Saturday, April 30, 2011

Library Video of the Week, May 2, 2011.

The Blind Side, starring Quentin Aaron, Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw and Kathy Bates. Directed by John Lee Hancock. 2009. Library Call Number: PN1995.9.S67 B55 2010.
          Tip-toeing through what could be saccharine/maudlin territory, and managing to mostly avoid it, The Blind Side is based on the true story of Michael Oher, an abandoned, shy and gentle teen-aged boy who is literally plucked off the streets by the Touhys, a white Republican, Evangelical family, and taken in to their Nashville home. Mother Leigh Anne Touhy takes an interest in the teen and begins to nurture him, helping him in school and on the football field—he’s never before touched a football. Oher, in turn, blossoms, becomes an All-American left guard, wins a scholarship to the University of Mississippi and eventually becomes a professional football player.
          Wesley Morris, film critic for the Boston Globe, points out an interesting sub-text in this film: though it’s actually Michael Oher’s story, it’s told primarily from the point of view of Leigh Anne Touhy. This makes it, he says, a more comfortable, Hollywood view of race in America, where no one wonders why the city schools seem all black and the private schools except for their athletes, are primarily white. Still, this is a smart film, worth watching; the main characters are pitch perfect and Bullock won an Oscar for her role.

Browsing Area Book of the Week, May 2, 2011

The Garden of Betrayal by Lee Vance. Library Call Number: PS3622.A58595 G37 2010.
          From the book jacket:   Manhattan, 2002: Mark Wallace has it all--he's married to Claire, the love of his life; they have two bright, beautiful children, and his is a high-powered Wall Street job. Until one night while on a neighborhood errand by himself, his twelve-year-old son, Kyle, vanishes, brutally snatched off the streets of New York.
          Seven years later…the loss, guilt, and mystery surrounding their son's disappearance have almost destroyed the Wallaces' marriage, leaving their daughter alienated and distant. Now, on the same day that a natural gas pipeline in remote western Russia is blown up by suspected terrorists, a new lead opens in Kyle's case…Politically savvy, emotionally complex, and frighteningly believable, The Garden of Betrayal is a tense and timely imagining of the casualties of recession-era Wall Street gaming and the backroom global oil wars, a riveting, compulsive read that will grip you from first page to last. It also places Lee Vance on the level of today's best and best-selling thriller writers who not only thrill us but make us think

Friday, April 22, 2011

Browsing Area Book of the Week, April 25, 2011.

Bad Blood by John Sandford. Library Call number: PS3569.A516 B33 2010.      
          This novel features Flowers investigating a murder in southern Minnesota that looks, at first glance, fairly open and shut. A soybean farmer is found buried in the beans at a grain elevator. It doesn’t take long to see the accident was staged, and only a few hours more before the elevator employee, arrested on suspicion, is found murdered in his cell. His murder looks like the work of a sheriff’s deputy, a close friend of the farmer; when the deputy turns up dead at home, a third murder--this one made to look like suicide--Virgil has a trio to clear up. He finds they all seem to be tied to the recent, vicious rape and murder of a young girl from the area and to a strange religious cult.
          Sandford’s novels always move at a breakneck speed and this one will keep you up late, trying to fit in one more chapter in before sleep.

Library Video of the Week, April 25, 2011.

Restrepo: One Platoon, One Valley, One Year, a documentary directed and produced by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger. An Outpost Films production in association with National Geographic Channel. Library Call Number: DS371.4123.K67R47 2010.
          Anyone wanting a better understanding of the trials of our military in Afghanistan should spend an hour and a half with this documentary. Charged with maintaining calm in a part of the Korengal Valley, a fifteen-man platoon of U.S. soldiers from the 173rd Airborne is deployed to a remote outpost called “Restrepo," named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. As the product description says, “It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military. This is an entirely experiential film: the cameras never leave the valley; there are no interviews with generals or diplomats. The only goal is to make viewers feel as if they have just been through a 90-minute deployment. This is war, full stop. The conclusions are up to you.”
          Adding to the poignancy of this film, Tim Hetherington, the co-director and co-producer, was recently killed while covering the Libyan fighting.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Library Video of the Week, April 18, 2011.

Chungking Express, a film by Wong Kar-Wai. Starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Takeshi Kanishiro, Brigitte Lin, Faye Wong and Valerie Chow. In Cantonese and Mandarin. English Subtitles. 2008.
Library Call Number: PN1995.9..F67 C48 2008
          Director Wong made this art film while editing a completely different type of movie; Express follows the lives of two Hong Kong policemen, both at the end of relationships. Officer 223 was dumped by his girlfriend a month before his birthday. Officer 633 is pretty sure he’s been dumped—his flight attendant girlfriend left a letter for him at his usual diner—but he won’t take it from the waitress. The film divides itself between their stories, where, except for a brief section in the middle, they don’t overlap. Following the ups and downs of their romances, the movie gives the viewer an episodic look at modern Hong Kong, while relating two simple slices of life. No big resolutions, no intricate plots, simply intervals in a pair of lonely lives as they look for something more.
          Roger Ebert noted: "If you are attentive to the style, if you think about what Wong is doing, Chungking Express works. If you're trying to follow the plot, you may feel frustrated...When Godard was hot, in the 1960s and early 1970s, there was an audience for this style…Many of today's younger filmgoers, fed only by the narrow selections at video stores, are not as curious or knowledgeable and may simply be puzzled by Chungking Express instead of challenged.“

Browsing Area Book of the Week, April 18, 2011.

