Welcome to the Audio/Visual Blog!

Hello and welcome to the Berwyn Public Library’s Audio Visual Department Blog!

Here you can keep up to date with our programs, new releases, and even get reviews on old favorites! Please feel free to leave a comment below on what you’d like to see us post about. We hope you’ll follow us!

 

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New Streaming Service: Kanopy

The Berwyn Public Library is adding a new streaming service to our list!

Starting today, Berwyn residents will have access to the film streaming service Kanopy.

Kanopy has a diverse collection of movies and documentaries, all categorized in easy to find ways. Many of the movies they have are difficult to find on any other streaming site. Kanopy aims to keep this up, collecting all sorts of movies because they believe film can bridge cultural gaps and bring people together.

 

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Some of the many movies new to Kanopy this month including: The Young Karl Marx, Polytechnique, Standing Tall, Cloro, Spun, and Six LA Love Stories. Also included are some of the new documentaries including Hitchock Truffaut, Dina, Mademoiselle C., InnSael, Brasilia, and The Cost of cotton.

Once an account is set up, movies can be watched on any device including desktops, phones, Roku, or tablets. They can be watched through the website itself, through iTunes, or even through their app. Once the movies are “checked out” the patron gets three days to watch the film. Each patron gets a total of ten movies to stream per month and the count resets on the first of every month.

The website is pretty easy to navigate. At the top of the page is a browsing section and clicking a genre will take you to that genre’s page. Each of the movie genres has a minimum of four categories: classic, contemporary, world, and award-winning. Most genres also get specific subcategories as well. These are all followed by a list of all the movies in that genre. For example: clicking on comedy movies will bring you to their page. On that page, there are Classic, Contemporary, World, and Award-Winning Comedies. There’s also many subgenres listed such as Horror Comedy, Romantic Comedy, and LGBT Comedy. After the subgenres, the list of comedy movies starts.

But Kanopy doesn’t stop at movies. The streaming service also offers a wide variety of documentaries and non-fiction films. Some of the many categories there include journalism, agriculture, geography, and Indigenous Studies.

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Just a few of the dozens of categories offered from Kanopy.

So does that sound pretty amazing? If you’d like to look around the website and take advantage of this free service, try signing up. Signing up is easy but requires a Berwyn Library Card. The steps are as follows:

  1. Go to the Berwyn Library Kanopy page here
  2. Click the white “sign up” button in the right hand corner
  3. Fill in your first and last name, as well as an email address.
  4. Check your email for a message from Kanopy  asking to verify your email. Once you click verify, it will take you to another page.
  5. Link your library card to your account. The library card number is the long barcode number on the back of the card. It should start with the numbers “2295700.” You want to put this whole number into the box.
  6. Start watching movies!

Have fun playing around with the site!

Mary Shelley, The Inventor of Science Fiction

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of the classic gothic horror novel Frankenstein, didn’t just write a book – she invented a genre. The world of science fiction didn’t exist before Mary Shelley got her hands on it. There had been minor forays but it was Mary Shelley who took the concept of threading drama, theme, and theoretical science together to make a novel. To narrow down a handful of movies or books that were inspired by her would be nearly impossible; from Mr. Spock to Ellen Ripley to Han Solo and even to Tony Stark, characters involved in science fiction owe their existence to an 18 year old girl who had a nightmare one summer night.

The unfortunate thing is that not many know about this. Frankenstein was considered amoral and irreligious when it came out, so when the original film adaption came out, it didn’t include much of her original story about a Creator abandoning his Creature and the consequences of bringing life into the world. Despite the fact that there have been quite literally dozens of adaptions in the past decade alone, most of these movies take their inspiration from the original film, and not Mary Shelley’s original novel at all.

The initial inspiration for Frankenstein came from a nightmare Mary Shelley had at a cottage. Mary and a group of writers were staying at a villa together for the summer and the group decided to try their hand at telling ghost stories. Mary, who had already developed a fascination with life and death due to the passing of her mother, the miscarriage of several children, and the suicide of her lover’s wife, spent a while attempting to think of something, suffering from some sort of writer’s block. Finally, she had a nightmare – she saw a horrific human-like creature laid out on a table, and a scientist standing over the Creature. In her nightmare, the scientist shocks the Creature to life and then, horrified by the life he has created, he runs off as the Creature opens it’s horrible, yellow eyes.

