Category Archives: movies

French Cinema

I think I’ve hit a wall on French memoirs and fiction. I think I’ve pretty much read everything I want to/need to read. Although I am discovering picture books set in Paris with my son (he loves Madeline and Babar right now), I haven’t been indulging in as many French travel books as before. They all seem repetitive and it really seems like Scandinavia is really plugging their culture as the hip new thing everyone should be obsessed with. There are a number of books about hygge and other elements of Danish living that are flooding the  blogs and bookshelves right now.

All this is a long-winded way of saying that I’ve been delving more and more into French movies. Contemporary, fun, and interesting French films. Since there is no Goodreads for movies, I figure this blog is the best way to really document what I’m watching.

I’m not quite sure what is it about French films. Its not even that they are set in France. Its really the stories that they tell. Maybe its the limited budgets, but the stories are so much more streamlined and less hyperbolic than American movies. There is so much less fluff, less nonsense, less arbitrary supporting characters.

I’m playing a bit of catch-up with this post, but hopefully I’ll have a weekly movie review coming up on this site. Well, maybe weekly. Or as often as I watch a French film.

Le Chef Poster

(2012)  A young chef, Jacky, keeps getting fired because he gets creative in the kitchen. An older chef, Alexandre, puts up a battle, knowing that he’ll soon be bumped from his coveted position to make room for another young chef who specializes in molecular gastronomy. In a world of food, friendships and rivalries, Jacky & Alexandre work together to save Alexandre’s job.

 

Haute Cuisine Poster (2012) This is a wonderful biographical movie about chef Danièle Delpeuch and how she was appointed as the private chef for François Mitterrand. She dealt with an enormous amount of sexism in the kitchen, but nevertheless, produced some amazing meals for the president. Its a wonderfully touching and inspiring movie.

All That Glitters Poster

(2010) Lila and Ely are best friends who live just on the outskirts of Paris. They go to the clubs on the weekends and are your typical party-girls with hears of gold.  When Lila begins a relationship with a wealthy Parisian, she and Ely soon begin living a lie about their own financial status, putting a strain on their friendship as well as on their relationships with their families. I really adored this movie. Anyone who is not born into glamour or wealth can appreciate the motivation of these two girls to keep up with high-society.

Blind Date Poster (2015) Fed up with living under her father’s thumb, a young pianist finds an apartment to call her own. On her first night, she runs away thinking its haunted. Further inspection leads her to find out that its actually her neighbor. A shy, reclusive artist who hates sharing the thin walls with anybody.  Things get interesting when she moves in and won’t stand for his demand for absolute quiet. Its a very cute and funny love story. I can picture an early 80s American version with Meg Ryan.

The Intouchables Poster

(2011)  This one is my absolute favorite that I have seen so far. I can safely say I like it better than Amelie (ducks undercover). This is the story of a man who becomes quadriplegic after a paragliding accident and his rough-around-the-edges caretaker. The two form an unlikely friendship. Philippe is a young aristocrat surrounding by pity, Driss is recently released from jail and looking for any way to support his mother and their large family. This movie is actually based on a true story. It really reminded me of Jojo Moyes Me Before You. Its sentimental, but not a tear-jerker. The characters are authentic and relatable without feeling forced. I highly recommend this movie if you ever have the chance.

Midnight in Paris – Movie review (Paris in July)

Midnight in Paris Movie

What better way to kick off Paris in July than by seeing Woody Allen’s newest movie, Midnight in Paris. The movie stars Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Carla Bruni, Marion Colliard and a whole ensemble of actors to round out the film.

I knew nothing about its plot when I went to see it, so I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum.  The biggest things that drew me to the movie was the mere fact that it was set in Paris and is a Woody Allen movie.

The movie, is about Gil Pender, a wannabe novelist currently working as a Hollywood screenwriter. He goes to Paris with his fiancee and her parents and soon discovers another world in Paris. One filled with all of his literary heroes from eras past.

As much as I liked the movie, I didn’t fall in love with it the way others have. Woody Allen has hit the key spots of glamorizing the city and its history. I loved the cinematography, I loved the literary, artistic and musical references, I loved the fashions and I loved the concept of the movie. Woody Allen’s Paris is definitely not the Paris that I enjoyed when I was there, but I was definitely with Gil’s stance about the city throughout the entire film, which is utter adoration.

