Body: The production team that brought you Juno has re-teamed for a comedy/horror film. Penned by Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody, Jennifer's Body is a smarmy hybrid of '80s horror, post-Apatow pop-cultural references, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Megan Fox finally gets a chance to interact with non-Transformers and actors not named Shia Labeouf.
Find Jennifer's Body in the catalog!

Paranormal Activity: A young couple buy a home in San Diego and profoundly offend the evil spirits that live there. Paranormal Activity is presented as a video record of the supernatural occurrences within the home. Inevitably compared to The Blair Witch Project (1999), Paranormal Activity is an impressive horror film that deserves to be taken on its own terms.
Find Paranormal Activity in the catalog!

A Perfect Getaway: Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich star as newlyweds in this action thriller. Their honeymoon in Hawaii becomes a dangerous battle of wills when they cross paths with a former-soldier (played by Timothy Olyphant) and his girlfriend.
Find A Perfect Getaway in the catalog!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Great performances in 2009

After thinking about the movies I saw in the theater during 2009 I came up with this list of my favorites. All but two are now available on DVD. Check them out (or put them on hold) from the library!

(500) Days of Summer: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zoey Deschanel star in this story, told out of sequence, of boy meets girl. I love that this movie doesn't follow the boring "romantic comedy" rules. Gordon-Levitt is one of the most talented young actors working today. Find it in the catalog!
Adventureland: A movie about twenty-somethings working at a theme park during the summer of 1987. The movie's 1980s details (music, clothes) don't overshadow how the feelings and situations faced by the characters can fit into any decade: You've graduated college and are supposed to move on to the next phase of your life, but you're not entirely sure what that next phase is. Stand-out performances from actors Jesse Eisenberg and Martin Starr. Find it in the catalog!

Bright Star: Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw are mesmerizing in this movie about the romance between the poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. Possibly still playing in theaters.

Fantastic Mr. Fox: Based on the 1970 children's book by Roald Dahl, Wes Anderson directs this animated stop-motion film filled with whimsical details that is fun for moviegoers of all ages. George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Jason Schwartzman do excellent voice-over work as a family of foxes who are pushed out of their home by three farmers. After watching Fantastic Mr. Fox you'll want to modify your tube socks into bandit hats, too. Still playing in theaters.

The Hangover: I am rooting for Zach Galifianakis to receive an Oscar nomination for his uproarious performance in this movie about a bachelor party gone awry in Las Vegas. Another of my favorite highlights is Ed Helms' song at the piano, in which he ponders what tigers dream about. Find it in the catalog!

I Love You, Man: Jason Segel and Paul Rudd make an awesome comedy (and musical) duo. I loved the movie so much I took my picture next to several Spanish-language posters advertising the movie when I was in Spain over the summer. Find it in the catalog!

Inglourious Basterds: Melanie Laurent steals the movie with her performance as Shosanna Dreyfus, whose entire family was killed by Nazis. Years later, when German soldier Fredrick Zoller rents her movie theater out for a private screening of his war movie she sets into motion her plans for revenge. Find it in the catalog!

Paper Heart: Comedian/musician Charlyne Li interviews people across the country about love. What I especially enjoy about this movie is how Li creates puppets and dioramas to recreate special memories shared by the interviewees, whose stories are at once sweet, moving, and hilarious. Find it in the catalog!

Star Trek: Director J.J. Abrams does a brilliant job of restarting the Star Trek franchise with actors Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, John Cho, Zoe Saldana, and my personal favorite Simon Pegg. Find it in the catalog!

Up: Russell, a Wilderness Explorer Scout, assists Mr. Fredericksen in an adventure that takes them to South America in a floating house tied with balloons. A good movie to watch with the whole family. "Squirrel!" Find it in the catalog!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Best films of the 2000s

Looking back on the 2000s, several movie critics have put together lists of the best films from the past ten years. Whether or not you agree with their rankings, I think it is fun to see which movies are included. Take a look at this selection of the best of the decade lists. Do you agree with the films selected? Are there any listed you will make a note to check out from the library and watch?

Owen Gleiberman, movie critic at Entertainment Weekly, lists his 10 Best Movies of the Decade. Far From Heaven (2002) is his top choice.

Entertainment Weekly staff members pick the 10 Best Movies of the Decade! Their top spot goes to the Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003).

Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips chooses his 10 favorite films of the decade. He picks There Will Be Blood (2007) as his #1 film.

Daily Herald film critic Dann Gire writes about movies in the 2000s in the article Decade big on remakes, reboots and raunchy rom-coms. Gire selects The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2004) as the most influential film of the decade.

Writers at the AV Club highlight their 50 Best films of the '00s, with the top spot going to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2003).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

DVDs out December 22nd

(500) Days of Summer: A romantic comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Boy believes Girl to be he his soul-mate, based on a mutual love of The Smiths and surrealist artist René Magritte. Boy's earnestness must overcome Girl's aloofness.
Find 500 Days of Summer in the catalog!

All About Steve: The worst movie of 2009? Sure, some people have said that. But the 6% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes would seem to mitigate that claim. Sandra Bullock stars as a manic crossword puzzle writer, obsessed with Bradley Cooper and patent leather go-go boots.
Find All About Steve in the catalog!

District 9: An intriguing mix of Office-style pseudo-documentary and sci-fi action. District 9 was a surprise box-office hit that has already been hailed as a classic. Directed by Neill Blomkamp. Produced by Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, King Kong).
Find District 9 in the catalog!

