Tag Archives: foreign films

December 2017

december2017coverIt’s December! ‘Tis the season to be reading (and watching and listening to) some of our staff picks!

 

 

 

Paula – Circulation

christmasstoryA Christmas Story, Starring Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, and Darren McGavin, J DVD Christmas Story

A Christmas Story is a classic holiday movie that the whole family will enjoy. No Christmas is complete without watching nine year old Ralphie struggle to convince his parents, teacher, and Santa that a Red Ryder BB gun is the perfect gift to receive. Narrated by Ralphie as an adult, the movie hilariously reflects on childhood memories that anyone with a crazy family can relate to. From leg lamps, to flat tires, to pink bunny suits, A Christmas Story will leave you laughing as Ralphie and his family celebrate the holiday season in their own unique way.

Lisa – Youth Services

sickenedSickened: The True Story of a Lost Childhood by Julie Gregory, YA 921 Gregory

This bittersweet autobiographical book accounts the author’s upbringing as a survivor of MBP (Munchausen by Proxy). Decades go by of missing out on school and friendships while her mother takes her to hundreds of physicians claiming her daughter has a fictitious heart condition. A good read.

Chris – Circulation

sleepwellbeastSleep Well Beast by The National, New CD 781.66 National

Indie/alternative rock act The National are back with their seventh album, Sleep Well Beast. This effort continues the tradition of mildly bending their sound in a different direction with each release. This time, they make use of electronics to compliment their signature sound, but not overtake it. A few songs break from the normal ambling pace that The National are known for to bring a bit of a hurried tone to this album. But otherwise, that melancholy drifting and Matt Berninger’s iconic baritone are as good as they ever were, as is his dark, intelligent, and dense songwriting. So while some elements may sound new, it is still unmistakably another excellent album by The National.

Hubbell – Circulation

landofmineLand of Mine, Starring Roland Møller and Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, New DVD Land of Mine

Land of Mine is an Academy Award nominated Danish film which tells the story of German POWs forced to defuse land mines on the Danish coast after World War II. The movie explores the relationship between the German prisoners (many of whom were mere teenagers) and their Danish captors. Two of the Danish officers take vastly different approaches to the POWs, creating a dramatic conflict and resolution.

americangodsseason1American Gods Season 1, Starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, and Emily Browning, New DVD American Gods Season 1

American Gods, based on author Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name revolves around the main protagonist Shadow Moon. After being released from an unwarranted prison sentence, Shadow Moon meets Mr. Wednesday, one of the old gods. The plot of the series pits new gods (like Mr. World, the god of globalization) against older ones (like Bilquis, the Goddess of Sheba). The gods wield power based on the number of followers they have. The old gods have lost power over the years and fight to regain control of the people’s faith. The series can be disjointed at times but is visually stunning and has received excellent reviews.

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October 2017

october2017coverIt’s October! Check out our picks for some sweet treats!

 

 

 

Chris – Circulation

villainsVillains by Queens of the Stone Age, New CD 781.66 Queens of the Stone Age

Sludge rock superstars Queens of the Stone Age are back with something a bit different than their typical grime-heavy sound this time around. They called on Mark Ronson, the prolific producer of artists such as Adele, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and Kaiser Chiefs, for Villains and it shows. The whole album is infused with more rock’n’roll and dance vibes from vocal melodies to guitar sound. But what makes Queens of the Stone Age and this album so great is that they don’t lose their unique identity, their swagger, their musicianship, even while toying with their sound. Josh Homme’s haunting and cocky vocals, crunchy layers of guitar, and those deep bass lines are all still present, if a little bit cleaner. Songs in particular to check out include their first single “The Way You Used to Do,” “Feet Don’t Fail Me,” “The Evil Has Landed,” and “Villains of Circumstance.”

