Saturday, December 29, 2007

Goodbye 2007!

We have come to the end of another year. Hopefully you have been able to catch a few films over the holiday season. So far I have seen Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp, go figure!) and Atonement. Both deserve two thumbs up! In January I will be updating you on all the film awards that have been or will be announced (writer’s willing!). So check back in 2008!
Goodbye 2007! I will see you all on the other side!
Happy New Year!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Does it have to be about Christmas to be a Christmas Film?

Everyone is busily running around this time of year, but at some point we all need to sit down and relax. For me, that means I have time to watch some of my holiday film favorites. I know what my favs are but I thought I would ask my fellow HBPL staffers what tickled their fancy at the holidays (film-wise, of course!). I thought I might be in trouble when I asked one employee and his answer was “I think there was a Christmas scene in Goodfellows!
Fortunately I pressed on and came up with some more festive titles: The most popular was It’s a Wonderful Life. Many of the staff mentioned this is a film they try to watch every Christmas. I also like it but find it interesting that when it was released it got very mixed reviews and was viciously trashed in the New Yorker. It barely made back the cost of making it and didn’t become popular until its copyright expired and was shown every Christmas on television. Now it is a classic.

Other than It’s a Wonderful Life, I would have to say my favorite holiday films are A Christmas Carol (the Patrick Stewart version) and White Christmas. It just isn’t the holidays for me until Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen sing the title song. Another film that got a mention and that I also really like is Nightmare Before Christmas. I guess it can be either a Halloween film or a Christmas film. I tend to watch it at Halloween but some of my workmates claimed it belonged to Christmastime.

The other popular titles: Miracle on 34th Street, A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Story (“You'll shoot your eye out!!”) and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. These are all very Christmas-worthy (and available in our Media department).
But what constitutes a Christmas film?? For me it is the films that I have to watch every year at Christmas. When I asked my colleagues for their films, most were in the traditional vein. But a few were quite surprising. One colleague, without hesitation, stated Desk Set. Another, Serendipity; and I had more than one Home Alone’s!

So, I hope your holidays are full of joyous spirit and that you find some time to relive days past with your favorite holiday films (whatever they may be!).

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Double Dip of Depp for the Holidays

The holidays always bring releases of big films on DVD. The studios aren’t silly! They know that Christmas is a time to make some more $$ on those big budget films. This holiday season is no exception. The two big DVD releases are Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End. As some of you might know, I have a mild thing for Johnny Depp (which started with 21 Jump Street). Last Spring I ran a film program here at HBPL called “Not Just a Pirate – the Films of Johnny Depp”. As part of the program I always opened with a short lecture about the life of JD and/or the film being screened. At the time, one of the patrons mentioned that it would be nice to have the lectures available on our website. So as a little holiday treat for you…click here for an abridged version of those lectures.
Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End comes out December 4th and will, of course, be available at HBPL!! (as will Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which comes out December 11th).
The other Depp film, Sweeney Todd, will be coming to theatres on December 21st. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp teaming up once again to make a film version of my favorite Stephen Sondheim musical. Johnny singing, dancing and wielding a straight razor; what else could one want for the holidays!?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thankful for Cinema

Yes the holidays are knocking on the door and shortly Christmas Carols will be the muzak in all shopping establishments. Of course there are Christmas films galore (which will be an upcoming blog entry) but before we get there, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving with friends and family. What Thanksgiving films should you watch to get you in a thankful mood?? Try some of these:

Pieces of April: This is my absolute favorite Thanksgiving film. Before Katie Holmes became the other half of “TomKat”, she made this delightful and touching film. April (Katie Holmes) lives in a poor neighborhood of New York City with her African-American boy friend (Derek Luke). Although she has strained relations with her suburb-dwelling family, she wants to make amends with her mother who is dying of cancer (played by the fantastic Patricia Clarkson). Therefore, she invites them all to her apartment for Thanksgiving dinner. Discovering that her oven doesn’t work is just the beginning of her problems.

