Category: Movies

Book review: Life Itself

By , July 18, 2014

Life itself: a memoir
by Roger Ebert

In 2011 Roger Ebert, the everyman half of Siskel & Ebert penned the memoir, Life Itself.  The book gives readers behind the scenes access into the life of the man who shaped the way we  look at movies for 4o years.

From his childhood years in Urbana to the heady days of covering international film festivals, Ebert shares the nuances that made his life itself rich. Roger Ebert was raised a Catholic, but he later lapsed. He fought the temptations of drink, professional jealousy and the wiley ways of buxom, wonton women. Sure, there must have been editing in the telling, but what a masterfully crafted final product.

Ebert won a Pulitzer Prize (the first awarded for movie criticism) and notably co-wrote the screen play of Beyond Valley of the Dolls. He was the first film critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His television movie review programs, beginning with Sneak Previews in 1975, hosting with Gene Siskel in various incarnations for 15 years and ending with Ebert & Roeper, changed the way we look at movies and movie going.

It was his talent for conveying the details, atmosphere and mutations in mood that gave his work a distinct voice no matter the medium.  Over the years he moved from print (linotype presses, no less) to television and finally electronic communications when he lost the physical ability to speak.

Filmmaker Steve James has produced a film version of the biography, loosely based on the book. Filming began after Ebert could no longer speak, but was still in relatively good enough health to be a vital part of the process.  Over the course of filming, Roger Ebert endured return visits to rehab and moments of restored health only to repeat the process over and over again with his (late in life) wife, Chaz at his side. Roger Ebert, the surgically devoured, papillary thyroid  and salivary glands  cancer patient died in April 2013, eleven years after his initial diagnosis. The film version, Life Itself was released earlier this month.  To rave reviews.

We don’t pretend to disagree.  Gene Siskel

-laurie

Legends of Film: Alec Smight

By , June 29, 2014


Bill interviews editor, director and producer of the CSI TV series, Alec Smight.  Mr. Smight is the son of late director Jack Smight, who directed this month’s Movies @ Main feature No Way to Treat a Lady.  Alec talks about his father’s directing career as well as his own work on CSI.

Come see No Way to Treat a Lady on Saturday July 12, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium.

 

It’s Nia Time!

By , May 27, 2014

What has Nia Vardalos done lately?

I know you’re wondering, “Amanda, why do I need to care about a Big Fat movie that was popular 10 years ago? That Greek chick in it hasn’t done anything else. She’s a one-hit wonder.” I know you’re wondering this a) because I have a Magic Eight ball that told me and b) I was thinking it too until I had a delightful surprise in Overdrive one day.

Nia Vardalos wrote a book! (Taa daa…cymbals crash in the background.)

Called Instant Mom, on the surface, it’s about her struggles to adopt a child, but we also get some background on how My Big Fat Greek Wedding came to be. She talks about how her acting/writing career fit into to her new life as a mom. I didn’t realize that she had written as many films as she had. The only one I knew about was Connie and Carla – which I LOVE! It’s got drag queens and showtunes – the best combination since peanut butter and jelly. Vardalos uses her trademark sarcastic and self-deprecating voice in her writing to describe her problems, which manages to add comic relief without cheapening the situation. Her voice makes my hair curly.

I love Nia Vardalos. In an alternate universe, we’re Hollywood besties. Come along with  me now as we take a voyage through the seemingly underexplored oeuvre of that Big Fat Greek Girl…in no particular order…

My Life in Ruins

Filmed on location in Greece in 2009, Nia did not write this one, but she is the leading lady. It’s a cute little romcom, that’s more about group friendship than romantic love. It’s not better than my favorites, but it’s not a bad way to kill 90 minutes. Also, her husband makes a cameo as a grumpy desk clerk. Creepy…but funny.

Larry Crowne

I wasn’t really interested in this one when it came out, so I didn’t know that it was written by Vardalos. So I watched it and was pleasantly surprised. It’s funny though – I kept seeing Nia as the lead instead of Julia Roberts and I never realized how similar these two were. Larry Crowne, or Lance Corona, was a cute movie that I may have to watch again at some point. Husband alert again – he pops up as the dinner owner where Larry gets a job as a cook.

We also have an interview with Vardalos as part of The Dialogue and a playaway from Second City that includes Vardalos. The playaway is funny, although sometimes it can be hard to pick out Vardalos. But Steve Carell pops up every now and again, as does Ed Asner. The interview was a little slow in places and the Mike de Luca, the interviewer, kinda bugged me with all his interruptions, but Nia is charming and incredibly humble about her success. Her husband was not in the interview.

 

I hope you have enjoyed this trip through the World of Nia Vardalos. So who is this mysterious husband who keeps popping up? Vardalos has been married to Ian Gomez since 1993. When I looked up his picture – turns out he’s Ian’s (John Corbett) best friend/man in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  Wait? That guy? I know right – it does explain why they are so silly together in the book, though. Something must have worked for them in the last 20 years because we keep seeing him in her movies.

Happy Greeking out…

:) Amanda

PS I just realized that Ian is Stanley the club owner in Connie and Carla!!! Man, how did I miss that?

