DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

Movies

Judy_Garland_in_The_Wizard_of_Oz_trailer_2“Come out, come out, wherever you are and meet the young lady who fell from a star …”

When I found out that The Wizard of Oz would be coming out in 3-D to celebrate its 75th anniversary and that it would be shown in IMAX  theaters for only 1 week, I went ballistic.  I mean, I was frantic to get tickets.  It was Friday already, which meant it was opening day and probably the only day that I would be able to attend.

But would I be able to score tickets? I was certain it would be sold out if I waited and just showed up without tickets.  Surely there would be throngs  of other Oz afficionados waiting in line. Why, they would probably even be dressed up as Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, or the Wicked Witch.  They might even bring their own Munchkins along with them, explaining how when  growing up they had to watch this  yearly tradition on a little black and white television.

“She fell from the sky, she fell very far …and Kansas, she says, is the name of the star …”

Alas, my companion and I were able to get in without a hitch:  there were only two other people in attendance! And this was at 4:30 on opening day. I was so disappointed. If there were any wild fans out and about, they were only there to see Vin Diesel in Riddick.

But the classic movie itself did not disappoint.  As soon as Leo the MGM Lion announced himself, I knew I was back and that this year the trip to Oz  would be spectacular.

Having  recently read the book Judy, by Gerold Frank, I was able to revisit some of the things I had heard and read over the years about the child actress Judy Garland and the making of the film that would make her a star.

Some interesting tidbits:  according to Judy, her ever-present companion in the film, Toto the terrier,  had horrible breath. All I could think about when I saw the film in IMAX 3-D was what a wonderful little actor Toto was and how he never seemed to miss any of his marks! I’d like to see a cat manage those stunts—don’t get me wrong, I’m a cat lover with three of my own—but there’s just no way.

Many  people have heard about the fact that Shirley Temple was the first pick  for the role of Dorothy. According to Hollywood’s First Choices by Jeff  Burkhart & Bruce Stuart,  not only was Judy Garland not the first choice for Dorothy, the Tin Man was originally played by Buddy Ebsen.  Unfortunately, though,  he had an extreme allergic reaction to the makeup and landed in the hospital. Jack Haley ended up with the role. W.C. Fields was first pick  for the Wizard, but he turned it down and it eventually went to the delightful Frank Morgan.

Now, about the urban legend that a munchkin can be seen hanging in the background of a scene:  I never heard about this until the age of the VCR and people’s ability to stop, rewind, play and slow-mo through movies. True, when I checked it out and researched it online, the scene did appear to have a silhouette of a person hanging in the far background. I can see where the rumor started!

But, according to snopes.com, the legend is not true—no desperate munchkin took their own life on the set of  the film!  The shadow was actually that of one of the many birds loaned to the film by the L.A. Zoo, most probably a crane spreading its wings.  But I do believe the rumor is a testament to how scared  some of us tots were with parts of this film!  The Wicked Witch had me and the Tin Man and plenty of children all over the world just shivering and clattering.

“Kansas, she said, was the name of  the star …”

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Oct 22 2013

Scare Me Silly!

by Hope L

scared-woman-retroI like to be scared.  Not grossed out, and not shocked by violent images.

A good scary movie—the kind I like—is hard to find, especially nowadays. The scariest movie I can remember seeing as an adult was when I saw The Blair Witch Project by myself (during a time in my life when I lived in a house in the woods—the movie and the screech owls in South Carolina had me running into my house after I got out of the car at night).

The Conjuring, released this year, was not that scary, but then of course, I no longer live in the woods or by myself. Nor do we have screech owls bidding their hellos at night where I now live.

The Conjuring tells the story of Lorraine and Ed Warren, paranormal investigators who founded the New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952 and who had dealt with the case made famous by Jay Anson’s 1977 book, The Amityville Horror (which was itself the basis for ten films released between 1979 and 2011).

