Friday, July 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Christopher!

Christopher Nolan was born in London on this day, forty years ago. Happy 40th b-day to Christopher! At the ripe old age of seven, he was making super 8mm films using his action figures as his stars. He graduated into 16mm films when he attended University College London, studying English Literature. In 1996, one of his short films was screened at the Cambridge Film Festival and that, as they say, was that! His career seemed to progress rather nicely from that point on. Of course he has been in the news a bit lately due to the release of his latest film, Inception. I haven’t seen it yet but hope to in the near future. Between the time of his Cambridge Film Festival success and the release of Inception, he has made some films that are worthy of your consideration:

Memento: Christopher Nolan was only 30 years old when he directed this amazing film. Nolan based Memento on a short story by his brother, Jonathan Nolan, who told it to him during a cross-country road trip. If you have seen it, you will know why the plot is difficult to describe. Basically, it is about a man who has lost his short termed memory after a violent incident where his wife is murdered. Oh and the story is told in reverse! The always brilliant Guy Pearce plays the man and although you have to pay attention during this film, it is indie film at its best and worth the brain cells!

Batman Begins: Finally! Someone got a Batman film right! I can’t say I was a big fan of this franchise until I saw Christopher Nolan’s vision of the caped crusader. Christian Bale was an unusual but genius bit of casting as the ever brooding Bruce Wayne. Instead of the Wham! Pow! cartooniness of the prior films, this one is intelligent and brings to the foreground the demons that haunt and drive Bruce Wayne versus just the escapades of the caped crusader.

The Prestige: Abracadabra! The brothers Nolan (Christopher and Jonathan) wrote this screenplay for Christopher to direct. Nolan, once again, uses Christian Bale to great effect. Bale and Hugh Jackman play magicians in turn-of-the-century London who engage in a devious and deadly no-holds-barred rivalry. As the illusions get more spectacular, these bitterest of rivals rage with enough fury to want to destroy each other's personal as well as professional lives. Look for another brilliant casting turn as David Bowie shows up briefly as Nikola Tesla.

All of these films are available on DVD in the HBPL Media department. So if you want to celebrate Nolan’s birthday tonight, get some cake, get some ice cream, get a DVD of one of his films and celebrate!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Celluloid for the patriot!

I was talking to some fellow library employees about their plans for the holiday weekend. Many have movies in their plans and the usual patriotic fare kept being mentioned: Independence Day, Born on the 4th of July, Saving Private Ryan…all fine films to watch on the 4th. However, the ones that I found most intriguing were the not so obvious ones….the ones that made them feel proud to be Americans without being conspicuously patriotic.

Musicals! How much more American can you get than watching people break into song at measured appropriate times! My favorite Independence Day musical is a very patriotic one: 1776. What fun to watch our Founding Fathers tell bawdy jokes, watch them sing and dance, watch them flirt, watch them fight with walking sticks! Independence has never been so entertaining! But the musical that kept getting mentioned as a 4th of July favorite, without being overly patriotic, was The Music Man. Younger woman, hanging out with older man, getting his wealth when he passed away….Anna Nicole?? No! Marion the Librarian (♫He left River City the library building but he left all the books to her!♫). A story of redemption, of love and most of all, catchy tunes and 76 trombones!

Jaws: When a colleague mentioned that he/she watched this every 4th of July for the last ten years, it only took a few seconds to think “but, of course!!”. What could be more appropriate than a day of fun in the sun at the beach with friends and family and going swimming on our nation’s day of independence? Throw a man eating great white shark into the mix and you have a fine slice of Americana! Man versus Wild has nothing on Roy Scheider as he shows good old American know how in dealing with this underwater nemesis!

Die Hard, Die Harder (aka Die Hard 2), Die Hard with a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard: I loved it when I asked my colleague what he/she was going to watch and the answer was: (paraphrased) I am going to sit around all day and watch stuff blow up. That’s right! It is our American right to watch things exploding on the big screen! And who does it better than Sgt. John McClane (Bruce Willis)!! In my past, I lived abroad for many years. After being away from the US of A for almost five years, I spent a month in Thailand on my way home. I stayed in the Khao San Road area of Bangkok and all along the streets were cafes that screened movies in the evening. Travelers would stream in to watch films, drink beer and eat delicious Thai food. Every night one of the cafĂ©’s would show Die Hard and for several nights I would be there watching it. It made me oddly patriotic and homesick; Stuff blowing up = America=Awesome!

Whether you will be grilling with friends and/or family, hanging out and relaxing, braving the ocean (see second film above) or watching a big old fireworks show (that’ll be me! I LOVE fireworks!), hopefully you will have a safe and sane 4th of July! Now get out there and do your patriotic duty – CELEBRATE!