Ryan Murphy’s (Glee, American Horror Story) HBO mini-series The Normal Heart gets released on DVD today. The Normal Heart is based on a 1985 play by AIDS activist Larry Kramer. A bit of trivia – Kramer’s husband’s brother and sister in-law live here in Fairfield. The story revolves around the very earliest years of the AIDS crisis before there was even a language to discuss the disease. Starring Mark Ruffalo as Ned Weeks (the Kramer character), Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, and Julia Roberts – The Normal Heart acts as a history lesson for those too young to remember the horror of the 1980′s and early 90′s and a stark reminder to everyone else who lived through it. The film has a 94% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. We’ve got copies at both locations for you to check out.
Jim Jarmusch dips into the vampire genre putting his own particular stamp on Only Lovers Left Alive with the help of Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as Adam and Eve, a pair of centuries old vampires. From Sony,
Set against the romantic desolation of Detroit and Tangier, an underground musician, deeply depressed by the direction of human activities, reunites with his resilient and enigmatic lover. Their love story has already endured several centuries at least, but their debauched idyll is soon disrupted by her wild and uncontrollable younger sister. Can these wise but fragile outsiders continue to survive as the modern world collapses around them?
David Ehrlich at The Guardian writes,
I’d happily argue Only Lovers Left Alive is Jarmusch’s best film, but it might be more helpful to say it’s his most fluent. The leads are Eve (Swinton) in Tangier, an ancient city forever on the cusp of rebirth, and Adam (Tom Hiddleston), in Detroit, contemporary America’s most famous icon of decay. Both are exotic in their own way. She Skypes him on an iPhone. He answers on a rotary relic that he’s rigged up through a tube television. They’re vampires, and they’re in love.
Our foreign language film collection features the new Chinese film, A Touch of Sin from filmmaker Jia Zhangke. From the distributor Kino,
A “brilliant exploration of violence and corruption in contemporary China” (Jon Frosch, The Atlantic), A TOUCH OF SIN was inspired by four shocking (and true) events that forced the world’s fastest growing economy into a period of self-examination. Written and directed by master filmmaker Jia Zhangke (The World, Still Life), “one of the best and most important directors in the world” (Richard Brody, The New Yorker), this daring, poetic and grand-scale film focuses on four characters, each living in different provinces, who are driven to violent ends. An angry miner, enraged by widespread corruption in his village, decides to take justice into his own hands. A rootless migrant discovers the infinite possibilities of owning a firearm. A young receptionist, who dates a married man and works at a local sauna, is pushed beyond her limits by an abusive client. And a young factory worker goes from one discouraging job to the next, only to face increasingly degrading circumstances.(c) Kino
Big Hollywood action films can be hard to digest, but when a director and star come together it can be magic. Locke stars Tom Hardy and is directed by Steven Knight who wrote the screenplay for the powerful Eastern Promises and the suspenseful international film Dirty Pretty Things. From Rotten Tomatoes,
Ivan Locke (Hardy) has worked diligently to craft the life he has envisioned, dedicating himself to the job that he loves and the family he adores. On the eve of the biggest challenge of his career, Ivan receives a phone call that sets in motion a series of events that will unravel his family, job, and soul. All taking place over the course of one absolutely riveting car ride, LOCKE is an exploration of how one decision can lead to the complete collapse of a life. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Steven Knight (EASTERN PROMISES, DIRTY PRETTY THINGS) and driven by an unforgettable performance by Tom Hardy, LOCKE is a thrillingly unique cinematic experience of a man fighting to salvage all that is important to him.
Indiewire commemorates the start of World War I last week with an article listing nine great WWI films from around the world. We already have six of them in our catalog and have ordered the other three. We anticipate this year to be filled with patrons wanting to dig deeper into “The Great War” through books and media here at the library. We have a book display on the first floor at the Main Library on World War I. Look for a history series on WWI at the Branch from Dr. Mona Garcia coming this Fall. Click on the titles below to find each of these films in our library catalog. From Indiewire,
1. “A Very Long Engagement” (dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2004)
For every soldier, there is a half-empty bed at home. This is the foundation of the lyrical French film “A Very Long Engagement,” starring Audrey Tautou as a country girl whose fiancé has left home for the war effort. Intimate in scope while thematically powerful, “A Very Long Engagement” is perhaps the pinnacle of the work of director of photography Bruno Delbonnel, who most recently shot “Inside Llewyn Davis.” His unique style is a step less quirky than his work in “Amelie,” but deliberate in a way that very much contributes to the progression of the story.
2. “All Quiet on the Western Front” (dir. Lewis Milestone,1930)
Based on the canonic novel by Erich Maria Remarque, this influential anti-war film chronicles the disillusionment of a group of young patriotic recruits amidst the horrific reality of combat. In many respects, the film was ahead of its time; the grisly imagery, honest performances, and unrelenting cinematography eviscerate romantic notions of war long before the protest films of the ’70s became a mainstay of war counterculture.