Extract: Mike Judge is best known as the creator of the animated television shows Beavis and Butt-Head and King of the Hill, but he has directed several "live action" comedies (including Office Space, a masterpiece of workplace angst). Judge's latest film stars Jason Bateman as the disenchanted head of a flavor-extract company. Also starring: Ben Affleck, Kristen Wiig, and Mila Kunis.
Find Extract in the catalog!

Friday, December 18, 2009

What we're listening to: Songs for Christmas by Sufjan Stevens

The same old Christmas songs dominate the radio and the insides of stores and malls; how many times can you hear "The Christmas Song" overdone by chart-topping singers? For something different, listen to this five-disc set of Christmas songs from Sufjan Stevens. Released in 2006, each disc is an EP that was previously only given to his friends and family from 2001-2006. Well-known traditional Christmas songs like "We Three Kings," "Little Drummer Boy," and "Away in a Manger" are included, as well as lesser known traditional songs (at least to my ears), like "Lo! How a Rose E'er Blooming." Stevens also contributes original songs with unique titles you won't find anywhere else, like "It's Christmas! Let's Be Glad!" and "Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!"

I really enjoy the arrangements of the songs, especially the ones where Stevens plays the banjo. I feel that the musicians on each song are genuinely celebrating the spirit of Christmas; the performances have a grassroots, down home feel to them. The music is a perfect fit for walking in the snow, putting up decorations, or baking cookies. I keep finding myself replaying the first disc, Noel, with its stripped down sound and arrangements of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" and "Lo! How a Rose E'er Blooming." On these songs especially Stevens' vocals and the song arrangements convey a particular "joyful sadness" that I can't help but be drawn to. In the essay "Christmas Tube Socks," included in the CD booklet, Stevens comments on the "joyful sadness" of Christmas songs, and I think that phrase is a good descriptor for many of the Christmas songs included in this set.

The boxed set also includes a fun booklet with chord charts, song lyrics, and drawings!
Find it in the catalog!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Books are going to the movies

Have you read any of the recent movies playing in theaters? Several movies in theaters or coming to theaters are based on popular books: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, New Moon by Stephenie Meyer, Push by Sapphire (which Precious is based on), Me and Orson Welles by Robert Kaplow, and Up in the Air by Walter Kirn.

To browse a list of movies we have on DVD that are based on books, you can do an easy catalog search. Enter the search phrase based on the novel and dvd and hit enter or click on the "words or phrase" button. Be prepared for a long list of DVDs (over 500 results). Movies based on short stories or plays won't turn up in the results, though.

If you're wondering what novel a particular movie is based on, first click the "Details" button for the item. Then, click on the "Catalog Record" tab. The phrase "Based on the novel by [Author Name]" will be in one of the general notes. In the catalog record for Slumdog Millionaire we see that this movie is based on Vikas Swarup's book Q & A:

A good source to find a list of books and short stories made into movies is provided by the Mid-Continent Public Library in Missouri, on their Based on the Book website.

Here are some fairly recent movies on DVD I have seen and enjoyed that were adapted from books. Watch them or read them in their original book forms!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

DVDs out December 15th

G-Force: A team of highly trained government agents save the world from an evil billionaire's diabolical scheme. Only the agents are a quartet of guinea pigs, a cockroach, a fly, and a star-nosed mole. This family-friendly Disney adventure was the #1 movie in the country this past summer. Celebrity rodent voices include: Nicolas Cage, Penelope Cruz, Tracy Morgan, and Sam Rockwell.
Find G-Force in the catalog!

The Hangover: Another huge box-office hit from the summer of 2009, The Hangover stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms (Andy from The Office), and Zach Galifianakis as the bewildered leads in this post-bachelor party comedy. Cameos include Las Vegas regulars: Mike Tyson, Wayne Newton, and...Carrot Top.
Find The Hangover in the catalog!

Inglourious Basterds: Somewhat disingenuously touted as Quentin Tarantino's take on The Dirty Dozen (1967), Inglourious Basterds is so uniquely the work of its idiosyncratic director that the result is virtually indescribable. Tarantino is always divisive, and certainly many viewers will be put off by the film's pulpy violence and refusal to adhere to war-movie conventions. For this reviewer's money, Inglourious Basterds is one of the outstanding films of 2009 and the director's best work since Reservoir Dogs (1992).
Find Inglourious Basterds in the catalog!

Taking Woodstock: Ang Lee has directed films as stylistically disparate as Sense and Sensibility (an adaptation of Jane Austen's 1811 novel), Hulk (a big-budget take on the Marvel Comics superhero), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (the revolutionary multi-national martial arts sensation), and the Academy Award winning drama Brokeback Mountain. Lee's most recent film is Taking Woodstock, which examines the 1969 Woodstock Festival from the fortuitous perspective of Elliot Tiber (played by actor/comedian Demetri Martin). Based on Tiber's memoir Taking Woodstock: a True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life, published in 2007.
Find Taking Woodstock in the catalog!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Music Roundup: My Top 10 Albums of 2009

