Juneteenth is this Saturday – and now it’s also our newest federal holiday! Falling on June 19th each year, it originally marked the abolition of slavery in Texas. It’s since expanded to commemorate and celebrate the end of slavery across the nation. More information can be found in this New York Times article. For this week’s blog post, I wanted to go a little wider than just historical/documentary movies and, instead, pick out and highlight some movies exploring the Black experience in America. Descriptions are from our catalog or the publisher:
It’s the hottest day of the year in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Tensions are growing, with the only local businesses being a Korean grocery and Sal’s Pizzeria. Mookie is Sal’s delivery boy. Radio Raheem has the letters of love and hate written on his hands. He is defiant and together with a motivated Buggin Out, push Sal and his sons to their breaking point.
The cops intervene, using force and brutality to apprehend the large Radio Raheem. He is unwilling to succumb to the over-excessive brutality of the police and the racist views of Sal and his family. The overzealous police officers don’t understand the repercussions of the violence they just unleashed. The neighbors band together to protest this extreme form of pure, toxic bigotry. Mob mentality takes over and the other local non-African American store owners become threatened. Tempers flare and rage is in the air.
Happy Pride month! June is for celebrating queer culture and remembering the innovators and agitators who fought for, and continue to fight for gay rights and freedom. While there is much work to be done, it’s important to take some time to reflect on the progress made. Commemorate and celebrate along with the community by engaging with queer-created content. Below, I list books and movies to educate and entertain alongside the celebration.
Anyone who has been paying attention to publishing trends over the past decade should be pleased to notice the availability of more and more diverse books. Whether you’re talking romance, sci-fi, memoir, or history, there is something for everybody. And guess what? You don’t even need to be gay to enjoy all this great content.
In the Dream House: a Memoir (2019) by Carmen Maria Machado; considered one of the best books of 2019, Machado uses horror tropes to explore the impact of abuse in same-sex relationships.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (2017) by Mackenzie Lee; being gay in contemporary times is still, sadly, fraught with danger. This book explores the stifling conventions of 17th century nobility and how they impacted people who are not content to live within the bounds of convention. Lots of fun, with a third book in the series debuting this fall.
Pet (2019) by Akwaeke Emezi; I have for sure blogged about this book minimum once before, and I will admit it’s likely I will blog about it again, but this book is so good. Just. So, so good. It’s fantasy, but real. It’s the future, but not too far away. Monsters come in all forms, and Pet examines them with great feeling and humanity.
Sissy: a Coming-of-Gender Story (2019) by Jacob Tobias; assigned male at birth, Tobias uses their story to explore how a stringent gender binary is keeping us from fully being who we really are. Might want to read someplace you won’t get looked at funny for laughing out loud.
Wow, No Thank You (2020) by Samantha Kirby; Super funny collection of essays about the author’s life.
All About My Mother (1999) by Pedro Almodovar; considered one of Almodovar’s best. Riffing on golden age of Hollywood sensibilities and Betty Davis, this is the story of a mother’s journey across Spain to inform her estranged husband of the death of their son.
Boys Don’t Cry (1999) This movie will devastate you. Don’t watch it alone and don’t watch it if you cannot stomach violence. Do watch it to gain some understanding about the dangers of being trans in a world that doesn’t want trans people to exist. Hillary Swank won Best Actress for her portrayal of Brandon Teena which now leads us to some fascinating conversations about trans actors representing themselves on screen.
Moonlight (2016) directed by Barry Jenkins; this is hands-down one of the most beautiful movies ever made. We follow protagonist Chiron through three life phases as he grows from a boy into a man. Another worthy exploration of race and sexuality in America. And let’s not forget about the best acting of the year coming from Mahershala Ali as Juan, one of the only adults to show young Chiron an ounce of tenderness. Currently available on Kanopy.
Paris is Burning (1990) directed by Jennie Livingston; this wonderful, shiny and bright documentary explores the African American and Latinx ballroom drag scene of 1980s Harlem against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis, homophobia, transphobia, and racism. If you enjoy Ryan Murphy’s Pose, you have to watch Paris is Burning. I don’t make the rules here, just do it.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) directed by Celine Sciamma; gorgeous 17th century love story between two women. Now available on Kanopy.
Many of the books and movies mentioned above can be found on Mead’s Pride book display, located on the first floor, until the end of June, 2021. All titles are available in the Monarch catalog, often in multiple formats, as well. Don’t see anything that grabs you? We are thrilled, THRILLED to help you find what you are looking for. That goes for any genre or topic piquing your interest at any particular time, diverse or not. Never hesitate to reach out for book recommendations or tech help, we love that stuff. And remember: just because we celebrate in June doesn’t mean we go without Pride all year long.
Don’t forget to check back next week for a list of LGBTQI+ graphic novels!
I don’t know about you but I have closed captioning on my TV at all times. Whether it’s due to my hearing, or wonky volume settings on the actual television, I can’t make hide nor hair of certain programs without subtitles. Since I like to have CC on anyway, I’m baffled when people won’t watch a foreign film because they “don’t want to read a movie”. Hey to each her own. This leads me to the latest installment of blog posts related to a square on Mead’s Bookish Bingo Challenge bingo card: Watch a Movie with Subtitles on Kanopy. If you have never used Kanopy before, why not give it a try and knock off a bingo square at the same time? Below, I listed several excellent films that as of this post’s writing, are available on Kanopy.