Now, just in time for Halloween, here are some other scary movies I’ve loved:

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Oct 2 2013

Movies worth watching

by Joseph M

I’ll admit that I’m not really a “movie person”. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching movies on occasion, but truth be told I rarely make the time for them. However, there are a few filmmakers who have consistently impressed me as a viewer and left me wanting more. Wes Anderson is one such individual. As a director, screenwriter, and producer, Mr. Anderson has been involved in some excellent films, many of which are available at DCPL. These include:

I am especially fond of those last three films.

Who are some of your favorite filmmakers?

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Aug 26 2013

A Good Laugh

by Hope L

laugh460Having gone to see We’re the Millers this past weekend, I was thinking about how good it felt to laugh; then I started remembering some of my favorite funny movies.

And it just so happens that (in my humble opinion) DCPL has an impressive collection of comedy DVDs.

So, without further ado, here is my list of DeKalb County Public Library’s funniest movies (in order):

1. Airplane (1980) – Silly take-off of “Airport,” (the original disaster movie). Cracks me up every time. Leslie Nielsen reawakened his career with this comedic turn. As soon as I see him driving the luggage cart I start laughing uncontrollably.
2. Death at a Funeral (2010) – Chris Rock presides over his family’s ordeal with hysterical goings-on. Very, very funny.
3. The General (1926) – This uproariously funny film is silent. Buster Keaton, known for his stone face, struggles with the enormous steam engine train while pursuing a beautiful girl. I actually saw the real General years ago; it now resides in Kennesaw at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History.
4. Bridesmaids (2011) – Hilarious female answer to The Hangover, except that I liked this much better. Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig are awesome.
5. Barbershop (2002) and Barbershop 2 (2004) – Ice Cube stars in both of these, with Cedric the Entertainer, who always cracks me up.
6. A Night at the Opera (1935) – Groucho and his brothers on the loose to the consternation of Kitty Carlisle. Still funny after all these years.
7. Harold and Maude (1971) – Watching Harold in the background while his mother interviews prospective dates for him makes me laugh each and every time. Ruth Gordon as the free spirit Svengali and the original cougar. The Cat Stevens soundtrack makes it even sweeter.
8. City Lights (1931) – Charlie Chaplin tries to impress the girl and gets into all kinds of mischief in another classic silent film. My favorite line, often quoted… The Tramp: “Be careful how you’re driving.” Eccentric Millionaire: “Am I driving?”
9. Tootsie (1982) – Dustin Hoffman’s drag is cute 80’s fun.
10. Babe (1995) – Cute and funny with the irresistible Pig.  I loved the cat, too!
11. The Three Stooges Collection – Volume 1 and Volume 2 (1934-1939) – I just had to include these guys.
12. Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005) – Hometown boy Tyler Perry stars as one of my favorite characters: Madea. Watch out for that chainsaw!
13. The Muppet Movie (1979) – I just LOVE The Muppets!
14. Annie Hall (1977) – Diane Keaton plays the ditzy heroine in this Woody Allen film.
15. Shrek (2001) – Cute for the kids, funny for the grown-ups. Mike Myers voices the loveable ogre. Eddie Murphy supplies plenty of laughs as Donkey. I loved the gingerbread man.

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Aug 16 2013

More Documentaries…

by Jimmy L

Rebekah’s excellent post about documentaries on Wednesday started me thinking about what my own favorite documentaries were. Sometimes it’s hard to remember them all, and it’s hard to compare a documentary about a social cause to one about an artist’s life. Nevertheless, I have racked my brains and come up with a short list of 3 of my favorites:

Nanook of the North screenshotNanook of the North

The first full-length, antropological documentary ever made, and a favorite of filmmaker Werner Herzog’s (Grizzly Man, Cave of Forgotten Dreams), Nanook of the North documents one year in the life of Nanook, an eskimo (Inuit) and his family, following him as he conducts his everyday life, trading, hunting, fishing and migrating in a landscape that is barely touched by industrial technology. While the film is fascinating both as a document of a lifestyle and a document of an early way of making films, it’s also been criticized for its occasional spicing up of the truth with staged scenes and other inaccuracies.

