Beatriz at Dinner on DVD

Guest post by Laura

Salma Hayek plays the lead in this thought-provoking “comedy.” Although I laughed at times throughout the film, it would be more accurate to categorize Beatriz at Dinner as a drama. Hayek is finally given a break from the stereotypical sexy Latina spitfire role in which she in normally cast. She doesn’t disappoint in her portrayal of a spiritual, non-materialistic healer with a strong desire for fairness and justice. Although this character could easily have been a blonde hippie, Beatriz’s backstory as an immigrant from Mexico deepens the storyline.

The movie takes place in the grand Southern California home overlooking the ocean of one of her massage clients. Her car breaks down and her client, who also considers Beatriz a friend, convinces her husband to let her stay for his dinner with his business partners. The evening enfolds with much drama spurred on by far too much liquor and the uncomfortable pairing of people from opposite ends of the socio-political and economic spectrum in this country. Jon Lithgow matches Hayek in his performance as a Trump-era capitalist and verbal sparring ensues.

The ending has become a Google search phrase, as evidenced by my starting to type it and it popped up. I was satisfied with the movie until the end, which disappointed me at first. I read an interview with the director, Miguel Arteta, who explained, “we have gotten really used to having our ending be predigested for us.” He goes on to say he wanted an open-ended conclusion to make people start thinking for themselves. After reading the interview, I have created my own justification for the end in my mind. It worked! He got me to think for myself and not accept a neat and tidy ending fed to me by Hollywood.

Like a complex novel that merits re-reading, I might have to view Beatriz at Dinner again to dissect all of the layers and nuances. While it’s not a movie to invite your friends to watch for a lighthearted good time, it is worth watching as a Latino director and a Latina actress’ take on our current political climate.


Now Arriving from – China

Hello Reading Fans!

How did this month of the Online Reading Challenge treat you? Did you find something really fantastic to read? Something that opened a little window of understanding of the great mystery that is China?

I’m afraid I didn’t do so well this month – I got caught up in reading other books and never came across anything China-related that grabbed my attention. These things happen sometimes (This is why I’m not very good with traditional book clubs – the rebel in me doesn’t always want to read the chosen book!) Fortunately, there aren’t any Library Police and I can simply try again next month!

I do want to draw your attention to two favorite movies set in China that deal with the ancient history of China and are deeply rooted in mysticism. Both are absolutely beautiful

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon caused quite a sensation when it first came out and you may very well have already seen it. Beautifully photographed, superb acting and a story that requires the watcher, much like the characters, to take a leap of faith makes this a film that linger long after the closing credits. A young Chinese warrior steals a sword from a famed swordsman and then escapes into a world of adventure with a mysterious man in the frontier of the nation with serious, long-reaching consequences.

Hero, starting Jet Li, was released shortly after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and may have been overshadowed by it, but it is stunning in it’s own right.  Set in ancient China, warring factions plot to assassinate the most powerful ruler, Qin. When a minor official defeats Qin’s three deadly enemies, he is summoned to the palace to tell Qin the story of his surprising victory. The martial arts scenes, beautifully, artfully choreographed, are worth watching alone but the message, about power and how it is wielded is relevant to all times and societies.

Get Out: A Film Deserving of the Hype

Horror cinema is an ideal format for illuminating and discussing mass anxiety. Zombie film comes to mind as one representation of “fear-of-the-crowd”, i.e. the fear of being engulfed or overtaken. In 1976, George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was shot in a shopping mall replete with lumbering zombies whose sole purpose was to consume. In the 2004 remake, the zombies returned to the shopping malls in which they spent their human lives; but they were super-charged and stronger than ever. 21st-century zombies lack personal agency, wit, and intellect like their slower-moving predecessors; but you can be sure they own and can operate their cell phones.

