Posted in Film, Games, Horror, Science Fiction

Spooky Scary

It’s finally October! Start carving your pumpkins. Pick up a bag of your favorite candy. And put something scary on the TV because there’s not much else to do with the pandemic still going on. Like last year, I’ve written up a list of a few of my favorite horror movies.

Crowley

Crowley is not a good movie. It’s one of those movies that’s so bad it’s good. The premise itself is fairly outrageous, a guy using virtual reality gets possessed by the ghost of Aleister Crowley via the internet. The actors chew up the scenery. Crowley’s antics lean more towards raunchy than evil. The music is the one genuinely good part since it’s handled by Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden.

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Posted in Adult, Film

Horror/Comedy Movies: Keepin’ Halloween Fun

I’m not a big fan of straight horror movies – they just don’t interest me that much. I feel like I have to be in a very specific mood to both buy into them enough to be frightened but also to enjoy being frightened. Horror-comedies, on the other hand, I really enjoy! So when Halloween rolls around, I’m looking for movies that will make me laugh. Such as…

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Posted in Adult, Film

Movies at the End of the World

It might seem counterintuitive, but all I want to watch lately are apocalyptic movies. The country is literally on fire, civil unrest has reached a pre-Civil Right Act-era tenor, we’re in the middle of a century pandemic, bees are dying, and we lost King T’Challa. Why on earth would anyone want to watch apocalyptic cinema? What a bummer! Personally, I find it soothing. Our timeline is full of hardship, but at least we didn’t need to gamble on time travel to figure out how to avert a deadly virus from destroying most of humanity (12 Monkeys; 1996) or search for petrol while dealing with berserk motorcycle gangs (Mad Max; 1979). Apocalyptic movies are escapism, pure and simple. Plus, it’s September and if y’all get to celebrate Christmas for three months, I can get spooky a month before Halloween. Below, I listed four apocalyptic films that can be accessed on DVD and/or BluRay in the Monarch catalog. 

Akira (1988; R)

Regarded as one of the greatest animated films for adults as well as one of the best science fiction movies of all time, Akira set the bar for both in the subsequent 30 years since its release. Following a disaster that destroyed Tokyo, we find our protagonists, a group of aimless, motorcycle-riding teenagers, drifting through a world that is packed with visual stimulation and violence. One of the teenagers gets in a horrible accident after running afoul of another biker gang. Mysterious military men take him away to a facility where he develops powerful abilities he does not understand and has little control over, to disastrous effect. While this IS a cartoon, it is not for children. The animation is ahead of its time, the pacing is breakneck and the soundtrack is one of the all-time greats, but it is violent as hell! I still watch a couple scenes through my fingers because it’s too intense for my delicate sensibilities. 

Dr. Strangelove (1964; PG)

Stanley Kubrick’s finest, as far as I am concerned. This war farce is a must-see for anyone who loves film and cares about film history. Marvel at the towering performances of Peter Sellers as not one, not two, but THREE distinct roles in the film. His understated British liaison officer is a nice counterpoint to the bizarre titular Dr. Strangelove, who served under Hitler prior to WWII, and whose left hand acts independently of the rest of his body. A top-notch George C. Scott is not to be ignored, and rivals Seller’s portrayal of the Doctor in hilarity. What’s the brand of apocalypse in Dr. Strangelove? Nuclear annihilation, brought about by an American general’s paranoia surrounding the corruption of the nation’s water supply, and therefore our precious bodily fluids. 

Pontypool (2008; rated R)

Think you’ve seen all the zombie movies out there, and know all the possible premises? Think again! This under-the-radar horror gem came out to little fanfare, but discerning horror fans in-the-know were pleased to encounter a new take on an old favorite trope. Set mostly in the confines of a claustrophobic radio broadcast booth, Pontypool examines what would happen if zombification transmitted via speech as opposed to the classic bite. Is meaningless conversation a plague? Please watch to find out. 

