Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Award Season!!

Of course we all know that we are in the holiday season but we are also just starting the big awards season! Many organizations have already announced their top film and acting awards/nominees:

National Board of Review, Los Angeles Film Critics, New York Film Critics, Golden Globe Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards have all been announced. There seems to be a few films that every group agrees on! Across the board, Man on Wire gets best documentary nods. This fascinating documentary follows the high wire walks of Philippe Petit, including his infamous walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. It is currently available on DVD in the HBPL Media center. Another, which is also now out on DVD and available at HBPL, is the Best Animated Film, Wall-E. For my money, Pixar makes the best animated films that are currently being released. This is no exception; a smart, funny, charming animated adventure of a lonely waste management robot. Who knew trash could be so loveable?

It seems that Josh Brolin is fated to be at the Oscars again this year. Although not nominated for his portrayal in No Country For Old Men, from all the accolades he has already received for his supporting actor role of Dan White in Milk, it would be a great surprise if an Oscar nomination didn’t come his way as well. And speaking of Milk, another actor whose performance is recognized by the critics is Sean Penn in Milk as Harvey Milk. From every group he is either their pick as best actor or in the nominated group.

The other films that seem to be getting multiple nominations are The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Doubt, Slumdog Millionaire (an amazing film that should not be missed!) and Frost/Nixon. Of course, all will eventually be available on DVD and will make their way onto the shelves at HBPL.

In the new year I will write more on the films that are getting recognized. The award season culminates with the Oscars on February 22, 2009 (with Hugh Jackman as host…but that will be a post in itself!). But until then have a wonderful holiday season and I will be back in 2009!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Holiday Madness

Yes yes! Tis the season that we all go crazy. We are running around trying to make a fun and festive holiday for our friends and family. What a better way to relax than with a hot chocolate/toddy and a favorite movie. You would think that Christmas movies would be the first movies I would reach for this time of year. Of course, I have my favorites among the Christmas films but when I want to relax, my thoughts turn to Alan Rickman. Contemporary audiences know him as Snape in the Harry Potter films. Unfortunately, my favorite Rickman film, Truly, Madly, Deeply is hard to find and not in our media department. But we certainly have other Rickman fare to offer:

Galaxy Quest: It has been 17 years since the "Galaxy Quest'' TV series was canceled, and the actors' careers have been reduced to appearances at annual conventions. Alan Rickman plays a Spock-like character who hates the direction that his career has taken and his co-stars. Aliens show up after watching years of the series, thinking they have been watching historical documents. They want the intrepid crew of Galaxy Quest to help them defeat their enemies. So funny, so campy, so galactic!

Sense and Sensibility: Rickman in Austen! What a great combination. The screenplay for this version was written by Emma Thompson, who also stars in the film. Rickman plays the love struck Colonel Brandon who eventually ends up with the girl (Kate Winslet, no less)!

Harry Potters: Alan Rickman is superbly cast as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. The voice, the sneer, the hair! A decidedly misunderstood character! We who have read the entire Harry Potter series, know that Snape is somewhat redeemed in the final act. I can’t wait to see Rickman’s portrayal in the film version of the Deathly Hallows.

Bottle Shock: This delightful film was based on a true story and was just out in the theaters. Rickman plays a British wine connoisseur, owner of a wine shop in France. He sets up blind wine tasting in Paris, pitting California wines against the French ones. This 1976 event shocked the wine community when a small California vineyard was triumphant against the French. For those that missed this film in the theaters, it will be available on DVD in February (02/03/09).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

You are never too old!

I have always had an interest in the arts. Of course, I love film but, for my entire life, I have also been involved with music. One of my musical pursuits was singing, for ten years, with a jazz choir. This is but one reason that I couldn’t wait to see the documentary Young @ Heart. This documentary was the darling of the festivals last year and a big hit at Sundance in January of this year.

Young @ Heart is a geriatric rock 'n roll singing choir from Northampton, Massachusetts which you've got to see (and hear) to believe. If you are a fan of “The Ramones”, just wait until you've seen a 92-year-old woman steady herself with her cane as she walks to the microphone and belts out "I Wanna Be Sedated". It gives a whole new twist to punk music!

This is a documentary about how music can enrich your life at any age. It is also about twisting your perspective and appreciating that getting old doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying life. Young @ Heart is a thoroughly enjoyable documentary filled with humor, affection, irony, fascination and toe-tapping music.
It is available on DVD from the HBPL Media Department.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Less than a Week!

Yes it is less than a week to go to see who will be at the helm of America for the next four years. So my second (and last) installment of recommended political films are:

Bulworth (DVD)
Bulworth is a disillusioned, Democratic senator. He hates his job and his life, and has just lost millions in the market. So he puts out a contract on his own life and has only three days to live. But in those three days he decides that, for once, he is free to say exactly what he thinks, and that's what he does. Warren Beatty, who directed, produced, co- wrote and stars in this film, deserves huge credit for pulling off an enterprise as audacious and risky as Bulworth.

