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Spotlight: Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper

jennifer-lawrence-bradley-cooperAward winning actors Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper have costarred in four movies: Silver Linings Playbook, Serena, American Hustle, and Joy. The interaction between these talented stars is amazing.

In Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solitano, a man suffering from bipolar disorder and has an obsession with his ex-wife, Nikki, who has a restraining order against him. Through a friend, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), an unbalanced widow. He latches onto her when he learns that she knows Nikki. This poignant and sometimes comedic film has a colorful cast of characters, including Robert De Niro as Pat’s father, who is fanatical about the Philadelphia Eagles.

Browse Best On-Screen Couples for other couples you might enjoy watching.

Spotlight: William Wellman and His War Movies

wingsDirector William Wellman served in France during WWI with the Lafayette Flying Corp. He put this experience to good use in the 1927 WWI movie Wings, winner of Best Picture at the very first Academy Awards ceremony.

Wellman’s war movies bring war down to the human level. The battleground1949 movie Battleground tells the story of the Battle of Bulge from the point of view a company of the 101st Airborne. The men are moved around in the snow from unknown point to unknown point, trying to keep warm, scrounging for something to eat, hoping not to lose another friend. They don’t even know for sure what country they are in.

Spotlight: Silent Comedy

Never was comic timing and sight gags at such a high point as in the silent movies of these comic geniuses.

Buster Keaton in The Navigator (1924). Spoiled rich boy Rollo Treadwell and his equally spoiled neighbor Betsy O’Brien find themselves adrift in the ship The Navigator. The two hapless drifters are at first completely at a loss when they have to try to feed themselves by opening cans of food or boiling water, but as the time goes by, they devise clever management skills and learn to work together to fight off swordfish and cannibals.

Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush (1925). The little tramp, Chaplin’s signature character, goes to the Klondike in search of gold. There he survives the bitter winter, makes his fortune, and wins the girl. Along the way he enjoys the famous boiled leather dinner and performs the dance of the dinner rolls.

Harry Langdon in The Strong Man (1926). At the end of WWI, a little, mild-mannered Belgian immigrant comes to America looking for his beloved pen pal, Mary Brown. All he knows is that she lives in America. He joins in the stage act of fellow immigrant Zandow the Great, the Strong Man, going on in his stead when Zandow is incapacitated. Langdon also performs his famous backwards climb up the stairs. Directed by Frank Capra.

Harold Lloyd in The Kid Brother (1927). Harold Hickory is the youngest and scrawniest of the Hickory boys whose father is the town sheriff. When his father is accused of theft, Harold sets out to prove to his family, his girl, and his town that he is the equal of any Hickory in Hickoryville.

Spotlight: A. S. King

IMG_2660Did you know author A.S. King is coming to the library this fall? Her upcoming visit on Tuesday, November 10th has inspired me to complete the A.S. King Book Challenge (i.e. read all her books). After flying through Ask the Passengers, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, Everybody Sees the Ants, and Reality Boy, I can safely say that I haven’t been reading these books – I’ve been devouring them! With perfectly integrated magical realism and bomb resolutions, they are just that darn good.

Realistic in well-developed characters and tone, King deploys a bit of magical realism in the majority of her books that helps convey characters’ emotions and plot points in a unique manner. In Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, Glory discovers information about her family and members of the cult that live next door from getting glimpses into their futures after drinking a petrified bat. The other books include appearances from Socrates' ghost and an army of anthropomorphic, sassy ants. These bizarre devices help build well-defined characters and settings in such a seamless manner that the reader may forget that Socrates’ ghost and sassy ants are not a common occurrence in our world.

The magical realism will invest you into her characters' wellbeing to the point that you’ll dread parting ways with your new fictional friends. Luckily, King is also a master at perfectly satisfying resolutions. While other authors may rely on a Hollywood blockbuster finale that explodes in the reader’s face, King’s endings seem to glide to a slow stop for a perfect landing. Astrid, from Ask the Passengers, and Lucky, from Everybody Sees the Ants, both struggle with an underlying life challenge. Astrid wants her family and community to give her the opportunity to discover and accept her sexuality. Lucky wants protection from a bully who humiliates him in some of the most egregious and nauseating scenes I’ve ever read in a YA book. Both books’ endings diverge from the assumed happy ending conclusions, and yet both end with such optimistic notes that I can now say I’ve experienced the ever allusive tears of joy.

Magical realism and perfect resolutions are just the icing on the cake in King’s books. When you come to the library and head to the Ks in the teen fiction section, beware that just one King book will leave you craving for more. So grab an IPPL basket and a few tissues from the Ask Us desk, and cancel your weekend plans so that you too can complete the A.S. King Book Challenge!

Spotlight: Olivia de Havilland, Comedic Actress

oliviadehavillandWhat, Olivia de Havilland, Melanie of Gone with the Wind, Maid Marion of The Adventures of Robin Hood in a comedy? Several, actually. Try these.

It's Love I'm After (1937)

Leslie Howard plays Basil, an egotistic Broadway star in a drama filled relationship with Joyce, his leading lady, played by Bette Davis. Enter Marcia, a star struck society girl played by de Havilland, and the fireworks begin.

