Tag Archives: staff picks

Jamie’s Staff Picks for September

The Graveyard Bookthe graveyard book
by Neil Gaiman
Read by Neil Gaiman

Summary: Nobody Owens is a normal boy, except that he has been raised by ghosts and other denizens of the graveyard.

I think any Harry Potter fan would really enjoy this book. Orphaned boy? Check. Mysterious prophecy? Check. Magical underworld? Check. Someone out to kill said orphaned boy? Check. My only criticism is that I think Gaiman could go into more depth with world-building in this book, and I’m hoping he’ll eventually write a sequel (or sequels?) so that he can. I enjoyed Gaiman’s narration and the voices he did for the different characters; whenever I think of the name “Nobody Owens,” I now think of it in Gaiman’s British accent. There’s also something great about listening to characters express their lines in a book in the way that the author imagined it. Definitely worth checking out no matter what age you are!

Also available as an ebook and audiobook using the Libby and OverDrive apps here.

Episodesepisodes

Summary: Husband and wife writing team Sean and Beverly can’t wait to bring their successful British television series across the pond to make it big in America. But in true Hollywood fashion, it quickly becomes a laughable, cliched sitcom starring Matt LeBlanc who not only messes with their beloved show, but rocks the foundation of their relationship. So now, even if they survive the absurdity of show business, will their marriage survive Matt LeBlanc?

Matt LeBlanc must feel pretty vindicated that this show has gotten great critical reception after his disastrous Joey spinoff. He plays a fictionalized version of himself in a timeline where he just kept going from bad project to bad project after Joey, rather than taking a break and being more selective as he did in real life. He is driven by the desire to be taken seriously, but often finds himself accepting projects for the money. This version of LeBlanc is a less lovable Joey Tribbiani, and this show in general is far more cynical than Friends ever was. It really demonstrates that LeBlanc has great comedic range, however. Joey tended toward more bombastic and expressive outbursts, while the fictional LeBlanc is far more subdued but still funny. It also helps that the show is well-written and the other cast members are great– I was a fan of Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig from the excellent show Green Wing, and have also really enjoyed Kathleen Rose Perkins’ character Carol. Also, like all good shows, this one knows when to exit: the last season is airing now.

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Jamie’s Staff Picks for August

Veepveep

Summary: ” Former Senator Selina Meyer was a charismatic leader and a rising star in her party with her eye on the White House, then she became Vice President. VEEP follows the whirlwind day-to day existence of Vice President Meyer as she puts out political fires, juggles a busy public schedule and demanding private life, and defends the President’s interests, even as she tries to improve her dysfunctional relationship with the Chief Executive.”

A wonderfully irreverent, cringingly funny show about a power-hungry, self-absorbed politician and her bumbling staff. I was almost going to call Selina and her staff “inept,” but that doesn’t really describe it. In some ways they are surprisingly skilled, but I think they are all generally so busy trying to look good and one-up others, and get so caught up in the heart-racing insanity of running the country, that they make many, many, missteps. By the same token, though, they often find themselves bumbling their way to a win. Watching VEEP is sort of like tossing a coin to predict how these horrible people are going to come out of whatever predicament they are in. However, I think what really keeps me watching, other than the amazing performances and right-on comedic timing of this ensemble cast, is the colorful and creative insults that they throw at one another. This Office of the Vice President would be a terrible place to work if you were in it, but it’s oh-so-entertaining to watch.

If you like VEEP and are looking for something similar, we also have Armando Iannucci’s British political TV show, The Thick of It, and similarly-structured movie (which is great), In the Loop.

Southeasternsoutheastern
Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell has been quite open about his struggles with alcoholism, and this album seems to address those struggles, but not in an obviously autobiographical way. Each song tells the story of a different character, addressing different aspects of life that I think Isbell can relate to as he fights his daily battle to stay sober. If you enjoy the more alternative rock side of country music, then I highly recommend checking this album out.

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Jamie’s Staff Picks for June and July

Apologies for the lateness of this post–with summer arriving, the library has been very busy! Better late than never…

The Descendantsdescendants_xlg

“Matt King is an indifferent husband and father of two girls, who is forced to re-examine his past and embrace his future when his wife suffers a boating accident off of Waikiki. The event leads to a rapprochement with his young daughters while Matt wrestles with a decision to sell the family’s land handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries.”

I often refer to this movie as the male version of Steel Magnolias. It’s an emotional and touching drama dealing with family and death, but for the most part it’s funny and real. The first time that I watched this movie, I had never seen Shailene Woodley in anything before and I was extremely impressed by her performance. George Clooney, as always, is great.

