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

Movies

For me, there is one Disney princess that stands out from the rest and that is Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  I identify with her because she is a princess who reads. I also like how the movie discusses appreciating people for who they are as opposed to what they look like.Belle

Bob Thomas, in his book Disney’s Art of Animation, discusses Walt Disney’s beginnings in film with characters such as Mickey Mouse and Snow White (the first princess). Last Christmas, I watched a documentary about how Snow White was made into the first feature film for Walt Disney. It discussed in length the process of getting to the finished result.  The journey continued after Walt Disney passed on with The Little Mermaid and then Beauty and the BeastThe Little Mermaid was the first feature made after Walk passed and Beauty and the Beast the second. Thomas goes onto to share the updates of animation and storyboarding in the process of making Beauty and the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast was adapted from the original story by Ms. Jean Marie Leprince De Beaumont.  We have some versions of the translation here at the library. In the original, there was no Gaston or animated inanimate objects that acted like servants.  Did you know that Belle actually had sisters?  These sisters were considered Belle’s enemy instead of Gaston.  The character of the beast is different as well.  He was more polite and not like the Disney version of the  character. Beauty and the BeastThe finished product  of  1991 Beauty and the Beast is a personal favorite of mine.  It is also a DVD we carry in the DCPL system.   I still remember all the words to songs like “Belle” or “Be Our Guest.”  I revisited the movie over the weekend and enjoyed it just as much as the first time seeing it in the theater.  We have a special edition DVD of the 1991 movie which includes a preview of the live action Beauty and the Beast that is in theaters now.

Be Our Guest and check out these fabulous books and media about Beauty and the Beast:

Beauty and the Beast 1991 movie

Beauty and the Beast soundtrack

DISNEY’S ART OF ANIMATION:  From Mickey Mouse to  Beauty and the Beast by Bob Thomas

Beauty and the Beast by Ms. Jean Marie Leprince De Beaumont (There are also other versions of this story in the DeKalb Library System)

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast by A.L. Singer

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Jun 19 2015

Art or Life?

by Rebekah B

Hello readers,

I love watching movies–the kind of movies which explore the dilemmas and dramas of human passions and desires. Cinema is an art form that, when well done, can fully engage our hearts and minds. When we get down to what brings meaning to our everyday lives, I think most of us would like to feel that by being in the world we have somehow served our families, friends, and co-workers by sharing some essential aspects of our own being. For the artist, the need to create meaning through art is more often than not a compulsion–a need more important than building family or career. We may ask ourselves the question: Which is more important–to live one’s life in a compassionate manner, adding value to the relationships we nurture at home and at work, or to isolate oneself to a certain degree from society in order to produce work that will allow future generations to continue to relate to the workings of our heart and mind, long after our personal death?

HumblingBirdmanA few recent (2014), somewhat literary films in our DCPL collection, I feel, illustrate this theme well. Birdman, written and directed by  Alejandro González Iñárritu and starring Michael Keaton, and The Humbling, directed by Barry Levinson, starring Al Pacino and based on the next to the last novel written by Philip Roth, both feature aging screen and stage actors struggling to remain relevant, to prove to themselves and to the world that they still possess the magical power that grabs the viewer by the emotions and reels them in. Both protagonists are terrified by a progressively tenuous relationship with reality, with friends and family. Yet their desires remain powerful, and they fight the demons of death and chaos as vigorously as they engage the remains of their personal genius in their art.

WhiplashWhiplash, written and directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, is, I feel, the most powerful of the three films. Teller plays a young and ambitious drummer enrolled in a New York City conservatory. In a telling moment, he squashes a budding relationship with a young woman to whom he is obviously attracted, feeling that his overriding desire to become a famous drummer will cause him to inevitably dissatisfy her–and that she, as an ordinary young woman, will never understand or be fulfilled by him. In his youthful arrogance, he somehow knows that his need to excel as a musician dominates any other desires. As we watch the scene, the painful question, “art or life?” is illustrated. In Whiplash, the relationship between Andrew, the young drummer, and his mentor, the verbally abusive and manipulative Fletcher, is intense and fascinating. Fletcher uses any means he deems necessary to bring to fruition the talent he sees in his young charges, and Andrew’s vulnerability and passion stir in the viewer an ambiguous desire to see him succeed.

In all of these films, the viewer experiences the angst-ridden desire of the artist to remain relevant as he ages, as well as our own fears about the loss of vitality. We share the struggle of the artist to straddle the fine line between his own vivid imagination and the demands of conventional reality. We observe the dedication and work required to develop and maintain the necessary craft which is the armature of any successful and compelling art form. Watching these films, we can experience with emotion the conflicts and difficulties caused in the artist’s personal life by his or her focus on an art form to the near exclusion of all other responsibilities and relationships. You could say that the artist is egocentric, a narcissist. And it is true to a certain degree. Art is an unforgiving mistress or master, requiring uncompromising devotion. As a mere human being, the artist is nearly always at the mercy of art itself.

