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I am a big fan of the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon. I have read or seen most of his plays and have visited his birthplace and his gravesite. Right now, I’d like to suggest some of the wonderful films based on his classic plays.
I highly recommend the only Shakespearian film to ever win a Best Film Oscar, Laurence Olivier’s classic Hamlet (1948). It starred Olivier (who also directed), Jean Simmons, Stanley Holloway and a host of British rep actors. Not to be missed.
Another actor who tried his hand as the ‘Melancholy Prince of Denmark’ is Kenneth Branagh, who tried to create the complete and definitive Hamlet (1996). It is certainly the most complete; a number of extraneous scenes usually cut from productions were all filmed. However, the production is beautiful, and the cast, for the most part, are perfect. Among the best performances (beside Branagh’s), you will enjoy Derek Jacobi, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Billy Crystal, and in an inspired bit of casting, Charlton Heston as the Player King.
Richard III (1995). Although Lord Olivier’s brilliant Richard III (1955) is more true to Shakespeare in costuming, Sir Ian McKellan’s version is my favorite. The costumes may have been brought into the 20th century, but the dialog is pure Shakespeare. Featured in the cast are Robert Downey, Jr., Annette Bening, Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, and a host of others you will surely recognize. Wicked fun.
Henry V (1989) starred Kenneth Branagh in the role that made him an international star. The cast is a veritable who’s who of great British actors (including Judi Dench, Brian Blessed, Emma Thompson, and a 15-year-old Christian Bale). The scene following the Battle of Agincourt is done in one very long tracking shot and is a triumph of great cinematography. A must see! But don’t miss Olivier’s version (1944) which is equally brilliant, and considering it was filmed in England during WWII, all the more remarkable.
The British Broadcasting Company (BBC), in their infinite wisdom, decided to film every one of Shakespeare’s plays, and although they are very stagey productions, they had the pick of the great actors of the time. The library owns the entire set – check them out! One of my favorites is Taming of the Shrew (1980), which starred Monty Python alum John Cleese. The battle of the sexes has never been so much fun.
And for fun –
Shakespeare in Love (1998) won the Academy Award for Best Picture (among other Oscars). Imagine William Shakespeare with writer’s block, and you have the basis for a delightful film which is also about a young woman who loves theatre and poetry more than anything, including her future husband. Stars Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judi Dench, Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, et al, are simply wonderful. Catch this one!
The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s brilliant stage show The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) was filmed a number of years ago, and this hilarious romp will leave you howling. This three man team manages to take you through every play by Shakespeare in a totally irreverent manner. Titus Andronicus as a cooking show? The Histories done as a football game, where a crown is what’s being passed? Even if you’ve never seen a single play by the Bard, you are sure to enjoy this hilarious parody.
Others worthy films include:
Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Romeo and Juliet (1936)
Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)
An Age of Kings (1960) – This mini-series follows the Histories from Richard II to Richard III.
Check out some staff recommendations from our November issue of Page Turners.
The Player (2013), Faces of the Gone, Eyes of the Innocent and others by Brad Parks
Carter Ross is an investigative journalist with the Newark Eagle-Examiner. Whenever a nasty murder or a case of corruption in high places comes to light Carter is sent to get the scoop. He is smart and quick-witted and will keep digging for the facts long after the police have settled for the easy explanation. He has an on again-off again relationship with newspaper employee Tina Thompson. The fact that she is also his editor sometimes makes it hard to avoid blurring the lines between work and their private lives. Brad’s adventures are a pleasing mix of suspense and humor set in a convincing major newspaper environment. There is plenty of action set against a gritty New Jersey background plus a cast of entertaining characters.
The Dog (a novel) by Joseph O’Neill
The narrator of this bitterly comic story never tells us his name, although he does hint that the first part begins with an ‘X’ and is embarrassingly horrible. What we do get is a very detailed picture of his life in Dubai just after the 2008 financial crash. He works for a very wealthy family and, thanks to them, has a luxurious apartment, an upscale office and access to expensive cars and other pleasures. In spite of all these rewards he still feels as if he is in the proverbial doghouse. He spends his days moving documents and money from country to country. At the same time he tries to keep himself free of any responsibility or culpability for the family’s dubious business practices. He, like all expats in Dubai, lives in a surreal bubble and his descriptions of his adventures in this desert Shangri-La are both very funny and a morality tale for our times.
Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow
Charles M. Blow is a journalist and a columnist for the New York Times. His life today is in vivid contrast to his poverty stricken upbringing in rural Louisiana. His mother, a home economics teacher, struggled to bring up her four sons mostly on her own. To keep food on the table all the boys had to learn to grow and preserve vegetables and to catch fish. In a memorable episode the boys, their mother and some neighbors hurry over to the interstate where a cattle truck has overturned in order to shoot a couple of cows for some much needed meat. When Blow was seven, an older male cousin came to stay with the family and showed an interest in him that soon turned to abuse. The aftermath dogged Blow for years and affected him in countless ways that are very honestly portrayed in this book. This is a gripping memoir of a man’s brave efforts to overcome damaging experiences.
