An Education is a charming, intelligent film filled with excellent performances, especially from Carey Mulligan, who shines as the curious ingénue. Mulligan’s character, Jenny, is bookish school girl from suburban London who meets an older, sophisticated attractive man, David (played perfectly by Peter Sarsgaard), who drives a sports car and who sweeps her off her feet. David even convinces her strict, driven parents with his “respectable” act. Jenny is hooked completely…so much so even school is no longer important. When David’s true colors surface, she seems left with nothing, but is she? Based on the memoir by Lynn Barber, An Education was adapted for the screen by British novelist and humorist Nick Hornby, who uses his satiric, dry wit to bring the characters, especially Jenny and her family, to life. Though this film is mostly a serious drama, Hornby’s knack for writing vibrant and vivid characters comes across in this touching and heartwarming story. Nominated for three Academy Awards (Best Actress (Mulligan), Best Adapted Screenplay (Hornby) and Best Picture), this film is one of the best of the year.

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It’s hard to say I loved The Hurt Locker since it is such a disturbing and brutal movie. I will most likely never watch this film again. It’s not the kind of movie you want to re-live over and over again. And, it’s also not the type of film I would usually be drawn to. But, all I know is that I felt moved after seeing it…and that it affected me more than any film has in a long time. I think one of the reasons I was drawn to this film was that no matter what the subject, no matter how brutal or violent, good filmmaking is universal and stands out over all of the hype and other elements of the plot or story. The Hurt Locker is filmmaking at its finest. Never having been to war or even war-torn areas, this film is what I, as a naive civilian, imagine combat to be like. It is gritty and dismal and bleak and, at times, boring. There are men quarreling and having everyday personality issues like you and I do in the workplace. There are anger issues and missing family. There is death. Unlike some war films where the action and personalities of the soldiers and even the violence seems contrived, this film just seemed, to me at least, authentic. Revolving around soldiers in a bomb disposal unit in Iraq, the main character here is reckless and careless. But, he’s good at what he does so others around him are able to mostly excuse his free and easy behavior, especially because they do not want to do what he does. He’s the one who puts on the protective bomb gear and gets up close and personal with bombs. He might be a rebel, but in his dangerous job, rebellion is more of an asset at times than a liability. Like I said, I have no military experience so this feeling of authenticity is not based on anything specific…it’s just what I felt as I was watching the film—that this what be what it is really like over there. Then, on top of the intensity and drama of the film, The Hurt Locker also morphs into a thriller. As nail-biting (probably even more so) as any thriller made in Hollywood today, this war drama will not let up…even after the credits start to roll. With so many trite, predictable films being made today (some even about the war in Iraq), The Hurt Locker stands out among not only other war dramas, but among all other films.
The Hurt Locker: directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie. The Niles Public Library owns copies of this title on DVD.

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JANUARY

Mon., Jan. 4
Early registration opens for Niles District
cardholders who bring their completed
10-punch film card. 
&
WATCH TO WIN contest begins

Mon., Jan.11
Registration opens for all Niles District cardholders


Mon., Jan. 25
Registration opens for all NON-Niles District cardholders

Tues., Jan. 26, 2pm
Rebecca, Not Rated, 130 min

FEBRUARY

Mon., Feb. 8
PICK THE WINNERS contest begins

Tues., Feb. 9, 2pm
The Lost Weekend, Not Rated, 101 min


Wed., Feb. 17, 7:30pm
Road to the Oscars® with Reid Schultz:
2009 in Film! (R)

MARCH

Tues., Mar. 2, 2pm & 6pm
My Fair Lady, Rated G, 170 min — SINGALONG


Sun., Mar. 7, 7:00pm
Oscar® Night Party! (R)

(R) Registration required

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December

*Sat., Dec. 5, 2pm—Angels and Demons, PG-13, 138 min
*Thurs., Dec. 17, 2pm—Four Christmases, PG-13, 88 min
*Sat., Dec.19, 2pm—Josh Groban in Concert, NR, 60 min

January

*Sat., Jan. 2, 2pm—My Sister’s Keeper, PG-13, 109 min
*Mon., Jan. 4—WATCH TO WIN OSCAR CONTEST begins —
see the AV Desk for details.
*Sat., Jan.16, 2pm—Gypsy Caravan: When the Road Bends, NR, 60m.
*Thurs., Jan. 21, 2pm—Julie and Julia, PG-13, 123 min
*Tues., Jan. 26, 2pm—Rebecca, NR, 130 min
*Thurs., Jan. 28, 2pm—Classical Composers in Hollywood

February

*Sat., Feb. 6, 2pm—The Proposal, PG-13, 108 min
*Mon., Feb. 8—PICK THE WINNERS OSCAR CONTEST begins —
see the AV Desk for details.
*Tues., Feb. 9, 2pm—The Lost Weekend, NR, 101 min
*Thurs., Feb. 11, 2pm—Amélie, R, 122 min
(in French with English subtitles)
*Sat., Feb. 13, 2pm—Patsy Cline: Sweet Dreams Still, NR, 60 min
*Wed., Feb. 17, 7:30pm—Road to the Oscars® w/Reid Schultz:
2009 in Film!
*Thurs., Feb. 18, 2pm—My Life in Ruins, PG-13, 95 min

March

*Tues., Mar. 2, 2pm & 6pm—My Fair Lady, G, 170 min — SINGALONG

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Clint Eastwood directs and stars as a former violent cowboy who turns over a new leaf. Now a father and a widower, he finds out whether he still has that violent streak. Eastwood and a friend (Morgan Freeman) decide to collect a bounty in a corrupt town, run by a detestable sheriff (Gene Hackman). Called a “psychological” Western, this film won Eastwood his first Oscar for Best Director, in addition to snagging Best Picture and a Supporting Actor Oscar for Hackman.

