"Women Who Make America" Details Struggle for Equality

Makers: Women Who Make America is a three-part PBS documentary narrated by Meryl Streep. The film delves into the story of the birth of the modern women’s movement and covers five decades of women’s struggle for equality at home, work and life. I expected to have this documentary on in the background as I worked on other things, but found the film so engrossing, I watched all of it in one sitting.

The story of activism, feminism and what became known as women’s liberation is told through old film footage and interviews with women who did more than stand by and watch; they brought about change one move at a time. The women come from social, economical, and political backgrounds that are as varied as their personalities. They are flight attendants, coal miners, mothers, politicians, secretaries, writers, actresses, telephone operators and executives.

With retro music and advertisements, "Makers" quickly pulls the viewer into the stories and lives of women such as Judy Blume, Sandra Day O’Connor, Billie Jean King, Gloria Steinem, Marlo Thomas, Nora Ephron, Geraldine Ferraro, and Hillary Clinton.

James Gandolfini, a.k.a. the iconic Tony Soprano, has died

James Gandolfini, an award-winning actor on both large and small screens, has died.

Gandolfini blasted his way into the public's consciousness with his nuanced portrayal of Tony Soprano, the complicated head of a New Jersey mob family in HBO's popular series, The Sopranos, which first aired in 1999. Tony Soprano was, by turns, violent enough to beat a man to death for dissing the memory of his dead horse, henpecked by his wife, Carmela (Edie Falco, cowed by his mother, Livia (Nancy Marchand), and anxious enough to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco).

Mr. Gandolfini, a Jersey man through and through, was a graduate of Rutgers. He came late to acting, having sat in on a friend's acting class when he was 25. His first acting role was in Sidney Lumet's 1992 A Stranger Among Us (on order). Many other silver screen roles followed, including the 2001 Brad Pitt/Julia Roberts film The Mexican, in which Gandolfini handily stole the show from both megawatt stars playing a gay hit man.

Mr. Gandolfini racked up an impressive number of awards for Tony Soprano, including three Emmys for outstanding lead actor in a drama, a Screen Actors Guild (2000) and a Golden Globe.

Mr. Gandolfini, who was on vacation in Italy when he died yesterday, was 51.

Enjoy your stay at Pines

Secret Service agent Ethan Burke wakes up on a roadside with initially no recollection of how he got there, but knowing that he is badly injured. As he walks into the idyllic town of Wayward Pines, Idaho, some memories start to surface. He eventually recalls that he and his partner (wherever he is) were on their way to this town to locate two missing federal agents, but their car was struck by a semi. But does he have any proof of who he really is? of course not...Anyway to contact family or work? not a chance (although he tries!)...More mystery and suspense, not to mention a bit of horror and just plain weirdness, meld together into a book that is difficult to put down. If you like the writing stylings of Cormac McCarthy and the eerie storytelling of a Stephen King, then you will love Blake Crouch's Pines ! If you are interested to know more about the author check out his website, http://www.blakecrouch.com

He comments in the afterword that this story was inspired by his favorite TV show, Twin Peaks. And yes the story does take place in a beautiful small-town with odd folks in it and as he says, "...a pitch-black underbelly.", but his story goes somewhere altogether different...

Summer Classics Film Series @ The Michigan Theater

Summer is the time to relax at the Michigan Theater with the cool A/C and some cool movies after a long day of enjoying the sun.

Sundays and Tuesdays all summer long there will be a variety of films playing at the Michigan Theater as part of their Summer Classics Film Series, which kicks off June 16.

Enjoy big screen viewings of Blazing Saddles, Vertigo, A Night at the Opera, Dirty Dancing, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Planet of the Apes, Rocky, Sing-A-Long The Sound of Music, The Kiss, Lawrence of Arabia, Run Lola Run, and Casablanca.

For the night owls there’s another film series also playing at the Michigan this summer. The Summer Classics After Dark Series happens Thursday nights at 10pm and will feature films such as Django, Eraserhead, Taxi Driver, Willow, Sing-A-Long Trapped in the Closet, and Psycho. Be sure to check the full schedule for times and be ready for popcorn and movies. Or there's always the AADL copy to get you by.

Jean Stapleton, a.k.a. Edith Bunker to a whole generation of adoring fans, has died

Jean Stapleton, who forever endeared herself to millions of TV viewers in her role of the ditzy-but-wise Edith Bunker, has died.

