Tag Archives: DVDs

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

After work tomorrow I’ll be nestling into a cushioned seat for almost three hours to watch Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Like all nerds, I’ve been waiting a long time to see these two titans of comic-dom appear together on the big screen in live-action. It’s been an excruciating week, as I’ve tried to remain spoiler-free, but I only have one more day to go! If you can’t get out there to see it this weekend or if you don’t like a numb butt, the Library has plenty of Batman and Superman materials for your enjoyment.

Check out the rest of Zack Snyder’s filmography:
Whether you think he’s a visionary or a slightly-less awful version of Michael Bay, we’ve got all of Zack Snyder’s past films, most of them on glorious Blu-ray. While some of his films have been hit or miss for me (I agree with pretty much everything YouTube user Bored Girlfriend said in her review of 300), there’s no denying that Snyder has an eye for great visuals. Even his first film, Dawn of the Dead, had the bones of his signature stylish flair, and although I’m not as big a fan or Superman as I am of Batman, I didn’t hate Man of Steel as vehemently as some—the Smallville fight is great. After Batman v Superman, Snyder has the two-part Justice League lined up and maybe a remake of The Fountainhead. Seriously.

Check out the other films of the actors portraying these characters:
For a man who waxes philosophically about animal crackers and is the brother of SNL’s Stefon, I can understand why the Internet lost its collective mind when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman. But watching Gone Girl soon after the announcement I realized that, besides having incredible biceps, maybe Affleck was a good actor. As far as Superman, Henry Cavil has only been in about a third as many films as Batfleck, but the Library has most of them. He’s especially charming in last year’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  Also appearing in Batman v Superman is Wonder Woman, making her big screen debut. Warner Bros. cast the relative unknown Gal Gadot, most known for the increasingly confusingly titled Fast & Furious franchise

Check out the past iterations of Batman and Superman on film:
With Man of Steel and this film, WB is launching the DC Extended Universe, not unlike the gargantuan Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Richard Donner’s Superman films or Christopher Nolan’s Batman films have no ties to the new DCEU, it’s still interesting to go back and look at the cinematic history of these two iconic characters, like when they appeared together in animation in The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest. Many of the comic stories have been adapted into standalone animated movies, too. And speaking of comics …

Check out the comics and graphic novels:
Remember comics, the source material for all these superhero movies? We’ve got them in print as well as on Hoopla. While Batman and Superman first met on a cruise ship in 1952 (for real), pay special attention to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns as Snyder has said he’s drawing inspiration from it for his version of Batman. I realize I’m in the minority, but I never really cared for TDKR. I know, heresy! I have, however, always liked the idea of a grizzled, veteran Batman, so I’m looking forward to seeing that interpreted on screen. Regardless of how you feel about Miller’s involvement with the Caped Crusader—from his Batman: Year One to the meme-birthing All-Star Batman and Robin—there’s no denying the impact TDKR had on modern Batman. It’s not out of the question to speculate that without Frank Miller paving the way for a darker Batman in the ’80s, we’d have never gotten Burton’s Batman.

Check out some supplemental materials:
Did you know a huge inspiration of Superman was the John Carter of Mars stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs? Did you know that Batman was inspired by the 1920 film The Mark of Zorro and characters like Sherlock Holmes and Dick Tracy? The Library has materials on all those subjects and more. Want to find out the secret history of Wonder Woman or what Batman’s and Superman’s views on philosophy are? Have you ever wanted to visit Metropolis (Illinois) and check out the Supermuseum? We’ve got you covered.

You could also keep watching the second trailer for Suicide Squad, the next entry in the DCEU, based on the series of the same name. It premiers August 5.

Did I leave anything out? Are you excited about the film? Let me know in the comments below!


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After Jessica Jones

Congratulations: you made it through all thirteen white-knuckled, soul-crushing episodes of Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix. Now you need either bibliotherapy or the hair of the dog that bit you, depending on how much you enjoy psychological torture. Here are some Library experiences you can have to either calm yourself down or extend your terror buzz.

