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Oscars Preview Day 4

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Our last day of Oscar previews include two of the three biopics nominated for Best Picture this year, The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything (Selma is the third, reviewed here).

The Imitation Game

The Imitation GameImiation Game Cover was a critical and commercial success with nominations in 8 categories of the 87th Academy Awards.

This biopic film portrays a part of the life of Alan Turing, the mathematician who along with a select cryptography team (that eventually became literally thousands of people) were able to decrypt the Nazi Enigma Machine.  The Enigma Machine gave the Nazis a decided advantage over the Allies during the first half of WWII. Although Turing was known to be difficult to work with, the film chooses to look at Turing through a psycho/social lens showing his challenges as though he had challenges like folks who we today have identified as being on the autism spectrum.

In the 1950s, Turing is convicted of indecency (homosexuality); in lieu of a jail sentence, he undergoes chemical castration so he can continue his work. Film female team member during the Enigma years, Clark, visits him in his home and witnesses his physical and mental deterioration. She reminds him that his work saved lives. She uses the phrase Christopher used of Turing and Turing once used of her: “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”

I personally enjoyed the film, firstly because I respect Cumberbatch as an actor and also respect folks who have remarkable skills and talents that set them apart from the masses — even though they may have had to struggle against tremendous odds to become “successful.”  I also appreciate when a film attempts to create the context or social norms of a particular era in the life of a particular person, Turing, in this case. Whether “true” in facts of his life or details of his time as his work influenced the war’s ending years, the film is creditable to the WWII perspective of the Allies.  The film was great on the “big screen”; I will definitely watch the DVD too. I hope the DVD includes additional footage of the subject (Turing) as well as impressions of the actors or makers of the film.  I would definitely recommend this movie!

— Laura from KDL’s Plainfield Township Branch

The Theory of Everything

The Theory of EverythingBased on the autobiography of Stephen Hawking’s first wife Jane Hawking, The Theory of Everything tells the story of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and Jane — their relationship together and how that changed over time.

Truth be told, it is hard for biopics to work. Occasionally, the movie’s perspective can be too broad or the actresses/actors are not up for playing a part that has physical as well as emotional peaks and valleys. Thankfully, The Theory of Everything falls into neither of those traps. The movie covers Jane and Stephen’s meet-cute and subsequent courtship, which is endearing, and shows Stephen as more than a man of science. As the audience member though, it is hard not to see the relationship evolve and unfold without having part of your mind on the future and the awful reality that awaits Stephen. When the bombshell finally comes, the resolve that is shown by both characters makes the movie come alive.

Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking throughout and not enough can be said about his performance. He gives real emotion and depth to the character despite what seems, at times, an uneven screenplay. His counterpart, Felicity Jones, also gives a fantastic performance as Stephen’s loving wife, gracefully displaying the emotional and physical requirement Stephen’s care requires.

— Aaron from KDL’s Service Center

 


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Oscars Preview Day 3

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Today we will look at two of the more controversial movies in the Best Picture category. David (our classic movie connoisseur) looks at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s biopic Selma, and Sara (YouTube sensation!) discusses the emotional gravity of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper.

Selma

SelmaSelma Cover is the first major motion picture made about Dr. King and the work he did. Given that, and the fact of King’s status in the history of this country, one should pay attention. But when it comes to the Oscars, there is more to this than King’s status as a leader against racism. The movie itself is a moving and honest portrayal of both a time — the 1960s — a movement — civil rights — and a man. The virtues (and the flaws) of these various elements are shown, though it’s always clear which side history is on, especially from the perspective of 50 years on.  Some have complained that some of the details, historically speaking, are wrong; as a non-historian, I can’t make judgments on that, other than to point out it is a movie and not a documentary. One can always hope that a movie of this kind will send audiences to their history books. Finally, the acting is wonderful, the irony being that three of the major roles are played by British actors. But never fear: they convince us.

— David from KDL’s Plainfield Township Branch

American Sniper

American SniperAmerican Sniper Cover, an Oscar Nominee in six categories, is breaking every record! In just its first three weeks of nation-wide release, it eclipsed Saving Private Ryan to become the biggest war-themed film of all time and topped $250 million in sales by the close of Super Bowl weekend! This unprecedented feat explains why it is in the running for the Oscar’s Best Motion Picture of the Year award. Clint Eastwood has already won 2015 Best Director for Sniper from the National Board of Review, and star Bradley Cooper was named the 2015 Critic’s Choice Award for Best Actor in an Action Movie. Cooper is also an Oscar nominee for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.

