A little while back three people recommended the same book to me over the span of about a month. These folks thought I’d enjoy the latest book by Jean Kwok, author of the previous bestseller “Girl in Translation.” In fact, I had picked up “Mambo in Chinatown” earlier and put it down as ‘not my type’ and so, after the first recommendation, I just said thanks, without comment. After the second recommendation, I had to share a laugh and explain what was going on, but after the third recommendation, which came via e-mail from a casual acquaintance, I decided I was supposed to read this book, my ‘type’ or not! The novel proved to be an entertaining look at ballroom dance, as well as the conflicts inherent in growing up the child of recent American immigrants.
Ever since I took up ballroom dance as a pastime, I have been on the lookout for good books about dance. I recently found one that fit the bill for me. “Astonish Me” by Maggie Shipstead brings to life the story of Joan, an American woman who, in 1977, falls in love with a Soviet ballet dancer, Arslan Rusakov—who is a clearly a fictional version of Mikhail Baryshnikov. Told in time jumps and multiple points of view, this is a story of unrequited love played out in the highly political, passionate world of professional ballet. Written with complexity of character and an intriguing plot and an ending twist that may or may not come as a surprise, the book is highly readable for dancers and non-dancers alike.
The world of ballet apparently offers a lot of fictional fodder. “Dancer” by Colum McCann is a colossal literary work that brings to life the extravagant world of Rudolf Nureyev, the Russian peasant whose genius propelled him to become an international ballet legend. Inspired by biographical facts, the story is told through a wide variety of voices, including Nureyev and his contemporaries, from the celebrated to the unknown. Beginning with Nureyev’s youth in Stalin-era Soviet Union and ending with his days of wild abandon in eighties’ New York, “Dancer” encapsulates the legendary artist in a way that captures his true essence, as well as his dazzling façade.
Cars can get us to where we need to go, but sometimes they are tied to greater stories that speak to our lives and dreams. Check out these films that take a look at different roles cars play in our society.
Trapped in a failing marriage, demolition-derby driver Ed “Speedo” Jager channels life’s frustrations onto the track, hoping to parlay his talents into a “real” racing career. This film captures the collisions and confrontations during one tumultuous year.
“Bulletproof Salesman” (2008)
Fidelis Cloer is a self-confessed war profiteer who found the perfect war when the US invaded Iraq. It wasn’t about selling a dozen cars, or even a hundred, it was a thousand-car war where security would become the ultimate product.
“Revenge of the Electric Car” (2011)
A sequel to the 2006 documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?,” director Chris Paine takes his film crew behind the closed doors of Nissan, GM and the Silicon Valley start-up Tesla Motors to chronicle the story of the global resurgence of electric cars.
We recently added “The Roosevelts” to the DBRL collection. The seven episode series played on PBS earlier this year, and is the latest from documentary filmmaker Ken Burns who has done other series such as “The Civil War,” “Baseball,” “Jazz,” “The War,” “The National Parks,” and “Prohibition.” Here’s a synopsis from our catalog:
Profiles Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of the most prominent and influential family in American politics. It is the first time in a major documentary television series that their individual stories have been interwoven into a single narrative. This seven-part, 14 hour film follows the Roosevelts for more than a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Over the course of these years, Theodore would become the 26th President of the United States and his beloved niece, Eleanor, would marry his fifth cousin, Franklin, who became the 32nd President of the United States. Together, these three individuals not only redefined the relationship Americans had with their government and with each other, but also redefined the role of the United States within the wider world. The series encompasses the history the Roosevelts helped to shape: the creation of the National Parks, the digging of the Panama Canal, the passage of innovative New Deal programs, the defeat of Hitler, and the postwar struggles for civil rights at home and human rights abroad. It is also an intimate human story about love, betrayal, family loyalty, personal courage, and the conquest of fear.
An intimate and candid look at the life and art of legendary composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim, as revealed through the creation and performance of six of his songs, and remembered by the man himself. The six songs featured in the film are: Something’s coming, Opening doors, Send in the clowns, I’m still here, Being alive and Sunday. Art and life are intertwined for Sondheim, and it is a story of both.