If You Just Can’t Even: The Gentle List

Right now you need sunshine, laughter, and reassurance that people are still essentially good. Snuggle up with one of the following suggestions:

Step Aside Pops / Kate Beaton –  Laughter is good for the soul, and this collection of literature and history-inspired comics will make you laugh until you can’t breathe.

Doctor Who: The Complete Second Series – You need to wash Kilgrave out of your head, and fast. Watch David Tennant at his best and most lovable.

This Christmas / Aretha Franklin – What could be better than the Queen of Soul singing seasonal songs of peace and joy? Crank this up and hit repeat.

Modern Romance / Aziz Ansari – Healthy, true love is a real thing! And getting there is more hilarious than heartbreaking. Let Ansari walk you through it.

Bridget Jones’s Diary / Helen Fielding – Because somebody named Jones should get a happy ending, right?


"Ida B. Wells," from Step Aside Pops, pg. 118. (c)2015 Kate Beaton. Click through to read more amusing comics.

“Ida B. Wells,” from Step Aside Pops, pg. 118. (c)2015 Kate Beaton. Click through to read more amusing comics.


If You’re All Fired Up: The Grrrl Power List

Pumped up and ready to fight the good fight?  Keep your adrenaline levels high and take these to the checkout desk:

Alias / Brian Michael Bendis – If you’re not familiar with the source material, catch up with all things Jessica.

Bitch Planet / Kelly Sue DeConnick – It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. And boy, are they out to get you.

Mad Max: Fury Road – Feminism, rage, explosions, catharsis.

The First Two Records / Bikini Kill – Loud, stomp-around-and-break-stuff therapy. Play it until your neighbors hate you.

Reign of Terror / Sleigh Bells – contains the song “Demons,” a/k/a That One Awesome Song in That One Scene.

Shadowshaper/ Daniel Jose Older – Urban fantasy about a gutsy teen discovering her own special powers.

Your turn:  did you, or will you, watch Jessica Jones? Have you got additional suggestions for post-viewing stress relief (or villain stomping)? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section, but please keep it spoiler-free!

–Leigh Anne



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I can’t believe I’m watching this again.

If I stumble across any of these movies I’ll inevitably end up watching the whole darn thing, whether I want to or not. Day wasted? Check. But somehow I don’t mind.

Andromeda StrainThe Andromeda Strain –  Somehow my parents thought that a Cold War era movie about biological terrors from outer space was suitable viewing for a child under ten – maybe that’s why I don’t trust monkeys or airlocks or lasers. This movie was on a lot when I was a kid, but it’s harder to come by nowadays. Fortunately, it’s available at your local library!

bookcover06Blazing Saddles – It’s my favorite movie, what else can I say? Lots, apparently. Every time I see Blazing Saddles (oooh, Blu-Ray version!) I invariably end up singing “The French Mistake” for the next week and a half. Warning: clip contains saucy language and slapstick violence. (Unfortunately, it ends before you get to see Hitler in a pie fight. I’m not kidding.)

Cradle 2 the GraveCradle 2 the Grave – Jet Li is entered into a convenient MMA tournament by Roseanne’s husband, people disguise themselves as exterminators to break into office buildings, an adorable moppet is kidnapped – and there’s also something about some black diamonds that can be used to power superweapons? And isn’t that the Chairman from Iron Chef America? If you need more reasons to watch (or not to watch), check out this scathing review from the Chicago Tribune.

Crank 2Crank 2: High Voltage – I don’t know the names of any characters that Jason Statham plays. It’s just, “You know that movie where Jason Statham has to keep running around or he’ll die? No, not that one, the other one.” This is the other one. It has a weird-but-memorable Godzilla battle in it, and other things that I probably shouldn’t mention in a library blog. Let’s just say that the TV version is usually heavily edited. (Note: research tells me that the character’s name is Chev Chelios. Huh.)

bookcover07Coming to America – If you need to show anyone what the 80s really looked like, just make them watch this movie (if you’re about my age, you’ll probably see your family’s living room furniture at some point). Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall play eight different characters between them (which is awesome) and James Earl Jones yells at people (which is also awesome).

bookcover08The Shawshank Redemption – Once when I was sick I kept falling asleep and waking up during different parts of a Shawshank Redemption marathon. It was one of the most confusing days of my life. If you want to sound all snooty, you can tell people that it’s based on the Stephen King novella “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” but don’t be surprised if nobody cares. Anyway, Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman? Can’t beat that.

bookcover09Transporter 3 – “No, this is the one where Jason Statham drives really fast. There’s a French guy, and there’s a woman who really needs to wash her face. No, not the spiky blond woman. I think that was Transporter 2.” Which leads us to the question: does it matter that all Jason Statham movies are pretty much the same? I say no. Not at all.