And thus, Frankenstein  was born.

There are of course more obvious stories that take their inspiration from her. Some of theme even wind up being more faithful to her story and themes than the hundreds of adaptions that bare the name Frankenstein. In this list, you’ll find not just adaptions but also works that more heavily derive themselves from her story.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron

There are so many similarities between the creature of Ultron and the creation of the Creature, it’s almost impossible to miss it. Tony Stark, in his bid to create an intelligent suit, winds up creating a robot that is bent on destruction. Two things stand out: firstly, that Tony literally brings Ultron to life with a bolt of lightning – an obvious homage to Mary Shelley. The second is less obvious but still notable: Ultron is an eloquent creature who frequently talks like someone out of the Romantics Era. Much like the Creature, he is an intelligent being with a violent streak.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The popular action sci-fi series that recently got a boot has a surprising amount in common with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Starting with a medical experiment gone astray, Rise of the Planet of the Apes focuses on the relationship between a Creature and it’s father, in this case the ape Cesar and his caretaker Will. Cesar, like the Creature, is capable of kindness and complicated thought, but because of the form he takes, is looked down on by humankind. Granted, Cesar’s life takes on a much happier theme than the Creature’s does, in no small part because Will refuses to abandon Cesar, and Cesar holds onto that feeling – compared to the Creature, who is promptly abandoned by the horrified Victor Frankenstein.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Like her classic novel, the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde combine many of the concepts that were popular with writers during the Romantics Era and threads them with science. Both novels focus on what happens when humans play God, with Shelley focusing a bit more on what makes us human and author Robert Louis Stevenson focusing more on unleashing the id.

The Hulk

The classic Marvel character, the Hulk/Dr. Bruce Banner is essentially a modern day version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which means it already bares many stylistic similarities. What’s more interesting is that both characters deal with issues surrounding childhood – the Creature is abandoned by Dr. Frankenstein and spends much of the novel hating his father for abandoning him. Bruce Banner’s childhood bares a striking resemblance – Bruce’s father frequently abused him to the point that Bruce started acting out at school as a way to cope with his own feelings of neglect.

Penny Dreadful

The sleeper hit show combines the stories of many gothic horror books including Dracula, Van Helsing, An American Werewolf In London, and Frankenstein. This story is much more faithful to the original book written by Shelley. Frankenstein is a young man instead of a mad old scientist, played by the then 28 year old Harry Treadaway. His Creature, Caliban, is terrifying and eloquent, even quoting literary novels and scripture. Their story starts out the same – young Frankenstein, horrified by what he has created and knowing he can’t control it, abandons Caliban when he first makes him, but Caliban seeks his creator out anyways, with disastrous results.

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Victor Frankenstein (left) and Caliban, Frankenstein’s Creature in Penny Dreadful.

Van Helsing

Despite being one of the most unpopular Van Helsing movies to ever come out, Sommen’s Van Helsing is in many ways more faithful to its adaption of The Creature than the majority of Frankenstein movies. The Creature in this movie  is not the grunting, slow moving Creature from many adaptions, but an intelligent man who seeks a purpose – and to be left alone. Van Helsing even outright states in the movie that while evil may have brought Frankenstein’s Monster into the world, the Creature himself is not actually evil.

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday

Sometimes, when you want to grab a new movie, you’re not exactly looking for a new movie. Instead, you want new to you rather than new to the world. But of course, with over a hundred years of cinema, sometimes finding something interesting can be overwhelming – or difficult. So here for Throwback Thursday are some old favorites that might not be on the average person’s radar.

For all the romance lovers out there, Children of a Lesser God is the perfect movie to pop in and enjoy. Directed by Randa Haines and starring Marlee Matlin and William Hurt, it is perhaps not as well known as many other more flashy and dramatic Best Picture nominees. Based on a play by Mark Medoff, the plot follows a deaf custodian named Sarah Norman and her relationship with a hearing teacher, James Leeds, at the school they both work at. Though the two get off to a rocky start, they enter into a relationship, despite James pushing that Sarah should start learning to speak instead of just signing.

William Hurt garnered much critical acclaim for his role in the film, but the movie belongs very clearly to Marlee Matlin. Matlin plays off Hurt well in what was her feature film debut, bringing a guarded fear and passion against Hurt’s playful vulnerability. Matlin’s performance is frequently described as being similar to a silent film actress and the comparison is apt – sice her character Sarah does not speak, Matlin conveys her emotion with soulful eyes and expressive gestures, to the point where the audience does not need Hurt to translate her signing.

