I didn’t submit my suggestions in time to be included in the last post but I’ll throw a few out there now. I recently saw Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery , which was a lot of fun. Woody re-teams with his erstwhile muse Diane Keaton, and the inspired addition of Alan Alda and Anjelica Huston makes the whole thing even better. Carol and Ted (Keaton and Alda) are sure that their elderly acquaintance Paul (Jerry Adler) has committed the perfect murder. Hard-boiled author Marcia Fox (Huston) jumps into their bumbling investigation with both feet, but Larry (Allen) thinks they’re all nuts. Extra: before they were famous fun! Look for Zach Braff (aka J. D. Dorian) and Aida Turturro (aka Janice Soprano) in blink-and-you-miss-them roles.
Some of the old sitcoms make me laugh too, and The Dick Van Dyke Show has to be one of the best. The show features great writing (much of it by Carl Reiner) and an incredibly talented cast. Check out this clip for some crazy 60′s dancing by Buddy, Sally, and the rest of the gang, including a 25 year old Mary Tyler Moore. As for Dick Van Dyke’s performance, I have no words, only a question – how does he do that?
After last week, a lot of us could probably use a break from reality: a few minutes or a few hours of not thinking about the horrors of last week. I asked my colleagues what makes them laugh, cheers them up when they’re down, or just makes them forget their worries. Here are a few suggestions.
East Branch Director Marilyn suggests A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I have to second that: Confederacy is one of the craziest, best-written pieces of inspired lunacy that I have ever read. To get a sense of the book and what it means to so many readers, check out the foreword by the writer who shepherded the manuscript of the novel to publication, Walker Percy.
Marilyn also recommends Cold Comfort Farm, a 1932 comic novel by English writer Stella Gibbons. She’s also partial to the 1995 film adaptation, starring Kate Beckinsale and Stephen Fry.
Today we honor the memory of one of the greatest Americans ever, a man whose courage, wisdom, and determination changed this country forever. In the twelve years between his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and his murder at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Martin Luther King did more to advance racial justice than had been accomplished in the previous century since emancipation.
The finest work I know on King’s life and work is Taylor Branch’s three-volume America in the King Years. I particularly enjoyed the first volume, Parting the Waters, which is an absorbing account of King’s career up to the March on Washington as well as a fascinating examination of African-American society in the Jim Crow era.
If you’re not up to tackling Parting (it’s over a thousand pages), I highly recommend Harvard Sitkoff’s The Struggle for Black Equality. It’s fewer than 300 pages and compulsively readable. The chapter on the Montgomery Bus Boycott alone makes the book worth a trip to the library.
If you would rather watch than read, try Eyes on the Prize. This 1987 documentary on the Civil Rights Movement won a Peabody and 2 Emmys.
Join us for a three-part film series showcasing the use of classical music in war movies. The series kicks off at the Central Library this Saturday at 10:00 a.m. with Gallipoli. Live musical accompaniment for some scenes will be provided by members of the Cambridge Symphony Chamber Players for all three films.
1981; Starring Mel Gibson, Mark Lee, Bill Kerr, Harold Hopkins, Charles Yunipingli, & Ron Graham; Rated PG; 1 hour 52 minutes
Amazon.com says, “An outstanding drama, Gallipoli resonates with sadness long after you have seen it. Set during World War I, this brutally honest antiwar movie was cowritten by director Peter Weir. Mark Lee and a sinfully handsome Mel Gibson are young, idealistic best friends who put aside their hopes and dreams when they join the war effort. This character study follows them as they enlist and are sent to Gallipoli to fight the Turks. The first half of the film is devoted to their lives and their strong friendship. The second half details the doomed war efforts of the Aussies, who are no match for the powerful and aggressive Turkish army. Because the script pulls us into their lives and forces us to care for these young men, we are devastated by their fate.”
The next two movies in this series are:
Scent of a Woman, on Saturday, November 17th at 10:00 a.m.
1998; Starring Al Pacino and Chris O’Donnell; Rated R; 157 minutes
Amazon.com says, “Hoo-ah! After seven Oscar nominations for his outstanding work in films such as The Godfather, Serpico, and Dog Day Afternoon, it’s ironic that Al Pacino finally won the Oscar for his grandstanding lead performance in this 1992 crowd pleaser. As the blind, blunt, and ultimately benevolent retired Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, Pacino is both hammy and compelling, simultaneously subtle and grandly over-the-top when defending his new assistant and prep school student Charlie (Chris O’Donnell) at a disciplinary hearing. While the subplot involving Charlie’s prep-school crisis plays like a sequel to Dead Poets Society, Pacino’s adventurous escapades in New York City provide comic relief, rich character development, and a memorable supporting role for Gabrielle Anwar as the young woman who accepts the colonel’s invitation to dance the tango. Scent of a Woman is a remake of the 1972 Italian film Profumo di donna. In addition to Pacino’s award, the picture garnered Oscar nominations for director Martin Brest and for screenwriter Bo Goldman.”