– Amy E., backing away from the remote

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Hollywood of the East: A Top Ten List of Pittsburgh-filmed Movies

With Josh Boone’s adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars opening in theaters across the country today, the long history that Pittsburgh has with film continues to grow. In case you didn’t know, the movie was filmed around here last year in places like Oakmont, Bellevue and a soundstage in the Strip, just to name a few spots. Sadly, this isn’t a review of that film. I guess I’m not a prolific enough reviewer yet for theaters around here to give me advanced screening tickets and whatnot.

Anyway, I’ve previously mentioned Pittsburgh’s history with film and how much I love seeing our city on film. It seems like every week a new project is green lit for Pittsburgh and I couldn’t be more excited about all of it. The city is becoming so well known for its films that bus tours of filming locations throughout the city started on May 31.

And with good reason. Seriously, our city is beautiful.


All the talk of tours, Foxcatcher gaining early Oscar buzz and great reviews at Cannes and Aaron Paul and Amanda Seyfried chilling at Jack’s on the South Side got me thinking about all the Pittsburgh-filmed movies I’ve seen. So if you didn’t get any advanced screening tickets like me or can’t get out to the theater this weekend to see the latest addition to Pittsburgh’s filmography, maybe you can check out one of the following.

This is my list of the top ten films filmed in and around the Pittsburgh region.


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It’s Criminal

Navigating the vicissitudes of modern popular culture can be tricky.

I think it might be fair to say that for a long time I came off as a bit of a snob when it came to a lot of books and TV. (I mean, I used the word ‘vicissitudes’ just now…) I have always appreciated pop culture and how important it can be for reading mass culture at large, but when it came to TV over the last few years I didn’t watch too much of it, and with that limited knowledge, I assumed I never LIKED a lot of it.

That said, maybe some of you read that a while back I got sick and missed a week of work, and in that week I started a bit of an obsession with the early seasons of Law & Order. Well, coming out of that experience, I listened to the many, MANY people who told me that I should probably watch Criminal Minds as well. I tried. My amazing wife was pretty obsessed with this show and for months I tried to watch it with her, but each time I bailed. I would leave the room. I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief quite enough. Then, something happened. I decided that I WOULD watch this show.


I did, and, for better or worse, the same thing happened to me that happened with Law & Order. I’ve gotten rather obsessed with it. But believe me, I can quit any time. I mean, I know I watched the whole second season as well…

I must say that it takes quite a bit of disbelief suspending to believe that pretty much ever serial killer and mass murderer ever are out there now, doing their worst. It also takes a bit of disbelief suspension to be OK with Garcia’s supercomputer that can do anything/find anything, anywhere on the planet in less than five seconds and immediately send it to a mobile phone.

Even with all of those reservations I have to say, especially the first season (which starred the brilliant Mandy Patinkin as FBI profiler Jason Gideon), has some really interesting moments. Sometimes I run across things that everyone seems to be talking about.  I sometimes shy away from those things. Maybe it’s me being a contrarian. Maybe it’s me being a snob. I don’t want to be a snob! I never want to succumb to the tired old idea that “if it’s good it’s not popular and if it’s popular it isn’t good.” I took the plunge with this show, and it was worth it. Give it a look, if you are so inclined!

–Eric (who is currently on *gasp* Season 3 of Criminal Minds…and has just discovered the brilliance of Burn Notice. Who knew?)


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Movies for Mother’s Day

I love mothers. They make the world go ‘round.

Since my contribution to Eleventh Stack will almost always be about or pertaining to movies and since Mother’s Day is this weekend, I thought it’d be fun to list a bunch of movies for Mother’s Day.