We librarians love to see a book-to-movie well received by the public, especially when the book, American Sniper: the Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, is powerful enough to capture the attention of even the most reluctant reader. The seamless portrayal of the book’s storyline makes the film an obvious contender for Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as for the Achievement in Film Editing award. Eastwood and Cooper went to extremes to conceptualize and properly portray the life and experience of Chris Kyle, his men and his family in this film. Viewers are given a glimpse into the turmoil and conflict American soldiers struggle with, as devotion to family and dedication to greater service often pull them to extremes, mentally and emotionally.

As powerful as the visuals are, it may be the Achievement in Sound Editing and Achievement in Sound Mixing awards that truly give credence to the absolute impact of this film. Many theaters showing Sniper have literally been packed to capacity — not one open seat. Yet, you will not hear a sound from the audience. From the start, viewers feel they are part of the action, caught up in the conflict and intensity unfolding before them, and the audio serves to amplify the emotion of each moment. Viewers are left stunned at the conclusion, trickling out of the theater deep in thought, conscientious of the sacrifices made by our veterans, and hopefully, more aware of the struggles many are facing today.

Whether or not American Sniper is proclaimed a winner in any of the six Oscar categories remains to be seen, but it has definitely been proclaimed a winner by the American public!

— Sara from KDL’s Nelson Township / Sand Lake Branch


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Oscars Preview Day 2

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Yesterday Julia and Jennifer gave their pitch for Boyhood and Birdman, respectively.  Today Marlys discusses the marvelous The Grand Budapest Hotel directed by the unique Wes Anderson and I give some love to the drum madness that is Whiplash.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Grand Budapest Hotel CoverA luxurious, if decaying hotel located in the mountains of Eastern Europe. A cast of quirky but endearing characters. A stolen painting. A frame-up for murder and an improbable jailbreak. Add magnificent scenery and an all-star cast (Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton & Owen Wilson – among others), and you have SOME of the reasons why The Grand Budapest Hotel garnered nine –count ‘em – Oscar nominations.

The story is told in flashbacks by The Author (Tom Wilkinson / Jude Law). It recounts the career of the illustrious M. Gustave H., concierge extraordinaire, and the lobby boy Zero (zero education, zero experience, zero family) whom he takes under his wing & trains as his protégé. When M. Gustave is framed for the murder of one of the hotel’s wealthy guests, Zero (along with several fellow prisoners) undertakes to rescue him and assist in clearing his name. There are villains and heroes, car chases and alpine ski chases, young love and old rivalries… pretty much everything a good movie needs.

The Grand Budapest Hotel was written & directed by Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, Fantastic Mr. Fox) If you liked those films, or others like them, you’ll LOVE this one.

— Marlys from the Wyoming Branch

Whiplash

Whiplash If I tried tell you in ten seconds what Whiplash is about, chances are you would shrug your shoulders with indifference and wonder how that could possibly be interesting. But somehow Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons make it more than interesting; they make it exhilarating and exhausting.

Whiplash (in more than ten seconds, to make it interesting) is about a drummer, Andrewy Neyman, who is enrolled in a very prestigious music school and gets mentored by an infamous drumming professor played by J.K. Simmons (pretty much a lock for Best Supporting Actor). The teaching style used by Simmons’ character can loosely be described as “old school” (putting it nicely). Not averse to playing mind games with his students or throwing cymbals at them, he believes that pushing his students is the best way to get them to achieve their true potential. He even mentions that the two most dangerous words in the English language are “good job.” In a world where every child gets a participation award, Whiplash wants to challenge what makes someone great and what is the best way to get there.

— Aaron at the KDL Service Center

 


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2015 Oscar Preview

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Here at Kent District Library we are passionate about movies… like, really passionate. We love absolutely everything about movies, from their plot twists to great acting and unforgettable romances. Librarians are also (if you didn’t know) very competitive and want our favorite movies to be recognized and win awards. Even though we might not be able to convince the Academy (who decides on the Oscar winners) who should win the Best Picture award, we want to convince you. So over the next few days employees from KDL will give their take on why their favorite Best Picture nomination deserves to win the Oscar. If you have anything to add or maybe just disagree, please let us know in the comments section!

Today Julia reflects on the authenticity of Boyhood, and Jennifer marvels at the acting and sheer madness of Birdman.

