Thursday, September 30, 2010

Film adaptations: Jane Eyre

I love my British period-piece dramas. The most recent mini-series adaptation of the Charlote Brontë classic Jane Eyre (2006) is one of them. It was produced by BBC and shown on PBS here in the States. In the title role is Ruth Wilson, a virtual unknown at the time (although, she's still not a household name) and Toby Stephens tackles the role of Mr. Rochester.

Confession time. I don't really like the book. (This is not the first classic book I don't like.) And, up until this version, I wasn't a fan of any of the previous adaptations either. However, everything is right about this one. The casting is the single most important piece to the puzzle. Stephens is perfection as Rochester, balancing both the sinister and sympathetic sides to the character. His performance is the first time that I truly understand why Jane would fall for Rochester. Wilson trandscends the innocent, but not naive Jane. With her head down and duties as a governess, she finally finds the kindness and respect she's craved her whole life, and from a man no less. Wilson conveys so much just in her eyes alone, we will be seeing more great things from this actress in the future.

If you have approximately four hours of your life to spare (maybe the only complaint is the length), check out this wonderful, quality adaptation of a classic. It makes me want to try the book again.

Jane Eyre
Find it in the catalog!

Jesse Eisenberg

Jesse Eisenberg plays Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg in the hotly anticipated new David Fincher film The Social Network, which is coming to theaters this Friday.  I've been a fan of Eisenberg since 2002's Roger Dodger, where he played the young, naive nephew of Campbell Scott's Don Draperian advertising copywriter.  Since then, Eisenberg has turned in winning performances in films like Noah Baumbach's excellent family dramedy, The Squid and the Whale (2005), and the sweetly nostalgic but hilarious Adventureland (2009).  That is not to say that Eisenberg's career has been completely free of missteps; he appeared in M. Night Shyamalan's much maligned film The Village (2004) and the cult horror movie Cursed (2005).

Eisenberg has often been compared to Superbad star Michael Cera, most likely because both actors frequently play sensitive, slightly neurotic young men with hipster tendencies.  Cera may be the more famous of the two, but Eisenberg favors characters with a darker edge and has larger breadth in his roles.

Fun fact:  Eisenberg created the super addictive world play website where users compete to make the most amusing/ profound simile.

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

Zombieland (2009). *
Find it in the catalog!
The best zombie movie since Shaun of the Dead (2004).  It has a very cool cameo by everyone's favorite Chicagoan, Bill Murray.

Adventureland (2009).*
Find it in the catalog!
My favorite film of last year.  It has an excellent supporting performance by Media Corner favorite Martin Starr too!

The Education of Charlie Banks (2007).
Find it in the catalog!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Audiobooks in for September/October

The widely talked about Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Reviews are mixed on this one.
Next would be An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd. The book is set in France during the First World War.

Also in:

The Whisperers by John Connolly

Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs

Be Careful What you Pray For by Kimberla Lawson Roby

A Time to Dance by Karen Kingsbury

The House on Olive Street by Robyn Carr

Embrace the Struggle by Zig Ziglar

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich


Time Enough for Love by Suzanne Brockmann

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lee DeWyze at Arlington Park, 9/24/10

American Idol Season 9 winner and Mount Prospect native Lee DeWyze returned home on Friday to play a concert at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights. Backed by his own band, he sang a combination of covers and originals and treated the crowd to his first performance ever of new song "Only Dreaming" off his upcoming album due to be released November 16. He said the song is probably his favorite song he's ever written. DeWyze looked very confident onstage and told the audience how much he appreciated their support.

From the two times I've seen him perform live, I've seen how DeWyze connects to the feelings of the music and puts his whole soul into singing. On Friday he tackled covers of Elton John's "Rocket Man," Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody," Dave Matthews Band's "Crash Into Me," and U2's "Beautiful Day." "Beautiful Day" was his first single released after winning American Idol; much to the delight of everyone in the crowd, DeWyze sang his unique version of the song, which he has performed on various TV appearances but isn't the version released as a single. One of the highlights of the entire concert was "Rocket Man," where DeWyze's gritty, soulful take on the beginning made me completely forget Elton John's version. From his pre-Idol album Slumberland DeWyze sang "So What Now," "Annabelle," and one of my favorites of the night, "Stay."  He also sang two songs that he memorably performed on Idol: Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." I think he sang a few more songs but I am not able to remember them right now.

