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What We’re Reading & Watching

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

We asked Ana Banu, a student who works in Bailey/Howe Library, to share some of her favorite books and movies from our collection and she delivered an eclectic mix of film, fashion, fiction, and art. Get them while they’re hot!

Here are her recommendations:

Yves Saint Laurent by Jéromine Savignon and Bernard Blistène

YSL is a brilliant fashion designer, although I could just call him a brilliant artist, without any further ado. He is also an inspiring individual not only for people who are intrigued by fashion. This book talks about his life in almost an intimate manner and presents it from different points of view, including his and the peoples who he worked with. You get to learn about his ways and also see how a character can become lovable through his actions, creations and way of living, right in front of your eyes. YSL dedicated his life to making women, and later on men, feel comfortable, powerful and stylish.

Zen in the art of archery by Eugen Herrigel

This book is one the shortest books, yet helpful and insightful, I’ve ever read. It is about Zen and it is about Archery. It is also about how the two go together in creating an awareness of the moment that is beyond words. Things, in general and in particular, begin appearing a lot simpler and natural after taking in what Eugene Herrigel says. And the way he says is accessible enough to keep you going.

Camera lucida : reflections on photography by Roland Barthes

This is one other short(er) book, but so intense and powerful that every paragraph could be developed into pages. In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes talks about his own system of viewing and interpreting photography, beauty, history. It is both playful and academic and it explains things that are not easily explained, like why we get emotionally involved when looking at a photograph.

L’ećume des jours (translation: Froth of the Daydream) by Boris Vian

L’ećume des jours is a novel for the French speakers, only because it is in French, not because the story wouldn’t survive a broader audience. I, personally, read it in a different language and loved it. The images described in the book are so powerful and visual that they transcend language. Reading it in French might add some nuances to the strange and creative ways of telling Colin and Chloe’s story.

Malcolm X – Directed by Spike Lee

Based on The autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X is a movie directed by Spike Lee. It truly embodies both historical accuracies and the director’s admiration for the person that Malcolm X was. The story is brought to life by Denzel Washington, Spike Lee’s fetish actor, and probably the best choice for playing this character.

Bubba Ho-tep

I postponed watching this movie, because it seemed to have that silly and distasteful air some movies have. But it is not distasteful, nor silly. It is the story of an old “Elvis”, who may or may not be the Real Elvis, and a black old man (Ossie Davis) who thinks he is JFK, in fighting an Egyptian mummy trying to steal some souls. And as “Elvis” says: Ask not what your rest home can do for you. Ask what you can do for your rest home.

What We’re Watching

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

The Third Man DVD cover

Here’s a selection of Elect Resource and Serials Access Coordinator Shawn Biegen’s favorite narrative films. Shawn says, “In order to avoid my legal responsibility, as a former film student, to list Citizen Kane, The Godfather and Casablanca in any top film list, the following is a completely random selection of five films that I enjoy…”

The Third Man (1949)

While investigating the suspicious death of his childhood friend, an American pulp novelist becomes entangled in the seedy underworld of post-war Europe. The fact that this film was largely shot on location in the ruins of war-ravaged Vienna, gives it a haunting quality unique even among the best film noirs. Add to this Graham Greene’s screenplay, Carol Reed’s directing, and the acting of Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles, and you have as close to a perfect film as there is.

Watch the trailer for The Third Man:

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Relates the sordid life of its title character, an 18th century rogue intent on ascending to the peak of 18th century European society by any means necessary. This is my personal favorite out of all of Stanley Kubrick’s films. However, be forewarned that it is definitely a heavyweight, at a full 185 minutes long. So set aside an entire evening, and enjoy.

Watch the trailer for Barry Lyndon:

Brazil – 1985

Follows the life of a mid-level bureaucrat within an absurdly Orwellian society, as he becomes increasingly compromised by his search for a mysterious woman that haunts his dreams. There are actually two versions of this film available in our collection, as this film was famously taken away from its director, Terry Gilliam, and re-edited by the film’s concerned financiers. I strongly recommend watching the director’s cut.

Watch the trailer for Brazil:

The Prestige – 2006

Two rival late 19th century magicians, with a tragic personal connection, vie with each other to create the world’s most astonishing illusion in an era when scientific innovation makes anything seem possible. This excellent film was the victim of unfortunate timing, as it came out virtually simultaneously with The Illusionist, which proved to be too much magic for the general public, and split these films’ modest target audience in half.

Watch the trailer for The Prestige:

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – 2007

This is a film I recommend very cautiously, for the following reason. I really like westerns. Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn’t make westerns anymore because apparently nobody else goes to see them. If by some miracle a western is released, I will happily sit in my seat devouring my popcorn long after the two other people in the theater have left in disgust. So, it is possible that my bias may have blinded me to the fact that this film is truly bad. With that being said, I consider this film a flawed masterpiece that inverts the clichés of its genre by examining the consequences of the celebrity status attained by western icons like Jesse James, as well as the glorification of violence often associated with their fame. I am unbiased enough to concede that the film’s often rambling narrative should have been tightened up considerably, but I think it’s still well worth seeing. At the very least, please consider watching this film (or the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, Open Range, etc.) as an altruistic act, to help save the western genre from total extinction.