 

Book review: Ina May Gaskin

By , May 9, 2014

Book review: Spiritual Midwifery
by Ina May Gaskin

One hour south of Nashville in Summertown you will find the intentional community known simply as The Farm. Founded in 1971 by Stephen Gaskin and several hundred like-minded individuals, for the last 40 plus years the Farm in Summertown has grown, shrunk and finally found balance with a population of 200.

A quiet revolution has been growing forth from this community. Not a political revolution as such but a revolution of lasting importance nonetheless. One of the original Farm residents, Ina May Gaskin has been revolutionizing the world view of childbirth from her Farm Midwifery Center.

Her 1977 classic title, Spiritual Midwifery, now in its 4th edition, offers an alternative natural birth process as opposed to a clinical one and has revolutionized the birth experience for a generation. A new generation of mothers are taking their cues from the thoughtful process Ina May and the Farm midwives has put into action over the last 40 years. The 2003 edition has been retitled, Ina May’s guide to natural childbirth : discover the proven wisdom that has guided thousands of women through childbirth with more confidence, less pain, and little or no medical intervention – whether in a hospital, birthing center, or the comfort of a home

In addition, Ina May’s guide to breastfeeding  is the Bible on breastfeeding. This book has garnered endorsements ranging from such diverse figures as singer songwriter Ani DiFranco to  Dr. Christiane Northrup. Ina May’s guide to breastfeeding offers straightforward, gentle, supportive and reasonable advice to the lactating mother.

Now we can add to the Ina May collection, the DVD Birth Story. The film includes archival and modern footage of the work of Ina May and the Midwives of The Farm.

This Mother’s Day take a moment to consider the accomplishments of our neighbor in Summertown, the 2011 recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, Ina May Gaskin.

Here is the link to Ina May’s TEDxSacramento talk: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Reducing-fear-of-birth-in-U-S-c;search%3Atag%3A%22TEDxSacramento%22

-laurie

“I dreaded having a boring life when I grew up. And I certainly can’t complain about being bored.” – Ina May Gaskin

 

Book list: Movies that Made Me Want to Read the Book

By , April 9, 2014

Usually it works the other way around, but here are some films that left me thinking, “man, I bet the book was good.” Maybe only a librarian would ever think that.

 
Drive

Ryan Gosling in that satin scorpion jacket is the sexiest thing I’ve seen since… well, maybe it is the sexiest thing I have ever seen. Tension sears between golden boy (Gosling) and pretty girl’s husband (Oscar Isaac), between frenemy mob boss 1 (Albert Brooks) and frenemy mob boss 2 (Ron Perlman), and between golden boy and the born to lose mechanic (Bryan Cranston) that gets him gummed up with frenemy mob bosses to begin with. Christina Hendricks is in it too. That’s cast magic and pretty much the film’s appeal. High-on-sincerity-low-on-realism sultry silent type takes on mob for sake of pretty girl is territory we have all explored before. Nicolas Winding Refn’s style is all about absence and what’s left unsaid. It’s kind of like Hal Hartley (remember him?) directed a crime movie. What gets abstracted into silence on screen is more often than not potent interiority on the page – the kind of stuff that won’t translate without resorting to regrettable voice over. I desperately want to get inside James Sallis’ novel. There is always the possibility that Sallis’ prose are as stripped and spare as the script and the film is a worthy adaptation. I still want to read the book. Every time golden boy doesn’t say anything I’ll get to imagine Ryan Gosling standing there in that jacket.

 
The Paperboy

It would be hard to get more sexual but less sexy than Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy. With big hair, a bigger libido, and a fetish for prison inmates, her character Charlotte seems transplanted from a John Waters movie. Kudos to Kidman for not shying away from extreme roles in recent years; e.g., Rabbit Hole, Stoker. Though Charlotte is a car crash that is hard to ignore, I’m more fascinated by Ward (Matthew McConaughey) the “paperboy” in question. He’s a big city newspaper writer who comes back to his small town to break the story of a lifetime. In tow is his “associate” Yardley (David Oyelowo). Their relationship has sinister undertones. This backstory feels de-emphasized in favor of Charlotte’s Jerry Springer antics. Maybe their story is fleshed out more in Pete Dexter’s novel? I hope so. From a producer’s point of view I can see how Kidman going bimbo cougar is money in the bank but perhaps they should have heeded the words of Morrissey, “stop me, stop me, stop me, if you think you’ve heard this one before.” Oh yeah, what happens? All these people have weird Southern Gothic obsessions and everything blows up in their faces. I bet the book is great.

 
The Fellowship of the Ring

Just kidding. I read this a hundred times before I reluctantly saw the movie. Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy transcended everyone’s expectations but if for some unknowable, inexcusable reason you have not read J.R.R. Tolkien’s world changing fantasy classic you’ll get to experience the devilish wonderment that is meeting Tom Bombadil for the first time. Take a beloved character and cut them from the movie! Go Hollywood! Besides, this excellent book will take the bad Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey taste out of your mouth.