Dr Strangelove (DVD)
For me, Dr. Strangelove is the best political satire film ever made. The film starts with a deranged General Ripper declaring a "Code Red", sealing off his Air Force base, and ordering a nuclear attack on Russia. What follows is political satire at it’s finest as President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers), hawkish General Turgidson (George C. Scott) and Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers), an ex-Nazi scientist are called to determine how to react to the crisis. Hilarious and frightening, all at the same time!

All the President’s Men (VHS)
This film is based on the non-fiction book written by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. It starts with the investigation of a seemingly minor break-in which leads Bernstein and Woodward all the way to the White House. Their investigation of the Watergate incident was instrumental in the resignation of Richard Nixon.

Bob Roberts (VHS)
Documentary-style look at the fictional Senatorial campaign of Bob Roberts (Tim Robbins), an arch-conservative, self-made millionaire, folk singer turned politician. Although Roberts has the look of a home town Woody Guthrie, his message is that greed is good, the bottom line is the only line and winning is everything.

And remember, if you haven’t voted early…make sure and vote on November 4th!!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Although my “political films” Saturday Film Forum couldn’t happen this autumn, I did promise you that I would post some political film titles to get you through to November 4th. So here is your first installment. These are the four films I would have shown as my film program:

The Manchurian Candidate
And when I say Manchurian Candidate, I mean the original Frank Sinatra, 1962 version of this film. (Despite the excellent cast, the 2004 remake just wasn’t anywhere near the quality of this version). The plot: an American patrol is captured by Chinese communists during the Korean War, and one soldier is programmed to become an assassin; two years later, he's ordered to kill a presidential candidate. This is a minimalist view of this complex and intriguing film. After its release in 1962, Pauline Kael wrote, "It may be the most sophisticated political satire ever made in Hollywood". A must see for political film fans. Or those that want to see what real acting chops Angela Lansbury has!

Ivan Reitman
directed this gem of a film. When the president falls into a coma, Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) a dead-ringer look alike for the president is asked to temporarily step in. The White House chief of staff, an evil genius played by Frank Langella, decides not to turn over the reins of power to the vice president (Ben Kingsley) but instead to use Dave as a permanent front man, with him pulling the strings. Problems begin, however, when Dave starts to act like a leader – a compassionate and intelligent one -- instead of the puppet that his Chief of Staff wants him to be.

The Contender
The always wonderful Joan Allen portrays a senator who is nominated to become Vice President following the death of the previous office holder. The President (Jeff Bridges) who is near the end of his final term, decides to leave a legacy by selecting a woman to fill the position. Unfortunately, there are those that don’t’ think this is a wise choice and they dig up things from the senator’s past that have her fighting for her good name.

One of my favorite films! This is most certainly about politics; the politics of a high school election. Based on the Tom Perrotta novel of the same name, Election is about the eternally perky, Tracy Flick’s (Reese Witherspoon) bid for class president. Flick’s exuberance rubs teacher, Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), the wrong way and he sets out to foil her election plans. Cynical, dark comedy at its best!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

R.I.P. ol’ Blue Eyes

To my mother’s generation, ol’ blue eyes was Frank Sinatra, but the blue eyes of my generation was Paul Newman. I say “was” because we lost this cinematic treasure yesterday. Paul Newman died on Friday after a long fight against cancer. Newman’s career actually took off when I was too young to care but his films from the late 60’s on certainly helped shape my enjoyment of cinema. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid alone made him (and Robert Redford) household words and heart throbs for women of many generations. And who could look at hard boiled eggs (or mirrored sunglasses) the same after Cool Hand Luke. He was a film star, a philanthropist (donating all after tax proceeds of Newman’s Own profits to charity), a devoted family man (married to Joanne Woodward for 50 years, father of six) and race car enthusiast (co-owner of the Newman-Haas racing team). There is much that can be said about Paul Newman, but I will let his work speak for him. Fortunately, the HBPL media department has quite a few of Newman’s films for you to relive the talent that has now joined the ages. R.I.P. ol’ Blue Eyes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Life is an adventure

I am back from my vacation and what a vacation it was! I did a seven day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon and it was a trip of a lifetime! Spectacular! Because I am still in the “great outdoors” mode mentally, I asked my fellow rafters to contribute to this blog by listing their favorite adventure/nature/outdoors movies.
Here are the top five:

Touching the Void: I have touted the wonder of this film before in this blog. It is one of the most amazing adventure survival stories ever told. Two climbers, 20,813 foot Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, one climber leaves the other believing him dead, but he wasn’t…
This is my favorite adventure film and one that was mentioned several times by my fellow rafters.

March of the Penguins: I am sure many of you have seen this fascinating documentary. It won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Documentary and it was certainly worthy. The film depicts the yearly journeys of the emperor penguins of Antarctica. The beauty of their life and the tragedy as well, it is one of the best nature films ever. It emotionally engages audiences more successfully than most other films of this genre.