Get Out , a break-out film written and directed by Jordan Peele has been classified as horror, thriller, and comedy and I’d say it’s a type of zombie film. (You may remember Key & Peele–a sketch comedy television series featuring Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key).  Peele’s film has been a sensation: Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 99%!   Although you won’t find prototypical, grey-faced zombies mindlessly lumbering through a mall, the main protagonist must fight for his life….and his brains. If we look at Get Out in terms of how it fits into or critiques the culture and society that produces it, what current social or cultural issues might be present? (The inimitable Nina Simone sums it up well: “You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”) What cultural or social issues does Get Out bring to the forefront or interrogate?

Cinema that enables viewers to experience life from the perspective of another is powerful. As a white woman, I watched Get Out  from the point-of-view of a young black male. In watching from this perspective, I stepped into the shoes of Chris, the lead character. You will certainly sympathize with Chris (played by Daniel Kaluuya), as he begins to unravel how his white girlfriend’s family (The Armitage family) and their affiliates are entangled in a twisted and evil operation. Get Out  presents an ominous view of human nature and confronts issues of overt and subtle racism.  Despite some much-needed moments of comic relief (after all, comedy is often a medium for acknowledging & coping with the absurdities and injustices of life), the tone of the film is decidedly morose.  Early on, viewers watch as a young black man is kidnapped–a foreshadowing of chilling and disturbing events to ensue. Horror cinema–unlike Rom Coms or even Drama (in my opinion) most effectively acknowledges and critiques society and culture. Horror effectively conveys and validates terror in a way that no other film genre has been able to do.

In a similar vein as Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, a supplanting operation of the creepiest kind is underway in Get Out  when Chris notices how strangely his black contemporaries are behaving. The speed of the film coupled with the unmistakable feeling  that something horrifying looms in the not-so-distant future contributes to the paralyzing anxiety experienced by Chris as he meets his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time. I was not surprised to learn that Peele was heavily influenced by Stanley Kurbrick as Get Out presents several bizarre and anxiety-producing scenes in which you’re not exactly sure what’s going on, but your gut tells you to get out! Subtlety itself takes on a very important role and purpose in this film: sometimes the most terrible realities are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Subtle terror creeps in undetected (but not unfelt, necessarily) until it’s too late. Like Chris, viewers begin to feel a bit crazy as self-doubt sets in. After all, the Armitage family initially appears relatively harmless; but their ignorance is also immediately palpable.

Get Out  effectively uses cinematography, scoring, acting, and directing to produce an undeniably paranoid & distrustful atmosphere. You see and feel what Chris feels. Every detail in this film was carefully considered — even down to the opening song, Redbone, by Childish Gambino: “Well, first of all, I love the ‘Stay Woke’ [lyric] — that’s what this movie is about,” he (Peele) explains to HipHopDX Editor-in-Chief, Trent Clark. “I wanted to make sure that this movie satisfied the black horror movie audience’s need for characters to be smart and do things that intelligent and observant people would do.

This film is not just a run-of-the-mill horror flick designed to give you a thrill: it sticks with you. We don’t do a good job of collectively discussing issues racism in this country, but this film prompts another discussion. The Director stated poignantly in an interview: ” ‘Part of being black in this country, or being a minority in this country, is about feeling like we’re perceiving things that we’re told we’re not perceiving,” said Peele. “It’s a state of mind. It’s a piece of the condition of being African American, certainly, that people may not know. They may not realize the toll that it does take — even if the toll is making us doubt ourselves.'”

When  your fellow human beings experience something on a mass scale, listen to them. Listening–not denying & not being silent–is revolutionary.





Question: Is the Movie Ever Better Than the Book?

Here’s the question – Have you ever thought that a movie was better than the book it was based on?

This question is a little unfair – comparing books and movies is like comparing apples and oranges. They are very different media with very different user experiences; a 2-3 hour movie cannot possible capture the nuance of emotion or inner dialogue that a book can. Nor can a book show you sweeping vistas in full color (especially if it’s a landscape you’ve never experienced)

Most people would claim, strongly, that the book was better and for the most part, I agree. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy many of the movies based on books – movies have their own kind of magic and can often enhance the overall experience.

