Challengers! It’s a new month! That means it’s a new subject for our Reading Challenge and this month it’s: Movies!
In many ways, this will be the easiest Challenge month ever – technically, you can simply watch a movie or television show and BAM! you’ve completed the month of June. Remember, there are no Library Police – no one will come knocking on your door and drag you off to Library Jail if you fail to read something heavy and serious! Read/watch something that interests you and enjoy!
That said, if you’d like to explore the world of movies (I’m including television as well), here are a few suggestions for interesting books.
The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict is a novel about Hedy Lamarr who, in addition to being a great actress and famous beauty, was a brilliant scientist. Another novelization of a famous actress is Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates, about Marilyn Monroe.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter moves between 1960s Italy and present-day Hollywood and a romance lost and found again.
Black Dahlia by James Ellroy is a tense and atmospheric exploration of one of Hollywood’s most famous murders.
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel follows a ragtag group of musicians and actors traveling through a not-too-distant dystopian future (I loved this book!)
As always, stop by any Davenport Library location for lots more suggestions on our displays!
I am planning on reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid in which an aging actress tells the story of her career (and all those husbands) It’s getting rave reviews and I have high hopes for a great read.
What about you? What are you planning to read this month?
Hello! How is your reading going with this month’s Reading Challenge subject, Fashion? Have you found something you’re enjoying, or have you hit a dead end? If you’re still looking, here are a couple of movie s to consider.
Phantom Thread with Daniel Day Lewis in his final role before retiring from acting about an exclusive London fashion house in the 1950s.
Coco avant Chanel starring Audrey Tautou about the early life of Coco Chanel and how it influenced and affected her life and career.
McQueen a documentary about the extraordinary life, career and artistry of fashion designer Alexander McQueen.
Dior and I is another documentary, an extraordinary behind-the-scenes look at Raf Simon’s first haute couture collection as artistic director of the House of Dior.
Hello Challenge Readers!
How is your month of Books about Books going? Have you found something you just can’t put down? Please let us know if you have!
If you’re still struggling to find something for the April Challenge, how about trying a movie? There are some fun ones!
Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Ah, the classic rom-com. A famous actress stumbles into a tiny, quaint bookstore in London, meets the charming and diffident owner and the rest, after the resiquite obstacles are overcome, is history. Lovely.
You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Another classic, this time set in New York City. A major bookstore chain moves into the neighborhood and pushes out the tiny children’s bookstore. It’s a blast-from-the-past with aol and dial-up (and big bookstore chains aren’t doing so well now) but still sweet and funny.
The Princess Bride with Cary Elwes and Robin Wright. It’s a storybook brought to life! One of the best films ever, with lots of scene-stealing funny bits and and an endless supply of great lines.
The Bookshop with Emily Mortimer. In 1959 England, a young widow follows her dream and opens a bookshop in a small, conservative coastal town.
And you can always watch a movie made from/inspired by a book! (The book is almost always better, but that doesn’t mean the movie can’t be fun too) My favorites are some of the many adaptations of Jane Austen’s books, but there is almost a limitless list to choose from!
How is your reading going this month? Have you found something great to read? If you’re still looking, you might want to consider a movie instead. Here are a few ideas.
Ben-Hur starring Charleston Huston set in ancient Rome at the birth of Christianity.
Schindler’s List with Liam Neeson tells the inspiring and heartbreaking story of what one person can do against unfathomable evil.
The Da Vinci Code starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou. Enjoy a lovely if fantastical scavenger hunt through some beautiful churches and archives.
The Handmaid’s Tale with Elisabeth Moss. A chilling look at a future ruled by a religion-based autocracy.
9/11 starring Charlie Sheen and The Looming Tower with Jeff Daniels, both of which examine the consequences of religious fanaticism and the attack on the United States.
