Stories We Tell

Stories We Tell, a documentary directed by the accomplished Sarah Polley, showcases the idea of storytelling as an art form. Intrigued by the life of her deceased mother, she interviews members of her family and others linked to Diane Polley to uncover the truth. Sarah was born to older parents, and her family often joked that she looked nothing like her father. While researching Diane's past as an actress in Montreal, she finds more than she bargained for... and opens the door to a new reality.

The film takes viewers on an emotional ride that gradually reveals the relationship of each storyteller to Polley, who layers their raw emotion with staged footage and family photos. Each person has their own version of the story that weaves into the others for a nearly complete tapestry. As said in the film, many of the best stories come from within one's own life rather than outside of it.

"Stories We Tell" first debuted at the Venice Film Festival, and has since played at the Toronto Film Festival, the Telluride Film Festival, and the Sundance Film Festival. It was shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2013. Sarah Polley directed Away from Her and Take This Waltz, and is known for her acting work in Splice, The Secret Life of Words, and My Life Without Me.

I'm so Excited

I’m So Excited is the newest movie by renowned Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar (the genius who brought us Volver, The Skin I Live in, and Bad Education). Almodóvar describes his own latest work as "a light, very light comedy," and that is exactly what it is.

This film begins with two big name actors and a subplot that sets the scene for the main action of the film. The remaining time of the movie focuses on the crew and passengers on a flight from Madrid to Mexico City. The plane experiences technical difficulties once it takes off thus encouraging the flight attendants to distract and divert the passengers. As secrets are revealed and passenger histories are explained the narrative becomes more complicated, propelling the movie to a climactic end. Overall it was a fun movie and if you are familiar with and enjoyed Almodóvar's other films, you should enjoy this one.

52nd Ann Arbor Film Festival

Are you ready to feast on films this week?! The 52nd annual Ann Arbor Film Festival takes place Tuesday, March 25- Sunday, March 30 at the Michigan Theater. As the longest running experimental film festival in the country, the film festival celebrates the best in experimental film making featuring a ton of amazing films, including feature lengths, documentaries and short films-- all kicking off with an opening night reception prior to the opening screening on Tuesday. Amazing! Check out the full schedule, get your tickets, and why not hit one of the afterparties to soak in the scene?

Check out the Ann Arbor Film Festival DVD Collection at AADL, featuring some films from past festivals.

Also check out the wonderful Ann Arbor Film Festival Archive featuring photos, interviews, posteres, articles, programs from the history of the fabulous film festival.

Hitler's Children

This moving documentary tackles what it means to have a negative family legacy, and how different descendants strive to overcome the guilt they feel for what their ancestors have done. It follows the children and grandchildren of Goering, Himmler, and Frank. They reminisce about their childhood and reflect on memories they have of their relatives. Their stories are riveting and have much to teach those of us who are familiar with history but may not have as much of a personal connection to the narratives that spring from that history.

Some descendants exile themselves like Bettina Goering, who now resides in the Santa Fe desert. The film shows her throwing a get together for friends and neighbors where she celebrates German heritage with traditional German food and music. One gets the impression that she is desperately trying to reclaim the good aspects of her cultural history. Others such at Niklas Frank (son of Hans Frank and Hitler’s godson), have devoted their lives to passionately speaking out against the crimes of their relatives. Frank travels around speaking about the atrocities his parents committed and fervently admonishes them.

If you are interested in this topic and wish to discover more stories and psychological effects of growing up with such relatives make sure to check out Hitler's Children the book, as well as Born Guilty and Legacy of Silence. Also, if you are interested in discovering more about your own family history be sure to check out the ancestry.com library edition that is available at your local AADL branch.

Veronica Mars on the Big Screen

A long time ago, we used to be friends…

And it’s time to think about old friends again, because your favorite teenage detective is back! Yes, she happens to be a marshmallow.

After a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, the sassy Veronica Mars heads to the big screen on March 14 with The Veronica Mars Movie. The Kickstarter raised a million dollars in the first four hours it was open, and reached the $2 million goal in less than ten hours, leading to funding for the film’s production.

