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By: Elizabeth Cate, Collection Development Librarian
For: Red Rock News
Date: July 9, 2010


Check Out a DVD This Summer at the Sedona Public Library

Summer is the season of blockbusters—movies with A-list stars, enormous budgets, special effects galore, and loads of hype. Even if you enjoy a good popcorn flick as much as the next person, you may occasionally find yourself in the mood for a character-driven film or a documentary. Here is a sampling of recent DVD arrivals at the Sedona Public Library that should satisfy your need for low-concept cinema.

US Dramatic

Ride with the Devil. Originally released in 1999, this Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Brokeback Mountain) film is now available in a director’s cut edition through the Criterion Collection.The story concerns two friends, played by Tobey Maguire and Skeet Ulrich, living in Missouri at the start of the Civil War. In response to abolitionist violence, the young men join a pro-Confederate militia and take part in bloody raids. Salon calls Ride with the Devil “one of the most interesting and least dogmatic” Civil War movies ever made.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Sharing a name and a general premise with a 1992 Abel Ferrara film featuring Harvey Keitel, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans isnevertheless not a remake—in fact, director Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man) claims he has never seen the earlier production. The film takes place in post-Katrina New Orleans and stars Nicholas Cage as a drug-addicted police officer who is no less depraved than the gangsters he pursues. Cage’s performance in this film has been universally lauded: the Arizona Republic describes it as “gleefully over-the-top,” while the Boston Globe asserts that the Cage/Herzog collaboration is as “perfect a meeting between a director’s sense of mischief and an actor’s license to misbehave as a moviegoer could hope for.”

Foreign Dramatic

Tokyo Sonata. Japanese horror-film director Kiyoshi Kurosawa explores a new genre with this domestic drama. Featuring Koji Yakusho (Memoirs of a GeishaBabel), the film portrays an average Japanese family struggling through economic hardships after the father is laid off. Humiliated by his job loss, he pretends to go to work but instead spends his days at the unemployment office, soup kitchens, and libraries. Meanwhile, his wife and sons harbor secrets of their own. The (Toronto)Globe and Mail describes Tokyo Sonata as “transcend[ing] conventions of genre and cultural boundaries,” and praises the film for being “compelling, finely orchestrated and oddly enchanting.” Screened at both the Toronto and Cannes Film Festivals, Tokyo Sonata won the Prize Un Certain Regard at the latter.

Owl and the Sparrow.  Set in modern-day Saigon, this “lovely, lovelorn fable” (New York Daily News) follows three characters who are yearning to connect with others—a young runaway, a heartbroken zookeeper, and a disillusioned flight attendant—and whose paths eventually cross. Directed by debut Vietnamese-born filmmaker Stephane Gauger, Owl and the Sparrow is notable for the “luminous,” “unforgettable,” and “unselfconsciously endearing” (Toronto Star) performance of first-time child actress Pham Thi Han.  

Documentaries

Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman. The work of renowned architectural photographer Julius Shulman captured the essence of affluent mid-century Southern California. His photographs helped bring to prominence the designs of important modernist architects such as Richard Neutra and John Lautner. Visual Acoustics, narrated by Dustin Hoffman, documents Shulman’s life and work and features interviews with admirers like Frank Gehry. The Village Voicedeclares that “just about everyone in [Visual Acoustics] seems to love Julius Shulman, including (adorably) the unstoppable old gent himself. What’s not to like?”

American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein.  Controversial Middle East studies professor Norman Finkelstein is the subject of this “fascinatingly thorny” (Time Out New York) documentary. Both an ardent critic of US and Israeli policies towards Palestine and the son of Holocaust survivors, Finkelstein was denied tenure at DePaul University, arguably because of his political views. Filmmakers David Ridgen and Nicolas Rossier follow Finkelstein around the world as he debates contentious issues, revealing the scholar as “an obsessive personality who pours his heart and soul into the cause of justice with the single-mindedness necessary to withstand vitriol and personal attacks” (Variety).

Of course, Sedona Public Library carries wide-release movies as well as independent and foreign films. We also offer TV series, children’s movies, and instructional films. Both DVD and VHS formats are available.

Don’t be shy about asking us for recommendations. We hope to see you soon at the library!

Elizabeth Cate, author of this week's article,
is Collection Development Librarian of the Sedona Public Library.

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