Platoon, on Saturday, December 1st at 10:00 a.m.
1986; Starring Charlie Sheen, Forest Whitaker, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and Johnny Depp; Rated R; 120 minutes
Amazon.com says, “Platoon put writer-turned-director Oliver Stone on the Hollywood map; it is still his most acclaimed and effective film, probably because it is based on Stone’s firsthand experience as an American soldier in Vietnam. Chris (Charlie Sheen) is an infantryman whose loyalty is tested by two superior officers: Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe), a former hippie humanist who really cares about his men (this was a few years before he played Jesus in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ), and Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger), a moody, macho soldier who may have gone over to the dark side. The personalities of the two sergeants correspond to their combat drugs of choice–pot for Elias and booze for Barnes. Stone has become known for his sledgehammer visual style, but in this film it seems perfectly appropriate. His violent and disorienting images have a terrifying immediacy, a you-are-there quality that gives you a sense of how things may have felt to an infantryman in the jungles of Vietnam. Platoon won Oscars for best picture and director.”
The Cambridge Symphony Orchestra has worked with organizations that honor American veterans over 2012. The CSO has chosen these three war-themed films, and through an introduction with live chamber music, will spotlight how familiar classical music underscores the theme of war and its aftermath for veterans.
These programs are free and all are welcome. We hope you can join us!
America’s first celebrity chef would have been 100 years old today. But I should add that the phrase “celebrity chef” doesn’t come close to doing her justice. A master performer and a culinary genius, she transformed the way millions of Americans eat. When her series “The French Chef” first aired in 1963, the U.S. was a country of white bread and Jell-O to a degree that’s hard to imagine in the age of farmer’s markets, locavore groceries, and The Food Network. But with her theatrical gestures and falsetto-like voice, Child made the Western world’s premiere cuisine accessible to American home cooks. And she didn’t limit herself to television. Her Mastering the Art of French Cooking is remarkably clear and approachable. No less an authority than Craig Claiborne said Mastering “may be the finest volume on French cooking ever published in English.”
If you would like to learn more about this remarkable person, Noel Riley Fitch’s Appetite for Life is (so far) the authoritative biography. You can also get a fascinating look at Child’s life and work by reading As Always, Julia, Child’s collected correspondence with Avis DeVoto, her close friend and behind-the-scenes collaborator in the creation of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (many of the recipes in the book were tested in DeVoto’s kitchen).
Now, on to the schedule. Dan has chosen three “Scary But Funny” films for this inaugural series. First up, this Saturday at 10:00 a.m.: Ghostbusters, starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis. When ghosts go on a rampage, only three men can save the world. Soon every spook in the New York City is loose and our heroes face the supreme challenge. If you want your spirits raised, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!
Next up is Gremlins on May 5th and then Men In Black in May 12th. All will be shown at 10:00 a.m. at the Central Library.
This free film series is sponsored by the Friends of the Library and all are welcome. We hope you can join us! Look for more Community Curated film series in the weeks and months to come.
Last weekend I saw the movie (starring Gary Oldman, John Hurt and Colin Firth). In spite of the stellar cast, the film was disappointing: the movie is based on a novel of the same title with a plot so complicated and detailed it is probably impossible to adapt into a two-hour film. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy is one of my all-time favorite books and is considered by some critics to be the best spy novel ever written. Somerville just purchased some new copies of Tinker, and there are also many other copies available throughout the network.
If you want to take another crack at watching Tinker, Tailor, check out the miniseries produced by the BBC in 1979. It’s far far better than the movie and features sterling perfomances by Alec Guinness and Ian Richardson. SPL and many other Minuteman Libraries have it on DVD.
The historical events that inspired Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy are just as intriguing as the novel. In the 1930s Cambridge undergraduates H.A.R. “Kim” Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald MacLean, and John Cairncross were among many students who were avid Communists. These four, however, went beyond mere armchair leftism: they became spies for the Soviet Union. Faculty member Anthony Blunt is believed to have played a key role in their recruitment.
During World War II and afterwards Philby et al. all worked for the British goverment, passing important material to the Soviets. Their spying came to a halt in 1950, when Philby (at left) was British intelligence’s representative in Washington, and Burgess and Maclean were working at the British Embassy. Philby was informed by London that a British diplomat in the U.S. was spying for the Soviets, and he was ordered to find out who it was. Philby knew it was Maclean (at right). He was in the difficult position of having to conduct an investigation to unmask Maclean, while giving Maclean enough warning to escape. Burgess was enlisted to help Maclean escape the U.S., but Burgess actually went with him to Moscow instead.