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When I saw Monster or The Queen, I felt like I had seen movies where the actors (in these cases, Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren respectively) embodied the persona of a real-life person. In La Vie en Rose Marion Cotillard takes it one step forward…she embodies the persona and the SOUL of the Edith Piaf. When I was watching this, I just became immersed with Piaf and this movie. I was in a trance…mesmerized in the performance. I had seen Cotillard in A Good Year, a romantic comedy in which she played the love interest to Russell Crowe. She was a striking, tall, stunningly beautiful woman with close-to-perfect features and almost an ethereal quality. In La Vie en Rose, she is truly Piaf…hunched over, small, course, and beautiful only the eyes of a few select people. What is beautiful, mostly, about Piaf, is her voice. Watching Cotillard, though, makes this short, awkward woman a striking person without an overabundance of physical beauty. Without adding any physical attributes to her, Cotillard brings out the inner beauty of Piaf…in both the depth of the fabulous performance and with the sparkle always shining through Piaf’s eye whenever Cotillard is shown. The movie, itself, is a good deal too long and would be quite tedious if I were not memorized with the performance. I’m sure it could have benefited with some serious time in the editing room…as long as no scenes featuring Piaf were cut out. She’s way too good to leave on the cutting room floor.

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By far, Harrison Ford’s finest performance…here as a Philadelphia cop who loses his partner in a shooting where the only witness is a little Amish boy. With his mother at a train station, the boy is in the bathroom at the same time the cop is shot…peering through the stall door, getting a good look at the shooter. Knowing the boy is in considerable danger, Ford’s detective tries hiding the boy and his mother in Philadelphia…but when that doesn’t work, he is forced to take them back home to Amish Country and stay with them for protection (and because he gets shot himself). Of course, this leads to some issues…mostly having to do with the mother’s father-in-law who has more than a few suspicious about this rough-and-ready city cop. Though the mother is recently widowed, the problem with Ford’s presence on the farm is not so much that he’s a man…but that he’s “English,” meaning not Amish. Everyone is on top of their game here…especially Ford who starts off as a smart, tough cop and has to somehow amend his characteristics to fit in with the Amish.

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The only way Dustin Hoffman can get work as an actor is to become a woman, which he does to get a role on a soap opera. At first, it is only temporary, but after his character improves the show greatly, they sign him on for a longer stint. When he falls for co-star Jessica Lange (who won a supporting Oscar for her role as a lonely single-mother and actress), he needs to stop the charade…but can he? Directed by Sidney Pollack, who has a small role in the film, as well as a young Bill Murray, who steals his scenes with his dry, deadpan humor.

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One of the more powerful films I’ve seen all year, the one word I keep using to describe this film and especially the main character of Daniel Plainview is ruthless. Here is the story of a man who at the VERY beginning of the film, sets his mind on a goal…to find oil on his land. We see him deep in the earth, checking the rocks to see if they lend any clues about what’s below. Once oil is found, we see Daniel’s progression to businessman. He no longer is LOOKING for oil. He has found it. And he wants to keep finding it on other pieces of land. Then, we see him as entrepreneur…a man who has a diversified and successful business in oil mining. The end of his life (shown just at the tail end of this lengthy movie) is about what his years of ruthlessness has led to…how it has taken its toll on him as a man and as a human being. Daniel Day-Lewis gives a fabulous performance as Daniel and conveys convincingly to the audience to what lengths Daniel will go to in order to succeed as an oilman…no matter how nefarious. Lying, cheating, stealing, killing are never out of the question, when oil and power are at stake.

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When young rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) becomes involved in a case that requires the assistance of Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), she quickly finds herself in over her head. Clarice is assigned to the case of a serial murderer who calls himself Buffalo Bill. In order to track down Buffalo Bill, Clarice needs to talk with Dr. Lecter, a psychiatrist turned cannibal, who is serving a life sentence for his crimes. Dr. Lecter might hold the key in unlocking the identity of Buffalo Bill, but in exchange for information, Clarice has to give up some of her past secrets to him. The crimes and horror of this film are not what makes this a stellar movie, but rather it’s the intense psychological battle that is fought between Clarice and Dr. Lecter that adds to the perfect combination of fear and tension to this film. Ms. Foster’s performance as the inexperienced, innocent agent who is not emotionally ready to take on the evilness of Dr. Lecter is right on target. The audience can see the terror in her eyes as she does her best to stare down Dr. Lecter. Mr. Hopkins, though, steals the show with his cunning and tense portrayal of the intelligent, shrewd killer. Dr. Lecter plays a game with Clarice as he tries to weed secrets out of her. Both performances were honored with Academy Awards, and when you watch the film, you will most definitely see why. In addition to Academy Awards for acting, the film, directed by Jonathan Demme, won Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay (based on the novel by Thomas Harris).

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