Into the Wild: Based on the 1996 non-fiction book by Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild is a feature film, based on the adventures of Christopher McCandless. McCandless travelled around the country, ending up in Alaska. He survived for approximately 112 days in the Alaskan wilderness before meeting his demise. Whether you think he was a crazy, irresponsible youth or an adventurer with a poet’s soul, McCandless’ story is certainly compelling.

Blue Planet: This 2001 David Attenborough documentary claims to be the first ever comprehensive series on the natural history of the world's oceans. It has outstanding photography and includes footage of some sea creatures that have never before been captured on film. This film took 5 years to make and they filmed in over 200 locations around the globe. HBPL has the eight episodes available in a 5 DVD set. Each of the eight 50-minute episodes examines a different aspect of marine life.

River Wild: Alas, HBPL does not have this currently on DVD (it is on order), but I still wanted to include it because several of my fellow vacationers gave it as an adventure film to watch. Directed by Curtis Hansen (L.A. Confidential) and starring Meryl Streep. The story involves a family on a whitewater rafting trip who encounter two violent criminals in the wilderness. The supporting cast includes John C Reilly, David Straithairn and Kevin Bacon who puts in the best performance as the charming but sinister bad guy.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Yes, it is true! I am escaping the library to head out on vacation! I will be back in a couple of weeks and will update the blog when I get back. I was thinking about vacation movies to leave you with. The only true vacation movie that sprang to mind was National Lampoon’s Vacation (and European and Christmas and Vegas). Anyone want to add their favorite vacation movie to the comments?? On the web, movies like Groundhog’s Day or Little Miss Sunshine were listed as Vacation movies. I love both of these but, no one in these films are really on vacation. So, I guess it comes down to your definition of a great vacation movie. Is it a film that is centered around going on vacation or a film that you can just kick back and watch when you are on vacation? What do you think?
I am out of here!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Curse of the Popular Class

First, I want to thank those that showed up for the screening on Thursday of the Hollywood Librarian. As far as I know this will be the only screening of this documentary in Orange County, so I am glad that attendees had an opportunity to view it.
Second, although I very much wanted to do a fall film program of political films, there is “no room at the inn”. Our meeting rooms and theatre are fully booked!! I have already started looking at dates for a spring film program and will post dates here as soon as they are finalized. The spring program will have a different theme which is also TBA. Things to look forward too!! Next month I will have a list of political films to watch to get ready for the November elections.

In the meantime, for those who missed the Hollywood Librarian but are looking for a documentary to watch, check out The Cats of Mirikatani (of course, available at HBPL). This is the story of Jimmy Mirikatani, a homeless, elderly artist of Japanese decent living in New York City. Jimmy was living near the Twin Towers when 9/11 happened and the days’ events threw his life into even more disarray. Linda Hattendorf (the director of this documentary) found Jimmy on that day and decided to give him a place to stay. She learned more about him, including that he spent time in a Japanese internment camp. This sends her on a journey to help Jimmy organize his life, reclaim his past and look for a home of his own.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Hollywood Librarian

Take a time machine into the past to a librarian conference I attended 2 years ago. At that conference, a librarian/filmmaker was showing a rough cut of her documentary and soliciting funds to help her create the finished product. Jump forward to today, and her documentary, The Hollywood Librarian, is completed and having a screening here at HBPL. On August 14th, at 7pm in the Library Theatre, you will have a chance to discover how librarians have been portrayed in the media, why librarians love their job and increase your awareness of the complex and democratic nature of librarianship in the age of technology. Oh and did I mention that it is FREE! I hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

From Independence to Oppression to Individual Spirit

My last blog entry recommended some patriotic fare to help you celebrate our nations’ independence. This entry will take different point of view and recommends a film about oppression but also about spirit of the individual. Winner of the Jury Prize from the 2007 Cannes Film Festival (and a nominee for the Palme d’Or), Persepolis has just been released on DVD and is available from the HBPL Media department. Persepolis is based on Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel of the same name. This animated film begins in Iran in 1979. Ten year old Marji dreams of becoming a prophet and loves to emulate Bruce Lee. Marji’s family is hopeful when the Shah is overthrown. They think that they will get a more just society but instead what they get is Islamic Fundamentalism. Marji, a rebellious teen, buys western heavy metal music on the black market and wears a denim jacket celebrating punk rock with a Michael Jackson button. Worried that she will be arrested, she is sent to Vienna to go to school. What follows is Marji’s coming of age story and a tale that shows that sometimes you can’t go home again.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Spirit of ‘76

This Friday is Independence Day aka the 4th of July. Most of you will probably be having a three day weekend as the 4th has considerately landed on a Friday. Due to our growing gas prices, many are deciding to take stay-cations (stay at home vacations) instead of leaving town. Now, you know what my recommendation will be to fill those long summer hours. Watch a movie!!! (or two or three!). Here are a few of my favorite films that I watch to lift my American spirit:

1776: This movie version of the Broadway musical depicts the events leading up to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and our nation’s first 4th of July. Many of the song lyrics and parts of the dialog are based on actual correspondence of the time. American history has never been so much fun (Sit down, John!). (DVD)

