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MAY 3, 2011
And the Oscar goes to...
During the month of April we received several new DVD's of films that won big at this year's Academy Awards. These include Best Picture winner The King's Speech, and Black Swan featuring Best Actress winner Natalie Portman. The Fighter, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, Inception, and The Social Network all received nominations and some Oscars as well. We are also expecting the new version of True Grit, being released soon. Come check out our collection and watch a movie for free.
In 2003, Khaled Hosseini, an Afghani physician, burst onto the bestseller list with his debut novel, The Kite Runner. Most who read it would probably say it was one of the best books ever. The story of Amir and Hassan, two young boys from different ethnic groups is as much a story of loyalty, betrayal, and forgiveness as it is about Afghanistan. In 2007, a film based on the novel was released, but it never made it big at the box office and has pretty much been forgotten. The library has recently added a copy to our DVD collection, and it is definitely worth a look. The scenery is breathtaking, the characterizations mirror Hosseini's literary creations, and the emotional intensity almost matches the extraordinary novel. If you have read the book, and woud like to revisit the story, or if you prefer a cinematic version to reading the book, give it a try. Please note, however, that much of the film is subtitled.
One of the latest acquisitions to our DVD collection is the Academy Award nominated film The Social Network, directed by David Fincher. The film tells the fascinating story of the creation and controversy surrounding the cultural phenomenon 'facebook'. Begun on college campuses, facebook began with young adults, but its popularity has since spread to all ages, including many baby-boomers. All of the characters involved in the drama are there-computer nerd Mark Zuckerberg, his friend and business partner Eduardo Saverin, the perfect-looking Winklevoss twins, and the somewhat sinister Sean Parker, founder of Napster. Writer Aaron Sorkin, of West Wing fame, and Fincher have turned a somewhat drab, upper crust story into something to which we can all relate. Check it out at your library.
Seeing the trailer for the new film, a remake of True Grit, I was reminded of a vivid literary memory. I read the 1968 novel, True Grit, by Charles Portis when it first came out, and have long considered it one of my favorites reading experiences, even though I am not a big fan of the western in general. I was encouraged to pick up this little gem again, and I was not disappointed. It definitely deserves to be considered a classic of its genre. The adventures of Mattie Ross and her protectors, Rooster Cogburn and Ranger LeBoef, serve as a delectable little tidbit of Americana, mixed with true originality on the part of Portis. If you prefer, try the 1969 film version with John Wayne, Kim Darby, and Glen Campbell. Both book and DVD are available for loan at the library. As for the new film just released, I for one can't wait to see it!
Being such an ardent Janeite (that's a devoted fan of Jane Austen, the creator of the modern novel in my opinion), I couldn't let the presentation on PBS of the newest dramatization of Emma go by without a mention. Now Emma is not my favorite among Jane's six completed novels, but it is a masterful piece of writing and can bring forth a wealth of discussion among fans. As much as we older readers may regret the need to modernize the language and add bits in order to make it more appealing to the modern viewer, this was a nicely put together version-mostly true to the book in terms of plot and characters, and full of charming country scenes and luscious Regency costumes. If you had a look at it, and you'd like some of the real thing, try reading the original. It's here for you at the library.
If you're still a Harry Potter fan like me, you're anxiously awaiting the arrival of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince DVD. It's already on order and should arrive right around the time of the release. This 6th film in the series was one of the best in my opinion. A bit of artistic license was taken by the director, but a lot of the book was included. If you haven't seen it, or just want to see it again, it will be on loan soon!
As I mentioned before, we are the fortunate recipient of a grant from the Schuylkill Area Community Foundation and the Ben Franklin Trust designated to update our DVD collection. Many of the DVD's have arrived and are available for loan. Some of our new titles include recent hits like Slumdog Millionaire and Doubt. For the kids we have The Tale of Despereaux from Kate Dicamillo's award winning book, and some new adventures of Thomas the Tank Engine. Teens might enjoy High School Musical or Miyazaki's manga classic, Spirited Away. Come visit the library and check out our expanded collection.