Planes, Trains, Automobiles: All that Neal Page (Steve Martin) wants to do is to get home for Thanksgiving. His flight has been cancelled due to bad weather, so he decides on other means of transport. He unfortunately gets stuck with the obnoxious Del Griffith (John Candy), shower curtain ring salesman. Therein lies the tale…

Hannah and her Sisters: This film spans two years and begins and ends at family Thanksgiving dinners where we get to meet Hannah and her dysfunctional family. Because it is Woody Allen, it is bitingly humorous and full of well written characters.

Home for the Holidays: Directed by Jodie Foster, an unemployed divorced mom (Holly Hunter) flies home to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with her non-traditional family. She arrives home to fist-fights on the lawn, a dropped turkey and finds herself flirting with her brother’s friend (Dylan McDermott).

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: One for all the family! Who wouldn’t want to watch a Charlie Brown holiday special! This one has Charlie Brown trying to make a Thanksgiving dinner for Peppermint Patty, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy and the rest of the gang.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Getting Ready for the Holidays and AFI Fest

Hopefully some of you are making the trek up to Los Angeles to catch some films at AFI Fest. It runs through November 11th and you can check out the remaining schedule at
It’s hard to start thinking of the holidays this early. But since decorations for both Thanksgiving and Christmas start showing up at Halloween these days; it’s hard not to!
Since we have a few weeks before the celebrating begins, maybe it is time to start exercising before the holidays truly get started. You already know that HBPL has a great selection of feature films but did you know we also have a good selection of videos and DVD’s to help you get in shape (or at least reduce the damage we all do to ourselves at the holidays!)?
Check out some of these titles:
Jane Fonda’s Workout, Low Impact Aerobics
Bellydance Fitness for Beginners
Pilates Workout for Dummies
Lilias! Yoga for Beginners
Bollywood Dance Workout
And many, many more!!

The Media Department has also extended its Renovation Sale. You can still take advantage of the half price sale on a selection of media items. Stock up while they are nicely discounted!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Haunted Media

What film do you think of when you hear the following:

1) A film by Peter Jackson
2) Shot on location in New Zealand
3) The film is full of excellent effects

I am sure the first thing that comes to mind is the 1996 film, “The Frighteners”, right?? (or maybe you thought of that trilogy that he also directed). If you did think of “The Frighteners” than good for you! This is a wonderfully spooky and at times, scary film that was pretty much overlooked when it was originally released. It is directed by Peter Jackson, produced by Robert Zemekis and it stars Michael J Fox, Hugh Laurie, John Astin and Jake Busey (son of Gary). With all these elements, you would think it would have been a hit. Well, it is in my eyes! It is one of my favorite horror films and is now available at HBPL.

Of course, our Media Department has many other horror films to offer. Whether your taste runs to the classics like the Hammer Films “Curse of Frankenstein”, “Horror of Dracula”, “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave” or to more contemporary horror treats like “Sleepy Hollow” , “The Grudge” or “1408”. All can be found in our Media department!!
Although to find your favorite horror films is reason enough to visit, right now there is another event that will compel you to come in! Until the end of October, Media is having a half price sale on a selection of media items. DVD’s, VHS, CD’s and AudioBooks are part of the sale but are being gobbled up at a frightening rate! So be sure to stop by before the 31st and take advantage of this spook-tacular sale!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

TIFF Revisited / AFI Fest 2007

The 2007 Toronto Film Festival is gone but not forgotten! I have heard from friends who were there about several films that they particularly enjoyed. One is a film that is based on the novel, Jar City (Myrin) by Arnaldur Indridason (available at HBPL). This is a police mystery about a worn-down cop who works to piece together the recent murder of a little girl to a similar case from over 30 years ago. The story is set in Reykjavik, Iceland and was shot on location. That alone may be worth the price of admission.
Another film that sounded particularly intriguing was a documentary called Operation Filmmaker. Soon after the fall of Baghdad in 2003; film student, Muthana Mohmed, stands in the rubble of the city's film school and explains to an American television audience that his dream of becoming a filmmaker has been destroyed. This documentary chronicles what happens to this young man when actor/director Liev Schreiber invites him to Prague to intern on Schreiber’s film, Everything is Illuminated.