Yankee Doodle Dandy: James Cagney portrays the legendary Broadway songwriter and performer George M. Cohan in this rousing, flag-waving classic. It is hard to remember Cagney’s gangster roles when you see him singing and tap dancing. But his gangster roles didn’t win him his first Academy Award, singing and dancing did (Cagney won a Best Actor Oscar for his role in this film). (VHS)

Glory: During the Civil War, Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) led the first all-black volunteer company. Glory is more about the struggle for individual dignity than it is about the mechanics of war. This film is a winner of five Academy Awards, including a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Denzel Washington. (DVD)

Independence Day: What could be more appropriate on Independence Day then, well, you know. Oddly enough, when I first saw this film, I didn’t really like it. Even odder might be the fact that although I didn’t like it, I kept watching it whenever it happened to be on television. I guess it grew on me. Will Smith, Presidential Bill Pullman and aliens. All you need to help celebrate our independence! (DVD)

Have a safe and sane 4th of July!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Series for the Summer

Summertime is almost upon us. Already the summertime blockbusters are being released in the theaters. I assume many of you (at least the women) have seen the Sex and the City movie to see what’s new in the life of Carrie and “Big”. Want to reminisce about the early days of the series?? The complete series of Sex and the City is just one of the series that is available from the HBPL media collection. I might suggest a few more of the older but worthy miniseries collections that are also available:

I, Claudius: I, Claudius is a thirteen part BBC adaptation of Robert Graves' books I, Claudius and Claudius, the God. This is a marvelous miniseries that is historically pretty accurate. It stars the talented Derek Jacobi as Claudius as well as Sian Phillips, Brian Blessed, Patrick Stewart, John Hurt, John Rhys Davies and Bernard Hill. The tale is told in flashbacks as the aging roman emperor Claudius writes the memoirs of his life. The debauchery of Caligula (John Hurt) and the scheming of Livia (Sian Phillips) are but two reasons to spend some time with ancient Rome. (DVD)

Jewel in the Crown: This miniseries was adapted from a series of novels known as The Raj Quartet written by Paul Scott. It takes place in India in the twilight of the British Raj and the start of the Indian independence movement. The story follows a young Indian man who has been educated in England and feels more British than Indian. He returns to India to work as a journalist and the British there certainly do not consider him a peer. This miniseries made a household name of Charles Dance and Tim Pigott-Smith (at least in the UK). (DVD)

Roots: Before VCR and tevo’s became a way of life, some television compelled people to actually stay home and watch it. Such was Roots. The twelve-hour mini-series aired on ABC in January 1977 and for eight consecutive nights it riveted the country. I can remember watching it and then talking to friends about it and then hardly being able to wait for the next night’s episode. The story follows the life of Kunte Kinte played as a boy by LeVar Burton (Star Trek: TNG’s Geordi) and then by John Amos as an adult. If you haven’t seen this (or read the book), it is historical television and more than worthy of your time. (DVD)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

And the winner was...

I want to thank everyone that has shown up for this current rendition of the Saturday Film Festival. Today's film, Moulin Rouge! was the last of the series but I plan to start another in the fall. So check this blog for further information.
For those that attended today's film: Martin Scorsese won the 2006 Best Directing Oscar for The Departed. Finally! As he took the stage to accept the award Scorsese asked "Could you double-check the envelope?" An honor well deserved but long in coming!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cannes: The Other Slice

The Cannes International Film Festival ending last Sunday, May 25th.
This years’ jury was headed by none other than Sean Penn. The other members of the jury were Italian actor and director Sergio Castellitto, Hollywood actress Natalie Portman, Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, German actress Alexandra Maria Lara, French directors Rachid Bouchareb and Marjane Satrapi, and French actress Jeanne Balibar. The jury gave the coveted Palme d’Or to the first French movie to win Cannes’s top prize in 20 years, Laurent Cantet’s The Class. This film gave an account of teacher-student dynamics in a multicultural French middle school.

The second place Grand Prix award went to Gomorrah, Italian director Matteo Garrone’s movie about organized crime in Naples. The third place jury prize went to Paolo Sorrentino’s Il Divo, which satirized the career of former Italian Prime Minister, Giulio Andreott. Nuri Bilge Ceylan won the directing prize for Three Monkeys, a drama about family pulled apart by crime and suspicion. Benicio Del Toro took the Best Actor prize for his portrayal of Che Guevara in Steven Soderbergh’s four plus hour biopic of the revolutionary (which will be released as two separate films, Guerrilla and The Argentine). Best Actress went to Sandra Corveloni (by-passing Anjelina Jolie in Clint Eastwood’s Changeling) who portrayed a single mother of four fatherless boys in the Brazilian family drama, Linha de Passe (Line of Passage).

This Saturday, May 31st, will be the final film in our current Saturday Film Forum, “Cinema Français: Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves”. We will be screening Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! and it is a MUST to see on the big screen. Please join us at 2pm in the Library Theater! A word of warning on parking: The Concourse Car Show will be taking over Central Park near the library both Saturday and Sunday. They will be finished on Saturday at 2pm so I hope parking won’t be too hard to find.