A caveat: these aren’t necessarily mother-themed movies or even typical mother/child movies; you won’t find Juno or Stepmom anywhere on this list. These are movies that I have memories of seeing, at one time or another, with my mother. Never fear, because I have thrown in a few just in case you need to browse a library-themed blog in order to find something to watch with your mother on Mother’s Day.

There are some (potential) spoilers below, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, skip the entries that you haven’t seen.


Psycho (1960)

Just kidding. But not really. I’m not sure when I first saw this movie, but I want to talk about one time when my best friend was spending the night and we watched it. If you’ll recall, there are a few times when Janet Leigh is topless, save for a bra. Now I’m sure this was scandalous in the 1960s, but it didn’t bother my friend or me; we were both in high school. My mother, on the other hand, kept running into the living room to hold up a towel or a sheet to cover the television screen whenever Leigh was exposed. Other than that personal memory, why is a movie about matricide on a list of movies to watch on Mother’s Day? Well, because of the line: “a boy’s best friend is his mother.” In the context of the film, it’s creepy, but my mother and I frequently and mockingly said it to each other. There is some truth it the line, though; our mothers are often our first and best friends.


What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

I’ll admit that this movie really has nothing to do with mothers and their child(ren). It’s campy and ridiculous and for some reason was always playing on Sunday afternoons on Turner Classic Movies when I was younger. I don’t know if we ever saw it from start to finish in one sitting, but my mother and I couldn’t get enough of it. We thought this scene was particularly hilarious:

Or maybe I was the only one who thought that and she was just humoring me. If you have no prior knowledge of this film, then that scene is really all you need to know.


Finding Neverland (2004)

Here’s a tip: don’t take a girl on a date to the movies if you’re going to end up bawling your eyes out by the movie’s end. I made this mistake when I took a girl to see this movie, back when Johnny Depp was still making good movies. It’s a fantastic movie, but definitely not a date movie. I saw it again with my mother and we both just held hands and cried as J.M. Barrie (Depp) consoles a grieving Peter Llewelyn Davies (Freddie Highmore) over his mother’s death. I got the DVD as soon as it came out and we sat on the couch, watching and crying again. It’s crazy that the guy who directed this also directed Quantum of Solace, World War Z and Monster’s Ball. That’s almost Richard Linklater-levels of diversity. If you haven’t seen it, why not watch it with your mother this year?  Just don’t forget the tissues.


Beauty and the Beast (1991)

This is one of the first memories of a movie that I have. It’s also the first memory I have of seeing a movie at a drive-in (remember those?). I still have a VHS tape (remember those?) of this movie. I even have an autographed picture of Angela Lansbury that I’m sure was the result of my mother encouraging me to write to her. Do I really need to explain why the first full-length animated movie in the history of cinema to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award is on this list? It’s just a movie that’s very much ingrained in my childhood.

Angela Lansbury's autograph

Angela Lansbury’s autograph. You know you’re jealous. If you had some kind of CSI-zooming technology, you would see the postmark on the envelope is from August 1992. I was 5 years old.


The Land Before Time (1988)

What is it about kids’ movies killing off the parents? I’m looking at you, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Bambi, Finding Nemo and Frozen (to name a few). Is it some kind of perverse wish-fulfillment? Or is it more about showing that a family can be a group of people who love each other and doesn’t have to necessarily fit the typical nuclear design? I’m feeling optimistic as I write this, so I’m going with the latter. This is another movie that, to this day, still makes me cry. I tear up just listening to the beginning piano notes of this:

I guess you could argue that this movie is about friendship and overcoming obstacles and all that, but the kid dinosaurs definitely look happy when they’re reunited in The Great Valley with the adult dinosaurs at the end. I’m just gonna go ahead and ignore the twelve (!) direct-to-video sequels and the television show.


An American Tail (1986) and An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991)

I have very vivid memories of my mother and me watching these movies, along with the previous two entries, during the lazy, salad days of my youth. Whenever the Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram duet of “Somewhere Out There” came on the radio, we’d assume their parts and sing along at the top of our lungs. Then when the sequel came out, we’d sing along with “Dreams to Dream” on the cassette tape (remember those?).  It could be argued, again, that this movie is about friendship, but I choose to focus on the family aspect of it. I’m getting misty-eyed just thinking about when Fievel finds his family at the end of the first movie.

