From: Jackie Cantwell
Title: A good year [videorecording DVD]
This is a true romantic comedy. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a movie that just made me smile, and feel good. This movie was released in 2006. I’ve seen Russell Crowe in so many dramas, so it is a revelation to see him as a romantic lead. He plays a stock broker, Max Skinner, in London, who inherits his uncle’s vineyard in Provence. Max is a big shot who lives and breathes his work. He goes to the vineyard with the intent to sell it. Will he cash in, or does life on the estate agree with him? There are terrific comedic turns by Archie Panjabi and Tom Hollander, who play Max’s assistant and best friend, respectively. Didier Bourdon and Isabelle Candelier play Monsieur and Madame Duflot, the caretakers of the property. Mr. Duflot is so attached to the vineyard that he refers to it as “my vines” while his sensuous wife cooks and cleans with flair. Marion Cotillard is (to quote Max) “a vision”; I imagine the audience falling in love with her. Most audiences would find this film inoffensive as there is no violence and no graphic sexual content. This film is a tad predictable but in no way does that detract from its charm.
From Ellen Druda
Author: Rod Freedman
Title: Wrong side of the bus [videorecording DVD]
Sidney Bloch, an accomplished Australian professor of psychiatry, tries to resolve his guilt about his compliance with apartheid growing up in South Africa while on a trip back home to Cape Town. Bloch’s son Aaron tags along, serving as the film’s narrator and chief questioner over his father’s true feelings and motivations. As Sidney visits old haunts, friends, and neighbors, he talks about growing up Jewish in a racist society, his anger over what seemed clearly morally wrong, and his painful realization that he did nothing of substance to protest. Bloch asks for forgiveness from those who suffered: his aged mother’s black nurse, a white man who led protests and lost an arm and an eye as a result, university schoolmates who were discriminated against, and, finally, a former prisoner who was jailed in the same place as Nelson Mandela. It is this prisoner, now the jail’s tour guide, who gives Bloch the key to release his guilt in the film’s moving resolution. Wrong Side of the Bus asks big questions within the framework of one man’s journey.
From Ellen Druda
Author: J. Patrick McNamara
Title: The craft of film acting [videorecording DVD]
You don’t know how they do it, but you know it when you see it. Great film acting takes talent but it also needs practical skills. Professional actor McNamara walks us through 13 “scenes” in lecture format, covering everything from the audition and callback to matching shots, finding your mark, shooting the master and coverage, recording sound and translating director-speak. His emphasis is on the craft, not the art, and he uses entertaining anecdotes and examples (some of them from his movies) to make his points. Students will be armed with the real-life, useful knowledge needed to handle the demanding days and last-minute calls in this competitive field. You’ll never watch movies the same way again.
From Ellen Druda
Author: Jennifer Gargano
Title: 8:46 [videorecording DVD] : never forget
There are no surprises in a film about September 11th. We all know how it’s going to end. Filmmaker Jennifer Gargano imagines stories about some people caught in the event: the victims and their families, workmates, friends and lovers, and what was happening in their lives that day. The characters are fictional but possible amalgamations of stereotypes based on many real lives. The film spends most of the time leading up to the attacks in order for us to get to know the individuals. When the planes hit the buildings, we see the panic and heroics of these everyday people from inside the towers and those in the immediate area. Ms. Gargano has created a heartfelt, if a little clichéd, tribute to the casualties and heroes of 9/11, with a portion of the proceeds going to Tuesday’s Children, a charity for those impacted by the events.
From Ginny Pisciotta
Author: Darren Wilson
Title: Holy ghost [videorecording DVD]
Filmmaker Darren Wilson (Finger of God, Father of Lights, Furious Love) challenged himself to film a documentary totally led by the Holy Spirit. Without a plan or script, he went wherever he felt the Holy Spirit lead him. He travels to Salt Lake City, Monte Carlo, a Korn concert and Varanasi, India where a Hindu high priest allows Christian musician Jake Hamilton to sing and play his guitar inside a temple.
Wilson films the love of God reaching out to diverse people in diverse places in diverse ways. Holy Ghost was an excellent and inspiring film. I am looking forward to his next film.