Michelle – Administration

concreteandgoldConcrete and Gold by Foo Fighters, New CD 781.66 Foo Fighters

To be honest upfront, I have to admit that I am terribly biased as the Foo Fighters are one of my all-time favorite bands. That being said, I think that their new album is a great addition to the Foo catalog. The songs are catchy and you’ll definitely find yourself tapping along. If you enjoyed any of their previous albums, I’m sure this one won’t disappoint.

Hubbell – Circulation

vietnamwarThe Vietnam War, New DVD 959.704 Vietnam

Renowned documentarians Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s most recent film covers the history of the Vietnam War. Using raw primary source footage and countless interviews from soldiers and officials from both sides of the conflict, Burns & Novick provide an objective account of one of America’s most controversial wars. In addition to recounting the military and political aspects of the conflict, the film also contextualizes the entire experience within the seismic cultural shifts of 1960s America.

tonierdmannToni Erdmann, starring Peter Simonischek and Sandra Huller, New DVD Toni Erdmann

One of this years Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language film, Toni Erdmann is a quirky but profound film about a father’s attempt to reconnect with his workaholic daughter. Winfreid’s father creates an alter-ego, Toni, and infiltrates his daughter’s professional and personal life. Full of dark humor and also tender moments, the film is deserving of its critical accolades: “If a single movie were enough to silence reports of the death of cinema, it would be this one” (NYT).

inthegardenofbeastsIn the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, Nonfiction 934.086 LAR

Larson, author of The Devil in the White City, Dead Wake, and many other narrative fiction works, tells the story of the American ambassador to Germany, William Dodd, in the months leading up to the outbreak of World War II. It is an incredible first-hand account of the actions of the Third Reich as they created the national support for the war. It provides a nuanced review of how the world let the Reich become what it did as the international community looked the other way.

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October

Oct2015coverphotoIt’s October! Enjoy the cooler weather with bonfires and cider and check out the recommended titles below.

 

 

Stephanie – Youth Services

codenameverityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, YA Fiction Wein (Abe 2015) or YA CD Wein (audiobook)

This 2015 Abraham Lincoln Award Winner is the riveting story of a British spy during World War II who has been caught by Germany. She is prepared to do anything she can to stay alive and avoid being killed by Kerosene. As a spy herself, she knows what Britain does to spies, so she knows what she is in for. This story is more than just staying alive. It is about freedom, triumph, and the story of who she is. Code Name Verity will leave you wondering what is to come and how she can escape her captors…or if.

Dagmar – Circulation

picnicinprovencePicnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard, New Nonfiction 921 Bard

This very delightful book is a sequel to Elizabeth Bard’s first book, Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes. In this equally delicious writing, we follow the New York-born journalist and expectant mother, now married to her French husband, to her new adventure: moving to Provence. Pregnant Elizabeth and her husband take a vacation in the French countryside before the baby arrives and they fall in love with it to the point of no return. They only return to Paris to sell their apartment and move to Provence to start their life anew. With elegance, wit, and humor, Elizabeth comments on her new family life in the French countryside, on her friends and in-laws, on visits of her American family, and on the cultural differences between her upbringing in New York and those of the Frenchmen. This book is not only a good read for the Francophiles among us, but also for those who enjoy pleasant reading full of humor, joy, and delicious recipes. A must read for those who either traveled to Provence, would like to travel there, or simply just enjoy reading about it. Comparable to similar writings by Peter Mayle (on the subject of a life in Provence) with a female twist.

certifiedcopyCertified Copy starring Juliette Binoche, DVD Certified Copy

Certified Copy is a marvelous, mind-blowing movie by the great Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. The story of a meeting between one man and one woman in a small Italian village in Southern Tuscany at first appears to be a simple one. The man is a British author who has just finished giving a lecture at a conference. The woman, from France, owns an art gallery. This is a common story that could happen to anyone, anywhere.