Yes, these are mine. And yes, I willing moved them with me from my childhood home to Pittsburgh.

Yes, these are mine. And yes, I willingly moved them from my childhood home to Pittsburgh with me.


Watchmen (2009)

Here’s another tip: don’t go to see a movie with your mother and younger brother if there’s going to be a graphic sex scene right in the middle of it. I don’t remember the exact chain of events that led to us being in that theater that day, but there we were, watching Zak Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s best-selling graphic novel. As Nite-Owl II (Patrick Wilson) and Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman) start going at it, my mother shielded my brother’s eyes. She told me to do the same and I pretended to. Awkwardness aside, my mother still says she enjoyed the movie.


50/50 (2011)

My mother and I saw this when it came out because we both like Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the movie since we saw it on that rainy day back in 2011. That’s not because it was terrible or anything like that. If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, JGL’s character is diagnosed with cancer and has a fifty-fifty shot of surviving it. There are some strong mother/son scenes that really resonated with us. We both loved it and cried (again) as we held hands (again) in the theater. I really should revisit it soon.


Hans Christian Andersen (1952)

This is another movie that I feel was always on TCM growing up. It’s also a musical and I’ve never met a mother who doesn’t like musicals, so maybe you can watch it with yours! I remember being swept up in it all, really believing that Copenhagen was wonderful and that being a shoemaker’s apprentice could be thrilling. I remember my mother telling me she wanted to marry Danny Kaye when she was a child. I’ve always thought that was incredibly endearing.


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2012)

My mother, my brother and I started a sort-of tradition of going to the movies for Christmas in 2009. We saw Sherlock Holmes. After the incident with the sex scene in Watchmen, I’m really glad we didn’t see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake in 2011. We’ll probably see Tim Burton’s Big Eyes this year; it just got a release date this week. This past Christmas, however, we saw Mitty.

Because of my mother’s aforementioned affection toward Danny Kaye, I was worried she wouldn’t like this movie, a remake of Kaye’s 1947 film, both of which are adaptations of James Thurber’s short story. I hate remakes, mostly on principle, so I wasn’t expecting much myself. I was happily proven wrong; this movie was one of my favorites of 2013.  Part of the reason is because we shared a nice moment, immensely enjoying a movie together. And why was that? Was it because of the tender moments that Walter has with his mother, played by Shirley MacLaine? Was it the breathtaking cinematography? The beautiful score and perfectly picked songs? Was it because one time, when my brother and I were at an open casting call for The Bridge to Nowhere (that’s another story entirely) we met a man who we swear was Ben Stiller’s twin? These are all possible reasons, but I really feel that it’s because we’ve all been Walter Mitty, even you, dear readers. Who amongst us can honestly say we’ve never escaped into our own imaginations and thought up the perfect scenario? The quickest quip? Daydreamed the best possible outcome of an awful situation? If you can honestly say you never have, then I’d like to meet you, because your life must be fantastically awesome!


My mother taught me the importance of imagination. In today’s world of insta-tweeting and face-chatting, it seems the art of imagining has been lost. When one of my action figures lost an arm, it wasn’t broken; it was an amputee version of that toy. She was always ready, willing and able to nurture the growing tapestry of wonder that is a child’s imagination. I’ll never be able to thank her enough for that.

I love you, mom.


What’s your favorite movie to watch with your mom on Mother’s Day? Is it a traditional classic? Or is it more off-beat? Either way, let me know in the comments below!



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Wrong Movie, or the Devil is in the Details


You wanted this one, right?

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of requests for the movie Frozen, which is apparently a Disney animated picture with some princesses and an Oscar-winning song and stuff. And that’s great! When people request things, that makes librarians feel needed. So thank you.

Unfortunately, Disney’s Frozen won’t be out on DVD until March 18th, so our customers have been accidentally requesting some less age-appropriate titles.


No princesses here.

Frozen, 1996: A young performance artist decides to make his own suicide his last work of art. On the longest day of the year, he melts a huge block of ice with his own body heat and dies of hypothermia. He calls this act of defiance an “ice burial.”