Boyhood

Unprecedented in scale, Boyhood was an ambitious project that began filming in 2002 and wrapped in 2014 — 12 years later. The film depicts a boy growing up in Texas, his single mother, his sister and his sporadically involved father. Watching Boyhood, we watch real people grow and change on the screen, without CGI or prosthetics. Shooting across a span of over a decade was a risk upon which the success of the film relied: Boyhood needed the authenticity of a cast that grew both physically and cognitively to create a story that truly reflected what it is to grow up. That risk paid off. Boyhood is an epic that reflects back a piece of our own humanity in the passage of time.

— Julia from the KDL Service Center

Birdman

BirdmanBirdman Cover is the kind of movie that you need to talk about after you leave the theater. You’re confused and inspired and overwhelmed by what you’ve just seen, and you just need to sit down and dissect it all with a friend. That’s why Birdman deserves to win best picture, because it rattles you to your core, and if you’re paying attention you’ll have enough fodder for hours of conversation and reflection afterward.

Michael Keaton stars in this story of a washed-up action movie actor named Riggan (not unlike Michael Keaton’s real career), who’s trying to redeem his career by writing, directing and starring in his own Broadway play based on an adaptation of a story by Raymond Carver. Riggan is broke and overworked, and his alter ego, Birdman, haunts him with what might have been had he sold out and made another Hollywood action movie. Is he an artist or is he a celebrity? What will his legacy be?

Not only does this film deliver the most top-notch acting performances I’ve seen all year from not just Michael Keaton but Edward Norton, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts, but it’s filmed in a way you’ve never seen. The camera follows the actors over their shoulders through the old winding corridors of the theater and you feel like you’re actually there. The film’s director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, takes his time with long, single camera shots and perfectly choreographed entrances and exits from the extras and the main characters, certainly no easy way to film. This style of camera work, with the scenes melding into one another and the sights and sounds all around you, makes the viewer really internalize the stressful atmosphere in a Broadway theater a few nights before the play opens, and the intense strain our main character, Riggan, is under. I won’t give away the ending, but I’ll just say it involves a loaded gun onstage on opening night and a profound ending that will make you wonder, “What the heck just happened?”

— Jennifer from KDL’s Caledonia Twp. Branch

 


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2015 Oscar Nominations

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

oscar.jpgThe 2015 Oscar nominations have finally been announced and to the surprise of nobody here at KDL, there are quite a few nominations based on books.  In fact, six of the eight best picture nominations are either based on books or are book related:

The two other best picture nominations are Boyhood and Selma.

What did you think of the best picture nominations?  Which movies were snubbed?

Click here for a listing of all of the Oscar nominations.

 


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Golden Globes!

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Wow, what a night!  Last night we welcomed Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Hollywood into our homes as the Golden Globes took center stage and ushered us into one of the great American seasons… award season!  Per usual, Tina and Amy absolutely killed it for maybe a final time, there were surprises like The Grand Budapest Hotel winning best comedy or musical, and we learned that Benedict Cumberbatch has mad hops (see photobombing gif below).

Photobomb

Here are some highlights worth mentioning…

The Grand Budapest Hotel won for best comedy or musical

Prince was there (and was awesome) and Allison Janney got really excited.

Boyhood won best drama

Eddie Redmayne won for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything

J.K. Simmons won best supporting actor for his amazing performance as a drumming instructor in the breathtaking drama Whiplash.

For a complete listing of winners and nominees click here.

 


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Sneaky Good Binge Watch

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Top of the Lake Spring Break is finally here, hooray!  Typically Spring Break can be spent outside frolicking and enjoying the nice spring weather.  Unfortunately, as we all are aware, we live in Michigan and that might not be an option this year thanks to Mother Nature.  Which means it is perfect time to stay indoors, put your feet up, relax, and binge watch something from your friendly KDL branch.  You could catch-up on shows that have run their course like Breaking Bad or The Sopranos.  Or if you want to be in the loop for shows that are nearing their finale, Mad Men or Californication would be excellent choices.  But if you want something sneaky good that didn’t get much hype, I would highly recommend Top of the Lake.

Top of the Lake is a show filmed and set in beautiful New Zealand and follows a detective who is investigating the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl.  The detective is played by Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss (who was nominated for an Emmy) and gives a truly outstanding performance as a very strong female lead in an environment dominated by male testosterone.  The series explores many themes throughout and takes great care to develop each character within their own experience.  The series is very unexpected and thankfully stays far away from the cliches of police procedurals found too often on TV.  Top of the Lake is a great show you will be sad ends after only six superb episodes.

 


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Baseball at KDL

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

It’s hard to believe with all the snow on the ground and frigid temperatures that it is almost time to kickoff baseball season.  Exciting indeed!  Even though Spring Training starts at the end  of February and opening day isn’t until April 1, there is a lot of preparation that should go into the new season and KDL is here ready to help you in your preparation.

