Monday, June 30, 2008


Every month I try to write short recommendations for DVDs in our collection to help advertise them. These are my selections for this month:

Genghis Blues 791.43 GEN
A blind blues singer travels to Tuva to participate in a throat-singing contest. This is a terrific film about how we communicate with music. Magnificent!

Love, Ludlow
An odd couple love story where the couple have to learn to be together in the company of her mentally ill brother. The film is refreshing and a joy to watch!

The Mystery of Picasso 759.6 PIC
Picasso is seated on one side of a glass canvas, the camera on the other. We see the lines as they develop into a painting. Declared a national treasure of France.

Wire in the Blood
Robson Green stars as Dr. Tony Hill a forensic psychologist who works with the police to solve serial killings. Absorbing and exciting but not for the squeamish!

The Grand
British miniseries; 1920’s; great costumes and settings. It’s like Upstairs, Downstairs with the guests, the owners and the servants. It is a very enjoyable series.

Enchanted J DVD
This is a very silly film but by blending the good things about the fantasy world and the good things about the real world they succeeded in making it very romantic as well.

This is a terrifically silly comedy with Eddie Murphy at his best in a dual role. It’s a great spoof of low budget film-making and because it’s directed by Frank Oz (the voice of Miss Piggy) it’s also a comedy with a big heart. Laugh it up with this one!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Americans love lists. How many times have we been asked “what is your favorite…” or “what is your least favorite…” I don’t know about you but I have a very hard time picking my favorite of anything, especially movies. The American Film Institute doesn’t have this problem. They have come out with “America’s 10 greatest films in 10 classic genres.” This program aired on the AMC channel on June 17th and will be aired again on September 23rd. The films and genres were voted on by a jury of over 1,500 film artists, critics and historians who were asked to consider over 500 films and rate them using a particular set of criteria. Their final lists can be viewed at: So if you have a specific genre you really love and want to see the best films of that type, this set of lists will tell you what they are. Lists are a great way of broadening your cine knowledge and a list of only 10 long is a lot easier to tackle than a top 100 list. So try some of these titles. If you’ve seen them before you can enjoy them all over again and if you haven’t, well then, you’ve got some great movie-watching ahead of you!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Movies Made From TV Shows

Get Smart was the big box office hit this weekend. With Steve Carell from “The Office” and Anne Hathaway it’s not too surprising that it’s a definite wanna-see. The public seems to love the movie, the critics are divided. I haven’t seen it but I have to admit that I am among those who believe that Hollywood does TV remakes because it’s easier than it is to make an original film. But how can you argue when 30% of the people who rate films on gave the movie a 10! We all love to laugh, so maybe it’s worth checking out.
If you don’t want to go to the theatre but would still like to see some remade TV fare you might want to try some of these titles available at the library:
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Miami Vice (2006)
Dukes of Hazzard (2005)
Serenity (2005)
Starsky and Hutch (2004)
The Fugitive (1993)
The Untouchables (1987)
These titles vary in quality and in taste. The only two I’ve seen and would definitely recommend are The Fugitive with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones and The Untouchables with Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness and Robert De Niro as Al Capone. Both of these titles are genuine winners!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Caramel / Whisky

I have a problem. Lately I find that I am not thrilled by many of the movies I watch. I went to the theater and saw Caramel, a Lebanese film about the romantic trials and tribulations of four Lebanese women connected with a beauty salon. It wasn’t a bad movie but it just didn’t have much of a story, no big ideas or big emotions: it was an interesting slice of life film. It’s true, I don’t know much about Lebanon and what life is like there, and there were some interesting scenes that suggested the difference between our culture and theirs, i.e. the importance of being a virgin upon marriage in a Muslim country. But otherwise, the romantic problems of Lebanese women are universal. Maybe that’s enough to make this a worthwhile film—that you recognize the similarities between our lives and those of other cultures, but I want more than that from a film.
I had a similar problem with the film Whisky, a Uruguayan film (on DVD). This is a deadpan comedy about a man who asks his female assistant to pretend to be his wife for the few days that his more successful brother is visiting. The film was mildly entertaining and again, it was intriguing to watch a Uruguayan film where the characters are German Jewish immigrants, but other than that…there was little action, no big ideas, and little emotion: nothing to take away with you to savor. So what is it that is happening in the world of film that we are given a slice of life rather than a full story? If these were written works, both Caramel and Whisky would be decent short stories, but satisfying novels they are not. In these films we are given a slice of life, which in my mind provides a window into another culture or another world. This is worthwhile, especially for those of us who are curious about the world but don’t travel much. Nevertheless, I want more than that. I want films that I can cherish, that can transport me from my ordinary life into a world completely different from my own. I want full stories with fully-developed characters. I want movies with some kind of thought behind them, movies that can teach you a lesson or that can open your eyes to something great. I want to be enriched as well as being amused. I want to be challenged. Am I asking too much? What do you think?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Benecio Del Toro

