After the tragic passing of Robin Williams on August 11, 2014, I found myself going back and watching some of my favorite movies that he starred in (Can’t get enough of that genie in Aladdin and Good Will Hunting has Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, AND Robin Williams, so you can’t pass that up!). I also found myself wondering what would be his last movie, found this article detailing what they would be, and made a note to check them out. I was finally able to check one of them out! One of his last movies was Boulevard, starring Williams as Nolan Mack, a married, yet closeted, bank employee in his 60s and what happens when he decides to take a different way home one night.
Nolan has a lot on his plate. He has been working at the same bank for 25 years, has been offered a promotion to branch manager which requires a lot of prep work, and has an elderly father in the hospital. His home life seems to be idyllic, except for the tiny fact that he and his wife, Joy, sleep in separate bedrooms and seem to have entirely separate lives. On his way home after visiting his father in the hospital, Nolan finds himself driving down an unfamiliar street. Sitting at a red light, he decides to turn around. After almost hitting a young man crossing the street, Nolan offers the young man a ride to wherever he was heading, discovers he’s a prostitute, and finds himself in a hotel room with young Leo, confronting issues in his life that he had hoped to keep buried. Needing Leo in his life more than he realizes, Nolan soon finds himself deviating from the comforting and familiar bearings of his life, his work, and his marriage in order to fully become his true self.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fourth and latest installment in the Swedish Millennium series. Fans assumed that the series was finished as the series’ author, Stieg Larsson, had passed away with only writing the three books. But alas, the series has been revived by Swedish journalist and author David Lagercrantz. Let us rejoice!
Langercrantz does a fantastic job on many levels. He keeps the focus on Salander and her past, but develops the story into a plausible continuation for the series. Salander shines, finally living up to her full potential. She is a true heroine. More characters, unique in their own right, are introduced, and a slew of old ones are weaved in. Blomkvist is constantly on his game and devoted more than ever to helping Lisbeth. The story is fast paced and contains plenty of suspense, intrigue, computer hacking, and mathematical equations that only a handful of people in the world can understand. The best part is that it is clear that Langercrantz will not stop here. The door has been left wide open for the next Lisbeth Salander adventure.
If you are looking to start a new series, give this one a try. I have found it is more enjoyable and easier to follow the Swedish names and genius jargon when I listen to the audio books. Simon Vance is the reader of this series and really brings the story life. The first book in the series is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This book exploded and was even made into a movie in the United States in 2011 starring Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomvkist. Sweden has made the first three books into movies and those are all available on Netflix.
Restitution claims resulting in the Nazi seizure of artwork, jewelry, money, furniture, etc., are upwards of billions of dollars with successful returning of stolen materials becoming more of the exception than the norm. Settlement agreements or restitution of any kind was opposed by many governments and sometimes even neglected until after the Cold War when the extent of both the worth and amount of objects seized became more widely known. The signing of the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art in 1998 by over forty countries set into motion the identification of confiscated art pieces and the subsequent restitution of the art pieces to the pre-war owners.
Having said this, I found Woman in Gold to be a dynamic and intriguing portrayal of an actual art restitution claim that began in the late 1990s. This movie stars Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann, a Jewish woman who was forced to flee Vienna during World War II and who left with nothing more than the clothes on her back. Sixty years later, she began the arduous journey to get back her own family possessions that the Nazis seized, even while they were still living in their apartment in Vienna. Among these possessions, and arguably the one that created the most scandal in Austria, was the painting by Gustav Klimt called “Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (aka “Woman in Gold”) that is a painting done of Maria Altmann’s aunt Adele. The Austrian government was not keen, to say the least, to just hand over the painting to Miss Altmann as it had become part of Austria’s heritage, even though it had been stolen from their family and not gifted as the government believes.
Ryan Reynolds plays as Maria Altmann’s attorney, Randy Schoenberg, a man who at first writes Altmann off and then becomes increasingly involved in this case, risking his job and family, and ultimately taking her case all the way to the Supreme Court. This movie is a fascinating look into the tangled and confusing web of restitution claims, governmental politics, and legal processes. It also perfectly highlights how the actual process of reclaiming something that was illegally taken from you can be incredibly difficult. Woman In Gold is only one story of successful art restitution, but with the release of this movie, the public is made more aware of the atrocities committed and objects stolen by the Nazis and just how complicated it is to get back something that is rightfully yours!
Interested in learning more about art restitution? Check out the following items below!
I have a guilty secret to share. Sometimes I go weeks without paying attention to the news, only checking the surface for sports scores or when a major event happens that is all over social media. As a result, when I’m busy or stressed, I can have no idea what is happening in the world outside my personal bubble. My news-watching habit was pointed out to me when I checked out the movie, Citizenfour, to watch one day.