We have a wide array of books for kids who are just getting started with the game and are interested in its history, including fabulous books on the Negro Leagues such as We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball.  You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! and You Never Heard of Willie Mayes?! are exceptional biographies about two of the best who ever played. We also have biographies on current players such as Miguel CabreraJustin Verlander or Bryce Harper.

If you are looking for something a bit more in-depth about advanced stats, we have the modern classic Moneyball as well as others such as The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First or Hot Stove Economics: Understanding Baseball’s Second Season.

These and many more baseball books and DVDs are available at all of the KDL branches.  Baseball books are Guys Read Approved!

Moneyball  Baseball    Miguel Cabrera   The Extra 2%

 


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What to Binge-Watch over the Holidays

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

The holidays are wonderful; I would argue they’re the best time of the year. With all the junk food consumed and cheesy music played, how is it possible not to fall in love with sugar comas or the nagging (and wonderful!) songs stuck in your head all month? For me, the best part is having an excuse to sit in front of the TV with loads of leftovers and desserts and finally binge-watching TV series I’ve have been dying to catch-up on. No need to worry about the at-home selection because KDL has us all covered. Try some of these titles that are available at your local branch:

 

MAD MEN - SEASON 1Mad MenAMC’s award-winning series is coming to a close after the upcoming seventh season and now is a great time to start watching if you haven’t already. Based in New York City during the ‘Golden Age’ of advertising, Mad Men follows advertising executive Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) as he creates slogans and lies in the changing and turbulent times of the 1960s. If you can’t get enough of bad-boy Don and his complexities, check out Brett Martin’s excellent book about the new antihero in television, Difficult Men.

 

 

UNDER THE DOMEUnder the DomeBased on Stephen King’s bestselling novel of the same name, Under the Dome premiered almost as event programming during the summer and did exceptionally well, ratings wise.  Taking place in Maine (like almost all of King’s novels), Under the Dome tells the story of what happens to a town when it’s completely cut off from the outside world and the citizens are forced to fend for themselves. If it sounds like the plot from The Simpsons Movie, you are exactly right.

 

 

HOUSE OF CARDS: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASONHouse of Cards Loosely based on a BBC series of the same name, House of Cards originally premiered on Netflix as part of their new original programming push. Kevin Spacey stars as a corrupt congressman whose greatest asset is his ability to manipulate and blackmail. His ruthless tactics gain him more and more power in Washington but as the first season ends (*spoiler alert*), his empire might be about to start crumbling around him.

 

 

 

BATES MOTEL: SEASON 1Bates MotelConceived as a prequel for the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock classic, Psycho, Bates Motel follows Norman Bates from his beginnings of moving into and owning the Bates Motel with his mother.  Considering audiences know how Norman will end up as an adult, it is interesting to see how the character evolves and what factors play into his ultimate psychotic behavior. An obvious play is the relationship between Norman and his mother, which was complicated (putting it lightly).

 

 

GOOD WIFE, THE - THE FIRST SEASONThe Good WifeA fast-paced legal thriller (in and out of the courtroom) set in the Second City. The Good Wife follows a lawyer forced to go back to work after her husband was caught in a very public scandal. Each episode can stand alone, but you won’t want to miss the overarching storyline that makes the show a perfect candidate for binge watching.

 

 

 


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The League!

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

As the NFL season heads into the final quarter of its 2013 season, there is a good possibility your fantasy football season is over. Unless you are the lucky few whose roster wasn’t stricken by injury or bad luck, you are probably facing a consolation playoff or four weeks of football with no fantasy, a bleak few weeks to be sure. But fear not, when the rest of your league is enjoying the playoffs (who wants to play in the playoffs anyway… right?) you could be reveling in your fantasy shortcomings by enjoying the silly shenanigans of the guys and gals of the outrageous and raunchy FX TV show, The League.

If you think the players in your league were a bit off-kilter, wait until you meet these gems. Willing to get divorced in order to make the fantasy draft or even hosting the draft in the delivery room so the mother-to-be can make her first round pick (and not have her husband screw it up), these characters are unforgettable, and will make the personalities in your league seem a bit more… normal. So, forget your fantasy failures and check out The League, the TV series I am personally calling the funniest on TV!

LEAGUE, THE SEASON 1  LEAGUE, THE SEASON 2  LEAGUE, THE SEASON 3  LEAGUE, THE SEASON 4

 


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