Pitch Perfect on DVD

I didn’t expect to enjoy Pitch Perfect, but I did. Beca is a freshman in college and she has no interest in college life. She’d rather be in the real world DJing and producing music. Her father is a professor at the school and makes a deal with her that if she is in college for a year and joins a club and hates it, she gets to drop out and he’ll pay her way to LA to make music.

Enter the Barden Bellas. The Bellas are an all girls a cappella group that take on their rival male singing group, and surprisingly, talented outsider Beca is able to add some life to their stale routines, which creates tension between her and the group's leader who isn't into changing up.

The film is quite funny with the singing cast offering many one liners. Watching the cast members create and perform the musical routines is pretty entertaining.

Film & Discussion: Unnatural Causes

Is inequality making us sick? It turns out there's more to our health than bad habits, healthcare or unlucky genes. The social conditions in which we're born, live, and work affect well-being and longevity. Two episodes from the documentary series Unnatural Causes will be screened at this event: Episode 2: 'When the Bough Breaks,' highlights how racial justice and civic engagement are instruments for improving health and birth outcomes, and Episode 7: 'Not Just a Paycheck,' shows how layoffs, unemployment, and job security have a negative effect on health.
Unnatural Causes is the acclaimed 2008 documentary series broadcast by PBS tackling the root causes of our alarming socio-economic and racial inequities in health.

A discussion after the film will be led by UM faculty and physicians, Terence Joiner, MD, and Matthew Davis, MD.

This event is co-sponsored by the University of Michigan Community Scholars Program.

March 26 | 6 - 8:30pm | Downtown Library 4th Floor Meeting Room | Grades 9 and Up |

Ann Arbor Film Festival: Films, Archives, DVDs

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is next week! I love this time of year. So many films to see in just a few days time. Have you been hawking over the schedule and taking notes of what you’d like to see? Be ready, as the fun begins gala-style on Tuesday, March 19 and runs through Sunday, March 24.

Established in 1963, The Ann Arbor Film Festival is the longest-running independent and experimental film festival in North America, and we are lucky to have it in our own backyard. The 51st annual festival is bringing some wonderful experimental films to the Michigan Theater, and a visit from Ken Burns is also on deck!

Fore more film fodder, be sure to check out the Ann Arbor Film Festival Archive, accessible online. You’ll have full access to old photos, flyers, articles, festival programs, and interviews from past festivals. Meanwhile, to view some of the films of past festivals, check out these collections available at AADL:

Time Pieces: 46th Ann Arbor Film Festival, DVD collection, Volume 1

Unexplored territories: 47th Ann Arbor Film Festival, DVD collection, Volume 2

48th Ann Arbor Film Festival, DVD collection, Volume 3

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap is a 2012 documentary film that was directed by American actor and rapper Ice-T and was well received at the Sundance Film Festival. Ice-T spends the film talking to many of hip-hop’s great MCs and asks them many deep questions regarding their music and writing, including the following: What does hip-hop mean to you? What inspires you? What was the first rhyme you wrote? Which are questions that normally don’t get asked when interviewing rappers.

He visits parts of New York, Detroit, and California and chats with Afrika Bambaataa, Rakim, Melle Mel, Treach, Q-Tip, Chuck D, KRS-One, Kanye West, DMC, Ice Cube, Xzibit, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Grandmaster Cas, Dr. Dre, and many many more. The film plays more like a conversation among artists and peers rather than talking heads interviewing each other. It’s filled with music, free style rhymes, and plenty of reminiscing about great MCs, great rhymes, and the history of all aspects of hip-hop. It was fun to watch and to hear MCs discussing their love of writing, and it really made me want to listen to some old school classics like Grandmaster Flash and Run-DMC. If you’re a fan of hip-hop or music history, check it out. Also keep in mind that AADL has a large collection of rap CDs, both new and old.

5 Broken Cameras on DVD

The critically-acclaimed documentary 5 Broken Cameras is one man’s view of his village’s fight against encroaching development. Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat buys his first camera to document the birth of his fourth son. Over time he also begins filming the non-violent protests that take place in Bil’in, a West Bank village in Palestine, that begin after Israeli developers erect a separation fence and begin taking over part of the land in and near Bil’in.

The film documents the village’s five-year struggle to get the barrier taken down and development stopped. During this time,as Burnat is shot at and his cameras are destroyed during the protests, we see events unfold through one camera after another. Viewers not only witness the growth of Burnat’s youngest son, who is one day a baby and by the film end is attending the protests, but also the daily struggle of the community and Burnat’s family as they band together against military action. They are brutalized, arrested and defeated daily, but are led by such passionate leaders that they don’t give up, despite their sadness and anger. Burnat’s film is a touching, disturbing, personal account of the Bil’in residents and their part in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

5 Broken Cameras, by filmmakers Emad Burnat, a lifelong inhabitant of the Palestinian village of Bil'in, and Guy Davidi, an Israeli documentary filmmaker and teacher who was born in Jaffa, is a nominee for this year's Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Searching For Sugar Man on DVD

What a delightful film! The highly acclaimed and Academy Award nominated for Best Documentary Feature, Searching For Sugar Man tells the story of Rodriguez, the biggest 70s music icon that never was.