Watch the trailer for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford:

What We’re Reading (and Watching)

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Library Associate Professor Linda Brew is a Reference and Instruction Librarian who serves as a subject liaison to departments of Communication Sciences, Education, Integrated Professional Studies, Psychology, and Social Work. She shares some of her recent favorites books and DVDs from the Bailey/Howe collection.

Destiny Disrupted book cover

Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Muslim Eye by Tamim Ansary
If you’ve ever longed to be able to sit down with a thoughtful, articulate, patient Muslim to discuss the state of the world and how we got here – this is the book for you. Ansary takes the reader from the birth of Mohammed and Islam to 2001, and he does it so clearly that even someone with no background in the subject at all can follow the thread. He’s a storyteller with experience as a textbook writer, and his obvious passion for the subject makes this book a page-turner right from the start. Highly recommended.

Hear Tamim Ansary read an excerpt from his memoir West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story.

Unpacking the Bozes

Unpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in Poetry by Donald Hall
Hall is a well known New Hampshire poet with many books and honors, including Poet Laureate of the United States (2006-2007), to his credit. In this volume, he “unpacks,” shares and considers his memories — the combination of an elderly man’s idiosyncratic recollections with a poet’s sense of language is distinctive and moving. And what a life — he took classes at Harvard with John Ciardi and Archibald MacLeish, rejected Allen Ginsberg’s work for the Paris Review, taught during the 1960’s at Ann Arbor. I’ve studied gerontology from the traditional viewpoints of sociology, psychology and biology — Hall’s work is a poetic lens on what he calls “the thin air of antiquity’s planet.”

Watch Hall’s 2007 poetry reading at the University of Virginia.

The Closers book cover

The Closers by Michael Connelly
Connelly, a former crime reporter in Los Angeles, writes fast-paced gritty detective novels featuring an ensemble cast who appear and reappear in each others’ stories. I’m particularly fond of Harry Bosch, his updated version of the classic hard-boiled, heavy-drinking LA investigator with a hidden vein of idealism that keeps him on the job. Harry’s motto is “Everybody counts or nobody counts.” He will investigate the deaths of society’s lost souls with the same attention he gives to the rich and famous — even when his supervisors tell him to lay off. Great summer reading (is this summer?).

Watch Michael Connelly give a video tour of some the locations featured in The Closers:

Chinese Bpx DVD cover

The Chinese Box (DVD) directed by Wayne Wang
This movie traces events in the the lives of several characters in Hong Kong during the transition year, 1997. John (Jeremy Irons) is an expat journalist from Britain, in love with Vivian (Gong Li), a bar manager from mainland China. John documents life on the streets with a video camera and becomes involved with a young Chinese woman named Jean (Maggie Cheung) who tells conflicting tales about her scarred face. Images, stories, truths and lies – all interwoven like the complex history of the great city itself. I visited Hong Kong in 2007 and this portrait feels vividly accurate to me.

Watch the trailer for Chinese Box:

What We’re Watching

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Government Documents staff member Sharon Thayer loves documentaries. She shares a list of her top ten favorites available on DVD at Bailey/Howe Library (in alphabetical order, no less).

She says, “Working here, we are so fortunate to have a fantastic collection pretty much at our disposal in the Media Resources Department.”

Devil's Playground DVD cover
Devil’s Playground (DVD 3141)
A look a Amish teens during their often wild “rumspringa” free time before they decide whether or not to formally join their church.

Helvetica DVD cover
Helvetica (DVD 5684)
Yes I know, the story of a typeface sounds ultra boring, but it is anything but – it’s a fascinating exploration of the first arguably modern global font used to label much of our Western world, and also an amusing glimpse into the sometimes eccentric and opinionated world view of graphic designers.

I Like Killing Flies DVD cover
I Like Killing Flies (DVD 6023)
A very NY story of the cranky oddball owner/chef of a café in Greenwich Village and a slice of life now almost lost in today’s slicker, more homogeneous city.

Mad Hot Ballroom DVD cover
Mad Hot Ballroom (DVD 3846)
A city-wide school competition, with 5th grade kids from different socio-economic classes learning and vying for victory in the unlikely arena of ballroom dancing. The kids are charming, funny and real, and their teachers’ interest and dedication is a wonderful thing to witness.

Man On Wire DVD cover
Man on Wire (DVD 6204)
A portrait of Philippe Petit and his amazing tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers in 1974 – told as if it were a crime caper, and even though you know the outcome, you are on the edge of your seat.

Spellbound (DVD 2746)
Another school-aged competition, follows 8 teens from disparate backgrounds/motivations as they compete at the annual National Spelling Bee – surprisingly tense and exciting as the field narrows.

Stolen DVD cover
Stolen (DVD 4111)
The story of the still unsolved 1990 art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Art historians, fine art detectives, the IRA and the Boston Mob all figure in this mystery.

Surfwise DVD cover
Surfwise (DVD 5786)
The powerful, disturbing story of a hippie surfer family with 9 kids and a charismatic and overwhelming father.

The Up Series DVD cover
The Up Series (DVD 3291 plus DVD 2509)
A classic British film study following the lives of 14 people from different backgrounds and experiences checking in every seven years from the age of 7 on “up”. The first was done in 1964, the latest, 49 Up, was released in 2005.

Winged Migration DVD cover
Winged Migration (DVD 2705)
The beautiful, moving, almost silent film of what birds go through on their migrations – filmed over many years from hot air balloons and gliders on all seven continents giving one gorgeous vistas of the earth and the sense of being in flight right along with the birds.