Next month festival films come to Los Angeles when the AFI Fest comes to town. It will be November 1st – 11th and happens at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood. As of right now, the film title list hasn’t been announced but it should be available shortly. Hopefully these films will be included as part of the festival. One film that has been announced is this years Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winner Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days by Romanian director Cristian Mungiu. This is one that you might want to make the trip to Hollywood to see!!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

DVD extravaganza!

If you use our wonderful media collection here at HBPL, you know that we have some movies on VHS and others on DVD. In the past year we have stopped buying VHS media and so the DVD collection is growing. But what about those great movies that came out before DVD’s became so popular?? Well never fear!! We are at the end of our budgeting year and since we had some funds available, we have gone back, checked for the most popular titles that we only had on VHS and purchased new DVD copies of these films.
How long has it been since you have seen these wonderful titles:
12 Monkeys ; 84 Charing Cross Rd; Amadeus; Babette’s Feast; Fisher King; French Kiss; Glory; Ladyhawke; My Left Foot; Muriel's Wedding; Out of Africa; Passage to India; Princess Bride; Restoration; Roxanne; Searching for Bobby Fisher; Sophie's Choice; Swimming With Sharks; This is Spinal Tap; Twelve Chairs; Usual Suspects or When Harry Met Sally.
These are just a selection of films that we have recently been able to add on DVD. Did we get a copy of your favorite film?? When next you are at HBPL, you might want to head for the Media collection and check out the list of the great titles that are now available on DVD!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


As some of you probably know, the Toronto International Film Festival just closed last weekend. It ran from September 6th to September 15th this year and the top prize (the prestigious Audience Award) was taken by David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises” starring Viggo Mortensen. Fortunately, film fans won’t have to wait long to see the prize winner as it opened last Friday in limited release at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood. That means it will be coming to a Cineplex near you in the near future. The runner up for the Audience Award was Jason Reitman's teen-pregnancy comedy "Juno", followed by "Body of War", an Iraq War documentary directed by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro. The big buzz films of the festival were Joe Wright's British drama "Atonement", the Coen brothers' western "No Country for Old Men", Sean Penn's fact-based drama "Into the Wild", Ang Lee's tale of espionage in 1940s Shanghai, "Lust, Caution" (which won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival last week, alongside its Toronto premiere) and the comedy "Bill",starring Aaron Eckhart and Jessica Alba. I am waiting to hear from some friends who were there to let me know the titles they particularly enjoyed and will pass it on when I hear.
In the mean time, if you feel like making the trek up to Hollywood, the American Film Institute is celebrating its 40th anniversary by simultaneously screening 11 classic films, each with a live introduction by a star or filmmaker. Among the presenters will be Jack Nicholson for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Julie Andrews for "The Sound of Music," Clint Eastwood for "Unforgiven" and George Lucas for "Star Wars”. The screenings are on October 3rd at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood (see the AFI website for ticket information).

Friday, August 31, 2007

Films for a Long Holiday weekend

Technically this weekend marks the end of summer. I say technically because we who have lived here for awhile know that just because it is Labor Day, that doesn’t end the summer like weather in our beach side paradise. So, what will you be doing?? BBQing?? Hanging at the beach?? Or escaping the heat by staying home and watching a few good films. Here are some recommendations for films you might have missed (all available at HBPL):

Story of the Weeping Camel: I saw this film a few years ago at the Toronto Film Festival and it was one of my absolute favorites that year. It is based in Mongolia and follows the trials and solutions used by a nomadic tribe to get a mother camel to accept her new baby. Heart wrenching but charming. It was nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2005. Although it didn’t win the Oscar, its directors did win the Directors Guild award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary.

Little Dieter Needs to Fly: This documentary was made by celebrated documentary filmmaker, Werner Herzog. Herzog has another movie in the theaters now. That film is called “Rescue Dawn”. Why do I bring that up? Because Rescue Dawn is the fictionalized version of what happened to Dieter Dengler, the subject of both films. Dengler was a boy in Germany and survived Allied bombings during WWII. He became fascinated by the pilots and when he turned 18 he came to America and became one.