Love & Hate005557654_500
Michael Kiwanuka

I checked out this album because I wanted to hear more after Michael Kiwanuka’s song “Cold Little Heart” was used as the opening credit song for Big Little Lies (which also has Shailene Woodley!). After listening, “Cold Little Heart” is definitely still a standout track amongst the highly-orchestrated retro-soul songs, but “Black Man in a White World” is a close second for its timeliness and loneliness even with its punchy hand claps. It might take a few listens to sink into this one, but it’s definitely worthwhile.

La La Land1

“A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. This original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing dreams.”

I saw this movie in theaters and I LOVED it. I’ve heard some people criticize it for being another movie where Hollywood is patting itself on the back, but I’m a sucker for the LA landscape (especially that view from the Griffith Observatory featured in the iconic scene on the poster), and I apparently can’t turn down a good “actor/musician tries to make it” story. I loved the songs and had them stuck in my head for days afterward. I also wept uncontrollably at the ending (but that also could be because I was nine months pregnant at the time…). It was heartbreaking and beautiful. I can’t wait to watch this movie again.

Pleasurefeist-pleasure-album-details
Feist

I think a lot of people expect all Feist albums to have the cutesiness of “1234.” Not that I don’t love “1234,” but this album definitely has a more dramatic, lonely vibe and I really enjoyed it. I also found it to be great for summer night listening. The tracks fade in and out with sounds of crickets and passing car radios which really set the scene. My favorite tracks are “I Wish I Didn’t Miss You” and “A Man is Not His Song.”

 

All summaries from http://catalog.ccls.org/.

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Jamie’s Staff Picks for May

Summer Heights HighSummer_Heights_High_DVD

“In this mockumentary series set in a real Australian high school, comedian Chris Lilley brings to life three hilarious characters: Jonah, a 13-year-old delinquent breakdancer from Tonga; Mr. G, an ego-driven drama teacher with delusional showbiz dreams; and Ja’mie, a spoiled private school girl on a student exchange.”

Probably the most well-known of Chris Lilley’s several forays into mockumentary, this series really established one of his signature characters, Ja’mie. Lilley effectively skewers several fixtures of school life that I think any student can relate to, Australian or no: the overly self-important teacher; the snobby and superficial bully; the disruptive class clown. If you enjoy shows like The Office or Seinfeld where the characters aren’t exactly the most lovable people, but their awkward antics are hilarious, you will enjoy this show (though you will probably develop a soft spot for Jonah, Lilley’s troubled 13-year-old boy from Tonga).

 

Youth Novelsyouth novels
Lykke Li

This album is great for both dance hits as well as more soulful, introspective tracks. Li’s voice oscillates from light and fanciful to low and mournful. I like that most of the tracks are simply-arranged– there’s definitely something to be said for going for the understated sound rather than something overly-produced. My favorite tracks are “Little Bit,” “I’m Good, I’m Gone,” and “Breaking It Up.”

 

All summaries from http://catalog.ccls.org/.

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Jamie’s Staff Picks for April

Hell or High Waterhell_or_high_water

“A divorced West Texas dad and his ex-con brother resort to a desperate money making scheme in order to save their family’s farm from foreclosure.”

This modern-day western features excellent performances by Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges, and adapts the genre to themes that are common discussion points in this day and age: the generational conveyance of poverty, the shady dealings of financial institutions, the dying off of small towns that used to be brimming with farming and industry. Every single character in this movie is fully-conceived, whether it’s the bank-robbing brothers, the Texas Rangers tracking them, or the waitresses, bank tellers, or bank customers who only appear for one memorable scene. You won’t regret taking an hour and a half to sit down and watch this movie! One of the best to come out in 2016.

Volume One She_&_Him_-_Volume_One.jpg
She & Him

This album was Zooey Deschanel’s debut as a singer/songwriter in partnership with M. Ward, and it’s completely lovely. It’s full of romantic pop songs with a vintage feel, and her voice has a wonderful soulful crackleyness. As the weather warms up, this album would be great listening for gardening outside or having a backyard picnic.

All summaries from http://catalog.ccls.org/.

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Jamie’s Staff Picks for March

Roseanneroseanne

“‘Roseanne’ is the story of a working class family struggling with life’s essential problems: marriage, children, money, and parents-in-law.”