Their romance is troubled but full of love and the journey they both take as they navigate what it means for a hearing man to be in a relationship with a deaf woman. The film is long, coming in at just shy of two hours, but it allows the journey between the couple to unfold both as a pair and also as individuals, delving into the struggles James faces as he wishes to protect Sarah and Sarah’s own need to stand as her own person apart from James.

 

Matlin went on to win Best Actress for her role in the movie. She is the youngest woman to ever win the award, winning it at the age of 21. She is also the only deaf performer to win an Oscar in any category, and one of two disabled people to win any Oscar (the first being Harold Russell in 1946).

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Marlee Matlin as Sara Norman in the movie Children of a Lesser God.

Movie Review: Love, Simon

I’m gonna be honest – against my better judgement, I kept my expectations way too high for this movie. Between my excitement over a book I had loved being adapted and how absolutely cute all the trailers looked, I definitely bought into the hype. I thought going in that I’d probably be at least a little disappointed – but I didn’t feel disappointed at all.

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Author Becky Albertelli holding her book Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which the movie Love, Simon is based off of

First of all, this movie is visually beautifully. It’s bright and light and happy looking, and the pop of color and beautiful wide shots help ease the tension as the story goes on.

Secondly, this movie delivers when it comes to both romance and comedy, which is good considering it’s a rom-com. Watching Simon fall in love with every guy he even slightly suspects is gay is equal parts funny, sweet, and relatable to most shy kids who had a crush in high school. The movie does a good job of poking fun at the awkward way he carries himself without feeling like it’s making fun of him.

The movie also handles it’s serious parts just as well. As the plot pushes forwards and Simon’s life starts to spin out of control, the movie does an excellent job of touching on *why* he’s as upset as he is. The jokes take a backseat and something amazing happens – what started off as a cute and refreshing take on teen love stories turns into a well handled and serious – though never preachy – story about what it’s really like to be outed. Small but cutting jokes from family members, out and out bullying at school, the pressure to come out before you’re ready all builds realistically towards Simon’s anxieties about coming out. And of course as Simon so succinctly puts it early on: sometimes you just want to hang onto who you’ve always been seen as.

I’ve only seen Nick Robertson in one thing (in Jurassic World to be exact) so I didn’t really have an opinion on him going in but he was excellent. During a confrontation between him and the guy that outs him, he gives it his all. There was no delicate single tear going on here – he was red faced and shaking, getting up in people’s faces and then collapsing in on himself, and it was fascinating and heartbreaking to watch.

But the movie ends on a happy note, like most good romantic comedies do. The romance builds to a typically cheesy and sweet rom-com ending made triumphant because it’s for such an atypical story. Simon gets to heal, gets the guy – and no spoilers but he gets a really fantastic guy – and gets a life that is different than before, but infinitely better.

Throwback Thursday: The Beauty Inside

Sometimes when patrons come in looking for a new movie they find that the movie they were looking forward to is checked out. Putting something on hold is great – and super useful! – but sometimes you just want to settle in with a good movie that night. But libraries aren’t just full of the newest features; we’ve got old goodies too. So instead of giving up on your movie night, try something that isn’t just new but new-to-you!

A good place to start looking is our Foreign Films section. It’s got a ton of great movies that maybe weren’t as popular in the US as they were in their countries of origin, but are just as good.

Recently in the cinematic spotlight have been South Korean made movies. A slew of popular films that have made an impact even in the US have come from South Korea including the zombie thriller Train to Busan, the action-adventure Okja, and the romantic psychological thriller The Handmaiden. If you want a fantastic and visually stunning movie – and are okay with reading subtitles if you don’t understand Korean – than a South Korean movie might be a great place to start.

One stand out that we own a copy of here at the Berwyn Public Library is The Beauty Inside, a romantic comedy directed by Baik.

Based on an American short film, The Beauty Inside is a visually stunning film that relies on complicated and interesting character motivation to drive its high-concept plot.

