Ben Franklin on Video

The Ben Franklin exhibit continues!

Obviously, there are many documentaries on Ben Franklin. One from the History Channel not only features Ben, it also has a snippet from the series Save our History. Another from the History Channel includes a small printed study guide. Ben is even the main subject of one of the discs of the channel's The Founding of America series.

There are also some more interesting DVDs we have that include Ben. Liberty's Kids, a chidlren's TV series from 2002 has Ben as one of its main characters. There is also a short Disney production based on the book Ben and Me.

Two characters that have been named after the real Ben are Benjamin Franklin Pierce, from M*A*S*H, and Benjamin Franklin Gates, from National Treasure.

My personal favorite is either the "Ben Franklin" episode of The Office, or the musical film 1776, starring Howard Da Silva as our beloved Ben.

June's Books to Film

Green Lantern is based on the grahic novel series by DC Comics. In a universe as vast as it is mysterious, a small but powerful force call the Green Lantern Corps has been dependent upon as protectors of peace and intergalactic order. When a new enemy called Parallax threatens to destroy the balance of power, the fate lies in the hands of Green Lantern's newest recruit, the first human ever selected to wear the ring that grants them superpower.

In Submarine, 15 year-old Oliver Tate has two big ambitions: to save his parents' marriage via carefully plotted intervention and to lose his virginity before his next birthday. Worried that his mom is having an affair, Oliver forges suggestive love letters from his Mom to his Dad. Meanwhile, Oliver attempts to woo his classmate, Jordana, a self-professed, bossy, pyromaniac who supervises his journal writing --- especially the bits about her. I look forward to this delightful adaptation from Joe Dunthorne's humorous and imaginative novel (2008).

Based on the The X-Men comics created by Stan Lee, the current box-office smash X-Men, First Class is set up as a prequel. Before mutants had revealed themselves to the world, and before Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men, closest of friends, working together to prevent nuclear Armageddon.

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What’s New: Dramatic Films

Jolene: At the age of fifteen, Jolene, a free-spirited orphan, embarks on a decade-long cross-country adventure, where she experiences life, love, heartbreak, and freedom. Based on the short story Jolene: A Life, by E.L. Doctorow (Also available on Blu-ray).

A Summer in Genoa: A man moves his two daughters to Italy after their mother dies in a car accident, in order to revitalize their lives. As the family is responding to the tragedy, the move ends up changing everyone that summer. (Starring Colin Firth, Catherine Keener)

Mao’s Last Dancer: Based on a true story, this emotionally powerful crowd-pleaser emerged as one of the year's most talked about independent films. It's the fascinating and epic tale of Li Cunxin, a peasant boy from rural China who beats impossible odds to become a world-renowned ballet dancer. (Also available on Blu-ray).

Author Birthdays: Lorca, Scarry, Drabble

June 5th marks the birthday of authors Federico García Lorca, Richard Scarry, and Margaret Drabble.

Federico García Lorca was a Spanish poet and playwright who is believed to have been killed during the Spanish Civil War. Some of his unpublished poems and essays were collected in a volume in 1998, A Season in Granada; the overall theme of the collection is Granada, where Lorca was supposedly killed.

Lorca's works also include: In Search of Duende, which describes theories on dance, music, and bullfights; the play Yerma, which was made into a Spanish language film; and a collection of his letters, which gives a sort of autobiography of his life.

Richard Scarry was an American author and illustrator of children's stories. His most well-known works include those about Busytown, a place inhabited by animals.

Scarry wrote for many ages; we have board books, picture books, and readers. We even have some of his works in Chinese.

Margaret Drabble is an English writer of novels and biographies, as well as some other assorted non-fiction subjects. Of these non-fiction works, AADL has a biography of Angus Wilson (a fellow novelist), and a book on jigsaw puzzles, The Pattern in the Carpet.

Drabble's novels include: The Red Queen, which details the story of a London woman who receives an unpublished memoir of a Korean princess; The Seven Sisters, which Library Journal noted as having "a character who describes herself accurately as having 'much to be ashamed about'"; and The Millstone, set in 1960s London.

