Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More songs from Glee

In a previous Dundee Media Corner post I wrote about Glee: The Music Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 and The Power of Madonna. Now here are two more Glee albums that Gleeks can check out. For the first time actor Jonathan Groff (who plays Vocal Adrenaline singer Jesse St. James) makes an appearance on a Glee compilation album!

Glee Volume 3: Showstoppers
Find it in the catalog!
This CD includes highlights from the second part of Glee's first season. Some awesome duets that deserve several listens: Lea Michelle and Jonathan Groff on "Hello," Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Morrison on "One Less Bess To Answer / A House Is Not A Home," Jane Lynch joining Olivia Newton-John on "Physical," and Neil Patrick Harris and Matthew Morris on "Dream On" (Harris recently won an Emmy for his guest appearance on the show). My favorites on this CD are Jonathan Groff and Lea Michelle singing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and the glee club singing Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance."

Glee, the Music. Journey to Regionals
Find it in the catalog!
This CD includes the songs performed by New Directions at Regionals in the first season's last episode. They sang the Journey songs "Faithfully," "Any Way You Want It/Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'," and "Don't Stop Believin.'" Other songs performed on the season finale are on the CD as well: "Bohemian Rhapsody" (sang by Groff), "To Sir With Love," and "Over the Rainbow."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Movies showing in September at the library

A movie on the big screen, popcorn, and pop, all for free. Come to the library in September and watch one of the following films downstairs in the Meeting Room:

Stand By Me
Thursday, September 2 at 6 PM
Rated R
This film is part of our “Catch a Classic at the Library” series, which features Stephen King adaptations during the months of September to November.

The Bounty Hunter
Wednesday, September 15 at 6 PM
Rated PG-13

The Spy Next Door
Saturday, September 18 at 2 PM
Rated PG

The door to the Meeting Room opens 30 minutes before showtime so you can get your popcorn, drinks, and seat. Audience capacity is 80 people, so seating is first-come, first-served. Come and join us-- you know your mouth is watering just thinking about eating the popcorn in this picture!

Friday, August 27, 2010

That's a dealbreaker: Songs inspired by babies and parenthood

Perhaps it's my Grinch-like disposition (before he went all soft), but babies don't really give me the warm and fuzzies.  I don't dislike babies, though they do cry a lot and aren't potty trained, but I'm not one to break out in "coochie coos" at the site of a diapered tot either.  So, unsurprisingly, listening to people (especially new parents) talk about their kids is about as interesting to me as watching paint dry.  I'll listen to it and pretend to nod interestedly (I'm so polite), but it's one of my least favorite conversation topics.*  Anyway, since I can barely tolerate hearing about friends' and family members' tykes, I really don't want to listen to some person I've never met sing about their kid.   Especially when they have to be all sentimental, smug and saccharine about it. 

I prefer music that is on the gloomier side.  So some of my aversion comes from the fact some of the songs are so irritatingly joyful. Perhaps this is why I am the most tolerant towards Paul Simon's songs about his children, which tend to be less cloyingly sweet.  For instance, "That Was Your Mother" from Graceland, which contains these lyrics:

That was your mother
And that was your father
Before you were born, dude
When life was great
You are the burden of my generation
I sure do love you
But let's get that straight

Wouldn't you just love to be Paul Simon's kid?

On the flip side, I really can't stand Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely?"  Yes, Songs in the Key of Life is mostly a good album (even though it's a double album), but did he really need to start the song with the sound of his baby cooing? And the lyrics are sweeter than a packet of sugar:

Isn't she lovely
Truly the angel's best
Boy, I'm so happy
We have been heaven blessed

Is it anyone wonder that someone like me, whose heart is two sizes too small, just can't stand that song? 

Anyway, lest you think I have no cockles on my heart to warm, I do like a couple baby-inspired songs.  Most have a slightly more nuanced take on parenthood, though some just have a pretty killer beat:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Have you tried a PlayAway yet?