I’ve been on maternity leave for the last few months and during the long days that I spent trapped under a sleeping infant, I discovered that Roseanne reruns were on for half the day every weekday. I hadn’t watched the show in years, but I still found it to be so funny and relevant. I particularly love the relationship between Roseanne and Dan and the way that they find humor in every day challenges, and are able to make even the most mundane life details entertaining. I think a lot of families can relate to their brand of sarcastic, sardonic humor. The writing on the show is punchy and the jokes are fresh– is it any surprise that Amy Sherman-Palladino, of Gilmore Girls fame, got her start writing on Roseanne? I highly recommend putting this show on as a backdrop to your spring cleaning, or whatever other chores you’ve been putting off– it will make it a lot more fun.

 

Hunt for the WilderpeopleHunt_for_the_Wilderpeople

“Raised on hip-hop and foster care, defiant city kid Ricky gets a fresh start in the New Zealand countryside. He quickly finds himself at home with his new foster family: the loving Aunt Bella, the cantankerous Uncle Hec, and dog Tupac. When a tragedy strikes that threatens to ship Ricky to another home, both he and Hec go on the run in the bush. As a national manhunt ensues, the newly branded outlaws must face their options.”

This was one of my favorite movies of 2016. Made by the director of another favorite movie of mine, What We Do in the Shadows, this movie features Taika Waititi’s oddball humor in an endearing buddy adventure.Sam Neill basically plays the same character that he plays in Jurassic Park— the grumpy adult who isn’t that into kids, but finds himself stuck with one anyway, and grows to enjoy his company– a role at which he excels. I also really liked Julian Dennison, who plays Ricky, a down-and-out kid with an attitude who starts to turn himself around when shown a little kindness and respect. A super funny and heartwarming tale!

All summaries taken from http://catalog.ccls.org/.

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Zoey’s Staff Picks for December

Here is what I picked for this month, including short reviews!

Love Actuallylove-actually
dir. Richard Curtis, feat. Bill Nigh, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, and Emma Thompson

“Follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely and interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England.”

Love Actually is one of the very few holiday movies that I can sit through, and actually enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I try not to think of myself as a Scrooge or a Grinch, but some holiday movies are super cringe-worthy and cheesy to me. And you can only watch classics like A Christmas Story and The Santa Clause so many times before it gets old.

What I enjoy most about Love Actually is the intertwining stories. While each character and their story line are unique in their own respects, characters are related in a variety of ways, ranging from an affair, to a friendship, and to even siblings. My favorite story line? I’m going to have to go with the Prime Minister and Natalie, played by Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon, respectively. Their budding romance is quirky, yet sweet. Alan Rickman is memorable in his role as well, and Martin Freeman adds a perfect hint of comedic relief. I think another aspect which could explain Love Actually’s popularity, more than 13 years after its initial release, is that classic British humor. The wit and sarcasm isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if it’s yours, and you love Christmas, definitely give Love Actually a shot, if you haven’t already.

Love Actually is that perfect adult holiday movie bound to get anyone in a Christmas-y mood.

American Beauty/American Psychoamerican-beauty-american-psycho
by Fall Out Boy

I know it seems a bit odd to recommend a summer feeling album in December, but I recently came across the album while stuck in traffic. Needless to say, listening to it all the way through brought back memories, and my mind was certainly no longer focused on the traffic.

Fall Out Boy was a band you would most certainly find on my iPod when I was in high school. So when they made their return from their hiatus back in 2013 with Save Rock and Roll followed by their 2015 release, you could say I was beyond thrilled. If you want to feel a little nostalgic for Fall Out Boy or other “emo” or pop-punk bands, pick up American Beauty/American Psycho.

My favorite tracks are: “Twin Skeletons (Hotel in NYC)”, “Novocaine”, “Jet Pack Blues”, and “The Kids Aren’t Alright.”

Images and Summaries taken from catalog.ccls.org.

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Jamie’s Staff Picks for December

It’s a Wonderful Life its-a-wonderful-life

Summary: “An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would had been like if he never existed. A Christmas classic.”

This movie probably does not need any promotion, but it is nonetheless one of my favorite Christmas movies and is on my “Required Christmas Movie” watching list every year. I can’t let the holiday go by without seeing the gym floor open up to reveal the pool underneath at the dance, or watching George lasso the moon, and crying at the end when the town comes together to help him. The holidays can be sad just as much as they can be happy, so if you are in need of something life-affirming, this should be on your watch list this month too.

P.S. You can rent this DVD individually using the link at the top of this post OR you can rent it as part of our Holiday Favorites Binge Box! For more information on Binge Boxes, see this post.