The South Korean romantic comedy centers around a man named Woo-jin who has a very unique problem: every day he wakes up in a different body. He has no control over this phenomenon at all. As a result, he becomes very isolated, maintaining regular contact with only his best friend Sang-baek and his mother. Woo-jin eventually develops strong feelings for a woman named Yi-soo, but feels he cannot pursue a relationship with her because of his problem. He attempts it anyways after a while of pining and eventually lets Yi-soo in on his secret, which quickly starts causing problems for the couple’s professional and personal lives.

Unlike many high-concept movies, where the point of the movie is more about the premise than about the characters, The Beauty Inside lets its characters drive the plot. The movie does not spend much time trying to explain why this is happening to Woo-jin, only that it has drastically affected his life. The viewer is let in on his morning routine: studying his new face in his mirror, resizing his shoes, and searching through his extensive closet for clothes that will fit his new body. They see how this affects every facet of his life down to the profession he has chosen.

With Woo-jin constantly changing bodies, and thus actors, the guiding light is actress Han Hyo-joo as Yi-soo, and she absolutely shines. Handling a role that could be relatively boring with great sincerity, she allows us a look into how sweet their relationship can get but also how stressful it can be. While it’s certainly hilarious to watch as Woo-jin, in the body of a 50-year-old, gets mistaken for Yi-soo’s father, we also see her panic as she loses him in a crowd – and in a number of beautifully acted scenes, how her panic starts to take over her life. Oftentimes, director Baik uses the environment around Yi-soo to drive home her feelings, and it’s easy to understand her despair at losing Woo-jin as the camera circles around her, pulling out to show a large crowd in a brightly lit but nondescript street.

That’s not to say that the dozens of Woo-jin’s aren’t great in and of themselves – each actor brings something new to the character, something vulnerable and romantic and believable, while keeping similar mannerisms and core traits that remind the viewer that this is always the same person, whether Woo-jin looks like a 7-year-old boy or a 60-year-old woman.

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Just a handful of the actors to play Woo-jin throughout the movie. The actors are (l-r): Kim Joo-hyuk, Park Shin-hye, Park Seo-joon, Go Ah-sung, Yoo Yeon-seok, and Kim Hee-won.

Movie Review: Jumanji

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is something special: it is a sequel that doesn’t suck. Let’s face it – it was unlikely that someone could top Robin Williams or the comedy-horror that we all felt as a kid when we watched the original. Many sequels and remakes tend to fall flat with viewers, with a number of them being so terrible they wound up tainting the origin and ruining their franchise. When a sequel to the much beloved Jumanji was announced, many people were understandably skeptical.

So instead, the movie does its own thing – and it works. The basis of the movie is still the same: a group of kids get pulled into playing a game that is more dangerous than it seems. In this version, however, the kids get pulled into playing a video game instead of a board game. In the comical but creepy opening scene, a boy brings home the Jumanji board game but then remarks that “nobody plays board games anymore” and promptly throws the board game under his bed, already forgotten. Jumanji then changes itself to a format the boy is more familiar with. Obviously intrigued, he reaches down to play it – and then disappears.

As the movie goes on, we see that once the kids pick their avatar, they get sucked into the game. Their bodies change to match their avatars and their environment changes to match the theme of the game. This leads to a number of humorous moments when the group first gets to the game – like the nerdy main character realizing he looks like The Rock or the popular girl realizing she looks like Jack Black.

The movie is definitely more comedic than the original, relying often – though always humorously – on the body switch the teenagers’ experience, and the gag never gets stale. Honestly, you haven’t lived until you watch Jack Black convincingly act like a teenage girl and attempt to teach former model Karen Gillan the art of seduction.

Of course, that’s not to say it wasn’t just a little bit disturbing – with updated CGI and effects, the animals looked more real and more terrifying. The human villains could also look much creepier as well, with a number of special effects done on the villain’s face to make him look more monstrous.

It does have a number of sly references that you’ll get of course – most notably that Nick Jonas’ character is living in a hut implied to be the one Alex Parrish lived in while he was stuck in the jungle. There’s also a recurring theme of elephant statues similar to the game piece that Sarah uses. But the references aren’t too heavy-handed nor do they distract from the movie.

All in all, it’s a fun movie that doesn’t try to hard to be exactly the same as the original. Instead, it takes it’s own route to a surprisingly touching ending for its characters, and does so with beautiful special effects and hilarious acting.

Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

Even though the games are heating up, that Olympic fever is in the air. As everyone waits to see who will win what, and not just our home athletes but also athletes in other countries. We also celebrate the spirit of the Olympics and the many historic moments that have taken place over the past week and look forward to what moments are still to come. But still, with all that energy and excietment, it’s natural to want to learn everything you can about Olympics past. To soothe that craving, we offer a number of DVDs on Olympics past and the history of the events.

Beijing 2008

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If you missed the 2008 Beijing Games or simply want to relive that wonderful summer again, the Beijing 2008 Highlights is a fun way to watch. Relive Shawn Johnson’s amazing gold win on the balance beam, Michael Phelps breaking the record for most medals won in a single games, or Usain Bolt’s amazing gold medal race at 100 and 200 meters. The DVD also includes the beautiful Torch Lighting form the Opening Ceremony, a ceremony that was so popular people still tend to use it as a comparison point for the games a decade later.

Eddie the Eagle

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If what you’re looking for is more Winter Olympics, then the true story of Michael Edwards, also known as Eddie the Eagle, is a good place to look. Eddie was the first British competitor to place in ski jumping since the 1929 Olympics and he did so on a technicality. Because there was no one else to compete against in Britain, all he had to really do to qualify was pass some sort of arbitrary number in order to place in the Olympics. He qualified as 55th in the world during the 1987 World Championships and went onto the Olympics where he placed last in every competition – but he still came back as a hometown hero. He also managed to get the OIC to pass a rule nicknamed the Eddie the Eagle Rule, that to qualify for the Olympics, a person had to place in the top 30% or top 50 in the world during international competitions before the Olympics. The movie details his downright unbelievable journey, with Taron Egerton starring as Eddie the Eagle.

Cool Runnings

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Another story of a win from a sport not widely known in their home country, Cool Runnings tells the story of the Jamaican National Bobsled Team’s debut in competitive sports. The movie is loosely based on the story of the 4-man sled team, fictionalizing the stories surrounding the characters and some of their journey to the Olympics. What is true is still fascinating: lacking the equipment and the weather needed to practice, the team had to borrow old practice sleds and eventually had to borrow one of the backup sleds from another country’s team. They placed last in the 4-man competition, wiping out in the snow during the final race. As the team walked the rest of the race, carrying their sled with them, they were met with applause for their efforts.

The Cutting Edge

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If the backstage drama of the Olympics is more your style, the romantic comedy The Cutting Edge is the perfect movie. The movie centers around two fictional athletes, Kate Mosely and Doug Doursey. Kate is a spoiled figure skater who has chased away every other partner she’s had with her attitude. After her partner quits, Kate turns to a former hockey player as her last chance to qualify for the 1992 Winter Olympics. Doug Doursey, who was forced to retire from hockey after an injury, joins along for the chance to get on the ice and compete again. Naturally, the two fall in love despite their differences as they train to qualify for the Olympics. The story is fictional and the focus rests on their relationship about as much as it does the figure skating but despite being over twenty years old, it remains a popular romance movie.

 

The Berwyn Public Library has many more titles relating to the Olympics, whether they be fictional stories, biographical movies, or documentaries on the subject, we have a variety of titles sure to fill that Olympic craze void this ending season is bound to have left. Come check out our display right by the Audio Visual desk!

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Oscar Nomination Race: Best Picture

Award Season is getting into full swing with the Golden Globes airing tonight. While there are a few frontrunners when it comes to the acting categories, this award season has been more than a little odd when it comes to predicting Best Picture. Usually, one or two films will win at film festivals and then that film will go on to win Best Picture. However, the wins have been all over the place this film season. Not just that, but a number of front runners didn’t get a nomination for Best Ensemble at the Golden Globes, which is statistically a must have for best picture. This makes it fairly difficult to predict a winner.

Despite the oddness of this season, there have been a number of films that stood out, and many more on top of that that were unique and successful in a way that might earn them an Oscars nod, if not an outright award. Here, we have a look at some of the movies that have been thrown around as possible nominations for Best Picture.

 

Get Out – available at BPL

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Considered the closest thing to a front-runner for Best Picture in this award season, Jordan Peele’s first go at directing is already considered to be a modern classic. Despite the fact that Peele has writing and acting credits almost exclusively in comedy, he believed that the genres were similar enough pacing wise that he could do a convincing horror movie – and he was right. The movie by and large refuses to rely on jump-scares, instead forcing the the viewer into the shoes of its main character as an incredibly chilling plot unfolds.