While DeWyze previously performed at the American Idols Live tour in August at the United Center, this concert was his first solo performance since he won Idol; DeWyze told the crowd that this concert begins his career. I think he sounded awesome with the band backing him and you could tell how much fun he was having performing at home. At one point during the show, after ending a song, DeWyze announced that was the point where he was supposed to be done; his band left. Listening to the screams of the crowd, he remained on the stage and sang two more songs with just his guitar.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Bill Murray!

"Tito Puente's gonna be dead, and you're gonna say, 'Oh, I've been listening to him for years, and I think he's fabulous.'"
- Bill Murray, Stripes (1981)

Tuesday, September 21st, beloved actor/comedian Bill Murray turned 60. The Chicago native has been redefining comedy in his own image since the late 1970s, from his work with the esteemed Second City improv troupe, his hugely popular tenure on Saturday Night Live, subsequent box-office success with Harold Ramis and other Second City alums, and critically acclaimed collaborations with directors Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch. His Oscar nominated performance in 2003's Lost in Translation is indicative of a progression toward more complex, nuanced performances. Murray's continued late-career renaissance is a wonderful thing to see, and I, for one, hope it never ends.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tom Waits: Selected Highlights, Pt. 2

It's been a while since my initial post on this topic, Tom Waits: Selected Highlights, Pt. 1. Given the breadth of work in the artist's canon, I knew I'd be back for a followup eventually. Here's another five songs that strike me as outstanding examples of the peculiar genius in possession of Tom Waits and his wife and co-writer Kathleen Brennan.

Selected Highlights, continued...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Albums we love: In the Aeroplane over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
by Neutral Milk Hotel

Released in 1998 by Merge Records, In the Aeroplane over the Sea is the second and last album by Neutral Milk Hotel.  Adding to the mystic of the album, NMH split up shortly after the release and lead singer/ mastermind Jeff Magnum became somewhat of a recluse.  However, earlier this year, he performed five NMH songs at a benefit concert for punk pioneer Chris Knox.  Since its release, the album has become one of the most influential albums in the indie rock canon, though it has its share of detractors.  Fans of the band tend to be a devoted, if slightly nutty bunch.  They are not only familiar with NMH’s two studio releases (Aeroplane and On Avery Islandand EP (Everything Is...) , but also have copies of the band’s three cassettes released only through Elephant 6 from the early 90s.  I must admit I’m a more casual listener of NMH; though I do own Jeff Magnum’s collaboration with Elephant 6-er Julian Koster called Major Organ and the Adding Machine, which is definitely an acquired taste.  I was somewhat surprised to find out what a cult favorite the album was, because I was well into college before I found anyone else who had even heard of the band.

I first discovered the album when I was 16, a few years after the album came out.  I bought it because it was from Merge Records (a very cool indie label) and had a odd but awesome cover.  This was pre-iTunes and by-and-large file sharing, so not a whole lot of opportunities to listen to albums before you bought them.  I was definitely blown away by the album the first time I listen to it.  I was into a lot of lo-fi indie and sadcore indie rock (think: Belle and Sebastian, Bright Eyes, and The Mountain Goats), so I was impressed by the fullness of the sound and use of horns, accordions, and other instruments largely ignored by indie rockers at the time.   It sounded like a bizarre mixture of Eastern European folk music and psychedelia. 

Magnum's lyrics are cryptic and surreal, including lines like "Two headed boy she is all you could need/ She will feed you tomatoes and radio wires" (from "Two Headed Boy, Part Two").  However, the intensity of emotion in the lyrics and the awkward sexuality expressed in songs like "Two Headed Boy" and "Oh Comely" make the album more than relatable for a teenager.  The album is supposedly about Anne Frank, but the theme is more apparent in some songs ("Holland 1945" and "Oh Comely") than others ("Communist Daughter").  Death is perhaps the most common thread among the songs on Aeroplane, whether they are depicting reincarnation ('Holland 1945", "Ghost"), the afterlife ("In the Aeroplane Over the Sea"), or the physical process of dying ("Two Headed Boy").  Still, in spite of its morbid focus, the album manages to be uplifting overall. 

Recommended for fans of: Olivia Tremor Control, Of Montreal, Beirut, The Decemberists, A Hawk and A Hacksaw

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bryan Fuller, creator extraordinaire

Technically Bryan Fuller might not have the best track record on TV (he created 3 shows with only 5 seasons between them), but he definitely created some of the most unusual and entertaining fare on the tube in the last decade. Patterns emerge from these three cult series. 

