Classic Film Fest at Home

I’m singin’ in the rain, just singin’ in the rain
What a glorious feeling I’m happy again
I’m laughing at clouds so dark up above
The sun’s in my heart and I’m ready for love

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Singin’ in the Rain starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor. Only 18 and having no dance experience, Reynolds sought the help of Fred Astaire in order to impress taskmaster and perfectionist Kelly for her role in the musical; Reynolds’ feet bleed after shooting the film’s “Good Morning” routine over the course of 15 hours, and Kelly endured 3 days of filming the “Singin’ in the Rain” number while having a high fever. Other films are also celebrating big milestones this year. Woman of the Year, Casablanca, and The Man Who Came to Dinner are all turning 80. Judy Garland would have turned 100 this summer, and the TCM Classic Film Festival is back in person this spring to celebrate dozens of movies, The Wizard of Oz included, that have made us laugh and cry. Find your comfiest sweats, pop some popcorn, and host your own classic movie fest with some of my favorite films below.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946): Three World War II veterans, two of them traumatized or disabled, return home to the American Midwest to discover that they and their families have been irreparably changed. Directed by William Wyler, the film stars Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, and Harold Russell. It is the winner of 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. You can even watch the film on Kanopy here.

Rebecca (1940): A self-conscious woman juggles adjusting to her new role as an aristocrat’s wife and avoiding being intimidated by his first wife’s spectral presence. Based off of the novel by Daphne Du Maurier and directed by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock, Rebecca stars Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. Judith Anderson’s portrayal as Mrs. Danvers will give you chills. It won Best Picture and Best Cinematography at the 13th Academy Awards.

How Green Was My Valley (1941): At the turn of the century in a Welsh mining village, the Morgans raise coal-mining sons and hope their youngest will find a better life. How Green Was My Valley stars Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp, and Roddy McDowall, and it was based off the best-selling novel by Richard Llewellyn. The film famously beat Citizen Kane for Best Picture.

Adam’s Rib (1949): Starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, domestic and professional tensions mount when a husband and wife work as opposing lawyers in a case involving a woman who shot her husband. Katharine Hepburn is my favorite actress and I highly recommend taking a day to binge watch her films, including The Philadelphia Story, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Desk Set (a librarian favorite!), and Little Women.

Sunset Boulevard (1950): A screenwriter develops a dangerous relationship with a faded film star determined to make a triumphant return. Directed by Billy Wilder, the film stars William Holden and Gloria Swanson. It was among the first group of films selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962): An aging former child star torments her paraplegic sister in their decaying Hollywood mansion. The intensely bitter rivalry between the film’s stars, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, is legendary, but it made the film a success and even revitalized their careers.

The Thin Man (1934): Starring William Powell as former detective Nick Charles and Myrna Loy as wealthy heiress Nora, The Thin Man follows the flirty and charismatic couple as they investigate a murder for fun. The chemistry between Powell and Loy was so palpable and the film was so entertaining that five sequels were created between 1936 and 1947.

The Nun’s Story (1959): After leaving a prominent and wealthy Belgian family to become a nun, Sister Luke struggles with her devotion to her vows during crisis, disappointment, and World War II. The film is based off of the novel of the same name by Kathryn Hulme about Belgian nun Marie Louise Habets. Habets and the film’s star Audrey Hepburn became incredibly close during production, both having Belgian roots and having lost family members during World War II.

It Happened One Night (1934): I would be remiss if I didn’t include a Clark Gable film. A runaway heiress, Ellie Andrews, tries to get out from under her father’s thumb and falls in love with a renegade reporter, Peter Warne. Several actresses turned down the role of Ellie before Claudette Colbert reluctantly accepted – with the condition that the film be completed in just four weeks. Clark Gable was lent to Columbia Pictures for the film from MGM. Both actors were so dissatisfied with the script that director Frank Capra had it rewritten during production; the final film bears little resemblance to the original script.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962): Atticus Finch, a widowed lawyer in Depression-era Alabama, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his children against prejudice. Jimmy Stewart and Rock Hudson were considered for the role of Atticus before it went to Gregory Peck.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947): In 1900, a young widow finds her seaside cottage is haunted and forms a unique relationship with the ghost. The film stars Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison, and inspired a variety of adaptations, including a 1960s TV series and 2005 musical.