 
Have you ever watched a movie that made you want to read the book it was based on?

 

Jerry Schatzberg: Legends of Film Podcast

By , March 31, 2014

During this episode of Legends of Film we talk to Jerry Schatzberg, director of Scarecrow, The Panic in Needle Park, and Movie’s @ Main’s upcoming feature, Sweet Revenge. Mr. Schatzberg discusses casting Morgan Freeman in his breakthrough role, the importance of improvisation, and problems that occur when your lead actor is also your screenwriter.

Come see Schatzberg’s film Sweet Revenge on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at the Main Library downtown.

Movie review: The Decoy Bride

By , March 14, 2014

The Decoy Bride

A refreshing rom-com starring the tenth doctor!

Hollywood starlet Lara Tyler (Alice Eve) is desperate to marry her fiance, the bestselling author James Arber (David Tennant) in a perfectly romantic ceremony, if only she could shake the dreaded paparrazi!  After a particularly ugly foiled wedding attempt which landed some unflattering photos of Lara in the papers, she decides to surprise her beloved James by pulling off an intimate ceremony on the Scottish island of Hegg (don’t call your travel agent yet, this is a fictional island) – the setting for James’ famous novel The Ornithologist’s Wife.  Guess what?  The paparazzi have made their way to the island too…

Lara’s team hires the island’s only “single lady” Katie (Kelly MacDonald), to be the decoy.  Katie has been rather unlucky in love, declaring herself a “man-vegan.”  When Katie steps in as Lara’s decoy, she quickly discovers James is a hack!  He knows absolutely nothing about Hegg!  In a totally expected, hilarious turn of events, Katie and James wind up married to one another.  How do they get un-married?  That my friends, is why you much watch this movie.  With a talented supporting cast, not to mention the beautiful Scottish landscapes, The Decoy Bride owes much to the classic Scottish film Local Hero.  See both movies for free, courtesy of your favorite library!

Legends of Film: Randy Jurgensen

By , February 24, 2014

During this episode we talk to retired New York City police officer Randy Jurgensen, technical advisor on the film set of this month’s Movies @ Main feature Report to the Commissioner. Jurgensen explains his role as technical advisor and talks about his on-screen part as the shooter of Sonny Corleone in The Godfather and his work on the movie The French Connection (including the case that inspired the film.)

Listen to the complete interview to hear about Jurgensen’s encounter with Lenny Bruce!

Come see Report to the Commissioner on Saturday March 8, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. at the Main Library downtown.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day Like a Librarian…

By , February 14, 2014

Do you know how I can contact Sherlock Holmes?

Because I need to solve the mystery of  how to win

your heart…

It’s Valentine’s Day…   But let’s keep that Valentine’s vibe going all year long – treat your special sweeties (and all your fellow human beings) with respect and love every day!   Ever wondered how librarians celebrate Valentine’s Day?  Check out the popular materials department staff picks for favorite romantic movies and songs.

 

Amanda’s Picks:
romantic movie:  Something’s Gotta Give
love songs:   I Choose You by Sara Bareilles (download
on freegal), You’ve Made Me So Very Happy by Blood  Sweat and Tears (freegal) 
 
 
 
 

Bryan’s Picks:
romantic movie:  Silver Linings Playbook
love song:  Dirty Old Town by The Pogues
 
 
 
 
 

Cheryl’s Picks:
romantic movie:  Jane Austen’s Persuasion
love song:  At Last as sung by Etta James,What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong 
 
 
 
 

Karen’s Picks:
romantic movie:  The Time Traveler’s Wife, Pride and Prejudice
love songs:  Love is the Drug by the Bryan Ferry Orchestra, I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton
 
 
 
 
And finally, as for me, Crystal:
romantic movie:  Something New
love songs:  Unravel by Bjork, Bed of Nails by Wild Beasts

 
 
 
 

DVD review: First Position

By , February 11, 2014

 First Position

I’ve been on a nonfic reading kick here lately, so I guess it’s only natural that this extends to my viewing habits. With the cost of actually going to a movie hovering just this side of astronomical, I don’t get to see many – which is why it’s nice that the library can help me out with this.

I love watching documentaries about things that I have absolutely no aptitude for – ballet being one of them. When I was in music school as an undergrad, I had friends who were in the ballet program, and this movie made me nostalgic for my collegiate days.

The documentary focuses on 6 different students – all younger than college age – as they prepare for and perform at the Youth America Grand Prix competition. This competition could provide them with scholarships to continue their studies or may even result in a job placement with a dance company – but no pressure or anything.

I have nothing but respect for each of these dancers – as they gave up parties and junk food, while pushing through pain and poor performances hoping to grab their chance at fame. It was hard not to root for each of them to succeed – especially Michaela with her inflamed Achilles tendon. Even if you have no desire to ever dance Swan Lake, these artists will grab your heart.

And who knows – maybe someone out there will be inspired by this film and actually strap on some toe shoes. I’m almost completely mostly positive it won’t be me, though – which is kinda sad because I bet I could find some glittery ones.

Happy watching (and dancing)…

:) Amanda

 

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