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May 22 2015

Maps to the Stars: A Classical Tragedy

by Rebekah B

Kafka on the Shore

Hello readers,

Japanese author Haruki Murakami claims in his novel Kafka on the Shore that in our dreams and our imagination lie the roots of responsibility–meaning that those who refuse to accept responsibility for their actions are also most likely to remain almost totally unaware of the dark depths of hidden meaning tugging at us from below the surface of our lives. Just as Adolf Eichmann considered his design of the final solution as a “practical problem,” his lack of imagination echoed his inability to see the moral implications of his acts. In this same novel, Murakami’s characters Kafka Tamura and Oshima also speak of “living spirits,” a common feature of Japanese tales. Unlike a ghost, a living spirit separates from the body of a person who has not yet died in order to accomplish certain acts without the consent or awareness of the person in question. The difference between living spirits and ghosts, and the notion of timelessness, are key to this novel. For example, a 15-year-old Miss Saeki visits Kafka Tamura in his room at night, while the adult Miss Saeki, in her later 40’s, is most likely asleep in her bed at home.

Kafka on the Shore deals with the myth of Oedipus, translated to contemporary Japan in the person of young Kafka Tamura who runs away from his father’s home to avoid the effects of the dire prophecy issued to him by his father, a famous sculptor. The memory of Kafka’s mother has been wiped from his memory. She and his older sister disappeared from his life when he was four years old. The depths of the soul and unconscious mind take a strange cast of characters to places within themselves and one another to carry out the injunctions of fate. Murakami’s vast intelligence is astounding and reveals the mysterious meaning of the ironies of our lives, as a variety of beings–some rational and highly intelligent, others bereft of their faculties yet connected to a deeper form of guidance–use their hearts and minds to lead them all to an interconnected destiny.

Kafka on the Shore quote 2

David Cronenberg’s film, Map to the Stars, stars Julianne Moore (aging neurotic actress Havana Segrand, haunted by the memory of her deceased and abusive mother), Evan Bird (Benjie, at 13 an appallingly overconfident child star and recovering addict), John Cusack (Stafford Weiss, somewhat creepy therapist to the stars and New Age self-help guru, also Benjie and Agatha’s father), Olivia Williams (Christina Weiss, an overwrought and sensitive woman, as Benjie and Agatha’s mother and ostensibly Stafford’s wife and sister), Mia Wasikowska (Agatha, Benjie’s schizophrenic older sister who has been banished years ago by her parents after trying to drug and immolate herself and Benjie), Sarah Gadon (Clarice Taggart, Havana Segrand’s mother and film legend who perished in her youth in a fire), and Robert Pattinson (Jerome Fontana, aspiring actor and limo driver). This link (spoiler alert) will take you to a New Yorker review of the film, although I find this review by Matt Zoller Seitz on RogerEbert.com to better capture the qualities of the film and the intentions of the director and writers.

mapstothestars

Of Cronenberg, critic Seitz says: “Maybe because he’s less interested in gore and goo than in the beasts within: the monstrous nature of obsession and desire; the difficulty of escaping oneself, physically or emotionally; the cruelty of the societies that enfold and define his characters. Look back over Cronenberg’s filmography, and you realize that he hasn’t made an according-to-Hoyle horror picture since 1986’s ‘The Fly.’ The horrific quality seems to come more from his being appalled by what people can be, and do—and from being sympathetic to their urges anyway.”

A fairly recent addition to the DCPL collection, Map to the Stars features a fatefully interconnected group of human beings as they face the deepest of all fears, both personal and collective. Haunted with ghosts and visions, several of the characters are compelled by these shades to behave in ways which appear to be beyond their conscious control. While on the surface the story seems to involve the superficial realms and ambitions of the rich and famous in Hollywood, very quickly the viewer realizes that below the surface there is much more to the story than the apparently ridiculous struggles of an aging actress to reassert herself on screen and maintain her reputation. The taboos of incest and the Oedipal conflict as well as the conflict between reason and the irrational are the primary themes of this film. Violent without being overwhelmed by gore, the characters are torn by their fears and desires, and a dominating sense of fatalism prevails. Despite several graphically violent scenes, the characters, as in Murakami’s novel, maintain a certain level of self-awareness. Each is a seeker, and each is aware of the limits of the rational mind.  All are haunted by secrets and ghosts of lost love and opportunities and by grief caused by relationships and choices gone wrong. And yet the dramatic and tragic unfolding of these tormented souls is somehow poetic. The violence is at times pervaded by a peaceful sense of human beings finding their own dignity within tragedy, although a sense of the ridiculous is never far away.