It is difficult to recap the many songs/records/videos/performers that have made an impact on you in a given year. But, I've given it some thought and compiled a list of my personal - very subjective - top ten albums of 2009. These albums are not ranked. They are ordered alphabetically, which seemed the most democratic way to list them. (Although, in a way, every new Bill Callahan album will be my favorite album of the year.) I limited myself to "new" music released in 2009. So, this list doesn't include such recently released live recordings as James Brown's Live at the Garden or Leonard Cohen's Live at the Isle of Wight, 1970. Both of which are incredible, by the way. Feel free to comment or list some of your own favorites!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What we're listening to: The Fame by Lady Gaga

I know I'm a little behind the times, as The Fame came out in 2008, but I only recently got a copy from the library after being on the hold list since late March. That's how popular Lady Gaga's music is, and I can see why. The Fame is full of fun, addictive dance songs you'll want to play over and over again. Lady Gaga often gets attention for her crazy outfits and awards-show performances. Focus on her music and you'll see she is a powerful singer and songwriter; she co-wrote all the songs on the album. Her creative music videos and outfits are just icing on the cake. My favorite songs on the album include "Poker Face," "Just Dance," "Lovegame," and "Starstruck." The Fame was recently nominated for several Grammy awards, including Album of the Year and Best Electronic/Dance Album. The undeniably catchy song "Poker Face," produced by RedOne, received nominations for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Dance Recording. The Fame has also recently been re-released in a deluxe edition called The Fame Monster, which includes 8 new songs, including "Bad Romance." Lady Gaga is currently on "The Monster Ball Tour" and will perform at the Chicago Theatre January 8, 9, and 10.

Find it in the catalog!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Public Enemies

"Do you wanna take that ride with me?"
~ Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, Public Enemies (2009)

John Dillinger. Pretty Boy Floyd. Baby Face Nelson. American as apple-pie. Public Enemies (2009) explores the enduring myth of the 1930s outlaw, deconstructs that myth, and ultimately creates a mythology of its own. Adapted from Bryan Burrough's book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-1934, the film jettisons the book's big-picture overview of Depression-Era banditry, focusing instead on the final riotous year in the life of John Dillinger.

Opening with the 1933 jail-break at Indiana State Prison,
Public Enemies wastes no time in establishing the central characteristics of its protagonist, John Dillinger: contempt for authority, loyalty to his criminal confederates, and willingness to use violence in the furtherance of his schemes. Throughout the film, Dillinger's character is most clearly defined in contrast to his contemporaries. His underworld associates are generally venal, opportunistic, and - in the case of Baby Face Nelson - psychotic. By contrast, Dillinger is relatively disciplined and averse to unnecessary violence. He is also self-aware enough to utilize his public persona. In a revealing exchange, Dillinger tells Alvin Karpis that he won't be party to kidnapping because the "public" doesn't like it. And, as a full-time fugitive, he must hide among them.

Johnny Depp invests the role of John Dillinger with bravado, outlaw charm, and the unique sensitivity that has become a hallmark of all of Johnny Depp's greatest performances. Any number of actors could have played the popular conception of a 1930s tough guy, but Depp isn't interested in impersonating James Cagney. His
performance in Public Enemies is one of the most mature and refined of his stellar career.

Dillinger's nemesis is Melvin Purvis, played with just the right amount of subtlety by Christian Bale. Agent Purvis' relentless pursuit of these outlaws would seem to have less to do with his own sense of justice than with meeting the demands of besieged FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The lengths to which he'll go to satisfy Hoover's mandate have tragic consequences.

Marion Cotillard (2008 Best Actress winner, La Vie En Rose) plays Dillinger's love interest, Billie Frechette. There is a certain tenderness to their love affair that would otherwise be completely absent from the film. Their clipped verbal shorthand provides the only biographical data we get on the early life of John Dillinger. He describes himself as an Indiana boy whose mother died when he was three years old. He had an abusive father. He is a fan of baseball, movies, whiskey, and good clothes. Frechette describes her life with almost heartbreaking simplicity: she spent part of her childhood on a Native American Indian reservation, moved to Chicago, became a hat-check girl, and nothing exciting ever happened for her.

Director Michael Mann strikes a powerful balance with
Public Enemies: presenting sympathetic and recognizable characters, while still satisfying the demands of a crime drama. Which is to say, there is no shortage of action. We witness multiple bank robberies, prison breaks, car chases, foot pursuits... All of them masterfully executed and technically stunning. Mann's take on the infamous shootout at Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin is particularly impressive. John Dillinger, "Red" Hamilton, and the mercurial Baby Face Nelson are holed up at the Little Bohemia Lodge following a calamitous bank robbery. Melvin Purvis and his agents learn the location of their hideout by torturing one of the gang's associates. The resulting shootout and chase is not just viscerally exciting, but emotionally so as well. (Local history buffs may note the inaccuracy of Nelson being killed in the immediate aftermath of the Wisconsin shootout at Little Bohemia. In reality, he was mortally wounded by Federal agents in Barrington, Illinois, approximately ten miles from your local Library.)

The penultimate scenes at Chicago's Biograph Theater are particularly affecting. Dillinger watches the 1934 MGM picture Manhattan Melodrama. His eyes focus on actress Myrna Loy, a glamorous moll. Is he thinking of Billie? He smiles to himself as Clark Gable says, "If I can't live the way I want, at least let me die the way I want." Is he finding some sort of affirmation in that character's stoic pose? Is he laughing at the soft Hollywood gangster? Possibly both. What we know for certain is that on a sweltering day in July, 1934, John Dillinger went to the movies. And, like the rest of us, he saw his own personal melodrama up there on the silver screen.