What do you think of when you hear the words ‘non-fiction’? Books on building bird houses? Manuals to help you replace the manifold on your Mitsubishi or a handy how-to on hair cutting? We have all those practical sorts of at the library of course and they are very useful but we also have books that entertain as they enlighten you about a huge range of human experience and knowledge.
One of the very best writers of popular scientific books is Mary Roach. She has a style that is friendly and inviting and she will make you laugh as she reveals all kinds of astonishing things about human beings and the things they get up to. She always does her research but has the gift of transforming her results into delightful page turners.
Try one of these and see what you’ve been missing:
This book explores the gross, but very engrossing, subject of our digestive systems and will tell you everything you wanted to know but never to dared to ask.
Space is the final frontier for human beings and it is completely devoid of the comforts of home. So how do space travelers manage the everyday functions of life in cramped quarters surrounded by a vacuum? With difficulty as it turns out.
Opinions and beliefs differ widely about what might happen to our non-physical selves after death but we know for a fact what happens to our bodies. Apart from the usual burial or cremation there are a surprising number of other outcomes for cadavers and all of them are fascinating.
For a very dramatic battle of wills, I recommend 1960’s Tunes of Glory, starring John Mills and Alec Guinness. A Scottish military unit, during peacetime, has two men vying for control of the hearts and minds of the men. One had been in charge; the other sent in as his replacement. Conflict is inevitable and ultimately tragic. This movie will stay with you.
Kirk Douglas turned in one of his best performances in Ace in the Hole (1951). Written, directed and produced by the great Billy Wilder, this film is a delicious smack at the media turning minor stories into spectacles. (Pretty timeless, don’t you think?) A cave-in has trapped a man underground, and a manipulative journalist tries to turn the rescue effort into a national headline. He becomes the ringmaster of this media circus, occasionally hindering the rescue efforts in his bid to keep the story alive. Not to be missed!
What might have been a minor WWII propaganda film, This Land Is Mine (1943) rises above its simple story due to the powerful performances by leads Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara. A cowardly school master, the butt of his student’s jokes, ultimately finds his courage and stands up to the Nazis who have taken over his town. Laughton’s impassioned speech on liberty will leave you breathless.
Stranger on the Third Floor (1940) is an odd little low budget noir thriller, well worth watching for the wonderful performance of Peter Lorre as a quiet little man who just happens to be a serial killer. A reporter becomes a material witness in a murder trial where, because of his (circumstantial) evidence, a man is convicted and sentenced to death. Slowly the reporter comes to realize he might have been mistaken and tries to track down the real killer, only to be accused of the killer’s next crime. Sentenced to death himself, his girlfriend must solve the crimes before two innocent men are executed.
Two great episodic movies, with all-star casts are:
O.Henry’s Full House (1952) features Marilyn Monroe, Charles Laughton, Jeanne Crain, Farley Granger, Richard Widmark, Anne Baxter, Fred Allen, and more. The segments were all based on the classic short stories by O.Henry and include some greats as The Ransom of Red Chief, The Cop and the Anthem, The Gift of the Magi, and The Last Leaf. Some stories will be make you howl with laughter; others will find your reaching for the tissues.
Tales of Manhattan (1942). The cast includes Ginger Rogers, Henry Fonda, Charles Boyer, Edward G. Robinson, Ethel Waters, Paul Robeson, and many more. The story follows the various owners of a man’s formal tailcoat, as it is sold or passed down from owner to owner. To me, the most touching segment belongs to Edward G. Robinson, as a skid row drunkard who is invited to his college reunion. His street friends get him the coat so he can attend and pretend he’s still the school hero he once was. Excellent all around. BTW, some segments were cut during the initial release (one starring W.C. Fields) but have been restored on the DVD. Enjoy!
So how can you add music to your child’s life? Start by sharing songs and rhymes that you remember from your own childhood, especially if they are in your native language. If you’re a little fuzzy on the words or the tune, try checking out a CD from the library, searching for the song online, or even making it up as you go along. You can also learn new songs at a library storytime, or from one of the music CD’s in our collection.
Here are some cool new CD’s from some of our favorite kids’ singers (that even adults can enjoy)!
The Ultimate Laurie Berkner Band Collection by: Laurie Berkner
This collection of the Laurie Berkner Band’s greatest hits also includes 3 bonus songs, perfect for families who like to move and groove!
Aqui, Alla by: Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
The husband-wife duo of Lucky Diaz and Alisha Gaddis are back with a Spanish language album for families that blends Chicano rock, indie pop and Tejano sounds. Visit the band’s website for lyrics and translations to English.
More Multicultural Children’s Songs from Ella Jenkins by: Ella Jenkins
Ella Jenkins is a truly amazing music legend who’s been making music for children for 57 years! This newest collection represents a variety of cultures and traditions with fun and simple songs for kids.
