moneyball-march

The Ides of March and Moneyball are two relatively recent films in which Philip Seymour Hoffman did not star, but rather provided crucial, essential and, as always, very strong supporting performances.

The Ides of March is a film that George Clooney not only stars in but that he also co-wrote and directed. And, really, he’s not the star here. Like Hoffman, Clooney is just a supporting player here. At the heart of The Ides of March is the Ryan Gosling character, Stephen Meyers. Stephen is the crux of this story. He is the pivot which all of the other action and characters revolve around. Stephen is a deputy campaign manager for a presidential candidate (Clooney) who at first seems untouchable. But soon, skeletons appear peeking out of the closets. Stephen finds himself caught in the middle of a potential scandal that could bring down both the campaign and his own career. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the candidate’s senior campaign manager. His time on screen is limited, but as always with Hoffman, his performance is larger than life and full of passion and vigor.

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maxmary

I’m not that fascinated by contemporary animated films. I love what Aardman Animation does (Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep), but aside from that, most animation of today leaves me yearning for the non-computerized animation of the past…where tedious work was done all by hand to bring to life a spectacular finished product. This is why when a colleague recommended an animated film for adults and older kids entitled Mary and Max, I was highly skeptical. And, boy was I surprised at what awaited me.

Mary and Max is done in the “Claymation” style of animation, meaning CLAY animation. Claymation has advanced since the days of watching Davey and Goliath in grammar school (if you are not familiar with D&G’s stop-motion style of Claymation, don’t worry – it was not worth remembering). This movie’s animation, in addition to the sweet, touching story, is most definitely worth remembering, and even savoring. Mary and Max are both endearing characters that will stay with you for a long time. I do tend to gravitate towards holding “sad sack” characters in higher esteem…Eeyore was always my favorite Pooh character, as well as the Looney Tunes’ Elmer Fudd, and the ever-pathetic Dopey, the silent dwarf. Mary and Max both fall into that category…each being sad, lonely and lost in their own unhappy worlds.

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pirate-radio

Right off the bat I will say it: NOT MY KIND OF MOVIE. But, oh well, Pirate Radio has a great cast so I thought I would give it a whirl. And, when it began, I almost said I told you so to myself. But, then the plot really kicked in and the characters all came to life right on the screen and boom, before I knew it, I was hooked.

Not by the music (most of which is pretty much the kind of music I like), not by the 60s culture, but by the characters. You REALLY get involved and attached to the characters…all of them. They all have their own quirks that really give each of them panache…and then all of them together give the movie a special touch that resonates with audiences…because they will all know characters like this. In a cast lead by Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (the token American), other British actors including Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Nick Frost and even Oscar-winner and icon Emma Thompson all lend their own spice to add color and vibe to the film that already rock with 1960s British pop.

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jamesg

Most famous for his TV work on the western Maverick (1957-1962) and The Rockford Files (1974-1980), Garner first made a name for himself in movie comedies such as Up Periscope (1959) and two Doris Day romantic comedies, Move Over, Darling and The Thrill of It All (both 1963). He went on to become a movie leading man in films like Grand Prix (1966) and Support Your Local Sheriff (1969), but never lost his strong character actor roots. He also stayed close to his early comedy roots, in movies such as Victor/Victoria (1982), Murphy’s Romance (1985), for which he was nominated for his only Oscar, and My Fellow Americans (1996).

Check out these James Garner movies at the Niles Public Library:

36 Hours

The Americanization of Emily

Barbarians at the Gate

Boy’s Night Out

Breathing Lessons

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elaine

Known for her caustic humor and rapier sharp wit, Stritch was an Emmy and Tony award-winning actress who, over the decades of her versatile career, reinvented herself many times, ending her life with a string of highly successful one-woman shows, one of which, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, won her a Tony in 2001. I had a chance to see Ms. Stritch on stage in that show and I will remember that experience fondly forever. She was a exceptionally powerful comedic voice and she will be greatly missed.

