Great Library Collections At Your Fingertips!

If you've always been curious about the treasures hidden deep inside the Vatican Library or the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library, wonder no more! The two libraries are in the midst of a four-year project to digitize many of their most important works, including various Hebrew and Greek manuscripts and Gutenberg Bibles. Accessing the digitized content can be done by visiting http://bav.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/.

And if you've always wanted to check out the Vatican and Bodleian Libraries in person but just can't find the time, you're in luck! From DVDs about the collections, to Books about the buildings, to Audiobooks about the people who have shaped them, AADL has you covered!

Performance Network Theatre: Jerry's Girls

Ann Arbor's Performance Network Theatre is showing Jerry's Girls, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, through Jan. 5. Herman worked on the concept with Larry Alford and Wayne Cilento. From the theatre's webpage: "Fabulous, flamboyant and fun for the whole family, 'Jerry's Girls' is the larger than life musical revue of Jerry Herman. Winner of four Tony Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement of Theatre, Jerry Herman and his music are synonymous with some of Broadway’s biggest hits – Hello Dolly!, La Cage Aux Folles, Mame, Mack and Mabel, Dear World, and more. Complete with large scale production numbers, tap dancing, and a little bit of drag – this is the perfect holiday excursion . . . " Ticket information is here.

The Hobbit Returns

December 13th is the big day! The day where Lord of the Rings fans put on beards and march their furry feet over to the nearest theater to check out The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second in the film trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit: Or, There and Back Again.

The book and films tell the story of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who heads off on an epic quest to 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.

Perhaps you’ve caught the trailer before a recent new film, or have watched it online. SMAUG! To get yourself in gear, why not check out the first film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, to see just where things left off. It's available on DVD, Blu-ray, and a special 2-disc DVD set.

It might also be worth checking out some of the new books related to the new film! AADL has The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug Official Movie Guide and The Hobbit : the desolation of Smaug : visual companion for your viewing and reading pleasure. See you at the theater!

Like Downton Abbey? Try Call the Midwife!

If you are eagerly anticipating Season 4 of Downton Abbey but can’t bear to wait until January for it to air in the United States, the British drama Call the Midwife is a great show to make the waiting easier! Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, the show also originally aired in Britain and is set in London in the mid-twentieth century, a few decades after the setting of Downton Abbey. The show centers around main character Jenny Lee, a newly qualified midwife who works with other midwives in a nursing convent on London’s impoverished east side. The midwives and the nuns are kept very busy delivering babies and caring for newborns in and around the London area, and each episode typically also features a healthy dose of humor, romance, and interpersonal struggles.

Like Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife experienced huge success when it was first aired on the BBC in 2012, winning the Best New Drama TV Choice Award. It was then aired in the United States on PBS in the fall of 2012. The second season was also wildly popular, and the third season will be airing in 2014 in Great Britain and the United States.

You can check out the complete first and second seasons of Call the Midwife (as well as the first three seasons of Downton Abbey!) at the AADL.

The Bling Ring on DVD & Blu-Ray

Inspired by actual events, The Bling Ring tells the story of a group of fame-obsessed teenagers living in the suburbs of Los Angeles who use the internet to track celebrities whereabouts in order to rob their empty homes.

Directed by Sofia Coppola, the film is an interesting take on the events that happened, and how tech savvy teens can use their skills in such ways. One of the homes the teens burgled multiple times was that of Paris Hilton, who has a cameo in the film, and part of her home was actually used as the location. There is also a book, The Bling Ring: how a gang of fame-obsessed teens ripped off Hollywood and shocked the world by Nancy Jo Sales, that recounts information related to the misadventure.

Poldark

PoldarkPoldark

If you are missing Downton Abbey, and need something to fill the dark evenings, you might give Poldark a try. Based on the novels of Winston Graham, and released as a 29-episode television series in England 38 years ago, it is still in the top 10 favorite Masterpiece Theater series of all time.

Set in Cornwall, at the end of the 18th century, Captain Ross Poldark returns from the American wars to find his father dead, his estate in ruin and his fiancee (believing him dead) married to his cousin. Over the next 15 years, we follow Ross, his low-born, but very charming and spirited wife, Demelza, and his family, neighbors, friends and enemies, as they battle storms of jealousy, villainy and economic uncertainty. There is also enough of love, success and contentment to keep things on a fairly even keel.