Harlan County, USA

This 1976 Academy Award winning documentary film covers the coal miners’ strike against the Brookside Mine of the Eastover Mining Company in Harlan County, Kentucky in June, 1973. Eastover’s refusal to sign a contract (when the miners joined with the United Mine Workers of America) led to the strike, which lasted more than a year and included violent battles between gun-toting company thugs/scabs and the picketing miners and their supportive women-folk. The film captures the brutal reality of a strike as if you were experiencing it yourself, along with all the strong personalities of that town. I’ve written about this film on this blog before, in much more detail here.

Capturing the Friedmans

Focusing on the 1980s investigation of Arnold and Jesse Friedman for child molestation, this is one of the most thought provoking and conversation provoking documentaries I’ve seen. By the end, you start to question the nature of truth. Watch it with a friend and discuss afterwards. But fair warning, it’s not for all audiences, as it discusses some sensitive issues, and is rated R.

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Aug 14 2013

Documenting Life in Film

by Rebekah B

Au Palais du Louxor, cinema ParisGrowing up, I only saw three movies in the theater.  I specifically remember which ones: Bernard and Bianca, E.T., and The Meaning of Life (Monty Python). This rarity sparked a desire and love for film in me, and when I moved to Paris at age 19 to go to art school, I quickly became addicted to the cinematic arts. Paris is an amazing city for film, with hundreds of theaters, large and small, including some very unusual theaters. Every day, you can see movies made in every country, projected for the most part in V.O. (original version, with subtitles). The photo to the right was taken by my former teacher and photographer, Lesly Hamilton, at the Louxor, Palais du Cinema in the 10th arrondissement, quartier Barbes.  The Louxor was built in 1921 and is famous for its elaborate Egyptian style mosaics.  Recently entirely renovated, it re-opened in April of this year. Click on the links if you would like to see more photos.

ouverture-du-cinema-le-louxor-a-paris-7092

Documentary films are a genre that many people enjoy.  The fairly recent phenomenon of reality shows of which the documentary might be called the avatar, shows evidence for humanity’s thirst for real experiences.  One patron at the library confided to me that documentaries are her “best reality shows.” She also said that when ill in the hospital, documentaries on the themes of veteran’s rights, the state of health care, and other social welfare related issues helped her to keep up with continuing education requirements in her field as a social worker.

Vision is the primary sense with which we humans perceive our world, and culture helps us to understand ourselves and to relate to one another.  As global economics, world travel, and social media have extended everyday communication far beyond the borders of the familiar, it is important for all of us to be informed about how to better our world and to know more about cultures beyond our own.  It is the unique privilege of humans to witness life, and if we are truly paying attention and homage to our surroundings, to create works of art that reflect what we see.

Documentary films are a wonderful way to catch a glimpse of how others experience life in places and circumstances very different from our own, as well as to improve awareness about issues that are immediately important to our everyday lives.  Many festivals around the world celebrate documentary film, from Atlanta to Helsinki, Amsterdam to  Beijing.  Every continent – even Oceania – is represented.

I have discovered many wonderful, thought-provoking, and entertaining documentaries within the DCPL collection.  Perusing IMDB’s top 100 documentaries since 2000, I found several that I too had watched and loved, some that I know we have in our collections but have not yet seen, and yet others that are not available through DCPL. While each of us enjoys life through the particular filter created by our temperament and interests, documentaries on every possible subject can be found—from art to politics, environmental issues, animal rights, health, unsolved crimes, history, quirky personal stories, theater, education, music, travel, fashion…

Here is my own top ten.  Hope you explore the 650 plus films in the DCPL documentary collection (excluding tele-films) and find your own favorites. Each title is connected by hyperlink to either the title in our library catalog, or (if we don’t have it,) official movie website.