Staff Picks: At the Movies

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The Staff Picks shelf is downtown on the first floor. Here is a sampling of what the Ann Arbor District Library movie loving staff members are currently recommending:

I am Cuba “The island of Cuba has never looked as fantastically exotic as it does in "I Am Cuba," a nearly 2 1/2-hour swatch of cinematic agitprop that aspires to be the "Potemkin" of the Cuban Communist Revolution. Completed in 1964, during the headiest days of the romance between the Soviet Union and Cuba, this Russian-Cuban co-production is a feverish pas de deux of Eastern European soulfulness and Latin sensuality fused into an unwieldy but visually stunning burst of propaganda. Supervised by the great Russian director Mikhail Kalatozov, who is best known for "The Cranes Are Flying," it suggests Eisenstein filtered through "La Dolce Vita" with an Afro-Cuban pulse.”—New York Times

Bad Day at Black Rock “American isolationism has rarely been so caustically handled as it is in John Sturges's muscular and magnificent Bad Day at Black Rock, an 81-minute sucker-punch of a movie that has not aged a day since its release over a half-century ago. The film was the first to confront Japanese internment and subsequent xenophobia following Pearl Harbor, and it doesn't gloss over the psychological toll of the era's ubiquitous distrust. In the town of Black Rock, not a soul wanders without the weight of post-war guilt slung over their shoulders.” —Filmcritic.com

Ride Around World “A film to discover the amazing 1200-year global history of the cowboy. Rope wild bulls on one of the most famous American ranches. Swim with horses through the watery Argentine backcountry. Stage an attack on the casbah with Moroccan mounted warriors. Gallop over mountaintops in spectacular British Columbia. Journey on horseback through these exotic landscapes and many more as you RIDE AROUND THE WORLD!” —dvdtalk.com

Panic in the Streets “A classy thriller, much less laden with significance than most Kazan movies. Film noir and the Method go remarkably well together as the panic-stricken manhunt gets under way when a victim of a gangland killing is found to be riddled with pneumonic plague.” —London Time Out Film Guide

Le Deuxième Souffle “Taken as a series of bravura showcases for the director's unparalleled modulation of tone, rhythm, texture and mood, however, Le Deuxième Souffle smolders, its portentous fatalism generated from hyper-composed camerawork and an experimental jazz score that help couch the proceedings in a nowhere-world situated between dream and reality.” —Slantmagazine.com

Lady With the Dog “Filmed in 1960 to commemorate the centenary of Anton Chekhov's birth, "The Lady With the Dog" does him full honor. This Soviet-made drama does not deviate from the Chekhov canon. Cleaving to his classic style, it should prove a delight to his admirers since it speaks quietly but with eloquence and compassion of the frustrations of Czarist Russia's uneasy middle class.” —New York Times

Summer Flicks @ the Michigan Theater

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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.

Check out the 2011 Summer Documentary Film Series, which features a hand-picked selection of some of the best from the past few years. Documentaries such as Marwencol, Winnebago Man, Waste Land, Nenette, and more, will be shown on Mondays at 7pm. See here for full list of movies and dates for the Documentary Series.

Not into documentaries? Then check out the 2011 Summer Classic Film Series, showing on Sundays and Tuesdays through mid-September. View films such as The Godfather, Alien, Amelie, Psycho, and a sing-a-long The Sound of Music, all on the big screen. See here for full list of movies and dates for the Classics Series.

Both series start this weekend at the Michigan Theater!

Author Birthdays: Chesterton, White, Ehrlich

May 29th marks the birthday of authors G. K. Chesterton, T. H. White, and Paul R. Ehrlich.

G. K. Chesterton was an English author. He wrote mysteries, essays, biographies, and general fiction. His works on Father Brown, a Catholic priest and detective, were even adapted for television in the 70s.