The Machinist: I was lucky enough to see this film at the Chicago Film festival. I was totally blown away by Christian Bales’ performance. Trevor Reznik (Bale) is a lathe-operator who suffers from insomnia and hasn't slept in a year. Slowly, he begins to doubt his sanity as increasingly bizarre things start happening at work and at home. A mesmerizing film.

Twelve Chairs: Just last weekend I was up in Seattle to see the new musical “Young Frankenstein” based on the Mel Brooks movie. Although it is a terrific movie (available at HBPL), it is not my favorite Mel Brooks film. My favorite is probably one of his least known. The Twelve Chairs stars Ron Moody and a very young Frank Langella as two men trying to locate 12 dining-room chairs, once owned by a wealthy woman who confesses on her deathbed that years before she had secreted all her jewels in the upholstery of one of them. It is funny and touching at the same time.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Johnny Depp Success!

Not Just a Pirate: the Films of Johnny Depp proved to be a successful program here at Huntington Beach Public Library. I received quite a bit of positive feedback about the program and many asked when we would start another film series. The answer to that depends on the approval of the powers that be and availability of Room C (the best one for screening these films). I am hoping to present another program in the new year (end of January 2008 or February). But what should it be? Academy Awards nominated Foreign Films?? The Comedy of Mel Brooks?? Cinema of Strong Women?? Films from Outer Space?? I want to hear what would interest our patrons so please let me know by leaving your (moderated) comments on this blog! (just click below where it says comments)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

Last post I admitted to one of my guilty pleasure films, American Flyers. Of course, I have many others including:

Waterworld (egads! Another Costner!),

Secondhand Lions


Bubble Boy

As I define guilty pleasures, they are the movies you love despite the fact that they are generally derided.
So what are your guilty pleasure films and why?? I will be moderating the responses so send them along and we can see what entertains the patronage of our library!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tour de France

I don’t know how many of you are cycling fans but every year when July comes around I become glued to my television for the three weeks of the Tour de France. This year’s tour started in London and will end on the Champs Elysee (that’s Paris, you know!) three weeks and 3,553 km (2,208 miles) later. Despite the controversies this year (the leader was forced to quit), it was an exciting race and I was quite happy this past Sunday when Alberto Contador was awarded the maille jaune (yellow jersey – top prize). If you have been watching you might need something to ease you through your “tour-watching” withdrawals. These two films should do the trick (and they are available in DVD at HBPL):

Breaking Away
This 1979 film is number eight on the AFI's 100 Most Inspiring Movies list and arguably the best cycling film ever made. It won the Oscar for Original Screenplay for screenwriter, Steve Tesich and went on to win the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy). It is a coming of age story about Dave Stoller and his three best friends, all just out of high school with no college or other life plans, sons of blue collar workers that live in Bloomington, Indiana. Dave loves cycling and all things Italian; so much so that he pretends to be an Italian exchange student at the local college. Everything changes after meeting his heroes, the Italian cycling team. He goes on to help his friends in the town's annual bike race against the local college boys.

American Flyers
American Flyers is one of my guilty pleasures and it holds a special place for me as it is the film that sparked my interest in cycling. Granted it is not Breaking Away but it was written by the same screenwriter, Steve Tesich. It has a good combination of family drama and great cycling footage. It is a story of sports physician Marcus (played by a young Kevin Costner) who persuades his brother David to come with him and train for a bicycle race across the Rocky Mountains. This is somewhat a ploy to test his brother to see if he is inflicted with a hereditary medical problem that killed their father. The wonderful John Amos plays one of Marcus’s colleagues and adds a bit of comedy and family warmth to the plot.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hidden Gems

I have a network of film fanatic friends that keep me informed as to the hidden gems they discover in their various festival forays. The film that I kept hearing about from many of them was an independent film called “Sweet Land”. It finally became available on DVD and I made sure that HBPL ordered a copy for our collection. I watched it last night and it is worth the praise and the wait. It was the winner of the Best First Feature award at the 2007 Independent Spirit Awards. The lead actress, Elizabeth Reaser, took home the Best Actress award from our own Newport Beach Film Festival in 2006. The film follows the fortunes of a young German woman, Inge (Elizabeth Reaser), who travels to America to marry a Norwegian immigrant farmer, Olaf (Tim Guinee), and suffers from the post-World War I prejudice against all things German. The film also has Alex Kingston (Dr. Corday from E.R. – you wondered what she had been up to!), the always watchable Alan Cumming, John Heard and Ned Beatty. It is a lovely film.