Get Out is not only a box office success, but also hugely popular with critics for it’s satirical base in plot and commentary on racism. This commentary is what seems to be pushing it ahead as a prime candidate for not just a nomination but also a win. Since The Academy added a large amount of younger and more diverse voters to it’s numbers, the movie seems to be resonating more with the voters than it might have in the past.

 

Dunkirk – available at BPL

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Dunkirk, which came out in July of 2016, has managed to carve out a name for itself in film history even before the Oscars. Not only is it considered by and large to be director Christopher Nolan’s best work, but it’s also considered to be one of the best war films ever made. The movie took in $525 million worldwide, which makes it the highest grossing World War II film ever made, and was subsequently nominated for 8 Critics Choice Awards and 3 Golden Globes.

Praise for it’s cinematography, screenplay, and musical score almost guarantees its nomination for Best Picture. What might push it past Get Out for the win will be it’s popularity with techies, as the film is a technical marvel. If it does win Best Picture, it will be the first Oscar Award that Nolan has ever won, a surprising fact considering how well known Nolan is.

 

 

The Shape of Water – released in theaters Dec. 1st

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Considered Guillermo del Toro’s best film to date, and a labor of love for the monster loving director, The Shape of Water has been winning over critics and winning at film festivals since August. The screenplay, which has been described as touching and “joyously free,” has been an idea in the back of del Toro’s mind since he was a child. The film is thus an ode to Classic Hollywood, while also working as a commentary on bigotry. Chief among the praise is lead actress Sally Hawkins, who seems a likely contender for Best Actress. But this praise is not just for the screenplay or acting, but for the makeup and prosthetic designs in it as well. The Amphibian Man, played by Doug Jones, has been getting a lot of attention from the makeup artist crowd as well. While it’s not exactly a top contender for winning Best Picture, it seems likely the movie will be getting a nomination nod at the very least.

 

I, Tonya – released in theaters Dec. 8th

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The biopic based off the life of figure skater Tonya Harding has been cast as a bit of a dark horse in the Oscars race. Margot Robbie’s performance as Harding has been getting a decent amount of attention, as well as the performance of Allison Janney. The strong acting, combined with the Winter Olympics coming up and bringing the movie into the spotlight a bit more, means that it is possible that the movie could get nominated. It’s chances are hindered by the fact that many are prediction Margot Robbie for a possible upset for Best Actress with the Golden Globes, and more than one upset for a single movie is not likely. However, it still does merit a mention.

 

Mudbound – released on Netflix Nov. 17th

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A heavy period drama that focuses on two World War II veterans, one white and one black, as they face their PTSD as well as racism in the American South, Mudbound earned itself a standing ovation when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The screenplay and direction have been complimented because of the timeless way the struggles of the characters have been captured. The acting has received much critical acclaim as well, snagging a number of Best Ensemble Awards, and actress Mary J. Blige has received a Golden Globe nomination for her role. Its the sort of serious subject matter that the Academy tends to eat up, and yet it doesn’t seem to be a favorite for Best Picture. Why? Because it released not in theaters, but on Netflix. Despite gaining ground for other awards, there has yet to be a single Netflix produced movie or show nominated for an Oscar. Many seem hopeful that Mudbound will be the movie that finally pushes Netflix into the Academy Awards however.

Wonder Woman – available at BPL

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It is true Wonder Woman isn’t exactly a likely candidate for a nomination, much less a win. After all, action and superhero movies aren’t exactly popular with the Academy. Despite that, however, the award for Best Picture was opened up to 10 nominations due to the snub of The Dark Knight back in 2009, and Wonder Woman was not only very popular with the younger crowd, but also broke box office records across genres. So, while it’s not a likely candidate, it is still in the running for a nomination nod.

 

The Big Sick – available at BPL

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Of all the movies being thrown out there for a possible nomination for Best Picture, The Big Sick is probably the least likely to be nominated. Based on the real life story of its writers Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick follows the young couples story as they battle with cultural differences and medical emergencies. The film is an indie movie and cost only $5 million to make. The reason it keeps being mentioned however, is because of how fantastic it did at the box office, making $55 million worldwide once it closed in theaters. The screenplay has been praised by critics and the film won a number of awards at various film festivals.

So while an indie movie isn’t exactly likely to get nominated, if anyone was going to, it would almost definitely be The Big Sick.