Chesterton also wrote a biography of his friend and "rival" George Bernard Shaw, and the novel The Man Who Was Thursday, which involves seven anarchists in London who give themselves the names of the days of the week.

T. H. White was an English author best known for his Arthurian works The Once and Future King and The Sword in the Stone. The musical Camelot and the Disney film The Sword in the Stone were based on his works.

White also wrote the children's story Mistress Masham's Repose, about an English orphan and her interactions with Lilliputians, a race of people described by Jonathan Swift in Gulliver's Travels.

Paul R. Ehrlich is an American writer and biologist, as well as a professor at Stanford University. His works focus on the environment and population growth. His latest book, The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution And The Environment, published in 2008, examines the relationship between the two.

Ehrlich's first big work was The Population Bomb, which discussed overpopulation and its effects on society. His later book, The Population Explosion, considers the topic further, more than 20 years afterward.

What's New: Documentaries

A Small Act: When Hilde Back sponsored a young, rural Kenyan student, she thought nothing of it. She never imagined her quarterly donation of $15 would pave the way for Chris Mburu's journey to Harvard Law School. Years later, Chris has become a United Nations human rights lawyer working to combat genocide and discrimination. He decides to seek out the stranger who dramatically transformed his life.

Ocean Odyssey: Takes viewers on an undersea journey to remote and magical places. Follow Feodor Pitcairn, a pioneer in underwater HD cinematography, as he explores the marine ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands, the Azores, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and more. (Also on Blu-ray)

The Lottery: Focuses on the charter school experience for African American families. In a country where 58% of African American 4th graders are functionally illiterate, The Lottery uncovers the failures of the traditional public school system and reveals that hundreds of thousands of parents attempt to flee the system every year. (Perhaps this can be a supplement to Waiting For Superman.)

The Switch, Switches it up

If you enjoy watching romantic comedies, you may find yourself hoping that the next one you view will be a little different, a little more off the beaten path than what studios now produce. The Switch is just that. This romantic comedy is about a family coming together in an unconventional way. Wally (Jason Bateman) is introspective, so much so that he finds it difficult to date women more than a few times. His best friend, Kassie (Jennifer Aniston), upon her fortieth birthday, has decided to find a sperm donor so that she can finally have a child. After drinking excessively at her insemination party, Wally “trades Diane Sawyer to the Vikings” and “hijacks Kassie’s pregnancy” (switches the donor sample with his own), and drama ensues.

One of the excellent performances in this film is that of the young actor Thomas Robinson. As Kassie’s son Sebastian, Robinson is perfect as the introspective kid who would rather have his birthday party at a kill shelter than a rock climbing facility. Jeff Goldblum’s ramblings throughout the film as Bateman’s best friend are also entertaining. At times, some of the comedic effort falls flat; but overall, if you enjoy romantic comedies, this film is worth a view.

Author Birthdays: Baum, Porter, Bulgakov

May 15th marks the birthday of authors L. Frank Baum, Katherine Anne Porter, and Mikhail Bulgakov.

L. Frank Baum was an American children's author most well known for his story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; there were at least 17 total Oz books that Baum wrote.

Baum also wrote short stories about the magical land of Mo. You may be interested in looking up other books by Baum which were actually published under the pseudonyms Edith Van Dyne, Floyd Akers, Schuyler Staunton, John Estes Cooke, Suzanne Metcalf, and Laura Bancroft.

Katherine Anne Porter was an American writer and Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner (for The Collected Stories). She was also nominated numerous times for the Nobel Prize.

Porter's novel Ship of Fools was a best-seller and was made into a film starring Gone with the Wind's Vivien Leigh.

Mikhail Bulgakov was a Russian playwright and novelist. His most well known work was The Master and Margarita, a novel about the Devil visiting Soviet Russia. The book is something of a cult favorite now.

In addition, we have a collection of six of Bulgakov's plays. There is also another of Bulgakov's novels at AADL, Heart of a Dog, which is a strange story about a dog-turned-kind-of-man.

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