[read the rest of this post…]

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Jul 12 2013

ShareReads: A View From the Peanut Gallery

by Veronica W

sharereads_intro_2013

For anyone who loves sci-fi and/or fantasy, the Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins was a treat. It held you enthralled until the very end and when the movie came out, it was greeted with cheers. Although I didn’t go to the movies to see it, I didn’t want to be number 328 in line for a library copy either. So, when I found it on sale, I grabbed a copy. Big mistake. The book was wonderful; the movie, in my opinion, not so much. Even on sale, I felt it cost me too much.

FredericaAs I read my way leisurely through the summer, I can’t help thinking sometimes “What a great movie this book or that book would be!”  I even select the cast for them. A friend and I lament continually about the injustice of Jane Austen’s many works being made into movies (which we love) while the fans of the prolific and wonderful Georgette Heyer must make do with rereading her books over and over again.  (I know, literary elitists will be appalled that we would compare the two). However for those who often find it tiring to read Austen but love the regency era, Heyer’s works are clever, witty, true to the times and darn good reading. I would recommend starting with Frederica.

motherrainwaterThis summer, in addition to rereading Heyer, I have been drawn to fiction about the Dust Bowl during the depression era and can recommend two very good books. Mother Road, by Dorothy Garlock, has everything you need for some lightweight, on-the-beach reading, as does Rainwater by Sandra Brown. They have drama, history, suspense, action and romance. Also, they would both make great movies.

Have you ever been disappointed in a book’s transition to the big screen? Is there a book you feel screams to be made into a movie? Let me know. I have Warner Bros. studio on speed dial.

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Jun 17 2013

ShareReads: Finishing the Hat

by Ken M

sharereads_intro_2013 If I could choose to be any Broadway composer of the 20th century, my choice would be Stephen Sondheim. While I love the music of Richard Rodgers, Fritz Loewe and any theater work Leonard Bernstein created for the stage, I’ve always felt that Sondheim’s art stands in a class by itself.

I recently reacquainted myself with his work by way of two recent books, Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made A Hat. I think these are the closest we’ll get to an autobiography or memoir from the man himself. In these books, he shares the wealth of knowledge gained in more than fifty years of writing for the stage. Finishing the Hat

Finishing the Hat takes you from the early show Saturday Night through 1981’s Merrily We Roll Along. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on West Side Story, which gives you the real dirt on who wrote what in the collaboration with Leonard Bernstein. I’m a big fan of Sweeney Todd, and I learned lots of new trivia from this chapter. I was surprised to find that Sondheim was always displeased by the last few lines of the Act 1 closing number, A Little Priest. He says he got it right, belatedly, for the movie version starring Johnny Depp. (By the way, if you only know that version, you really should see the television adaptation of the stage musical starring George Hearn and the marvelous, original Mrs. Lovett, Angela Landsbury.)

Look, I Made A Hat contains some of the shows I got to know first, including the Pulitzer Prize winning Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods. I’ve played for high school productions of the latter twice, so I was fascinated to learn that cast input solved a particular problem for Lapine and Sondheim. I won’t tell you what that was – you should read this to find out. You also get the full explanation of the creation of his most recent work, last named Road Show. This one had a particularly difficult evolution, and he effectively guides you through the complicated maze of what stayed, what went, and what was completely rewritten. In fact, both books contain lots of cut lyrics, observations and musings, as well as reproductions of neat documents like handwritten drafts with lots of discarded ideas. You’ll also learn why rhyme and precision are so important to him.

While the words are wonderful, his music is equally exquisite. Hearing makes the reading even more fun, and you can enjoy cast and tribute albums from the DCPL collection to enhance your reading. I do hope you spend a little time with Sondheim this summer, and I really must go now. I have a meat pie in the oven…

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May 10 2013

Mama said… a lot

by Veronica W

In 1961 the Shirelles, a girls singing group, had a moderately successful hit with the song “Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This.” However most of us knowGlass-5442_fs that mothers have a lot more to say than that. Even when I became an adult, my mother and Inever engaged in cozy, confidential chats. She acknowledged the factI was grown, but she always remained the elder. Dictates became helpful hints, suggestions and “good life counsel,” which she implicitly indicated I would be wise to follow. Being southern by orientation, if not inclination, many of her pearls were couched in folksy sayings,some of which my sisters and I compiled into amemory book. Here are just a few.