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Dec 17 2014

Foxy Brown, She-ro

by Hope L

pamI’m not really a Twitter person, but when I joined Twitter and tried to use the doggone thing, I was surprised when a famous person, none other than Pam Grier–yes, THE  Pam Grier of Foxy Brown, Jackie Brown and most recently, The L Word (cable TV series) fame–started following me.

Now, there are probably those of you who have celebrities following your Twitter feed. I, on the other hand, am a complete social media novice, and when Pam Grier’s name popped up–well, I mean, with Foxy and Roger Corman and Richard Pryor and Freddie Prinze and Kareem, oh yeah, and more recently, Jackie Brown and Quentin Tarantino…

Being the Hollywood gadfly that I am, I went and checked out Foxy: My Life in Three Acts, by Pam Grier with Andrea Cagan, from my DCPL branch. It just confirmed what I already knew about Pam Grier/aka Foxy–she is one cool chica.

Now, I had watched her for a few years around the turn of the millennium in Showtime’s The L Word.  And of course a chick like Pam would play a character who could only drive a green vintage late 60’s/early 70’s vehicle (Chevelle? Impala?).  She couldn’t exactly drive around in a Subaru, now, could she?

As Pam explains:

“I had become one of the most recognizable female stars of the blaxploitation genre…  This movement of which I was such a prominent member was shadowing the women’s movement, where women were demanding equal rights to men in art, business, family, and all aspects of life.  My movies featured women claiming the right to fight back, which previously had been out of the question.”

You, GO, Girrrrl!

pam2Yes, the queen of Blaxploitation movies is not only cool, she has had one heckuva life so far. Highlights of her life include enduring and witnessing racial discrimination from all directions, like being in a church choir bus that was shot at in the middle of Watts during the historic riots of 1965;  and, just as she garnered her first job as an actress, meeting and dating the soon-to-be famous college basketball player Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. (“Call me Lew” before he changed his name to Kareem Abdul Jabbar); and, upon prodding from Gloria Steinem, appearing on the cover of Ms. Magazine; AND, dating and loving two major comedians who would struggle with drug addiction (Freddie Prinze and Richard Pryor), and on and on.

Pam Grier did many of her own stunts, like riding the stunt horses and popping wheelies on motorcycles. She starred in movies with Paul Newman, Eartha Kitt, and had a role on the blockbuster TV miniseries RootsShe survived both cancer and the entertainment industry.

As I watched Jackie Brown the other night, I rooted for Jackie (Pam). In the end, I knew she would get revenge, the money, and the guy–if she wanted him.

Pam Grier defines the word SHE-RO. Plus, unlike me, she knows how to tweet and use Twitter.

 

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Mar 6 2014

Big night

by Dea Anne M

Made for Each Other by Bronwyn CosgraveWho doesn’t love the Academy Awards? I sure do. Each year, I eagerly await the  chance to experience once more the lavish spectacle, the breathless anticipation, the heartfelt acceptance speeches…

Ha, ha…just kidding! I watch it for the clothes. Truthfully, in recent years, I don’t watch the show at all (I just can’t stay up that late). Without fail though, I check the internet in the days following to see who wore what. I don’t care much for the snarkier “What was she thinking?” pictorials and usually ignore those, but I am drawn like the proverbial moth to the flame of each year’s fashion triumphs.

I know I’m not alone in my love for awards show fashion and if you share my interest and want to delve more deeply, DCPL has resources for you.

The Complete Book of Oscar Fashion: variety’s 75 years of glamour on the red carpet by Reeve Chace is as complete a compendium as one could wish of the subject (at least up to 2003). Page after page of snappily captioned photographs capture Oscar’s stellar fashion moments as well as some of the more startling (though no less famous) outfits.

Made for Each Other: fashion and the Academy Awards by Bronwyn Crosgrave is a detailed and well-illustrated account of Oscar fashion starting with the ceremony’s inception in 1929. It might be fair to say that this book gives us the “story behind the dress”, from the blue bias-cut gown Mary Pickford wore in 1929 to Nicole Kidman’s 1997 embroidered chartreuse  frock. Cosgrave devotes a major portion of the book to designer/ actress partnerships such as Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn, Edith Head and Grace Kelly, and Bob Mackie and Cher. Fascinating stuff!

Speaking of Edith Head, you might enjoy David Chierichetti’s Edith Head: the life and times of Hollywood’s celebrated costume designer. Arguably one of Hollywood’s most gifted costume designers, Head’s career spanned more than 50 years. She dressed dozens of actresses in as many classic films including:

Click the actresses names above to see fabulous examples of Head’s work!