For Me and My Gal (1942): Two vaudeville performers fall in love, but find their relationship tested by the arrival of World War I. Having only performed on Broadway, For Me and My Gal was the first film role for Gene Kelly and it marked the first “adult” role for Judy Garland, who up until the movie had played juvenile parts and was typically paired with Mickey Rooney. Garland pushed for Kelly to get the part and the pair got along so well that they starred in two other films together, The Pirate and Summer Stock.

Hallmark Reads

If the sight of snowflakes last weekend had you reaching for a mug of hot chocolate, a cozy blanket, and your favorite Christmas pajamas, this list is for you. Charming titles from Debbie Macomber, Susan Mallery, Jenny Hale, and more have inspired Hallmark Christmas movies for years. Whether you subscribe to the belief that the book is always better than the movie or you’re just looking for festive reads to celebrate the season, here are ten Hallmark reads to enjoy.

Let It Snow by Nancy Thayer: New movie alert! Let It Snow was published last year, and Hallmark’s movie version Nantucket Noel is premiering this month. Catch it on the Hallmark Channel on November 19, 20, and 24. Christina Antonioni is preparing for the holidays at her Nantucket toy shop, decorating and unpacking last-minute holiday shipments, when her landlord suddenly raises her rent. At first, Christina doubts whether she can continue business on the wharf, but after becoming close to her landlord’s granddaughter and son, she starts to believe it may be the best Christmas season yet.

The Christmas Contest by Scarlet Wilson: New movie alert! Published earlier this year, The Christmas Contest will make its movie debut on the Hallmark Channel on November 28. Ben Winters and Lara Cottridge are obsessed with Christmas. When the strangers hear that a Vermont radio station is hosting a Christmas contest with a $10,000 prize for the winner’s charity of choice, they quickly enter the competition and become finalists. Will battling it out in the stiff competition ruin the spirit of Christmas? Or will Ben and Lara realize they have more in common aside from a love of Christmas?  

Mrs. Miracle Christmas by Debbie Macomber: New movie alert! Mrs. Miracle Christmas, published in 2019, is the fourth book in Debbie Macomber’s Mrs. Miracle series. Catch the 2021 movie on the Hallmark Channel on November 20. Laurel McCullough could use some good news. She and her husband, Zach, have given up on having a baby after too many heart-wrenching experiences. Laurel’s grandmother, Helen, can no longer take care of herself and Laurel and Zach decide to move in to help her when plans for home healthcare fall through. Just as they’re about to lose faith, Mrs. Miracle arrives at their door and gives them the best Christmas gift.     

Sleigh Bell Sweethearts by Teri Wilson: Zoey Hathaway’s biggest dream is to become a pilot. When she inherits a struggling reindeer farm, complete with three dozen unruly reindeer and one dangerously attractive ranch hand named Alec, her carefully crafted plans seem to fly out the window. If Zoey wants to succeed, she’ll have to put her trust in Alec and accept his help, but it’s not just her farm that’s at stake; so is her heart. Sleigh Bell Sweethearts was published in 2013 and the Hallmark movie entitled Northern Lights of Christmas was released in 2018. You can catch the movie on the Hallmark Channel on November 24. 

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale: Single mother Abbey Fuller put her dreams of being an interior designer on hold to raise her son. When her son starts to get a little older, Abbey jumps at the chance to take a small job decorating Nick Sinclair’s mansion for Christmas. Nick has plenty of money for the project, but absolutely no holiday spirit. Can Abbey make her dream of being an interior designer come true? Can she help Nick finally enjoy some Christmas magic? Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses was published in 2018 and premiered as a Hallmark Christmas movie in 2019.

The Jingle Bell Bride by Scarlet Wilson: New York wedding planner Jessica Christie becomes stranded in a remote Alaskan town when she goes on a quest to find the rare Jingle Bell Flower for a celebrity bride. Jessica is desperate to return home in time for the wedding, but will her Christmas wish change after meeting local botanist Matt Holden? Jingle Bell Bride was published in 2017 and premiered as a Hallmark movie last year. The movie will air again this year on the Hallmark Channel on Friday, November 26.  

The Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evans: Kimberly Rossi’s life is a bit of a mess. Two failed engagements, a divorce, and numerous other heartbreaks have left her alone and with no prospects. Despite her many romantic hiccups, Kimberly dreams of becoming a published romance author and signs up for a romance writing workshop shortly before Christmas. Once at the retreat, Kimberly meets fellow writer Zeke who helps her step out of her comfort zone, both in her life and in her writing. This 2015 novel is the inspiration behind Hallmark’s 2017 movie.