We recently added “Tim’s Vermeer” to the DBRL collection. This film played at the True/False Film Festival in 2014, and currently has a rating of 89% from critics at Rotten Tomatoes. Here’s a synopsis from our catalog:
Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in all art: How did seventeenth century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer manage to paint so photo-realistically, 150 years before the invention of photography? Spanning ten years, his adventure takes him to Delft, Holland, where Vermeer painted his masterpieces, to the north coast of Yorkshire to meet artist David Hockney, and even to Buckingham Palace to see a Vermeer masterpiece in the collection of the Queen.
The film “Rich Hill” (91 min.) examines the rural community of the same name that lies seventy miles south of Kansas City, Missouri. This impoverished Midwestern town is the setting for this documentary that examines the turbulent lives of three boys and the fragile family bonds that sustain them. Directed by Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo, this film was a selection of the 2014 True/False Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
We recently added “Jodorowsky’s Dune” to the DBRL collection. This film played at the True/False Film Festival in 2014, and currently has a rating of 98% from critics at Rotten Tomatoes. Here’s a synopsis from the film website:
This fascinating documentary explores the genesis of one of cinema’s greatest epics that never was: cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s (EL TOPO) adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune, whose cast would have included such icons as Salvador Dali, Orson Welles and Mick Jagger. In 1975, following the runaway success of his art-house freak-outs EL TOPO and HOLY MOUNTAIN, Alejandro Jodorowsky secured the rights to Frank Herbert’s Dune – and began work on what was gearing up to be a cinematic game-changer, a sci-fi epic unlike anything the world had ever seen.
We recently added “Finding Vivian Maier” to the DBRL collection. The film was shown earlier this year at Ragtag Cinema and currently has a rating of 95% from critics at Rotten Tomatoes. Here’s a synopsis from our catalog:
Now considered one of the 20th century’s greatest street photographers, Vivian Maier was a mysterious nanny who secretly took over 100,000 photographs that went unseen during her lifetime. Vivian’s strange and riveting life and art are revealed through never-before-seen photos, films, and interviews with dozens who thought they knew her.
October 31: “Citizen Four” starts at Ragtag. (via)
November 3: “20,000 Days on Earth” 5:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m. at Forum 8. (via)
November 3: “Girl Rising” 6:00 p.m. at Missouri Theatre. (via)
November 3: “Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines” 6:00 p.m. at the MU Student Center. (via)
We recently added “Valentine Road” to the DBRL collection. The film was shown last year on HBO and currently has a rating of 90% from critics at Rotten Tomatoes. Here’s a synopsis from the film website:
In 2008, eighth-grader Brandon McInerney shot classmate Larry King at point blank range. Unraveling this tragedy from point of impact, the film reveals the heartbreaking circumstances that led to the shocking crime as well as the aftermath.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014 • 6:30 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room
The documentary “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs” (82 min.) is the latest from Columbia-native filmmaker Grace Lee (“The Grace Lee Project“). This film focuses on Grace Lee Boggs, a 98 year old Chinese American philosopher, writer, and activist in Detroit with a thick FBI file and a surprising vision of what an American revolution can be. In this film we see how Boggs continually challenges a new generation to throw off old assumptions, think creatively and redefine revolution for our times. The screening is a collaboration with POV, PBS’ award-winning nonfiction film series.
We recently added “12 O’clock Boys” to the DBRL collection. The film played at various film festivals in 2013 and currently has a rating of 91% from critics at Rotten Tomatoes. Here’s a synopsis from our catalog:
A notorious urban dirt bike pack in Baltimore that pops wheelies, weaves at excessive speeds through traffic, and impressively evades the hamstrung police. Their stunning antics are viewed through the eyes of adolescent Pug, a bright kid from the Westside obsessed with the riders and willing to do anything to join their ranks.
We recently added “Generation Like” to the DBRL collection. The film played earlier this year on the PBS series Frontline and is a followup to the 2001 documentary “The Merchants of Cool.” Here’s a synopsis from our catalog:
Explores how the perennial teen quest for identity and connection has migrated to social media, and exposes the game of cat-and-mouse that corporations are playing with these young consumers. Here is a powerful examination of the evolving and complicated relationship between teens and the companies that are increasingly working to target them.