The Studio

Music, Movies, and so Much More


We Have Moved!

After a lot of behind-the-scenes activity, we are merging most of our sub-blogs into one giant superblog!

Think of it like Voltron, in blog form. You remember Voltron, right?

From now on, you can get all the great information you received from The Answer, The Bookshelf, The Radar, and the Soapbox in one place:

Please update your bookmarks and feeds accordingly. See you at the superblog!

Posted by Toby (former employee) | Posted under Events
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Popcorn: Episode six

Just in time for Halloween, Sharon and Annabelle are horrified (in a good way) to share some splendidly spooky DVD favorites. Their picks include The Others, The Cabin in the Woods, The Eye and Fright Night.



Posted by Annabelle | Posted under Movies, Podcasts
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Heading for winter but longing for spring?

Feast your eyes on the beauty of each season as seen through the eyes of Edith Holden in The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, a British series new to our DVD collection. Born in 1871, Edith spent much time studying the flora and fauna of the area around her family home in Warwickshire. She also taught school and used her Nature Notes for 1906 as a basis for teaching her students how to observe and draw nature. Her notebook contained beautiful delicate watercolors of the birds, flowers and insects she studied along with seasonal observations and poetry.

In the series the episodes are named by each month of the year. We see Edith (played by Pippa Guard) walking through the enchanting English and Scottish countryside, carefully observing each detail of nature. There are many lovely close-ups of plants, birds and insects throughout, accompanied by Edith’s poetic musings along with her identification of the various fauna and flora. We also see her writing and painting in her notebook, with many visuals of her beautiful watercolors. Although the primary focus is on her work, we  also follow her life from 1906 until her death in 1920.

The DVD conveys Edith’s sensitivity to the beautiful natural world reflected in her work and is a must-see for those of you who love nature or who just would like to escape from the world for a while and walk down a tranquil country path.  Highly recommended.

Posted by marilee | Posted under Movies
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Finding Ben


nydailynews.comEarning acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival, the movie Argo has just opened in theaters. It’s based on a true story about the rescue of six Americans who were hiding out at the Canadian Ambassador’s home during the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis. Ben Affleck directed the movie and he stars as CIA specialist Tony Mendez, the guy with the escape plan, i.e. “the best bad idea.”  His cover is that he’s a Canadian film producer shooting a Hollywood sci-fi movie in Iran. Mendez must convince the Iranians that everything is legit, and then fly out with the six Americans posing as his film crew. We might know how the story turns out, but darn it. This movie hits the mark. Kudos goes to Affleck and company for making a highly entertaining 120 minutes. Argo already has some Oscar buzz.

Now let’s have a look at Affleck’s career. Yup, he’s starred in some duds. Isn’t that the case with most actors? However for those stuck on Affleck as just another pretty face, I point out that he’s turned in a lot of topnotch work. Consider his acting in Chasing Amy, Hollywoodland, State of Play and The Company Men. And remember, Affleck co-starred in Good Will Hunting and won an Academy Award with Matt Damon for Best Original Screenplay. Hey, that’s a great movie! If you haven’t already, check out Gone Baby Gone and The Town, both directed by Affleck. Made in 2007, Gone Baby Gone is a gritty crime drama about two private detectives investigating the kidnapping of a 4-year-old girl. Amy Ryan was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as the little girl’s mother. The Town, from 2010, stars Affleck along with Jeremy Renner as two lifelong friends involved in a bank robbery gang. When one of them wants out, all sorts of complications and questions of loyalty come into play. Renner got an Oscar nod for his performance. Is this Affleck’s big year for Oscar contention? I think so. He’s become a serious, skillful actor/filmmaker.


Posted by Sharon | Posted under Movies
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Hitchcock in 3D?

Recently, I flew to London to attend several days of the two-month-long The Genius of Hitchcock festival held at the British Film Institute’s Southbank campus.