Hard to Get (1938)

Maggie Richards, played by de Havilland, is a spoiled rich girl who storms out of her house in a rage, borrowing a car in her escape. When she runs out of gas, she finds she doesn't have the means to pay up and spends the rest of the day cleaning the motor court cabins. Vowing revenge against Bill, the motor court attendant, she plots an elaborate plan to build him up and then bring him down to size.

The Male Animal (1942)

Henry Fonda plays Tommy, a literature professor at Midwest University, and Ellen, played by de Havilland, is his lovely young wife. When her old beau Joe, the former star of the football team, played by Jack Carson, visits for homecoming weekend, Tommy gets jealous. What do women want from the male animal, brains or brawn?

Spotlight: Robert Duvall

I watched Tender Mercies (1983) again, recently. It’s one of my favorite “little” movies. I realized as I watched it that Robert Duvall is one of those actors who make you forget you are watching someone performing a role. He has that special ability to make his characters real. His performances as Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Jackson Fentry in Tomorrow (1972), Tom Hagen in the first two Godfather movies, Frank Hackett in Network (1976), Lt. Col. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now (1979), Bull Meechum in The Great Santini (1979), Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies, Gus McCrae in Lonesome Dove (1989), and Sonny Dewey in The Apostle (1997) rank as some of the finest acting ever put on film. It is an impressive body of work.

He has had several Oscar nominations including one for his performance as a military man and father in The Great Santini and he earned his first Academy Award for Best Actor in Tender Mercies.

Pick one to watch and see if you don’t agree that he is one of the best. Some of his most acclaimed films are To Kill A Mockingbird, M*A*S*H (1970), Lonesome Dove, The Godfather I and II, True Grit (1969), Apocalypse Now, and the TV miniseries Lonesome Dove.

Spotlight: New Baseball Movies

We’re entering the dog days of summer and with that comes the mid-point of the season of America’s game. If the Cubs and Sox aren’t enough for you, here are two recent baseball films we loved.

Trouble with the Curve (2012) PG-13
Clint Eastwood movies are always good and this one is no exception.  In this heartwarming story, he is an aging baseball scout whose vision is starting to fail. Enter Amy Adams, his estranged daughter, to help her dad. Trouble with the Curve explores the very special relationship between fathers and daughters.

Moneyball (2011) PG-13Moneyball was a great movie which provided insight into the behind-the-scenes world of baseball. For the story behind the film, check out Michael Lewis’ Moneyball: the art of winning an unfair game.

For more baseball films, check the list on our website.

Spotlight: Ben Affleck

Who is Ben Affleck anyway?

After an early start at the age of eight, starring in the PBS series The Voyage of the Mimi, Ben Affleck didn’t make his big introduction into feature films until 1993 when he was cast in Dazed and Confused. After that, he did mostly independent films like Kevin Smith's Mallrats (1995) and Chasing Amy (1997).

Interestingly, in the same year he made Mimi, Affleck made the acquaintance of Matt Damon, a boy two years his senior who lived down the street. The two became best friends and, of course, eventual collaborators.

In his early years in Hollywood, tired of being turned down for the big roles in films and the forgettable supporting ones he did play, he decided to write his own script. Matt Damon was having the same trouble and together they produced a script with the kind of roles they wanted to play! Good Will Hunting (1997) was the result and it went on to win two Academy Awards (nominated for nine).

Career ups and downs followed with much media attention to romance and rehab. After many flops, he seems to have re-invented himself as a director.

He's has earned critical acclaim for directing films including The Town and Argo so perhaps Affleck's greatest talent lies behind the camera where reviews of his films call him ”a sensitive, thoughtful and collaborative” director.
Here are my choices from a long list of his films:

Spotlight: Spotlight: Turn of the Century Vienna: Freud, Pastry, and Murder

Spotlight: Turn of the Century Vienna: Freud, Pastry, and Murder
Two current mystery series use 1900 era Vienna as their setting. Frank Tallis’s Liebermann Papers series follows psychiatrist Max Liebermann as he assists his friend Detective Oscar Rheinhardt as he investigates murder. These murders usually involve serial killers and require Liebermann’s insight into pathological behavior. Occasionally a visit to Liebermann’s mentor, Dr. Freud, is required. Somehow indulging in a great many nicely described pastries is required to solve any crime. The first volume in the series is A Death in Vienna.
J. Sydney Jones's Viennese Mysteries feature lawyer Karl Werthen who investigates alongside real-life criminologist Hanns Gross. These cases involve historical persons such as artist Gustav Klimt and composer Gustav Mahler. Again, meals are lovingly described; this time tending more towards sauerkraut and sausages (although, I am happy to say, pastries do regularly make an appearance). The first volume in the series is The Empty Mirror.

Spotlight: Rita Hayworth

Spotlight: Rita HayworthBorn Margarita Carmen Cansino in New York on October 17, 1918, into a family of dancers, Rita Hayworth was one of the most glamorous actresses in cinema history and all-time great Hollywood legends. She was one of the few actresses to have danced with both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in the movies. During World War II, she danced in musicals Cover Girl (1944) and You Were Never Lovelier (1942). She became one of the famous pin-up girls, but it was her warmth and vitality that helped to make her a star.