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016; PG-13)

Where’s all the ladies at the end of the world? A lot of apocalyptic movies are really dude-centric, produced for men by men, so I try not to yeet my television out the window when the token lady has perfect hair, shaved armpits, and winged eyeliner? Like? What are they using, the reflection off a pool of stagnant water to see if the line is straight? Does one swing by the Walgreens while outrunning ravenous zombie hoards to stock up on one’s favorite Wet ‘n’ Wild eyeshadow? Bruh. Anyhoo, the protagonist of 10 Cloverfield Lane, played to perfection by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, gives us a depiction of what I think is a closer approximation to how a smart person would react in the face of the apocalypse. If you don’t know much about this movie, keep it that way and watch without reading criticism first to enjoy the surprises. A review at rogerebert.com sums it up nicely as “a cat and mouse game at the end of the world.”

Keep in mind, just like any genre, apocalyptic cinema varies wildly in quality and personal taste must always be considered. That being said, I absolutely hated The Road (2009) which is actually really depressing and affecting in a way I do not enjoy. What have you been watching lately? Do you need more movie recommendations? Let me know and I can help! Drop us a line at publicservices@meadpl.org. Happy watching!

Posted in Adult, Film, Staff Picks, Uncategorized

Loved This? Watch That!

When I finish watching an engaging, beloved movie or TV show I get a kind of emotional hangover. “Nothing will ever be as appealing and wonderful! Nothing will ever measure up to Cobra Kai. NOTHING! I will never watch television again so as to not break my heart thusly!” I cry while flinging myself onto the red velvet chaise longue we keep in the library employee break room (we do not, but I need it for some imaginary Victorian hysterics). And as always, after a few listless moments casting about on the various streaming services, I always manage to find something to watch that I love, rinse, repeat. Below, I listed several beloved movies and television shows along with media that will be similar in tone. The titles listed are all available on DVD in the Monarch catalog. 

If you liked Community (2009-2015) try Mystery Team (2009, rated R)

Although the final episode aired in 2015, Community remains one of the more imaginative and funny ensemble TV shows ever produced. It’s a personal favorite of mine and some episodes made me laugh so hard I cried. Community is a Dan Harmon joint, who is also the brains behind Rick and Morty, which is all well and good, but I would like to talk a little bit about the creative output of Community alum Donald Glover. Before Community there was “Derrick Comedy”; a comedy sketch group well-known for their YouTube skits. Check out their oeuvre HERE. (WARNING THEY ARE VERY SWEAR-Y).Their association culminated in the creation of the wonderful feature film Mystery Team (2009, rated R). The film explores what happens when a plucky bunch of Encyclopedia Brown-like mystery-solving grade schoolers reach high school and try to solve a grown-up crime. The Derrick Comedy crew wrote the script so expect campy surprises and funny twists. Be on the lookout for early screen appearances by Aubrey Plaza, Bobby Moynihan, John Lutz, and Ellie Kemper. Glover is also famous for writing on another beloved ensemble comedy, 30 Rock, so fans of this and Community would be well rewarded to give Mystery Team a go. Still need more Donald Glover action? You’re in luck; Glover wrote and starred in two seasons of Atlanta (2016-) which was just renewed for two additional seasons. Now’s the time to get caught up!

If you like Saturday Night Live (1975-present) try The Kids in the Hall (1989-1994)

Saturday Night Live has been a weekly comedy stalwart for 45 years, but what is one to do between Saturdays? You could watch cast compilations or holiday specials; Monarch has several in the catalog & the Chris Farley retrospective always cracks me up. But if you’re looking for something a little different, may I suggest legendary Canadian sketch show The Kids in the Hall? As founding member Dave Foley once said, if SNL is the Beatles of sketch comedy, then KITH is The Velvet Underground. Their surreal, fourth-wall-breaking comedy is often compared to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, as well. Both troupes were famous for their absurdism and dressing in drag when the sketch called for women characters. While they had recurring characters like SNL, such as a man with a cabbage for a head, a flying pig, and catty secretaries named Kathy and Cathy, unlike SNL, celebrity impersonations were limited to Scott Thompson’s hysterical Queen Elizabeth. The Kids in the Hall is the epitome of gen x humor, and I was pleased to find they hold up after all this time. If you are easily offended by queer humor, I feel bad for you, but also, you might want to stear clear of this series. For everyone else: prepare to die of laughter. 