Public Enemies (2009)

Find it in the catalog!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

DVDs out December 8th

The Cove: A documentary look at former dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry, and his ongoing fight to end the slaughter and mistreatment of dolphins. He and other activists in the film are particularly vocal in their opposition to the annual whale hunts held in Taiji, Wakayama, Japan. The Cove is expected to be a nominee in the Best Documentary category at the 2010 Oscars.
Find it in the catalog!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
: The sixth film in the series, and the second directed by David Yates. The Half-Blood Prince is generally considered to be the darkest chapter in the series thus far.
Find it in the catalog!

Julie and Julia: Adapted from Julia Child's autobiography My Life In France and Julie Powell's bestseller Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. Julie and Julia presents the contrasting stories of blogger Julie Powell in present-day New York and pre-success Julia Child in 1950s Paris. These parallel narratives work well enough, but the film is anchored by Meryl Streep's outstanding performance and the wonderfully realized love affair of Julia Child and her husband Paul (played by a delightful Stanley Tucci). This is one of those rare films that you, your mom, and your boyfriend can all agree on. So maybe keep this one in mind when you're scrambling for a crowd-pleaser over the Holidays.
Find it in the catalog!

Public Enemies: Adapted from Bryan Burrough's book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-1934. Public Enemies is essentially a John Dillinger biopic; one that happens to be scrupulously researched, brilliantly acted, and visually stunning. Expect a full review later this week, here at the Media Corner Blog.
Find it in the catalog!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Arctic Monkeys at the Riviera Theatre, 12/6/09

Last night the Arctic Monkeys performed an all ages show at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago. Opening with "Dance Little Liar" off their most recent album Humbug, the Arctic Monkeys (Alex Turner, Jamie Cook, Nick O'Malley, and Matt Helders) attacked their songs with a ferocity much appreciated by the crowd. Not surprisingly, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor," riled up the crowd and got one of the biggest responses of the night. "Brianstorm," "This House is a Circus," and "Fluorescent Adolescent" also ignited the crowd's energy. A cover of the Nick Cave song "Red Right Hand" was even thrown into the mix. While the Arctic Monkeys played songs from all three of their albums, a good chunk of the set-list came from Humbug, including the single "Crying Lightning" and my personal favorites "Cornerstone," "My Propeller," and "The Jeweller's Hands." For the encore they performed "If You Were There, Beware" and "505," which started out mellow and then built to an aggressive finish. This was my first time seeing the band perform live and I had an awesome night (my ears are still ringing).

Photos by Danielle Pacini

December movie highlights

Note: Unfortunately, movies that open in limited release may not come to Chicago or nearby theaters until later in December (or maybe even January). I wrote about Me and Orson Welles as a November release, and it's just now being released in the Chicago-area on December 11!

Up in the Air (now playing in limited release): Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) makes his living by traveling across the country firing people. Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), a new hire traveling with him, has developed a video conferencing system that eliminates the need for employees like Bingham. Also starring Vera Farmiga, Jason Bateman, and Danny McBride. Directed by Jason Reitman, this film has already received much critical praise; the National Board of Review named it the best movie of the year (Kendrick was named best supporting actress).

The Lovely Bones (December 11 in limited release): Peter Jackson directed this adaptation of the 2002 Alice Sebold novel. After her murder, 14-year-old Susie (Saoirse Ronan) watches her family and friends (and the man who killed her) from her heaven. Also starring Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weiz, Stanley Tucci, and Michael Imperioli.

Broken Embraces (December 11 in limited release): The relationship between Lena (Penelope Cruz), an actress, and Mateo (Lluis Homar), a filmmaker and screenwriter, is the center of this movie. Director Pedro Almodvar re-teams with Penelope Cruz for a movie about making movies.

Avatar (December 18): Written and directed by James Cameron, who last directed 1997's Titanic, this film uses never-before-seen special effects. Using an avatar, Jake (Sam Worthington) goes on a mission to infiltrate the Na'vi of the planet Pandora, which is rich in a particular mineral needed on Earth. Avatars (a hybrid life-form made from human and Na'vi DNA) are used by humans because the air of Pandora is toxic. Jake is taken in by Neytiri's (Zoe Saldana) family, and his mission on Pandora changes after he spends time with and learns about the Na'vi.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (December 25 in limited release): Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) travels around with a theater troupe and a magical mirror that allows people to experience whatever is in their imaginations. This is Heath Ledger's final film. His character, Tony, goes through several transformations when he enters the mirror; these transformations are played by Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Ferrell.

Sherlock Holmes (December 25): Guy Ritchie directs this new look to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's popular character. Robert Downey Jr. is Holmes and Jude Law plays Watson. From the trailer it appears that Holmes participates in some sort of street-fighting club! Also starring Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, and Kelly Reilly.

I could have written about more December releases because there are so many that look good. Are there any movies coming out this month that you definitely have to see?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The countdown to the final season of Lost

The sixth and final season of Lost begins on Tuesday, February 2 on ABC. The "premiere event" is scheduled to start at 7 PM. No new footage from season six has been released to be used in promotional TV spots, which means ABC's commercials have been pretty boring. If you are a Lost fan, check out this awesome TV promo from Spanish station Cuatro. The editing (Kate, Ben, Jack, and Locke are pieces on a chessboard!), music ("Everything in its Right Place" by Radiohead), and poem excerpt (Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam) combine together brilliantly:

Share the PSH (Philip Seymour Hoffman) love!

