David Frost, journalist and broadcaster, has died

David Frost, a journalist and former BBC broadcaster, most famous for his interview with the newly resigned former President, Richard M. Nixon, died yesterday.

Frost, who was born in Tenterden, England, first came to the public eye with a poltical satire show that many felt was the forerunner of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. That Was the Week That Was (a.k.a TW3) only ran for two seasons. It was cancelled when worries increased that its pointed humor would influence an upcoming election. In 1964, the U.S. picked up TW3, and kept Mr. Frost as its host.

Mr. Frost conducted many interviews with well-known political figures but it was his 1977 marathon interviews with disgraced former President Richard Nixon which brought him front-and-center to international fame. Mr. Frost always referred to those interviews as the highlight of his career.

Seven years ago, Mr. Frost accepted a job with Al Jazeera America, hosting The Frost Interview. It was scheduled to run through mid-September 2013.

Sir David, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1993, was the only person to interview the seven U.S. Presidents before the 2008 election of President Obama -- Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush). He also was the only journalist to interview the eight British prime ministers between 1964 and 2010.

Known for his grace, intelligence, and gift for extracting newsmaking quotes from his subjects, Sir David received many awards, including two Emmys, a Royal Television Society Silver Medal, and a 2005 fellowship from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Sir David, who was 74, died of a heart attack aboard the Queen Elizabeth, where he was to give a speech.

Learning with School House Rock!

If you grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons in the ‘70s or ‘80s it is quite likely you can recite the words to the Preamble to the United States Constitution by singing it. In fact, you probably learned a lot of cool things from the ABC short films Schoolhouse Rock! These animated ditties covered math, history, science and grammar in ways that made learning fun. The award winning program came straight out of the advertising world of Madison Avenue. When advertising executive David McCall discovered his son could not remember the multiplication tables, but knew all of the lyrics to the latest rock songs, his advertising mind took over and the wildly popular program was born. (Sadly, in 1999 McCall and his wife tragically lost their lives while on a mission in Albania aiding Kosovar refugees.) The AADL has a nice collection of Schoolhouse Rock DVDs that can be used both in the home and the classroom. Many of the DVDs have bonus features that include sing-along songs, interactive pop quizzes to help reinforce key concepts and downloadable educator’s guides with web links. Wherever you choose to enjoy the series, prepare to have fun learning with the catchy tunes that taught millions of children that Knowledge is Power!

Elmore Leonard, crime writer extraordinaire, has died

Elmore Leonard, longtime Michigan resident who captivated his readers for years, died this morning in his beloved Detroit.

Born in New Orleans in 1925, he started out as a writer of western fiction. One of his earliest (1953) westerns, 3:10 to Yuma, was the first of many of his novels to be made into a movie. In the case of Yuma, both the 1957 original release, starring Van Heflin and Glenn Ford and the 2007 remake, with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, were popular.

Once westerns reached their peak in the early 1960s, Leonard stuck with his copywriting career which had funded his writing since the 1950s. Then in 1965, his agent sold the film rights to Hombre(1961) (on order) which was released two years later, starring Paul Newman and Fredric March.

With the money from that sale, Leonard switched gears and began writing one entertaining, suspenseful crime novel after another, many of which, again, were optioned into movies. First up was The Big Bounce, 1969, which hit the the silver screen in 1969 and again with the remake in 2004.

Get Shorty, the movie (John Travolta and Rene Russo, 1995), was based on his 1990 novel by the same name.

In all, more than two dozen Elmore Leonard novels got the Hollywood treatment.

Critics and fans adored his books, marveling at his gift for dialog and spare storytelling. On July 16, 2001, Leonard wrote an article for the New York Times. In WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle, he laid out his ten rules for writing which have become revered guidelines ever since.

Elmore Leonard was the recipient of multiple awards, including a couple of Edgars, a Peabody, and the Owen Wister Award.In addition he had honorary PhDs from The University of Michigan, Florida Atlantic University and University of Detroit Mercy.

Mr, Leonard, who had suffered a stroke on July 29th of this year, was 87 years old.

Mud on DVD

Fourteen year old Ellis and his best friend Neckbone enjoy living on the Mississippi River boating and exploring nearby areas. One day they happen upon a boat up in a tree on a deserted island and think it’s the most wonderful hide-out ever. They soon discover that the boat is already inhabited by a man named Mud. And Mud has killed a man to protect his one true love, Juniper, and now he’s being hunted by bounty hunters and is hiding out until he meets up with her again. The boys agree to secretly help him and it brings a world of trouble on the small town that changes the boys forever.

Mud is a timeless adventure story of two boys trying to find their place and do good by the adults in their lives. Ellis yearns for a good example of love between adults and this fuels his desire to reunite Mud and Juniper. Ellis and Neckbone are children on the cusp of becoming men, full of hope and wonder, but half believe they already have the answers to it all.

It’s a beautifully written and thoughtfully directed film that portrays life along the Mississippi. Cast with locals to play the boys, and Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon to play Mud and Juniper, it’s a worthy viewing.

