Tag Archives: DVD

Filme Romanesti

Yes, Julia Roberts has a big, adorable smile. Of course there’s much to love about Brad Pitt’s eyes.  And beyond the gorgeous stars, there are explosions, fantastic effects, car chases, and even the occasional, glamorized peek into some forgotten corner of history. Hollywood movies have a lot to offer. But every so often, one gets a hankering for a different kind of movie. If you are feeling a little underwhelmed or restless when it comes to American movies, may I suggest filme romanesti?

I’ve always had a thing for underdogs. Romania is one such underdog (as explained by MA in a previous eleventhstack post).  And the films that have been coming out of Romania in the past decade or so are turning this quiet Eastern European country from a cinema dark horse into a film force to be reckoned with. Story lines and cinematography trend toward the beautiful yet understated; screen writers and directors are patient and creative with dialogue. Also, Romanians maintain a wicked, sharp and dark sense of humor, which  shines through with gusto in many recent films. I’m a total sucker for a wicked, sharp and dark sense of humor.

I find my cure for the common movie, Romanian films, in the Music, Film & Audio department’s awesome foreign film collection. Some favorites are listed below, but I suggest browsing the entire collection at Main.

If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle

Photo courtesy of vreausafluier.ro

This  2010 tale of a Romanian juvenile detention center  focuses on Silviu, biding his time in an often brutal atmosphere until he can again care for his family. He is 18 and two weeks away from his release when he discovers his mother has come back to town. A few years earlier, Silviu’s crime of survival was committed to provide for himself and his younger brother. Despite having abandoning her children years ago, his mother wants to whisk off the little brother to Italy before Silviu’s release. Silviu was only able to endure prison by dreaming of being reunited with this little brother. Now helpless and locked away, he takes matters into his own hands.

The Way  I Spent the End of the World

Photo courtesy of sfarsitullumii.ro

In 1989 Bucharest, Eva (played by Dorotheea Petre, who won an award at Cannes for her performance) and her boyfriend accidentally break a bust of  dictator Ceausescu. Eva is sent to an alternative high school, while her boyfriend is spared punishment, due to his father’s connections to the communist party. The romance doesn’t last. Eva is furious, and plots to escape the country with a classmate. This doesn’t go unnoticed by her 7-year-old brother, Lalalilu. He loves his big sister,  and so Lalalilu and his friends devise a plan to kill the dictator to avenge his sister’s punishment. This movie is a tragicomedy with a big heart.

Police, Adjective

Photo courtesy of ifcfilms.com

A young police officer faces an ethical dilemma when he is asked by his superiors to go undercover and investigate a teen selling hash. Not only does Cristi believe that the crime is not so severe, but the government is about to change the laws to lessen the punishment for drugs. The police department could care less, and only wants Cristi to carry out orders, rather than question them. Police, Adjective is not the typical crime drama, as it avoids the typical good guy/bad guy dichotomy and instead examines individuals stuck in broken systems. In this sense, it could be recommended to fans of the The Wire.

The Death of Mr.  Lazarescu

Photo courtesy of tartanfilmsusa.com.

Perhaps the bleakest of these film recommendations, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is a dark comedy that doubles as a sharp criticism of Romania’s healthcare system. Mr. Lazarescu is a hapless widower with a fondness for wine, cats, and behaving cantankerously. When he encounters a bout of extreme pain, he calls for an ambulance. The ambulance arrives, hours later, and begins a journey across Bucharest, from hospital to hospital, and is rejected from each. Mr. Lazarescu’s pain increases throughout the hours-long trip, and the tension builds, with viewers left to wonder if he will get treated in time.

-Holly

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Stuff We’re Enjoying: Early Spring Edition

Summer weather arrived in Pittsburgh this past week, dramatically muscling spring weather out of the way with a flourish, flipping its ponytail over its shoulder and flopping down on a beach towel with a good book.  Your stalwart Eleventh Stack crew has done likewise; here are a few of the library materials we’re enjoying at the turn of the season.

Amy:

This book will mess you up.

