No, it’s not for squirrels! Acorn Media is an international company known for providing some of the best British television based on best-selling novels, including DVDs such as Case Histories with Justin Isaacs, Martin Clunes’ Doc Martin, Agatha Christie’s Poirot … Continue reading →
If by any chance you should journey to Tokyo, Japan, and see the sushi bar called Sukiyabashi Jiro, which is in the basement of a subway station, you might never guess that it is one of the premier sushi restaurants in the world, and that people from all over the world book reservations at its 10-seat bar months in advance. And you might be surprised to learn that it’s been awarded three-stars from the Michelin Guide.
Sushi by Hiroshige
The guiding light, chef, and owner of the restaurant is Jiro Ono, who is obsessed with sushi, which is made with vinegared rice and fish, usually raw. On occasion, he dreams about it. Acolytes buzz about Ono, toasting sheets of seaweed over coals, massaging an octopus for 45 minutes to tenderize or smoking fish over a pile of special twigs used for fuel. They are taught to form a serving of sushi as gently as they would hold a baby chick. At the age of 85, Ono professes to still have not attained perfection. Some of the drama in Jiro Dreams of Sushi stems from the worries of Ono’s son, Yoshikazu, who is understandably nervous about assuming the mantle of the restaurant’s reputation when his father passes on.
Whether or not you like sushi, if you are a “foodie” you will enjoy this captivating story of an artist obsessed with his craft, along with seeing the jewel-like specimens of sushi, and the traditional methods of its production. You may feel inspired to try to make sushi yourself! We have a number of books on sushi–just look in 641.692, and you will soon be “sushi-ing”!
Jeff is a 30 year old unemployed pot-smoking slacker who lives in his mother’s basement. He has watched the M. Night Shyamalan’s movie Signsso many times he’s convinced that the universe is constantly tapping him on the shoulder with hints as to which path to take. He needs only to awaken to the coincidences all around him, and his destiny will be revealed.
Jeff (Jason Segel) receives a phone call from a wrong number asking for “ Kevin”, and later while he’s running an errand, he sees a man on the bus in a tank top with the name KEVIN plastered across his back. Surely, this must be the sign from the cosmos that’s been eluding him. Jeff follows the mysterious Kevin and joins him in a pick-up basketball game. Never mind that Jeff and his new found friend, served up with such synchronicity, share some pot. Kevin robs Jeff anyway. So much for fate.
Jeff’s brother Pat (Ed Helms) is a seemingly responsible job-holding married man who is struggling to keep his marriage together. The fact that he’s just blown the down payment for a house on an expensive new Porsche, probably isn’t going to help anchor the relationship with his wife. She expresses her displeasure silently by christening the car with the waffles and Redi Whip Pat has brought her for a cozy breakfast in bed. This is rendered even funnier because she launches the meal from a second story balcony. Plop!
Susan Sarandon, plays Sharon the lonely widowed mother of the boys. Jeff is a rudderless couch potato, Pat is a pompous frustrated married man, and Sharon is a hopeless romantic. She is enticed when she receives a flirty instant message from a secret admirer. After exchanging messages she eventually lets her curiosity get the best of her, and plans a rendez-vous at the water cooler with her love interest. The unknowing gentleman who shows up to get a drink has no clue when Sharon whispers that she really likes his flowers. Priceless!
Jeff, Who Lives at Home is in turn whimsical and charming. Pat is a perfect foil for Jeff, the one being in overdrive, the other stuck in neutral. Pat’s veneer of sophistication is a perfect counterpart to Jeff’s naivete. Sharon is touchingly amusing as the widow in a dead end job who is dazzled by the thought of a nascent romance. She is the glue that holds the story, and the family together—something to bear in mind when viewing the final scene. A lovely, humorous slice of life.
Interested in another review? Check-out what Nick has to say about Jeff, Who Lives at Home.
Actions have consequences. It’s a simple lesson that’s easy to forget. While we stress teaching this concept to children, often we forget to stop and remind ourselves of it. Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation is a terrific film that explores the choices we make, and the resulting consequences we must live with. While it’s no surprise that this Iranian film was nominated for Best Original Screenplay in the 2012 Academy Awards, it’s still a rare feat for a foreign film to break into such a prestigious and traditionally American category. Farhadi’s script is extremely easy to follow for American audiences (aside from a few cultural idiosyncrasies), while offering psychologically and socially complex moral situations.
In the film, an Iranian couple named Nader and Simin are on the verge of separating. Simin wishes to leave for America and take their 11-year old daughter with her, however Nader wants to stay in Iran to take care of his ailing father and does not want his daughter to leave him. Both of them want the separation, but are divided on how to handle it. Due to the state of disagreement, the Iranian courts prohibit them from separating, deeming their squabble as insufficient grounds for a divorce. Forced to stay together, tensions are high and conflict arises.
