The Studio

Music, Movies, and so Much More


Unexpected Love

Love can occur unexpectedly and out of the blue, but it is rarely shown with such directness and insight from an older person’s perspective as in Cloud 9, a German film from 2008. A chance meeting can be just that or so much more; especially if one or both of the parties is married.  What is said over and over again in these movies is I didn’t mean for this to happen; characters are truly swept off their feet. In this movie, Inga, the 67 year old lead in the film has been been married for over 20 years to Werner.  He is a good man who has raised her daughter as his own. Karl is a customer of Inga’s (she’s a tailor) and in the mundane action of altering his slacks, a spark is ignited. The film is an exploration of the joy and the pain that can come from a spontaneous affair late in life.

Other films that fall into this category include:

                                  In the Mood for Love

                                  I am Love

                                  Brief Encounter

                                  Brick Lane

                                  The End of the Affair

                                  The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a good example of unexpected love in a currently playing film. This film and those listed below are much lighter in tone than the ones listed above. The Library has ordered  multiple copies.  In the meantime, you can check out these delightful movies of unexpected love:

       It’s Complicated

       Love Actually

       Last Chance Harvey

            Solitary Man

Posted under Lists, Movies

Strike! Movies about Labor Unions

With recent political disputes in Wisconsin and Michigan over labor unions, I was very curious to see the new movie Made in Dagenham, depicting the 1968 strike of British women machinists that led to massive, worldwide sexual equality measures. How differently things were handled back then! Only the men had ever gone on strike at the British Ford motor plant in Dagenham. It was a new thing for the women, and because they effectively shut down the whole plant, the men were forced out of work as well, which many of them were not happy about. But in addition to a very sympathetic male labor organizer, the Labor Minister, Barbara Castle, also defied Prime Minister Harold Wilson and the president of Ford, to rally for the women’s rights. It almost feels too good to be true, but it is—and high time: 1968 is not exactly ancient history! Sally Hawkins stars as the petite factory worker whose courage and intelligence carried the movement.

Many of the following movies about labor unions are also based on historical events:

The Big One (Michael Moore documentary, part of which shows Borders employees forming  a union)

 Black Gold (documentary about the unjust conditions of Ethiopian coffee farmers)

Germinal (coal miners go on strike in France in the mid 19th century)

Harlan County, U.SA. (documentary about the 1973 strike of United Mine Workers of America)

Harlan County War (the wife and daughter of Kentucky mine workers joins the picket lines)

I’m All Right Jack (1959 comedy about the battle between management and laborers)

Matewan (historical clash between unionist miners and a tyrannical coal company in 1920s West Virginia)

Norma Rae (the struggle to unionize a textile mill)

North Country (true story of the landmark 1984 sexual harassment lawsuit by a female miner)

Potiche  (factory workers go on strike in 1977 France; the factory owner’s wife steps in to settle the dispute) Blu-ray

Salt of the Earth (wives of zinc miners in New Mexico take up the fight when their husbands are prevented from picketing)

Stachka (silent film from Tsarist Russia about locomotive factory workers protesting harsh conditions)

Strike (a Polish worker causes a shipyard strike leading to the first free unions & the downfall of the Soviet system)

Strumpet City (Irish miniseries depicts the 1913 labor uprising)

The Valley of Decision (the daughter of a crippled millworker and the son of the steel mill owner fall in love during a strike)

For more titles about working people, check out our All In A Days’ Work list.

Posted under Lists, Movies

Looking Backward…

For me, 2008 was a “looking backward” year in terms of film. Since none of my favorite directors or studios was releasing anything, and since I don’t often take chances on “unknowns” in the theater, I spent a good deal of time perusing the library’s collections, and looking backward. Following are my annotated staff picks:

The only relatively “new” film to make my Staff Picks list in 2008 was the 2007 documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. In my childhood, I celebrated more than one birthday party in a shopping mall arcade, and was, in my own way, a video game junkie. I never much liked Donkey Kong, but watching a documentary about a guy who challenges the reigning Donkey Kong champion to defend his long-held title was a reminder of just how mild my case of arcade addiction was.

Next on my list, in reverse order, was Hula Girls, a 2006 film dramatizing the story of the “re-purposing” of an about-to-be-shuttered coal mining village in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan as a Hawaiianesque hot spring resort. (Compare Iwaki’s average annual temperature of 55.6 F with Honolulu at 77.2 to imagine the challenges of emulating Hawaii in cooler climes.)  The idea of opening a tropical beach resort on top of a coal mine doesn’t receive the unanimous approval of certain of the mining families who have risked life and limb in dark tunnels of rock for decades, but some of the coal miners’ daughters sign onto the dream and learn how to hula. If you still think I’m making this up, click here to read the company history of Spa Resort Hawaiians.

Next was the 2004 PBS reality show Colonial House which features eager volunteers re-enacting five months of American colonial life from 1628, lived by people born with 20th and 21st century ideals and upbringings but equipped with tools, skills, and a rule book explaining the etiquette and standards of the 17th century. Brilliant, thought-provoking, and highly recommended.