If you liked Twin Peaks (1990-91, 2017) try Fargo (2014-2017)

Watching Twin Peaks as it first aired in 1990 was a foundational experience for me and shaped the way I now interact with media. As much as I loved it, I had to admit I had no idea what the hell was going on most of the time. It was visually stunning, the actors were compelling and watchable, and the comedy was black as pitch. For more of the same, but with a plot that makes sense, take a look at Fargo. Each season is a self-contained story, but the discerning viewer will notice that although time periods differ, each season’s plot relates to the others. The plot also relates to the 1996 film of the same name in clever ways. In addition to the stellar writing and gorgeous cinematography, get a load of the absurd cast list. Season one alone boasts Martin Freeman (an Englishman playing a Minnesotan; BRILLIANT!), Billy Bob Thorton, and Colin Hanks. Season two includes the best performance I have ever seen from the extremely talented Kirsten Dunst, as well as a fine turn by a top-notch Ted Danson. Season three features Ewan McGregor playing a set of feuding twins. Not compelled yet? Gosh, sorry you don’t like good television (winky face).

As stated earlier, all movies and television shows mentioned above can be found in the Monarch catalog on DVD. Need help searching the catalog or requesting materials? Call us at 920-459-3400 for troubleshooting help. Not too keen on the media I listed above? We can help with that too! Just give us a call and tell us what you like to watch. We can access literally thousands of different titles throughout the Monarch library system. Thanks for reading, and happy watching!

Posted in Adult, Film

Most Popular Movies

In my last post, I talked about the movies that I like the most. But what are the most popular movies right now? I took a look at what movies have the longest waitlists right now to see. Surprisingly, it’s not all the absolute newest stuff!

And remember, since Mead copies go to Mead patrons first, even a long waitlist might not take quite as long as you think. Plus, you can always check the Lucky Day shelf in the library and see if a first-come, first-served copy is available!

Descriptions taken from our catalog.

#1: 1917

At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield and Blake are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers, Blake’s own brother among them.

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Posted in Fantasy, Film, Graphic Novels & Memoirs, Science Fiction

With Great Power…

With Comic-Con@Home starting today, I thought I would share some of my favorite movies based on comics. As with my other list posts, I’ve included the description from the catalog of each film under their listing.

Iron Man

“A wealthy industrialist is held captive in enemy territory and escapes by building a high-tech suit made of armor. When he returns home, he decides to use his money, talents, and suit to save the world.”

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Posted in Adult, Film, Uncategorized

The Best Movies Ever

…by the completely true and objective measure of me, a person who sometimes enjoys watching movies! More seriously, these really are my favorite movies ever – and I’ve noticed the theme seems to be that I like international/foreign films, that I enjoy comedy or dark comedy, and I don’t mind if a premise is a bit surreal (magical realism in film form, maybe?).

I hope you will give these movies a chance! I think they’re genuinely not just movies I enjoyed but movies that are very good and that more people should see.

Divided We Fall by Jan Hrebejk

I started off the introduction mentioning comedy, yet the first movie on my list is one set during the Holocaust? Yes, and not only that, it is also the greatest movie ever made about the Holocaust. It takes place in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, where childless couple Josef and Marie take in and hide a young Jewish man.

It is a comedy in two very particular senses: the darkest sense, that there is a terrifying absurdity to the Nazi occupation and bureaucracy that is made even worse by how deadly it is, and in the human sense, because the characters in this are beautifully realized and humor is a very human thing. It also has a truly remarkable ending that I could not have predicted in a million years.

