Discover Films@RRPL

It’s a wrap or so they say in show biz, for The Cleveland International Film Festival 2021. I had the pleasure of viewing 5 films offered during the Film fest, and greatly enjoyed them all.

For Madmen Only: the stories of Del Close

Synopsis:

“Even if you’ve never heard the name Del Close, you’ve undoubtedly seen the products of his teachings. The list of performers—including decades of SNL cast members from Belushi to Poehler—whom Del mentored in the ways of long-form improv is endless. Although he lives on through the generations of comedians inspired by his instruction at The Second City and iO, Del never got his moment in the spotlight. But Heather Ross’s lively documentary places the comedy guru front and center, chipping away at the myth to catch glimpses of the man. Always the eccentric, Del made clear he was more interested in “truth” than “fact.” His tall tales were the stuff of legend. Accenting Del’s life story with surreal cells from his semi-autobiographical DC comic series Wasteland, FOR MADMEN ONLY utilizes multiple modes—talking heads from those who knew him best, animated cutouts, archival recordings, and quirky reenactments—to paint a spirited portrait of a funnyman who reached both the heights of genius and depths of despair. ” CIFF

Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir Poster

Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir

Synopsis:

“AMY TAN: UNINTENDED MEMOIR is an intimate and candid profile examining the life and work of Amy Tan, famed author of The Joy Luck Club. Tan candidly describes her journey to become a writer, detailing traumatic childhood memories riddled with chaos, loss, and grief, as well as recounting the life experiences and people who shaped her. Similar memories and details are found in her works’ pages, cleverly tucked into her fictional worlds’ narratives describing universal family experiences. This distinct trait of her writing is reflected in the documentary’s structure. The film creatively weaves Tan’s interviews, public talks, film footage, narrated memoir readings, and animated memories into a cohesive and insightful portrait of this trailblazing writer. The late James Redford’s final film, this documentary is an intricate look at what shapes us, how truth can inform fictional work, and the cyclical and interconnected nature of an artist’s life and art.” CIFF

*This film will premiere on American Masters/PBS, May 3rd at 9pm.

Felicita

Synopsis:

“It’s the last day of summer vacation, and Tommy can’t wait for the first day of school tomorrow. Her parents promised to get her there on time this year. Being punctual for such an occasion doesn’t seem like a big ask for typical parents, but for Tim and Chloe life isn’t planned much further than the day’s next decision. Although the film takes place in a 24-hour period, audiences can assume no two days look alike for this unconventional but devoted family of three. With their whimsical spontaneity and unpredictable sense of humor, Tommy’s parents have their own methods of instilling life lessons in their young daughter. In every moment of the day, there is always a choice. To escape or be found. To witness or ignore. To live as your true self at the cost of being normal. Original, unexpected, and wildly entertaining, FELICITÀ is a comedy-drama-thriller triple threat. (In French with subtitles)CIFF

*This film is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Tailor

Synopsis:

Shirt pressed, cufflinks fastened, and not a stray thread to be found. Nikos meticulously prepares for a busy day in his elderly father’s tailor shop that nobody visits. Times are changing in Athens, and the demand for expensive Italian suits has been replaced by faster, cheaper tastes in attire. When his father falls ill and the shop faces closure due to crippling debt, Nikos fashions a shop-on-wheels to peddle their fine wares to a more casual clientele. Parked among street vendors selling t-shirts, books, fish, and marmalade, Nikos decides to shift the shop’s current offerings to fulfill his passersby’s requests: custom wedding dresses. As Nikos reinvents the family business to serve these blushing brides, he welcomes the help of his neighbor Olga, who brings her sewing skills, womenswear knowledge, and companionship he didn’t know he was missing. THE TAILOR, in its sweet, quirky, elegant manner, will have audiences rooting for a shop that is determined to keep the sewing machine running and its wheels in motion. (In Greek with subtitles) CIFF

Masha

Synopsis:

