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Staff Picks: Movies

The (Fury) Road to Oscars

The 88th Academy Awards are less than a month away, so if you want to catch up on some of the nominees, the Kalamazoo Public Library can help you out! The following is a list of Oscar-nominated films that are available right now (or very soon) here at KPL:

Summer blockbuster (and, full disclosure, my favorite film of the year) Mad Max: Fury Road received ten nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (George Miller), Cinematography, Film Editing, Costume Design, Visual Effects, Makeup & Hairstyling, Production Design, and Sound Mixing & Editing.

Another popular Best Picture nominee, The Martian, scored a Best Actor nod for Matt Damon, as well as nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay (Drew Goddard), Production Design, Visual Effects, and Sound Mixing & Editing.

Steven Spielberg’s Cold War drama Bridge of Spies was recognized for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance), Best Original Screenplay (Matt Charman, Joel & Ethan Coen), Original Score (Thomas Newman), Production Design, and Sound Mixing.

The riveting thriller Sicario received nominations for Best Original Score (Jóhann Jóhannsson), Best Cinematography, and Best Sound Editing.

Sci-fi thriller Ex Machina received nominations for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Screenplay (Alex Garland).

Three of the Best Animated Feature nominees are currently available: When Marnie Was There, Shaun the Sheep Movie, and Inside Out (which was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay).

Don’t miss must-see Best Documentary Feature nominees The Look of Silence and Amy.

Kenneth Branaugh’s Cinderella received a nomination for Best Costume Design.

The Hunting Ground and Fifty Shades of Grey received Best Original Song nominations.

The cumbersomely-titled The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared was nominated for Best Makeup & Hairstyling.

All-around juggernaut Star Wars: The Force Awakens received five nominations including Best Original Score (John Williams), Best Film Editing, Visual Effects, and Sound Mixing & Editing. The film is not available yet, but John Williams’ Oscar-nominated music is.

The nominees that are not yet available, but are expected within the month are Straight Outta Compton, Spectre, Creed, and Room. You can place a hold on these right now.

So start binging today, and be sure to keep checking our catalog for other Oscar nominated films as more of them become available. For many of the Oscar nominated films that are still in theaters, be sure to check out downtown Kalamazoo’s Alamo Drafthouse Theater, which is currently playing The Revenant (12 nominations), The Big Short (5 nominations), Carol (6 nominations), and the 2016 Oscar nominated shorts, both Live Action and Animated.


Liked That, Try This (Oscars Edition)

Liked The Big Short, try Inside Job

Liked Bridge of Spies, try The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

Liked Brooklyn, try In America

Liked Mad Max: Fury Road, try Bellflower

Liked The Martian, try Apollo 13

Liked The Revenant, try Jauja

Liked Room, try The Wolfpack

Liked Spotlight, try All the President’s Men

 


Film Comment Magazine Critics Poll

The editors of Film Comment Magazine have issued their 20 Best Films of 2015 (established by over 100 polled critics) in their newest issue (January/February). Some of the titles have managed to be released on DVD but most have release dates later on this year.

1. Carol
2. The Assassin
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
4. Clouds of Sils Maria
5. Arabian Nights
6. Timbuktu
7. Spotlight
8. Phoenix
9. Inside Out
10. The Look of Silence
11. Hard to Be a God
12. Anomalisa
13. In Jackson Heights
14. Son of Saul
15. Horse Money
16. Jauja
17. Tangerine
18. Brooklyn
19. The Diary of a Teenage Girl
20. Bridge of Spies


Celebrate MLK Day

This coming Monday, January 18th is MLK Day. Tap into our film collection for works dedicated to depicting and teaching the struggle for civil rights.

  • Selma
  • Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965
  • Neshoba: the price of freedom
  • Betty & Coretta
  • Mississippi Burning
  • Booker's Place: a Mississippi Story
  • Slavery By Another Name
  • The March: The Story of the Greatest March in American History
  • When I Rise
  • Soundtrack for a Revolution
  • Freedom Summer
  • Ghosts of Ole Miss
  • Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin
  • 4 Little Girls
  • Freedom Riders
  • W.E.B. DuBois: A Biography in Four Voices

The Best Films of 2015 (So Far)

Year-end film lists are always difficult to make in a timely fashion for those of us who don’t live in a large city. A sizeable chunk of the movies that compete for awards tend to be released in only a handful of markets late in the year so that they can capitalize on nominations and guild recognitions; most of us won’t have the opportunity to catch them at our local Alamo Drafthouse until January or February. It is with this caveat that I recap my early best-of list, acknowledging that many of the season’s big contenders have yet to be screened, and others have not yet hit DVD.

Available now:

Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller’s masterpiece of dystopian demolition is the most exciting, progressive, and visually-stunning blockbuster in recent memory. I’m as surprised as you are.

It Follows – This slow-burn, instant-classic horror film somehow manages to make you both claustrophobic and agoraphobic at the same time.

Inside Out  – The folks at Pixar prove their genius once again with this profound exploration of the emotions of a young girl struggling with the challenges of growing up.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief – This eye-opening documentary reveals the dark, tragic truth behind L. Ron Hubbard’s institutional legacy of tax evasion, blackmail, manipulation, and physical & emotional cruelty.