A selection of movies featuring actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, available through the library:

Doubt (2008)
Hoffman received an Oscar nomination for his role as Father Flynn, a Boston priest who is accused by Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) of an inappropriate relationship with a student. Is he guilty or innocent? Long after you watch this movie you'll still go back and forth over what really happened.
Find it in the catalog!

Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Hoffman plays theater director Caden Cotard, who has his actors re-enact their lives on a set that replicates Manhattan inside a warehouse.
Find it in the catalog!

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)
Brothers Andy (Hoffman) and Hank (Ethan Hawke) Hanson are in debt and plan to rob their parents' jewelry store without hurting anyone, but something goes wrong.
Find it in the catalog!

Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
Hoffman received another Oscar nomination for his role as Gust Avrakotos, a CIA agent helping Texas congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) work to supply weapons to the rebels of the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s.
Find it in the catalog!

The Savages (2007)
Jon (Hoffman) and Wendy (Laura Linney) Savage are left to care for their estranged father, who has dementia, after his girlfriend dies. Even though they haven't spoken to him in twenty years, they must rearrange their lives in order to be there for a father that was, and still is, abusive to them.
Find it in the catalog!

Mission: Impossible III (2006)
As Owen Davian, Hoffman plays the villian to Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt.
Find it in the catalog!

Capote (2005)
Hoffman won an Academy Award for his performance of Truman Capote. The movie follows Capote as he researches what will become the nonfiction work In Cold Blood.

Along Came Polly (2004)
The funniest thing about this movie is Hoffman's performance as Sandy Lyle, best friend to Reuben Feffer (played by Ben Stiller). The rest of the plot involves Stiller and Jennifer Aniston falling in love, or something. "White chocolate!"
Find it in the catalog!

Almost Famous (2000)
As music journalist Lester Bangs, Hoffman is a mentor to fifteen-year-old William Miller (Patrick Fugit), who is writing about the band Stillwater for Rolling Stone.
Find it in the catalog!

Magnolia (1999)
One of the nine characters followed in this movie is Phil Parma (Hoffman), a nurse who cares for a dying Earl Patridge (Jason Robards).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Movie Roundup: My Top 10 DVDs of 2009

This is a short-list of DVDs released (or in some cases re-released) in 2009 that I have particularly enjoyed. I've included a parenthetical year beside each title, representing the original production year of each film/TV show. I hope you enjoy these DVDs as much as I have! Oh, and feel free to list some of your own favorites in the comments section.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Masterpiece Classic on PBS

In my book, Sunday nights used to be dismal. There was very little on TV to escape the fact that you had to return to work (or school) the next morning. Now, I actually look forward to Sunday nights and I have PBS to thank: the new season of Masterpiece Classic begins in January. These BBC productions are enjoyable because they are the definition of escapist-- beautiful people in beautiful costumes cavorting in beautiful settings. (It doesn't hurt that the themes are pretty timeless too.)

December 20, 2009-January 3, 2010
PBS is airing an encore presentation of Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford. With it's large ensemble cast, Judi Dench included, this popular mini-series portrays the ins-and-outs of life in a small English town.

If you'd rather not wait until December 20 Find it in the catalog!

January 10-17, 2010
Return to Cranford
The success of Cranford has garnered a sequel, not coincidently titled, Return to Cranford. This installment officially kicks off the new season of Masterpiece Classic. Once again starring Judi Dench, it will pick up where Cranford left off: the building of a new railroad that may have undesirable consequences.

January 24-February 7, 2010
Two seasons ago, the works of Jane Austen were presented. Well, most of them. Mansfield Park (Find it in the catalog!), Northanger Abbey, Persuassion, and Sense & Sensibility (Find it in the catalog!) all got the treatment. I found all adaptions to be as good as, if not better, than previous versions released in the theaters with high-profile stars and bigger budgets.

Lacking from this lineup was Emma (and Pride & Prejudice, which they are apparently not going near-- maybe because there have already been two well-liked, if not loved, versions produced?). But, Emma is getting the redux this upcoming season with Romola Garai in the title role and Johnny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley.

February 14, 2010
Northanger Abbey (encore presentation)
Not my favorite Austen work, but actress Felicity Jones does an excellent job as the protagonist character Catherine Moreland.
Find it in the catalog!

February 21, 2010
Persuassion (encore presentation)
Of all the PBS presentations of Austen, this was my favorite adaption. The simple, but timeless story follows Anne Elliot as she discovers that she still cares for the suitor she was persuaded to turn down a decade earlier. Of course, he's now a very rich man. Starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones, I even prefer this version to the one starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds (gasp . . .).
Find it in the catalog!

February 28, 2010
The 39 Steps
Stars Rupert Penry-Jones (from Persuassion) in the adaptation of the novel by John Buchan.

March 28, 2010
Sharpe's Challenge
Actor Sean Bean returns as Richard Sharpe.

April 4, 2010
Sharpe's Peril

April 11, 2010

The Diary of Anne Frank

April 18-25, 2010
Small Island
Stars Naomie Harries and Ruth Wilson.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What we're listening to: Humbug by the Arctic Monkeys

Following up their 2007 release of Favourite Worst Nightmare, England's Arctic Monkeys have put out another great album in Humbug. They start off with "My Propeller," a song seductive in both the delivery of Alex Turner's vocals and its guitar refrain, not to mention the lyrics themselves. The Arctic Monkeys have a distinctive lead singer in the voice of Turner, due to his point of view shared in the lyrics and the fact that his Yorkshire accent is very prominent. Turner, who wrote the lyrics for all the songs on the album, has an amazing ability to tell vivid stories during short three to five minute songs.