But there are some exceptions. A quick internet search brings up several articles with “better than the book” lists including these from Buzzfeed,  Bustle,,  and Purewow

It’s interesting to note that while there are some differences, most of the lists tend to agree on several titles including Forrest Gump, The Godfather, The Notebook, Jaws, The Princess Bride, Fight Club and Jurassic Park. This is often due to the creativity and vision of the director, or to careful editing of the original source material. It’s also enlightening to note that most of the books that these movies were based on were not hugely popular successes on their own, but considered fair to middling.

As for movies that enhance the book without insulting it, I would include movies such as the Harry Potter series, the Lord of the Rings movies and Master and Commander. And as much as I love to read Jane Austen, some of the Jane Austen adaptations are some of my favorite movies of all (I especially love the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility and the PBS version of Emma) In all of these cases, the beautiful settings, costumes and music contribute to and expand well-loved stories. (Although I still prefer the book!)

What about you – have you ever thought the movie was better than the book? Or thought that the movie caught the spirit of the book especially well? Tell us what you think!


Friends! Romans! Readers!

Lend me your ears!

OK, maybe not that funny but I couldn’t resist. It’s time for a halfway check of the first month of the 2017 Online Reading Challenge – how are you doing with this month’s reading?

I have to admit, I haven’t found any books that really grab my interest. If you are a fan of ancient Rome you will find no shortage of books to read – mysteries, romances, fiction all abound in what is obviously a very popular historical time period. While many of these titles are well worth reading, none of them grabbed me, so I took a different route and watched a movie instead. (And that’s not cheating, remember – movies and non-fiction are allowed! Also, no such thing as Library Police.)

I picked a classic, where the city of Rome is as much of a star as the actors – Roman Holiday starring a luminescent Audrey Hepburn and ruggedly handsome Gregory Peck (and co-starring Eddie Albert, who I only remember from watching reruns of Green Acres!) Directed by William Wyler and with costumes by Edith Head, the movie is a call back to the golden age of Hollywood. It’s also the movie that made Hepburn a star and earned her an Academy Award at the age of 24.

Filmed entirely in Rome in 1953, the movie follows a young Princess Ann (Hepburn) who slips away from her gilded cage to have some fun before her royal duties completely take over her life. She meets up with American journalist Joe Bradley (Peck) who, realizing who she is, offers to show her around the city. He is, of course, hoping for an exclusive story but instead finds himself falling in love. Set against some of the most beautiful landmarks of Rome – the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum (both inside and out) – the couple (trailed by Joe’s friend Irving (Albert) who is taking pictures of the princess on the sly) enjoy an idyllic day including coffee at a sidewalk cafe, a wild Vespa ride through the twisting streets of the city and a dance party on a barge on the Tiber River. It has all the elements of a romantic comedy, set in one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Although I was surprised by the ending, I enjoyed this movie a lot. Despite the picture on the DVD case, the movie is in black and white and you really do feel like you’re stepping back in time. The stunts and lack of fancy CGI might have made it seem awkward and forced, but instead its charm and heart make it a joy to watch.

So tell me – what have you been reading (listening to, watching) this month?

Now Departing for: Rome

Hello and Welcome to the first month of the 2017 Online Reading Challenge!

This year we’re going to travel the world, “visiting” a new country or city each month, giving us a chance to experience a little of other cultures without the annoying airport security lines! Grab your passport (library card) and let’s take off!

Our first stop is Rome, a city that wears it’s ancient history proudly. Once the center of the known world, it remains a favorite for travelers and adventurers alike.

There is no shortage of books set in or about ancient Rome. Mystery lovers should take a look at the popular murder mysteries by Lindsey Davis or John Maddox Roberts. For fiction, try any of several titles by Colleen McCullough or Robert Harris.

If you’re looking for a travel guide, go to 914.563 where you’ll find information on Rome and Italy. For Roman history (and there’s lots of it!) look in 937.

