Tag Archives: staff picks

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.


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


“‘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.


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

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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Zoey’s Staff Picks for November

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

10 Cloverfield Lane 10-cloverfield-lane
dir. Dan Trachtenberg, feat. John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

“A young woman wakes up after a terrible accident to find that she’s locked in a cellar with a doomsday prepper, who insists that he saved her life and that the world outside is uninhabitable following an apocalyptic catastrophe. Uncertain what to believe, the woman soon determines that she must escape at any cost.”

10 Cloverfield Lane has been described as the “blood relative” of Cloverfield. Although J.J. Abrams is heavily involved with both films, you do not need to watch Cloverfield, in order to “understand” 10 Cloverfield Lane. Beginning very fast paced and action packed, the movie does not let up for its entire run time. You find yourself posed at the end of your seat for the full hour and 45 minutes, questioning motives and trying to guess about what happens next.

There are so many creative and unique nuances about 10 Cloverfield Lane that it’s difficult to pick just a few to focus on. Trachtenberg was creative with the little space he had to work with. After a car accident, Michelle wakes up in a bunker trapped and held hostage by a doomsday prepper who is convinced the world is being overturned by aliens. While the movie crosses many genres, Trachtenberg’s pacing, cinematography, and Goodman’s and Winstead’s acting helps to avoid overwhelming viewers with the crossing of genres. Because over one third of the movie takes place in a three room bunker, it’s difficult for the viewers to gauge the time passing or how the characters may actually be feeling (probably claustrophobic). Trachtenberg combats this by simply including slowly fading nail polish, scars and wounds getting smaller, and even the score adds to the sense of time passing. Although Winstead has very few lines, she still perfectly captivated the terror and determination felt by Michelle. If you enjoy soft(er) sci-fi films, mystery films, or even thrillers, give 10 Cloverfield Lane a try, you most certainly will not get bored.

The Dream Thieves dream-thieves
by Maggie Stiefvater, performed by Will Patton

“Though she is from a family of clairvoyants, Blue Sargent’s only gift seems to be that she makes other people’s talents stronger, and when she meets Gansey, one of the Raven Boys from the expensive Aglionby Academy, she discovers that he has talents of his own–and that together their talents are a dangerous mix.”

The Dream Thieves is the second installment on The Raven Cycle Series. I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but if you’re interested in the series, begin with The Raven Boys! Lately, I’ve been hesitant to pick up any YA books, I can enjoy the stereotypical love triangle and angst teen behavior for only so long. But I was craving something charming yet paranormal, Harry Potter-esque yet not overwhelming. I’ve had many people recommend Steifvater’s The Raven Cycle to me before, and I decided to finally give it a try. And I don’t regret it one bit. Although The Raven Cycle is labeled as YA, I would confidently say it’s more of a unique YA and doesn’t overwhelm the reader with the typical romance, kissing, and angsty coming of age stories.

The Raven Cycle follows a group of soon-to-graduate prep school boys and Blue, a clairvoyant’s daughter, and their quest to find the grave of the Welsh King, Glendower. Lead by Gansey, the group is certainly dynamic in that each character brings something to the story. I would say one of Stiefvater’s main strengths is building characters. When I got further into The Dream Thieves, I had realized that I was fully invested into characters (some more than others) and I could picture them as real people. Building entirely different worlds in a book is an extremely difficult thing to do, and often authors tend to give their readers an information overload. Stiefvater is extremely subtle in providing the information needed, and her foreshadowing is so subtle to the point where I had no idea of any of the twists that lay ahead. Although some events within the story are definitely fantastical, her writing is so moving and powerful that you can find yourself lost in the world of Henrietta, Virginia. I’m currently on the last installment, The Raven King, (Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third installment) and I’m beginning to wish I had taken my time reading, it’s a certainly a series worth savoring.


Summaries and images taken from catalog.ccls.org.

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Zoey’s Staff Picks for October

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

Flesh and Bone flesh-and-bone
created by Moira Walley-Beckett, feat. Sarah Hay, Ben Daniels, and Emily Tyra

“This gripping coming-of-age drama follows a young ballet dancer, Claire, who has a distinctly troubled past as she joins a prestigious ballet company in New York. Claire is a beautiful, soulful, and deeply emotionally wounded young woman who possesses an innate innocence and fragility while at the same time harboring self-destructive tendencies and a vaulting ambition. She is a transcendent ballerina, capable of reaching the sublime, but her inner torment and aspirations drive her in compelling.”

I have made it well known throughout my staff picks that I tend to enjoy dark and intense movies or shows. Flesh and Bone, no doubt, is dark and intense. But that is not to say it is hauntingly beautiful and moving in every sense of the word. Sarah Hay is simply stunning in her debut role as Claire Robbins– a talented, but emotionally troubled dancer who fights her way through the cutthroat professional ballet world of New York City. I connected very deeply with Claire in many ways, and with other characters as well. Although I would imagine the depiction of professional ballet is extremely dramatized in the show, I would still argue that the show perfectly and realistically captures a person’s inner darkness, and the fight to escape it. What is even more fascinating about Flesh and Bone is its structure. Many viewers may miss it, due to being wrapped up in the melodramatic intensity of it all, but the miniseries is structured like an actual ballet, specifically drawing from Gothic horror. I’m a little sad, and do I dare say disappointed, that it was not picked up for a second season, and thus it is considered only as a miniseries. I hope the main actress, Sarah Hay, goes onto to do other work, as her debut role was simply astonishing and I feel as though she captures the attention of every viewer.

Here is a link to a fascinating Vulture article, which explains, in more detail, about the structure of Flesh and Bone. (The article contains spoilers!)

If You Leave if-you-leave
by Daughter

I first heard Daughter while watching the British show, Skins (which I also highly recommend). I was moved by the beautiful and emotionally haunting lyrics. I have many favorite bands, but Daughter, without a doubt, stands at the very top of the list. Although I staff picked their newest album Not to Disappear back in February, I’m still listening to their premiere album, If You Leave. I have their entire discography on repeat in preparation, but more out of excitement, for the November show in Philly. It will be my first time seeing them live and I simply cannot wait! My favorite tracks off of If You Leave are “Smother,” “Youth,”and “Still.”

Images and summaries taken from catalog.ccls.org

Wilkinson, Alyssa. “Flesh and Bone Is a TV Show Structured Like an Actual Ballet.” Vulture, 16 Nov. 2015. Web.


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