I know that everyone and their grandmother is reading The Hunger Games right now, but I don’t feel that I need to, as I’ve already read Lord of the Flies, Battle Royale, and The Long Walk. As a matter of fact, I’m rereading The Long Walk for the fifth or sixth time right now. It’s a Stephen King short novel, written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, from back in the days before King started selling novels by the pound. Basically, every year one hundred teenage boys start at the Maine-Canada border and walk south until there is only one boy left. There are rules, of course. And penalties. And insanity. And death. If you read this one, you’ll never forget it.

Don:

Recently I visited some family in Illinois. One of the folks there is a big reader of sci-fi and fantasy, and so I waxed on to him over a couple of beers about a recent title, Embassytown, by China Miéville, that I thought one of the best science fiction titles in years.  He told me that I had to read The City and the City, another Miéville title he insisted was equally fantastic.

And right he was. The basic plot has a noir feel: a dead body is found, a hard-boiled Eastern European detective is investigating. But there’s a twist. The city where the murder takes place (Besz) happens to share contiguous space with another, just barely visible, city (Ul Qoman), where a different population and a very different–though related–language is spoken. And, oh yeah, where the murderer perhaps came from. I’ve just started this one and once again  Miéville is pushing–literally, this time–the boundaries of speculative fiction.

It seems I ought to go to Peoria more often.

Jess:

The following two CDs have been in heavy rotation during my daily commute:

The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond. First things first: contemporary country music mostly makes my brain hurt. However, for some inexplicable reason, I love the current wave of bluegrass/folk-alt-country stuff that’s out there (Avett Brothers, anyone?). Thankfully the music producers went that route for most of this soundtrack, which fits the tone of Katniss and Peeta’s District 12 perfectly. I especially like the tracks from Neko Case (“Nothing to Remember”) and Kid Cudi (“The Rule and the Killer”).

Say Anything’s Anarchy, My Dear. I’ve always admired SA leader and primary lyricist, Max Bemis, for his smart, brutally honest songwriting. Though he’s mellowed a bit with age and marriage, he’s still telling it like it is. Standout tracks include “Overbiter,” which includes backing vocals from his wife, Sherri DuPree of the band Eisley, and describes their long-distance courtship; “Admit it Again,” a sequel of sorts to the “Admit It!!!” track on the …Is A Real Boy album (completely worth tracking down to dissect the lyrics); and the title track, “Anarchy, My Dear,” an almost ballad-y ode to rebellion.

Leigh Anne:

I’d like to be able to tell you I’m reading something incredibly literate, deliciously witty, or professionally advantageous. However, I am forced to confess that, in this unseasonable heat, the best I can do is leaf through magazines. Super Girl Scout Niece #1 was selling subscriptions, and I’m a huge fan of The Girl Scouts, so I’m happily parked in front of a fan with Oprah, yoga, and some warm-weather recipe ideas.

Maria:

In the Basement of the Ivory Tower: Confessions of an Accidental Academic, by Professor X. This eye-opening and provocative treatise caught my eye in a review journal. It’s an expansion of an article originally published in The Atlantic magazine, and deals with the unprepared students colleges recruit and the status and treatment of professors (especially adjunct professors like the author), with a bit of the author’s life story mixed in. I was intrigued because the author is an English professor, and he writes extremely well, so the book is interesting, illuminating, and readable. He writes anonymously because he’s worried he’ll lose his job.

Suzy:

For my birthday I received a Kindle Fire from my awesome husband , who always buys me things I think I don’t want until I get them. To my eternal (but not blushing) chagrin, the first thing I did was purchase the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy from Amazon. In case you live under a rock, Fifty Shades is a self-published “erotic BDSM” e-book by a little-known British author named E. L. James. I zipped through Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker in two days. I was ready to run out and buy some grey ties and an Audi.

For over a week now I’ve malingered on the final book, Fifty Shades Freed. I have simply stopped caring about the characters, the story, and the sex. The controversy surrounding this book reminds me of a quote from Fear of Flying author Erica Jong: “My reaction to porn films is as follows: after the first ten minutes, I want to go home and screw. After the first twenty minutes, I never want to screw again as long as I live.”