Kurosawa’s 1952 film Ikiru is about the choices we make about what really matters to us when we choose to face our mortality. Kurosawa invites us to take a step back to look at the structures and systems which we consciously and unconsciously allow to structure and give meaning to our lives.

My final choice takes me back more than two decades to about fifth grade when I became, for about two years, addicted to Charlie Chaplin’s funniest films. I even dressed up as Charlie Chaplin for Halloween, and won awards, and had a portrait of Joey as Charlie in my bedroom for most of my school years. Now, more than 20 years later, I watched my first Chaplin film since about fifth grade. Monsieur Verdoux showed me a different, deeper, darker side of Chaplin, and made me wonder what else I might find as I look backward, from time to time.

2009 is a year more of looking forward, but my thoughts in that vein will need to wait until next time…

Posted under Movies, TV

Cinematic Australia, bits & pieces

A friend recently recommended that I read the book In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. Lately, my preferred version of reading is listening to the audiobook - which I did. I have to confess that the book wasn’t entirely my type of entertainment (much to the disappointment of my friend, I think). As one thing leads to another that is only slightly related, the book (not being adapted into a movie) did get me excited to see the new movie Australia, directed by Baz Luhrmann, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. Oh, I loved the movie! It approaches guilty pleasure territory as far as I am concerned. Certainly Hugh Jackman makes my list of celebrity crushes. That aside, what about other movies filmed in Australia? Quite a few have been released on DVD. See the library’s list. I want to point out the TV series Snowy River: The McGregor Saga. Some of the episodes feature Hugh Jackman – at the beginning of his career. Fun stuff.

BTW, both the TV series and the 1982 feature film The Man From Snowy River are inspired by the poem written by Banjo Paterson.

Posted under TV

New Films at Skokie Public Library

New on the shelf for the week of July 25th, 2008:

 The Air I Breathe (2008, Rated R)

A film based on an ancient Chinese proverb that breaks life down into four emotional cornerstones: happiness, pleasure, sorrow and love. Four very different people teetering on the edge of desperation are unexpectedly linked by their destinies. Filled with surprising twists and turns, this suspenseful, action-filled drama employs both brutal violence and aching poetry in a moving exploration of the search for happiness in a gritty urban world. Stars Kevin Bacon, Julie Delpy, and Andy Garcia.

21 (2008, Rated PG-13)

Ben Campbell is a young, highly intelligent student at M.I.T. Wanting to transfer to the Harvard School of Medicine, he learns that he cannot afford the $300,000 for the tuition. Then Ben is introduced into a small but secretive club by his math professor, Micky Rosa who is training students in the skill of blackjack card counting. Based on Ben Mezerich’s book Bringing Down the House, and starring Jim Sturgess, Laurence Fishburne, and Kevin Spacey.

The Bank Job (2008, Rated PG-13)

A small-time crook takes on a bank heist when an old friend offers him an inside track to the vault. Along with his hastily assembled team of low-rung criminals, Terry finds himself deep. Quiet suddenly the group become the target of ruthless mobsters, the police, government officials at the highest level, and even the royal family. Based on the true story of a British princess and a sex scandal. Directed by Roger Donaldson and starring Jason Statham and Saffron Burrows.

Posted under Reviews

Craving Cranford

Just have to ask – is anyone watching Cranford on Masterpiece Theatre?

What’s the verdict? I really like it, and feel a little addicted. I can’t wait for the next installment. That Judi Dench! This might lead me to the books, since I have never read anything by Elizabeth Gaskell.

The library has the DVD ordered, if you have missed the first episodes, or want to watch it again.

Posted under TV

Caramel – a small movie worth finding

(wait 10 seconds for trailer to start)

If you missed this in the theater, the library has it ordered.

It is a sweet – more ways than one – movie!

Posted under Movies

Views on new Room with a View

If anyone watched the Masterpiece Theatre version of A Room with a View please comment.

I usually like classics re-imagined, but this one really missed the mark as far as I am concerned. I did like watching “new” actors, the scenes of Italy, and I like the 90 minute length. But … screen writer Andrew Davies added a thread that is not in the book –which I highly object. The Masterpiece Theatre version is ordered for the library collection.

I think it is time to re-watch the very excellent Merchant Ivory production.

Posted under TV

Digging for a perfect Ten

diggers1.jpgThe Ten

Has anyone seen the movie The Ten? Confession here – I feel a bit little guilty about liking this movie as much as I did. Some of it definitely pushes the limits of poor taste or politically incorrect humor. Certain sketches work better than others. But I was hooked, wondering what outrageous interpretation of the Ten Commandments was next. I can see how people could get offended by this movie.

If you are interested in an earlier collaboration between Paul Rudd and Ken Marino (writer for both movies & acted in both), check out the movie Diggers - totally different from The Ten. It is a drama about friends & family relationships, set in the 1970s about Long Island clam diggers experiencing many changes in their personal and professional lives.

Posted under Movies

No Country For Old Men

If you’ve seen the movie or read the book or not seen the movie or read the book, you’ll still find humor in the piece by Nora Ephron in The New Yorker 11/26/07:

Posted under Movies