We see the star Juliette Binoche and the handsome co-star William Shimell (a famous British opera singer in his film debut) meet at the lecture. The second day, they take a trip to the Italian countryside. The atmosphere of the Italian countryside and the colors of the buildings, of the sky, and the Tuscany village paint a vivid picture and help to shape the emotional structure of the film. They first talk about his book and about art, about the philosophy of the copy and the original. Later their discussion turns to love, marriage, and commitment, until we figure out that they may be a long-married couple having a difficult reunion. Intriguing and sensual, this film with English, Italian, and French dialog (with English subtitles) is definitely worth seeing.

Sue – Circulation

mrssinclairMrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase by Louise Walters, New Fiction Walters

This engaging novel tells the story of two women: Dorothea, now almost 110 years old and living in a nursing home, and her granddaughter, Roberta. Roberta works in a used bookstore and is fascinated by books. A favorite hobby of hers is collecting old letters, postcards, photos, etc. that she finds in used books. One day, her father brings her an old suitcase belonging to her grandmother. Roberta finds a letter from the 1940s in the suitcase written by her grandfather to her grandmother that casts doubt on her beliefs about her family heritage. Roberta starts looking into her grandmother’s past to unravel the mystery. The book then goes back into the past and tells us Dorothea’s story. We learn about her childhood, her marriage, and her life during World War II. Though the story is told in alternating chapters, telling Dorothea’s story in the past and Roberta’s story in the present, the book belongs to Dorothea. Her character is the compelling one. Hers is a bittersweet story, with a broken relationship with her mother, an unhappy marriage, heartbreaking miscarriages, which leave her bereft of her great dream of being a mother, and a thwarted love affair with a pilot during the war while her husband is away. The book is really a story about maternal love rather than the love between a man and a woman and how Dorothea makes a satisfying life for herself in spite of the hardships she faced.

placetocall homeA Place to Call Home starring Marta Dusseldorp, New DVD Place, Seasons 1 and 2

This is a compelling Australian drama series set in the early 1950s. It revolves around nurse Sarah Adams and the members of the Bligh family. Sarah has returned to Australia after 20 years of living in Europe. She takes a job at the local hospital after meeting George Bligh on the ship over and being recommended by him. George is a wealthy businessman whose family is ruled by the iron fist of his mother, Elizabeth. George is widowed with a son, James, newly married, and a daughter, Anna. Sarah suffered deprivation and loss during the war, but she fiercely guards her privacy, which causes local gossip. She and George are drawn to each other, but an incident on the ship has led to great animosity towards Sarah on the part of George’s mother. Plus George is a wealthy landowner and Sarah works for a living in a time when class and social standing still matter. And Sarah has converted to Judaism, while George is Anglican. Can Sarah and George develop a relationship under such circumstances? Meanwhile, James and Anna are dealing with issues of their own while Elizabeth connives to control all their lives. The show has strong characters faced with difficult life challenges. I found myself drawn into their lives and caring about them. The Australian scenery is beautiful and I love the period costumes, especially the dresses worn by the ladies, as well as the soundtrack with golden oldies from the 40s and 50s. Season 3 will air this fall in Australia and a season four has been ordered.

soldiersgroveThe Mysteries of Soldiers Grove by Paul Zimmer, New Fiction Zimmer

This is a tender story of two elderly people finding love with each other. Cyril, the only child of alcoholics, found escape from his unhappy life through reading. He found he especially enjoyed reading biographies and autobiographies and has a wide store of “lives” in his memory that he enjoys sharing with people, but most people find him odd and don’t get it when he tries to tell them about the lives he’s read about over the years. Solitary all his life, he’s never had a relationship with a woman and is shy and awkward, but kind-hearted. Louise is an elegant and cultured lady, originally from France. Now a widow, she fell in love with an American soldier during WWII and came back with him to his farm in rural Wisconsin. Her life with him was not what she expected it to be, but was still happy. Nearing 80, both of them now live in a retirement home, which is how they meet. Louise moves in while Cyril is in the hospital, recovering from serious injuries suffered after being dumped in a blizzard by an armed man who tried to rob him. Though very different, Cyril and Louise connect immediately and deeply. As their relationship grows, they begin sneaking out of the facility to have adventures, starting small and working up to bolder doings and eventually finding themselves in a dangerous situation. Being with each other and having these experiences brings joy and fulfillment to lives that might otherwise be sad and dreary as they near the end of their days. The book is beautifully narrated by Cyril and Louise in alternating chapters. This is a sweet and sensitive novel about growing old with dignity and not giving up on life, but finding joy until the end, despite physical frailties and the indignities that come with advanced age. The author, Zimmer, is in his 80s himself and is renowned for his poetry.