“Everyone who meets 13-year-old Masha can’t help but love her. With her charm, unrestrained laughter, and a rather feisty streak, it’s not hard for her to light up a room. The young, natural performer dreams of one day becoming a jazz singer. But for now her chosen audience is her Uncle “Pops” and his band of gangsters who run their provincial Russian town. Daylighting as boxers, Masha happily spends her time with the young men whom she considers her best friends. However, by night, these friends are known to terrorize their community, killing and robbing at Pops’ behest. Being the apple of their eye, Masha receives attention and protection in abundance. As time goes on, the severity of her loved ones’ actions starts to sink in, but isn’t fully realized until it’s too late. Years later, Masha is grown up and thriving in Moscow as a singer. But will her success be enough to fend off the reemergence of her unstable past? In the gritty world of MASHA, to come-of-age is to escape with your life. (In Russian with subtitles)CIFF

Head to our YouTube page here and watch our interview with the director of For Madmen Only, Heather Ross, and a separate video of an impromptu discussion among staff sharing their reactions to the films they explored.

Discover Films @RRPL

Did you know that RRPL is an online provider of entertainment to our patrons? We offer entertainment through the streaming services AcornTV, Hoopla and Kanopy. Simply go to our website here. Click on the streaming service of your choice, create an account with your library card and begin browsing.

On a monthly basis we offer two separate programs, Film Club and Streaming Stories Spotlight, which highlights a film selected from one of our streaming services.

In March, Film Club will be discussing Ex Machina, a 2014 science fiction psychological thriller.  If you are a fan of West World, you will love this film.  It’s a clever sci-fi narrative with high level intrigue and unpredictability.  We will meet on March 25th at 7pm, and you can sign up here.  The film is currently streaming on Kanopy. 

Ex Machina (2014) - IMDb

Also in March, Streaming Stories Spotlight will highlight Float Like A Butterfly, a 2018 film about Irish Travellers, boxing and female emancipation. The film is currently streaming on Hoopla. You can view our review of this film here.

Float Like a Butterfly (2018) - Rotten Tomatoes

Favorite Horror Films on Kanopy

Spooky season is finally here! Personally, I enjoy all things supernatural, spooky, and scary year-round but October is the month I can recommend my favorite books and films to those who reserve their scares just for the month of Halloween.

Kanopy has some really great horror films available for viewing right now, including some of my favorites from the past decade or so. Including an atmospheric German witch tale, a deeply disturbing story of grief and possession, and an Iranian vampire western (yes, you read that correctly) there is an amazing variety of top-notch scares waiting for you. So dim the lights, warm up some apple cider, and queue up on of these films.

Keep your eyes peeled here next Thursday to read about some of my most favorite horror books. If you love reading horror too (it is truly a wide ranging genre full of such talent!) join me later this month for Novel Scares book club where we will be discussing The Good House by Tananarive Due on Zoom.

What are some of your favorite scary movies to watch around Halloween? Share in the comments!

Newly Added Kanopy Films- Top Five Picks

I’m still slowly working my way through re-watching all seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, having severely underestimated how many episodes there were in such a long running show! Luckily for me, I am in no rush. In addition to my comfort blanket of late 90s/early 2000s television, I’ve been watching plenty of movies as well (favorites of 2020 list to come soon!).

Kanopy, one of my favorite library resources, is always adding new films to their extensive catalog of streaming options so there is almost always something that catches my eye. Below you will find a round-up of my top five picks of newly added Kanopy films to watch this month.

Asako I & II

A mysterious and intoxicating pop romance, this film begins with Asako, a young woman who meets and falls madly in love with a drifter, Baku, who one day drifts right out of her life. Two years later, working in Tokyo, Asako sees Baku again or, rather, a young, solid businessman named Ryohei who bears a striking resemblance to her old flame. They begin building a happy life together until traces of Asako’s past start to resurface.

Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival.