And while we are talking about lovely films; HBPL recently added “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont” to our DVD collection. I don’t remember this playing in the theaters in Orange County but I got a chance to see it last year while in New Zealand. It was screening only one night in the town of Napier and I happened to be in the right place on the right night. This film is based on the novel by the same name by English author, Elizabeth Taylor and stars the gifted Joan Plowright (the wife of the late Sir Lawrence Olivier). It is about an elderly woman who is all but abandoned by her family in a London retirement hotel when she strikes up a curious friendship with a young writer.

These might be a bit “chicky” but not so girly that men won’t find them charming as well.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What's up Doc?

You all know that HBPL has an excellent collection of feature, independent and foreign films. But what about those documentaries? We have many of the past Academy Award winners/nominees such as: Spellbound, Winged Migration, The Fog of War, Super Size Me, March of the Penguins, Murderball, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and An Inconvenient Truth. But we have also added some fine documentaries that have recently aired on television. In case you missed them:

Planet Earth: As You Have Never Seen it Before
This stunning documentary originally aired this year on the Discovery Channel. The 11 part series is contained in our 5 DVD collection. This program was 5 years in the making and redefines natural history filmmaking. It starts with the first episode Pole to Pole which ties the series together with a fresh understanding of how life in every nook and cranny of the globe is connected. It then continues on to Mountains, Deep Oceans, Deserts, Ice Worlds, Shallow Seas, Great Plains, Jungles, Fresh Water, Forests and Caves. Included in these episodes are never seen locations and animal behavior and it reminds us of what a wonderful and diverse planet we live on (and should be taking care of!)

America at a Crossroads:
This program aired this year on PBS and is hosted by Robert MacNeil. It is a series of independently produced documentaries that explore the challenges confronting the post-9/11 world. The titles held at HBPL in our media department are:
The Case for War: in defense of freedom
With debate over the war in Iraq still dominating policy discussions, this film follows one of the advocates for the war against Saddam Hussein
Europe’s 9/11
Europe’s 9/11 explores in-depth the phenomenon of homegrown terrorism through the lens of the bombings in Madrid, Spain and the connections between those bombers and Al Qaeda cell activities in Milan, Italy and the Van Gogh murder in the Netherlands.
Faith Without Fear
Follow along on the journey of Irshad Manji, a Muslim dissident, as he tries to help restore humanity and reason to Islam.
Gangs of Iraq
This segment explores whether the coalition can build a national Iraqi army, and the police, in the midst of civil war.
Jihad: The men and ideas behind Al Qaeda
This is an in-depth look at the modern radical Islamic groups and the ideas and beliefs that inspire them.
This explores the diversity of Muslims in America today, focusing on communities’ experience after 9/11, and contrasting life for Muslims here in the United States compared to Muslims in Britain and Europe.
Operation Homecoming: Writing the wartime experience
A unique documentary that explores the firsthand accounts of American servicemen and women through their own words.
Security versus Liberty: the other war
Explores this urgent national debate by talking with leading critics and advocates of the new policies, and telling the stories of people whose lives have been directly affected
Struggle for the Soul of Islam: inside Indonesia
An inside look at how a fledgling democracy is struggling to control the rise of religious extremism.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fabulous Foreigners

Before I talk about the “fabulous foreigners” I want to thank everyone that attended the screening of “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” on Saturday! We are getting an excellent turn-out (although there is always room for more!) and I am glad that the earlier films of Johnny Depp seem to be a crowd pleaser. The next film is “Ed Wood” and will be screened on July 14th (mark the date!).