Tara:

Sublime Frequencies re-issues strange and wonderful music from all over the world, everything from Bollywood steel guitar to what’s playing on the radio in Morocco. It’s perfect music to listen to while cooking or porch-sitting, and we have quite a few albums available for check-out here at the library.

I’ve also just watched a recently re-released gem on DVD called A Thousand Clowns. Fans of films about eccentric and lovable iconoclasts (and the films of Wes Anderson) should check this one out immediately.

Tim:

I’m not enjoying this “nice” weather because it’s disturbing to have 80 degree weather in mid-March.  And you know what else doesn’t like it?  Spinach.  Or radishes.  Or any of the other cool weather crops that only grow well when temperatures are in the 60s and 70s.

So I’ll be forced to enjoy such books as The Gardener’s Weather Bible: How to Predict and Prepare for Garden Success in Any Kind of Weather by Sally Roth or The Weather-resilient Garden : a Defensive Approach to Planning & Landscaping by Charles W.G. Smith.

Your turn.  Hot enough for you?  What are you reading / watching / listening to this spring?

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Learning the old-fashioned way

While I do have some fond memories of watching instructional films in elementary school, they mainly involve shoving desks around the classroom, sitting on the cold linoleum floor until my butt went numb, and that one time in second grade when the projector overheated and started smoking (true story; not a Simpsons flashback). The films themselves, I don’t remember so well.

Fortunately, I can relive all of those glorious instructional moments with the help of a little series called the Educational Archives. Each one is packed full of information on everything you’ll ever need to know, from why it’s wonderful to be a girl to the importance of soap. You’ll even learn exactly why stealing a car is such a bad idea.

We also have a fine two-volume set from Kino – How to Be a Man and How to Be a Woman (those were the only choices you had back then). Apparently, to be a man one must be trustworthy and plan for success, while to be a woman one must improve one’s personality, learn how to make a sandwich, and say no to sex.

Many of these adventures in moral education come from a company called Coronet Instructional Films, and can be viewed online for free thanks to the Internet Archive. Here’s a little gem with a catchy title: Are You Popular?

So remember to study hard and respect your elders, and you’ll succeed in life. Now go make me a sandwich.*

- Amy

* Poof! You’re a sandwich!

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On Judging a Book by Its Cover

As an employee of the Carnegie Library, I can’t even begin to surmise the amount of information that has swirled around me as our collection circulates.  CDs, books and movies passing from the shelves, through my hands, into homes and back again.  Thousands of people’s likes and dislikes giving me ample opportunity to come across items of which I had no previous knowledge.  One such item is the movie “Withnail & I.” I had to pull it from the shelf to fill a patron request.  Upon seeing the cover, I put it on hold for myself.
 
 
First clue – This movie has made its way into the Criterion Collection, a DVD series that concerns itself with publishing only the “best” the movie world has to offer.  Obviously, this doesn’t mean that every movie they release is going to be enjoyable, but it’s a good first indicator that someone out there with some clout thinks it really is good.  
 
Second clue – The immediately recognizable scribbles of  Ralph Steadman.  I will go on record as saying that any movie that Steadman illustrates a cover for is going to be a movie that I like.  His trademark scrawl of “Bruce Robinson’s Withnail and I,” complete with ink spatters and coffee stains.  The illustration of two men; one sprawled hopelessly across a couch, head in hand, mouth agape.  The other worriedly standing in the background, peering out to the viewer with hands clasped.  Their surroundings cluttered with the signs of a haphazard lifestyle, all broken and stacked in Steadman’s own frenetic style.  
 
This simple image conveys the tone of the movie and gives the viewer just enough clues as to what can be expected from the characters and the film.
 
-Christopher

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Twelve

Tomorrow is the twelfth anniversary of my first day at this fine institution. In honor of that glorious occasion, here are twelve twelve-related items from my department!

  • 12 - Ah, we start with a depressing foreign film. This one looks like a Russian version of 12 Angry Men, which is of course also on this list.   
  • 12 Angry Men - See? We thought of it first. In 1956 and with Henry Fonda, no less. 
  • 12 Monkeys - Whenever I see this movie, I have to remind myself that no one in 1996 could have predicted our current cell phone technology.    
         
