Friday, March 7, 2014
It was the first Academy Award in McConaughey’s 20+ years in acting. He got his big break when he starred as perpetual teenage wannabe David Wooderson in Richard Linklater’s cult classic Dazed and Confused. McConaughey has carried Wooderson with him ever since: the lines “all right, all right, all right” and “just keep livin’” from the conclusion of his acceptance speech, come straight from the character’s mouth, and he created the “just keep livin” non-profit foundation to impact the lives of high school students.
From there McConaughey appeared in a number of films, such as Angels in the Outfield and Boys on the Side, but it was 1996’s A Time to Kill that made him a star. In that film, based on a John Grisham bestseller, McConaughey played Mississippi lawyer Jake Brigance, who is hired to defend a man who killed two others after they were wrongly acquitted of raping his daughter. That catapulted him into an even bigger 1997, when he starred in Contact with Jodie Foster and Amistad with an ensemble cast including Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins.
This was followed by a period in which McConaughey was primarily known for starring as the male lead in romantic comedies. It started with The Wedding Planner, in which he played opposite Jennifer Lopez. Then he was in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days with Kate Hudson, Failure to Launch with Sarah Jessica Parker, Fool’s Gold with Hudson again, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past with Jennifer Garner (who was also in Dallas Buyers Club). Although the romcoms were his most visible work during this period, he also managed to star in other fare, like the action film Sahara and the football drama We Are Marshall.
After Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, McConaughey took two years off, beginning to redefine himself with 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer, in which he played an attorney who is the polar opposite of A Time to Kill’s noble Brigance. Then he played yet another attorney in yet another Linklater film, the dark comedy Bernie. Since 2012, he’s been on another level, with movies like Magic Mike and Mud, to say nothing of Dallas Buyers Club and The Wolf of Wall Street, which itself was nominated for five Oscars. To top it all off, McConaughey also stars with Woody Harrelson in the hit HBO series True Detective, which airs its Season 1 finale this Sunday night.
Matthew McConaughey is a talented, fascinating actor with a long and varied career. For more of his films, SmartBrowse his name on our website.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Written by Jon WilliamsInternational Women’s Day began in the early 1900s as part of a campaign for women’s rights, particularly the right to vote. In 1914, the day was officially observed on March 8 for the first time. During that year it was used as an opportunity to rally for peace in the looming face of World War I. On its centennial celebration, International Women’s Day is now officially recognized by 27 countries around the world, while many more observe it as well. It is now seen as a day to celebrate the achievements of women, as well as to inspire new generations to the lofty heights only dreamed of by their predecessors.
One way to celebrate the achievements of women is through biographies and profiles of notable women. A number of these have graced the bestseller lists recently, such as I Am Malala (about a Pakistani girl’s fight for education) and Lean In (a memoir from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg). On a historical level, women like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Anne Frank continue to fascinate, as do the Princesses Diana and Grace of Monaco. These are just a few of the hundreds of titles about fascinating women that can be found here in our International Women’s Day collection for 2014.
Of course, hearing their stories is only one part of the equation. Another part is actually experiencing the work they create. In fiction, women are among today’s most popular authors. J.K. Rowling, of course, is responsible for the classic Harry Potter books, and her two novels since then (The Casual Vacancy and The Cuckoo’s Calling) have been huge bestsellers. One of the hottest books of the past year has been Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings are experiencing similar popularity. Names like Nora Roberts, Jodi Picoult, and Janet Evanovich are mainstays on the bestseller lists, and there are plenty of classics from authors like Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Willa Cather, to name just a few. And let’s not forget To Kill a Mockingbird—Harper Lee’s only novel is one of the best of all time.
In film and television, one of the buzziest names in pop culture right now is Lena Dunham, creator and head writer of the hit HBO series Girls, currently in its third season. (Incidentally, on International Women’s Day this Saturday, Dunham will be hosting Saturday Night Live.) In 2008, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director for the film The Hurt Locker. Other notable female directors include such names as Penny Marshall, Nora Ephron, and Sofia Coppola. And the list of talented actresses, past or present, would be too long to even begin.
It’s a similar story in music, where women are a dominant force in the industry. Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry are some of the biggest stars in the world right now, with New Zealand teenager Lorde well on her way to joining them. They follow in the footsteps of classic artists like Madonna, Stevie Nicks, Janis Joplin, and Loretta Lynn, again to name just a few. Going back further, there are names like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. And this is obviously just limited to pop vocal music—there are plenty of other genres which have seen incredible contributions by women.
So use this Saturday to encourage your patrons to celebrate the life and work of women all around the world. You can search for names of individual women on our website, or SmartBrowse International Women’s Day to find a wealth of material by and about women to add to your library’s media collection.
Monday, March 3, 2014
It was a good week for sci-fi action films, as Ender's Game and Riddick come in at #1 and #2, respectively. Fresh off last night's Academy Award for Best Song, the Frozen soundtrack finds itself back atop this week's CD chart. Thrillers rule the day in fiction, with new titles by J.D. Robb and J.A. Jance coming aboard. The top non-fiction titles undergo a significant shuffle, while a history of the Allman Brothers sneaks in at #10.