A PlayAway is the size of an MP3 Player. The PlayAway holds an entire audiobook no matter what the size. A lanyard is included for you to hang around your neck so you can listen while doing housework, gardening or just relaxing. Just plug in your headphones and go. Easy instructions are on the inside cover.

Our Children's Dept. now carry PlayAways. Some of the new titles are:
Hanna's Suitcase, Hoot, Monsters of Otherness and Sword Thief.

New titles in the Adult Dept. are: Glass Castle, Red Thread, Rembrandt Affair, Nail the Job Interview and 100 Ways to Motivate Others.

PlayAways are also great for learning a new language. We have German,
Polish, Chinese, English and Spanish.

If you haven't tried a PlayAway, try one today!

August and September Audiobook releases

We have some really good additions to our audiobook collection. August brought us:
  • Burn by Nevada Barr
  • Queen of the Night by J.A. Jance
  • Crossfire by Dick Francis
  • Postcard Killers by James Patterson
  • Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
  • Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks

Some of the audiobooks to look forward to in September are:

  • Don't Blink by James Patterson
  • Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich
  • Ape House by Sara Gruen
  • Fall of the Giants by Ken Follett
  • Lost Empire by Clive Cussler
  • Warlord by Ted Bell

Don't forget...if an item is checked out, you can always put a hold on it.

Twilight in Forks: The Saga of the Real Town

This documentary interviews people from Forks, Washington, the city where author Stephenie Meyer set the Twilight series, in addition to Twilight aficionados. Interviewees include Twilight Moms, the Twilight Guy, and shrieking Twilight fans. What appears to be a theme in all the fans' comments is that they connect with the love story in Meyer's books. The story has affected fans in different ways. For example, after reading the books a 46-year-old father speaks differently to his wife and is closer to his daughter.

Most interesting is when locals talk about how the Twilight series has affected the town. Many shops sell memorabilia for the thousands of fans from around the world who now visit each year. The Twilight-related visits have helped local businesses, as the increased tourist traffic acted to offset the struggling timber industry. Also emphasized by several interviewees is the energy of fans all over the world and how well Meyer described the town in the novels. More fun trivia tidbits: the city of Forks celebrates September 13, Bella's birthday, and the town (and high school) receives mail for the Cullens. This is an interesting documentary for Twilight fans to check out, and it's only a little annoying having to listen to shrieking teenagers describe the time they traveled to the movie set and got to meet Rob Pattinson.

Twilight in Forks: The Saga of the Real Town
NEW DVD 917.97 TWI
Find it in the catalog!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

DVDs out August 24th

Ajami: Co-directed by Palestinian filmmaker Scandar Copti and Israeli filmmaker Yaron Shani, this powerful drama focuses on the lives of a teenage boy named Nasri and his troubled family in the Ajami neighborhood of Tel Aviv, Israel. An insightful look at the human cost of violence and nationalism in the Middle East. Nominated for multiple awards, including Best Foreign Language Film at the 2010 Oscars, Ajami is highly recommended.
Find it in the catalog!

The Back-Up Plan: This romantic comedy stars Jennifer Lopez as a New York pet shop owner who happens to meet the man of her dreams (Alex O'Loughlin) the very day she undergoes artificial insemination. The film's soundtrack features Colbie Caillat, Moby, VV Brown and, naturally, Jenny From The Block herself.
Find it in the catalog!

City Island: A dark comedy centering on the dysfunctional lives of one Bronx, New York family. Starring Andy Garcia as the paterfamilias and Julianna Margulies as matriarch. Co-starring: Steven Strait, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Alan Arkin, and the always exceptional Emily Mortimer.
Find it in the catalog!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dancing with the Stars: Dance off the Pounds

NEW DVD 613.715 DAN
Find it in the catalog!

