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.”
From Jackie Cantwell
Author: Randy Brown
Title: Trouble with the curve [videorecording DVD]
We’ve all seen Clint Eastwood play a crusty old codger before. He does it well. In this case he is Gus, an aging baseball scout with the Atlanta Braves, whose lawyer daughter, Mickey (played by Amy Adams), joins him on a scouting trip to North Carolina. She hopes to heal the strained relationship she has with her father. Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a former pitcher and scout with the Boston Red Sox, makes the moves on Mickey. I didn’t buy the chemistry between them. They are attractive people, yet the lighting, cinematography and wardrobe didn’t do them any justice. All the colors seem washed out. The music is intrusive; it’s cued at the precise moment we’re supposed to feel something in case we missed it from the stilted performances. For instance, the song lyrics “Do you feel the way I do?” are pumped up at the moment Johnny and Mickey go out together. The actors at times seem like they’re merely reading their lines; there’s no emotion. The best performance just might be by John Goodman, who plays Pete, Gus’s boss and friend. The villain, (Phillip, another scout, played by Matthew Lillard,) is a caricature, as are most of the other characters. Subtlety is lacking. The plot is contrived; the ending is so tidy that it borders on the preposterous. This movie wanted to be a baseball story, but it feels like a chick-flick.
From Ellen Druda
Author: Kore-Eda Hirokazu
Title: I wish [videorecording DVD]
Think back to those great family movies starring plucky kids, like Escape to Witch Mountain, or Flipper, or even The Parent Trap, and you’ll get the same feeling watching I Wish. Set in Japan, this is the story of two brothers separated by divorce, who plan to reunite with the help of their pals. The new bullet train service is coming, and brothers Koichi and Ryunosuk believe your wish will come true if you shout it when the first trains pass each other at top speed. The kids spend time planning exactly where this will occur and how they will get there. They also share their wishes. The performances by Kouki Maeda and Oushiro Maeda, brothers in real life, bring tons of charm to this movie, which was originally conceived as a promotional film for Japan Railways. VERDICT: A heart-warming Japanese language film that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
From Ellen Druda
Author: Charlotte Glynn
Title: Rachel is [videorecording DVD]
Rachel is a young adult still living at home. Rachel is finishing her last year at school and trying to figure out what to do next. And like most people her age, Rachel is a frustrated, frightened, excited, half child half grown-up. What makes Rachel different is her developmental disability. This portrait of a young lady at a critical point in her life is expressed by her film maker sister, who takes us into the daily life of Rachel as she alternately rages at and depends upon her mother, Jane. While Rachel deals with school, work, friends, and boys in her world, Jane tries to figure out how to get Rachel her dream of living independently after graduation with varying degrees of success. What gives this film its heart is how very typical Rachel is, and yet how very different her disability makes her. Poignant, funny, and complex, the documentary is enlightening and sympathetic.
From Ellen Druda
Author: Nina Conti
Title: Nina Conti: Her Master’s Voice
This is a strange little film about an equally strange profession, ventriloquism. Nina Conti was a protégé and lover of British theater genius/eccentric Ken Campbell, who encouraged her interest and talent. We tag along on her trip to Kentucky and a ventriloquists convention, also the location of Vent Haven, the resting place for puppets of dead ventriloquists. Nina has a lot of soul searching conversations with her puppet Monkey, with who she shares her hotel bed, about the death of Campbell and the retirement of his favorite puppet and alter ego to Vent Haven. She also interviews some of her fellow performers at the convention about the art and technique of ventriloquism. Conti is a YouTube star and the reason is obvious after watching her amazing performances in this film. Beyond the predictable voice throwing gymnastics, she questions identity and ego and the blurry boundaries between them. VERDICT: This film confirms my long held belief regarding ventriloquists’ dummies — they are real!