From Ellen Druda
Author: Nancy Buirski
Title: The loving story [videorecording DVD]
On the surface, The Loving Story is simply about Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial couple in the 1960’s, and their struggles in the Jim Crow South. Filmmaker Nancy Buirski has put together an amazing compilation of interviews and unearthed archival footage that brings us beyond the news coverage at the time of the Loving’s legal fight to be together wherever they chose to live, and into the personal revelations of the parties involved. We hear from their lawyers, both at the time of the Supreme Court ruling and now, looking back. The Loving’s children, neighbors, friends, and extended family are also seen both then and now. What emerges is the story of a couple, ordinary people just asking to live like ordinary people do. The civil rights struggle is the heart of the film, and although it focuses on the case of the Lovings in the 1960’s, the fight is still relevant today.
From Ellen Druda
Author: Philip Shane
Title: Being Elmo. A puppeteer’s journey [videorecording DVD]
This is the story of Kevin Clash, who grew up genetically disposed to a future as a puppeteer. As a child on the poor side of Baltimore, he was an avid watcher of Captain Kangaroo and Disney, and when Sesame Street rolled out, his desire to escape to magical places found its means through puppet creation like those he saw on TV. Cutting up his father’s fur coat, he fashioned his first puppet, and from then on there was no stopping him. He researched and practiced, eventually making enough puppets to fill his parents’ house, doing shows for the neighborhood kids, which eventually lead to a regular spot on a local television show. From there, it was a logical and fast progression to network TV, then movies, until he finally got to work for his hero, Jim Henson. Once he was part of Sesame Street, he found Elmo, and suddenly, there was a magical connection. Kevin’s inner child and years of apprenticeship made Elmo a star. But being a celebrity took its toll on Kevin’s personal life as he committed to more and more travel and time in character, losing connection with his wife and daughter. He’s come to a balance now, between the demands of Elmo and the other forces in his life, but for one man, being Elmo comes a bit easier than being Kevin.
From: Ellen Druda
Author: Seán Ó Cualáin
Title: Men at lunch [videorecording DVD] : the untold story of a city’s legend
You’ve seen the photograph: men sitting atop a steel construction beam, casually enjoying a lunch and cigarette break, boots dangling in the air with New York City hundreds of feet below. I can’t even look at it without lurching into vertigo. This documentary tells the story of the photograph – how it might have been taken, who the mystery photographer was, and attempts to identify the men in the picture too. The photo archives of the holder of the original negative reveals clues about the identity of the men involved, and from there filmmaker Seán Ó Cualáin pursues the friends and relatives of the names in order to finally establish the facts. It’s fun to follow along, and while back-tracking the story of this particular picture, Ó Cualáin also tells the story of immigration, particularly the Irish, and its importance in shaping New York City. Men at Lunch is for fans of the Big Apple and the role the Irish played in its history.
From Ellen Druda
Author: Teju Prasad
Title: Not a feather, but a dot [videorecording DVD]
Like many immigrant groups, Indian-Americans have had to deal with prejudice, stereotypes, and just plain ignorance. Teju Prasad is a young, imaginative filmmaker with family and cultural roots in India. His documentary film explains the origins of some of the stereotypes and common misconceptions of Indians, and then he pokes fun at some of the sillier ones using skits, animations, and unexpected interruptions. While the story of ignorance between different immigrant groups is the same for many, Prasad presents the Indian-American view in a way both informative and friendly. This will appeal to teens and young adults because of its light-hearted tone. This is a great discussion starter on the subjects of prejudice and cultural differences.
From Margaret Mezzacapo
DVD – The Greatest Show on Earth
Come one, come all to a Cecil B. DeMille epic about the circus. This movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1952. Yes, 1952. I know that many would reject this film solely on its age, but it has stood the test of time. With Charlton Heston, James Stewart (who plays a beloved clown who may be hiding a tragic secret,) Emmett Kelley, and a cast that includes the real people and follows the actual workings at the Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus, you’ll enjoy the circus stunts and the drama behind the scenes. Recommended for “children of all ages.”