What I’ve described above is not a plot summary, but merely a catalyst. I had not heard anything about this movie before seeing it and was therefore much more engrossed in the film as these situations developed naturally and somewhat surprisingly. The script was nominated because of how organically these conflicts present themselves and how nuanced the characters are written. These characters feel like real people and it is hard to pick a side because none of them are wrong or evil, they’re just on opposite sides of a conflict. This was in my top three films of last year, and sadly I only got to see it once (unlike Drive, which I saw four times) But that’s what makes A Separation so profound, everything about it will stay with you long after the credits roll…
[NOTE: I chose not to add the trailer to this page, for I feel it gives away important plot points that don't even occur until halfway through. Watch it at your own risk, but I implore you not to.]
One of the glories of science fiction is that as well as taking us to far-flung worlds and to other galaxies, it can take us to worlds of our imagination. Some of these imaginary worlds are dark and dystopian, and a genre called “science fiction noir” has emerged over the years. You may be familiar with the term “film noir,” which refers to atmospheric crime melodramas usually shot in black and white, with menacing shadows and smoky rooms. The hero is often as disaffected as the villain, and wanders lost through the urban labyrinth. The amoeba-like genre that is science fiction has easily appropriated this dark vision, and has come up with its own twists to film noir, though perhaps the power of “sci fi noir” lies not in its fantasy scenerios, but from the alienation of modern society that it plugs into. You’re not a replicant? Really? Are you sure?
Two of the all-time great sci-fi noir films are Blade Runner (1982) and Dark City (1998). Some would say that Blade Runner is one of the greatest sci fi movies, ever. In the dark and ever-raining world of Los Angeles in 2019, expert Blade Runner Rick Deckard reluctantly agrees to hunt down a group of recently escaped replicants. Blade Runner was based on writer Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep? Eight other sci fi noir-type movies are based on Dick’s fiction, of which Dick wrote, “In my writing I even question the universe; I wonder out loud if it is real, and I wonder out loud if all of us are real.” This is the uneasy premise that much of sci-fi noir is based upon.
Dark City is set in a 1940-ish city where the sun never shines. A man wakes up to find himself accused of a string of murders, and soon he is on the run from both the police, and some mysterious people called the“Strangers.”
Some other films that are characterized as being sci-fi noir include Twelve Monkeys, co-authored by David Peoples (who wrote Blade Runner),Minority Report, and Alphaville. Alphaville, which was shot on the night-time streets of Paris, is about a secret agent who must destroy Alphaville and its dictatorial computer, Alpha 60. The 1927 classic Metropolis is also sometimes typified as being sci-fi noir.
Here’s a challenge: What movie isn’t mentioned above, but should be? Make your case!
Charlie Chaplin in “The Gold Rush,” (1925) distributed by The Criterion Collection.
Lately I’ve discovered that if you are a “film nut,” one of the most fascinating windows into the world of film is through its Facebook pages. The Criterion Collection, for instance, which distributes classic movies, promotes whatever is their latest film release on their Facebook page. They also includes posts with fascinating film snippets from long-gone films, along with movie memorabilia. They occasionally post links to entire movies!
The Criterion Collection page led me to the Facebook page of Janus Films, which distributes foreign films to American audiences. Their Facebook page has post after post of what can only be called interesting film stuff. One of Janus Films’ page “likes” is Francois Truffaut. That’s when I discovered that even though Truffaut died in 1984, he has his own “tribute” Facebook page with 99,000 followers! The Facebook page of Warner Brothers Archive is also a treasure trove of film clips and stills from their archive of more than 1,000 vintage movies. The Hollywood Archive page gives links to its “Picture Vaults,” which contain an endless assortment of film celebrity pix and film memorabilia, so if you are looking for a picture of an old poster of “Casablanca,” or thirty pages of photos of Johnny Depp, stop here. The Turner Classic Movies Facebook page has lots of fan discussion of great stars and classic movies, as well as background information about movies they broadcast on TCM, their cable network. You can even download a free app for a self-guided Hollywood tour.
Of course, you can go to the websites of these groups, but the fan input and rapidly-changing content of the Facebook pages are especially fun. Also, if you check out the “Likes” on any particular page, you will find links to an amazing assortment of other film-related Facebook pages, and you may find yourself hopping from link to link. So if you are a film nut (or, if you prefer, a “film aficionado”) check out these Facebook pages for some interesting reading.
Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog is a Japanese film based on the true story of a Labrador retriever pup, so named because of the unusual marking on his flank that resembles a bird. We first meet and fall in love with him as an adorable puppy, who is chosen as a candidate for guide dog training because of his calm nature and thoughtful demeanor. He spends the first year of his life in a loving foster home, where he is lavished with toys, praise and attention, and given a solid foundation in positive human interaction. At the end of his first year he is sent to school to learn to be a trusted companion for the blind. Not all candidates ever fully realize their potential, and many are culled from the program. Quill, on the other hand, exhibits the kind of temperament that stamps him as an excellent seeing-eye prospect. In order for a guide dog to succeed he must learn to be oblivious to distractions such as food, toys and other dogs. Quill must learn to navigate busy streets and obstacles such as steps and corners. He must learn that he not only needs room to accommodate his body width when traversing busy intersections, but he needs enough room for his human companion as well. (Interestingly, all the audible commands are given in English because the dog needs to distinguish the sound cues from Japanese speakers who surround him on crowded sidewalks.)
Quill shines as a superbly trained seeing-eye companion, and a loveable sidekick, so we’re a bit disappointed when he is paired with the irascible Mr. Watanabe (Kaoru Kobayashi) who informs us that he “would rather stay at home than be dragged around by a mutt.” Predictably, he softens over time, and the two become dependent on each other for practical and spiritual purposes. They nourish each others body and soul.
Quill is a drama that has the feel of a documentary, or perhaps a documentary that feels like a drama, so it’s a bit of a hybrid. Notwithstanding, this is a film that divorces itself from a biased point of view, and simply allows the main character Quill to do what dogs do best and that is to demonstrate unconditional love. How did we humans get so lucky to have these amazing creatures adore us? We can only hope that, like the T-shirt says, “we’re the kind of people that our dogs think we are.”
This film is subtitled “The Life of a Guide Dog,” so we see Quill run the gamut from joyous puppy-hood, to valued service dog, to failing senior, and experience disability, aging and death in the course of a canine lifetime. Don’t say you weren’t forewarned. I give it 3 ½ hankies.
What was the first movie ever made? There are a number of contenders, though photographic pioneer Eadweard Muybridge’s “The Horse in Motion,” made in 1878, is often designated as the first. It was a series of stereoscopic images of a galloping horse.
Muybridge gave many demonstrations of his primitive motion pictures, and at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, in 1893, he lectured on the “Science of Animal Locomotion” in the Zoopraxographical Hall, built specially for that purpose. He used his zoopraxiscope, which was an early type of movie projector, to show his movies to a paying public, making the Hall the first commercial movie theater.
The earliest film with a narrative was “The Roundhay Garden Scene,” made in 1888 by inventor Louis Le Prince. It’s 2.1 seconds long!
But scientists think that they may have found much older “moving pictures,” in caves in France and Spain. In some of these caves, sequences of animals have been drawn by ancient man, and when torch light flickers over them, the animals seem to move. These cave paintings are 30,000 years old! The claims about these “paleolithic animated pictures” are controversial, but do check out the video to see what you think!
Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a very flawed film. If one looks too closely at the seams, it will unravel in the blink of an eye. It’s also my favorite film of 2012 so far. This might seem like an insult to this year in film, but with new films from Wes Anderson, PIXAR, Joss Whedon and Ridley Scott, it is anything but. The innate problem with Jeff, Who Lives at Home is rooted in everyone’s own beliefs. It’s a film about fate and destiny, and therefore blurs the line between contrivances and plot mechanics. You’ll either think the film is offensively implausible and totally pretentious, or you’ll think it’s surprisingly sweet and that the “contrivances” are the point of the film. Either way, it’s worth a shot.
The film follows Jeff during the course of one day as he tries to run one simple errand but gets needlessly distracted by “signs from the universe.” Jeff is a very kind man, and he believes that everything happens for a reason and that the only way to uncover your destiny is to follow the signs the universe lays out for you. He’s also 30-something years old, living in his mother’s basement and has quite a recreational drug habit. His older brother Pat is the antithesis of Jeff. He is materialistic, self-absorbed and very cynical. However Pat also does have a job, a wife and a home of his own. Needless to say, they don’t get along very well.
This is a film that sneaks up on you. It seems aimless and meandering, but the whole time it is building towards something. Whether you call that fate or coincidence, is up to you. It’s one of the most uplifting films I’ve seen in a long time. The opening scene is an important one, as it lays out exactly how the film will unfold, but that’s easy to miss on your first viewing. Jeff, Who Lives at Home has a little bit of everything, so I highly recommend it. As long as you check your reservations at the door.
Many of us were saddened to hear of Nora Ephron’s death. From movies with such unforgettable lines as “I’ll have what she’s having” (When Harry Met Sally) to her best-selling books, Nora Ephron was a funny, insightful writer who will be greatly missed. Below are some of her many works available in our collection.