Marry Me at Christmas by Susan Mallery: Bridal boutique owner Maddie Krug is excited to plan a Christmas wedding until she realizes that she’ll be working closely with the gorgeous brother of the bride, action movie star Johnny Blake. How can small-town girl Maddie keep from falling for him when wedding planning involves candlelit dinners, snowy strolls, and mistletoe around every corner? Marry Me at Christmas was published in 2016 and the Hallmark movie premiered the following year.      

The Nine Lives of Christmas by Sheila Roberts: Ambrose, a pesky orange cat, is in danger of losing his ninth and final life. He tells the universe he’ll do anything, absolutely anything, to survive and have a quiet, comfortable final life. True to his word, Ambrose plays matchmaker for the man who rescued him and a woman at the local animal shelter. The Nine Lives of Christmas was released as a book and Hallmark movie in 2014. You can catch the movie this month on the Hallmark Channel on November 25.  

Christmas Joy by Nancy Naigle: Market researcher Joy Holbrook is all work and no play when she gets an urgent call to return home to help her recovering aunt. Joy agrees to take a leave of absence from work and temporarily run her family’s farm, but she didn’t know she’d need to work with Ben Andrews, her former crush, in order to decorate for the annual Christmas Home Tour competition. Will the town’s festivities open Joy’s heart to love, home, and family? Christmas Joy was published in 2016, and the Hallmark movie was released in 2018.  

For a complete schedule of this year’s Hallmark Christmas movies, visit the Hallmark Channel. Be sure to visit the Library to discover more festive reads for the season.

2021 CIFF Streams Recap

This year I had the opportunity to watch four films through the Cleveland International Film Festival. Though the event couldn’t be held in downtown Cleveland, as is tradition, the streaming option was a welcome alternative during the pandemic.

Spaceboy – Belgium, Director: Olivier Pairoux, Writers: Eusebio Larrea, Olivier Pairoux

Spaceboy is about Jim, a gifted young boy who moves to a new town with his astrophysicist father, Graham.  Jim gets paired up in his new class with a girl named Emma for a science fair. He uses it as an opportunity to put his plans of recreating Kittinger’s ‘Excelsior’ project into action.  Jim’s determination is soon fueled by a personal drive to prove to his father that anything is possible.  This was such a moving story.  I can’t wait for this one to come out in the US.  

Games People Play- Finland, Director: Jenni Toivoniemi, Writer: Jenni Toivoniemi

A group of longtime friends meet at one of their parents’ vacation homes on a remote island in Finland to celebrate one of their birthdays. 

This was a complex story about relationships.  The party seemed to last forever as they disconnected from the world and put their phones down.  They played baseball, cooked and ate, and drank a lot.  There was singing and dancing, and a lot of intimacy.  

It was beautiful and funny story of the intricacies of friendship and self-identity.   

Perfectly Normal Family – Denmark  Director: Malou Reymann, Writers: Maren Louise Käehne, Malou Reymann,Rune Schjøtt

Emma this she has a perfectly normal family until one day her father, Thomas reveals that he is transgender. As Thomas transforms into Agnete, both Emma and Agnete struggle to accept how their relationship will evolve.  The movie does a really good job of shifting the viewers perspective to that of a timid child, naïve to the world, and very uncertain with her own identity.   

Goodbye, Soviet Union – Finland Director: Lauri Randla, Writer: Lauri Randla

Is the coming of age story of Johannes, a courageous young boy living on the cusp of western culture during the collapse of the soviet union.  His mother leaves the Estonian Soviet Republic to work in Finland, leaving Johannes in the care of his grandparents.  It has romance, comedy, and history in it.  I really enjoyed this movie and can’t wait for it to get distribution in the US.  

-Beth

Chadwick Boseman’s Gift

I hadn’t read any Black Panther comics or books and had the same amount of background knowledge of his place in the Marvel Universe as I did about Thor (ie – so very, very little) before seeing the movie based on the character. Oh. My. Gosh. The 2018 film staring Chadwick Boseman was 134 minutes of greatness!! The history and lore of Wakanda, the special effects, the serious moments mixed with humorous moments, all the surprise twists, and getting to watch Chadwick Boseman create an unforgettable, strong, vulnerable hero as King T’Challa. Mr. Boseman passed away on August 29th but his kindness, his vision of what the movie industry could be, and his long list of films, speak to the legacy of this legend, taken too soon. Thank you for all the gifts you gave to us Mr. Chadwick Boseman!