Frozen, 2010: A typical day on the slopes turns into a chilling nightmare for three snowboarders when they get stranded on the chairlift before their last run. As the ski patrol switches off the lights, they realize with growing panic that they’ve been left behind, dangling high off the ground with no way down.


That doesn’t look very heartwarming.

The Frozen, 2012: Emma and her boyfriend Mike take an ill-advised winter camping trip and are left to fight for their lives after a snowmobile accident leaves them stranded deep in the mountains. What begins as a struggle for survival against the harsh elements quickly turns into something far more chilling when the couple begins to glimpse a mysterious man who appears to be tracking them through the forest.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen customers confuse titles, though. Many years ago I received a complaint from a person who ordered Air Force One and received a lovely National Geographic special instead of an action-packed Harrison Ford romp.

The Same River Twice

I just wanted to use this picture on the library blog.

And apparently there’s a movie called Same River Twice (recommended by the Dove foundation) that is absolutely nothing like The Same River Twice (which features naked hippies). Oops.

So remember, before you place that hold – please check the publication date and read the summary first. Or you may end up confusing the heck out of your children.

– Amy


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Do You Hear the People Sing?

Chinese poet Liao Yiwu‘s most recent memoir, For A Song and a Hundred Songs, takes its title from a particularly fiendish torture imposed on him during a prison stint: caught singing by a guard, Liao was forced to squat against a wall and sing non-stop for about eight hours, until his voice completely conked out. It’s a horrible story, but the wondrous part about it is that it didn’t stop Liao from singing again. Or writing. Or escaping to Germany so that he could share his story with the world.

There’s a power in words and music, a power that makes some people nervous, and others celebrate. History and culture are filled with moments that highlight this power, like this iconic scene from Casablanca:

Or the time Elvis Costello bit the hand that fed him on network television, which you can watch here and learn more about below:

We could write a whole separate blog post about “We Shall Overcome” and other freedom songs:

And, of course, the power of music is a world-wide phenomenon, as can be seen in Algerian rai

…the protest songs of Filipino musicians…

…and countless other examples.

The library is a great place to learn more about the power of music in history and culture. Some representative samples:


33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs From Billie Holiday to Green Day / Dorian Lynskey

Story Behind the Protest Song / Hardeep Phull

Protest Song in East and West Germany Since the 1960s / David Robb, et. al.

Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song / David Margolick

Rockin’ the Boat: Mass Music and Mass Movements / Reebee Garofolo, ed.

Recorded Music

Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Songs of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement / The Cultural Center for Social Change

The Best of Fela Kuti, Fela Anikulapo Kuti

Classic Protest Songs, Smithsonian Folkways

Rolas de Aztlan: Songs of the Chicano Movement / Smithsonian Folkways

Songs of Conscience and Concern / Peter, Paul & Mary


The People Speak / A&E Television

Soundtrack for a Revolution / Docurama Films

A Night of Ferocious Joy / Artists Network of Refuse & Resist


Songs That Changed the World / Wanda Wilson Whitman, ed.

The People United Will Never Be Defeated: 36 Variations / Frederic Rzewski

The Big Red Songbook / Mal Collins, et. al.

Songs of Protest and Civil Rights / Jerry Silverman

As ever, you can get more materials and information by asking a librarian. But right now, it’s your turn: has there been a particular song, or type of song, that raised your awareness of the world around you? Did you live through an era where music played a significant role in political / historical / cultural  events? Tell us about it.

Leigh Anne


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I only know three musicals.

My dad is a creature of habit. Every Easter he watches Jesus Christ Superstar. Every Fourth of July he watches 1776. And when I was a little Amy, he made me watch A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum over and over and over again (it was either that or Blazing Saddles).

As a result of his bizarre-though-benign parenting, I ended up memorizing most (if not all) of these three musicals. I am still not sure if this is a good thing or not.

Jesus Christ Superstar(movie, score, assorted recordings, libretto) Personally, I prefer Original Album Deep Purple Jesus to Wimpy Movie Jesus, but the movie does have tanks. And Disco Judas. (Tanks first appear at :31.)