Dead Like Me (2003-2004, Showtime) follows Georgia "George" Lass (Ellen Muth), a recent college drop-out, after she dies in a freak accident and is tapped to be a grim reaper. She still has a human form and must basically lead a normal, mundane life with only her grim reaper boss and friends as true confidants, but her main duty is to rescue people's souls before they die. (A movie "to wrap things up" came out in 2009.)
Season 1 Find it in the catalog!
Season 2 Find it in the catalog!
Dead Like Me: Life After Death Find it in the catalog!

Wonderfalls (2004, Fox) follows Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas), a recent college graduate who works retail at a Niagra Falls gift shop and lives at the High and Dry Trailer Park (love the name). But her job is not her biggest problem: one day a wax lion talks to her. Toys and objects cryptically tell her to do things and if she doesn't follow their advice bad things tend to happen. Fox aired only four of the 13 episodes for this show, which is a shame because the show grows into its own as the season progresses.
Find it in the catalog!

Pushing Daisies (2007-2009, ABC) follows Ned (Lee Pace) who has the ability to bring people back to life with his touch, usually allowing their murder to be solved. However, this blessing is also a curse because it presents problems for him and his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte "Chuck" Charles (Anna Friel).
Season 1 Find it in the catalog!
Season 2 Find it in the catalog!

These short-lived, but masterful series have a few things in common, so if you like one, you'll like the others. Besides Fuller's affinity for naming his female characters male names (George, Jaye, and Chuck), they are strong women. The central character in both WF and DLM is a slightly acerbic female; PD features solid supporting female characters. While the themes of death, indifference to life, and seizing the day are common to the shows, it is predominantly the quirkiness they exude that bind them together.

Check out these quirky, funny, and oddly inspiring series-- it's not a huge time commitment (5 seasons, no problem!).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vote for what films you want to watch at the library in 2011

Lots of great movies will be released on DVD in late 2010 and early 2011 and I'm trying to see which titles are most popular. I've added two polls in the sidebar on the right side of the blog. As long as DVD release dates are not pushed back I will try to schedule the most popular movies to be shown at the library first. In order to get the information in the next newsletter I'll have to set the December-January-February schedule by mid-October. So, vote for what popular releases you are interested in watching. Don't forget to vote for what should be our next classic film series! The current film series for September-October-November is Stephen King Adaptations. What should be the next one? The films of Bogart and Bacall? Box office favorites from the '50s? Or maybe you prefer the '80s. I couldn't get the poll to include write-in votes for different decades but I do provide that option on the paper ballots available at Movie Nights.

You can fill out a paper ballot to vote for your favorites at the upcoming movies: The Bounty Hunter (tonight at 6 PM), The Spy Next Door (Saturday at 2 PM), and The Clash of the Titans (October 13 at 6 PM).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Happy birthday, Amy Winehouse!

British retro-soul singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse turns 27 today. I am a big fan of her music and have continued to hope over the past couple years that she will overcome her drug and alcohol issues and get healthy so she can return to recording more songs.

Winehouse has released two albums: 2003's Frank and 2006's  Back to Black. Frank is a decent album but doesn't share the emotional longing found in the Back to Black songs. Produced by Mark Ronson, Back to Black finds  Winehouse channeling 1960s doo-wop and soul singers as she sings about the aching pain of being in love. For this album Winehouse was nominated for six Grammys, winning Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year (for "Rehab"), Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (for "Rehab"), and Best Pop Vocal Album. Winehouse has yet to release another full-length album since Back to Black, but you can find some of her songs on other albums. Winehouse's cover of "Valerie" is one of the highlights of Mark Ronson's 2007 album Version, and on the Valentine's Day soundtrack she covers "Cupid." It was recently confirmed that Winehouse and Ronson worked together again, this time on a cover of "It's My Party" for the upcoming Quincy Jones tribute album Q: Soul Bossa Notra.

I guess one song's better than nothing, but in the meantime, while I wait for Winehouse's next studio album, I'll relisten to my favorites off Back to Black: "Love is a Losing Game," "Back to Black,"  "Wake Up Alone," and "Rehab." No matter how many times I listen to her songs I never get tired of them. She is a very talented songwriter and singer and her retro-soul/R&B style to her voice is amazing. I just love how you can feel her emotions in every word she sings. Happy 27th birthday, Amy!