What I didn’t like was the lack of depth in any of the characters (out of a cast of 10+ too). I didn’t like the abrupt ending, I didn’t like that many moments of Gil’s midnight strolls in Paris felt forced. I didn’t like Gil’s character, although I thought Owen Wilson was great in this role. His normally animated acting style was very muted in this film and reminded me of Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction.

As an English major with a minor in Humanities, I caught nearly every reference that made in the movie. It was great to see that all my knowledge hadn’t gone to waste, but still. I felt as if this movie was lacking something. If felt too much like an English major’s fantastical daydream of Paris. I think for a great movie with a lot of depth as well as fantastic shots of Paris, I’d rather watch Paris, Je’Taime.

The Romantics – Review

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The Romantics by Galt Niederhoffer

Age: Adult

On the eve of Lila Hayes and Tom McDevon’s wedding, a group friends reunite after a long separation following their college graduations from Yale. Inseparable during their college years, the group in turn coupled off with each other, leaving Laura the odd one out, but not without a lasting love and adoration requited by Tom. As the friends reunite the night before the wedding for one last hurrah; scandals are exposed, rumors spread, accusations hurled and gossip is the rope that binds them all together.

This is the type of book that took a while for me to enjoy. The beginning was very dry and very “this happened, this happened, he looks like this, she looks like that.” Very passive and telling without being showing. It wasn’t until the toasts had been shared at the rehearsal dinner when I started developing an interest in the characters and their interactions amongst each other. I didn’t like any of the characters. I thought they were all deceptive, needy, rude and all carried a sense of entitlement about them, although I was pushing for the romance between Laura and Tom, there was no one in the book that I could consider myself being friends with. Quite honestly, it made me pause to examine how I act with my friends and ponder if women really are that bitchy and if men really do only think with the lower half of their anatomy.

Galt Niederhoffer did an excellent job examining and critiquing the elitist life of the New Haven upper class yuppies, from the snobbery to the scenery. Although the group was there for Lila and Tom’s wedding, I didn’t feel as if there was one or two dominate perspectives in the narration. Told through third person, Niederhoffer follows the group of friends as they split up into pairs to search for a missing member of their party. It is during this separation when the gossip and ruthlessness of the troupe is revealed. Although a central element throughout the entire book was Tom’s and Laura affection for each other, many other issues were raised that I think sort of cast the romance aside.

The book was released as a movie with a truly wonderful cast earlier this month on Sept. 10th.  I’m actually looking forward to seeing the film rendition of this book. I think the novel was written as a prelude to a screenplay. I could visualize the entire setting and would love to see the story come to life. With a cast like Elijah Wood, Candice Bergen and Anna Paquin, its sure to be a success.

The Romantics
by Galt Niederhoffer
St. Martin’s Press, 2008
ISBN 0312373376
277 pages

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Find this book at your local library

The romantics

The Hollywood Librarian – DVD review

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The Hollywood Librarian, directed by Ann Seidl

95 minutes

I checked this DVD out from my local library mostly because of the title.  The subcaption for the DVD is “A Look at Librarians Through Film.” That being said, the title is misleading when it comes down to the actual content of the documentary. Very small portions of it are dedicated to librarians in film, and those snippets are only used to supplement the rest of the content.

https://i1.wp.com/meanmore.com/market/images/T/dvd_jacket_140.jpgThis is basically a documentary on the value and relevance of the written word, of libraries and librarians as the guardians of freedom, as creators of civilization and as a friendly and welcoming face in any given community.  The content is jumpy and isn’t focused on any central theme.

Ann interviews librarians from various cities across the US on topics ranging from literacy, to the Patriot Act. There is a good portion of the documentary devoted to the closing of the 3 libraries in Salinas, CA (the birthplace and muse for John Steinbeck).

Had the focus been narrowed to any one of the topics in this documentary, it would have been a fantastic film. Each topic (the history of libraries, the Salinas libraries, Carnegie, Patriot Act, etc) would have made for great single subject documentaries because of the breadth of information for each topic.

One major annoyance I had with this DVD, and maybe it was just my disc, was that it could only be viewed in full screen mode. Anything that was written on the screen was cut off so it was unreadable for the most part, which was a shame, because there were some really thoughtful quotes and facts printed on the screen.