Half-Broke Horses: A true-life novel by Jeannette Walls.
Library Call Number: PS3623.A3644 H35 2009.
          Author Walls introduces us to her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, by way of an autobiographical/fictional rendition of her life. Growing up in the early 20th century on a ranch in Texas, Lily’s first home was a dugout in the bank of a creek, with a sod roof browsing goats occasionally stepped through and walls that gophers, snakes and scorpions would regularly pierce. Helping her father break horses by the age of six, Lily fought for the education that led her to become a schoolteacher, grew up during the Great Depression and eventually settled on an Arizona ranch. Replete with real-life drama and tragedy, the stories of Lily and her family provide a wonderful and evocative glimpse into western America in the early to mid-20th century and illuminate much of the self-reliance and self-discipline necessary to survive in that era. From the flash flood in the opening chapter to the tragedies of her later years, this is a modest American woman worthy of great respect.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Library Video of the Week, April 11, 2011.

Pond Hockey, a Northland films Production, Directed by Tommy Haines.  Library Call Number: GV847.5.P66 2008.
          Although this documentary covers the Pond Hockey Championships in Minneapolis Minnesota, it’s more about the changing face of American sports. Before Playstations and X-boxes, there were fathers who, every year, would build a wooden containment fence and flood their back yards in the winter. There were sons and daughters who couldn’t wait to hit the ice and skate with one, three, five friends, playing pick-up games of hockey from after school till dinner—and sometimes after dinner, too. There still are. Whether it’s on a farm pond, a city park rink or a frozen river, there are kids who can’t wait to get on the ice.
          Pond Hockey looks at the big business of professional hockey, the trend toward buying time in an indoor rink and the heroes of the sport, but it also looks at freezing your tail off, practicing a slap shot, skating over ragged ice, frostbitten cheeks and playing stick the way it was meant to be played—outdoors.
          This is a must-see celebration of outdoor hockey.

Browsing Area Book of the Week, April 11, 2011.

Deep Shadow by Randy Wayne White. Library Call Number: PS3573.H47473 D46 2010.
          Latest in White’s long-running Doc Ford adventures. There is a legend how an overloaded plane fleeing Castro’s takeover and carrying Batista’s Cuban gold, crashed in the rugged backwoods of Florida. Arlis Futch, one of Ford’s friends, believes the plane went down in an inland lake. He’s so sure, in fact, he’s bought the property and convinces Ford and their friend Tomlinson to help him dive the water and see if the plane is really down there. It seems straightforward, so the men take along a troubled 16 year-old boy named Will to gain some diving experience. But the karst lakes of Florida are treacherous and shortly into the dive, a cave wall collapses, trapping Tomlinson and Will. That’s when things go from bad to worse; when Ford surfaces, he finds two escaped convicts have beaten up Futch, know about the gold, and want Ford to retrieve it, or they’ll kill him and let his friends drown. Oh, and there’s something else nearby, that doesn’t belong in Florida—something not human, that’s stalking all of them.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Library Video of the Week, April 4, 2011.

The Fabulous Baker Boys, starring Michelle, Pfeiffer, Jeff Bridges and Beau Bridges, a Mirage production ; produced by Paula Weinstein and Mark Rosenberg ; written and directed by Steve Kloves. (1989).
Library Call Number: PN1995.9.M86F83 2006.
          For over fifteen years, Frank and Jack Baker have played duo pianos in a small lounge act. For awhile life was good, now, the venues are getting smaller and the bookings harder. Down to bowling alleys and tired clubs, they decide to hire a female singer, maybe turn their prospects around and avoid having to get a day job. They interview a number of women, but it’s only when they’ve given up and are ready to call it quits, that hard-edged Susie Diamond shows up with a bad attitude and a honeyed voice. Jack wants to hire her; Frank has his doubts. What neither of them know is their lives are about to get way more complicated, even as their act starts rising to the top once more.

Browsing Area Book of the Week, April 4, 2011.

The Subtle Body: the story of yoga in America, by Stefanie Syman.
Library Call Number: B132.Y6S96 2010.
          A spiritual discipline which has become a multimillion dollar American business is examined in this scholarly work on yoga.
          “Yoga’s history in America is longer and richer than even its most devoted practitioners realize. It was present in Emerson’s New England, and by the turn of the twentieth century it was fashionable among the leisure class. And yet when Americans first learned about yoga, what they learned was that it was a dangerous, alien practice that would corrupt body and soul. A century later, you can find yoga in gyms, malls, and even hospitals, and the arrival of a yoga studio in a neighborhood is a signal of cosmopolitanism. How did it happen? It did so, Syman explains, through a succession of charismatic yoga teachers, who risked charges of charlatanism as they promoted yoga in America, and through generations of yoga students, who were deemed unbalanced or even insane for their efforts. “ --from the dust jacket.