JRR Tolkien, the Father of Fantasy

In the long run, it would be easier to talk about what fantasy media that JRR Tolkien hasn’t inspired. Considered the “Father of Fantasy,” Tolkien redefined what high fantasy looked like. It has gotten to the point where it’s often hard to tell where inspiration form his work is meant and where it’s subconscious.
Still, in honor of his birthday, it would be fun to look at some of the ways he inspired other artists. Some of them are fairly obvious, but many are surprising.
 
Harry Potter 
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Michael Gambon as Dumbledore is pictured on the left. Ian McKellan as Gandalf the Grey is pictured on the right.
One of the most famous examples of Tolkien’s influence is the Harry Potter series. Some of these influences are more obvious; a wizened old magician helping to guide the protagonist on their journey, an object of power that has dark magic that affects the behavior of those near it, a Dark Lord who seeks power and immortality, and on and on. Some of the similarities seem to be an accident but are still similarities regardless; the protagonist’s best friend being a lower class boy who enjoys food or a secondary villain being a long haired wizard who uses his position of power to do evil. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The similarities are numerous enough that a search for “similarities between lord of the rings and harry potter” gets over 500,000 hits. Whether any of these references are on purpose or not is anybody’s guess – including JKR. While she has stated that he was a bit of an inspiration, she’s a bit fuzzy on whether she purposefully pulled that much inspiration from Tolkien.
Interestingly enough, Ian McKellen was offered the role of Dumbledore after the original actor died. Even more amusing is the fact that Elijah Wood and Daniel Radcliffe have both spoken about how they’re often mixed up by fans.
Led Zeppelin
A number of songs written by the famous rock band include references to Lord of the Rings. The most notable references are in being “The Battle of Evermore” and “Ramble On.” “Ramble On” has the most obvious reference with lyrics like “but Gollum, and the evil one, crept up” and “‘Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor.” The Battle of Evermore does contain some obvious references as well. It discusses a dark lord, queen of light, dragons of darkness, and “ring wraiths ride in black.” The song also draws influence from Celtic music, and Tolkien based some of his cultures off of the Celts.
These aren’t the only songs that feature references although they are some of the most obvious ones. “Misty Mountain Hop” is a reference to the Misty Mountains that Bilbo travels to. Fans speculate that “Over the Hills and Far Away” references Sam and Frodo’s journey to Mordor throughout the books.
It’s no surprise to fans that the band draws influence from Tolkien so often. Robert Plant is a fan of Tolkien, even naming his dog after the character Strider. Jimmy Page, who writes most of the band’s lyrics, is a fan of magic and mythology, so many fans believe he has also read Tolkien.
A Song of Ice and Fire
Another obvious example of Tolkien influence is George RR Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire series. GRRM has stated that Tolkien influenced how he built up his world of magic. As GRRM explained, he ascribes to Tolkien’s feelings on how magic should be used sparingly so it stays magical. In Tolkien’s stories, people don’t use magic as if it is nothing. It happens in moments that make the magic seem amazing, such as Frodo’s healing after he is stabbed by a morgul blade or the rescue by the eagles. In a similar vein, ASoIaF turns into a story where magic is slowly coming back. First this appears as a dragon or direwolf cropping up here and there, to smaller acts of magic happening in isolated instances, all finally flowing into epic scale battles between dragons and wights.
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Pictured on the left are the eagles from The Hobbit soaring over mountains. Pictured on the right are Daenerys’ dragons in season 6 of the show, soaring over ships.
Of course, who can forget Sean Bean’s heartfelt performances as both Boromir of Gondor and Lord Eddard Stark? Or his very similar ends in both stories?
 
The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion
The fourth installment in the popular video game The Elder Scrolls pulls inspiration and even gives a bit of a shout out to Tolkien fans. The game draws inspiration from Tolkien’s orcs, using much of his original design as inspiration for the Daedra. The other most notable reference is The White-Gold Tower that appears in the game, which bears a striking resemblance to Orthanc, the tower that Saruman sets up in during the series. Additionally, there are a number of Easter Eggs that appear as a nod to fans of both series.
The first and most obvious is a character in the game named Boromir. This is a reference not just to the character, but also to the fact that Sean Bean, who played Boromir in the movies, voices a character in the game. Another reference is a ring the player receives upon completion of a quest which has the the same inscription as the One Ring.
The third and most involved reference is a character mentioned in a manifest the player receives. The character, who was killed by a villain, is mentioned by name. A description of what he had on him when he was killed is given also. The character’s name is Oford Gabings, which is an anagram of Frodo Baggins. The items he was carrying are also a reference to items that Frodo carries throughout the series. They include a travel cloak with a silver and green leaf fastener, an enchanted shortsword with inlaid writing,  a golden ring with an inscription, and a leather bound travel journal. These are references to, in order, the cloak given to Frodo in Llothlorien, Frodo’s sword Sting, the One Ring, and Bilbo’s journal, which Frodo took with him.
 