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. I happened to catch the lastest dramatization of Dickens' early novel on Masterpiece Classics recently, and it led me back to the original. Most people are familiar with the famous story of the boy who dared asked for more to eat from his minders in a Victorian workhouse. The film, Oliver, based on the famous Broadway play, was a boxoffice hit in 1968/9, and won the Best Picture Oscar. Most people don't realize that Dickens' created this blockbuster hit when he was only twenty-five years old, and it is still as exciting and touching to read as it was back in 1837. The novel was published as a monthly series in a magazine, and is full of cliffhanging chapter endings, memorable comic characters, and plenty of adventure and romance.
A generous donation by a patron has brought us a DVD of good night, andgood luck, director George Clooney's version of the events of 1953 when the famed TV journalist Edward R. Murrow took on Senator Joseph McCarthy. This film exudes the flavor of the 50's with costumes, sets, and music which will take many of us back to our childhood. Murrow, popular for his famous interview program, Person to Person, was much more interested in using television as a means of educating the public than in being an entertainer. The part of Murrow is portrayed brilliantly by David Strathairn, with Clooney himself as Fred Friendly, Murrow's producer and friend. McCarthy is portrayed only by himself, in actual news footage of the time. This film is a thoughtful look at history, but provokes discussion about how things have not changed.
I just happened to be straightening up the video rack and I came across two classics in our rotating video collection. Unfortunately, they're on VHS, but if you still have a player, you might want to check these out. Hans Christian Anderson, starring that famous TV comic Danny Kaye, was one of my favorite childhood film experiences. I can still hear him singing "Thumbelina" and "Ugly Duckling," and dancing through the streets of Copenhagen! Then there's Shane, one of my father's favorites. He was a big Alan Ladd fan. This ultimate Western can't be topped. And who can forget young Brandon de Wilde's performance? If you're looking for a good movie this weekend, try one of these.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. As a member of JASNA, the Jane Austen Society of North America, I have recently joined one of their reading groups. Members get together to discuss the work of Jane, as we like to call her. Most of us are such fanatic Janeites, that we read her six novels and various fragments over and over again. This particular book, the first of the novels to be published during her lifetime, is not looked on very kindly by many critics. In my own experience, however, I have found it well worth a second look and even a third, and I can honestly say my opinion about it has changed with each reading. If you don't feel quite up to facing the story of the Dashwood sisters in the language of the early nineteenth century, try the new dramatization being shown on Masterpiece on PBS, Sunday, March 30.
We just received a new batch of videos and DVD's at the library. One of the DVD's is director Stephen Frears' The Queen with Helen Mirren as the British Queen Elizabeth and Michael Sheen as Prime Minister Tony Blair. The story takes place at the time of Princess Diana's death, and shows the Queen in her private life, struggling between the strong traditions of the monarchy and the emotional demands of the citizenry of the country. This film is a rare look at a way of life we seldom see close up and a well-done exploration of a bit of contemporary history.
Do you like costume dramas? Masterpiece Theater is presenting several dramatizations of Jane Austen's novels, many of them new productions. On Sunday, January 13, they will be presenting a new version of Persuasion, Austen's last completed novel. When Anne Elliot is forced by family pressures to refuse an offer of marriage from a penniless young naval officer, she feels that her chance at happiness has passed. But her one true love returns, rich and ready to settle down. Will the chemistry still be there? Watch and see!
In this cycle's rotating videos and DVD's there's a rare gem-a film version of E. Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Shipping News. Quoyle, played by Kevin Spacey, is a man whose life has been full of disappointment and tragedy. But when he seeks a new start in the land of his ancestors, Newfoundland, he discovers hidden talents, fast friends, and even a new love. Try this unusual little film-it's worth a look!