Film lovers, rejoice! Letterboxd is a super-slick social app for tracking your favorite movies! As a lover of film, I found myself wondering where to locate the “Goodreads of film,” and low-and-behold: I found it. Letterboxd gives users the options of importing data from other social sites that you use (IMDB, Delicious, iCheckMovies, etc) if you don’t want to start from scratch. Personally, I have never tracked my favorite movies despite watching several per week! Up until now, IMDB had been my go-to for online film discussion but I view the discussion component of Letterboxd as more robust (though I’ll still turn turn to it for go-to information on actors/actresses and filmography).
Letterboxd describes itself as follows on it’s “About” page:
Letterboxd is a global social network for grass-roots film discussion and discovery. Use it as a diary to record and share your opinion about films as you watch them, or just to keep track of films you’ve seen in the past. Showcase your favorites on your profile page. Rate, review and tag films as you add them. Find and follow your friends to see what they’re enjoying. Keep a watchlist of films you’d like to see, and create lists/collections on any given topic. We’ve been described as “like GoodReads for movies”.
As you begin to navigate the app or site, you’ll notice
You can browse by:
- List: browse lists or create your own! Examples include: 2019 Oscars, From Willem Dafoe to Willem Dafriend, Men/Boys Crying, Transgressive/Weird Films, Praise-worthy, beautiful, mesmerizing, deserving, diversity-bred movies that were made by people with lots of talent with a ton of effort solely for the purpose of making something good that were snubbed over movies made by people with no talent, and Recommendations For Everyone Who Wants To Watch More Movies By Female Directors But Doesn’t Know Where to Start.
- People: Like any other social app, you can browse and track new film by drawing on your network and browsing the lists of other individuals who are using Letterboxd.
- Year: You guessed it. Explore by decade!
- Popularity: Browse by weekly, monthly, yearly, and “all-time” popularity ratings (based on user feedback). This week’s most popular films are: Fyre, Favourite, Glass, Bohemian Rhapsody, Roma, Green Book, Spider Man: Into The Spiderverse, A Star Is Born, Black Klansman, Vice, and If Beale Street Could Talk. Keep in mind that the film most likely to be most popular during the week will be the most current titles where-as the “of all time” category lends itself to a larger historical spectrum: La La Land, Get Out, Mad Max, Pulp Fiction, The Dark Knight, Whiplash, Moonlight, Alien, The Shape of Water, Silence of the Lambs, etc.
- Rating: You’re probably familiar with making decisions based on ratings. I know I am! Browse by Highest & Lowest ratings!In looking at the lowest-rated films listed, I’ve gotta say I’m in agreement with my fellow Letterboxd users as Krampus, for example, was easily among the most terrible movies I’ve ever endured. Definitely don’t recommend.
- Other: This browsing category includes “Most Anticipated”, “Coming Soon” and an A-Z list (or you conduct a good, old-fashioned title search as well).
- Genre: Most genres listed are typical and traditional (Action, Adventure, Western, Horror, Romance, Science Fiction Thriller, Fantasy), so if you’re looking for avante guard, weird/transgressive, cult classics, documentaries, or films made by Black directors, specifically, you might want to have a look at some of the lists or create your own!
Additionally, the sorting feature is pretty cool as you can skip quickly to genre ratings sorted from Highest to Lowest. According to the Letterboxd community, the Top 3 Horror films in order are: Get Out, The Shining, and A Quiet Place. Fun fact: A Quiet Place was written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, local Quad Cities natives!.
Film lovers and anyone who wants to discover great (or awful) film should definitely check out Letterboxd and start your film diary so you have your newest recommendations and favorite stand-bys at the ready anytime you’re chatting up friends and fellow film buffs! Check out the Official Letterboxd Top 250 List (updated weekly) to get some inspiration!
Hello Fellow Challengers!
How is the month of February going for you challenge-wise? There have certainly been plenty of snow days which invite lots of cozy reading and movie watching. Unfortunately, it also requires a fair amount of shoveling and scraping-off-the-car time too!
If you’d like some more suggestions for this month’s Food theme, how about trying a movie? There are some great ones!