The Hunting Ground – Anyone who has a child in college needs to see this disturbing documentary about the legacy of sexual abuse that takes place on campuses across the country—and the shocking lengths to which universities will go to cover it all up.

What We Do in the Shadows – This hilarious vampire mockumentary from one-half of Flight of the Conchords rivals any of Christopher Guest’s improvised comedies.

Ex-Machina – This dark sci-fi film about artificial intelligence features stellar performances from Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander.

Mr. Holmes – Ian McKellen shines as a 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes who’s struggling to solve one final case despite dealing with increased memory loss.

Coming soon:

The Look of Silence – This must-see companion piece to the 2013 documentary The Act of Killing explores the Indonesian genocide from the point of view of the victims who still live under the regime that murdered their friends and family.

The Martian Matt Damon gets left behind on Mars and we’re all the better for it.

SicarioEmily Blunt is terrific as a tactical expert who gets trapped in the dark, seedy political underbelly of the war on drugs. The film contains some of the most breath-taking scenes of suspense put on screen this year.

99 Homes Michael Shannon chews the scenery as a real estate operative who evicts people from their homes in this thrilling exploration of the darkest side of the housing crisis. 

Other films I enjoyed this year that aren’t available yet include Steve Jobs, Brooklyn, Spotlight, Bridge of Spies, Creed, Room, and a little can-do picture called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Check them out in theaters or look for them on DVD in the next few months. I’ll be sure to give you a final top ten list right around Oscar time, as that’s when I’ve usually had a chance to see many more contenders.


2015 National Film Registry

Earlier this week, the Library of Congress announced the 25 films selected for this year's National Film Registry. “Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names to the National Film Registry 25 motion pictures that are ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically’ significant. The films must be at least 10 years old. The Librarian makes the annual registry selections after conferring with the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board and Library film staff, as well as considering thousands of public nominations.”

Here are the 2015 selections:

Being There (1979)
Black and Tan (1929)
Dracula (Spanish language version) (1931)
Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906)
Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer (1975)
Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (1894)
A Fool There Was (1915)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Hail the Conquering Hero (1944)
Humoresque (1920)
Imitation of Life (1959)
The Inner World of Aphasia (1968)
John Henry and the Inky-Poo (1946)
L.A. Confidential (1997)
The Mark of Zorro (1920)
The Old Mill (1937)
Our Daily Bread (1934)
Portrait of Jason (1967)
Seconds (1966)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Sink or Swim (1990)
The Story of Menstruation (1946)
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968)
Top Gun (1986)
Winchester '73 (1950)

The Librarian of Congress is already accepting nominations from the public for 2016. The nomination form is here.


Great Documentaries of 2015

Fans of documentary films will want to keep their eye on some of these provocative examinations of subjects ranging from the leaking of classified documents to a thorough portrait of a political dynasty.

The Wolfpack

Citizen Four

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History

Best of Enemies

Seymour: An Introduction

I Am Chris Farley

Iris

Amy

Meru

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

 

 

  


Under the Influence

Those who know me know that I love to watch movies. I also enjoy learning about the historical development of the art form of movie-making, including the evolution of  its ideas, practices, technological changes, influences, major innovators, and economics. The 1970’s was an important era in film-making and the documentary film A Decade Under the Influence: The 70’s Films That Changed Everything is required viewing for those interested in the medium. Many of America’s best directors emerged in the wake of the dismantling of the Hollywood studio system in the late 1960's to tackle new subjects with raw, unfiltered candor and artistic verve. This film tells their story. 


The Wolfpack

One of the most buzzed about documentaries this spring was The Wolfpack. At its core, it is a story that is more disquieting than redemptive, less a film about maladjusted, eccentric teens rising above their troubled childhoods and more a film about abused children who will likely struggle to develop healthy perspectives as adults. The film chronicles the life of the Angulo family, a clan comprised of an emotionally abused mother, a sister, six brothers, and an overbearing, paranoid father who believes that the outside world is a dangerous environment, one that will negatively influence the tribe like structure of the family. 

Not allowed to leave the apartment nor to attend school, the young boys come to call themselves 'The Wolfpack' and proceed to develop identities linked to the television shows and movies they watch. This method of play sees the boys re-enacting scenes from their favorite films like Reservoir Dogs and No Country for Old Men. As the film proceeds, the boys begin to resist the harsh control of their powerful father, escaping the apartment and discovering a rich and complicated world. While it came off as ultimately unsatisfying for me, it's an intriguing, if not problematic enterprise that also raises questions about the filmmaker's approach to creating a reality show-like verisimilitude.        


Varda in California

Legendary French director Agnes Varda has made several groundbreaking features that have stood the test of time (La Pointe Courte, Cleo from 5 to 7 and Vagabond). During the late 1960's and early 1980's, while residing in California she produced a handful of poetically rendered slice of life documentaries that range in subject from a portrait of The Black Panther Party to Los Angeles mural culture. The recently released and fully restored Agnes Varda in California shows that she's always had an interest in integrating elements of real life into her fictionalized films and vice versa. Her sweet portrait of an old family relative (Uncle Yanco) perfectly captures the colorful vibe of late 1960's counter culture.