Being Cornwall, the fortunes and vicissitudes of life are influenced by mining and smuggling, and stories of both figure prominently in Poldark's story, and being the late 18th century, the French Revolution has exerted its influence on the class-conscious Brits. There is plenty of adventure, in other words, and the dashing and head-strong Poldark does not disappoint as he dashes about, righting wrongs and sometimes creating and then solving numerous scrapes. The scenes of the Cornish countryside and coast are particularly beautiful.

Not quite as elegant or fine a family as the Crawfords, the Poldarks still entertain with many of the same themes: class differences, love – both thwarted and fulfilled, the politics and struggles of the day, good vs evil men and women, and the fortunes and misfortunes of inherited privilege and wealth. Part romance, part adventure and part soap-opera, it is all you have come to expect from British historical drama.

Video of Author Bill Minutaglio Discussing "Dallas, 1963"

If you missed our event on October 20, you can now watch or download the video of author Bill Minutaglio discussing his new book Dallas, 1963. Released just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination, Bill and his co-author, Steven L. Davis, have written a chilling account of the city that would become infamous for the assassination of a president.

TV Spotlight: The Newsroom

The Newsroom is a hot, new, critically acclaimed television show that takes places behind the scenes of a television newsroom, reporting on actual news topics. The fictional ACN is home to a nightly broadcast featuring anchor Will McAvoy, played brilliantly by Michigan’s own Jeff Daniels. The prickly McAvoy returns to work after a hiatus to learn that his staff has left to work on another show. He and his new executive producer (also his ex-girlfriend) and the newsroom staff are the focus of the show as they produce a nightly news program under high pressure.

I’ll admit it took more than a couple episodes for me to get into The Newsroom, but I’m glad I stuck with it. Created and principally written by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, the show is an interesting look at what goes on behind the scenes and it’s a good group of characters to follow along with as they deal with their own personal dramas amidst the newsroom. There's some really great writing, and since it deals with real news topics it can get emotional at times as well. There have been two seasons thus far, and HBO has confirmed that there will be a season three.

The Flat

The Flat is an autobiographical documentary centered around family and mystery. When Arnon Goldfinger’s grandmother passes away, her Tel Aviv flat needs to be cleaned out. As family gathers to sort through decades of memories, questions arise. Searching for answers, Arnon turns to his mother, but she is unable to provide adequate information, explaining that her parents did not willingly offer information and she did not ask. The most troublesome discovery is that when Arnon’s Jewish grandparents moved from Germany to Tel Aviv at the beginning of World War II, they maintained friendships with members of the Nazi party. After the war was over they even visited one another and continued a steady correspondence. Stunned, Arnon is sent on a scavenger hunt to discover just how a relationship between two such groups could survive, surrounded by war and atrocities.

Another less pressing question, but equally fascinating, is why Goldfinger’s grandparents were so reluctant to leave Germany and why his great grandmother refused to leave at all. These individuals had such a connection to their home country that even with the threat of discrimination and death, they did not want to abandon it. If you are more interested in this concept, you should check out Bound Upon a Wheel of Fire: Why so many German Jews made the tragic decision to remain in Nazi Germany.

The Flat is poignant and honest. Some people who are shown in the film wrestle with what they discover about their relatives while others walk away with more questions that will most likely never be answered. This is a great film to spark conversation.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #434

Conceived as an homage to his favorite author P.G. Wodehouse, Sebastian Faulks' Jeeves and the Wedding Bells * * * is the first new novel in nearly forty years to bring a welcomed return of Bertie Wooster and his unflappable valet Jeeves.

For almost 60 years, P.G. Wodehouse documented the lives of the inimitable Jeeves and Wooster, and built himself a devoted following. In the new episode, Bertie, nursing a bit of heartbreak over the recent engagement of one Georgiana Meadowes to someone not named Wooster, agrees to “help” his old friend Peregrine “Woody” Beeching, whose own romance is foundering. Almost immediately, things go awry and the simple plan quickly becomes complicated. Thanks to Bertie, the situation could only get more hilarious and convoluted.

"(This) P. G. poseur gets the plot right, but what about the all-important patter, the Bertie-isms and the priceless Bertie-Jeeves dialogue duets? But Faulksie nails it again, evoking rather than imitating, but doing so in perfect pitch." It proves that the Wodehouse estate chose well in authorizing Faulk to pen the first new Jeeves and Wooster novel since 1974.

A good excuse to revisit the Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of the original series, and to introduce a whole new generation to some of the finest British television comedies.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

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