As Edith Bunker, sweet wife to the unapologetic, stuck-in-his-ways, working class Queens, NY conservative bigot Archie Bunker (played by the late Carroll O'Connor) in the popular 1970s sitcom All in the Family, Stapleton packed whole essays of timid disagreement into her nasally, softly screechy "Oh, Archie" or "Oh, my!". And when Archie would go too far and Edith stood up to him, Archie cowed and audiences cheered.

Ms. Stapleton played against character. She was a strong feminist playing the role of a meek, submissive, taunted housewife to Archie's often-derisive persona. As the women's movement gained traction on the national political stage, the shows' writers kept pace. One of the most memorable episodes centered on Edith's rare flare-up, pushing back against Archie's resistance to her volunteer work in a senior citizens' residence.

In addition to the four consecutive Emmys that the show won, Ms. Stapleton earned three (19721, 1972, and 1978) or her own.

For those who thought glass would shatter on a weekly basis with the opening song of All in the Family, sung by O'Connor and Ms. Stapleton, whose latter contribution was to hit impossibly loud off-key fingers-down-the-blackboard notes, it may come as a surprise to learn that Ms. Stapleton had a lovely voice, as evidenced by her extensive work on Broadway, the movies Bells Are Ringing (2005), and TV (she sang with The Muppets).

Ms. Stapleton, who was 90, died Friday in New York.

Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days


If the fish out of water scenario appeals to you, check out Morgan Spurlock’s television show 30 Days. In this reality TV series Spurlock, or some person or people, spend 30 days immersing themselves in a lifestyle that is completely different from their own. In the pilot episode, Spurlock and his fiancé attempt to live 30 days on minimum wage. (At the time of filming minimum wage was $5.15 an hour.) They allow themselves one week of pay as a cushion (approximately $300), and are not allowed to use any form of credit. What unfolds is a window into the life of living paycheck to paycheck, without health insurance or reliable transportation, all while battling hunger. The concept for the show stemmed from Spurlock’s documentary Super Size Me where he goes on a McDonald's only diet for 30 days straight. The film documents the physical and mental toll this lifestyle change makes on him and explores the world of the fast food industry. The documentary series 30 Days touches on issues in American life that ranges from poverty, outsourcing and binge drinking. This is a great experiment on walking in other people’s shoes as a way to understand who they are and why they have their beliefs and ideas.

New TV shows on DVD @ AADL

The library is always acquiring additional TV shows, be they hot and new, or oldies but goodies. Here are some new series on their way to AADL:

Grimm
A drama series inspired by the classic Grimm's Fairy Tales. Portland homicide Detective Nick Burkhardt discovers he is descended from an elite line of criminal profilers known as 'Grimms', charged with keeping balance between humanity and the mythological creatures.

Henning Mankell's Wallander
Before anyone else played the part, Rolf Lassgard established the role of Kurt Wallander in the original Swedish film adaptations of Henning Mankell's bestselling crime novels. Kurt Wallander is a cop who gets the job done; decades of coming up against criminal minds has honed his instincts for investigations and he knows where to draw the line between the job and personal vendettas. Usually. (Swedish with English subtitles) If you’re a Wallander fan, be sure to also check out another TV version starring Kenneth Branagh.

Better off Ted
A satirical office comedy centered around a morally conscious man, Ted, who works for a research and development department at a morally lax corporation.

Eureka
The quirky town of Eureka, America's brightest scientists are working on some of the government's best-kept secrets-- some lead to brilliant inventions and some to total chaos. Making sense of the mysteries is Sheriff Jack Carter, a former U.S. marshal who is stranded in the surreal small town after a random car accident.

Rules of Engagement
One married couple, one engaged couple and one of their single friends, who are all at different places in their relationships, deal with dating, commitment, and marriage.

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

Dan Brown's latest novel, Inferno

Last week, Dan Brown's new novel, Inferno was released and is in hot demand. In this 476 page blockbuster, Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor whose specialty in symbology takes him to Italy to unravel the secrets of Dante's Inferno, races against time to save the world.

Dan Brown came to the public's attention in 2003 when his intriguing, provocative, controversial The Da Vinci Code broke all sorts of publishing records and is, to this day, one of the bestselling novels of all time. Ever since, he has had one #1 bestseller after another. Just two years after The Da Vinci Code was released, Brown was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most influential People in the World.

