Tag Archives: interlibrary loan

Unexpected Detours and the Kindness of Strangers: A 1,001 Movies Update

A funny thing happened since my last movie project update — I accidentally watched a few movies that aren’t on the official list.

After you stop laughing, you might ask yourself just how on earth I managed that. In the case of The Phantom Lover, it’s simple: I don’t speak or read Chinese.  The movie I should have been looking for was a 1937 film called Song at Midnight, but since I used the Mandarin title, Yè bàn gē shēng, in my WorldCat keyword search, and then didn’t realize there was more than one movie using that title, I accidentally requested the wrong one. What makes this doubly hilarious is that Song at Midnight is, itself, an adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s novel The Phantom of the Opera, and The Phantom Lover is one of two remakes of Song at Midnight.  Layers upon layers of textual goodness to unpack!  However, with its lavish sets and costumes, lovely singing, and Romeo and Juliet allusions, The Phantom Lover is so wonderful that I’m hard-pressed to see how Song at Midnight can compare. 

Another blunder that led to an interesting cinematic experience was mistaking George Cukor’s Camille for Gregory Mackenzie’s Camille.  Instead of a swanky retelling of a Dumas novel, I accidentally subjected myself to 90 minutes of Sienna Miller playing an undead newlywed.  It wasn’t a horrible film, but it was definitely bizarre, and a little unsettling.  After all, if your husband doesn’t fall in love with you until after you’re a slowly rotting corpse, your relationship has issues that probably can’t be satisfactorily resolved in a 90-minute movie.  If only I had read the descriptive essay from the book before I checked out the wrong film!  On the bright side, David Carradine’s supporting role as a sad, philosophical cowboy made the movie a little more pleasant to watch, if still a bit puzzling. (Multi-colored horses?  Really?)

On the even brighter side, getting my hands on the right movies most of the time has been a snap thanks to the wonderful staff in the Film and Audio Department and a number of libraries elsewhere in the country who graciously sent me their films via interlibrary loan.  Not every library can buy every item its patrons want, for a variety of reasons, so it’s great that so many libraries are willing to share their collections, often for no charge.   Talk about the kindness of strangers!  And the ability to request interlibrary loans through the Carnegie Library is available to everybody with an Allegheny County library card, so don’t be shy about putting in those requests.

One incredible film that came via ILL was Karel Kachyňa’s Ucho [The Ear], a psychological nerve-bender about Ludvik, a minor Communist party official, and Anna, his grumpy wife.  The couple spends most of their tenth anniversary arguing with each other about whether or not the Communist party has bugged their house, as well as whether or not the authorities are on their way over to arrest Ludvik.  Beautifully demonstrating the principle that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you, Ludvik and Anna scramble around their house setting documents on fire, hunting for hidden microphones, and hiding precious objects in their son’s school bag, all the while taking verbal potshots at each other a la Edward Albee. Just when the tension is about to become unbearable, the conflict is resolved in a “happy” ending. And if you want to know what I mean by that, you’ll definitely have to request the film yourself, or–if you don’t mind being stapled to your computer or small-screen gadget–watch it on YouTube.

Here’s a list of the (correct!) films I watched in this round of the “1,001 Movies” project:

  1. Ucho [The Ear], graciously loaned by the Wellesley College library system
  2. The Cow, graciously loaned by the Old Dominion University library system
  3. The Hangover
  4. Kes
  5. The House is Black
  6. Cinema Paradiso
  7. I am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang
  8. M*A*S*H
  9. Rear Window
  10. Metropolis
  11. Network
  12. Slumdog Millionaire
  13. Badlands
  14. To Kill A Mockingbird

This brings my total movie-watching count up to a neat 220, and I’m still having a wonderful time, especially with this round’s wealth of classic films. I’m a little in love with Gregory Peck and not ashamed to admit it, either. I do wonder, however, when real life concerns and the cumulative lack of sleep are going to catch up with me.  I suppose I’ll just have to burn that bridge when I get to it.

Until next time, movie fans!

Leigh Anne

who also somehow managed to finish reading A Storm of Swords and is chomping at the bit for her turn with A Dance With Dragons

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1,001 Movies I Forgot To Watch

It recently occurred to me that when you walk around with your nose in a book all the time, you miss out on other literary and art forms.  So I’ve decided that 2012 will be a year in which I watch movies–which, from a bibliophile’s point of view, really does mean the end of the world as we know it.

