maya

Maya Angelou has been a creative force to be reckoned with for decades. She was a poet, an activist, an author, a playwright, an actor, a film director, a professor, an inspirational speaker and a strong, fierce presence in the American cultural landscape. She was chosen by Bill Clinton to recite her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at his inauguration in 1993. She has honorary degrees from too many institutions to name and she has written seven autobiographical books on her life and work. Maya Angelou will be missed more than we know.

Check out these Maya Angelou movies at the Niles Public Library:

African American Lives 2 (Nonfiction)

As Seen Through These Eyes (Nonfiction)

Down in the Delta

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A fun, lighthearted film that really, really, really made me want to eat. Not cook, mind you. Some would want to copy the co-main character, Julie Powell, on her quest to cook all of Julia Child’s recipes from her Mastering the Art of French Cooking classic cookbook. I just wanted to eat my way through the movie. Aside from this film encouraging my foodie-ness, it is highly entertaining, though I must admit, I enjoyed Meryl Streep playing early Julia Child on an odyssey to to get a French cooking cookbook published in English MUCH more than the odyssey of Powell and her recipe crusade. Amy Adams as Powell is appealing, as Adams always is, but I had little interest in Powell’s saga. She cooks and blogs about cooking and talks about cooking and fights with her husband about cooking. It gets a little tiresome. The Julia Child parts, mostly set in Paris after WWII, are full of life and passion…just like Child herself. It is impossible to take your eyes off of Streep’s Child…not only is the characterization by Streep spot-on, but the storyline is also more vibrant and lively. We take a vested interest in Child and her cookbook quest, whereas with Powell, we honestly don’t care by the end. Fortunately, the Julia Child pieces of the film are so overwhelmingly funny and sweet, they make the film worth watching. And, it’s not that you will HATE the Powell storyline…you just won’t want to be best friends with her. With Child, you want to be her pal…to help her along with her cookbook…to talk with her…and especially, to EAT with her. And, I’m sure this has to do with both Child’s gregarious personality and also with Streep’s vivacious performance. All in all, an engaging, entertaining film that you most definitely should not watch on an empty stomach!

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Author Susan Beth Pfeffer will visit us here in Niles on Sunday, Oct. 18!  She’s flying in from New York to be here, and we’re super excited to meet her and hear her speak.  Maybe you’re more familiar with her books than her name.  Her most recent books are Life As We Knew It and the dead & the gone.  If you haven’t read Life As We Knew It (LAWKI) yet, then what are you waiting for?  It is a great survival story that’s hard to put down once it’s picked up.

lifeImagine that a meteor is on a collision course with the moon.  It’s going to be clearly visible in the sky when it happens, and you think, “I have to see this!”  After the collision, there are unexpected results.  The moon is knocked from it’s usual orbit.  It’s suddenly MUCH closer to the earth than it used to be.  The tides are messed up and it gets very cold.  Satellites crash.  Cell phones and Internet don’t work.  Life changes for everyone. What would you do to survive?

gone

the dead & the gone explores this scenario from the perspective of different people living in a different part of the country.  It’s fast-paced and asks new questions.  What if your parents were gone when the meteor hit, and you couldn’t get in touch with them?  You’re now in charge of your younger siblings; how do you keep them alive?

When: Sunday, Oct. 18 2:00-3:30pm
Where: Large Meeting Room, 6960 W. Oakton St., Niles, IL

Come and meet her, even if you haven’t read any of her books.  You may be inspired to pick up a copy before you leave!

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My soft spot for this one is that I love Beatrix Potter’s books. And I’m heading to the English Lake District this year on vacation…hoping I will love it as much as I think I will. Aside from that, is this an accurate film of Potter’s life? Um, not by a long shot. But, it is a charming, sweet film that, on its own, stands as a wonderful love story. Renee Zellweger again (as she does in the Bridget Jones movies) plays a great Brit — aside from perfecting the accent, she has the slightly aloof manner down pat. Here, she plays Potter as a woman ahead of her time…independent, aggressive, disobedient and defiant. If you’re looking for a film to watch with the whole family, look no further. If you’re looking to write a biographical report on Beatrix Potter, keep looking.

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Not being a Johnny Depp fan, I avoided Finding Neverland as long as I could. Based on recommendations of several people whose opinions I value, I finally caved. I am very infrequently surprised by films. This one surprised me more than any other film in 2004. I was expecting a stuffy, highfalutin film about an author and his life (I have to confess—I hadn’t read any reviews to come to this opinion). Much to my chagrin, the film is not really about adults or adult problems (even though there are several adult issues). It is about children…being a child, holding on to your childhood as long as possible, never letting your child-like innocence and imagination go…etc. The film is based on the life of J.M Barrie, who was a semi-successful playwright in 1900s London…semi-successful only until he wrote the play Peter Pan. Depp plays Barrie in a very toned down way…quiet and introspective. We really never find out what’s going on in Barrie’s mind until it appears on stage through his plays. But, no offense to Mr. Depp, but the children steal this movie. Kate Winslet, as the widowed mother of four boys, including Barrie’s Peter Pan inspiration, and even a small, comic-relief role by Dustin Hoffman do not bring as much joy to the film as the children do when they are on screen. These children provide Barrie with his inspiration and also provide this film with its heart.

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