Are you on the wait list for Inferno? Never fear, we have a list of great titles that share Brown's powerful formula of mixing history, religion, and/or literature and cryptography to tell a compelling story. Try some of these to tide you over until your number comes up.

Umberto Eco's very first novel, published in English 30 years ago, is considered a classic. In The Name of the Rose, Brother William of Baskerville, a 14th century monk, is sent to Italy to investigate seven deeply disturbing murders. Three years later, Sean Connery starred in the award-winning film version.

In The Eight (1988), Katherine Neville, tells the story of Catherine Velis, a computer pro for one of the Big Eight accounting firms. Velis is fascinated by the relationship between chess and mathematics and sets out on a dangerous quest to gather the pieces of an antique chess set, scattered across the globe. If found, the complete set will reveal a world-changing secret, which began in 1790.

Jonathan Rabb, in his popular 2001 The Book of Q, moves back and forth between sixth century Asia Minor and 20th century Croatia. Father Ian Pearse is a researcher at the Vatican Library who cannot forget his passionate affair eight years earlier with Petra. When he comes across the translation of an ancient scroll that reveals a shocking code, he returns to Bosnia (and, oh yes, Petra) to save the world from the secrets buried in the scroll.

Scrolls and diaries that beg to be decoded to reveal earth-shattering religious secrets, are at the center of The 13th Apostle (2007), by Richard and Rachael Heller. This time, the sleuths are Sabbie Karaim, a biblical scholar and ex-Israeli commando and Gil Pearson, an American cybersleuth who discover there are those who are willing to kill for this possible link to one of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

If you are too impatient for your hold for the print version of Inferno, why not try Paul Michael's dramatic narrative performance in the audiobook version?

First Position

First Position is a documentary about determination and drive. This film follows six young competitors in the very prestigious Youth America Grand Prix. You will sit on the edge of your seat as you watch these dancers pour their heart and soul into ballet. Their passion for the art is evident in their diligence as well as their final dances. For some the competition is about being able to make a career out of dancing and for others it is a way to ensure a good future, but for all of them the competitions represents a chance to have their passion for ballet affirmed and prove that their hard work was worth it.

Even though the young dancers come from very different backgrounds and their ages vary, all of them have families that support their desire to dance. Almost always this means making financial sacrifices and dedicating large amounts of time to driving the dancers to practice. In a few instances the families relocate in order to be closer to a prestigious trainer. One thing that becomes evident is that ballet is not just a hobby for these young people and their families, it is a lifestyle.

This documentary is beautiful and uplifting. I was amazed at the intensity the dancers had and at times cringed at the things they would put their bodies through in order to preform better. One of the nice aspects of the film was that none of the parents seemed too crazy. They did not push their kids to do something they did not want to do but rather worked to support the dreams that their kids already had. The one family that I thought might head in the crazy direction, in the end proved me wrong, allowing their child to quit ballet while his sibling continued on. His mother did cry, but she did not (at least on camera) beg him to continue dancing.

If you like watching ballet you should click here to see what other videos and other materials we have on this beautiful dance. Or perhaps you just like documentaries about people putting their heart and soul into something. If that is you, you’ll want to check out Kings of Pastry.

TV Time: Homeland

Are you looking for a new TV show to get sucked into? Look no further. In Showtime’s Homeland, US Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) returns home after spending eight years in Iraq as a prisoner of war, where he was found and rescued on a compound belonging to terrorist Abu Nazir. During an unauthorized mission in Iraq, CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) was warned by an informant that an Amerian POW was “turned” by al-Qaeda, and Mathison now believes that Brody is the "turned" POW and that he's plotting an attack on the US. Thinking her superiors wouldn’t believe her and wanting immediate action, Mathison takes it upon herself to set up surveillance on Brody watching him 24/7.

The suspenseful and intense television show focuses on Brody’s reunion with his family after being MIA for so long and now being thought of as a war hero, as well as with Mathison’s obsession with finding intel on Brody. Mathison is dealing with her own mental health issues and this helps fuel her manic search for evidence.

The critically acclaimed Homeland has aired two seasons, winning a 2012 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, as well as Outstanding Actor/Actress In A Drama Series awards for Lewis and Danes. As well as Golden Globe Awards for Best Television Series – Drama in both 2011 and 2012. A third season premieres this fall.

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