Now on to those fabulous foreigners and by that I mean, of course, foreign films!! Last year was a spectacular year for foreign submissions for the Academy Awards. All five films are truly worth your time. Last years Foreign Language Oscars were notable on two counts: first, it was the first year that countries were officially allowed to submit movies in languages that were not indigenous to the submitting country. This allowed Canada to submit a Hindi-language film for the first time. And second, it was the first time that all of the foreign films had U.S. distribution from a major company. It is a “good thing” that more Americans seem to be appreciating foreign films and with films like these, how could you not!

After the Wedding (Efter brylluppet ) – Denmark
Jacob Petersen (the wonderful Mads Mikkelsen) has dedicated his life to helping street children in India. When the orphanage he heads is threatened by closure, he receives an unusual offer. A Danish businessman, Jørgen, offers him a donation of $4 million dollars. There are, however, certain conditions... (available at HBPL)

Days of Glory (Indigènes) – Algeria
During WWII, four North African men enlist in the French army to liberate that country from Nazi oppression, and to fight French discrimination. This film won the best actor award for its four key cast members at Cannes and ignited a debate about whether France had done right by these soldiers. The result was a change in French government policy bringing foreign combatant pensions into line with what French veterans are paid. Movies do make a difference! (Available at HBPL)

Water – Canada
The director of Water, Deepa Mehta, went through quite a bit to get this film made. Production was continually disrupted by religious fundamentalists who staged demonstrations, torched the filmmaker's sets, and threatened her life. Fortunately for us, she was not thwarted! This film examines the plight of a group of widows living in a temple in Varanasi in fundamentalist Hindu society in 1938. When a woman is widowed, she has three options: (1) to throw herself on her husband's funeral pyre, (2) to marry his brother (if he has one and it is permitted by the family), or (3) to live in poverty in a group home for widows. (Available at HBPL)

Pan's Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno ) – Mexico
Ofelia's mother tells her young daughter that she's getting too old for the fairytales she loves so much. But for Ofelia, living in the uncertainty of 1944 Spain and suspicious of her new stepfather, Captain Vidal, her books are more than just stories. They are a refuge from the grim everyday world, and as she and Carmen move to a remote military outpost to live with the captain, the books are a portal to her escape. (Available at HBPL)
Pan’s Labyrinth was really expected to take away the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar last year. Its’ international nominations were extensive as were its’ many wins. (see the IMDB for a list of wins/nominations And in another year it might have won…but it had the misfortune to be nominated the same year as:

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen ) – Germany
This film is set in the East Germany of 1984, five years before the Berlin Wall collapsed. It was a time when the terrifying Stasi, the secret police, made it their business to use an extensive network of spies and surveillance to know every secret thing about their citizens. Stasi Capt. Gerd Wiesler, is a true believer in the system. That is until he starts empathizing with those upon whose lives he is required to eavesdrop. (Available at HBPL on 8/21/07).
This Academy Award winner is worth the wait!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Low Browin’ with the Guilty Pleasures

I was browsing the new DVD titles in our Media section this week to find a worthy film to fill an evening. My eyes scanned the titles, seeing such great titles as Blood Diamond, Children of Men, Bobby, and The Queen. We DO have a great collection of current DVD’s here at HBPL!! Unfortunately, I had already seen all of these but then a title caught my eye. Something I hadn’t seen. But should I take it home? Would my film festival-going friends forgive me? What the heck! I lowered my expectations and took home Epic Movie.
If you saw and enjoyed Scary Movie (which is a parody on all the scary movies ever made), then this is the film for you. If you saw the Chronicles of Narnia, Pirates of the Caribbean, X-Men, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the DaVinci Code or Nacho Libre; then this film will mean a lot more to you. Each of these shows up as major parts of this film parody.