Here are additional Rita Hayworth films you can find at Indian Prairie.

Spotlight: Audie Murphy

Spotlight: Audie MurphyAs most of you know, Audie Murphy was America's most decorated soldier of World War II. After the war, Murphy went to Hollywood and began a movie career under the tutelage of James Cagney. Most of the movies he made were westerns.

Indian Prairie has acquired the Audie Murphy Western Collection, which contains four films. Sierra (1950) is the first. Murphy's inexperience as an actor shows in this, his second starring western. And his then wife, Wanda Hendrix, gives him no help due in part to her unusual voice. The film is nevertheless worthwhile because of the spectacular photography, the singing of Burl Ives (who sings a few very beautiful ballads and a very comical song for children), and the appearance in small roles of future superstar, Tony Curtis, and television's most famous western marshal James Arness.

All four films include an introduction by Turner Classic Movies' Ben Mankiewicz. The special features section of each film includes interesting facts. Also, Sierra includes a mini-biography of Murphy. One of the interesting stories about this film is a mock fast draw gunfight between Murphy and Curtis. If you watch the other films in this collection, you will note how much Murphy grew as an actor.

The other films in the collection are Drums Across the River (1954), Ride Clear of Diablo (1954), and Ride a Crooked Trail (1958). They are all solid westerns well worth watching.

In addition, Indian Prairie has three other Audie Murphy films: His autobiographical To Hell and Back (1955); Night Passage (1957), a film I previously reviewed; and No Name on the Bullet (1959). To Hell and Back was Universal Studios' biggest box office hit ever, until it was eclipsed 20 years later by Jaws.
Audie Murphy was good actor, who, unlike most actors, was a genuine hero. He stood 5’5”, had a baby face, but with his genuine humility and his life experiences he brought something special to his films. A friend said at his funeral, "Like the man, the headstone is too small." He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery and after John Kennedy, his grave is the most visited gravesite.

Spotlight: Holiday Films

Spotlight: Holiday FilmsHoliday films are an important American pastime and though they can be a bit sappy, they can also warm our hearts and restore our faith in humanity. They're the perfect thing for helping to get everyone into the holiday spirit. Who cares if the weather is frightful when good movies and family fun keep us warm?

Just a few classics are listed below, but don't just settle for a movie… make it an event!

Spotlight: Man’s Best Friend

Spotlight: Man’s Best FriendWaiting for Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean (2011)? Try one of these classic stories about man’s best friend.

Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight (2003) is the classic story of a beloved collie, sold by his impoverished family, who makes his way back home to his boy. Jack London's The Call of the Wild (1981) is another story of loyalty. Buck the dog is rescued from a brutal existence as a Yukon sledge dog by John Thornton, to whom he becomes devoted. The Incredible Journey (1996) is another story, this time two dogs and a cat, that make their way over hundreds of miles of Canadian wilderness to find a home. Roger Caras’ Treasury of Great Dog Stories (1987) brings together stories by such well known authors as Mark Twain and Stephen Crane.

Spotlight: True Grit

Spotlight: True GritThis film was made in 1969 and remade in 2010. Both films have much to recommend them, as they followed the 1968 Charles Portis novel closely; the only strong criticism is they both should have stayed truer to book. The 1969 film starred John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell, and Robert Duvall. The 2010 film starred Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, and Matt Damon.

John Wayne received his only Academy Award for this film and Jeff Bridges received a nomination for his performance. Kim Darby gave a fine performance portraying 14-year-old Mattie Ross, who has hired Marshall Rooster Cogburn to bring her father's murderer, the nefarious Tom Chaney, to justice. But young Hailee Steinfeld gave an outstanding performance in the same role and received an Academy Award nomination.
Campbell played La Boeuf, a Texas Ranger also on the trail of Chaney, in the 1969 film (portrayed by Damon in the remake). Matt Damon's performance is far superior. I will not mention the names of the actors who played Tom Chaney, but I believe the actor from 1969 film gave a better performance and is much truer to the character from the novel.

The photography in both films is beautiful, but I give the edge to the 1969 film. With respect to the music, I give the edge to the 2010 film.

The 1969 film received two Oscar nominations, the 2010 film received 10. Whether or not you like westerns, I strongly recommend both films. There is plenty of action, comedy and pathos in both. And if you have not read the book, you should do so at your earliest convenience. It’s an American classic.

Spotlight: Canine Stars

Spotlight: Canine StarsReading about Rin Tin Tin in Susan Orlean’s new book Rin Tin Tin: The Life and Legend make you interested in other canine stars? Try some of these movies with appealing dog actors.

Lassie Come Home (1943) with Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor is the story of the devoted Lassie who returns home to his beloved young master. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993) is another story of devoted pets in search of their real home. Shiloh (1996) is an abused hunting dog rescued by a young boy and Benji (1974) is a lovable hero who rescues two young children from kidnappers. My Dog Skip (2000) helps a shy boy make friends and become a hero.

For more movie ideas, check out our lists of movies about cats and dogs and the rest of the animal kingdom.