  
         
 

Will I last another 12 years? Will this library last another 12 years? Will Brad Pitt ever star in any movies based on Janet Evanovich books? Tune in again in 2023 to find out!

- Amy

Leave a comment on today’s post for a chance at today’s prize in the 29 Gifts giveaway.  Daily winners will be contacted by e-mail.

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Revisiting Books for Groundhog Day…

Even though I live in Pennsylvania where we consider Groundhog Day to be a real holiday complete with loud celebrations, drinking and furry mascots, as this day approaches I find myself thinking more about the theme of that movie with the same name.  I have come to see Groundhog Day as a time to reflect and look back on people, places, and even books that I’d like to revisit.  Here’s my book re-visitation list for this year:

Book Cover for Midnight in the Garden of Good and EvilMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt – I love the descriptions, of the quirky people, of the stately houses, and of the town. This book made me want to live in Savannah. Yes, I know it is also a true crime novel, and that shouldn’t make me want to move there. But honestly, there’s crime everywhere and this one was more interesting than your run-of-the-mill murder-for-drugs sort . . .

Book Cover for And Then There Were NoneAnd Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – If you’ve never read Agatha Christie, here is where you should begin. This is the quintessential whodunit. You will be amazed and enthralled. You will probably not figure out the ending. This is one of the books that even convinced the mystery hating librarian, Will Manley, that not all mysteries are bad.

Book cover for A Prayer for Owen MeanyA Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – To this day, I still have no idea why this book moved me so much. But it did. And I’m not alone. Everyone I know who has read it has immediately fallen under its spell. First you read it, then you love it, and then you have to talk to others about it. It’s almost addictive and that’s how reading a good book should be.

Book cover for The House at Pooh CornerThe House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne – I love the Pooh books. I didn’t love them as a child. But as a college student I used to read them aloud to the guy I was dating at the time, whose name happened to be Christopher. I still remember laughing out loud with him while reading the last chapter, when Eeyore and the rest of the gang play poohsticks. Ah, college life . . .

Book cover for Joy of CookingJoy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer – I should use this book more than I do when referencing a recipe to cook. Maybe it’s because I have one of the newer editions and I really prefer my mother’s older version from the ’60s. I used to read and re-read the opening chapter on entertaining like it was a novel. Hmmm. Maybe I should see if she’s willing to make a trade . . .

And a movie or two . . .

Movie case for The Princess BrideThe Princess Bride – ”Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” “Aaaaaaaaas Youuuuuuuuu Wiiiiiiiiiiiiish!” “Inconceivable!” “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” “Love IS pain, Highness!” “I’m not a witch, I’m your wife.” “Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday.” Do I need to go on? I didn’t think so.

Movie case for My Fair LadyMy Fair Lady – This is one of the most visually stunning movies I have ever seen. I love the uncovering of the flowers in the opening scene. The sets are very detailed. All of Eliza Doolittle’s outfits are fabulous!  (And everyone else’s too.) I think I’m going to have to watch it on the BIG television this time.  Warning: I will sing along!

What books and movies are on your revisitation list?

–Melissa M.

Leave a comment on today’s post for a chance at today’s prize in the 29 Gifts giveaway.  Daily winners will be contacted by e-mail.

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We love the Criterion Collection

               

               

               

              

              

And that’s only thirty titles. We have 474 more.

- Amy

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My Favorite Movie

Not only is it absurd, hilarious, and absurdly hilarious, Mel Brooks’ 1974 spoof is also one of the most successful westerns of all time.

I first encountered this movie as a very young Amy, when my dad would choose a movie for us to watch on Monday nights while my mom was at her ceramics class. (I used to think that the Monday night movie was quality family bonding time, but now I also realize that it was a darn good ploy for keeping my brother and me entertained until bedtime. Way to go, dad!)