I recommend checking out this DVD if you are looking for a fun way to exercise. Fans of the show Dancing with the Stars will recognize professional ballroom dancers Kym Johnson, Lacey Schwimmer, and Dmitry Chaplain as the instructors. Your choices on the DVD menu are straightforward: pick from the dances Swing, Jive, Quickstep, or the Cooldown. Each dance segment lasts 15 minutes, and the Cooldown is 5 minutes. For each dance the instructor teaches you combinations of steps, adding one combination on top of the other, until you work up to a full routine. Even if the first time you try a combination you don't have the steps completely down, don't panic or allow yourself to get too frustrated. Because the routine keeps returning to the beginning after you learn something new, the repetition helps you master the steps. Or, if a certain combination really has you stumped you can always rewind that part of the instruction so you can focus on that area. I'll admit that out of all the routines it took me the longest to get down the shuffle-hops in the Quickstep.

Kym does a great job of teaching you the steps in each combination in the Swing. When you go through the entire routine from the start to incorporate the new combination, she often reminds you which leg to start on, which is helpful. If you haven't gotten up to speed with the Swing portion, the Jive will be a challenge. Lacey runs through the Jive at a quicker pace, which you'll notice right from the start with the speed of the triple step-rock step combination. I do enjoy that this routine is more difficult, because you definitely feel the workout from the quick footwork. Just be prepared to sweat. When this segment is about 14 minutes or so in I'll think Lacey is taking us through the routine for the final time, but guess what? "Let's do it again!" she yells. While this may sound funny, the encouragement from Lacey (and Kym and Dmitry) does help me to push on during the routines instead of giving up and stopping. Whenever the Quickstep is performed on shows like Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance you hear about how much the contestants hate it, so I wasn't expecting to have fun doing these steps. Well, after going through the routine once I was hooked. Dmitry does a good job of explaining the steps and the Quickstep is a great workout for your legs. The kicker is that Dmitry has you do squats at the very end of the routine, and usually by that time my legs are about to turn into jelly. But instead of thinking of the pain I just think about how good-looking Dmitry is.

Even if you are a dance novice you will be able to pick up the steps in these routines. I like to do the routines in different combinations-- sometimes I'll repeat Swing or the Quickstep twice before going on to another routine. Instead of following the order on the menu I like to start with the Quickstep and then continue on to the Swing and then the Jive. If all you do is just go through each dance once, that is 45 minutes of aerobic activity. Every time I've worked out to this DVD I'm sweating buckets by the end, so I think this DVD helps you get a worthwhile workout!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rainbow of Rock: Bands with Colorful Names

Frank Black/ Black Francis*

Black Flag*

 The Black Keys/ Blakroc*

Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Not your average chick flicks

Just a cut above many traditional chick flicks, these stand out for their more complex and relate-able stories (not all happy, sappy endings here!). For example, in (500) Days of Summer, it's more about the break-up than the relationship. In Happy Go-Lucky, the main character Poppy (Sally Hawkins) is fervently up-beat, even when facing her abusive driving instructor. All the Real Girls features a betrayal-- but not by the character you think; Adventureland is similarly surprising.

Do you have any to add?

(500) Days of Summer (2009) 
Stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel
Find it the catalog!

About a Boy (2002)
Stars Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette, and Rachel Weisz
(based on the book by Nick Hornby)
Find it in the catalog!

Adventureland (2009)
Stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, and Ryan Reynolds
Find it in the catalog!

All the Real Girls (2003)
Stars Zooey Deschanel and Paul Schneider
Find it in the catalog!

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Stars Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, and Patricia Neal
Find it in the catalog!

Clueless (1995)
Stars Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, and Paul Rudd
(based on Jane Austen's Emma)
Find it in the catalog!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Stars Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, and Kirsten Dunst
Find it in the catalog!

Happy Go-Lucky (2009)
Stars Sally Hawkins and Eddie Marsan
Find it in the catalog!

Junebug (2006)
Stars Amy Adams, Embeth Davidtz, Ben McKenzie, and Alessandro Nivola
Find it in the catalog!

Juno (2008)
Stars Ellen Page and Michael Cera
Find it in the catalog!

Lars and the Real Girl (2008)
Stars Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, and Paul Schneider
Find it in the catalog!

Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)
Stars Miranda July and John Hawkes
Find it in the catalog!

Princess Bride (1987)
Stars Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin
Find it in the catalog!

Sixteen Candles (1984)
Stars Molly Ringwald, Michael Schoeffling, Anthony Michael Hall
Find it in the catalog!

Inception: "Dreams feel real when we're in them."

Inception stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a fugitive from U.S. law, who specializes in a very unique service: subliminal security. This complex, and very fictional, type of security involves entering the dream-world of the targeted sleeper and extracting information from their subconscious. In an attempt to buy back his freedom and be reunited with his children, DiCaprio's character accepts a job offer that takes the process even further, by planting an idea inside a sleeper's head. Thus: inception. Granted, this is high-concept, and could pretty easily be the premise of the Sci-Fi Channel's movie of the week. But, director Christopher Nolan invests the film with fully realized ideas and layers of complexity that are suspenseful from beginning to end. It's also visually audacious in its depictions of the dream-state. If you've ever wanted to see the city of Paris rise into the air and fold in on itself, well, this is the film for you. Aiding DiCaprio in his subliminal invasion, of billionaire corporate scion Cilian Murphy, are Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ellen Page, and Dileep Rao. (I'm going on record here in stating that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is almost certainly the best-dressed young actor in Hollywood. But, I'll save that list for another blog entry.) Many 'heist film' trappings are on display here, notably a hero who must assemble a group of professionals for the one big score that he so desperately needs. There is also corporate intrigue, high energy chase scenes, prolonged action sequences, and haunting psychological complexity involving DiCaprio and his wife, played by Marion Cotillard. All of these strands are artfully assembled, and at 148 minutes, the film never seemed to lag. Inception may not be the masterpiece that some critics have made it out be, but it is a stylish, inventive thriller that raises interesting questions about dreams and the nature of reality. For a mainstream movie released in the summer of 2010, that's a pretty extraordinary accomplishment.

What follows are the highlights of Christopher Nolan's filmography. I recommend all of  his previous films, but Memento is particularly relevant to Inception's themes of haunted memory and obsession. It's also just a really good movie.

Memento (2000)

Batman Begins (2005)

The Prestige (2006)

The Dark Knight (2008)

Following (1998)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

DVDs out August 17th

Furry Vengeance: This family-friendly comedy features Brendan Fraser as a businessman whose latest land-development project raises the ire of the area's woodland creatures. Yes, it's man vs. nature. Co-starring: Brooke Shields, Matt Prokop, and Angela Kinsey. And, keep an eye out for professional scene-stealers Ken Jeong and Wallace Shawn.
Find it in the catalog!

The Last Song: Miley Cyrus takes the lead in this latest adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Cyrus stars as Veronica "Ronnie" Miller, a teenager whose life is forever changed by a summer spent at her father's home on Tybee Island, Georgia. Ronnie's father is played by the reliably affable Greg Kinnear, and Liam Hemsworth plays Ronnie's believably shirtless love interest. For those of us less susceptible to the treacly charms of Mr. Sparks and Co., I recommend Heather's light-hearted debunking of the Sparks franchise over on the Readers Block.
Find it in the catalog!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Black Keys and the Morning Benders at Metro, 8/7/10

While the Black Keys were in town last weekend to play at summer music festival behemoth Lollapalooza, they also played a late night show at the Metro in Wrigleyville. I am a pretty big fan of the duo from Akron, Ohio, having previously expressed my love for their stellar album Rubber Factory (seriously, listen it to it!).  However, summer music festivals aren't my favorite, something about the combination of port-a-potties, the hot summer sun, and poor sound quality just doesn't appeal to me.  So naturally I opted to see the Metro show instead and was one of the lucky few non-Lolla attendees to snag tickets. 