- Ender's Game
- Captain Phillips
- Last Vegas
- Escape Plan
- Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa
- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
- Runner Runner
- The Family
- Frozen Soundtrack
- Eric Church, The Outsiders
- Cole Swindell, Cole Swindell
- NOW That's What I Call Music 49
- Beyonce, Beyonce
- Lorde, Pure Heroine
- Katy Perry, Prism
- Bruno Mars, Unorthodox Jukebox
- Issues, Issues
- Toni Braxton and Babyface, Love, Marriage & Divorce
- Concealed in Death, J.D. Robb
- Private L.A., James Patterson and Mark Sullivan
- The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
- The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd
- Like a Mighty Army, David Weber
- Still Life with Bread Crumbs, Anna Quindlen
- One More Thing, B.J. Novak
- Killer, Jonathan Kellerman
- Sycamore Row, John Grisham
- Moving Target, J.A. Jance
- David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell
- Duty, Robert M. Gates
- Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
- The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert
- Killing Jesus, Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
- Things That Matter, Charles Krauthammer
- Glitter and Glue, Kelly Corrigan
- Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg
- George Washington's Secret Six, Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger
- One Way Out, Alan Paul
Friday, February 28, 2014
Written by Jon WilliamsIn 1980, famed astronomer Carl Sagan teamed up with PBS to create Cosmos, a 13-episode series that explored a number of scientific themes, particularly about the universe and our place in it. It was written with the assistance of astrophysicist Steven Soter and cosmologist Ann Druyan, who would soon become Sagan’s wife. Sagan served as host of the series, which is still the most-watched series in PBS’s history.
In a field predicated on exploration and new discoveries, the 34 intervening years have brought a wealth of new knowledge. Now that knowledge is set to be brought forth, as Cosmos is being reimagined into a new series. Debuting next weekend, on Sunday, March 9, and being broadcast simultaneously on ten Fox networks, Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey will present nine episodes. Unfortunately, Sagan passed away in 1996; the new show will be hosted by astrophysicist NeildeGrasse Tyson.
The new series is produced by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, who was a fan of the original Cosmos series and wanted to get involved with something outside of his usual range. Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan is involved as well, as she was with the original. Tyson, Druyan, and MacFarlane will attempt to inject the series with the same kind of broad appeal that made the original such a hit, exploring scientific concepts in an understandable and entertaining way. Like the first series, music will play a big part; the score will be written by film composer Alan Silvestri (the original used music by Vangelis and a number of other artists).
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Written by Jon WilliamsAmerican comic actor, writer, and director Harold Ramis passed away on Monday at the age of 69. While he appeared in a number of films, if you know his face, chances are good that it’s for his role as Dr. Egon Spengler in the Ghostbusters franchise. If you’re a fan of comedy, though, there’s no doubt you’re familiar with his work, as he was involved in many of the funniest films created since 1978.
Ramis got his start in comedy with the famed Second City troupe in Chicago, which led to a stint as a performer and head writer for the sketch comedy series SCTV. During his years working on the show (1976-1979), he worked with two collaborators to write the script for Animal House.
Ramis’s first attempt at writing a feature film was a success, to say the least. It earned over $141 million at the box office, breaking comedy records. He followed it up with the goofy camp comedy Meatballs, the first of six collaborations with Bill Murray. In 1980, he teamed up with Murray again for the golf classic Caddyshack, which he directed as well. He then stepped in front of the camera for the first time, starring with Murray in Stripes (which he also co-wrote), about two slackers who join the army.
After Stripes, Ramis returned to his roots with National Lampoon, writing the original Vacation movie that introduced Chevy Chase as well-meaning family man Clark Griswold. Then Ramis was called in to consult on a Dan Aykroyd script about a dark comedy about a group of enforcers traveling through time and space to battle the paranormal. Ramis brought the story back down to Earth, and the result was the 1984 blockbuster Ghostbusters. He joined Aykroyd and Murray on the screen for the film, as he did for the 1989 sequel (one of the few sequels Murray has done in his career).
|Cartoonist Ash Vickers (@Mega_Ashra) pays tribute to Harold Ramis/Egon Spengler|
Ramis was able to carry his string of classic comedies into the 1990s with the hilarious Groundhog Day in 1993, in which an insufferable Pennsylvania TV weatherman (played by Murray) is forced to relive the same day over and over again. From there, he took a break from writing, but made memorable appearances in the films Airheads and As Good As It Gets (currently unavailable). He came back with a vengeance, penning and directing the 1999 mob comedy Analyze This with Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro, along with the sequel in 2002. The last film Ramis wrote was 2009’s Year One, starring Jack Black and Michael Cera.
Harold Ramis was an undisputed comedy genius, and this is just a sampling of the films he was involved with over the course of his career. For more, SmartBrowse his name on our website.