Friday, May 23, 2008

When Harry Meets Jack

Despite the crazy weather, this weekend marks the kick-off for summer movies and festivities. Yes, it is Memorial Day weekend. Of course, the big movie to see this weekend is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I plan to see it despite the bad reviews and alien ending. I am actually looking more forward to this November and the next installment in the Harry Potter films, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Between making the Potter films, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry, of course) has been busy trying to have a career away from Hogwarts. I am sure many have heard of his West End debut in London in the Shaffer play, Equus. The play moves to New York in the fall and will open on September 25th at the Broadhurst Theater. It has only a 22 week run, so get those tickets early!

Radcliffe has also been making some interesting non-Harry Potter films. Check out these two (currently available from the HBPL Media department):

December Boys:
In the late 1960's, four close-knit orphans in Australia, called the December Boys because they were all born in the same month, leave their orphanage for a holiday by the sea. Having all but given up hope of ever being adopted, the friends are on a seaside holiday one summer when they hear a rumor that a seaside couple are looking to adopt one of the orphans, friendships are tested and new alliances made as the four boys compete for the chance to gain a real family.

My Boy Jack:
Daniel Radcliffe does an excellent job of portraying, John (Jack) Kipling, son of Rudyard. It is 1913 and Rudyard Kipling is at the peak of his literary fame. World War I breaks out, and Jack is determined to fight, but the Army and the Navy both reject him because of his extremely poor eyesight. Undaunted, Kipling uses his influence to land Jack a commission in the Irish Guards, sparking off a bitter family conflict.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Festival Sandwich

I hope some of you were able to make the screening in Saturday of French Kiss. The last film in this series of the Saturday Film Forum will be Moulin Rouge! and will be screened on May 31st.

In the meantime, we are currently between major film festivals (hence the sandwich!). Tribeca Film Festival ran from April 23rd to May 4th and Cannes International Film Festival starts on May 14th.
The Tribeca Film Festival was started by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff following 9/11 to help build economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan. Since its founding, the festival has been attended by over two million attendees and has generated 425 million in economic activity for New York City. It was recently announced that this year’s festival had an attendance of 155,000 moviegoers to 700 screenings and 14 panel discussions. The winners of the big awards this year were:

Cadillac Award (audience choice): War Child: A documentary based on the life of hip-hop artist Emmanuel Jal, a veteran of the 20-year civil war in southern Sudan. Now in his 20s, this former “lost boy” is using his music to raise awareness about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sudan and the plight of child soldiers throughout the world.

Founder Award for Best Narrative Film: Let the Right One In: Twelve year old Oskar gets relentlessly bullied by day and by night he dreams of revenge. This beautifully touching tale tells of the first romance for bullied 12-year-old Oskar and the girl next door, Eli… who also happens to be a vampire.

Best Documentary Feature: Pray the Devil Back to Hell: After more than a decade of civil wars leading to more than 250,000 deaths and one million refugees, a group of courageous women rose up to force peace on their shattered Liberia and propel to victory the first female head of state on the African continent.

Sometimes it takes a bit of time for festival films to make the local art house, but these would be worth keeping an eye out for viewing in the future.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

French Kiss

Things have really been jumping here at HBPL, so I am sorry I haven’t posted again this month. I DID want to remind everyone of the screening this Saturday, May 3rd, of French Kiss. A lovely, but at times surly, romantic comedy staring the “Contemporary Queen of Romantic Comedy”, Meg Ryan. Her co-star, Kevin Kline, steals every scene he is in! Kevin pulls off being a Frenchman with panache!
So please join us this Saturday at 2pm in the Library Theatre, for French Kiss!!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cinema Français

As you have probably figured out, the Saturday Film Forum is off and running and if you missed last Saturday’s screening of Charade, you missed a wonderful event. Some patrons have been a bit confused about the Cinema Français in the title of the program. Most think that the films are in the French but au contraire, mes amis! The films are all in English but they are all filmed/set in France! Of course, the HBPL Media department has some wonderful films in the French language that you can enjoy:

Amelie: Probably all of you have seen this film already. It came out in 2002 and charmed everyone that had the good fortune to discover it. And if you can’t get enough of the star, Audrey Tautou, try her 2005 film: A Very Long Engagement. This film is set against the backdrop of World War I. Mathilde (Tautou) doesn’t believe it when she is told her fiancée has been killed in battle so she heads out to find him. Adventure ensues!

Cyrano de Begerac:
Years ago, I worked at Disney Studios. When I was there, they were making the film Green Card and I heard horror stories about one of the stars, Gerard Depardieu. It almost put me off watching his films but I would have been the poorer for it. If you have not seen his version of Cyrano de Bergerac, have a look; it will break your heart! I have gone on to have a great appreciation for the work of this French actor.