1776 – (movie, score, assorted recordings, libretto)  Thanks to this movie, I am sometimes tempted to sing “Will someone shut that man up?” during lengthy meetings, though I have managed to resist so far. (That line is at 4:18.)

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum(movie, score, assorted recordings, libretto) I suppose I can credit this one for fostering my early love of Roman history and teaching me that there at least seven geese in a gaggle. (Skip to 2:23 for geese, but the whole clip is great.)

– Amy, who was raised with sarcasm, bad puns, and  history


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If you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can certainly judge a movie by its spine.

Long, long ago, back in the late twentieth century, this library hired me to be a humble audiovisual clerk – but now it’s over a decade later, and I’m a much less humble film librarian. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about movies and even more about our collection. So if you come in and ask me for a recommendation, don’t be surprised if I start pulling things off the shelves left and right.

How can I choose so accurately? Where do I get my amazing speed?  Do I really have such vast and encyclopedic knowledge of innocuous romantic comedies? (Hell, no.)

Here’s the secret: I don’t even bother to read the titles; I just look at the fonts. You can learn to do it, too!

Let’s start with an easy one. This is obviously a selection of horror films. What do they all have in common? Well, there’s an awful lot of red and black. And dripping blood. And BIG SHAKY SCARED CAPITAL LETTERS. One look at these and you know what you’re gonna get. In the case of Night of the Lepus, it’s killer rabbits and Dr. McCoy. No, really.

Another easy one, to make sure you’re getting the hang of this. Below is a collection of fine westerns. I think you’ll agree that none of these fonts would look out of place on a saloon sign. They’re big, they’re bold, they’re confident, and they’ll take no prisoners – but they’re also quite upright, so you can be sure they’ll have your daughter back before curfew.

Well, maybe not that scoundrel Take a Hard Ride. That title? Combined with the motion in the letters? There’s a suspicious character for you. (Note: further research indicates that it’s about doing right by your employer. Huh.)

This next grouping requires a little more thought. What do these action films have in common? It’s fairly simple once you know what to look for – the action fonts all have action in them. Usually it’s just an application of italics, but sometimes they get clever, like that shattered Shattered font. That’s nice work.

And The Transporter? It’s a bit less action-oriented, but it’s also a very business-like font. Just like Jason Statham is a very business-like fellow. He’s an independent contractor, you know.

Over here we have science fiction films of a certain character (and for the most part, that character would be bad). These are clearly Fonts of the Future – look at the odd angles and shifting colors. When you see these spines, you know that things are gonna blow up.

Though there is one oddball in this group – that would be Pandorum. It’s a nice blend of Font of the Future and horror-film-red, which makes perfect sense, as it’s a horror film set IN SPACE.

Now let’s examine a few of those innocuous romantic comedies that I mentioned earlier. Look at those big, round, open, welcoming letters. They just want to give you a nice warm hug (and then marry you – not like that scoundrel Take a Hard Ride). No jarring angles, psychedelic colors, or dripping blood here. None of these movies would offend your mother. She’d probably ask them when they’re going to start giving her sequels.

To keep things on a lighthearted note (Ha!) we’ll turn our attention to a collection of musicals. These musicals are very…exuberant. Zesty, energetic, full of life and action. The titles bound across the spines like the musical numbers barely contained within. You’re bound to get an annoying upbeat tune stuck in your head for weeks after watching one of these gems.

Let’s bring your hopes crashing down to earth with this next set of DVDs – they’re all Serious Business. The letters are very bold, and there’s not a lot of space between them. The colors are clear and distinct.

Heck, three of these movies are so serious that they don’t even bother to center their titles. They’ve got way more important things on their minds. Just look at Good Night, and Good Luck. The spine’s mostly black! You can’t get much more serious than that.

But since I don’t want to bring you down too much, we’ll end with a collection of comedies. Colors, fonts, spacing, they’re all over the place! You may not think these movies are fun, but they sure think they are.

If these movies were your friends, your parents would let them sleep over but they would refuse to let them come on your family vacation. They’re just exhausting. (And Weird Science would totally trash that beachfront rental home.)

Now that you know what to look for, you too can choose movies like a pro. Have at it!

– Amy


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