Discovered at a bar in Detroit, Sixto Rodriguez released two folk albums that did not sell well in the States and he was eventually dropped from his label. Meanwhile, bootleg copies ended up in South Africa where he became a much loved phenomenon, unbeknownst to him! Fans had no information about him, only his popular records. In the late 90s two South African fans set out to unravel the mystery and find out what really happened to Rodriguez. They discovered that he was in fact still alive, and their discovery changed both of their lives with magical results.

The film is beautifully shot and laced with a great soundtrack. Rodriguez seems like a humble and soulful human being and the search for the Sugar Man created a truly moving and inspirational film. Five stars!

Sleepwalk With Me on DVD

Mike Birbiglia directs and stars in the indie comedy Sleepwalk With Me. Loosely based on Birbiglia’s life, his best-selling book, and his off-Broadway show, the film tells the story of the aspiring comedian as he struggles with his comedy act, drags his feet in his relationship, and battles a severe sleep disorder that spins out of control as he continues to ignore it. While trying to avoid committing further to his girlfriend of eight years, Mike hits the road for several comedy gigs. Along the way he finds adventure, freedom, jokes that are actually funny (revolving around his girlfriend), and a bit of joy that was missing from his life. Reality hits when Mike has a sleepwalking episode one night while sleeping and jumps through a second story window -- an event which actually happened to him.

From the producers of the public radio show This American Life, the critically-acclaimed Sleepwalk With Me is both funny and heartwarming, with a comedy style that is similar to Woody Allen films -- a humor that is personal, self deprecating, and deadpan. It’s the kind of film that has you laughing at moments of this man’s life, but at the same time feeling sympathetic toward this character, is truly suffering. I don’t know about Birbiglia’s future as a stand-up comedian, but he definitely has a strong film presence and a wonderful mind for storytelling.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #381

Julia Strachey's slim novella Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (with a new preface by Frances Partridge) has recently been adopted into a feature film, starring no less than Elizabeth McGovern of Downton Abbey fame, for which the period drama has inevitably been compared.

With sharp eye and playful language, Strachey's slim novella, first published in 1932 depicts the upstairs-downstairs activities on Dolly Thatcham's wedding day as her oblivious mother bustles about getting her ready to marry the wrong man. Waylaid by the sulking admirer who lost his chance with her and her own sinking dread, the bride-to-be struggles to reach the altar.

A brilliant, bittersweet comedy which Virginia Woolf observed as being "an eccentric mixture of Katherine Mansfield and E.M. Forster".

Julia Strachey (1901-1979) was born in India to a Civil Servant. Educated in England, she later worked as a model/photographer and in publishing. Her two novels appeared in 1932 and 1951.

Readers might also enjoy other women novelists such as Elizabeth Bowen; Penelope Fitzgerald; and Alice Thomas Ellis, in particular, The Summer House: a trilogy.

Click here for the New York Times review and the official trailer of the movie.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Darcy!

It was 200 years ago this month that Jane Austen published her second, and perhaps most beloved, novel: "Pride & Prejudice." The official publication date was January 28, 1813.

Austen wrote it between October 1796 and August 1797, but publishers at first declined to look at it. After she went back and revised her manuscript, originally titled "First Impressions," nearly fifteen years later between 1811 and 1812, it was finally accepted for publication. Although she never married, Jane Austen loved her books like they were her family and was so excited when "Pride & Prejudice" arrived, she wrote to her sister Cassandra, "I want to tell you that I have got my own darling child from London."

The first edition sold out quickly and has been popular the world over ever since. It has been translated into dozens of languages and adapted for both television and the big screen. It's been given modern twists in Hollywood movies and Bollywood, too. It even has its own popular web series and been adapted into graphic novels and zombie apocalypse stories.

And of course, there are the books. From the original to all the adaptations and continuations, it's clear something about that story of misunderstandings and seemingly impossible happy endings still has a grip on us. It's easy to wonder what Miss Austen would have thought of the stages her "child" has gone through and how the world still holds such love for its characters even now, 200 years later.

Looking for more ways to celebrate Jane Austen? The library has a large collection of her other books or other movie adaptations of her work!

Film & Discussion: Award-Winning Documentary About A True "Horse-Whisperer": Buck

Thursday January 24, 2013: 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

The Downtown AADL screens the acclaimed 2011 documentary Buck. Meet Buck Brannaman, a man who overcame an abusive childhood and is now a successful "horse whisperer." He travels nine months of the year teaching people how to communicate with their horses.

A post-film discussion will be led by Kimberly Cardeccia of Hidden Promise LLC., a Licensed Professional Counselor who has been involved with horses for 30 years.

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