Yes, it does have some risqué bits in it. Yes, it is certainly low-brow humor. But the moment I recognized the delightfully creepy Crispin Glover portraying “Willy Wonka”, I knew this film had something going for it. Which was only confirmed when I realized that the talented Darrell Hammond from Saturday Night Live was behind the pirate make-up of the Captain Jack Sparrow want-to-be. (and if you are a fan of SNL’s Lazy Sunday digital short, prepare for the pirate version!). And if Crispin Glover and Darrell Hammond weren’t enough, Epic Movie also has Kal Penn. Some may know him from his dramatic roles as the Indian son in my fore mentioned film The Namesake or his recurring role as a terrorist on the television show 24. But I know Kal Penn because he stars in one of my favorite guilty pleasure films: Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. (available at HBPL!)

So check your brain at the door, be warned that this film can be rude and crude but prepare to spend an evening laughing at Epic Movie.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Hurray for Bollywood !

Every year India produces almost 1000 films, which is twice the number that comes out of Hollywood. The local film industry is called Bollywood (the B being for Bombay; before it changed its name to Mumbai). Bollywood movies often are quite long; 3 hours or more of dancing and singing around love as the main plot - although the screen quickly fades to black when there is a kiss eminent. More than 4 billion movie tickets are purchased in India in comparison to the 3 billion here in the United States (of course, the cost of a movie ticket is quite a bit lower in India! The average ticket price is about a dollar!).
But India cinema has more going for it than the mass produced Bollywood films; India gave us Mira Nair.
Mira Nair was born in Bhubaneswar, a city on the east coast of India. She was educated at Delhi University and at Harvard. Her debut feature film, Salaam Bombay! was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1988. She is definitely a director whose films are worth discovering and also someone whose future bears watching. She has just begun to direct!
Mira Nair films available at the Huntington Beach Public Library:

Salaam Bombay! : The film chronicles the day-to-day life of children living on the streets of Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay). Despite the movie's often dark subject matter, Salaam Bombay! is ultimately a tale of hope and perseverance.

Mississippi Masala: An Indian family is expelled from Uganda when Idi Amin takes power. They move to Mississippi and try to find a new life in America. When the Indian daughter falls in love with a black man (played by Denzel Washington) the acceptance of the couple by the respective families is complicated by family issues and past prejudices.

Monsoon Wedding (the most Bollywood-esque of Mira Nair’s films): Combine a stressed father, a bride-to-be with a secret, a smitten event planner, relatives from around the world arriving to attend the wedding, lots of music and festivities and what do you have? A fun and touching film that creates much ado about the preparations for an arranged marriage in India.

Vanity Fair: Growing up poor in London, Becky Sharp (Reese Witherspoon) defies her poverty-stricken background and ascends the social ladder alongside her best friend, Amelia. Mira Nair uses her unique touch to create this version of the Thackeray classic.

Her current film is The Namesake. It is a beautiful film based on Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel of the same name. (This is one of those rare times that the movie is almost as good as the book!) You can still catch this in the movie theaters but if you miss it, hopefully it will be released on DVD later this year!

Palme d’Or 2007

It was a proud and unprecedented day for Romanian cinema. Romanian director, Cristian Mungiu, has won the Palme d'Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. His movie Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days beat out 21 other feature films, including those by big-name directors like the Coen brothers (No Country for Old Men) and Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof). Felicitare Romania!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cannes and the Palme d'Or

Yes, it is the merry month of May and what does that mean to we film fans? It means the Cannes Film Festival! The festival is running from May 16th to May 27th this year. As an added bit of celebrity watching, the Independent Film Channel is sponsoring a Cannes Cam
so you can watch all the red carpet shenanigans from the comfort of your own home.

The most prestigious award given out at Cannes is the Palme d'Or ("Golden Palm") for the best film. The film is selected by the jury of the festival, made up of a small international selection of movie professionals. Some of the past Palme d’Or winners are alive and well and living on DVD at (or soon to be at) HBPL. Taxi Driver, The Piano, Pulp Fiction, The Pianist and sex, lies and videotape are all well-known winners of the past. But have you seen Missing, Secrets & Lies or L’enfant (the Child)?

not only won the Palme d’Or in 1982 but its star, Jack Lemmon, was selected as the Best Actor at Cannes that year. Deservedly so! He puts in a powerful and moving performance of a father whose son goes missing in a South American country during civil unrest. (This DVD is now available at HBPL).