There are lots of DVDs to try too – the HBO series Rome (caution: mature themes!) is spectacular or look for Gladiator or Ben Hur. I, Claudius, an older PBS series has minimal production values (in sharp contrast to modern films) but the acting and story lines are amazing and you’ll be hooked immediately.

For more contemporary setting, try Stuart Woods Foreign Affairs or The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. You might also check out the movie When in Rome, a romantic comedy. And there’s always Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code (and yes, I know it’s mostly set in the Vatican but I’m still counting it). Remember, there are no Library Police! If you would prefer to read something set in Italy, or only a bit in Rome, go for it; it still counts!

As for me, I’m going to start by watching Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. I’ve never seen this movie and figure it’s high time I fixed that. I’m also going to see about reading a book set in Rome – I’ll let you know how that goes.

Now, what about you? What are you going to read (or watch or listen to) this month?


Kill the Messenger

kill the messengerI don’t know about you, but my attention is always peaked when I start watching a movie and it says, “based on a true story” somewhere in the opening credits. I watch the movie trying to absorb as many of the facts as possible, so that when the movie ends, if I still find the topic and people the movie is about interesting, then I can go research more. My newest “based on a true story” movie is Kill the Messenger starring Jeremy Renner.

In Kill the Messenger, Renner plays Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb, an investigative reporter who worked for the San Jose Mercury News, who finds himself entangled in a political and drug war when he at first becomes tricked into helping a younger drug dealer get his charges dropped in trial. Webb inadvertently stumbles upon a huge life-changing story when he digs deeper into the initial story he was presented with and finds a connection between the U.S. government and a Central American war. Through investigative reporting and tracking down anyone that could possibly be tied to this case, Webb finds that a United States intelligence agency has linked themselves to a group of Central American drug smugglers. Webb’s story seems to only be getting better until he is dragged in front of operatives for the agency and is told, in polite terms of course, that if he does not stop, he will be unequivocally endangering his life, the lives of his family, and the lives of everyone he knows. Here is when everything starts going downhill for Webb. This movie can be described as a riveting suspense, an explosive race for the truth, and even a compelling political drama. I was intrigued by the suspense and the cover-ups that happen throughout and how everything you think you know, you actually don’t know at all. Check out this movie and let me know what you think!

If you’re interested in learning more about Gary Webb, the journalist who exposed the CIA, check out the books below. They contain essays written by Webb, while Kill the Messenger by Nick Schou is one of the two books that the move is based on.

ktm bookinto the buzzsawyou are being lied to



Cult Classics – The Box Office Flops

Cult Classics are films or TV shows that initially do not catch on with mainstream audiences, but develop a devote band of followers. A spectacular example of this is the original Star Trek series that premiered in September of 1966. Ratings for the show were consistently low, and the show was cancelled after 3 seasons. Shock is a perfectly normal reaction to this news. After all, Star Trek was the first of its kind, and since then numerous movies and TV shows have been made using the Star Trek franchise or its fundamentals. Fast forward to today and Star Trek is part of American culture. Popular catch phrases from the series such as “beam me up Scotty” are often used in TV and Cinema or in everyday interactions between friends. There is even a word for the franchise’s most loyal fans, Trekkies. Multiple Star Trek conventions throughout the year are held all over the United States.  Star Trek is the ultimate cult classic. Most cult classics never attain that level of notoriety but nevertheless still deserve recognition.