Benecio Del Toro won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival this year for his portrayal of Che Guevara in the film Che. If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Del Toro here is a small synopsis. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in the U.S., Benecio Del Toro’s acting career began with an episode of “Miami Vice.” After this he moved on to some bigger roles in films such as: The Indian Runner (1991), The Usual Suspects (1995—for which he won an Independent Spirit award), Basquiat (1996—another Independent Spirit award), and as Dr. Gonzo in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) with Johnny Depp. His big break was the film Traffic (2000—for which he won many awards) where he plays a Mexican cop in the drug wars. This is the film that made him a star in the U.S. From here he went on to Snatch (2000), a funny Guy Richie film also starring Brad Pitt, 21 Grams (2004—another award winner) with Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, Sin City (2005) and most recently, Things We Lost in the Fire (2007). He’s actually made about 32 films and I have only listed a few. At the moment he is very popular and in great demand. He is sometimes considered to be the new Marlon Brando or James Dean and is also compared to Brad Pitt. He is dark, brooding, and intelligent. Terry Gilliam who directed Fear and Loathing… said of Del Toro:
"Del Toro is an exciting actor. He's obsessed with his work. He draws the camera like a magnet because he keeps coming up with things that are dark, brooding, dangerous and sexy."
Sean Penn also praises Del Toro:
“He's like an acting animal, this guy who comes out of the forest to make movies better. He's fearless, and he has a very distinctive imagination for character. He's one of the few actors who can make flamboyant choices that never just say, 'Look at me.' He's not showy. If he stands out, it's only because the rest of the people haven't risen as high to the bar."
If you haven’t seen any of his movies he is clearly someone to watch. He always gives a great performance and his characters are always interesting. The films he has appeared in thus far in his career are great and he will undoubtedly go on to make many more fabulous films, so….check him out!
For more information on Benecio Del Toro see his website:

Friday, June 6, 2008

Lake Placid Film Forum

June 12 to 15 are the dates of the annual Lake Placid Film Forum. This year the guest of honor is director Jonathan Demme, a strong advocate for human rights, who has directed over 25 films, including Melvin and Howard (for which he won the New York Film Critics’ Award as best director), The Manchurian Candidate, Something Wild, Philadelphia, The Silence of the Lambs, and Neil Young: Heart of Gold. LPFF is a little different from other film festivals in that it is a forum with a panel discussion free to all participants. The topic for the panel discussion is: “Does size matter?” It is a discussion of story-telling vs. format, i.e. “What works in one format may not work in another. A story beautifully told in 35 mm on the big screen might be risible streaming onto your iPod.” In addition to the panel discussion are classes on screen writing and directing as well as many films. William Kennedy and Richard Russo are the two writers participating this year, Melissa Leo the actor, and several producers, teachers, etc. The big films being shown are Demme’s New Home Movies from the Lower 9th Ward, Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (with live organ music), Before the Rains from India, and Frozen River starring Melissa Leo. The LPFF provides a great opportunity for young filmmakers to network with industry people and with each other but it is also fun for those of us who just like film. I attended the first four festivals and had a blast. The drive up is pleasant and it’s just fun to mingle with people who are talking film. For more information see:
(Again, all films mentioned, except the new ones, are available in the UHLS collection)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

More Sydney Pollack

On Sunday mornings I watch “Sunday Morning Shootout” (11:00 a.m. on AMC) with Peter Bart (Editor-in-chief of Variety) and Peter Guber (movie producer). This is not a movie reviewing show like Siskel and Ebert, but is a movie talk show. They interview people both in front of and behind the camera, in fact, anyone in the business. It’s usually pretty interesting although it’s only a ½ hour show so you don’t get any in depth interviews. Last week they started their program with an homage to Sydney Pollack at the end of which they asked viewers to vote for their favorite Pollack film on They haven’t gotten too many responses but it did get me to thinking about Sydney Pollacks’ films again. In trying to choose my favorite film I find myself thinking back to the films and remembering what they meant to me at the time I saw them. This Property is Condemned (1966) made an impression on me but They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? in 1969 blew me away. It’s an incredibly depressing movie but it’s very powerful. Jeremiah Johnson (1972) is a great western. It is a quiet movie, not much talk, and has beautiful scenery. Three Days of the Condor (1975) is one of my favorite political thrillers. I always thought Redford’s job as a reader for the CIA would be the perfect job for me! This one’s as good today as it was when it was made. Tootsie (1982) is just plain fun and Out of Africa (1985) is a terrific love story. The Firm (1993) is one of the best of all the John Grisham books-made-into-movies and watching The Interpreter (2005) felt like a return to the films of the 70’s. I loved them all! As an actor I thought Sydney Pollack was outstanding in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives (1992) and equally good in the smaller role in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999). He is one man who if he was connected to a movie in any way, I wanted to see the film. I have checked out his Sketches of Frank Gehry (2005) and I can’t wait to go home and watch it. If you haven’t seen these films and would like to they are all available in the Upper Hudson Library System. Just put in a request and it’s yours for the viewing! Enjoy.