Visions of Light

These days anyone who owns a digital video camera and fiddles around with iMovie can call themselves a filmmaker, but in order to do it right you really should do some studying. After all, even close friends and family members wouldn't mind a little more quality (and a little less quantity) the next time you show one of your home movies. All wannabe filmmakers, especially aspiring cinematographers, would be smart to check out Visions of Light, an excellent documentary film on the art of cinematography. See how master cinematographers such as Gregg Toland, Conrad Hall, and Gordon Willis approach their work and prepare to be inspired!

"Klaatu barada nikto!"

49 years ago today the earth stood still when this alien command was spoken in theaters across the country on the opening day of the Cold War, sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, directed by recently deceased director Robert Wise. But America was also mesmerized by the new sound of the theremin, which earned its place in the pantheon of good (and bad, see: Ed Wood) movie soundtracks, reaching its quivering peak in 1966 with the Beach Boys' unrivaled "Good Vibrations". For more on this unusual instrument, the Library owns the compelling documentary Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey.

Another Side of Bob Dylan

Whether or not you're a fan, Bob Dylan, the brilliant songwriter/musician who pioneered multiple schools of songwriting and almost single-handedly redefined what it meant to be a singer, musician and performer in the 1960s, is certainly a worthy subject for a documentary...even if it is over 3 hours long. Martin Scorsese's long-awaited film about the erstwhile Robert Zimmerman airs this week on PBS, but if you miss it, don't get tangled up in blue: The Library will be getting the DVD in October. In the meantime, check out D. A. Pennebaker's fascinating 1967 documentary Don't Look Back, or the energetic first volume of Dylan's autobiography which covers much of the same period as the Scorsese documentary.

So what's your favorite Dylan song?

Leaping lizards! The lad can dance!

Billy’s dad wants him to be a boxer. Billy’s brother wants him to be a boxer. Even Billy wants to be a boxer, sort of.

Everything changes when Billy secretly starts learning ballet instead of boxing. Billy Elliot is an unsentimental celebration of family, dance, and community set during the 1984 coal miners’ strike in northern England. Be aware that despite the young protagonist, this movie is rated R. Fans of The Full Monty, Ma Vie en Rose, or Strictly Ballroom might enjoy this sweet, exuberant, and riotously funny film. And of course there’s plenty more out there about lads, leaping, and labour conflicts.

Emmy Winners

Sunday was highlighted by the 57th Annual Emmy Awards. Those taking home statues at the end of the night included: Lost (Drama Series), Warm Springs (Made for Television Movie), The Lost Prince (Miniseries), Tony Shalhoub for Monk (Actor/Comedy), Geoffrey Rush for The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (Actor/Miniseries or Movie), Felicity Huffman for Desperate Housewives (Actress/Comedy)

Paul Rusesabagina

Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel proprietor who sheltered more than 1,000 refugees during the 1994 Rwandan genocide and inspired Don Cheadle's Oscar-nominated performance in the 2004 feature film Hotel Rwanda, will receive the 15th University of Michigan Wallenberg Medal on October 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the Power Center. For more on the Rwandan genocide, check out Sometimes in April, a critically-acclaimed HBO feature film that follows the tragic paths of one family torn apart by this same tragic event.

Happy 100th, Greta Garbo!

I guess I'm not so sure about the propriety of wishing happy birthday to someone who passed away in 1990 (Emily Post, where are you when we need you?), but the rest of us can celebrate -- today is the 100th anniversary of Greta Garbo's birth. Crack open one of her films or maybe just find out a bit more about this famous recluse. See how she fit into the studio system with the other "golden girls of MGM."

Merchants of Cool

Who knows more about teens than their parents, teachers, or even themselves? Who has enough influence to tell teens what's cool, what's not, and what will be in a few months? The answer to these questions is the subject of this insightful documentary, directed by Barak Goodman, about the relationship between teens and the savvy marketers who target them.

These Merchants of Cool are the "creators and sellers of popular culture who have made teenagers the hottest consumer demographic in America." Learn more about them by watching this documentary and by visiting the film's informative website at PBS Frontline.

What to Watch

What We Eat is a 13-episode series that aired on public television in 2002. It explains how and why certain foods have become staples of our national diet. Along with the historical perspective, the show includes video and analysis of how these items are produced by both large and small American companies today. Hosted by Burt Wolf, the 4-DVD set contains one disc devoted to Old World Influence, African Influence, Native American Influence, and Spanish Influence.

Robert Wise 1914-2005

From cult horror (Curse of the Cat People, 1944) to science fiction (The Day the Earth Stood Still, 1951 and The Andromeda Strain, 1971) to the classic American musical (West Side Story, 1961), director Robert Wise, who died September 14 at the age of 91, had a diverse and successful career. A college drop-out, Wise landed work in a movie studio where he held a series of odd jobs until finally becoming an editor, contributing his skills to what many consider the best American film of all time, Casablanca. But Wise is perhaps best known for the movie film critic Pauline Kael famously called the "sugar-coated lie that people seemed to like to eat", 1965's The Sound of Music.

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