To access films with subtitles, log in and click on “BROWSE”. Hover over “MOVIES” and select “WORLD CINEMA” from the drop down menu. The following screen will provide lists of films by world region or interest area such as “Award Winners”.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
Vampire movies are pretty sweet, right? Nothing better UNLESS it’s an Iranian vampire movie with a feminist tilt. Shot in sumptuous black and white, the girl, of walking home alone at night fame, is actually an undead eldritch horror wandering the streets of Bad City and eating people. The compelling and beautiful cinematography is punctuated by alternating scenes of horrific violence and/or tender understanding between adrift souls, and those who lack them. The Middle Eastern Cinema section of Kanopy contains dozens and dozens of movie titles that have probably never played at an American cinema, and certainly not in Sheboygan. I, for one, relish the chance to see a story narrated in an unfamiliar tongue, and still understand what the hell is going on, all praise be to subtitles.
Here are some other films from the Middle Eastern Cinema collection on Kanopy:
Halfaouine (1995) directed by Ferid Boughedir
Timbuktu (2014) directed by Abderrahmane Sissako
The Wind Will Carry Us (1999) directed by Abbas Kiarostami
The Women’s Balcony (2016) directed by Emil Ben-Shimon
Women Without Men (2009) directed by Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari
Inferno (1980) directed by Dario Argento
Singling out a Dario Argento film to talk about Italian cinema is kind of fudging things since his productions lacked, how do you say? Ah yes, continuity, when it came to the language being spoken on-screen. His actors would often not speak the language in the script or even be able to talk to one another, and had to phonetically memorize lines only to have them overdubbed in post-production. The result is that single scenes careen back and forth from English to Italian and back without the actors breaking stride. Inferno is Argento at his creepy giallo best. See also: Suspiria (1977), also available on Kanopy. Similar to Inferno, Suspiria is light on plot, heavy on gorgeous color-saturated framing, and an insane prog-rock soundtrack courtesy of Goblin. Oh! And Udo Kier shows up eventually (heart eyes emoji).
Here are some other Italian-language films available on Kanopy:
8 ½ (1963) directed by Federico Fellini
The Dinner (2014) directed by Ivano de Matteo
Il Posto (1961) directed by Ermanno Olmi
Love And Anarchy (1973) directed by Lina Wertmuller
Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (1963) directed by Vittorio De Sica
The Host (2006) directed by Bong Joon-ho
Ope! Looks like I managed to talk about all horror movies again! Sorry, totally not sorry. Directed by Bong Joon-ho, who won a bunch of Oscars for 2019’s Parasite, The Host represents his third outing as a director. It broke screen and attendance records when it was released in Korea and remains one of their top-grossing films to this day. And, much like Parasite, thinking about The Host in hindsight feels like finding new secrets in a puzzlebox. Elements of slapstick, horror, melodrama, political satire, and more are in the fabric of this production. Those who love their monster movies with a huge dose of heart and humor will be delighted by The Host.
Here are some other Korean-language films available on Kanopy:
I Saw the Devil (2011) directed by Ji-woon Kim
Lady Vengeance (2005) directed by Park Chan-wook
Mother (2010) directed by Bong Joon-ho
The Royal Tailor (2014) directed by Wonsuk Lee
Seoul Station (2014) directed by Sang-ho Yeon
Fear not, Kanopy has non-horror movies for the non-spooky population. It’s just the direction my personal gravity has been pointing these days. Check back with the Mead blog often to get suggestions for other bingo squares throughout the year. As always, do not hesitate to reach out for troubleshooting help with tech stuff, or for additional recommendations. Before you know it, you’ll have a BINGO!
Way back when this blog was starting out, I did one of my very first posts on International Mysteries. I love mystery novels, and I especially enjoy ones set in other countries. This time around, I’m going to share some mystery TV shows set in other countries (and not only the United Kingdom because there are a million of those!). International travel might be off the table right now, so here’s the alternative – you get to see another country, and there’s a zero-percent chance of getting murdered!
There are five seasons of this show (which ended in 2017). They are set in (and were made in) Australia, but they are also historical – specifically, the late 1950s. Dr. Blake is a medical doctor who also works as the medical examiner when needed, which leads to him getting involved in investigating murders. The supporting characters are also good – especially the foil his character has in his housekeeper, Jean.
If you haven’t heard the term “bottle film” before, it refers to a movie that is set entirely within one, generally spatially limited, location. It’s not hard to imagine how the experience of 2020, with people being asked to stay home as much as possible as well as limit their interactions with others, could bring this topic to mind. Why is it satisfying to sit between your own four walls and watch someone else stare at theirs? I’m not sure, but I do think there’s a sense of connection now with films like this – so here are a few to try.
How could I not start with this Hitchcock classic? Jimmy Stewart plays a photographer who is confined to his apartment after breaking his leg. This movie is from 1954; there’s not a whole lot for him to do while stuck at home besides look out his window and watch what his neighbors are up to. He becomes convinced that he’s witnessed the coverup of a crime, and the boredom and claustrophobia of the atmosphere make for a wonderfully tense thriller.
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 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.
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…
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 email@example.com. Happy watching!
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!
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!
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.