Once: music from the motion picture once
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

An excellent soundtrack from this sort-of-musical. If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend checking it out. This is definitely not your typical musical, and the soundtrack is more of a folksy rock/pop album than a broadway show-stopper. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are a great pair both on screen and musically; if you enjoy singer-songwriter types, then this will be right up your alley. Their song “Falling Slowly” won an Academy Award, and this soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy.

Images and summaries from catalog.ccls.org.

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Kim’s Staff Picks

Valiant Ambition:  George Washington, Benedict Arnold and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick [AV 973.382 P; audiobook]

Like Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City, Thunderstruck), Philbrick is a mastervaliant-ambition at unearthing new or hitherto forgotten information and shining new light on people and events in our history.  (See also The Last Stand and Bunker Hill.)  In Valiant Ambition, he juxtaposes the lives of commander-in-chief Washington with one of his ablest but also most troubled—and eventually traitorous—generals, Benedict Arnold.  It’s almost a certainty that Arnold’s delaying tactics on Lake Champlain (1776) and aggressiveness at Saratoga (1777) saved the Revolution.  Also true is that he was mistreated by mean-spirited officers and members of Congress.  Nevertheless, as Philbrick points out, Arnold had a huge character flaw, namely what was best for Arnold was best for all.  He was inspirational but often lacked consideration for others.  Washington, who valued Arnold but because of political in-fighting could do little to advance him to the positions he deserved, also comes alive as a flawed but ultimately heroic figure who saved the Revolution.  Philbrick contends persuasively that Arnold also saved the nascent nation, first, because of his actions on Lake Champlain and at Saratoga, and, second, because his treason renewed a sense of patriotism when the conflict’s outcome remained in doubt.

A Foreign Affair [AV FEAT DRAMA FOREIGN]

The quality of Austrian-born Billy Wilder’s Hollywood movies was matched by perhaps foreignaffaironly a half dozen other directors.  His resume includes The Major and the Minor (1942), Five Graves to Cairo (1943), Double Indemnity (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945 Best Picture Academy Award), Sunset Blvd. (1950), Ace in the Hole (1951), Stalag 17 (1953), Sabrina (1954), The Seven Year Itch (1955), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Some Like It Hot (1959), The Apartment (1960 Best Picture Academy Award), and One, Two, Three (1961).  Only recently has A Foreign Affair (1948) begun to take its place in Wilder’s canon.  The story:  Congresswoman Phoebe Frost (Jean Arthur) visits postwar Berlin (and it really was postwar as the wrecked city was filmed by Wilder’s crew in 1947) to investigate how things were going in the U.S. zone of occupation.  It wasn’t going well, that is, there was widespread graft and corruption.  Captain Pringle (John Lund) tries to conceal as much as possible while falling for the Congresswoman even as he makes liaison with German cabaret singer Erika (Marlene Dietrich).  The film is a sharp commentary on the military, German guilt, and political machinations—as seen through Wilder’s satirically perceptive eyes.

By Kim

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Jamie’s Staff Picks for November

Emotionalismemotionalism
by The Avett Brothers

In my opinion, this CD is The Avett Brothers’ best. Their newer albums venture a little too far into sentimental pop to be memorable (or, frankly, enjoyable, as much as it pains me to say it). This album displayed their unique combination of pop, bluegrass, rock, and punk in a way that they seemed to have moved away from as they’ve become more well-known. This album came out when I was in college and I saw them perform it live. The energy that these songs displayed on stage was totally incredible, and by far one of the most memorable concerts of my life. I don’t think there’s a single song on this CD that I don’t like, but if I had to choose favorites I would go with: “Paranoia in B-Flat Major,” “Will You Return?”, and “I Would Be Sad.”

Bone Tomahawk bonetomahawk1

“Four men from a settlement in the old west must ride to the edge of civilization to find some local townspeople who have been abducted. What they find is an evil beyond imagination and an enemy so brutal, they will never be the same again.”

My husband and I were looking for scary movies to watch on Halloween night and ended up with this horror-like western. It was excellent– great dialogue, great characters, funny, heartwarming, and also terrifying. But be warned! This movie is definitely not for the faint of heart. Some scenes are very violent and gruesome. The combination of a “bottle episode” type plot (in that the scenes largely consist of dialogue) with engaging characters and horrific violence reminded me a lot of something that Quentin Tarantino would direct (à la The Hateful Eight). Kurt Russell, the sheriff, is great, but Richard Jenkins really steals the show as his lovable, loyal deputy. Definitely worth checking out if you are having a scary movie night!

 

All summaries from http://catalog.ccls.org/.

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