But I feel fine.  Super-fine, actually, thanks to the guidance of a lovely book called 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.  Published in three editions thus far, with the most recent appearing just last year, this tiny, yet hefty, little volume could’ve been subtitled “Cinema History for Dummies.”  It contains an alphabetical checklist of the films themselves, followed by a chapter for each decade of moviemaking and a short summary of each film. Using my own quirky logic–don’t ask–I’ve watched at least one film every day in 2012 thus far, doubling and tripling up when I can.

Much to my relief, an initial review of the checklist revealed I’d actually seen 162 of the 1,o001 selections pre-project. If I’ve already watched classics like Amarcord, Jules and Jim,  and Casablanca, I can’t be a complete cultural moron, right? Fans of contemporary cinema will be happy with the editors’ more recent suggestions, such as Blade Runner, A Clockwork Orange, and Pulp Fiction. And, much to my surprise, some recent releases made the list, including The King’s Speech (seen it), Black Swan (looking forward to it) and Avatar (aw, man, do I have to?).

It’s early days, of course, but my favorite movie so far is Sidney Lumet’s classic, 12 Angry Men, which was adapted from a teleplay by Reginald Rose. A teenage boy from the wrong side of the tracks has supposedly murdered his father.  Eleven jurors are sure he’s guilty, but one man has doubts and questions about the case. The ensuing argument, in which a young Henry Fonda slowly brings the entire group around to his way of thinking, is filmed with tight, close shots, including a killer scene in which Lumet poignantly physicalizes the emotional isolation of the last man voting guilty. Watching the film made me want to round up all my friends for a long conversation about justice and the forces that can sometimes obscure it, as well as how/whether those issues are still relevant today.

Here’s a list of the films I’ve watched so far:

  1. Farewell, My Concubine
  2. Faces
  3. 12 Angry Men
  4. Sabotage
  5. Safe
  6. Kandahar
  7. A Trip to the Moon
  8. The Great Train Robbery
  9. The Birth of A Nation
  10. M
  11. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  12. Broken Blossoms
  13. 8 1/2
  14. Zero Kelvin*
  15. Project A, Part II**
  16. On the Waterfront
  17. The African Queen
  18. Aileen Wuormos: The Selling of a Serial Killer**
  19. Alice
  20. Odd Man Out
  21. Reservoir Dogs
  22. Dirty Harry
  23. Four Lions

Every single film has taught me something, either about filmmaking or cultural history.   Sitting through The Birth of a Nation and Broken Blossoms , for example, was downright painful, but getting concrete visual proof of our country’s checkered past was worth it. Each film, too, seems to have one moment that stands out as noteworthy or interesting.  Jan Svankmeijer’s Alice bored me to tears, plot-wise, but made me want to learn more about animation.  Dirty Harry left me cold, themtically, but Harry Callahan’s throwaway line, “That’ll be the day,” was a nice call-back to The Searchers, another film from the list that I watched with my dad many times as a kid.   And more recent picks like the wickedly satirical Four Lions, which is about an extremely inept group of terrorists, have convinced me that maybe I should actually pony up for the cost of a movie ticket now and again.

In fact, the only real drawback to the project is that I miss reading!  I have not entirely given up on books; when I’m not watching a film these days, I’m slowly making my way through A Storm of Swords, book three of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. I’ve also started Roberto  Bolaño’s The Third Reich, a literary novel about a board gaming enthusiast on vacation.  It’s one of those novels where not much happens, but there are sinister undertones to the action that make you feel as if something creepy could manifest at any moment.

But, at least in 2012, my heart belongs to the movies.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress as the year goes by; I’m not sure if I can actually squeeze 816 more movies into the next 347 days, but it’s definitely going to be fun trying!  Are you a movie enthusiast?  Which films would you select for the list, and which of your favorites are already on it?

Leigh Anne

who now understands the phrase “sleep is for the weak.”

*Available on Netflix streaming, coming soon to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

**Available on Netflix streaming.

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SSS

Shelf and Stack Services (SSS) personnel locate, retrieve, and reshelve library materials. Piece of cake, huh? Hardly worthy of mention, you say?  The reality is that this Department facilitates virtually every transaction between the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the patrons it serves in Pittsburgh, in Allegheny County, and frequently, across the nation.  

In 2009, SSS had a literal hand on the nearly 1 million items that made their way from library to library. Some effort was the result of filling requests made by patrons of other CLP branches or via Interlibrary Loan, by other libraries, while some stemmed from the regularly scheduled collections at book drops and at the Customer Service station.