Where in the World by: Fred Penner
Fred Penner’s back with his first new family album in nearly a decade! These positive songs teach kids about the world around them in a fun and joyful way.
Putumayo Kids: Australian Playground
Putomayo’s latest album for kids is a journey to the land down under! This musical adventure is filled with fun songs about kangaroos, boomerangs, didgeridoos, and more.
Love Bug by: Raffi
Raffi returns after twelve years for another family album full of fun, imagination and, of course, love! “Love Bug” features a mix of classic songs and brand new tunes, all in Raffi’s signature playful style.
More excerpts from October’s issue of Page Turners, edited by our staff. Stop by the library to pick up a copy!
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
People leave their home countries and come to America for many reasons. For Alma and Arturo Rivera the reason is their daughter Maribel. She suffers a debilitating head injury at the age of fifteen and may never be the same brave, bright girl again. For her sake they leave the only life they have ever known and head north to Delaware in search of a cure. Mayor Toro is a boy from Panama who sees Maribel in a store and falls for her. The Toros and the Rivera family become friends, a relationship that is tested as Mayor and Maribel grow closer than their parents think is wise or proper. The story is told from several viewpoints and is interspersed with tales from men and woman who have made their way north from different parts of Latin America. All these individual accounts resonate with humanity and are vivid testimonials to the courage of those who seek better lives.
The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
Maggie is a psychologist who has always been careful to keep a distance between herself and her clients. This professional barrier breaks down when she agrees to help a suicidal young Indian woman, Lakshmi, who is trapped in a loveless marriage and cut off from her family. Maggie sees that Lakshmi is in need of friendship and reaches out to her. As the two women begin to know more about their respective lives Maggie starts to realize that abandoning the formal therapist and patient relationship was not a wise move. When both women find out the worst about each other can they also find the wisdom to understand and to be forgiving? Maggie and Lakshmi
are very different characters and they are brought to life wonderfully by the author.
Families were bigger years ago, as anyone who is searching out their ancestors will quickly discover. I have known for years that that my Dad’s father, Peter Waddell, was one of eight children and in more recent times I found all of their names. Apart from birth dates and evidence of a few marriages and deaths I really felt little connection to any of these people, mainly because I had never seen their faces. That all changed in October of last year when I was in Scotland going through a batch of old family photographs with a cousin and we came across some pictures of three of our great uncles. It’s amazing what a difference a few shadows on an old piece of paper can make. I feel much closer to these people now, so let me introduce them to you.
This is James Waddell born in 1882 in Kinghorn, Fife, in Scotland and died in Kettlebridge, Fife in 1953. He was described as a retired farm servant on his death certificate. He seems to be in his best suit in this photograph. He never married so I wonder if he got his heart broken by a lassie at some point, or did his inclinations run in another direction? We are not likely to find out now.
Gavin Waddell was born in 1888 in Burntisland, Fife. I have yet to find out when he died but I do know that he married a lady by the splendid name of Isabella Duff Stewart. He is clearly in his working clothes and is probably on a farm called Remiltoun near the village of Oakley in Fife. He seems to be wondering why anyone would bother to take his picture.
And here is David Waddell born in 1900 in Torryburn, Fife. I know very little about him but it looks like he was something of a musician. No evidence yet of a wife or children but who knows what is sitting out there in those wonderfully thorough Scottish records waiting to be found?
The great thing about researching your ancestors is that you never know when something new will turn up. More records are being up loaded to searchable databases everyday. If you let everyone in your family know that you are keen on researching your collective past they will be more likely to pass on any old photos or documents that they come across.
If you haven’t started looking into your family history yet now is a great time to begin. This October is Family History Month and we will be marking it here at the library with a series of programs designed to help you improve and widen your research as well as preserving what you find for future generations. Check out our website or newsletter for details or give us a call at the adult services advisory desk.
Come check out some book suggestions from our Page Turners newsletter, edited by our staff.
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Georgie is a busy TV writer with a great husband. He is a wonderful father who cooks and does the laundry. There is certainly nothing wrong with Neal or Georgie but both of them know that their marriage is on shaky ground. Two days before Christmas Georgie has to back out of a family trip to Neal’s parents in Omaha because her show is about to get picked up by a major network. At home in Los Angeles by herself Georgie stumbles across a link with the past. She is able to talk to Neal as he was in the time before they were married. Can she use this amazing opportunity to mend their marriage before it even begins or should she make sure that it never happens?
The American Mission by Matthew Palmer
Alex Baines used to be on the fast track for promotion at the State Department but things went very wrong for him in Darfur. He lost his security clearance and if he stays with the department he will spend his days stamping visas. Just as he is about to cut his ties with the Department and look for a job in the private sector he gets a call from a former mentor, the US Ambassador to the Congo. He offers Alex a mission that, if successful, will restore his reputation and his career path. As violence in the Congo increases Alex must try to balance the interests of the US government with those of the Congolese people. He must also thwart the machinations of an unduly influential US mining company that has its own sinister agenda.