Another oldie but goodie is Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion. It was released in 1937 and was the first foreign language film to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. At the time President Roosevelt said that “everyone who believes in democracy should see this film”. Hence Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels listed Grand Illusion as Cinematic Public Enemy #1. It was the film he wanted to destroy the most. When Germany moved into France during the war, they confiscated much of the film archives of Paris. The person in charge, Dr Frank Hensel, was a Nazi but he was also a huge film buff. Instead of destroying the films, he sent them to Berlin. The negative for Grand Illusion was thought to be destroyed in an air raid on Berlin. After the war, the sector where the film archive had been was in the Soviet sector. In the 1960’s, there was a film exchange between the Soviet (Film Archive) Gosfilmoford and the Cinematique Toulouse (France). Unfortunately, the archive in Toulouse didn’t look at all the material they had received very closely. In the 1990’s it was discovered that they had received in the exchange the ORIGINAL sound and picture negative for Grand Illusion! Unfortunately, the director, Jean Renoir died in 1979 and was never aware of this discovery (he died thinking his masterpiece was gone.). But fortunately for us, the original negative was restored and in 1999 was released as the inaugural DVD of the Criterion Collection. This is the version that is available at HBPL.
C’est fini!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Everyone wants to be Cary Grant (or Audrey Hepburn).

The Saturday Film Forum continues this Saturday at 2pm in the Library Theater. “Cinema Française: Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” is the theme and this Saturday’s film is full of thieves! Join us for the screening of Charade. This film has been called the best “Hitchcockian movie that Hitchcock never made”. Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant and if that weren’t enough, I will have my usual informative opening lecture and there will be candy!
I hope to see you all there!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Go West, Young Man...

I was talking to a friend about the lack of “theatre- worthy” films our right now. “Theatre-worthy” meaning those films that you HAVE to see on the big screen versus “DVD’s” that can wait until they come out on, well, DVD’s! Early spring is usually a bit slow in the theatre’s as it is too early for Oscar contenders to come out and the big blockbuster types get held for the summer or the November/December holidays. Sure there are a few good “art” films out there (like the Band’s Visit, the Oscar winning foreign film The Counterfeiters and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) but overall the pickings are pretty thin.
This has led me to catch up with some of those in the “DVD” category and, who knew, that my favorites would be westerns! If you haven’t seen them already, I would recommend both 3:10 to Yuma and The Assassination of Jesse James (by the coward Robert Ford).

3:10 to Yuma is a remake of the 1957 film by the same name starring Glen Ford and Van Heflin. Of course, you know by now that I think Christian Bale is an amazing actor and he continues to show us why in this film. I was quite surprised to see Peter Fonda and actually didn’t recognize him until well into the story. And, of course, there is Russell Crowe. Despite all the fun the tabloids have with Russell, he continues to give us performances that show his depth of talent and the range that he can play (My favorite Russell Crowe is still L.A. Confidential).
The Assassination of Jesse James (by the coward Robert Ford) runs a bit long but I didn’t mind as much as others seem to as I was mesmerized by the performance of Casey Affleck. His creepy, hero-worshipping performance as Robert Ford was perfectly pitched. His brother is played by another one of my favorites, Sam Rockwell. Both the brothers’ profit from the notorious deed but ultimately it destroys them. Several well known reviewers have written scathing reviews of this film however, I couldn’t disagree with them more. I will leave it up to you to decide.

If these two films just aren’t enough of the wild, west for you, I might also recommend some others that are also currently available from the Media Department at HBPL:
Lonesome Dove: the best western mini-series EVER! Based on the Larry McMurtry novel (which you should certainly read if you haven’t already) and follows the escapades of Captain Woodrow Call (Tommy Lee Jones) and Augustus McCrea (Robert Duvall).
Silverado: This Lawrence Kasdan film brought life back to the western genre of films. A very entertaining film with a great cast: Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, (a very young) Kevin Costner, Danny Glover, John Cleese, Brian Dennehy, Linda Hunt, Jeff Goldblum and Rosanna Arquette.
How The West Was Won: Talk about casts! This film had almost everyone who was anyone in it! Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Eli Wallach, Robert Preston, Karl Malden, Carolyn Jones, and on and on! How the West was Won is one of only two feature films (the other being The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm) made using the three-strip Cinerama process. Although, it loses something on the small screen, it is still a story worth watching.
The Searchers: My favorite John Wayne western. The Searchers is usually found on just about every top ten list of best westerns ever made and it surely belongs there.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Saturday Film Forum Success!

