Aug 04

Here Are 9 Great WWI Movies In Honor of the War’s 100th Anniversary (Indiewire)

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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.

Read the article at Indiewire.

 

Jul 16

Mother of George

 

mother of georgeAttention 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.

Check out Mother of George‘s Facebook page.
Find Mother of George in our library catalog.

Jun 23

Omar

omarNominated 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

Find the highly anticipated Omar in our library catalog.
Discover Hany Abu-Assad’s previous film, Paradise Now in our library catalog.

Jun 20

True Blood

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.
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Jun 12

Throwback Thursday: The Remains of the Day

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.

remains of the daySynopsis 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.

Find The Remains of the Day in our library catalog.
We also have the complete Upstairs Downstairs for more British class costume drama fun.

Jun 03

Happy Pride: June 2014

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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.

 

May 22

Throwback Thursday: Klute

 

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Award-winning cinematographer Gordon Willis passed away this week leaving a canon of outstanding films. His signature dark shots can be seen in such classics as The Godfather, Annie Hall, Manhattan (remember the Planetarium scene?), and All the President’s Men.  From NPR,

He shot a total of eight films for Woody Allen and was dubbed the “Prince of Darkness” by fellow cinematographer Conrad Hall for his use of shadows.

But today, let’s focus on the brilliant Klute which won Jane Fonda an Oscar for Best Actress in 1971. Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland star in this 1971 suspense drama about a high-class call girl in New York City who gets reluctantly dragged into a missing person’s investigation. An outstanding plot with lots of interesting choices like the taped phone calls being repeated throughout the film and Jane’s confessions to her therapist.  Incredible outdoor shots of NYC in the early 70′s.  This is a classic for sure.  Klute is a top-notch thriller!

Find Klute in our library catalog.

May 13

Her

herSpike Jonze (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) new feature Her starring Joaquin Phoenix garnered mixed reviews from the staff at the library. Rotten Tomatoes reviewers gave it a 94% rating which is impressive.  Some of the glow,

Delightfully entertaining (Tom Long)… An abundantly earnest look at the pain of loss and the rebirth of new love (Brad Keefe)… Her is a wistful, wonderful meditation on where we are and where we might be going (Steven Rea)… It’s an incredible technological tale about love, human connection, and a question of a higher power (Felix Vasquez, Jr.).

Decide for yourself. Check out Her from the library today.

May 08

Throwback Thursday: Six Feet Under

Six Feet Under

From 2000 – 2005 HBO graced the world with the darkly funny and excruciatingly well-written drama Six Feet Under. Based on The Fishers – a family in the funeral business, each week someone would die in the opening credits and the family would busy themselves preparing the final tribute as well as learn hard and serious life lessons and manage to play and have fun. Created by Alan Ball who wrote the script for American Beauty and went on to helm True Blood, Six Feet Under captured a certain kind of family dynamic previously not explored on American television.  The Fishers spent the five years trying desperately to break through their buttoned-up way of living life. We watched them each week experience triumphs and heartbreaks as they stumbled through life searching and often finding beauty and wonder. Featuring a stellar cast including Michael C. Hall, Lauren Ambrose, Peter Krause, Frances Conroy, Rachel Griffiths, Matthew St. Patrick, Freedy Rodriguez, Jeremy Sisto, Justina Machado, James Cromwell, Lili Taylor, and Richard Jenkins, Six Feet Under taught us how to grieve as well as live each moment out loud.  Six Feet Under also ushered in a new renaissance of American television along with The Sopranos and The Wire.

Check out all five seasons of Alan Ball’s award-winning Six Feet Under in the library’s catalog.

 

May 02

Director spotlight: Alfred Hitchcock

hitchcock iconPerhaps no other director in the history of cinema captured the hearts and scared the wits out of movie goers more than Alfred Hitchcock. Beginning with his first British film in 1925 and continuing through an illustrious career including Shadow of a Doubt, Suspicion, Spellbound, Notorious, Rope, Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, The Trouble with Harry, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, The Birds, and Marnie, film goers marveled at his expertise for nearly a century. In total Hitchcock directed 58 films spanning most of the 20th Century through his death in 1980. To this day, no one can match the suspense of Hitch nor can they elicit the fright of an audience simply by implying rather than showing the terror or gore. Alfred Hitchcock was one of a kind and his films really are timeless classics.

Check out our list of Hitchcock films and books in the library catalog.