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Posted in Adult, Film, Nonfiction

Anti-Racist Resources on Kanopy

Ask most people and they will tell you they are not racist. Perhaps you’ve seen this Angela Davis quote floating around social media lately: “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” But what do we mean when we say “anti-racist”? Anti-racism is acknowledging the oppression of people of color while engaging in the active fight against that oppression. We’ve all watched anti-racist action over the past week take the shape of world-wide protests against the continued disproportionate abuse of black bodies by American law enforcement officials. It’s harrowing, inspiring, confusing, emotional, and polarizing. The protests are already proving invaluable to drive change for equality among lawmakers.
 
So, maybe you’re not ready to join in a public protest. Maybe you have questions about what it means to be an anti-racist ally in the fight against oppression. The good news is, educating yourself is an important facet of anti-racism. If you’re not ready to dive into the work of Ibram X. Kendi, or Robin DiAngelo, fear not. Once again, my favorite video-streaming service, Kanopy, is here with the goods. A curated collection of movies and series related to Black Lives Matter is linked on the Kanopy home page. It’s a fabulous list, but it’s also overwhelming. Below, I listed four films and series that will help you start or continue your journey towards anti-racist allyship.

I am Not Your Negro (2017; Directed by Raoul Peck)

James Baldwin died in 1987, but his words still ring true 30 years later. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this Oscar-nominated documentary examines Baldwin’s last and unfinished book project by connecting the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s to the present-day Black Lives Matter movement. James Baldwin is one of the finest minds of the 20th century and watching him speak is hypnotic. Baldwin is a really important and moving author, so getting your hands on his work is beyond worthwhile. Take a look at his work available through Monarch HERE. Reading The Fire Next Time and Go Tell It On the Mountain were pivotal moments in my own anti-racist journey when I was going through college. Don’t have internet access? Get a copy of I am Not Your Negro on DVD HERE

America After Ferguson (2014; directed by Max Schindler and featuring Gwen Ifill)

I love Gwen Ifill. She is one of the smartest people working in news broadcasting today, so I was pleased to see America After Ferguson, which she hosts and moderates, available on Kanopy. This is a great starting point for people who are curious about Black Lives Matter but don’t know where to begin gathering information. 

Peace Officer: The Militarized State of American Police (2015; directed by Brad Barber and Scott Christopherson)

This film centers around the life and work of retired law enforcement official William “Dub” Lawrence, the founder of modern SWAT teams. His son would eventually be shot to death by a SWAT team 30 years after their inception. Lawrence’s subsequent investigation into the incident and others like it leads him to believe the death of his son, and so many other SWAT victims, were preventable. Watch this if you want to learn more about the alarming militarization of American police and why it has created a deadly disconnect between law enforcement and our citizenry.

Copwatch: An Organization Dedicated to Filming the Police (2017; directed by Camilla Hall)

Who polices the police? This documentary examines the reactionary formation of WeCopWatch, which sprang-to hot on the heels of the unjust deaths of Freddie Gray and Michael Brown. Director Camilla Hall describes her film as “a plea for humanity. A plea to look out for each other; to look out for your neighbor. To not walk by when something terrible is happening to somebody else and taking that active decision to look out for one another.” Watch this to get a deeper sense of the sorrow and anger people feel on a national level while trying to hold law enforcement officers accountable. 

Honestly, these picks will probably make you uncomfortable. They will probably bum you out. Racism and inequality SHOULD make you feel uncomfortable. Learning anti-racism is an ongoing, fraught process. You’ll make mistakes and sometimes feel like garbage and that is okay. I would love to hear which Kanopy-curated BLM material you have been watching, whether you have found it enlightening, and why or why not. Feel free to reach out to me at publicservices@meadpl.org. And remember, we are always here to help you find the high-quality literature, articles, and other media you will require on your anti-racist journey.

Posted in Adult, Film, Staff Picks

The Criterion Collection on Kanopy

Welcome back to “What Has Molly Been Watching on Kanopy Lately”. This week not only am I going to encourage every Mead Library card holder to get in on the Kanopy action, I am going to encourage one to get artsy with it by exploring the Criterion Collection titles specifically.  