Hubbell – Circulation

leagueofdenialLeague of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth by Mark Fainaru-Wada, New Nonfiction 617.1027 Fai

Written by Pulitzer-winning and bestselling brothers Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada, League of Denial is a scathing summary of the NFL’s cover-up of its so-called ‘concussion problem.’ The book proves that for decades, the NFL denied publicly that concussions and head trauma led to disastrous long-term health problems while possessing information which blatantly contradicted their public statements. It is another damning allegation against a league in turmoil during its most profitable period in history. It is a must-read for any football fan as it calls into question whether the sport itself and the way it is played today is even compatible with maintaining long-term normal brain function. It also forces us to reevaluate whether the sport should be played by young people at all. The book was first published in 2013 and has since formed the basis for a PBS documentary of the same name. Its accusations and research have played a role in the NFL’s recent acceptance of the dangers of the game and its change in concussion treatment protocol.

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August

augdogdays2015possible The dog days of summer have arrived! Enjoy languid days reading and watching the recommended titles below.

 

 

Mary – Youth Services

gosetawatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, New Fiction Lee

Go Set a Watchman begins when Scout (now called “Jean Louise”) returns from college in New York, to visit her aging father in her hometown of Maycomb, Alabama. All seems to be, at first, as it always had been. A childhood friend, named Henry becomes a determined romantic pursuer; Jean Louise’s Aunt Alexandra oversees that Jean Louise is getting in touch with young girls who never left town for college. Maycomb itself is enclosed in in a quiet standstill, and this childhood stomping ground still holds Jean Louise’s past like a time-capsule. But this mirage is broken, and it is broken fairly quickly as Jean Louise discovers that many individuals within her town – most notably her father, lawyer Atticus Finch – harbor terrifying ideals on race, and what constitutes an ideal American South.

The first thing one needs to know about this book is that it is not To Kill a Mockingbird, this is a very different story. In fact, Go Set a Watchman was written before To Kill a Mockingbird. After reading this book, I firmly believe Lee wrote it, and it appears to be largely unedited. I also believe that this work was published with her consent. If you are looking for a nod to Mockingbird, however, there is a reference within Go Set a Watchman to the events of that famous trial, with one major plot point changed. It seems like whatever happened to have Mockingbird published before Watchman rests largely with the fact that publishers wanted an earlier version of the famous social-justice lawyer, Atticus Finch. Simply put: they wanted a hero.

In many ways, this work opens a Pandora’s box filled with many of our country’s deep-set problems. Not one character within this story exhibits a healthy perspective on race, an issue which the work is largely concerned with. Even Jean Louise, who can be considered the best of the lot, has a view of race which is problematic, at best. And yes, this will make many people uncomfortable. But because of this, I would argue that Go Set a Watchman is the story that we need for our modern age. This book challenges one to see that even if you believe you have healthy perspectives on race, on sexist attitudes, on religion and bigotry, you better look closer.