The film centers around Neptune Highs’ ten year reunion, and of course there’s a mystery to be solved. The day it comes out, the film will also be available to rent and buy through video-on-demand and online platforms. The Veronica Mars Movie will be the first film distributed in theaters and for home viewing at the same time in the United States by one of Hollywood's six major studios.

The Veronica Mars TV show, starring the adorable Kristin Bell, ran for three seasons. The show was set in the wealthy town of Neptune where the rich kids (AKA the 09-ers) rule the school. But the fearless and smart Veronica is always there to outwit them and even date them. The teen private eye is always into everyone’s business solving the town’s mysteries. Each season had a mystery that lasted the season, while at the same time featured additional weekly mysteries that needed solving. It’s such a fun show and I can’t wait to see the film!

Oscar Winners on DVD & Blu-ray

Last night was the 86th Academy Awards and Hollywood put on a big show as usual. Ellen DeGeneres hosted and ordered pizza while Brad Pitt passed out plates, Benedict Cumberbatch photobomed U2, Jennifer Lawrence tripped again, and Lupita Nyong'o was simply adorable as she danced to Pharrell William’s song Happy.

Top honor went to Twelve Years a Slave for Best Picture, which was one of three awards for the film, including best supporting actress and best adapted screenplay. Gravity won seven awards, the most of any film, including a Best Director win for Alfonso Cuarón.

Frozen won for Animated Feature, Twenty Feet From Stardom won Documentary Feature, The Great Beauty won Foreign Language Film.

Here’s a list of Best Picture Winners from over the years, as well as a list of 2014 nominees for Animated Feature Film, Documentary Feature, and Foreign Language Film that AADL has in the catalog.

Get on the hold lists and prepare for happy watching!

Mary and Max

When I read the news of Philp Seymour Hoffman’s passing I did a quick mental inventory of the movies I’ve seen that he is in, there are so many. The one that sticks out the most, and that I think he got the least amount of credit for, is the animated film Mary and Max. The film takes place from 1976 to 1998 and tells the story of the unlikely pen-pal friendship that lasts for 22 years between Mary (Toni Collette), a lonely 8-year-old girl who lives in Australia, and Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a 44-year-old, severely obese, secular Jew atheist with Asperger syndrome who lives in New York City. The central focus of the movie is the letters shared between Mary and Max and the stories behind their life and the lives of people around them. This dark comedy deals with very mature themes, such as death/suicide, mental health, and dark depictions of childhood innocence. It also deals with the themes of love, friendship and forgivness is a way that will leave you thinking about it long past the 92 minutes it will take to watch it.

Shirley Temple Black, America's Favorite Child Star, Dies at 85

Shirley Temple, Curly Girl

Shirley Temple sang and danced her precocious heart off for America in the 1930s and 40’s and is the single most popular child-star in film history. Shirley made 23 films during the Great Depression and made Americans smile through some very dark times.

She rose to international fame in 1934’s Bright Eyes and charmed the pants off audiences in a series of films where she was often an orphan with a plucky, “can-do” attitude about life. Shirley’s characters were always precocious with more common sense than any of the adults. Her most successful collaboration was with legendary African-American actor Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. They starred in four films together: The Little Colonel, The Littlest Rebel, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Just Around the Corner. Their staircase dance number in “The Little Colonel” stands out as a classic musical moment in film history.

Frances Ha on DVD & Blu-Ray

Directed by Noah Baumbach, and written and Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha follows the story of a twenty something New York woman, portrayed by Gerwig, who is a bit lost in life. Her best friend and roommate Sophie is moving on with her fella, leaving Frances to find an alternative. While working at a local dance company, she finds a new apartment with some friends, has money trouble, visits her parents, and heads back to New York. She continues to have fun while not quite accept the reality that is around her. In this Criterion Collection indie film Frances is a lively character and you can’t help but root for her as she fumbles through life decisions.

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