There are plenty of TV shows or movies that could be considered cult classics depending on who you ask. Many shows develop a cult following and remain on TV for many seasons like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I thought it would be fun to look at the cult movies that didn’t let a box office flop get them down. These movies became cult classics despite having a poor initial audience response to them. The website Gamesradar provided a nice list of movies. Some of these I have seen and love, and others I have never heard of. I’m going to highlight some of them that we have at the library. For the full list visit Gamesradar. I’d recommend writing these down or putting them in your phone. It can be a fun way to spend an evening with friends or maybe just watching something different from the norm.

clueClue premiered in movie theaters in 1985 and had a box office gross total of 14 million dollars. The budget for the movie was about 15 million dollars so it almost broke even. The movie stars Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, and Madeline Kahn. Clue is based on the popular game of the same name. The movie begins with a group of people arriving for a dinner party at a lavish home. During the dinner party, a murder is committed. The guests spend the rest of the movie running around trying figure out who done it and how! With outrageous characters with names like Professor Plum and Colonel Mustard, its no wonder it was quick cult classic.


office spaceOffice Space came out on the big screen in 1999 and grossed 10.8 million dollars. However on DVD it made nearly as much as it did at the box office.  The movie stars Jennifer Aniston, Ron Livingston, and David Herman. The movie is a good comedy, but just had bad advertising when it came out in the theaters. Three office workers plot to rebel against their unlikable boss. Perhaps it hits home with the disgruntled office worker in all of us, making it an office cult classic.



fight clubFight Club appeared on screens in 1999 and grossed 37 million dollars. That number might be good for some movies, but this movie stars Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. Not to mention the budget was about 63 million dollars. Ouch. Luckily, you can’t  keep a great movie down. Word about Fight Club’s awesomeness quickly spread, and the movie made 100 million dollars in DVD sales. The movie is about a loner that forms a friendship with the coolest guy he’s ever met. Together they start a fight club where misfits gather to fight, sell goods, and cause mischief. With a great message, fun script, and intense acting, this movie remains a chronic topic of conversation among thirty-somethings.


big lebowskiThe Big Lebowski hit theaters in 1998 and grossed 17 million dollars. While the film technically didn’t lose money, it did not make nearly as much as was projected. The movie is a comedy about mistaken identity with high stakes, and stars Jeff Bridges, John Goodman and a slew of other well known actors. This movie is loved by many, especially the male population between 20-40. It is almost a rite of passage into manhood. It is definitely an ultimate cult classic.


rock horror picture showThe Rocky Horror Picture Show was pulled from theaters in 1975 after its release in 8 cities grossed a mere 22,000 dollars. The movie stars Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick as a young couple that have car trouble and have seek help from an eccentric doctor living in a nearby mansion. Eventually midnight showings started in New York and spread nation wide. The catchy tunes and crazy wardrobes brought fans out in droves to dance and sing along in theaters. This cult classic is still holding midnight showings today.



If you are interested in more cult movies and TV shows, here are some links to direct you to even more lists!

Rolling Stone’s reader’s poll of best cult movies of all time

Games Radar’s 34 best cult classics of all time

Rotten Tomatoes list of top cult movies

Entertainment Weekly 26 cult TV shows

The Avengers!

With the release of the new Avengers: Age of Ultron movie on May 1, requests for anything and everything superhero has gone up significantly from books to t-shirts to toys to costumes. If you’re interested in anything Avengers or superhero related at the library, let this blog be your guide.

For those unfamiliar with what superheroes are a part of Marvel’s Avengers, the big names in the movies are Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. More Avenger superheroes are listed in the comics, but as far as the movies are concerned, those six are the key characters.

avengersAvengers: Age of Ultron is the sequel to Marvel’s The Avengers, which came out in 2012. In this movie, Director Nick Fury, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, has gathered together and initiated multiple super heroes as part of the Avengers Initiative.  The Avengers are tasked with working together to stop Loki, who happens to be Thor’s brother, from harnessing the full power of the tesseract, a magical object of unimaginable and hard-to-contain power that has the ability to destroy the Earth. All of the Avengers must stop Loki and his alien forces from destroying the Earth and enslaving humanity to do his bidding.

Avengers: Age of Ultron, which is still in theaters, draws upon events from the previous Avengers movie to bring together the Avengers one more time to fight against Ultron, a robot part of Tony Stark’s new peacekeeping program, that ultimately rebels and takes his job as a peacekeeper too far, leading him to believe that the best way to keep the peace is to exterminate all of humanity.

