Best Documentaries of 2014

Blockbusters and TV get all the attention, but tucked away on our DVD shelves in the non-fiction section, where truth can be inspiring, scary, and a whole lot stranger than fiction, are some really wonderful documentaries from last year. Below are just three, but here's a longer list of the notable and award-winning non-fiction films we bought in 2014.

In The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden Darwin meets Hitchcock in this true-crime tale of paradise found and lost when filmmakers Dan Geller and Dayna Godfine revisit a strange 1930s murder mystery that begins when a Berlin doctor and his mistress start a new life on the uninhabited Floreana Island in the Galapagos.

Life According to Sam is the heart-rending but stirring story of Sam Berns, a 16-year-old born with the rare and fatal rapid-aging disease progeria, who is nevertheless determined to play in his school's band.

Freedom Summer traces the passion and anguish of ten weeks in the summer of 1964 known as Freedom Summer, when 700 student volunteers joined local organizers and African Americans to face violence and death in Mississippi.

Foxcatcher

In this true story, Olympic wrestling champion brothers, Mark and Dave Schultz, join Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont as they train for the 1988 Olympic games. Foxcatcher tells the story of du Pont’s madness and how it inevitably negatively impacts the brothers, their success and their lives. Foxcatcher is based on the novel written by Mark Schultz about his brother and their time with du Pont.

In a change of pace, funnyman Steve Carell offers an amazing dramatic performance as the mentally ill du Pont, and it’s quite intense to watch, but fascinating and cerebral at the same time.

Foxcatcher was nominated for three Golden Globes, including Best Picture. And is also nominated for five Oscars, including a Best Actor nomination for Carell, Best Supporting Actor for Mark Ruffalo and Best Director for Bennett Miller.

Skeleton Twins

The indie comedy-drama Skeleton Twins made its way through film festivals across the country last year with much acclaim. The film stars SNL alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig with phenomenal performances as fraternal twins Maggie and Milo.

They are both in their 30s, live in different states, and haven’t talked to each other in ten years. Unbeknownst to each other, they both plan to end their lives on the same day, and they each end up foiling the others plan, which forces a reunion. They spend the film getting reacquainted and trying to sort out their messed up lives. The movie is darkly funny, and the characters are so deeply flawed and loveable.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

The film that almost wasn’t has now finished. After the legal battle the prevented The Hobbit trilogy from being made closer to when the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed, fans wondered if Peter Jackson’s adaptation would ever set foot in theaters. This many years later, so completes the film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

The third and final film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, completes the (essential) story that was told in Tokien’s lone novel The Hobbit.

It’s the story of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who heads off on an epic quest to help the dwarves reclaim Lonely Mountain and its treasure from the dragon Smaug. Along the way is high adventure and many encounters with other creatures, namely the band of dwarves that he travels with. It is on this journey that Bilbo meets the creature Gollum, and where he first lays hands on “the one ring” that changes his life, and that of Middle Earth, for all time. This third film picks up right where the second film left off, after the introduction of Smaug. So make sure you watch The Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug first.

As a super fan of LOTR and The Hobbit, I loved seeing both trilogies, and am sad that this is the last(?!) time it’ll be on the big screen as we now know it. With the credits rolling in the last film, with Billy Boyd singing a last goodbye, well it may have caused me to well up.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #508

January brings a number of terrific debut novels. The one I am most excited to share is Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm (MFA, Helen Zell Writers Program at the University of Michigan). Follow her on Facebook, and plan to attend her signing @ Literati, 7pm on January 27.

She calls herself Julie now, from California. For the past 2 years, Grace restores bric-a-brac, repairs antiques and jewelry in a Paris chop shop, and lives alone in a shabby room. Regularly, she checks the Garland (TN) newspaper online for news of a case involving robbery of The Wynne House, a local heritage estate and museum, and the two young men caught for the crime, a heist that Grace meticulously engineered. Now, Grace's past and carefully constructed lies are about to catch up with her half way around the world, as the two men are being paroled.

In a series of flashbacks, from small-town USA to the Manhattan art scene, and the backstreets of Europe, we follow the "unbecoming-of-age" of a young woman with a special gift for restoration and for reinventing herself with equal deftness.