Borrowed items which are returned to the Library are quickly reshelved to provide access to other patrons. SSS shelved 500,000 items last year, while at the same time monitoring them for broken spines, ripped pages, and similar defects in need of repair.

When one considers that only a fraction of CLP’s browsable materials reside on the three floors to which patrons have access, the contributions of SSS are apparent. The remainder of the collection—the esoteric, the specialty,  the rare, the nostalgic—are available for all through the efforts of personnel who doggedly scour niches and cubbyholes to satisfy unusual and exacting informational needs and realize the mission of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

-Gwendolyn

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Big Day in Film, Comics, Sports, Poetry, Cooking, Music, Graphic Novels, Literature etc.

So, where, oh, where, do all these ideas for blog posts come from anyway, you might ask?

Well, when you work for an institution that nominally acts as a portal of all human knowledge, how hard can it really be? I thought I might talk about what I’m reading currently, a volume of poetry and travel writings by the Japanese master poet, Basho, or the graphic novel V for Vendetta by the modern master of the (comic) universe, Alan Moore, or an obscure volume of gothic short stories by the Welsh master of the macabre, Arthur Machen. But since I haven’t finished any of those (grist for future posts!), I thought I’d take a look-see if there has been anything notable about today, August 25th, historically speaking. And indeed there is. So without any further muss, fuss or babble, here’s a list of things we can celebrate today via materials in the library’s rich treasure trove of goods:

  • Birthday of American short story impresario, Bret Harte
  • 95th birthday anniversary of Pogo creator and satirist, Walt Kelly

So, if you are suffering from blogger’s dilemma (aka what will I post about today), how exactly do you find all this stuff out? In the spirit of disclosure (although running directly counter to one of the Wizard of Oz’s most remembered lines, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!“), you simply go to or call your local library and ask for the annual Chase’s Calendar of Events, an encyclopedia size tome listing all of the above (and much, much more) for every single day of the year.

Don

PS If you want that obscure volume by Arthur Machen, interlibrary loan is the way to go.

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Mingus, Mingus, Mingus!

Charles Mingus is one of a handful of the most important jazz composers of the 20th century.  He  was a giant of jazz, an innovator whose music blends classical, bop, and free jazz to create something else again.  In addition, in the volatile time that he lived, he was an unapologetic advocate of civil rights in the United States. 

Today we celebrate the anniversary of his birth, April 22, 1922.

Two distinctive documentaries have been made of his life: Mingus: Charlie  Mingus, 1968 and Charles Mingus: Triumph of the Underdog.  The former is currently out of print, but was issued in both VHS and DVD formats (maybe you’d like to try to interlibrary loan it). Shown by many PBS stations across the country, Mingus 1968 chronicles a harrowing eviction  from his East Village apartment, during a particularly troubling period of his life, as well as some perfomance highlights.  Some of this footage was used in the later Triumph video, which presents a good, balanced view of his career with some fine performance footage.  If you’re jonesing for a more complete live performance on DVD, check out  Charlie Mingus: Live in ’64 (with the incomparable Eric Dolphy) for concerts in Belgium, Norway, and Sweden.

Mingus was no stranger to the written word: his Beneath the Underdog: His World as Composed by Mingus is an excellent autobiography, well worth the read.  Also on the personal level, there is Sue Graham Mingus’s Tonight at Noon: a Love Story by wife and keeper of his legacy.  For perhaps more objective points of view, there are Myself When I am Real: the Life and Music of Charles Mingus by Gene Santoro (2000), Mingus/Mingus: Two Memoirs by Janet Coleman and Al Young (1989), and Mingus, A Critical Biography by Brian Priestly (1982).

Ultimately, it is the music that matters; there is plenty to be had in library collections throughout the county and more performances seem to be discovered every year.   In the last year and a half, three excellent concerts have been released: Charles Mingus in Paris: October 1970, the Complete American Session, Cornell 1964  (perhaps his finest live set ever) and Music written for Monterey, 1965: not heard – played in its entirely at UCLA, September 25th, 1965Music written for Monterey was originally issued on vinyl on Mingus’s own label, one of the first independent releases of its kind and a precursor of today’s thriving indie music movement.  The breadth and depth of Charles Mingus the man and Charles Mingus the musician are immeasurable; in an era of giants, such as John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis, Mingus stood very tall, indeed. 

And, oh, yeah, let’s not forget Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus: “Better get hit in yo’ soul!”

– Don

 

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