When I first approached Metro, I saw a line winding pretty far down Clark St.  I've attended shows that were sold out before, but never quite this popular.  California indie rockers the Morning Benders opened for the Keys.  I've been enjoying their most recent album, Big Echo, throughout the summer.  It's a nice blend of shoe-gazer and 60s pop-inspired harmonies that manages to sound both old-fashioned and fresh at the same time.  The band had more of a forceful, guitar heavy sound in concert and performed a really enjoyable set.  Lead singer Christopher Chu was a sarcastic but genial stage presence that slowly won over an initially indifferent crowd.  Also, I feel obliged to mention that the Morning Benders are pretty cute in a skinny hipster sort of way.  I'd recommend the band to fans of the Arctic Monkeys, the Shins, or Beach House.

During the break between the Morning Benders and the Black Keys sets, I noticed that the girl in front of me kept looking up in the balcony with a mixture of surprise and (I thought) disgust.  I assumed someone was doing something stupid, so I looked up there too.  Much to my surprise, I saw the pretty, brooding face of Ed Westwick aka. Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl.  I felt sort of bad for him, because Chicago audiences aren't quite as cool to celebrities as in New York and L.A.; people were gawking and taking pictures.  Also, he was stuck up in the balcony rather than being able to rock out in the pit like the rest of us.

The Black Keys took the stage a little after midnight.  Their set featured songs from all six of their albums, though their most recent album Brothers was definitely the focus; they played about 10 songs off of it.   They played primarily singles from their older albums, making the show a good primer for newer Keys fans.  However, as a nerd, I couldn't help but wish they played some deeper cuts too.  Nonetheless, this was definitely an awesome show.  I've always been impressed by Dan Auerbach's guitar work, but live, I was blown away by how amazingly talented he is. He's the equivalent of all four Midlake guitarists in one impressively bearded guitar player.  The Keys started out as a duo and were later joined on stage by a touring bassist and guitar player.  I can't say I really noticed a radical different in sound between the two piece and four piece Black Keys. Dan and drummer Patrick Carney are able to rock enough on their own.  Highlights of their set include: "10 A.M. Automatic" from Rubber Factory, "I Got Mine" from  Attack and Release, a cover of Junior Kimbrough's "Everywhere I Go" from Thickfreakness, and "She's Long Gone" and "Everlasting Light" from Brothers. My only real quibble with the set was the closer, "Sinister Kid," which is my second least favorite song off of Brothers ("Unknown Brother" is my number one and thankfully wasn't played).  It's not a terrible song, but with an incredible song catalog, they could have done much better (like "The Lengths").  Also, it has sort of a weird rhythm, so there was lots awkward dancing going on in the crowd.  Still this was definitely among my top two shows of the year so far. 

The audience for the show was definitely on the rowdy side.  Most of the people had attended Lollapalooza first, so they were more than ready to party, and it was a guy-heavy crowd.  The show started out crowded and wound up stuffed to the brim.  Between the geeky, in-place dancing done by most the audience (myself very much included) and the sizable crowd, most of the audience was pretty sweaty by the end of the night.  It was a fun and enthusiastic crowd that sang along with most of the songs and cheered wildly for everything, except Dan's confessed Lady Gaga love.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

DVDs out August 10th

Date Night: The much anticipated match-up of comic heavyweights Steve Carell and Tina Fey. The duo play a couple whose somewhat dreary marriage is tested - and subsequently reinvigorated - by a night in Manhattan that goes drastically awry. Carell and Fey make the most of familiar material, finding a certain sweetness in the sometimes prickly characters. Supporting cast: Mark Wahlberg makes for a solid straight-man, and the quarrelsome James Franco and Mila Kunis nearly steal the show. My earlier Media Corner review can be found here.
Find it in the catalog!

Death at a Funeral: An amiable American remake of the 2007  British film of the same name. This madcap funeral differs very little from the original, but proves to be pretty funny in its own right. The large cast includes: Danny Glover, Regina Hall, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock, and Luke Wilson. Directed by Neil LaBute (Your Friends & Neighbors, Lakeview Terrace).
Find it in the catalog!