"Mesmerizing, nail-biting, atmospheric, and sensual... Unbecoming is an intricately plotted and psychologically nuanced heist novel that turns on suspense and slippery identity."

"Scherm mixes a character study with a caper novel full of double-crosses, lies, and betrayals... She is at her best when describing precious objects: a Dutch master's still life, a James Mont cigar box with hidden compartment, an ornate centerpiece with fanciful fruit and figurines, and silver spoons ignored by their owners but appreciated by the professional hired to evaluate them."

Readers looking for an elegantly well-played cat-and-mouse game should delight in Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1954); The Thomas Crown Affair (1968, and the 1999 remake); and White Collar, the just concluded (sadly) tv series.

Fans of Gillian Flynn who appreciate "(a) bleak tone, deeply flawed protagonist, and dysfunctional relationships" wouldn't want to miss this one. And let's not forget Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels as read-alikes.

 

Author Ayelet Waldman Discusses Her Acclaimed New Novel 'Love And Treasure'

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November 11, 2014 at the Downtown Library, Multi-Purpose Room

Author Ayelet Waldman discusses the inspiration behind her latest novel, "Love and Treasure." Waldman is the author of Red Hook Road, The New York Times bestseller Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, and other popular novels.

"Love and Treasure" is a spellbinding novel of contraband masterpieces, tragic love, and the unexpected legacies of forgotten crimes, weaving a tale around the true history of the Hungarian Gold Train in World War II.

The tale begins in 1945 on the outskirts of Salzburg, when victorious American soldiers capture a train filled with unspeakable riches: piles of fine gold watches; mountains of fur coats; crates filled with wedding rings, silver picture frames, family heirlooms, and Shabbat candlesticks passed down through generations. Jack, a tough, smart New York Jew, is the officer charged with guarding this treasure—a responsibility that grows more complicated when he meets Ilona, a fierce, beautiful Hungarian who has lost everything in the ravages of the Holocaust.

Seventy years later, amid the shadowy world of art dealers who profit off the sins of previous generations, Jack gives a necklace to his granddaughter, Natalie, and charges her with searching for an unknown woman—a woman whose secret may help Natalie to understand her grandfather's guilt - and a way out of the mess she has made of her own life.

This event was cosponsored by AADL and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor as part of the 2014 Jewish Book Festival.

Length: 00:49:39
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library
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Author Ayelet Waldman Discusses Her Acclaimed New Novel 'Love And Treasure'


Fabulous Fiction Firsts #507 -“In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?” ~ Gautama Buddha

Before I Go * by Colleen Oakley, given the premise, could have been a sentimental tearjerker but instead, yes, it is heart-wrenching of course, but surprisingly upbeat and life-affirming.

27 year old grad. student Daisy Richmond beat cancer once but on her third "Cancerversary", the cancer is back - Stage IV, aggressive and inoperable. She knows she won't be around for husband Jack's graduation from vet school - something they have worked, sacrificed and delayed their life-plans (kids and vacations) for. What terrifies Daisy most is not dying, but leaving brilliant, domestically-challenged, absent-minded Jack on his own. So instead of planning some "make-a-wish" grown-up getaway for her last days, she is going to find Jack a wife with the time she has left.

With the help of her best friend Kayleigh, Daisy systematically scouts out dog parks (must love dogs) coffee shops and online dating sites looking for the perfect match for Jack. But when it looks like she is way too successful in her quest, Daisy has a change of heart.

Debut novelist Oakley "expertly tugs at the heartstrings with well-rounded characters and a liberal dose of gallows humor."

For readers who enjoyed Hello Goodbye by Emily Chenoweth (a FFF); P.S. I love you by Cecelia Ahern that has been adapted into film; Hannah's List by Debbie Macomber; and Promises to Keep by Jane Green - novels that deal with difficult issues of illnesses and grief, holding on and letting go of the ones we love.

* = starred review

New TV Shows @ AADL

The library is always acquiring additional TV shows and new seasons of them, be they hot and new, or oldies but goodies. For these new ones you can now get the entire season in one check-out. Hello, binge watching! All the discs are in one case with an extended check-out period. Here are some new series on their way to AADL for the first time:

The Fall, Series 1
DSI Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) is a steely detective on the trail of a serial killer stalking the streets of Belfast.