TV Spotlight: Fringe

Fringe gets recommended to fans of science fiction, police procedural dramas, and The X-Files. At first I ignored the recommendations due to the fact that the main actors were also main actors in Dawson’s Creek (Pacey), Lord of the Rings (Denethor), and The Wire (Daniels) and my brain couldn't handle it. Or the comparisons to The X-Files, which I love. Once I got past all that I was deep into the series and couldn’t stop!

Set in Boston, the show follows members of the FBI’s “Fringe Division” who, under the supervision of Homeland Security, investigate unexplained events using “fringe” science and experimentation that usually leads back to the fact that there are parallel universes and many dire consequences to the science behind their possible destruction. The show focuses on agent Olivia Dunham, former psychiatric hospital resident/scientist Dr. Walter Bishop, and Walter’s genius son Peter Bishop.

The early seasons of Fringe were mystery-of-the-week style, while later seasons focused more on the overall mythology that continues through the final 5th season. It’s fun to watch the relationships among the main characters as they evolve—Everything from the father/son relationship between Walter and Peter to Walter’s obsession with licorice and all things sweet. The show is intense and addicting, and you will see things in a different light while watching, because after all there are two of everything.

Paul Thomas Anderson's 'The Master'

Featuring an all-star cast of Academy Award-winning and -nominated actors Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Laura Dern, The Master is another fascinating film from Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson’s previous films Boogie Nights, Magnolia and There Will be Blood have all been well received.

The Master is a striking portrait of drifters and seekers in post-World War II America. It unfolds with the journey of a naval veteran who arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future, until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader. Believed by many to be based on the life of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, Anderson has said parts of the story were lifted from early drafts of the script for There Will Be Blood, as well as Navy stories that Jason Robards told him.

If you're drawn to The Master, you may want to check out the bestselling book by Lawrence Wright: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. The book features many interviews, including the infamous one with Paul Haggis featured in the February, 2011, New Yorker article THE APOSTATE Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology.

The X-Files turns 20!

This year marks the 20th anniversary of a cult favorite, The X-Files. Can you believe it?! In the fall of 1993 TV viewers were introduced to FBI special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully and Sci-Fi television was forever changed.

Scully is assigned to work with Mulder on the X-Files, which works on unsolvable cases involving unexplained phenomena. Scully is sent to partner up with Mulder and use her medical and scientific background to keep “Spooky” Mulder’s conspiracy theories in check. His sister was abducted when they were children, and his belief in extraterrestrial life and her abduction haunts Mulder as he obsessively works to find answers to what happened to her, while also trying to solve day-to-day unexplained events. Scully gets more than she bargained for once she too has trouble explaining what she and Mulder uncover while working X-Files cases.

Hideous beasts? Check. Aliens? Check. Shape shifters? Check. Government conspiracy? Check. One of the biggest will-they-won’t-they questions in TV history? Check.

The X-Files featured the typical “monster of the week” episodes, as well as an overall mythology of a larger conspiracy that spanned the entire run of the show and was woven into many episodes. The show aired for nine seasons for 202 episodes, and eventually two X-Files films as well.

Last weekend some of the cast, writers, producers, and the creator reunited at the San Diego Comic-Con, and discussed favorite episodes, monsters, and the future of Mulder and Scully at a 20th anniversary panel. Their discussion begs the question: Will there be a 3rd film?!

Dennis Farina, cop-turned-actor, has died

Dennis Farina, a Chicago police officer for 18 years before becoming an actor, has died.

Farina picked up acting jobs on the side during his career as a Windy City cop. He had roles in several movies, including Get Shorty (1995), Saving Private Ryan (199), and HBO's Empire Falls (2005), based on the novel by the same name by Richard Russo.

But it was his role, for three season, as the crusty, snappy-dressed detective, Joe Fontana, that endeared him to the hit TV franchise, Law and Order fans. His years in the Chicago PD burglary division served him well and gave his performances wonderful authenticity.

Farina, who was 69, died from a blood clot in his lungs in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Helen Thomas, longtime White House journalist, has died

White House news correspondent, Helen Thomas, is dead at 92. Ms. Thomas will always be noteworthy in American journalism for having shattered the glass ceiling as the foremost White House correspondent of her generation. An iconic and prickly writer of conscience, she was always willing to speak her mind and was at her best when she once growled, Listen up, Mr. President. In 2009, we brought Ms. Thomas to Ann Arbor for a special event at the Michigan Theater cosponsored by Michigan Radio. We also had the good fortune to interview Ms. Thomas. We have both the video and interview available for streaming and downloading.

Described Video Service/DVS

AADL continues to grow its collection of films that have a Descriptive Video Service or DVS feature. More films are being produced for children and adults that are Described Video Recordings for L Card users to borrow. There are comedies, action, animation, horror and science fiction films available. Many can be sent by mail to our WLBPD patrons as Free Matter for the Blind. If there's a member of your family who has been missing out on movies due to low-vision, look at our list of described videos that you can watch together!

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