The Dark Tower
The epic saga by Stephen King takes its inspiration from many places, including Tolkien. The science fiction western pulls the bulk of its inspiration from a poem by Robert Browning, but there is an important element that Stephen King has said comes from Tolkien: the use of a fictional language. Tolkien had been fascinated by language since he was a teenager and spent much of his past time inventing languages. It was an odd past time to be sure, but one he excelled at.
This invention of language was a skill he demonstrated much of in the writing of The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarrillion. Some of the languages he invented included Khuzdul, The Black Speech, Rohirric, Sindaran, Númenórean, Quenya, and dozens of others. In addition to inventing these languages, he also developed cultural backstories for the languages as well. This element of his writing, while not the first to ever exist, was the most involved and detailed example of it. The fascination with his language skills became so entrenched in fantasy that it’s expected for “artlangs” to be in contemporary fantasy. Stephen King, inspired by this, developed his own form of language for the world of Dark Tower called High Speech. He also took inspiration from Tolkien’s naming conventions, with his world being called Mid-World, in a similar fashion to Middle Earth.
written by: kassie

Family Fridays: Strange Magic

I saw Strange Magic for the first time in theaters, along with my then 15, 9, and 7 year old siblings, and our mother. They had come to visit me at college and we all decided to go see a movie. We originally weren’t even going to see Strange Magic – but my youngest sister and I had already seen Annie, Night at the Museum had sold out, and I refused to pay the full price ticket to see Paddington. So we all collectively sighed and went in to see the only other kids movie showing that none of us knew anything about.

And man, was it worth it.

Now in general, I’m a sucker for musicals. I’ve seen both professional and amateur productions of all sorts of musicals and I’m usually first in line to see them when they turn into movies. The beautiful singing – with a leading lady voiced by the criminally underrated Evan Rachel Wood – combined with colorful, beautiful, and unique animating style meant that right off the bat, Strange Magic had my attention. It also immediately snared the attention of my mother because it is a jukebox musical, meaning it uses songs that have already been released. The musical includes music from Dionne Warwick, Mickey and Silvia, Whitney Houston, and a lot more.

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The two main characters of the story: sisters Dawn and Marianne, voiced by Meredith Anne Bull and Evan Rachel Wood, respectively.

What finally turned it from good to great was the plot itself. The story centers around two fairy princesses. The oldest, Marianne, turns bitter and hardened after her fiance cheats on her, while her younger sister Dawn remains convinced that true love is out there. Dawn’s best friend, an elf named Sunny, gets talked into making a love potion for Marianne’s ex – but of course, the potion goes wrong, and Dawn gets hit and falls in love with the king of the evil fairies, Bog.

It’s silly and ridiculous but hear me out – there is absolutely nothing funnier than a creepy fairy king named Bog who crashes a party, yells at everyone there about how love doesn’t exist, continues yelling about how ridiculous it is that everyone keeps bursting into song for no good reason, but then steals everyone’s instruments and starts singing an Elvis Presley song anyways.

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The Bog King, voiced by Alan Cummings, and the Sugar Plum Fairy, voiced by Kristen Chenoweth.

And honestly that’s only the beginning of how absolutely ridiculous this movie can get. I’m fairy certain I enjoyed it more than my two younger sisters did; which isn’t to say that they didn’t enjoy it, because once it came on DVD they begged my mom to buy it and then watched nothing but Strange Magic for almost a week straight.

It’s true, it got pretty bad reviews by just about every critic out there but interestingly enough, a lot of moviegoers found it fun. Because, honestly, that’s what it is – fun. Not every movie is going to be a master piece like Moana – although for the record, the animation in Strange Magic was cutting edge for that year. Sometimes you just want to have some fun for an hour or two, and Strange Magic is a good way to do that.

-Kassie Marie