I do appreciate the sentiment of the film towards librarians, and this is one of the only documentaries on libraries and librarians. It is valuable towards differentiating the role of librarian in today’s world with that of the film stereotypes. With the frequency of statements like “libraries won’t be around in 10 years” that I hear from people whenever I mention that I am a librarian, this DVD was a refreshing reminder that my job has relevance and sustainability. No, I do not feel like my job is threatened by the Internet. The role of the library is to evolve with society and meet their needs and provide a service that goes beyond just helping them find information.

If you are looking for a DVD on librarians in Hollywood movies, this isn’t for you. If you are looking for a general documentary on libraries and librarians, then this might be a good starting off point before jumping into a more specific subtopic.

Up in the Air – Movie Review

Up in the Air is the newest movie by director Jason Reitman (Juno and Thank You for Smoking). For some reason unbeknownst to me, there is only 1 movie theater in the  entire Bay Area that is playing this movie, and it just happens to be in San Francisco. I think that is a shame, because this is one of the best movies I have seen all year, and I really wish more people would be able to go see it. The screenplay is based on the novel of the same name by Walter Kirn. The book was written in 2001, but the plot and execution of the film is timely given today’s recession and epidemic levels of lay-offs.

The plot: George Clooney plays a man who travels almost 90% of the year, firing people. When managers are too coward to lay-off their own staff, they call a separate corporation to send someone to do the job. Clooney’s character, Ryan Bingham lives in an isolated world, surrounded by strangers. Airports are his home, he has no solid relationships with anyone in his life, until he meets Alex. A female frequent flier that seems to be his exact female match. To cut the story short, Clooney takes on a travel partner, a 23 year old Columbia graduate who wants to revolutionize the firing industry through technology and the internet (firing people via computer screen rather than in person).

I heard the interview with Jason Reitman on NPR and I instantly wanted to see this movie. I liked Thank You for Smoking, but I really did not like Juno. Ellen Page really killed the movie for her. I thought her delivery was forced, her character was too witty to be realistic, and I’m really just sick of Michael Cera always playing the desolate loser. But, that’s a tangent.

Up in the Air is a really emotional movie, where you see people at their most vulnerable. The people getting fired and the people doing the firing. You learn a lot about the value of friendship, of love, of compassion. You see how technology, although bringing people together all around the world, is also putting up a wall against human contact. One thing I found interesting about the movie, was that except for the obviously famous actors, all the people being laid off in the movie, are real people who have been laid off by the recession. Jason Reitman put out an ad, touting this movie as a documentary about job loss and the recession. I think going this route, really gave the movie a more human feel to it, than if actors had played those roles. It gave a face, numerous faces actually, to just how severe this recession is.

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Audrey Weekend

I think that the next time there is a 3 day weekend, I’m going to spend one of those days off holed up in the living room, bundled under some blankets with a steady supply of coffee and snacks. I’m going to have an Audrey Hepburn movie marathon, watching each and every one of her movies from the very first one, to the very last one.

This might be a better 2 day marathon event though.

I’m watching Roman Holiday right now, and it is my favorite movie of all time. Not sure what that says about me, my adoration of this lopsided love story w/o the happy ending. My boyfriend says its the realist in me. I think its just the caged bird syndrome the princess feels that I relate to sometimes when I feel bogged down with work, family and other obligations that keep me stationary in California.

Until I have the funds to actually go through with my travel plans, I’ll live vicariously through Audrey Hepburn in Rome.

Coraline – movie review

Has anyone else seen the movie Coraline yet? Was it not the most awesome 3-D movie??

I read that book quite a few years ago, but didn’t really how creepy the whole concept really was until I saw the movie Sunday night. The movie, was fantastic, first off. The 3-D animation, the storyline, graphics. Everything was so visually appealing and well put together. I really want to go see it again. Neil Gaiman has a magic touch, I swear. The man can do no wrong (well, except maybe Stardust. That book was a little to girly for my taste). But everything else of his is pure wonder, psyche and  adventure.

This is really a movie that must be seen in the theaters. Don’t wait for the DVD!!!

To see what theaters in your area are showing the 3D verison, do a Google Search for Coraline 3D and your Zip Code. If you put only Coraline and your Zip Code, you get only the 2D versions, and that’s just not acceptable. =p

Time Traveler’s Wife – movie updates + Book Fairs

According to IMDB, The Time Traveler’s Wife is set to be released on Dec 25th, 2008. The holiday season is the time for emotionally charged movies, and I really hope this film won’t disappoint. IMDB also has 6 screen shots from the movie, mostly Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams being cuddly together. I hope this movie doesn’t end up being a “girly” flick. Its so much deeper than that.