The person on the cover didn’t look familiar, but the plot sounded promising: a behind-the-scenes look into privacy invasions by the NSA. I started watching and wondered continuously who this “Citizenfour” character was, a person conversing with director Laura Poitras and later with journalist Glenn Greenwald through incredibly encrypted and secure channels, one who was telling them that the secrets they had to share would blow the lid off of a huge governmental conspiracy.
Even when Poitras and Greendwald flew to Hong Kong to meet Citizenfour at the hotel room where he had been camping out, I still had no idea who he was, but the topic was fascinating. Hundreds upon thousands of classified documents that he had taken from his contracting job with the NSA that highlighted evidence of mass numbers of both indiscriminate and illegal privacy invasions that the NSA had perpetuated over many years. That tickled my brain. Things were starting to sound familiar. I then looked closer at the face on the screen. Edward Snowden! That’s what this was about.
Citizenfour follows Snowden’s decision to hand over thousands of classified documents that he gathered while being on loan to the NSA about many different secret programs and projects that the NSA and other governmental organizations had put together, as well as some information about the programs that other countries were a part of, all under the guise of surveillance after the tragedies of September 11th. What I found to be interesting about this documentary was that Snowden wanted the focus to be on the information contained within the classified documents and less on the person that was leaking them to the press, himself. The interactions between Snowden, Poitras, and the journalists that he came in contact with while in Hong Kong highlight the varying degrees of secrecy, intelligence gathering, and electronic surveillance that Snowden was seeking to expose to the world. Unplugging the hotel phone, hiding under a sheet to type in his password, talking through notes passed back and forth may seem to a passing person like signs of paranoia, but as Snowden highlights throughout this documentary, the government is capable of tapping into anything and everything, whether we choose to believe it or not.
If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, check out the materials below!
This year was a big year for fans of the Back to the Future movie trilogy as we finally catch up with the future timeline in the films. Buzz has been all over the internet with folks comparing the movie’s predictions of life in 2015 with what has really happened. For the full list of movie comparisons versus reality, click here.
What seemed to get the most attention was predictions the movie made about the 2015 baseball season. According to Back to the Future II, the Chicago Cubs win the World Series in a sweep over Miami on October 21, 2015. Fast forward to the real 2015. With the start of the baseball pre-season, fans of both the movie and team began posting on Facebook that the Cubs were going to win the World Series this year. Considering the Cubs have not played in the World Series since 1945, let alone won since 1908, this seemed like more than a long shot. But…what if? As the season went forward and the Cubs were looking better and better, more and more started to believe. When they beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, even I started to believe (just for a tiny second). In the end, they couldn’t quite do it, but there was definitely some kind of magic in the city of Chicago during the 2015 season.
The Back to the Future franchise was ready for what they knew would be a great year to revive the 80’s trilogy. A Back to the Future Anniversary Trilogy DVD set was released earlier this year and the entire Back to the Future cartoon series. Let me just say, I loved that show! Also out is a Back to the Future PS4 video game.
Hollywood has followed up on this hype by releasing a brand new documentary about the making of the movie trilogy. Cast, crew and fans are featured in this 30th anniversary tribute. Back in Time stars Steven Spielberg, Micheal J. Fox, and Lea Thompson. For those of you that love the franchise, this is a must see. Back in Time along with the other anniversary items are available at the library.
John Green, the ever popular young adult author, has made yet another one of his novels into a movie and this time, it is Paper Towns, starring Cara Delevingne as the beguiling Margo Roth Spiegelman and Nat Wolff as Quentin, the boy who is hopelessly in love with Margo.
Paper Towns tells the story of Quentin, a boy who has been in love with his across-the-street neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman, since she moved in, the event that he says is “THE moment” of his life. Quentin and Margo are best friends through childhood until they hit high school when Margo becomes a mysterious and enigmatic cool person who goes on wild adventures that everyone speculates wildly about. They essentially stop talking until about a month before prom when Margo suddenly shows up at his bedroom window in the middle of the night asking to borrow his parents’ car and needing his help to complete a list of somewhat peculiar “revenge” tasks. After this adventure, Quentin believes he and Margo have reached a new stage in their friendship only to discover that Margo has disappeared for what looks like good this time. Knowing that every time Margo disappears, she leaves clues, Quentin soon finds himself deciphering a stack of said mysterious clues that quickly result in he and all of his friends embroiled in an adventure to find out where the elusive Margo has disappeared to this time. This movie is a true coming of age story showing Quentin and his friends as they gain a more complete understanding of what friendship and love really are.
Interested in other books by John Green? Check out the ones below! (The Fault in Our Stars is also a movie!)
The Syfy channel premiered Ascension, a limited event series, in December of 2014, as a way to introduce people to the idea of what would have happened if Project Orion (also check out their Wikipedia page), a government sponsored program from the 1950s that would have placed over 150 scientists on the moon and even been able to send expeditions to other planets, would have actually happened. Ascension chronicles what could have happened had Project Orion actually occurred.