Misfits, Seasons 1-3
Kelly, Nathan, Curtis, Alisha and Simon are five unruly teenagers forced to do community service as payback for their crimes. But when a freak electrical storm hits their town, strange things begin to happen to them that are way out of their control. In fact, they have no idea that they've actually turned into superheroes, each with a power they didn't choose or want. They must save their town from the evil that has descended upon it.

Popular, Seasons 1 & 2
Inside the walls of Kennedy High, there's a war being waged for the most elusive prize of all ... popularity. Samantha MacPherson is an unpopular brainiac. Brooke McQueen is the popular head cheerleader. The two are sworn enemies until Brooke's dad proposes to Sam's mom and the two families begin living together. Sam and Brooke then join forces to break their parents up.

Satisfaction, Season 1
A provocative drama that explores modern marriage at its midpoint. Through the lens of one couple, investment advisor, Neil Truman and his wife, Grace, this series answers the question, 'What do you do when having it all is not enough?' by delving into their shocking and unconventional choices.

Family Tree, Season 1
The story of the 30-year-old Tom Chadwick, an Englishman who has few roots, little family, and an unsure sense of his purpose in life. Tom inherits a mysterious box of belongings from a great-aunt he never met, triggering a passion to investigate his family lineage. As Tom's interest in genealogy grows, his life evolves in unexpected directions, as he uncovers a world of unusual stories and characters in the U.K. and the U.S., as well as a growing sense of who he is and who his real family is.

Republic of Doyle, Seasons 1 & 2
The Canadian mystery features a father and son sleuthing team based in the province of Newfoundland.

Tyrant, Season 1
Al-Fayeed "Barry", the son of a war-torn country's controversial dictator, returns to his homeland after a self-imposed exile in the U.S. But the lives of Barry and his American family are suddenly upended when Barry's volatile brother, Jamal, ascends to the throne. Barry's western views are pitted against Jamal's wife, Leila, who wants her husband to rule with an iron fist. Barry finds himself torn between the seductive lure of power and the sympathy for his country's freedom fighters.

Silicon Valley, Season 1
Partially inspired by co-creator Mike Judge's experiences as a Silicon Valley engineer in the 1980s, this comedy series follows the misadventures of introverted computer programmer Richard and his brainy friends as they attempt to strike it rich in a high-tech gold rush.

The Thick of It, Seasons 1-4
Chronicles the blunders of the fictitious Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship, a government department barely registering on the national radar. In this Ministry, every announcement is followed by a whirlwind of u-turns, every policy is a scramble and every mishap is met with abuse from the Prime Minister's policy enforcer.

Fore more TV shows, be sure to check out AADL’s lists for HOT TV shows, as well as NEW TV shows.

Golden Globe Award Winners

Last night the 72nd Golden Globes announced winners in top categories for motion pictures and television for the year. There is a lot of good stuff to get caught up on!

Best Motion Picture - Drama went to Boyhood (also winning Best Director for Richard Linklater and Best Supporting Actress for Patricia Arquette), Best Motion Picture - Comedy went to The Grand Budapest Hotel, Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture for Television went to Fargo (also wining Best Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture for Television for Billy Bob Thornton), Best Animated Film went to How to Train Your Dragon 2, Best Foreign Film went to Russia’s Leviathan, Best Television Series - Comedy went to Amazon’s Transparent (also winning Best Actor, Comedy Series for Jeffrey Tambor), and Best Television Series - Drama went to The Affair (also winning Best Actress, Television Series - Drama for Ruth Wilson).

See here for a full list of all winners.

Next up in screen awards is the Academy Awards which will be held on February 22nd, with nominees being announced on January 15th.

 

How To Advocate For Your Child With ADHD And Other Special Needs At School

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October 7, 2014 at the Downtown Library

Debora Blake, J.D. and Director of ACCESS Education, Advocacy and Consultation discusses how parents of children with ADHD can best advocate for their children at school. She gives a basic overview with plenty of time for questions and answers.

This event is co-sponsored by AADL and CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder) of Washtenaw County.

Length: 01:15:30
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library
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How To Advocate For Your Child With ADHD And Other Special Needs At School


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