But as Atticus’ brother, Dr. Finch, points out, it is time and time again that history will repeat itself. Wars are fought. Lives end. And still, we attach ourselves to heroes. To this, Dr. Finch poses the most interesting question of the novel: When we see our hero’s true face, why is it then we turn away?

stillaliceStill Alice starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, and Kristen Stewart, New DVD Still Alice

Dr. Alice Howard is a celebrated linguist and professor at Columbia University. Only in her fifties, Alice begins to think that something is terribly wrong when small instances of forgetfulness progress to her inability to remember important events and people. Thinking she has a brain tumor, she sets out to find a neurologist, only to find out that she has a rare diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. There are few works which cover the pure confusion and rage at the loss of personal identity to Alzheimer’s disease. An uncomfortable topic for many to openly discuss, individuals with Alzheimer’s are often at odds with their diminishing sense of identity, and the loss of their ability to convey their experiences to others. Julianne Moore gives what was an Oscar-winning performance of Dr. Alice, and it was well-deserved. She brings an astounding performance to this film which challenges the boundaries of what we think is identity, what it means to be alive, and what it means to lose and love. Astounding film that all should see.

Chris – Technical Services

zookeeperswifeThe Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman, CD 940.53 Ack (audiobook) or Nonfiction 940.53 Ack (book)

Drawing on Antonina’s Zabinski’s diary and other historical sources, naturalist Diane Ackerman re-creates life at the Warsaw Zoo before, during, and after WWII. A not particularly brave person, she finds herself responsible for her own extended family, the zoo animals, resistance activists, and the refuge Jews, many smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto. A Polish Christian, she, her husband Jan, and young son believe it is their duty to help all, both animal and human, to survive the Nazi terror. Ackerman, the author of the bestselling A Natural History of the Senses, examines the role of nature in both kindness and savagery, and explores the disturbing obsession at the core of Nazism.

Sue – Circulation

holycowHoly Cow by David Duchovny, New Fiction Duchovny

David Duchovny (yes, that David Duchovny, who has a Master’s degree in Literature from Yale in addition to his acting skills) has written a funny and impactful novel. Holy Cow tells the story of Elsie, a cow on a family farm in upstate New York who discovers that she and the other animals on the farm are destined for slaughter. Upon learning this horrifying news, she decides to run away to India, a country where cows are not eaten, but revered. As she makes her plan to escape, she is joined by a pig named Jerry who wants to go to Israel (no pork in the diet) and a turkey named Tom who wants to go to Turkey (where hopefully he will be respected in a country named after him and not eaten for Thanksgiving.) The three animals’ zany adventures around the world are recounted by Elsie with a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor, including puns and pop culture references, as well as little nuggets of wisdom. The book is written to be humorous and quirky, but the points Duchovny makes about the horror of factory farms and mankind’s role in the destruction of the environment are valid and worthy.

longmire

Longmire starring Robert Taylor, DVD Longmire, Season 1-3

This series stars Australian actor Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire, an old-fashioned county sheriff in Wyoming. Walt recently lost his wife and is returning to work. Walt is a very honorable man, hard-working and trustworthy and deeply caring and loyal. Through the first three seasons of the series, his wife’s death and its effect on Walt and his daughter Cady is explored. His wife was suffering from cancer, but dark circumstances surrounding her death are revealed as the series goes on. Walt is running for re-election and his deputy, Branch, is running against him, financed by his rich and unscrupulous father. Unbeknownst to Longmire, his daughter is also romantically involved with Branch. The show co-stars Lou Diamond Phillips as Longmire’s best friend Henry, part Cheyenne and proprietor of the local tavern, and Katee Sackhoff as Walt’s trusted deputy Vic, a transplant from Philadelphia with a storied past. Walt’s jurisdiction runs up against a Cheyenne Indian reservation and he sometimes clashes with the chief of the tribal police. The show stands out from standard crime dramas because of the rural setting, which includes cowboys, Native Americans, cattle, and wide open spaces. It is also slower-paced than most detective shows, befitting its Wyoming setting where life moves at a different pace than big cities. I enjoy the show because of the richly developed characters and intriguing mysteries. It is an intelligent, well-made series with an outstanding cast. Unfortunately, A&E cancelled Longmire after Season 3, but it was picked up by Netflix for a fourth season, which is scheduled to air this fall.