Starting in June and ending after London’s yearly October film festival, the BFI pulled out all of the stops to honor one of their own…a British director who became an international sensation by helming such movies as Rear Window, Vertigo, Notorious and Psycho

Photo taken by C. Cygnar @ BFI Southbank

The Genius of Hitchcock celebration caps off the year-long fund-raising push entitled Rescue the Hitchcock 9, a campaign to save nine of Hitchcock’s early British silent films.  These nine films are in dire need of restoration…without it, there is the chance they might be gone forever.

Being a BIT of a Hitchcock fan (OK…a little understatement —I’m obsessed), I would have loved to hunker down in London all four months, savoring classic after classic.  But, there is this little thing called WORK, not to mention MONEY, of which staying in London requires a lot.  So, alas, I settled on cramming in as many movies as I could in my limited time (five films, to be exact).

Have I seen all five before?  You betcha.  Do I own all five on DVD?  Yes, I do.  But, somehow, traveling over 3,700 miles to see movies I know by heart doesn’t seem all that silly to me.   Obsessed, I tell you!

Like I said, I saw five of Hitchcock’s masterpieces (sadly none of the restored “Hitchcock 9” were playing when I was there).  I watched a double feature of Shadow of a Doubt and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) on one night, followed by a double feature of Mr. and Mrs. Smith (no, not THAT one…the 1941 film with Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard…the only romantic comedy Hitchcock ever made) and Strangers on a Train on the next.

But, the crème de la crème, the pièce de résistance was the 3D showing of Dial M for Murder.  No, this is NOT NEW 3D…this is old, classic 3D.  This is when 3D was done for effect and not financial gain.  This is when 3D was not a marketing ploy.

I have a strong distain for the new wave of 3D films sweeping through Hollywood, though I am much more against 2D films being re-released in 3D, such as Titanic (1997) and Beauty and the Beast (1991).  When I saw Scorsese’s Hugo (which I heard nothing but great things about in 3D), I specifically sought out the 2D version.

Maybe I’m equating my lack of interest in modern 3D with my lack of interest in most contemporary animation.  Look at Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs —imagine how tedious and superior the animation process was back in 1937 and compare that with today’s inferior “computer” animating.  So OK, modern 3D is not that bad…but, RE-RELEASING already-shot films just to capitalize on the 3D bandwagon is the last straw.  Where will it end?

Dial M for Murder is different.  Hitchcock filmed it in 3D but it was released in 1954 in mostly 2D.  Aside from a limited 3D re-release in the early 1980s, most people have not seen Dial M for Murder in the original 3D Hitchcock intended it to be shown.  And, among filmies, it is supposed to be one of the best, if not THE best, example of 3D filmmaking.  And, after seeing it, not only does it not disappoint but I would have to agree that the use of 3D was amazing.

Unlike much of 1950s’ Hollywood 3D, nothing here is done just for the 3D effect (such as no paddleballs bouncing at the screen, a la The House of Wax (1953)).  Everything here is done for a reason…the use of foregrounds and backgrounds become more of a 3D element than in-your-face effects.  In one scene, the infamous purse that becomes a key item in the plot stands boldly in the foreground, with character action going on behind it.  The purse, a simple inanimate object, looks as if it is right in the audience’s lap.  And that is how Hitchcock uses 3D throughout the entire movie…subtly but OH SO effectively.  But then again, would we expect anything less from the Master himself?

Keep in mind that as long as Hollywood keeps making money off of 3D, they will keep making these so-so 3D movies and…even worse, keep re-releasing existing 2D movies in 3D.  If The Bridge on the River Kwai in 3D comes out in cinemas, I’m moving to Mongolia and living in among the yak herders in a nice yurt!

Madness, Madness.  Soapbox over.

Posted by ccygnar | Posted under Movies
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Wish list

We update our Coming soon on DVD and Blu-ray list every week. Check it often and place your reserves. If you want any suggestions, we are here to help. Today my recommendations fall squarely in the “wishes come true” category.

