The world lost a bright and funny light last evening when word began spreading of Robin Williams’ death at the age of 63. For most of us, we took Williams’ genius for granted. It wasn’t until the initial shock wore off, we took a breath and realized what an enormous talent he truly was. He could take a mediocre movie and make it laugh out loud funny. He could take a great movie and turn it into a classic. And his stand-up routines make you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.
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.
Ready for a suspenseful, murder mystery, police crime drama? How about kicking it up a notch where it’s 1967 in the deep South and the real drama centers not around the murder itself, but whether the African-American police detective from Philadelphia will be killed by local bigots? Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger star in Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night based on the novel by John Ball. Heat reminds us of the racial tensions and violence which were a constant threat to most during the 1960’s and unfortunatelystill haven’t disappeared. Edge of your seat suspense with outstanding performances from Poitier and Steiger. In the Heat of the Night is a must-see, classic American film.
from the filmmaker’s website,
Insightful and often hilarious, the latest from documentary filmmaker Alan Zweig surveys the history of Jewish comedy, from the early days of Borsht belt to the present, ultimately exploring not just ethnicity in the entertainment industry, but also the entire unruly question of what it means to be Jewish.
Get access to additional bonus clips, including never-before-seen interviews with the filmmaker and featured comedians like Judy Gold, Gilbert Gottfried, and Howie Mandel. Enjoy this insightful and hilarious film which surveys the history of Jewish comedy with the whole family!
Following in the footsteps of the critically acclaimed documentary Manufactured Landscapes, filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal teams up once again with artist Edward Burtynsky as he explores the simplest idea in the film Watermark. From Burtynsky’s website,
Watermark is a feature documentary from multiple-award winning filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier, and renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky, marking their second collaboration after Manufactured Landscapes in 2006. The film brings together diverse stories from around the globe about our relationship with water: how we are drawn to it, what we learn from it, how we use it and the consequences of that use.
Find Watermark in our library catalog.
Discover their previous film, the stunning Manufactured Landscapes in our library catalog.
Check out Burtynsky’s book of photographs, Manufactured Landscapes in our library’s collection.
Do you wake up Friday morning to the sounds of StoryCorps on NPR? Do you find tears falling down your cheek onto the pillow before you start your day? Yup, we do too. Good news for fans of this outstanding American archival project. From NPR,
The first-ever animated special from StoryCorps celebrates the transformative power of listening. Listening Is an Act of Love features six stories from 10 years of the innovative oral history project. Each story reflects StoryCorps founder Dave Isay’s fundamental belief: “We can learn so much about the people all around us — even about the people we already know — just by taking the time to have a conversation.” Framing these intimate conversations from across the country is an interview between Isay and his 9-year-old nephew, Benji. As always, the selections provoke both tears and laughter — and highlight the simple joy found in sitting together and asking life’s important questions. Funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.Produced in association with American Documentary | POV.
Chile’s entry for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars finally gets released on DVD. We’re guessing this film will resonate with a lot of our patrons. From Indiewire,
“Gloria,” Chile’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category has swiftly attracted widespread critical acclaim for offering an honest, comically-driven portrait of your not-so-typical 50-something year old single woman.
When fun-loving Gloria (Paulina Garcia) steers her way through the trappings of loneliness and into Rodolfo’s (Sergio Hernandez) arms, his limbo-like affair with his (ex)wife forces her to retreat from her sudden romantic glow. Gloria, however, drags herself heart break to happiness and shines brighter than ever as an emotionally reborn woman in her golden years.
Sebastian Lelio’s “Gloria” is at first glance the antithesis to a conventional sorrowful break-up drama ripe with shouting matches and teary monologues. What is presented to us instead is a refreshingly optimistic “look on the bright side” tale of a character for whom age and relationship status could not be more irrelevant.
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.