grandmotheraskedmeMy Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman, New Fiction Backman

The second novel from the author of A Man Called Ove. Seven-year old Elsa is different and gets cruelly picked on at her school. Her eccentric grandmother is 77 and Elsa’s best and only friend and stalwart defender. Every night, Elsa and her grandmother journey to a magical place called the Land of Almost Awake – a fairy tale world created by Granny that consists of a number of different kingdoms, all with their own purpose and heroes. In this magical world where being different is celebrated, Elsa feels safe and happy. When her grandmother dies after taking ill, Elsa sets out to deliver a series of letters her grandmother left behind for various people from her life, most of whom are residents of the apartment building owned by Granny where Elsa lives. As Elsa proceeds through each delivery, she learns much about her grandmother’s life before she was born and about the lives of the people around whom she has grown up without really knowing or understanding. She realizes that the stories she has heard her whole life in the Land of Almost Awake are actually pieces of the truth of Granny’s amazing life. This book is a bit complex, with the fantasy world of the Land of Almost Awake colliding with the real world, but it all comes together in the end. I didn’t enjoy it as much as A Man Called Ove, which was wonderful and one of the best new books I’ve read in years, but it is a worthy read, more serious-minded and sadder than Ove, but with a hopeful ending.

Brigitte – Circulation

wolfinwhitevanWolf in a White Van by John Darnielle, New Fiction Darnielle

Wolf in a White Van is the first novel by musician John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. It tells the story of Sean Phillips, a young man with a severe facial disfigurement who is attempting to grapple with the humdrum of every day life as a disabled person. This novel has been described as a deep meditation on escapism, especially through the means of role-playing games. It’s definitely a must-read for the summer if you are looking for something a little heavier.

softskinThe Soft Skin starring Jean Desailly and Francoise Dorleac , New DVD Soft Skin

The Soft Skin is the latest of Francois Truffaut’s films to receive acclaim. This movie follows Jean Desailly, a bored literary scholar, married to his wife but wanting more. He is charmed by Nicole, a flight attendant, and soon they begin an affair. As their relationship grows, the film becomes more frantic. As Jean’s life begins to fall apart, so does the world around him. The ending of this fast paced French film will leave you breathless.

 

Michelle – Administration

exmachinaEx Machina starring Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander, New DVD Ex Machina

This movie took a very interesting look at the creation and use of Artificial Intelligence and the place for AI in the world. It was beautifully acted and kept my full attention until the end. It also gave me something to think about long after the movie was over.

 

chappieChappie starring Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver, New DVD Chappie

This movie also delved into the world of AI and what it means to be human. Chappie was completely unexpected. I’d seen the advertising far too many times and I don’t think it captured what this movie is truly about. I cared more about the AI in this movie than I did most of the human characters. As a bonus, it is fun to watch Hugh Jackman play the villain!

 

Hubbell – Circulation

wildtalesWild Tales (Relatos Salvajes) starrring Ricardo Darin and Oscar Martinez, New DVD Wild Tales

A 2014 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Wild Tales is a collection of six distinct vignettes set in modern day Argentina showing everyday people thrown into emotionally charged situations. Produced by Academy Award-winning director Pedro Almodóvar, Wild Tales plunges the viewer into life-or-death situations and presents moral dilemmas where good intentions are not what they seem. You will find yourself unclear about whom to support as the characters take justice into their own hands. The movie’s stories include an episode of lethal road rage following a casual insult, a man’s crazed revenge on a towing company, a family’s plan to do whatever it takes to protect their son from a long prison sentence, and a bride’s maniacal wedding night retaliation on her cheating fiance. Wild Tales is simultaneously hilarious, violent, shocking, and humanizing.

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