Ascension gives viewers a glimpse into the secret programs of the government and the lives of the people who both wittingly and unwittingly found themselves stuck on that spacecraft. In 1963, at the height of the Cold War, the government secretly recruited 350 people for a mission into space. A huge interstellar spaceship called Ascension was launched into space on a 100 year journey to another solar system. Present day on the ship is 50 years later and viewers are introduced to the children of the original crewmembers, the middle group of people, the ones who are doomed to spend their whole lives on the ship without ever being able to see their destination. Their parents started the ship and their children will be remembered as the ones who complete the journey. This middle group will be forgotten.
Tragedy has struck on Ascension with their first murder having been committed. This leads to chaos as the captain and his crew struggle to figure out who committed this crime while also working to keep the rest of the ship calm. Striated class systems and struggles for power dominate the investigation of the death of a woman from the upper decks as people from the lower decks are accused of the crime. This television show is wracked full of plays for power, multiple ship romances and trysts, and rivalries that will have you on the edge of your seat. Add in the fact that people on board only have access to culture, information, and technologies from 1963 and before and the whole spacecraft takes on an eternal 1960s feel that is intriguing and pleasing to the eye.
Check out this show to learn more information about the launch of Ascension, the people aboard the ship, as well as information about the founders and the governmental organization responsible for making sure the mission stays on course no matter the cost.
Have you ever watched a show that had you continuously scratching your head and wondering what was going on and how any of it could possibly be happening? My latest head-scratching television show is Wayward Pines, a Fox television show that premiered its first season in May of 2015 . This show stars Matt Dillon as Secret Service agent Ethan Burke who is sent to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents. On his way to investigate, Burke is in a serious car accident and wakes up in a hospital in Wayward Pines, a creepily idyllic town in the picturesque mountains of Idaho.
After breaking out of the hospital, Burke begins the investigation into his missing colleagues and also into what actually happened to him before he woke up in the hospital in Wayward Pines. Burke soon realizes that crazy things are happening when he stumbles upon one of his missing colleagues and she tells him she has been in Wayward Pines for years, when she disappeared from DC five weeks prior. Burke tries to leave, tries to get in contact with his wife and son, and tries to pry answers from the sheriff and the townspeople, only to be rebuffed and in danger no matter what he tries. When his family comes looking for him, Burke takes matters into his own hands and desperately searches for a way to free them all for the walled city of Wayward Pines. This television show can be confusing at times, but the giant conspiracy around the whole endeavor had me clamoring for more once I watched the season finale.
This television show is based on the Wayward Pines novels by Blake Crouch. The order of the trilogy is Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town. You can find all three at the Davenport Public Library.
In The Making of the Mob: New York, AMC has created an eight-part docu-drama series that begins in 1905 and traces the rise of the American Mafia for over fifty years. This series examines the lives of Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Frank Costello, Vito Genovese, and several other notorious gangsters as they all struggle for power when the mafia starts becoming more organized. The amount of attention to detail that went into the establishment of the five major heads of the family, also known as the Commission, and Murder, Inc., the group of Jewish hitmen who killed around 1,000 people in ten years, shows that the new mobsters rising up in the ranks were definitely looking to run the mafia as more of a business with set consequences and an elected representative board.
This docu-drama looks into the five main families of the American Mafia and goes into great detail showing how organized crime came to exist and flourish in America. What I found to be the most intriguing part of this series was that it included interviews from former politicians, mobsters, actors, and other influential people, as well as actual archival footage and sound recordings of the actual mobsters alongside the actors’ dramatic interpretations of what was happening. The inclusion of actual footage and interviews really drew me into this docu-drama and had me fully invested in the lives of the mobsters, the shady deals they were doing, and the specific individuals and governmental organizations who were working to bring down the American mafia.
Actors taking a turn behind the camera as directors or producers has become increasingly more common. Russell Crowe has joined the ranks of such actors with the 2014 film, The Water Diviner, in which he both stars and directs this Australian historical fictional war drama.
In The Water Diviner, Crowe stars as Australian farmer Joshua Connor, who lives in Australia on a working farm with his wife and their three sons. After the unexpected death of his wife, Connor heads to Turkey in 1919 after the Battle of Gallipoli in order to find his three missing and presumed dead sons in order to bring their bodies home to be buried next to their mother. Connor repeatedly finds obstacles thrown in his way that bar his ability to, at first, make it to Gallipoli and then to get the officials there to even help him find his son. Facing tension from the military and different governmental agencies while abroad, as well as discrimination in Turkey from the locals who see him as the reason why their family and friends didn’t come home from the war, Connor soon realizes that everyone and everything around him has drastically changed from the war and that he must find a way to survive.. Finding his sons becomes Connor’s driving force through life, leading him to discover things that he is not quite ready to know.
This movie is loosely based on the book The Water Diviner by Andrew Anastasios and Dr. Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios. Check out the following books to learn more about the Battle of Gallipoli.