Check out these Elaine Stritch movies at the Niles Public Library:

Autumn in New York

Cadillac Man

Elaine Stritch at Liberty (DVD 792.7 E37)

Follies in Concert (DVD 782.14 F668)

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Like many people, I struggled with math throughout most of my education. I say “most” because I got very lucky in seventh grade when my mother found an awesome tutor for me. His name was Ken. He was math professor who took a three year sabbatical to write the “great American novel.”

Ken was a fantastic storyteller, and he used stories to explain math concepts to me. In the context of a good story, the concepts came alive. Under his engaging tutelage, my grade in algebra went from a D+ to an A in the course of several months. More importantly, for one glorious year, I loved math. I realized math is a language I could apply to problems in the real world. He showed me fractals, and encouraged me to doodle them in the margins of my homework when I got bored. He is the one and only person who ever said that I had a great mind for math.

Recently, however, with the push for better STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) a number of math teachers and mathematicians have been urging their colleagues to find new ways to explore this critical subject in the classroom.

Conrad Wolfram is a mathematician and founder of computerbasedmath.org. In his 2010 TedTalk, Conrad Wolfram, discussed why it’s important to rethink math education and how adapting it to computers is the future. If you think math is all about terrifying tests and endless calculation give this dynamic video a chance to show you that math is for everyone.

Here is a list of library materials that will get you and your family excited about math: Let’s Be Math-People!

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monu-men

I wanted to like The Monuments Men. Actually, I wanted to love it. I mean, off the bat, what’s not to love. George Clooney. Matt Damon. Need I go on? But, we also have Hugh Bonneville, who I love from TV’s Downton Abbey. And then also Jean Dujardin, the sexy Oscar-winner from The Artist. Add in favorites Bill Murray and John Goodman for comic relief and you have a dynamite cast that could rival the cast of Clooney and Damon’s Ocean’s movies.

Alas, I should have just watched this one on mute and looked at the pretty scenery (and also the French countryside). But, I did not. And while it’s not a horrible movie, it sure does not live up to the full potential of its illustrious cast.

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cinema-retro

When looking back throughout the history of cinema, there are years that standout: 1941 (Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, Sergeant York, How Green Was My Valley, Ball of Fire, The Lady Eve and Sullivan’s Travels (both from Preston Sturges) and Joan Fontaine’s Oscar-winning performance in Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion), 1951 (The African Queen, A Streetcar Named Desire, An American in Paris, A Place in the Sun), 1969, (Midnight Cowboy, Easy Rider, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Wild Bunch) and 1974 (Chinatown, The Conversation, The Godfather, Part II, A Woman Under the Influence and Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein (both by Mel Brooks)) are all good film years. But, 1939 stands alone as the film year to beat all other film years.

Here’s a list of noted films that were released 75 years ago in 1939:

Babes in Arms

Beau Geste

Dark Victory (Best Picture (Outstanding Production) nominee)

Destry Rides Again

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sunshine-award

Libraries are all about information, and we are proud to announce that we became the first library in Illinois to receive The Sunshine Award. It’s given to organizations that score 80 out of 100 points for making their governance and spending completely available to the public. You can see the checklist on the Illinois Policy Institute’s site. The library staff and Board are committed to making our work as transparent as possible, following the Illinois Open Meetings Act, so that the public can view the workings of the Board and their decision-making process.

Our information is available on every page of our website in the footer under Open Books Project. Want to see when the Board is meeting? It’s there. Want to see the library’s budget? It’s there, too. So is a goldmine of other facts and figures. Everyone is welcome to come take a look!

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eli-wallach

Most remembered for playing hard-boiled characters in classic westerns The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and The Magnificent Seven, Wallach was much more than just a gritty character actor. He could play sensitive, as well as tough, sweet and compassionate, as well was strong and fearless. In later years, he turned to television and prize smaller roles in films such as The Godfather, Part III, The Holiday and, most recently, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Surprisingly, he was never nominated for an Oscar, so the Academy rectified that in in 2010 when they gave Wallach an honorary Oscar “for a lifetime’s worth of indelible screen characters.”

Check out these Eli Wallach movies at the Niles Public Library:

The Associate

Baby Doll

The Brain

The Executioner’s Song

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