So, what is the Criterion Collection, anyway? Founded in 1984, the Criterion Collection was created as a collective dedicated to preserving important film from around the world. As of now, Criterion boasts editions for over 1,400 films ranging from the dawn of the medium in the early 20th century to contemporary 21st century pictures. The editions they produce represent the best possible image quality and tend to include killer bonus content. You can check out their webpage HERE.

Kanopy offers 50 titles from this prestigious collection for your viewing pleasure. Below, I listed 4 of my particular favorites. 

Ikiru (Directed by Akira Kurosawa; 1952)

This is a real one, right here. Kurosawa’s best known films like Yojimbo, Rashomon, and The Seven Samurai (the latter two are also available on Kanopy), tend to be in the vein of flashy epic dramas. Ikiru’s power lies in its pure and assured performances as well as in its relatably mundane plot. Ikiru, which translates as “to live” is the story of middle-aged bureaucrat Kanje Watanabe finding purpose and meaning in the face of an indifferent world. His wife has passed away and his daughter and son-in-law care more about Watanabe’s pension than the actual man who is earning it. When a stomach cancer diagnosis gives him a year to live, Watanabe realizes it is not too late for him to do something that matters. This leads him to focus on helping a nearby neighborhood lose a cesspool and gain a playground. This film is so beautiful it hurts. Watch it late at night with someone you love, if possible, and hug them with all your might. If this picture grabs you, please also see Tokyo Story (1953) directed by Kurosawa’s great contemporary Yasujiro Ozu, also available on Kanopy. 

The 400 Blows (Directed by Francios Truffaut; 1959) 

This is the film most people think of first when they think French New Wave Cinema. In fact, one might argue that the film’s director, François Truffaut, is the movement’s most important founder. French New Wave Cinema was characterized by naturalistic, often improvised dialogue and lots of shaky-cam jump cuts. In fact, Truffaut used footage directly from his lead actor’s audition reel in the finished movie. The story is almost embarrassing in how personal it feels and gave me the same feeling I get when I read The Catcher in the Rye, which was published around the same time. If you want to be a cool film guy, you need to watch French New Wave. Kanopy also offers several films by New Wave heavies Jean-Luc Goddard and Claude Chabrol.

Pather Panchali (Directed by Satyajit Ray; 1955)

Let this quiet, gorgeous treat of a film transport you to a completely different time and place, outside Calcutta in the 1910s. The director relied on amatuer actors and improvised dialogue throughout the film to great effect. For instance, the actor playing young son Apu is possibly one of the most darling children ever committed to celluloid. And one can practically hear the wizened old auntie’s bones creak, she’s so old and bent over crooked. These are two members of an impoverished rural family we follow over the course of several years. They live in a crumbling ancestral home and subsist on the meager wage earned by the patriarch. The defining scene of the movie comes when Apu and his older sister, Durga, run away for an afternoon to see the train whose whistle delights them in the evenings. When they walked through tall grass together and shared a piece of sugar cane I felt nostalgia for a moment I never experienced. It reminded me how the best cinema should make us feel the big feelings that define what it means to be human.

Haxan (directed by Benjamin Christensen; 1922)

Talk about what’s old is new again! This OG work of docutainment is based on the director’s personal study of the Malleus Maleficarum, a 15th century inquisition manual. Over the course of 4 parts, Haxan warns against the dangers of mistaking mental illness for deviltry and starting a false witch-hunt. If that concept isn’t already appealing enough, upon its release in 1922, Haxan was widely banned for various content reasons including but not limited to torture, nudity, and other sexually explicit scenarios. While the “educational” or narrative thrust of the picture is shaky l promise you, the nightmare scenes are coo-coo bananas and satisfying to watch in a way that I don’t know how to replicate. MMmmaaaaaaybe steer clear of this one if you don’t find satanism to be as campy and fun as I do.

I hope this sparks some interest in exploring the Criterion Collection portion of Kanopy. Also, I would love to hear which films you’ve been loving and hating best. Call 920-459-3400 to tell me all about it, or for any other library assistance. Stay safe and keep watching good cinema!