Find Amy Winehouse's music in the catalog:
Frank (2003)
Back to Black (2006)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Scene stealer: Kristen Wiig

Kristen Wiig is arguably the most valuable cast member on Saturday Night Live for her characters that include Target Lady, Gilly, and Suze Orman. Earlier this year she provided the voice of Ruffnut in How to Train Your Dragon (on DVD in October) and also voiced the character of Miss Hattie in Despicable Me over the summer. In recent DVD release MacGruber Wiig plays Vicki St. Elmo. In the coming months you'll also see her on screen in the drama All Good Things (out December 17), co-starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst; Paul (March 2011), written by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg and including a cast of who's who in comedy; and Bridesmaids (May 2011), co-written by Wiig, directed by Paul Feig and co-starring Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Maya Rudolph (SNL), Melissa McCarthy (Gilmore Girls), and Ellie Kreiger (The Office), just to name a few. Here are some Wiig highlights you can check out from the library's collection:

Knocked Up (2007)
As E! TV executive Jill, Wiig steals her scenes with Katherine Heigl. Early in the movie Alison (Heigl) receives a promotion and Jill can barely hide her lack of enthusiasm: "I was so surprised." Then, along with boss Jack, she strongly suggests Alison lose weight: "We don't want you to lose weight, we just want you to be healthy. Y'know, by eating less." Months later when Alison is confronted about her obvious pregnancy, Jill tells her she should have been truthful with them: "This is Hollywood. We don't like liars."
Find it in the catalog!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Heartbroken, in disrepair: Songs for the lovelorn and lonely

"What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"
-Rob Gordon, High Fidelity

Unrequited love isn't the biggest injustice in the world, though those suffering from it may disagree.  Previously, I posted on songs written from the perspective of the person leaving a relationship.  Today we look at the flip side of the coin: songs about being dumped or never even noticed in the first place.  Since nothing inspires art like heartbreak, the pool of songs for this list is considerably larger.  There is seemingly endless supply of songs and albums devoted to love gone wrong.  So while being spurned may sting, there is certainly no shortage of stuff to listen into while you are wallowing in disquietude.  Below are some of my current favorite rejection-inspired songs.

The Dude Abides at the Library, Tuesday Night (Sept. 14).

On Tuesday night at 6:30 PM, we will be showing the Coen Brothers' cult classic movie, the Big Lebowski, at Dundee Township Public Library.  The Big Lebowski is probably the most popular and accessible Coen Brothers' work to date.  It is a pinball mystery following the incredibly chill Jeff Lebowski aka. the Dude (Jeff Bridges) around LA in the mid-1990s as he investigates the kidnapping of a trophy wife.  One of the reasons I really enjoy this movie is because of the incredible supporting work by John Goodman and Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Goodman, especially, is funny as former Vietnam vet Walter Sobchak, whose quick, violent temper pretty much make him the anti-Dude.  The soundtrack for the movie is also excellent, featuring everyone from the Monks to Kenny Loggins at his most psychedelic. 

The movie showing is also the first meeting of a new group we have started at the library for twenty and thirty-somethings called Young and Restless (aka. YAR).  Check out our shiny, new Facebook page for more events and info on YAR.

Event Info:
When: Tuesday, September 14 at 6:30 PM
Where: Dundee Township Public Library District, Meeting Room
What: Watch the Big Lebowski and eat free pizza!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What we're listening to: When Everything Breaks Open by Matt Morris

Find it in the catalog!

When Everything Breaks Open is the major label debut by singer-songwriter Matt Morris. Although this is his first major label album, Matt is by no means new to the music industry. He gained an instant following after appearing on The All New Mickey Mouse Club during the early '90s. After the show's cancellation Matt performed with his father, country singer Gary Morris, and appeared on several of his albums (My Son... Your Christmas, Live at the Tretyakov Gallery, Lone Star Knight). He also collaborated with other artists, like friend Christina Aguilera; they co-wrote five songs on her 2002 album Stripped in addition to Kelly Clarkson's hit song "Miss Independent." In 2003 Matt independently released the album UnSpoken (now out-of-print), which demonstrated his enormous range on songs such as "The World I'm Living In" and "Let Me." With friend Justin Timberlake he co-wrote UnSpoken's "Go Away," the track "All Over Again" from Timberlake's 2006 album FutureSex/LoveSounds, and "The Only Promise That Remains" from Reba McEntire's album Duets (2007). Matt was the first artist to be signed to Timberlake's record company, Tennman Records; WEBO was originally released on that label at the beginning of this year, and then was re-released (without hidden bonus track "100,000 Strong") on Interscope Records on July 13. This is a new CD to the collection that I recommend you taking a listen to.