I’m not sure what I could possibly say about this film that hasn’t been said before by real professional movie-reviewing types, so instead I’ll share some fun facts:

  • The movie grossed $47.8 million dollars at the box office1, or $119.5 million if you believe the Internet Movie Database.2
  • Richard Pryor, one of the film’s screenwriters, was originally chosen to play Sheriff Bart, but the role went to Cleavon Little because “the studio believed that Pryor was an insane drug addict.”3 Though another source claims that Pryor lost out because he was considered too new and inexperienced.4
  • The role of the Waco Kid, made famous by Gene Wilder, was first offered to John Wayne, who loved the script but was unwilling to ruin his image.5

So if you’re looking for fart jokes, horse punching, biker gangs, pie fights, Slim Pickens, candygrams, Count Basie and his orchestra, sharpshooters, an entire town full of people named Johnson, countless Mel Books cameos, schnitzengruben, musical numbers, the world’s most overbooked hangman, and believe it or not – a healthy dose of social commentary, be sure to check out Blazing Saddles.

- Amy


Sources:

1 Hughes, Howard. Stagecoach to Tombstone: the Filmgoers’ Guide to the Great Westerns. London: I. B. Tauris, 2007.

2 “Blazing Saddles (1974) – IMDb.” The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Web. 8 Nov. 2010. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071230/>.

3 Schneider, Steven Jay. 1001 Movies You Must See before You Die. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s, 2005.

4 McCabe, Bob. The Rough Guide to Comedy Movies. London: Rough Guides, 2005.

5 Ibid.

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Go play inside.

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Acceptable Classic Literature

Here’s a companion piece to my Annoying Classic Literature post, written at the suggestion of the very same delightful 12th grade English teacher who inspired my earlier ranting.

Austen, JanePride and Prejudice

It wasn’t very funny when I was in 10th grade, but it made much more sense when I was a senior in college. On the outside chance that you’ve never enjoyed (or suffered through) this classic, I offer you a Very Concise Summary.

Stage the First
Elizabeth: Hi, there!
Darcy: I do not know you, therefore you are lame.
Elizabeth: Well, I don’t like you anyway.

Stage the Second
Darcy: Oops, I was wrong. Marry me!
Elizabeth: Get bent, you jerk!
Darcy: I’m a jerk?

Stage the Third
Elizabeth: Oops, I was wrong. Drat.
Lydia: I’m an idiot!
Darcy: How to Win Friends and Influence People
Elizabeth and Darcy: Yay!

THE END

Pride and Prejudice is available as a book, an audio book, and assorted movies. We also have the Cliffs notes and a DVD guide, which I feel obliged to point out even though I think you should read the book. You can also try Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (a book, an audio book, and a graphic novel – crikey!) or Bride and Prejudice, which is just a plain old movie.

Kafka, FranzThe Metamorphosis

Spoiler Alert – He’s a bug! Or is he? Gregor Samsa finds the best excuse ever for skipping work, while his sister learns just how important it is to clean under the bed.

The Metamorphosis is available as a book, an audio book, a graphic novel, and a play. We also have the Cliffs notes, but the book is pretty darn short so just read it already. And if that’s not enough giant buggy goodness for you, try Insect Dreams: the Half Life of Gregor Samsa by Marc Estrin, in which Gregor joins the circus, travels to New York, and becomes an advisor to FDR.

Lewis, SinclairMain Street

Poor Carol (Milford) Kennicott learns the hard way that the good people of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota do not appreciate women with opinions, nice legs, or an interest in poetry. Just think how much happier she would have been with high speed internet access and Dr. Kennicott’s credit card.

Main Street is available as a book, and an audio book. We also have the Cliffs notes for when you’re too depressed to read any further but you still have to crank out a ten page paper by the end of the week.

VoltaireCandide

Floggings, syphilis, drowning, earthquakes, and the Inquisition have never been so much fun! It makes me wonder – what tragedies would befall a modern day Candide? Probably identity theft and swine flu. Or perhaps his car would be recalled.

Candide is available as a book, an audio book, and an operetta. We also have the Cliffs notes, but Candide is just too absurd to pass up. Plus, people will think you’re smart when they see you reading Voltaire.

And remember, all is for the best in the best of all possible blog posts. But now I must ask, gentle readers, what classics do you particularly enjoy? If you had to foist one great classic on a high school student at the risk of alienating them from literature forever, what would you choose?

- Amy

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