Posted in Adult, Film, Staff Picks, Teen & Young Adult

Kanopy, Take Me Away From Here

People often assume I love books more than anything given my field and profession, and they aren’t wrong! I love books, so, so much. I love books like they’re alive. But my go-to vehicle for escapism has always been the warm embrace of film. If you haven’t sought out Mead’s video-streaming service, Kanopy yet, now is the time. Mead Library card holders get 10 credits a month and access to a staggering array of film across all genres. In addition to that, the “no-credit” viewing list has risen to 60 titles to meet our needs during the most leisurely pandemic ever. Below, I listed four movies to keep you entertained while we ride this stuff out.

A Town Called Panic (2009; 76 minutes; PG)
Sometimes I get envious of people when I find out they haven’t consumed my personal favorite movies. They get to have the experience of seeing it for the first time, and I can never feel that feeling again. Please watch this movie, I implore you. Y’all are in for a treat. Not only is it beautiful to look at and very charming, but it is outright hilarious and wildly creative. This is stop-motion animation at its most absurd and watchable. I’m so confident in its appeal that I am not even going to go into any sort of plot summary. It’s a French production, so make sure to watch with original French subtitles. Kids will dig on it, too! With or without subtitles. 

Black Christmas (1974; 1h 38m; R)
Why yes, this was recently remade and no, you absolutely should not watch the remake. For those of you who do not dig on horror, by all means skip right the heck over this entry. Not only is Black Christmas an early prototypic slasher movie often copied in tone a decade later in the likes of Halloween and Friday the 13th but it is genuinely creepy! Originally released under the title “Silent Night Deadly Night”, we watch as one by one, members of a sorority succumb to the creep living in the attic. You may be surprised to learn that Bob Clark, the film’s director, would go on to direct A Christmas Story so he really had all the Christmas-themed genre films locked down by the early 1980s. This is a great pick for someone who is curious about horror but can’t handle too much gore. Also, it’s a good idea to wait until the wee ones are elsewhere before giving it a look. 

The Harder They Come (1972; 2h; R)
The plot is convoluted, the acting is terrible, the cinematography is eh, so why bother? This is the king of 1970s exploitation films and warrants a peek. And have I mentioned the soundtrack? Talk about escapism, it’s like sitting by the beach, you just need to stick a tiny umbrella in your drink. The film’s protagonist, played by Jimmy Cliff, is trying his best to get a recording contract while running afoul of drug dealers and corrupt record producers. Naturally, the soundtrack is peppered with the best reggae music and artists of the time. Only one other exploitation film comes close in musical quality and that is the immortal soundtrack to Superfly (also 1972), by Curtis Mayfield. I would not necessarily call The Harder They Come “lighthearted” but it is so far afield in location and time that one will be transported, if only briefly, to a place far from the realities of COVID. 

Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015; 80m; PG-13)
While the film was released in 2015, it is based on a series of interviews conducted by Truffaut over the course of a week in 1962 at Hitchcock’s studios at Universal. The interview series would go on to be published in 1966 as a book of the same name, and is still considered one of the most important books on film published in the 20th century. Psycho (1960), North by Northwest (1959) and Vertigo (1958) had already reached the big screen at the time of the interviews, and Rebecca won for Best Picture in 1940, but Hitchcock was still not regarded as the important auteur we know him as today. Truffaut, himself a young filmmaker, idolized Hitch’s work and used the interview time to go through all of his more than 50 films to date in chronological order with almost fetishistic zeal. The addition of interjected commentary by contemporary filmmakers fleshes out the scope and gravity of what Truffaut accomplished. WARNING! This documentary will make you want to watch Hitchcock’s entire filmography so be prepared. It might also make one curious about the work of Francois Truffaut. If this is the case, I have good news. My next Kanopy-centric blog post will focus on Criterion Collection titles available, which includes but is not limited to Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. Stay tuned! 

I would love to hear which films people have found appealing, and which…not so much. Let me know! Email me at publicservices@meadpl.org. I would truly love to hear some opinions and suggestions. We’re happy to help with any Kanopy-related questions, as well. Until next time, happy watching!

-molly