With a powerful dance beat behind "Don't You Dare" Matt's vocals reaches Adam Lambert-esque heights, while on "Money" Matt takes a laid-back approach to singing about how greed affects society. You will find yourself bouncing to the reggae beat and positive energy of "Love." The country-twinged "Bloodline" has a haunting quality to its melody and lyrics, telling the story of a woman abandoned by a man and struggling to provide for herself and the kids. He switches gears for the soaring chorus of "Live Forever," one of my favorites on the album, and slows the music down on the piano-based "Let It Go" and tender "Someone To Love You." I really like the Coldplay-inspired guitar on "Just Before the Morning." Matt again changes the tempo on the funky, soulful cut "You Do It For Me" that will make you want to get up and dance.

"The Un-American," another of the album's highlights, is a commentary on our often material and judgmental culture. Matt affects a prim and proper, mocking tone to his vocals and sarcastically describes "The Un-American," who "needs a personal Jesus" and "ought to take a trip to Disney / Get his head on straight." This song, in addition to "Eternity," are two tracks I'd recommend you skip to listen to first.

Originally included on UnSpoken, the song "Eternity" appears on WEBO in a new, extended version. This is one of my all-time favorite songs from Matt because of the amazing vocals and imagery in the lyrics. He sings from the point of view of a person recounting his past lives: "I was the prosecutor / I was put on trial / I put forth the accusation / I made the denial." As he progresses through the song recounting his life experiences, Matt builds momentum with guitar, piano, and the conviction in his singing. I think the message of the song is to remember that you must live with yourself for your actions: "what you do and / what you be is go'n follow you like it follow me, and be / with you for eternity."

On WEBO Matt is in control of a variety of musical styles. His soulful voice tackles everything from pop to R&B. Love and staying true to relationships over material things is a theme found in many of the songs. As a longtime Matt Morris fan, I'm certain this album will be embraced by many more listeners.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

DVDs out September 7th

Killers: This action-oriented romantic comedy stars Ashton Kucher as a former government assassin whose wife, doe-eyed Katherine Heigl, must come to grips with his past. Directed by Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde, The Ugly Truth).
Find it in the catalog!

MacGruber: A feature-length version of the ongoing series of Saturday Night Live sketches, starring Will Forte as a comically inept MacGyver-type. Co-starring  Ryan Phillippe, Val Kilmer, and SNL alumni Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. The soundtrack is appropriately loaded with dated '80s pop songs and goofy tracks performed by the cast members, but also features a song by Media Corner favorites The Black Keys.
Find it in the catalog!

Solitary Man: Michael Douglas stars as a fifty-ish used car salesman whose dissatisfaction with his lot in life leads to a series of reunions and reevaluations. The supporting cast is full of ringers, including: Danny Devito, Jesse Eisenberg, Jenna Fischer, Mary Louise Parker, and the always reliable Susan Sarandon.
Find it in the catalog!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Just Ain't Gonna Work Out- Songs of Rejection

There are plenty of good songs out there for the recently dumped- whether they are bitterly hostile or desperate to rekindle their relationship (or both). However, it can be just as hard to let someone down gently (especially if they are the clingy type) as it is to be kicked to the curb. So here are songs written from the perspective of the dumper, not the dumpee.  Making a mix tape of these songs to give to your not-so-special someone is probably not the kindest way to break it off, but it's nicer than what Arthur Russell would do!

Side note: I found it funny that most of the songs on the list were written by adorably geeky guys (minus, of course, Robyn), so I included their pictures. Unsurprisingly, most of these dudes have also written some pretty excellent songs about being dumped too. Expect that list shortly.

Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out- Mayer Hawthorne

Mayer Hawthorne is so smooth.  Not only can he pull off a hipster Dwight Shrute look, but he made a break up song that still sounds seductive.  Some people may be put off by Hawthorne's whiteboy retro soul shtick, but his album makes for pleasant listening and is surprisingly un-ironic. Check out the video for the song, which shows that sometimes ladies can be undateable too.