Ratatouille – Rats in the kitchen is not appealing at all, but somehow Disney makes it adorable. Animated.
The Hundred-Foot Journey starring Helen Mirren. Can two very different restaurants learn to exist across from each other? And even learn from each other?
Chef starring Jon Favreau. A discouraged, out-of-work chef starts a food truck allowing him to regain his creative purpose as well as his estranged family.
Burnt starring Bradley Cooper. A chef who had it all then loses it because of his reckless lifestyle attempts a comeback. A great look at the chaotic professional kitchen.
Food, Inc – A hard look at the industrialization of our nation’s food supply and how it’s affecting farmers, consumer health, worker safety and our environment.
How is your reading going this month? There’s certainly a lot to choose from! I hope you’ve had a chance to stop by one of our locations for ideas on what to read.
If you’re still stumped, or pressed for time, how about a movie? All those great clothes (And hats! Everyone wore hats!) and classic cars – movies and television shows are a great way to immerse yourself in mid-century atmosphere. Here are some suggestions.
That Thing That You Do – Tom Hanks directed and starred in this charming story of a group of teens that are propelled into stardom in the early days of rock and roll.
L.A. Confidential – Gritty, complex and riveting, this look at a corrupt Los Angeles police department is chilling. Outstanding performances by Russell Crowe, Guy Pierce and Kim Basinger among others.
M*A*S*H – The classic television series starring Alan Alda. It’s a comedy (“Frank Burns eats worms!” still cracks me up) but it’s also a drama with an unflinching examination of the cost of war.
Mad Men – An inside look of the world of the glamorous and high-powered “Golden Age” of advertising, ruled by the men of Madison Avenue. A riveting examination of the times and how much things have (and haven’t) changed.
In the midst of all the festivities and bustle of the holidays, have you been able to find some time for yourself to read? Have you found something set in New York City? We’d all love to hear what about what you’re reading!
If you just don’t have the time (or energy!) to read right now, how about a movie? Take a break from the holiday madness and watch a movie (or two). There are lots set in the Big Apple. Bonus! These have a Christmas backdrop as well!
You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks is that rare rom-com that is funny and sweet without being mushy. The Christmas scenes will make you nostalgic for the past and who doesn’t love Meg Ryan’s apartment?
Elf with Will Ferrell doesn’t really need an introduction. It’s become a family tradition for many and for good (hilarious) reason.
Home Alone 2 with Macaulay Caulkin uses New York City as it’s playground with iconic scenes in the toy store and Central Park. Christmas in New York never look prettier.
Miracle on 34th Street. And of course you can’t forget about this classic. It hits all the iconic New York City Christmas moments (and probably was responsible for how many of us imagine New York City to be at Christmas)
But what if you’d had enough of Christmas madness for the moment and just want to escape for a bit? Try some television shows – Friends will never get stale (in my opinion) and Sex and the City still pushes the envelope. Then there are cop shows – several billion seasons of Law and Order and it’s many offshoots, Blue Bloods, NYPD Blue. And there’s no shortage if comedy is what you crave – Seinfeld, Will and Grace, 30 Rock. No excuses – there’s plenty of New York City for everyone!
So, how is your St Petersburg/Moscow/Russia reading adventure going?
I admit I’m struggling a bit this month. I wanted something a bit light and modern and, guess what – apparently that doesn’t exist in Russian fiction. Russian authors, historic and modern, tend to write really dark, really tragic stories steeped in mysticism and history. And it’s always cold.
Obviously, this is a huge exaggeration but I still could not find anything that wasn’t deeply sad (and not bittersweet sad but depressingly sad). I think a lot of this has to do with tradition and with Russian history which seems especially harsh with despotic leaders, crushing military battles and the bleakness of Soviet communism. And Siberia truly is extremely cold. Surely someone, somewhere has been happy? And warm? Sadly, I’m still looking for that book (please let me know if you’ve found one!)