"Cornerstone" is a fine example of Turner's storytelling skills and is also my favorite song from Humbug. In this song a guy describes how he keeps thinking he sees a particular woman around town (at The Battleship, Rusty Hook, Parrot's Beak, and finally The Cornerstone), but when he realizes it's not her he still asks the lookalike, "Please can I call you her name?" I just love the way this song builds as he goes place to place without having any success finding her: "I've asked everyone / I'm beginning to think I imagined you all along."

I won't heap all the praise on Turner; another reason I love the Arctic Monkeys is because their style of music moves between being aggressive and restrained. This album includes songs that are very aggressive and loud ("Potion Approaching," "Pretty Visitors"), contemplative and restrained ("Cornerstone," "Jeweller's Hands"), and a combination of both sides ("Crying Lightning," "Fire and the Thud," "Dance Little Liar"). I have enjoyed their previous albums of Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006) and Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007), and believe that Humbug further reinforces their talent as a band, as it is their strongest showing yet.

Check out a copy of Humbug from Dundee Township Public Library District--
Find it in the catalog!

On Sunday the Arctic Monkeys perform at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago!

Monday, November 30, 2009

DVDs out December 1st

A Christmas Tale: An insightful study of one family's legacy of grief, by French director Arnaud Desplechin. Catherine Deneuve gives a devastating performance. Released as part of the Criterion Collection.
Find it in the catalog!

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian: A sequel to the popular 2006 family film. Ben Stiller returns, as does Ricky Gervais, Robin Williams, and Owen Wilson. New to the cast is Amy Adams, in the role of Amelia Earhart.
Find it in the catalog!

Paper Heart: The jury is still out on this little-seen independent film, but fellow-blogger Danielle raved about it after seeing it this past October. For those of us who will be seeing Paper Heart for the first time on DVD, we can expect Michael Cera to be "awkward" and "uncomfortable" in all sorts of adorable ways.
Find it in the catalog!

Terminator Salvation: The fourth installment in this sci-fi franchise; with a budget of $200 million, an intense leading man, and an army of CGI Terminators. Christian Bale and Sam Worthington attempt to out-grimace each other. The results: unintentionally hilarious.
Find it in the catalog!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Free movies showing at the library in December

Come to the Dundee Township Public Library District to watch movies on the big screen for FREE! During December we are screening four movies-- two recent releases on DVD and two classics! Tickets for these movies are available at the Information Desk starting Tuesday, December 1. The audience is limited to 80 people, so don't wait to pick up tickets!

Star Trek
Thursday, December 17 at 6 PM
Doors open at 5:30 PM

Saturday, December 19 at 2 PM
Doors open at 1:30 PM

White Christmas
Tuesday, December 22 at 6 PM
Doors open at 5:30 PM

The Shop Around the Corner 
Tuesday, December 29 at 6 PM
Doors open at 5:30 PM

Movies are shown on the lower level in the Meeting Room. Free popcorn and refreshments!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Da da doo doot-n dance DVDs

A wise woman by the name of Lady Gaga once sang, "Just dance! / Gonna be okay / Da da doo doot-n." She sings the truth. You will feel better if you get up and move. Dance instruction DVDs, musicals, and movies with plot lines centered on dancers-- I dare anyone to stay seated while watching the selections from this dance-filled list.


Ballroom Basics. Volume 1, Foxtrot
DVD 793.33 BAL
Find it in the catalog!

Ballroom Basics. Volume 2, Waltz
DVD 793.33 BAL
Find it in the catalog!

Ballroom Basics. Volume 3, Tango
DVD 793.33 BAL
Find it in the catalog!

Latin Dances
DVD 793.33 LEA
Rumba, cha-cha, samba, mambo, and the tango.
Find it in the catalog!


Chicago (2002)
Based on the Broadway musical of the same name; starring Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta Jones (who won an Oscar for her performance), Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, and John C. Reilly. 2003 Best Picture winner.
Find it in the catalog!

Easter Parade (1948)
Don (Fred Astaire) gets a new dance partner Hannah (Judy Garland) after his old partner Nadine (Ann Miller) goes off on her own. Also starring Peter Lawford.
Find it in the catalog!

Based on the movie that became a Broadway musical. Set in 1960s Baltimore, teenager Tracy Turnblad is excited to make it onto "The Corney Collins Show." Starring Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, Zac Efron, and Christopher Walken.
Find it in the catalog!

High School Musical series
High School Musical (1): Popular Disney made-for-TV movie that finds high school basketball player Troy (Zac Efron) and new brainy student Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) breaking the molds of their respective cliques as they audition for the school's musical. Find it in the catalog!
High School Musical 2: The students from East High School are working at a country club for the summer, where the annual talent show is approaching. Find it in the catalog!
High School Musical 3: Senior Year The students share their mixed feelings about leaving high school and friends and going to college in a spring musical. Find it in the catalog!

The Other Side of the Bed (El otro lado de la cama)
A romantic-comedy-musical about two couples who switch between different lovers. Starring Ernesto Alterio, Paz Vega, Guillermo Toledo.
Find it in the catalog!