Ruby Sparks, also available on Blu-ray

Calvin is a novelist who achieved critical and commercial success when he was 19. Ten years down the line, Calvin suffers from writer’s block and hasn’t published anything substantial since his first book. To add to his troubles, he has a disappointing romantic life. It’s a bad combination. During a therapy session, Calvin’s therapist suggests that he write a page about someone who likes his dog Scotty, though his dog often annoys him. That night Calvin dreams about a pretty, young woman. She likes his dog and even draws a picture. Bingo! Calvin wakes up totally inspired. He names his dream girl Ruby Sparks and she becomes the star character of his new novel. Imagine Calvin’s surprise when Ruby turns up in the flesh, making herself at home in his apartment. Talk about a tricky relationship.

This flick was directed by husband and wife team Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Faris. Their previous movie was the hit Little Miss Sunshine. Zoe Kazan wrote the screenplay for Ruby Sparks and she also plays the lead. Does her name sound familiar? She’s the granddaughter of film and theater director Elia Kazan. Paul Dano co-stars as Calvin. He and Kazan are boyfriend and girlfriend in real life. They previously acted together in the excellent indie film Meek’s Cutoff.


The Odd Life of Timothy Green, also available on Blu-ray

Cindy and Jim want to be parents more than anything else in the world. But tests and doctors say that they will never be able to conceive a baby. Deeply saddened over the news, the couple imagines what their kid would be like – if only. Notepad in hand, they write down the characteristics of their dream child. Once finished, Cindy and Jim place the slips inside a box, which they bury in the backyard garden. There is a fantastical thunderstorm. Early the next morning they find a 10-year-old boy in their house. He claims to be their son Timothy. Furthermore, he is everything they had written down the night before. Yes it’s unexpected magic. Cindy and Jim go with it. Family, friends and townsfolk go with it. What follows is an extraordinary year for all.

Writer/director Peter Hedges wrote the screenplay and directed the movie, which is based on a story by Ahmet Zappa (the son of musician Frank Zappa). Jennifer Garner is Cindy and Joel Edgerton plays Jim. They are good on screen together and make everything believable, or as much as it can be given the material. This is a Disney movie with an old-fashioned vibe and it’s definitely family friendly.





Posted by Sharon | Posted under Lists, Movies
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Music Up Close and Personal

Two years ago I was in Traverse City, MI at a film festival and in the street were the usual  performers, food vendors and commotion going on.  My husband, Steve, stopped to listen to this one guy playing bottle neck guitar on stage. He had a bass player and a woman playing a washboard with him. Their style was kind of retro, old-timey; eclectic…..we listened and were intrigued.

What was unusual was that the music sounded like old stuff from the 20s and 30s, but yet it was fresh. They didn’t sound like they were mimicking anyone. Their music was brand new and eighty years old at the same time.

At home, Steve did extensive research on Luke Winslow-King. We listened intently to anything we could get online by him. We found that he lives and plays in New Orleans with Esther Rose (vocals and washboard).

Jump ahead to New Orleans February 2012.  Not our only reason for going to NOLA, but by pure serendipity, we learned that Luke and Esther were playing at the DBA bar on a Monday night at 6pm. We got to talk with both Luke and Esther and told them we were from Chicago and had seen them in TC in 2010.

Since then we’ve seen them twice in the last two months in Chicago.

I purchased their CD The Coming Tide for the Library. No other library in the country owns it!  I asked Luke where he would class his music and he said the blues.  So that’s where it is: MB WINS CT W64. Here’s a video of one of their tunes.  Give it a listen and you, too, can join the Luke Winslow-King bandwagon. YouTube Preview Image

Check out our list of New Orleans inspired music.

Posted by lee | Posted under Lists, Music, Reviews
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Saying good bye to the Ponds good things must come to an end. Or is that just how it begins? If you’ve been following the long-running British science fiction TV series Doctor Who, then you know that traveling companions Amy (AKA the girl who waited) and husband Rory (AKA the last centurion) are bidding farewell to their time-traveling Doctor. The mid-season finale aired this weekend on BBC America. Yowza! The news is that the Library has ordered Doctor Who Series 7, Part 1 on DVD and Blu-ray. I suggest getting on the reserve list now, so you can watch these fantastic last episodes with the Ponds – either for the first time or to get a little repeat action. Tears are promised, but you will not be disappointed.