3. “Gallipoli” (dir. Peter Weir, 1981) (ON ORDER)
Often forgotten in the midst of Anglo-American self-importance are the Australians. They serve as the subject of Peter Weir’s epic account of the war in modern-day Turkey. Starring a young Mel Gibson and Marc Lee, “Gallipoli” is a coming-of-age war film which gently and progressively demonstrates the loss of innocence for Aussie soldiers at war. Heavy in themes of Australian identity such as larrikinism and the maturation of the nation as a global entity, “Gallipoli” sacrifices bits of historical accuracy to tell an unflinchingly humanistic story; it was well-received for it.
4. “Lawrence of Arabia” (dir. David Lean, 1962)
Like “Citizen Kane” before it, “Lawrence of Arabia” is about a reporter trying to understand the life of a momentous figure. But unlike that 1941 protagonist, T.E. Lawrence actually lived, a British officer in the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns in the First World War. With an inescapable sense of grandeur in every frame, “Lawrence of Arabia” takes the quest to uncover the internal motivations of its hero one step further still. “Who are you!?” he is shouted at by a local, and he seems to struggle for an answer, making this not simply a well-done biographical picture, but an investigation into one of the war’s most enigmatic figures.
5. “Legends of the Fall” (dir. Edward Zwick, 1994)
This stunningly shot portrait of rural American life over the first third of the 20th century not only showcases a young Brad Pitt’s talents as a character actor, but is also able to observe the full scope of The Great War, from dinner table debate to a poignant funeral. “Don’t talk at me like I’ve never seen a war,” says the family’s patriarch, played by Anthony Hopkins. The truth is, as his sons find out, he or the rest of the world has never seen a war quite like this one.
6. “Paths of Glory” (dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1957)
Not his first or last entry into the war film arena, “Paths of Glory” is Stanley Kubrick’s greatest achievement within the genre, inserting Kirk Douglas’s officer as well as the audience deep into the psychological and physical horrors of war. This anti-war effort is hailed as Kubrick’s first masterwork, directly preceding “Spartacus,” “Lolita” and “Dr. Strangelove.” It was a timely anti-war film for the Vietnam generation, and it immortalized Douglas as his generation’s premiere action star.
7. “The White Ribbon” (Das weiße Band, dir. Michael Haneke, 2009) (ON ORDER)
Michael Haneke’s stark black and white masterpiece investigates the incipience of evil by zeroing in on a small German village at the dawn of WWI. The village residents, armed with a self-righteous allegiance to societal and religious custom, perpetrate various crimes with a horrifying lack of empathy. The weak suffer at the hands of the strong as a drama of survival of the fittest plays out in nightmarish detail: incest, rape, murder, and gross negligence are among the obscenities the village residents witness, condone, and commit with utter nonchalance (and, at times, with sinister pleasure). With “The White Ribbon,” Haneke endeavors to explore a simple yet resonant question: What incites the human capacity for evil? The latent evil that permeates the “The White Ribbon” suggests that it’s inherent in humanity; the village is a hotbed of war mentality, presaging a not-too-far future in which good and evil will become indistinguishable.
8. “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” (dir. Ken Loach, 2007)
Ken Loach’s tragic story of two brothers torn apart by the virtues of war is the highest-grossing Irish independent film ever made. The plot focuses on the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War — conflicts that derived from WWI — as it illuminates the human drama that engorges war. The lush Irish countryside pitted against the grim reality of the choices made in wartime make for a heart-wrenching portrait of lives literally and figuratively ripped apart at the seams by conflict.
9. “Wings” (dir. William A. Wellman, 1927) (ON ORDER)
“Wings” is the most famous silent film about WWI ever made. In a time when Hollywood was generally unconcerned with realism, it’s interesting that Paramount Pictures hired director William A. Wellman because he was the only established director who had WWI combat pilot experience. It was a decision well made: the film is revered for its realistic and technically sophisticated air combat sequences. “Wings” went on to win the first-ever Academy Award for Best Picture. It upended cinematic and social conventions by not only being the only silent film to win an Academy Award that year, but also for being one of the first films to feature nudity and a scene of two men kissing.
Attention The Walking Dead fans. Danai Gurira who plays Michonne in the hit zombie series has a new indie film out, Mother of George. From Amazon,
Adenike and Ayodele (The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira and veteran actor Isaach De Bankolé) are a Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn. Following the joyous celebration of the their wedding, complications arise out of their inability to conceive a child – a problem that devastates their family and defies cultural expectations, leading Adenike to make a shocking decision that could either save her family or destroy it. Acclaimed director Andrew Dosumnu (Restless City) captures the nuances of this unique and fascinating culture by creating a beautiful, vibrant, and moving portrait of a couple whose joys and struggles are at once intimate and universal.
Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film this year at the Oscars, Palestine’s entry Omar is director Hany Abu-Assad’s follow-up film to his hugely suspenseful Paradise Now (2005). Omar finally got released on DVD last week. From Rotten Tomatoes,
A tense, gripping thriller about betrayal, suspected and real, in the Occupied Territories. Omar (Adam Bakri) is a Palestinian baker who routinely climbs over the separation wall to meet up with his girl Nadja (Leem Lubany). By night, he’s either a freedom fighter or a terrorist-you decide-ready to risk his life to strike at the Israeli military with his childhood friends Tarek (Eyad Hourani) and Amjad (Samer Bisharat). Arrested after the killing of an Israeli soldier and tricked into an admission of guilt by association, he agrees to work as an informant. So begins a dangerous game-is he playing his Israeli handler (Waleed F. Zuaiter) or will he really betray his cause? And who can he trust on either side? Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now) has made a dynamic, action-packed drama about the insoluable moral dilemmas and tough choices facing those on the frontlines of a conflict that shows no sign of letting up. (c) Adopt Films
HBO’s sassy, sexy and gory True Blood returns for its final season this Sunday on HBO. For those of you out there who call yourselves Trubbies (True Blood fans), I have a little “degree of separation” treat for you:
1) You are a patron of The Fairfield Public Library.
2) I work at The Fairfield Public Library and write for this blog.
3) I have two good friends in New York City.
4) They are good friends with Audrey Fisher, the costume designer for True Blood.
That makes you my friend three degrees of separation from your favorite cast or crew member of True Blood. Pretty cool, huh? If you still need to catch up on last season, Season 6 just got released on DVD and we have it at both locations. Or if you’re new to the screen adaptation of the very popular Sookie Stackhouse novels, start with Season 1 of Alan Ball’s hilariously morbid, sexy vampire television series True Blood.
Check out all the seasons of True Blood in our library catalog.
Read the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris which were adapted to become True Blood.
Or whip up some recipes from the True Blood inspired cookbook, True Blood: Eats, Drinks, and Bites from Bon Temps by Karen Sommer Shalett, Marcelle Bienvenu, Alan Ball, and Gianna Sobol.
Are you going through Downton Abbey withdrawal? Consider quenching your thirst for gorgeous British costume drama with a trip down memory lane – Merchant Ivory’s The Remains of the Day. Before Carson and Mrs. Hughes, 1993 introduced us to Anthony Hopkins’ Stevens and Emma Thompson’s Miss Kenton.
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes,
Filmed with the usual meticulous attention to period and detail of films from Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, The Remains of the Day is based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Anthony Hopkins plays Stevens, the “perfect” butler to a prosperous British household of the 1930s. He is so unswervingly devoted to serving his master, a well-meaning but callow British lord (James Fox), that he shuts himself off from all emotions and familial relationships. New housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) tries to warm him up and awaken his humanity.
New York Times film critic Vincent Canby’s original 1993 review tells us all we need to know,
Taking this rather arcane story, adapted from Kazuo Ishiguro’s award-winning novel, Ismail Merchant, the producer; James Ivory, the director, and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the writer, have made “The Remains of the Day,” a spellbinding new tragi-comedy of high and most entertaining order. Here is an exquisite work that could become a quite unlikely smash.
In the way that “The Remains of the Day” looks grand without being overdressed, it is full of feeling without being sentimental. Here’s a film for adults. It’s also about time to recognize that Mr. Ivory is one of our finest directors, something that critics tend to overlook because most of his films have been literary adaptations. It’s the film, not the source material, that counts. “The Remains of the Day” has its own, securely original cinematic life.
You really owe it to yourself to embrace the subtly and beauty of one of Merchant Ivory’s masterpieces.
June is Gay Pride Month around the country celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality. Locally Norwalk has a wonderful event Pride in the Park sponsored by the Triangle Community Center Saturday, June 14, 2014 from 12-5pm in Mathews Park. 75 minutes away by Metro North come celebrate where it all began 45 years ago in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, Greenwich Village, New York City for Heritage of Pride’s March on Sunday, June 29, 2014.
Great LGBT movies come in all shapes and sizes. We decided to highlight one for each letter of the acronym:
L: The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko’s movie about two lesbian Moms raising teenage kids broke all kinds of barriers and box office records. Annette Benning and Julianne Moore star.
G: I Do – David W. Ross’s indie script digs deep into the issues of transnational same-sex relationships and immigration. Glen Gaylord directs this heart-felt, feel good love story.
B: Kissing Jessica Stein (2002) – A woman searching for the perfect man instead discovers the perfect woman in this romantic comedy written by Heather Juergensen, Jennifer Westfeldt and directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld.
T: Boys Don’t Cry (1999) – Hillary Swank won the Oscar. Kimberly Peirce directs. Based on the true story of transgendered youth Brandon Teena who convinces himself he can survive amongst bigoted, small-minded people after transitioning from female to male.
And if you’d like to do some reading may we suggest the seminal work on LGBT characters in film, Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet available in the upper stacks of the main library.