Welcome to Me

I adore Kristen Wiig and this film casts her in the role of Alice Klieg, a young woman with Borderline Personality Disorder who wins the lottery. She quits her psychiatric meds and buys her own talk show and inspired by Oprah, she broadcasts her dirty laundry as both a form of exhibitionism and a platform to share her peculiar views on everything from nutrition to relationships to neutering pets. Also starring other fabulous actors such as Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, and Linda Cardellini.

Hari-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Revenge, honor and disgrace collide when a samurai’s request to commit ritual suicide leads to a tense showdown with his feudal lord. From cult auteur Takashi Miike, beautiful cinematography, awesome fight choreography, and a heart-wrenching plot all come together in this unpredictable film.

Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Wild Nights with Emily

In the mid-19th century, Emily Dickinson is writing prolifically, baking gingerbread, and enjoying a passionate, lifelong romantic relationship with another woman, her friend and sister-in-law Susan…yes this is the iconic American poet, popularly thought to have been a recluse. Beloved comic Molly Shannon leads in this humorous yet bold reappraisal of Dickinson, informed by her private letters. A timely critique of how women’s history is rewritten and perhaps a closer depiction of Emily Dickinson’s real life than anything seen before.

Official Selection at the SXSW Film Festival.

The Lighthouse

Two lighthouse keepers, played by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, fight each other for survival and sanity on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s. From Robert Eggers, the visionary filmmaker behind the horror masterpiece (and one of my favorite films) The Witch.

Nominated for an Academy Award. Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival.

What films have been your favorites so far this year? Do you have any stellar picks on Kanopy to share? Post in the comments! Happy viewing and stay safe out there readers.

“Keep the Change” might be the most important film I saw this year.

Something I learned, and continue to learn, as the sister to a brother who has Asperger Syndrome is that autistic people are not typically well understood in North American culture. Maybe this has something to do with who’s doing the storytelling. While a few films about people with autism have been released in recent years, the actors who tell the story aren’t always autistic.

This is what makes Keep the Change—and the fact that it won Best Picture at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival—so important. It is a film about autistic people, based on the lives of real autistic people, played by autistic people. It’s a film that dignifies their lives, validates their experiences, and helps others understand their situations in a way that abled actors couldn’t convey.

keep the change2

In short, Keep the Change is about David, a thirty-something autistic man who, after telling a cop an inappropriate joke, is mandated to join a social skills group at the Jewish Community Center.

But it is about so much more than that. It’s a story about coming to terms with who you are, when you have long denied that you’re different. It’s about being a person with special needs in a family that looks down on and stigmatizes people who have special needs. It is about becoming part of a group of people like you, and admitting that you need their help. It’s about falling in love with one of those people, and the complications of being in a romantic relationship when you’re autistic (for instance, touching each other affectionately or going out on dates can be confusing and hard).

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One of the words critics are using to describe Keep the Change is “disarming.” And it is that. The characters have brave, difficult conversations about the behavior of and attitudes toward people with special needs. In a particularly wince-worthy scene, David feels ashamed when his girlfriend, not understanding social cues, embarrasses him in front of a group of Broadway actors. He ends up angrily telling her to shut up, further embarrassing everyone present. While the film portrays the characters empathetically and thoughtfully, it doesn’t sugarcoat or romanticize autism.

keep the change 3

The film is also disarming in its sweetness. One scene that brought me to tears was when David took Sarah on a date at Coney Island. The two go on a ride together, and David, feeling overwhelmed by the lights and sounds around him, has a meltdown. Instead of judging him, Sarah gives him a hug. She receives him with tenderness and patience in a way that his family has not.

Another beautiful thing about the film is how vibrant, warm, and genuinely funny the supporting cast of autistic actors are. They are playing real people, not caricatures of autistic people. The joy and power they bring to the film is not something that abled actors playing autistic adults could replicate.

Our society needs stories that dignify and shed light on the lives of autistic people, and Keep the Change is one small but important step in that direction. I am so excited and proud that our library has selected it to be part of our collection.

Lyndsey