Singin' in the Rain
The careers of matinee and silent film stars are affected during the transition from silent films to talking movies or "talkies." Starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchell, Cyd Charisse, Douglas Fowley, and Rita Moreno.
Find it in the catalog!

West Side Story
A version of Romeo and Juliet set in New York during the 1950s. Winner of 10 Oscars in 1962, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography. Starring Natalie Wood, Russ Tamblyn, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, and George Chikiris.
Find it in the catalog!


El Cantante
In 1970s New York City salsa singer Hector Lavoe rises to fame. Starring Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, and Christopher Becerra.
Find it in the catalog!

The Cheetah Girls
A singing group made up of four high school friends, dreaming of a record contract. Based on the Cheetah Girls books by Deborah Gregory. Starring Raven-Symone, Adrienne Bailon, Kiely Williams, and Sabrina Bryan.
Find it in the catalog!

The Cheetah Girls 2
The group travels to Barcelona, Spain, to perform at a music festival. Starring Raven-Symone, Adrienne Bailon, Kiely Williams, and Sabrina Bryan.
Find it in the catalog!

The Company
Behind the scenes of a dance company. Directed by Robert Altman and starring Neve Campbell, Malcolm McDowell, James Franco, and the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago.
Find it in the catalog!

Dirty Dancing
The teenage Baby (Jennifer Grey) vacations at a resort in the Catskills during the summer of 1963 with her parents and learns about dance and herself. Also starring Patrick Swayze and Jerry Orbach.
Find it in the catalog!

Every Little Step
A documentary that reveals the audition process for the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line.
Find it in the catalog!

Alex (Jennifer Beals) holds down two jobs: she works as a welder during the day and exotic dancer at night, all the while practicing her dance skills, hoping to get into a local dance company.
Find it in the catalog!

The Full Monty
Yorkshire steelworkers lose their jobs and decide to form a male stripper group. They practice for their one-night performance, hoping to earn some money and respect. What makes their upcoming performance different from other strip shows is the fact that they will strip down to "the full monty." Starring Robert Carlyle, Tom Wilkinson, and Mark Addy.
Find it in the catalog!

Honey (Jessica Alba) teaches dance classes at a community center and hopes to one day open a dance studio for the local kids. One night her moves are noticed at a dance club and she is hired by a hip hop video director to be a dancer (and later choreographer). But does the director want her for reasons other than her talent?
Find it in the catalog!

How She Move
Raya (Rutina Wesley) leaves private school and returns to her old high school after the death of her sister and gets back into competitive step dancing.
Find it in the catalog!

Set in London during 1914, a ballet dancer Terry (Claire Bloom) is saved from suicide by music hall clown Calvero (Charlie Chaplin), who is also depressed. Calvero then helps Terry to return to dancing on the stage. Also starring Buster Keaton, Sidney Chaplin, and Nigel Bruce.
Find it in the catalog!

Saturday Night Fever
Brooklyn teenager Tony (John Travolta) looks forward to dancing at the disco each week. When he meets Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney) they decide to enter into a competition together.
Find it in the catalog!

Save the Last Dance
After her mother's death, Sara (Julia Stiles) quits ballet and moves in with her father on Chicago's south side. She meets Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), who teaches her hip hop, and a romance develops.
Find it in the catalog!

Save the Last Dance 2
A sequel to the original, with different actors. Sara is attending Julliard but conflicted about dance styles (ballet or hip hop?). Starring Izabella Miko, Columbus Short, Aubrey Dollar, Ne-Yo, and Jacqueline Bisset.
Find it in the catalog!

Shall We Dance? (1996; in Japanese with English subtitles)
Entranced by a dance instructor he sees from the subway, Japanese salaryman Sugiyama signs up for ballroom dance lessons. He keeps the lessons a secret from his wife, even though he enjoys dancing so much he begins to discreetly practice everywhere. Sugiyama discovers that his co-worker Aoki also loves ballroom dancing because of how it allows him to feel the music and become a different person.
Find it in the catalog!

Shall We Dance? (2004)
Remake of the 1996 Japanese film of the same name; a Chicago lawyer starts to take dance lessons, hiding it from his wife, who thinks he is cheating on her. Starring Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, and Susan Sarandon.
Find it in the catalog!

Step Up
Tyler vandalizes Maryland School of the Arts with some friends; he is the only one caught and is sentenced to community service at the school. He meets ballet dancer Nora and shows off his street dancing moves. They pair their dance styles for a routine Nora hopes to perform for her senior showcase. Starring Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan.
Find it in the catalog!

Stomp the Yard
At Truth University in Atlanta, D.J. (Columbus Short) and his dance moves are coveted by two rival African American fraternities who hope to win the national step show competition. Also starring Meagan Good, Ne-Yo, and Darrin Henson.
Find it in the catalog!

Take the Lead
Former professional ballroom dancer Pierre (Antonio Banderas) helps teach dance in a public school in New York. After initially rejecting the ballroom dance steps the students come around to the new moves; the result is a fusion of the styles of ballroom and hip hop. Also starring Rob Brown and Alfre Woodard.
Find it in the catalog!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

DOOM, Pt. 1

Underground hip-hop has an evil genius, and his name is DOOM, a/k/a King Geedorah, a/k/a MF DOOM, a/k/a Metal Face DOOM, a/k/a Metal Fingers DOOM, a/k/a Viktor Vaughn, a/k/a Zevlove X, real name Daniel Dumile (pronounced /duːməleɪ/). Part comic book villain, part doomsayer.