The Joneses: A satirical comedy centered on an all-too-perfect suburban family. David Duchovny and Demi Moore star as an affluent couple whose consumerism make them the envy of their neighbors. Co-starring: Amber Heard, Ben Hollingsworth, and Gary Cole.
Find it in the catalog!

Letters to God: An "inspirational drama"  based on the true story of a young boy's bout with cancer and the effect his religious faith has on his community. This is a Christian-themed film from the producer of Facing the Giants and Fireproof.
Find it in the catalog!

Scene Stealer: Lizzy Caplan

 Lizzy Caplan is probably best known for playing sarcastic best friend roles.  Her break out performance was as Janis Ian in the teen satire Mean Girls.  Janis is easily the best thing about that movie with her mean but funny comments on the general stupidity of high school life.  Anyone who felt like an outcast in high school will relate to her character.  On the HBO series True Blood she played Amy Burley, Jason Stackhouse's V (vampire blood drug) addicted girl friend.  Amy was a ruthless and fairly unlikable character who corrupted the semi-moral but stupid Jason into kidnapping a vampire to get his blood. Caplan's performance as Amy was an interesting departure from Janis Ian.  Amy is a bohemian and pseudo-intellectual, she's selfish and manipulative and yet you can kind of understand why Jason falls for her in the first place.

My favorite role of her's is Casey Klein from the brilliant but canceled Party Down.  Casey is an aspiring comedian working temporarily as a catering waitress.  Casey has a lot of flaws, she's insecure, a disrespectful employee (always taking personal calls while working), and she can be insensitive (like when she leaves Henry to take a job as a comedian on a cruise ship).  But she's also funny, smart and the only person who encourages and believes in Henry's acting career.  Henry and Casey are one of my favorite TV couples.

Lizzy Caplan is frequently compared to manic pixie dream girl extraordinaire Zooey Deschanel.  Both actresses have similarly husky voices, frequently play sardonic characters, and are masters of the side eye.  However, I think Lizzy more consistently chooses believable and complex characters. 

Check out Lizzy in one of the DVDs we have at the library:

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010).
Probably the closest Caplan has come to playing a manic pixie dream girl.  She's the girl John Cusack's character notices the second time he relives his 80s ski weekend.  It's easy to see why the older and more mature Cusack would fall for her instead of his pretty but vapid girlfriend.
Find it in the catalog!

Party Down (2009-2010).
Find it in the catalog!

True Blood (2008).
Find it in the catalog!

Cloverfield (2008). 
Caplan plays Marlena Diamond, who in her typical fashion is a sarcastic outsider.  However, when she and her friends get chased by the Cloverfield monster, Marlena is surprisingly heroic.
Find it in the catalog!

Mean Girls (2004).
Find it in the catalog!

Freaks and Geeks (1999). 
Here she plays Sarah, a disco enthusiast who dates Nick Andopolis (Jason Segel) after his mega crush Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini) dumps him.  Probably one of my favorite TV shows ever and a great place to see all of the Judd Apatow regulars before they were a big deal.
Find it in the catalog!

Patricia Neal: 1926-2010

Patricia Neal, an Oscar Winner Who Endured Tragedy, Dies at 84

If you have not seen the 1963 film Hud, I strongly encourage you to do so. What follows is a list of highlights from Neal's decades-long Hollywood career.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Find it in the catalog!

A Face in the Crowd (1957)
Find it in the catalog!

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Find it in the catalog!

Hud (1963)
Find it in the catalog!

Cookie's Fortune (1999)
Find it in the catalog!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Free movies in August at the Dundee Library

Come to the library in August for a free movie! Popcorn, drinks, and a movie on the big screen, all for free! All movies are shown in the downstairs Meeting Room. You do not need to make reservations or get tickets to attend. The door to the Meeting Room opens 30 minutes before showtime. First come, first served (audience capacity is limited to 80 people).