In related news, Henry De Tamble’s non-fictional library The Newberry Library in Chicago, IL is having a book fair July 24-27th this year.

“Feed your bibliomania at the Newberry’s annual Book Fair! More than 100,000 donated books have been sorted into 60 categories for your browsing convenience. With many books priced under $2, it’s easy to replenish your home library’s holdings on subjects ranging from antiques to zoology. Admission is free.”

It seems like not enough book fairs take place in California, least of all in the Bay Area. Do we not read here?

There are 2 events coming up that sound interesting though, the Steinbeck Festival in Salinas (August 7-10) and Litquake in San Francisco (October 4-11).

For more on book events in your area, visit The Library of Congress Book Fairs page.

Lars and the Real Girl – Movie Review

Lars and the Real Girl came out around the same time as Juno. For one reason or another, I never had a chance to see either in the movie theaters, so I rented both over the past couple of weeks. As far as indie films go, I have a tendency to feel very naive because I never really understand the point. I never see what is so progressive and edgy. To me, a film is a film, a story is a story. All that matters is that it is done and presented well.

I feel alone in saying this, but I did not see the appeal and attraction of Juno. I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t find it original, the dialog was too witty and sarcastic to be realistic and the characters were somewhat annoying and shallow.

Lars and the Real Girl had everything that Juno didn’t. It had a heart and soul. A more realistic vision of life in a small town. The characters were approachable and although the situation wasn’t exactly “normal” the emotions were something all people go through.

**warning** There might be spoilers, skim with caution.

Lars is a quirky, quiet, sweet guy who I think is on some level autistic. He has his routines, he doesn’t like it when people touch him, and he was living alone with his father before his father died. That being said, he’s not the most emotionally available guy out there. He stays to himself mostly. One day, He pops up at his brother’s door and says he has a visitor, a girlfriend. This girlfriend is a life-like blow-up doll that Lars ordered over the Internet.

The commercials and trailer made the movie seem like more a comedy than it really is. What it is about, is a man with a huge emotionally gap between himself and his community. He’s depressed and alone and he doesn’t know how to reach out for help. Bianca (the girlfriend) is a vehicle for him to bridge this gap. The small town love for Lars is reflected in how the community accepts Bianca as real and indulges Lars in his delusion. They accept Bianca in their lives because they want Lars in their lives.

Its a very touching story of people being good people, of being patient, understanding and full of love and support when it is least expected.

Ryan Gosling is amazing in this role. Its nowhere near the standards set by Leonardo Di Caprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, but Gosling’s performance is still really good. The supporting cast had a fantastic chemistry, and it didn’t feel as if anyone over-acted or overshadowed each other.

I’m not one to buy DVDs, (I only have 5) but I think this one is worth getting. Its right up there with Garden State and Eternal Sunshine.

Stop-Loss

I had the chance to go see an early screening of Stop-Loss last night. It doesn’t hit theaters until Friday. It was an amazingly strong movie, especially for being an MTV production. I think people of all ages will like the movie, not just the MTV age-group.
Up to this point, I have been avoiding watching any of the movies about the Iraq war, but I can’t give an honest reason why.  What I liked about this movie, was that it wasn’t biased one way or another. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, since the movie isn’t even out yet.

The cast was amazing, I didn’t know Ryan Phillipe had that kind of talent in him.  Each character represented a different aspect of the war, their interactions were really captivating to watch.

The movie starts very fast-paced (set in Iraq) and is very MTV mode with music blaring in the background. But at some point, the movie steers off course and gets very serious, very quickly. Its disturbing how many Americans shrug off the war because we don’t agree with it. We’ve collectively washed our hands of the blood-loss in Iraq because its the president’s war, not ours. That doesn’t excuse our behavior.

I’m not normally a political person. I’m not a devout religious person either. I believe in being a good person. I believe in helping those less fortunate, Not for profit and not for recognition.

What I find interesting, is that most of the people that will go see this movie, are the MTV generation of 16-30 something, and most of those people will already by anti-war to begin with. What I want to know is if John McCain will sit down and watch this movie and think to himself “what have I put these kids though? what am I asking them to sacrifice?” I don’t think he will.

I admire the people who have been protesting this war from the very beginning. It takes a lot of strength to keep voicing your opinions even though it seems as though no one is listening.