  • You can sift and sift and still get the husks. (Translation: It doesn’t pay to be too fussy)
  • Pretty is as pretty does (Translation: Looks aren’t everything)
  • You better save those tears?ou’re going to need them later (Translation: Don’t cry about trivial matters)
  • If it’s on your back, it’s not in the bank (Translation: Don’t dress to impress)
  • Make sure you have walls before you try to paint (Translation: Don’t try to improve a boyfriend who acts worthless)
  • Cow’s going to need his tail come fly time (Translation:Treat everyone well. You never know when you have to ask them for help.)

Susan Sarandon in Anywhere But Here. Doris Roberts in Raymond. Freaky Friday, Steel Magnolias, The Glass Menagerie…the list of mothers andtheir sense (and yes, sometimes non-sense) is almost endless. Sometimes memories of the things our mothers said are foggy or clouded by childhood impressions. However, there may be one or two thingsyou find yourself saying which are, to your amazement, amusement or horror,your mother’s. Perhapsyou knowof a book ormovie full of “momisms.” If so, please share. Remember, Mama said “If you do good, good will follow you.”

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Several nights ago, I was doing some rapid-fire channel-surfing and happened upon the documentary Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, a great film about actress/writer Gertrude Berg.  Her groundbreaking radio and television show The Goldbergs was before my time but the story of her life and times had me glued to channel 30 in a way that I hadn’t been in ages or, at least, in a way I hadn’t been since almost a week before. I believe it was the previous Sunday when I’d flipped to channel 30 and landed on the Ken Burns documentary on baseball. It’s in these two instances that I am reminded of the wonders of PBS.

I remember spending many hours with family or on my own soaking in the quality programming of PBS. Whether I was watching the classic 1980s miniseries adaptation of Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, catching episodes of Sesame Street before and after school or avidly following the early 90s tween show Ghostwriter (I could go into detail about this wonderful show but that’s kind of a whole separate blog post), PBS was the center of my childhood television viewing. Well, it was as long as we didn’t have cable.

In the age of 500 satellite or cable channels, internet and Netflix, it’s pretty easy to drift away from the classy, wholesome, enjoyable if unassuming Public Broadcasting Service. It keeps chugging away, bringing us magnificent programs like Downton Abbey, Antiques Roadshow and NOVA for free (even though they remain ever grateful to “Viewers Like You” for contributions).

So my hat remains doffed and my television remains set to PBS. Below is just a brief list of some of my favorite recent PBS documentaries, available for borrowing from the Library:

Black In Latin America: I was crestfallen for nearly a week as this fascinating series was airing first run on PBS. At the time I was living in an evil apartment complex that, for whatever reason, had the worst signal for PBA 30 and no signal at all for GPB Channel 8.  Several months later, I was able to borrow this series from the Library. The series follows as host Henry Louis Gates Jr. explores the African roots of several Latin American nations like Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

The Jewish Americans: This is an incredibly informative and insightful series that I intend to borrow again but next time with a pen and pad at the ready. Narrated by actor Liev Schreiber, this film follows the Jewish American experience and the community’s contributions to American history and culture. I highly recommend it.

Ken Burns…well, anything really: There isn’t a Ken Burns documentary that I’ve seen that I haven’t been hopelessly in the thrall of. I’ve spent six hours on a lazy Saturday glued to my computer screen watching the advent, the unfolding and unraveling of prohibition. I’ve watched the birth and growth of jazz as an American musical form. I watched a whole lot more of his documentary on the history and dominance of baseball than I’d intended to and I’m not even a casual fan of the game. Burns’ work is the gold standard of documentary series filmmaking.

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