If the Marvel Avengers movies have you curious about other Avenger or superhero books, the library has many items available for you to check out. Here are just a smattering of the Avenger materials available for checkout. Click on the covers for more information and to put them on hold!

For more superhero or Avenger comics, books, movies, or videogames, check out the library catalog and search for anything you can think of. As always, feel free to call the library and we will be happy to find whatever you are looking for.

avengers world uncanny avengersrage of ultron   avengers season one  avengers1

avengers guide


Barbara Gordon: Batgirl, Librarian, Congresswoman

When I was in school, I always thought of librarians as superheroes. I would walk up to the desk, ask a question, and magically they would be able to find the answer for me in seemingly no time at all. I was amazed.

Did you know that there is actually a superhero librarian? Barbara Gordon, the second Batgirl, who replaced Betty Kane, the original Batgirl, in 1967, was also a librarian. Gordon’s civilian identity is Dr. Barbara Gordon PhD. With her doctorate in library science, Gordon serves as the head of the Gotham City Public Library. She is also as the daughter of Gotham City police commissioner James Gordon, filling her role in the library, and eventually becoming a United States Congresswoman.

Barbara Gordon’s version of Batgirl is the iconic Batgirl. If you see a comic book cover of Batgirl with red/orange hair, you’ve found Barbara Gordon!

the killing joke

As Gordon’s role as Batgirl progressed, she found the job to be less and less fulfilling until she pretty much retired from being Batgirl all together. An interaction with the Joker changed her course as Batgirl forever. In Batman: The Killing Joke, the Joker is on a course to seek revenge on Batman, the person who he blames for his disfigurement. This comic flashes back and forth between the present, where the Joker is wreaking havoc on Batman by going after his closest friends, to the Joker’s past, where readers are shown the Joker’s origin story as an ex-engineer in a chemical plant who happens to make some bad decisions and ends up disfigured and seeking revenge. Barbara Gordon is swept into the Joker’s revenge plot and is shot and paralyzed by the Joker as an attempt to turn her father, police commissioner Gordon, insane.



of like minds

Waking up paralyzed, Gordon realizes she can no longer be Batgirl and becomes the Oracle. Gordon has since become a symbol for PTSD sufferers and the disabled as she is confined to a wheelchair. As the Oracle, Gordon still relies on her library superpowers, becoming the computer superhero and information access giant for the entire DC superhero community. Examples of comics of Barbara Gordon as the Oracle are Gail Simone’s Of Like Mindsand also the books where Gordon, as the Oracle, helps the new Batgirl, Cassandra Cain, fight for justice in A Knight Alone and Death Wish. The Oracle joined forces with two others, the Huntress(daughter of Batman and Catwoman) and Dinah, a clairvoyant, to become the Birds of Prey in a DVD series aptly called Birds of Prey.


the darkest reflection



If you’re a fan of the new 52 comics, this back story may be confusing to you because in 2012, DC released Batgirl: Volume 1: The Darkest Reflectionin which Batgirl’s tenure as the Oracle is erased and she comes out of her paralysis slowly after she was shot by the Joker in the spine three years prior. In this first volume, Gordon reintroduces herself to life as Batgirl and and all the challenges that come with it.




batgirl year one


Another variation comic of Batgirl as librarian shows up in Batgirl: Year OneThis comic happens chronologically years before Gordon becomes the Oracle and even a Bird of Prey. She is portrayed as a girl between the ages of 16-18 years old who has already graduated college and seeks to become a member of law enforcement, an idea that her father and Batman quickly decide she has no business doing. Instead she takes a job as a library researcher and decides to rebel against Batman and her father by becoming Batgirl.



If this tiny glimpse into the life of Barbara Gordon, a real librarian superhero, caught your attention, feel free to click on the links to check out those materials and visit the library catalog to search for any superhero comic that may interest you.