Imagine Your Story -Book vs Movie

How often have you had the discussion about which was better -the book or the movie? All the time, right? And how often do you pick the movie over the book? Not as often as you pick the book, right? Well, I’ve got a win/win for you this week! You can read the book *and* watch the movie, in any order, and walk away thinking, “that was great!” Are you curious yet?

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson blends his personal experiences and life journey with his drive to create social justice and encourage us all to get involved. I read this book when it first came out, and have enjoyed it as an audio book as well, and I think part of what makes Mr. Stevenson’s book so special is how a reader can emotionally connect to experiences, feeling his pain and his joy, while breaking down those systemic issues surrounding the inequality of our justice system. Founder of the Equal Justice Initiative leading force in the creation of the Legacy Museum as well as the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, Mr. Stevenson is changing our World for the better!

“But what about Just Mercy as a movie?” you ask. This movie focused in on how Mr. Stevenson became Mr. Walter McMillian’s lawyer over other experiences in the book. Sometimes it’s that trimming that can leave a reader feeling like something was missing, but I would be surprised to hear that after you watch this film. Instead, I’d guess you might also think of this as an additional chapter to the book?

I hope you read *and* watch Just Mercy, and then -please, let me know what you think!

Take care
—Stacey

Imagine Your Story: Catching Up With New Releases

With all the time that has passed as we are getting to know our new norm, many of us have really missed the opportunity to catch up on the new release DVD and BluRay movies we get through the library. One minute it was award season, and the next minute everything but essential businesses were shut down and you were stuck with what you had on hand or access to. Now that the library is open for curbside service, You can place holds on these new titles and stop by to pick them up.

Okay, Okay…this list is getting long and since I’m limited to how I can format these images and still link them to the catalog, you’ve been scrolling a while. I’ll add more new release DVD and BluRay titles here soon. Place your holds and visit the library for curbside pickup or coffee in the reading garden soon.

Your Library Staff at Home -How about a Philip Seymour Hoffman Binge?

I’m going to generalize here and say that you’ve probably watched a fair amount of TV/movies lately. We all have. If you’re looking to expand your viewing beyond private tiger owners, may I suggest you join me on a Philip Seymour Hoffman binge?

Why Philip Seymour Hoffman?

Why not?

PSH, as I shall refer to him from here, generally plays an addled, yet intriguing character. Not necessarily the protagonist of a fairy tale, but always committed to breathing life into his roles.

Lucky for you, Hoopla has 8 titles featuring PSH you can stream for free with your RRPL library card, including one of my favorites Before the Devil Knows Your Dead. I’ll link them below.

What’s your favorite PSH role?

“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.

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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.

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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

Top 7 of 2017

Let me introduce myself since I’m the newest sub at the Reference Desk. You might also see me around the library shelving for the Circulation Department. I’m Byron. I’ve written movie reviews online for Flixster (now Rotten Tomatoes) and published a collection of 365 of those reviews in my book 100+ Years of Movies. Through some entrepreneurial struggles and not having as much leisure time to read I’ve unfortunately fallen short of my reading goal this year. It seemed silly to me to recommend my top 10 when I only read 22 books all year. Therefore, listed in the order I read them, I present my Top 7!

Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert by Roger Ebert • I regularly read about the art of cinema. As the cover says this contains some of the best of Ebert’s writing throughout forty years of his career. If you are only familiar with his reviews, you can sample his essays and unique interviews here too.

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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates • Journalist Coates has such important things to say about race relations in America. It is not to be dismissed, but will likely require careful repeat reading of passages to fully grasp everything. Glancing at my co-workers’ posts earlier this week I’ve noticed that at least two others have also recommended this work.

BetweentheWorldandMe

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson • Marvel has had certain writers reimagining classic heroes to introduce more diversity. Volume 5 in the series about Muslim American teen Kamala Khan is a return to the excitement of the beginning of the series considering I thought Volumes 3 and 4 went a little off track.

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March: Books One, Two, and Three by John Lewis • During 2017 I read all three parts of this graphic novel autobiographical series by Congressman John Lewis. Book One is slightly weaker in structure with so much exposition compared to Book Two and Book Three, however taken together they are all very strong. This period of history comes alive in graphic format.

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American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard • I’ve been intrigued by this title for quite awhile. I had to wait several months to check out the ebook on OverDrive. I’ve been struggling to understand recent National election results and have felt the country is more divided than united. America is more complicated than two political parties, red states, and blue states. This book dives into North America’s history and uncovers eleven cultural nations that have been vying for power since the beginning.

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