Instead I’m going to watch the DVD of Anna Karenina starring Keria Knightly. Yes, very sad and tragic (and cold), but I’ve read that the costumes are exquisite and the production is very theatrical. I’ll let you know what I think.
If you’re still searching for a Russian connection, you might try a DVD too. The Americans, a TV series starring Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell is about a young Russian couple that have been sent to America as “sleepers” – KGB agents that are infiltrating the United States by posing as Americans. It’s gotten lots of great reviews. Or check out The Last Station starring Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer about Leo Tolstoy’s later years when, to his wife’s horror, he said he planned to give up everything to live in poverty. Child 44 stars Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman about a disgraced Soviet police officer that has been exiled to the countryside and is now searching for a serial killer.
So tell me, what you reading (or watching) this month?
The lives of classic movie actresses and actors have always piqued my interest. How they lived their lives, their scandalous affairs(if they actually had any), and what they did to become an icon are just a few of the things that I always want to know. Media coverage of both classic film stars and modern film stars seldom reveal the whole truth and as a result, fans usually have to wait until after the star’s death to learn the full truth, if that. Shelving a cart of new books one day, I stumbled upon The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. The cover immediately captured my interest as the woman looked like she could have been a classic movie star. Reading the blurb proved that she was and I knew I needed to read this book.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is the gripping tale of Evelyn Hugo, an adored movie icon. Evelyn’s story is heart-wrenching and pure psychological romance fiction as readers are drawn into Evelyn’s stunningly glamorous world. With her popularity blossoming in the 1950s when she made her way to Los Angeles, Evelyn dominated the Hollywood scene in her relentless and ruthless rise to the top of the movie industry. Evelyn always knew what she wanted and was not afraid to use her body or the people around her to get it. Living in the public eye was a price she paid for being famous, but Evelyn still managed to keep secrets from the public and some of her closest friends that they never would have guessed.
After her decision to leave the Hollywood and show business in general in the late 80s, Evelyn became a recluse. She was never seen out, declined to sit down for interviews, and pictures of an aging Evelyn were almost non-existent. When she reaches out and contacts an unknown magazine reporter named Monique Grant to interview her, everyone in the journalism community is shocked. Why would Evelyn choose Monique to reveal her scandalous and glamorous life? What makes her so special? Why is Evelyn choosing to do this now? Monique has her own issues. She’s not exactly the number one journalist in the world, let alone her city or even her area of expertise. She’s not even 100% happy with where she is working as her career has stalled. Monique’s personal life is just as messy. Her husband left her just five weeks prior and Monique is still reeling.
Recognizing the Evelyn Hugo interview as the potential major career boost that she desperately needs, Monique decides she will do whatever it takes to make this a success and sits down with Evelyn. It becomes clear right off the bat that Evelyn has ulterior motives and it’s left to Monique to figure those out. Quickly Monique becomes wrapped up in the story of Evelyn’s life from her entrance to Los Angeles in the 1950s and the seven husbands she had before she retired in the late 80s. As Evelyn weaves her life’s story for Monique, she discovers that Evelyn’s ruthless ambition led her to some slightly questionable, but nevertheless sustaining, friendships and a major forbidden love that had the ability to potentially ruin Evelyn’s career. Evelyn’s professional and personal lives are forever linked together. As Monique formulates Evelyn’s story, she realizes Evelyn never does anything without having a reason. Monique begins worrying why Evelyn chose her to write her story and when Evelyn’s story finally reaches the present, Monique realizes that she and Evelyn are connected in a truly tragic and life-changing way.
I enjoyed this book more than I thought that I would. Multiple storylines were at play throughout the novel and I found myself thoroughly engrossed in each one. The vivid descriptions of Evelyn’s life as she navigated the rocky waters of fame and her personal life were so well depicted that I found myself believing for a bit that she was a real person. I wanted to learn even more about Evelyn Hugo and her seven husbands. She is fascinating. Highly recommended.