Here’s a fun  infographic of every dress worn by every Best Actress winner from 1929 to 2013. You will note that some years are missing and these indicate years that the winning actress did not attend the awards ceremony. My favorites include Vivian Leigh’s simple floral dress from 1940, the blue satin gown worn by Grace Kelly in 1955 (designed by Edith Head!), the black and white vintage Valentino that Julia Roberts wore in 2001, and Reese Witherspoon’s Dior gown from 2006.

Of course, I realize that I’ve only touched on women’s fashion in this post. Part of that, I suppose, has to do with a definite media bias. After all, women’s formal fashion tends to allow a greater variation in color and style than that of men.  From time to time, a brave actor attempts his own bit of sartorial rebellion—usually to mixed responses.  Consider this year’s winning actors Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto in their matching white jackets. Some are saying yea and some nay. Call me old fashioned,  but I think that nothing beats the classic black tuxedo for elegance and style.

What are your favorite Oscar fashions?

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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 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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Frances Farmer (1913-1970) was an American film and stage actress better remembered today for her traumatic private life than her professional accomplishments. In the early 1980s, Jessica Lange was Oscar-nominated for her starring performance in the film Frances, a somewhat fictionalized account of Farmer’s life, including the years she spent involuntarily confined to a mental hospital. Many of Farmer’s fans and supporters believe that she may not have been as seriously ill as her family believed, that she may have been mostly guilty of being an unhappy, outspoken, and volatile woman at a time when those traits were not always well-received.

Peter Shelley’s Frances Farmer: The Life and Films of a Troubled Star has two major components. The first section of the book tries to sort out fact from fiction in previous accounts of the actress’ life, as told in biographies, the aforementioned film, and a controversial memoir that Farmer authorized but may not have written. In the second half, Shelley takes a detailed look at the legacy left by Frances Farmer in her films. While she may not belong to the pantheon of great actresses, Shelley convincingly makes the case that the best of her work merits serious critical attention, which he provides here.

As so often happens when you read one book, Shelley’s led me to another. One of the long unanswered questions about Farmer’s life, which Shelley investigated in writing his book, was whether she was lobotomized during her years as a mental patient. In The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness, author Jack El-Hai wrestles with a complex question. Was Dr. Walter Freeman (1895-1972), the controversial physician who championed the widespread use of lobotomies to treat mental illness (and was long-rumored to have performed the procedure on Frances Farmer), a fearless pioneer, a grossly irresponsible doctor with delusions of grandeur, or simply a tragically misguided man who did his best to help patients who otherwise had few chances for a productive life? (If you’re a follower of the Kennedy family history, you might know that one of Dr. Freeman’s patients was JFK’s sister Rosemary, though the operation apparently did her more harm than good).

These may not be the kind of books you want to drop into your beach bag to read by the pool this summer. But if you’re in the mood to read something that will keep you thinking long after you’ve turned the last page, give one, or both, a try.

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Mar 21 2012

Feeding your hunger

by Dea Anne M

Regular readers of this blog probably already know that my posts often involve food and you might assume from the title of this post that this one is more of the same. Well…surprise—it’s not! By “hunger” I’m referring to this coming weekend’s release of the eagerly awaited film version of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. The book is, of course, the first in Collins’ wonderful dystopian trilogy (which includes Catching Fire and Mockingjay) in which ruling powers demand a yearly “tribute”—a girl and a boy selected by lottery from each of twelve districts. The twenty-four tributes are expected to fight each other to the death in a televised (required viewing, no less) gladiatorial-style contest until only one is left standing. The trilogy’s primary character is Katniss Everdeen – a brave and emotionally complicated young woman who is sometimes infuriating but always (in my opinion) remarkable. I’ve heard some equate the success of the Hunger Games series with that of Stephanie Meyers’  Twilight books. Both series have been hugely popular but they are, I think, really nothing alike. Certainly there’s a strong romantic sub-plot in the books but it definitely takes a back seat to the rest of the action. Needless to say, I’m eager to see the film which features Jennifer  Lawrence (as Katniss), Woody Harrelson, and  Stanley Tucci among many others.

To celebrate the release of the film, the Stonecrest branch of DCPL will be hosting a Hunger Games Release Party on Saturday, March 24 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. The party will feature “training stations” where teens can test their skills in archery, plant identification, and trivia; crafts; refreshments; and a prize drawing. Remember, attendance is limited to the first 25 teens so do keep that in mind if you plan to celebrate with us at Stonecrest. The Decatur branch will also be celebrating the film release with a Hunger Games Trivia event featuring  pizza and prizes this Thursday, March 22, from 4:30-5:30. The event will be held in the Decatur Meeting Room and attendance is limited to the first 25 participants.

Are you going to celebrate the release of the Hunger Games film and, if so, how?

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