Dumile debuted as a guest emcee on the 3rd Bass track "The Gas Face," on their 1989 LP The Cactus Album. At that time, performing under his Zevlove X alias, he was forming a small crew of his own, known as K.M.D. (which included his brother Dingilizwe). K.M.D. released the Mr. Hood album in 1991, but the DOOM story nearly ended before it began. In 1993, Dingilizwe Dumile was killed in a traffic accident, and Elektra refused to release K.M.D.'s sophomore album, due to concerns over its cover art (depicting a "sambo" character) and militant political stance. Faced with these personal and professional crises, Dumile essentially threw in the towel, finding a legit day-job and devoting himself to raising his son.

If the story had ended there, Daniel Dumile would be little more than a footnote, a bit of trivia for hip-hop aficionados. But, in 1999, Dumile released the album Operation: Doomsday, under the newly assumed nom de guerre MF DOOM. Dumile borrowed his DOOM persona from the Marvel Comics character Dr. Doom, a Stan Lee/Jack Kirby super-villain, best remembered for his masked visage and ongoing feud with the Fantastic Four. Dumile used this startlingly off-center back-story as a point of digression; upending the late-90s fly-guy rap image by utilizing arcane pop-culture references, bizarre slang, and wicked humor. Oh, and he started wearing a mask.

Dumile's myriad DOOM-related releases, and his ever-growing list of guest appearances, can be overwhelming. For neophytes, the ideal starting point would be Madvillainy (2004), Dumile's acclaimed collaboration with hip-hop producer Madlib. The Madvillain project was DOOM at his most accessible; an oddly endearing collaboration that was widely considered one of the best albums of 2004. (Adult Swim fans may recognize the track "Money Folder" as a bumper between commercials on the Cartoon Network's late-night lineup.) And, in true Dumile fashion, even the album's cover art is a playful pop-culture homage:

That same year, the ever-more-prolific Dumile released another solo album, MM..Food? (2004). This interrogatively-titled record expanded on the DOOM mythology, while simultaneously providing enough food-obsessed couplets to satiate Alton Brown. My personal favorite food-related non-sequitur: "Ignore Cordon Bleu, stand up, get up!"

Dumile's most high-profile collaboration was The Mouse and the Mask, his 2005 record with Danger Mouse (the super-producer best known as half of the duo Gnarls Barkley). Tellingly, this record heavily samples various Adult Swim cartoons: Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Harvery Birdman, Sealab 2021, and Space Ghost. It's difficult to imagine a musical artist more perfectly suited to the Adult Swim crowd than Daniele Dumile.

Stay tuned for more DOOM arcana!

Monday, November 23, 2009

What we're listening to: Strict Joy by The Swell Season

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the members of The Swell Season, previously appeared together in the movie Once and collaborated on its accompanying soundtrack, for which they won Oscars for the song "Falling Slowly." Since the movie wrapped they became romantically involved, toured, and broke up. They are still making music together and singing about the pain that goes with relationships.

On most songs Hansard takes the lead while Irglova adds background vocals. Their voices blend so well together and really complement each other. Singing about heartbreak and loss of love, many of the songs have a lovely haunting feeling to them. A good example is the chorus of "In These Arms." This haunting quality is also present in Irglova's vocals on "Fantasy Man:" "Let's put it down to life / The story of two lovers / Who danced both edges of the knife." Another Irglova-fronted song, "I Have Loved You Wrong," is told from the point of view of a lover who messed up a relationship but still can't get her ex out of her thoughts: "...this estranged organ in my chest / Still beats for you." On "Back Broke" Hansard sings about a broken-up couple, reunited: "I came on your command / Don't give me false hope." The ominous quality to Hansard's vocals and music suggest to the listener that while he's happy to be spending time with his ex-lover, he's just going to get hurt all over again once they part. Other highlights include "Love That Conquers," and the uptempo "High Horses."

Listen to The Swell Season for yourself by placing a hold on Strict Joy:
Find it in the catalog!

The Swell Season perform at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago on December 3!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Monsters vs. Aliens: What did you think of the movie?

Huge thanks to everyone who came to the library to watch Monsters vs. Aliens yesterday. 63 people showed up! After the movie there was a drawing to win a Night at the Museum 2 poster.

I think my favorite part of the movie was when B.O.B. (voiced by Seth Rogen) tried to be smooth and used pick-up lines on a green jello mold. Too funny. Later in the movie B.O.B. copies Susan's break-up with her boyfriend Derek and adds his own spin on it: "Derek, you're a stupid jerk, and guess what? I've met someone else. She's lime-green, she has 14 little chunks of pineapple inside of her, and she is everything I deserve in life! I'm happy now, Derek, without you. It's over!" Monsters vs. Aliens got a ton of laughs and I'm glad everyone had a good time! I missed most of the beginning of the movie because I was making popcorn, so I think I'll have to check it out from the library in the near future!

Have you seen Monsters vs. Aliens? What did you think? If you haven't seen it yet or would like to watch it again, put a copy from the library on hold for yourself:
Find it in the catalog!

I hope we'll see everyone at one (or all) of the four movies Dundee Township Public Library District is showing in December! More on those later!