The lure of Madame Satã

The directorial debut of Karim Ainouz’s, Madame Sata, is a pictorial marvel detailing the life of Joao Francisco dos Santos, a black Brazilian living in 1930’s racially and socially oppressive Lapa (northern Brazil). Joao (Lazaro Ramos), along with Laurita, (Marcelia Cartaxo) his best friend and Tabu, (Flavio Bauraqui) his pseudo household maid, construct a colorful yet restrained, irrational yet tender, spellbinding yet dark world through prostitution, drug usage and fantasy. Having the desire to rise above his meager lifestyle, Joao aspires to be a celebrated stage entertainer and loved by the public.

In the Realms of the Unreal

"The term 'outside artist' has never been so apropos, or so wistfully sad, as it is in the true case of Henry Darger, who spent his childhood in a home for 'feebleminded children' and his adulthood in near seclusion, working as a janitor and, in secret, on a 15,000-page epic novel with accompanying illustrations. Even those closest to him, relatively speaking--his landlady and a neighbor--did not know about his creative output until his death at the age of 81, after which his fantasy world came to light. Jessica Yu's In the Realms of the Unreal is an extraordinarily respectful documentary portrait of this strange, childlike man....highly recommended." (Video Librarian) Nominated for the 2004 Grand Jury Prize, Sundance Festival.

Fred and Ginger on DVD!

cheek to cheek

Finally! You've waited years and now they're here. Critics generally give Swing Time the edge, but my favorites are Shall We Dance (if only for the Gershwin score and that goofy roller-skating routine) and Top Hat. The latter film also gets my vote for the best all-time dance sequence with "Cheek to Cheek": Fred's delivery, the choreography and that feather dress (see left) all conspire for a sequence of cinematic bliss so purely escapist it even features as a plot point in other films such as The English Patient, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and The Green Mile.

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."

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