It was obvious to British intelligence that Maclean had been tipped off, and the logical suspect was Philby. Burgess’ disappearance raised eyebrows as well. Soon afterward Philby was fired by British intelligence. A year later Cairncross admitted to spying for the Soviets after a search of his house turned up incriminating papers. Cairncross was never prosecuted, however. Philby defected to the Soviet Union in 1963.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Cambridge Spies, take a look at Deceiving the Deceivers: Kim Philby, Donald Mclean and Guy Burgess. It’s one of the few books on the subject to take advantage of declassified Soviet files released in the mid-nineties. The network also has a copy of Anthony Blunt: His Lives, a fascinating biography of the man who became a distinguished member of the Cambridge faculty, worked for British intelligence during World War II (and also spied for the Soviets), and became the curator of the royal family’s art collections. If you’re interested in reading about Philby & company but wanting something shorter than a book, the BBC has a great write-up on the Cold War and the Cambridge Spies here.
For a more creative look at two of the Cambridge Spies, check out a pair of brief plays by Alan Bennett. An Englishman Abroad is based on events in the life of Coral Browne, an Australian actress who had a chance encounter with Guy Burgess (at left) in Moscow after his defection when she was on tour in a performance of Hamlet. A Question of Attributiondeals with a few days in the life of Anthony Blunt leading up to his public exposure as a former Soviet spy.
Well, I think I’ve given you enough ideas for things to read or watch for one post….
We waited all year and now it’s here – the Friends of the Library Fall Book Sale!
Don’t miss out on this chance to get great deals on new and used books, movies, music, and more – and show your support for the Library! Proceeds from the book sale help support library programs for adults and children, including the popular “museum membership” program which allows Somerville residents to visit local museums free or at a discount.
Friday, October 28th ~ 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 29th ~ 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, October 30th ~ 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
There will also be a preview for Friends who have joined at the $50 level or higher on Thursday, October 27th from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
The Friends Book Sale is always a lot of fun…meeting up with your friends and neighbors, hunting for bargains, helping to ensure plenty of excellent Library programs in the months to come, maybe even scoring a copy of that elusive book you’ve been searching for…what’s not to like? We hope we’ll see you there!
What are you doing this Saturday afternoon at 2:00? How about joining us at the Central Library for a free screening of Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster?
Cinefantastique says, “This is one of the silliest but also one of the more amusing Godzilla movies. The goofiness of the enterprise somehow becomes part of the entertainment value, resulting in a likable, fun-filled, fast-paced movie that is totally incredible but quite watchable.
The story begins with a family worried about a missing son. Some people go looking for him and wind up accompanied by a likable thief who recently pulled off a big heist. Their search takes them to a South Seas island, which is protected by Ebirah, a giant shrimp-like monster. As if this were not bad enough, the island is the secret base of an organization calling itself “Red Bamboo” that is planning to launch a campaign of world domination. As slave labor, they have been kidnapping villagers from a nearby island presided over by Mothra, the giant moth-like god; among the slaves is the missing son.
The script by Shinichi Sekisawa eschews the city-stomping clichés that had marked previous Godzilla flicks, in favor of an island setting, lending a new flavor to the film. With its SPECTRE-like secret organization plotting to take over the world, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster feels almost like a James Bond film, and director Jun Fukuda treats it as such, featuring lots of fast-paced action and gunplay. Frankly, the whole thing is totally ridiculous, and yet somehow it manages to be colorful, exciting fun. It may be nonsense, but it is enjoyable nonsense for fans, especially younger ones.”
We’ll provide the popcorn, and before the feature we’ll show a cartoon (hint: this one features someone who is strong to the finish ’cause he eats his spinach.)
This free film series is sponsored by the Friends of the Library. Everyone is welcome – we hope you’ll come!
Oy. The mercury is supposed to break 100 today and tomorrow won’t be much better. If you don’t have air conditioning, you are more than welcome to spend time at the library while we are open. Furthermore the cooling center at 167 Holland Street will be open until 8:00 pm tonight.
A few years ago during another heat wave The Onion had some tips for staying cool. I can’t remember the entire list, but my two favorites were: “Seal all doors and windows, and flood your house with iced tea,” and “The Yellow Face. It burns us. Stay in cave and guard my Precious.”
Today is also a good day to remind SPL blog readers about something I’ve linked to before on this blog: Mark Bittman’s list of 101 dinners you can make with little or no cooking.
You could also just remind yourself that it could be worse. One of the more interesting documentaries I’ve seen in the past few years is Sahara, in which Monty Python veteran Michael Palin travels through eight countries, rides a camel caravan part of the way, risks the local food, learns about skiing on sand dunes, and attends a reunion of British veterans of the World War II Africa campaign.