Secrets & Lies
The amazing Brenda Blethyn heads the cast of this 1996 Palme d’Or winner. Once again, while the film took the top prize, Ms. Blethyn was the Best Actress that year at Cannes. Her co-star, Marianne Jean-Baptiste (better known for her time as Vivian Johnson on “Without a Trace”) plays a successful black woman that traces her birth mother to a lower-class white woman (Blethyn). What follows is a touching tale full of, you guessed it, secrets, oh yes, and lies! (Available at HBPL).

L’enfant (The Child)
This 2005 winner of the Palme d’Or is currently available on DVD at HBPL. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's heartbreaking film follows the repercussions of a disastrous decision. Twenty year old Bruno, who lives an “in the moment” existence on the streets of an industrial town in Belgium, sells his newborn child to an adoption ring for a large bundle of cash. Is the “child” in this film the newborn baby or does it reflect the immaturity of the father? This is not an easy film to experience but one that, once seen, will be unforgettable.

The Wind that Shakes the Barley, the 2006 Palme d’Or winner, is currently playing in limited release in southern California. It should be available on DVD in July or August of this year. What film will take this prize for 2007? We will just have to wait (in the dark of a movie theater) and see.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Two Capotes

We had our first Saturday Film Forum screening (Benny & Joon) last weekend. I want to thank those that attended! A good time seemed to be had by all! Hopefully we will have even more Johnny Depp fans for our next film, "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" on June 23rd!

In 2005, a film called Capote hit the scene and by the time the 2006 Oscars rolled around it was a front runner for many awards. It had five nominations: Best Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay. As many of you know, the wonderful Phillip Seymour Hoffman won the award for Best Actor for this film. Deservedly so! Hoffman is an amazing actor whose presence in any film elevates its worth.

Fast forward to the fall of 2006 when the “other” Capote film was released: Infamous. Because of the acclaim of Capote, many missed Infamous both in the theatres and on DVD. A pity! Infamous and Capote both capture the same time period of Truman Capote’s life but are quite different films. Toby Jones embodies the character of Capote, both looking and sounding much more like Capote than Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

And if you think you know the latest James Bond, Daniel Craig; think again! He is chillingly convincing as the murderer, Perry Smith.

Another bright spot in this film is Sandra Bullock! More prone to casting in films like Miss Congeniality or Speed, her portrayal of Capote’s buddy, Harper Lee was a pleasant surprise.
This film is rated R for language, violence and some sexuality. And, of course, available at the Huntington Beach Public Library Media Department!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Johnny Depp comes to HBPL

Welcome to the latest blog that is being offered by the Huntington Beach Public Library. We have a Music Blog so why not a Film Blog! In the coming months I hope to highlight DVD's and videos in our collection, hopefully making you aware of the world of film outside the big blockbusters. That will be the main purpose of this blog but you never know what cinematic wonder may find its way to this film blogospere!
If you haven't heard, starting in May the library will be having a film program highlighting some of the "non-pirate" films of Johnny Depp. The event will be in Room C and D, which are down by the Library Theatre. Below is the blurb we have been using to promote this program:

Does the name Johnny Depp only conjure up images of “Captain Jack Sparrow”? If so, the new film program at the Central Library might just be the education you need! Starting May 12th at 2pm, the film program:
“Not Just a Pirate: The Films of Johnny Depp” will begin our journey in discovering the many talents, beyond piracy, of this amazing actor. Each program will include a brief opening talk about the actor and the film, a short trivia quiz for prizes and then on to the main event!! On May 12th we start with the film, Benny and Joon (rated PG). This 1993 film stars Johnny Depp (of course), Mary Stuart Masterson and Aidan Quinn. It is a poignant tale of Benny (Aidan Quinn), his schizophrenic sister, Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson) and the visitor (Johnny Depp) that comes between them.
The program continues on June 23rd with What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (rated PG-13), on July 14th with Ed Wood (rated R) and finally on August 18th we will be screening Finding Neverland. (rated PG). Come join us for an afternoon of film-tastic adventure!!

Hope to see you there and look for the next blog posting after the May 12th screening!