And a success it was! I want to thank everyone that showed up for last Saturday’s screening of Chocolat and encourage the rest of you to come on April 12th to see Charade! You won’t be sorry!
BTW, have you had a look at the New Releases in the Media section lately? Instead of just one BIG New Release section, the Media staff has made new headings that will help you make your DVD selections. The New Release DVD’s are now broken into the following headings: Comedy, Drama, Musical, Action, Western, Mystery, Science Fiction and Horror.
Speaking of new releases, the following hot titles have recently shown up here at HBPL: Into the Wild, Michael Clayton, In the Valley of Elah, Dan in Real Life, The Bee Movie, August Rush, the Darjeeling Ltd., and the best picture of the year, No Country for Old Men.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Oscar Follow-up

So, this years Academy Awards gave the network its lowest ratings ever. It is estimated that 32 million watched the show, which is down from the 40+ million that watched last year. Previous to this year, the lowest ratings were in 2003, with only 33 million watching. Only 32 million this year! It still seems like quite a few people to me! I was one of the lowly and I have to say I quite enjoyed Jon Stewart. I also enjoyed that presenting celebs kept the banter to a minimum (or the writer’s did…a positive outcome for not having seven months to write the show!).

My winning percentage was down this year but looking at the glass half full, I have to say I did extremely well on the major awards! I only missed Best Supporting Actress, but then again, I think many missed that one. Tilda Swindon? Deserved, but not expected…even by her! And what about Marion Cotillard! She very much owned the Best Actress this year and she is only the third French actress to win the Oscar; the others being Claudette Colbert (It Happened One Night in 1934) and Simone Signoret (Room at the Top – 1960).

Just a reminder, the Saturday Film Forum returns on March 8th with a screening of Chocolat. It will be in the Library Theatre, 2pm and it’s FREE! So please join us! I won’t be updating this blog until after Chocolat so stay tuned!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

And now the rest...

I feel very much like Roger Ebert who said: “In theory, if I correctly predicted every single Oscar race, nobody could outguess me, and by default, I would win the prize. Alas, that has never, ever happened, and it's unlikely again this year, because as usual I will allow my heart to outsmart my brain in one or two races, which is my annual downfall. In any event, for what they're worth, here are my Academy Award predictions in a year rich with wonderful films”. So here are the rest of my predictions:

Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis
Best Actress: Marion Cotillard (every one else thinks Julie Christie but I have a feeling...)
Best Director: Coen Brothers
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem
Best Supporting Actress: Ruby Dee (but many think Amy Ryan)
Adapted Screenplay: No Country for Old Men
Original Screenplay: Juno
Animated Feature: Ratatouille
Art Direction: There Will Be Blood
Cinematography: Atonement
Costume Design: La Vie En Rose
Documentary: No End in Sight
Editing: Bourne Ultimatum
Foreign Language: Katyn
Make-up: La Vie En Rose
Original Score: Atonement
Original Song: Falling Slowly – Once
Sound Editing: No Country For Old Men
Sound Mixing: Transformers
Visual Effects: Transformers

I usually do pretty well. If I remember right, last year I only missed 3 categories. Now I will have to wait until Sunday night to see if I had another year of “choosing wisely”.
Btw, if you have problems with the “comments” on this page, you can always e:mail me at

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Strike is over – On with the Show!

Yes it is true! The Writers strike has ended and so the “show” will go on. The BIG show of course, the Academy Awards! So who will win?? I will give my full predictions next week but for now let’s look at Best motion picture of the year:
Who is nominated:
Atonement (Focus Features)
Juno (Fox Searchlight)
Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.)
No Country for Old Men (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
There Will Be Blood (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)

Someone predicted that the “American” vote would split between No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood and the award would go to Atonement. I liked Atonement quite a bit and although it won the BAFTA for best picture, I just don’t think Academy voters will go for it. Loved Juno but way too hip for Academy voters to select and Michael Clayton…if only they would give it to this smart, fascinating film! But since the Coen brothers won the DGA for best director and the Writers Guild gave No Country for Old Men best adapted screenplay, I will have to go for No Country for Old Men to win the top prize.

Have you seen the top films?? Most of them are still playing in the local cinemas but if you are waiting for them to come to DVD, here are some dates of release*:
Atonement: March 18th
Juno: April 15th
Michael Clayton: February 19th
No Country for Old Men: March 11th
There Will Be Blood: April 8th
(*Even when a release date is set, sometimes they change if the film wins major awards.)
I will be updating this blog Wednesday or Thursday next week with my other predictions. I would love to know what you predict so feel free to add your predictions to the comments and I will share them next week.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Return of the Saturday Film Forum

Yes, you have heard it here first! The Saturday Film Forum will return to the Huntington Beach Library starting on March 8th. Hopefully some of you made it the first Forum where I screened four wonderful Johnny Depp films. This time we will be going to France with the program: Cinema Française: Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves. The films and schedule is as follows: March 8th, Chocolat (of course I will start with a Johnny Depp film!); April 12th, Charade; May 3rd, French Kiss and May 31st, Moulin Rouge! (the Baz Luhrmann musical). Fortunately, for this program I will able to use the Library Theatre; big screen, great sound, comfy seats! What’s not to love?? As before, the program will start at 2pm and I will be giving a short talk about each film prior to the screening. I am still trying to decide what sort of give away I will do but there will be some prizes involved! So mark your calendars and join us for our journey into cinematic France!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What a marvelous night for a: Sundance