The Young Victoria
Wednesday, August 18 at 6 PM
Rated PG

Hachi: A Dog's Tale
Saturday, August 21 at 2 PM
Rated G

Tuesday, August 24 at 6 PM
Rated PG-13
Classic Movie Night!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Scene stealer: Bobby Cannavale

The entire cast of 2003 film The Station Agent is superb: Peter Dinklage plays the town newcomer, Finbar, who is mourning his friend and wants to be left alone. Patricia Clarkson portrays the lonely divorcee, Olivia, who is mourning a loss as well. Yet, it is Bobby Cannavale, as Joe, mourning no one, that is a revelation. Joe is the enthusiastic and pesky hot dog vendor who worms his way into the lives of the other characters (especially the standoffish Finbar). Joe's motivation to pursue the relationships seems to be curiosity and bordem. The audience must care about Joe because it is through him that the storyline progresses. To be annoying yet still likeable is the balancing act that Cannavale must perform-- which he does to absolute realization. 

But let's face it, Cannavale's character isn't new to the cinematic realm (think Kramer from Seinfeld).  However, Cannavale adds such leveity to the film that deals with some heavier issues (dwarfism, death). He is responsible for a majority of the humor throughout this dramedy. His performance proves that often the humorous performances are better (and sometimes more difficult) than the crying on cue ones.
Find it in the catalog!

A Bittersweet Curse

How seriously can you take the idea of romance between an Egyptian mummy and the archaeologist who discovers him? Not terribly, am I right? Such scenarios are generally limited to black and white horror movies and pulpy Anne Rice novels. Singer/songwriter Josh Ritter somehow manages to invest this fantastical relationship with pathos and tenderness, making "The Curse" the standout track of his 2010 album So Runs the World Away. "The Curse" is a lilting waltz with perfectly punctuated horn accompaniment and one of the most elegantly written poetic narratives in pop music. Ritter's drummer, professional puppeteer Liam Hurley, painstakingly created a visual corollary to the song that enhances its already powerful emotional impact. (You can read Hurley's thoughts on the song/video and see photos of the production process on NPR's All Songs Considered blog.) You can scoff at the perceived preciousness of an all-puppet music video, but if you're not moved by the sight of that marionette mummy reaching out to stroke the archaeologists hair (1 minute, 19 seconds into the video), then I'm not sure you're alive. Recommended for: lovers of poetic, finely wrought songs; puppeteers and puppet aficionados; video geeks; and any human being in whose chest the dried fig of a heart still beats.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The September Issue

This documentary follows Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and her staff on the fashion runways, at photo shoots, and within the Vogue offices in Times Square as they prepare the September 2007 issue of the magazine. The September issue is important because, as one staff member puts it, September is the "January in fashion. This is when I change." The September issue is also the thickest, often being compared to a telephone book.

Wintour, originally from London, grew up with 1960s fashion influences and is actually the first to use celebrities in fashion. Today we always see celebrities on magazine covers, but in the past only fashion models were used. Wintour is often described as cold, and we see why, as staff members get worked up when she rejects ideas ("I wanna kill myself.") In addition to Wintour, the documentary follows around Grace Coddington, the magazine's creative director and a fashion stylist. Originally from northern Wales, Coddington modeled for Vogue as a teenager before traveling to London to model full-time. When an auto accident ended her modeling career Coddington started work as British Vogue Junior Editor and then worked her way up. Coddington is unique in that she's a fashion stylist that actually touches the models and also retains a romantic notion about photography and fashion.

I enjoyed this documentary and found it very fascinating to look at what goes into creating an issue of a magazine. I especially liked watching Grace Coddington's photoshoots. Watching her work was definitely the highlight of the movie for me. When she re-shoots the color blocking photographs, she comes up with an idea that includes the documentary cameraman, Bob. After seeing the finished photos Wintour makes a comment that the photo needs retouching and that Bob needs to go to the gym; upon hearing Wintour's response, Coddington makes a call that she absolutely does not want his tummy airbrushed. Awesome!

This DVD set includes an entire disc of special features. One deleted scene finds Wintour upset about "horrible white plastic buckets of ice." Even if you don't check out the special features, after watching this movie you'll never look at a fashion magazine the same again.
Find it in the catalog!