constantlycalibrating.comOK Whovians, ready for more? The Library has many Doctor Who episodes as well as audiobooks in the collection. Be sure to check out our Doctor Who display in the AV room. Whether your favorite Doctor is played Matt Smith, David Tennant or Tom Baker. Whether your favorite companion is Rose Tyler, Martha Jones or Donna Noble. Whether your favorite villain is a Dalek, Cyberman or Weeping Angel. Whether your favorite spin-off series is The Sarah Jane Adventures or Torchwood. We got them and others. If we’re missing something you want, let us know and we’ll try to get it. Enjoy!

Posted by Sharon | Posted under TV
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The Good Wife

It’s the fall, but more importantly, it’s the Fall TV Season and time for the fourth season of The Good Wife–a well-written, star-studded legal drama with elements of political intrigue, sex, comedy, and with actors wearing clothes beautiful enough to make you want to become a lawyer for the fashion alone.

For uninitiated, The Good Wife stars Julianna Margulies as a woman whose husband, a Chicago district attorney, is sent to prison for paying for sexual indiscretions with public money, forcing her to go to work as a junior associate in a law firm to support her two children. Now entering its fourth season, this sexy and smart legal drama not only received numerous awards but earned a strong viewer following.

As for the fans anticipating the season’s premiere, the teasers are out.  Fiery Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) kicks off the show with the arrival of her estranged husband (Marc Warren), which will certainly add some danger to the plot. The firm is in serious financial trouble, Alicia (Julianna Margulies) must again defend her family, and the show welcomes back Matthew Perry and adds Nathan Lane—both playing entertainingly unpleasant characters (see the trailer below).

YouTube Preview Image

So here is the taste of what’s coming up, but if you’ve missed this fantastic drama because your Sunday nights were rapaciously usurped by the crazed football fans (Go Bears!), check out the first three seasons of The Good Wife and jump into its fourth season this Sunday, September 30th, at 9/8c on CBS.

Already on hold for the past seasons?  Try checking out Boston Legal, Damages, or the classic procedural Law and Order. Finally, if you’re obsessed with the talented Julianna Margulies, delving into all fifteen seasons of ER may pleasantly distract you from the wait.

Enjoy the show!


Posted by Megan (former SPL employee) | Posted under TV
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Which Snow White is for you?

Two Snow Whites and two evil queens in one year. How did this happen? Well it did, and I recommend watching both movies. Here’s why.

Mirror Mirror (also available on Blu-ray)

Oscar winner Julia Roberts hams it up as the wicked queen in this reworked version of the Grimm fairy tale. Lily Collins co-stars as the exiled princess. She’s the daughter of pop rocker Phil Collins and convincing royalty. Plus the girl can sing. There’s a terrific Bollywood number at the end. Nathan Lane, master of double takes and raised eyebrows, is the queen’s henchman/go-to guy. The prince is played by Armie Hammer who has done some serious work in J. Edgar and The Social Network. But I’m most excited that he’s in the upcoming Lone Ranger flick with Johnny Depp. And the dwarfs – they’ve gone through radical name changes and get to wear really cool leg extensions. Director Tarsem Singh delivers a fun, visually stunning movie. (PG for some fantasy action and mild rude humor)


Snow White & the Huntsman (also available on Blu-ray)

eonline.comThe huntsman is Thor! Well, he’s otherwise known as actor Chris Hemsworth and he is awesome. Rumor has it that Hemsworth will get a follow-up huntsman gig. Academy Award winner Charlize Theron finds her inner witch as the black magic practicing queen. This lady has no trouble draining youth from beautiful young women. But Snow White has the heart that she must consume to become immortal. The pursuit is on. Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame is excellent as the fair Snow White. She dons some heavy duty armor and demonstrates impressive sword fighting skills. BTW, the dwarfs are played by well-known, mainstream actors who are digitally manipulated to appear smaller. This is all far, far away from Disney. (PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sensuality)


Enjoy and let us know how your movie viewing goes.

Posted by Sharon | Posted under Movies
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