August 1, 2014

The World That I See: Reads and Listens #24


One of the driving forces behind this blog is the use of our library system here in St. Louis. I’m writing this piece from the reference area of the branch that’s just a short walk from my work. The hold shelf had five requested DVDs waiting for me, and it’s hard to complain about such an easy way to access movies and books. I’m amazed when I talk to adults that haven’t visited a library in many years. It’s easy to get into a habit of buying books and renting movies without realizing there’s such a valuable local resource. What made me think of this topic is the personal story “How the Public Library Turned Me into a Reader” by Claire Fallon at the Huffington Post. She was a “library brat” who would come home with loads of books after each visit, and I remember similar experiences from my childhood. I’m trying to do the same my daughters, and we’re definitely on the right track so far.

Here are some other interesting blogs and podcasts that are definitely worth your time:

Stalwart indie director Joe Swanberg has found more success recently with films like Drinking Buddies, but it’s hardly a profitable life to work in this realm. His interview at Filmmaker with Esther B. Robinson delves into the challenges in even making a living as an indie filmmaker. It’s an honest look at why it’s so difficult to get movies made apart from the studios. Video on demand is helping the cause, but there’s still a long way to go before guys like Swanberg can get out of debt and live more comfortably.


Despite some minor advances for actresses in getting prominent roles, it’s still quite challenging especially if they want to break the mold. Zoe Saldana spoke to The Telegraph about being considered “old” at 36 and being unwilling to take generic roles in Hollywood. Her candor at the continued hypocrisy in the business, especially when it comes to actresses, is surprisingly refreshing. I’m hoping this approach will lead her into more interesting roles beyond the blockbuster sphere. Her mindset could make things tricky at times with old-school executives, but I expect it’s going to lead to great things.

There was a big event in San Diego recently, and I’m guessing a few people have heard of it. Kate Kulzick from The Televerse podcast took another trip to the San Diego Comic-Con this year and was joined by her sister Maggie. Their recap for the latest episode provides great details on what it’s like to visit the festival, which has become so gigantic. Kate also scored interviews with some prominent folks in the TV world, and she talks with Hannibal composer Brian Retzell this week. I haven’t been keeping up with a lot of the summer TV shows, but it’s still always cool to check out The Televerse.


I don't check out video essays about film nearly as much as I should, and that's a real shame. A recent example that shows how great they can be is the gorgeous look at Richard Linklater's cinematography from Nelson Carvajal at Press Play. It reminds me of just how many amazing films Linklater has made during the past few decades, and this beautiful tribute is a must-see for fans of his work.

I'm constantly thinking about what makes a film critic and how the role has changed in recent years. In connection with the release of Life Itself on KCRW, Matt Holzman talks with many critics about this job and how it works in the age of Rotten Tomatoes. It's only eight minutes long but includes some interesting perspectives from voices like Karina Longworth and Kenneth Turan on the topic.

Lucy was the big winner at the box office last weekend, though reviews were mixed. I haven’t seen it but get the sense that some audiences weren’t sure what to think. Luc Besson helps with a basic summary in the script that outlines how the film is organized. Sam Adams at Criticwire has posted it (via The Film Stage) and offered a brief glimpse into Besson’s mind. Here’s an excerpt from his note about the way to understand Lucy:

I have come up with a simplified summary, therefore, like a reader’s guide, which will conjure up the images in as few words as possible: 

- The beginning is Leon the Professional
- The middle is Inception
- The end is 2001: A Space Odyssey

Given this description, how could the movie go wrong?

10 comments:

  1. I'm right there with you on using libraries! I've been going ever since I was little. They really are an amazing resource for all kinds of media, not just books. The library here in Eugene is especially well stocked, too. I can find a good amount of what I'm looking for (and I look for a lot!). My love even led me to working at one for 8 years!

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    1. Definitely! I also use them for CDs and books along with DVDs. I haven't explored it at all, but I know they have a lot of audio books and other media. There's way too much to get through, and requesting things online makes it easy. I'm glad to hear that you're also a fan.

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  2. I use the library too, over here in Scandinavia you can even borrow films on demand for free, very useful, since the physical dvds tend to become scratched and are at times unplayable.

    That was an interesting kcrw clip about role of the film critic. I enjoy when a review is valuable to read after I''ve watched the film, but I can understand that due to ticket prices, snacks, parking, babysitters, some folks with a casual interest in movies just want to know beforehand if the film is worth the expense.

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    1. Chris, I think the libraries here are also starting to do more with electronic media too. I agree that the DVDs sometimes come really scratched, which is not fun.

      I felt like that KCRW piece really hit on the split between a critic's role to consumers and their place in analyzing films from an more intellectual perspective. It's shifted more towards the latter with critics losing jobs and having less power, but the first part is still there.

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  3. The library is a great source. In fact, most of the "newer" movies that I watch (released in the last year or so) come from my local library. I also just picked up an armful "holds." It's an easy and free way to see movies without bogging down my computer. It's not always the most current, but if I'm ever in a rush to see something I'll make a trip to the theater. I don't always just get what I have on hold, as I like to look around and see what's on the shelves. I did a post on this a while back...

    http://dellonmovies.blogspot.com/2013/12/on-my-mind-good-ol-days.html

    Great post, Dan.

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    1. Thanks Wendell. You basically described exactly what I do with the library. Along with requesting some older movies, I go through the Future DVD Releases section online and set up holds for any recent movies that I haven't seen. As long as it isn't at the top of my must-see list, I don't mind waiting. I'll definitely check out your post.

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  4. I was obsessed with the library growing up because I read all the time. I'm pretty sure I read almost the entire young adult section at the one by my house. I kinda fell off after switching to more academic library activity in college, but I've been reading audio books since I've been working full time so now I'm back there all the time.

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    1. I've thought about getting into audio books, but my time when they'd work is usually covered by podcasts. It's harder to find time to read now that I'm not commuting by the train every day, but I'm still plugging away with books when I get a chance. It's great that you're still using the library!

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  5. The last time I visited a library was in my teens. Local libraries started closing because of lack of funding and that same lack of funding would stop them from being able to develop and provide services that could have helped keep them open and a central point in the community. Such a shame. It's great you're still visiting yours regularly! Keep them going :D

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    1. I'm doing my best! I know that we're spoiled here with several big library systems and easy availability of almost anything. It's really too bad that there wasn't enough funding to keep them going.

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