Before we make our Oscar predictions (and I WILL be asking you for your top picks!), I wanted to mention the Sundance Film Festival. The Festival started on January 17th and just ended last Sunday, January 27th. Sundance continually makes the list of top ten film festivals in the world. Like Toronto, it showcases independent talent and world class documentaries.
This year the awards went to:
The Grand Jury Prize winner for U.S. Dramatic films , *Frozen River, centers on a woman in upstate New York struggling to provide food for her kids - until she is drawn into a smuggling ring carrying illegal immigrants from Canada through the Mohawk Indian reservation. The Grand Jury Prize for U.S. documentaries, Trouble the Water, focuses on Kimberly Rivers Roberts and Scott Roberts, a couple from New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina - and features footage shot by Kimberly on her camcorder as the floodwaters forced the family to seek refuge in the attic. I heard Kenneth Turan speak on both of these films. He says the mere description of plot doesn’t do either justice. Both were powerful films that are worth waiting to see in your local theaters!

In the World Cinema: Documentary category, the top honors from both the Jury and the audience were presented to Man on Wire, which chronicles French artist Philippe Petit's daring dance on a wire suspended between New York's Twin Towers and his subsequent arrest for what would become known as “the artistic crime of the century”.
Audience awards went to the documentary, Fields of Fuel about America's addiction to oil, and the drama *The Wackness about a teen drug dealer.

A Special Jury Prize was awarded to *Choke for Work by an Ensemble Cast (Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly MacDonald, Brad Henke). The film is an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's (Fight Club) novel by the same name.

(* means the film has a distribution deal. Hopefully they all will get distribution now that they have won awards at Sundance!)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Heath Ledger – Too Young to Go

By now I am sure you have all heard that on a day that all film fans should be celebrating (the day of the Oscar nominations- more on that soon), we lost a talented and very young actor. HBPL Media department carries the following Heath Ledger films: 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot, A Knight’s Tale, Monster’s Ball, Four Feathers, Brother’s Grimm, Brokeback Mountain and Cassanova. It is always sad when someone so young (celebrity or not) leaves us too soon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Intriguing Choices of Christian Bale

I don’t know how many of you tuned in last Sunday for the “press conference” that was the Golden Globes, but, good grief, was it boring!! Combined with the Writer’s strike and the lack of new programming, I am expecting many of you to be checking out lots of DVD’s from our Media department. Last weekend, I nabbed a copy of 3:10 to Yuma. Although I like Russell Crowe, the main draw for me was Christian Bale. He first came on the Hollywood radar as a boy in Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun. He then worked his way through films like Newsies and Swing Kids before changing his whole previous image with American Psycho. From “Psycho” on, he has made some very interesting choices! As far as I am concerned, he has been the best Batman of the franchise (he will be once again be Bruce Wayne in the upcoming Batman: The Dark Knight (due out this year). He has also given very compelling performances in Harsh Times, Rescue Dawn and The Prestige. My personal favorite (which was almost surpassed by 3:10 to Yuma) is The Machinist. The plot is twisted and bizarre (see my blog entry Friday, August 31, 2007 for description) but if you loved Memento, then The Machinist might just be for you! (All of his films except American Psycho are available from the HBPL Media department).

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Let The Games Begin!

For twenty-something years, I have had an Oscar bet with a high school friend of mine. We bet on almost every category (except short films). Sometimes he wins, sometimes I do; it makes watching the Oscars more interesting (than it already is!!). How do we make our choices? I try to see most of the films but I also pay attention to the other awards and guild nominations. If you want to get the pulse of the movie industry, have a look at some of these:

Golden Globes: Sunday, January 13, 2008
SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Awards: Sunday, January 27, 2008
Independent Spirit Awards: Saturday February 23, 2008
(As of January 2nd, the Writer’s Guild has NOT given a waiver to the Golden Globes. They have given them to both the SAG Awards and the Independent Spirits. According to the WGA, they will be picketing the Golden Globes. It will make it difficult for celebrities to cross the picket line to attend and without celebs…poor Golden Globes.)

And of course my “mother ship” of award shows:
Oscars: nominations announced: Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Oscar telecast: Sunday, February 24, 2008

Some of the film critics have already made their picks for the best of 2007:
New York Film Critics:
Best Picture: No Country for Old Men
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
Best Actress: Julie Christie (Away From Her)
Director: Joel and Ethan Cohen (No Country For Old Men)
Boston Society of Film Critics:
Best Picture: No Country for Old Men
Best Actor: Frank Langella (Starting Out in the Evening)
Best Actress: Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose)
Director: Julian Schnabel (Diving Bell and the Butterfly)
Los Angeles Film Critics:
Best Picture: There Will Be Blood
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
Best Actress: Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood)
National Board of Review:
Best Picture: No Country for Old Men
Best Actor: George Clooney (Michael Clayton)
Best Actress: Julie Christie (Away From Her)
Director: Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd)

Two of the films that have some of the top nominations are already available at HBPL. Media currently has Away From Her and La Vie En Rose!
So as I like to say to my Oscar betting buddy: Let the Games Begin!