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Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: The Entertainment Year in Review

With December ending, have you rounded out your collections with the hottest titles of 2010? After consulting numerous year-end lists, I’ve narrowed down the best of the best of 2010. Check out the recommendations below to be sure your library has these top titles from 2010 before the New Year rolls in.

Award Winners
Publishers Weekly reviews over 7,000 books each year, so I trust their end of the year choices. And after reading Rebecca Skloot’s touching yet informative The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks I completely agree with its spot on the Top Ten list. Here are the Weekly’s selections:
  1. A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
  2. Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
  3. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
  4. The Surrendered, Chang-rae Lee
  5. The Big Short, Michael Lewis
  6. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
  7. Just Kids, Patti Smith
  8. Man in the Woods, Scott Spencer
  9. Lonely Polygamist, Brady Udall
  10. The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson
These titles along with other notables like By Nightfall, The Postmistress, and National Book Award finalist Parrot & Oliver in America appear on several year-end lists.

Additionally, the late Stieg Larsson’s popular Millennium Trilogy ended in May with the publishing of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. The Swede’s pulp fantasy earned a spot on the New York Times 2010 Notables list and AudioFile’s Best of 2010 list. Overall, the trilogy, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire, sold over 27 million copies in more than 40 countries.1

Curious as to what other titles earned multiple accolades? Click here for a downloadable spreadsheet of adult best books selections from national reviews.

Adult Authors, Youthful Listens
Meanwhile, some fiction authors started catering to younger audiences. Check out these titles written for young adults by bestselling fiction authors:
Other top children’s stories were New York Times bestseller, Incarceron, Mockingjay, a part of the Hunger Games series, the starred review Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Keeper, a tale of a young girl looking for her mermaid mother.

These are just a few of 2010’s top titles. To find more outstanding audiobooks from 2010, SmartBrowse: LJ’s Top Book List, LJ’s Best Audiobooks of 2010, NY Times 2010 Notables, and PW’s Best of 2010.

Leaders of the Pack
After snagging 10 Grammy nominations, it makes perfect sense that Eminem’s album, Recovery, was the bestselling album of the year, selling over three million copies. However, when it comes to first week sales, Taylor Swift’s love-laden album, Speak Now, came out on top. Here are the top 10 debuting albums of 2010:
  1. Speak Now, Taylor Swift
  2. Recovery, Eminem
  3. Soldier of Love, Sade
  4. My Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West
  5. Need You Now, Lady Antebellum,
  6. Thank me Later,Drake
  7. Pink Friday, Nicki Minaj
  8. Raymond v. Raymond, Usher
  9. The Gift, Susan Boyle
  10. My World 2.0, Justin Bieber 2
Other prized bands include Montreal indie rockers, Arcade Fire with their orchestral album, The Suburbs, and Vampire Weekend’s 2nd album Contra. New to the scene, folk-rockers Mumford & Sons surprised listeners with their first album, Sigh No More—one of my personal favorites. And electronic pop dance beats from Yeasayer ( Odd Blood), Maximum Balloon (Maximum Balloon), and LCD Soundsystem (This is Happening) hit the right note with listeners and reviewers.

Back in the Saddle
Elton John and Leon Russell rekindled their friendship in 2010, releasing The Union, an impressive compilation of guitars, brass, choir, and standout lyrics. Peter Wolf released Midnight Souvenirs after an eight year hiatus and punk rockers Superchunk released their first album in nine years, Majesty Shredding. Additionally, Sade released Soldier of Love, the first in 10 years—but well worth the wait.

Find more chart-topping CDs from 2010 by SmartBrowsing Best of 2010 – Rolling Stone, NPR’s Favorite Albums of 2010, Best of 2010 – Spin, Best of NPR Classical, and Best of NPR Jazz.

Social Network Finds Fans
It’s hard to say whether it was the sheer popularity of Facebook or the spectacular acting from Jesse Eisenberg that brought viewers in droves to see The Social Network. Regardless, both the average viewer (including myself) and the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures “liked” it. The film grossed $90.5 million worldwide and the board named it the best film of 2010. Additionally, Time Magazine named Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg Person of the Year. 3

The board also awarded best-of-the-year -honorable mentions to the following films:
A number of television shows also impressed in 2010. Racking up multiple Golden Globe nominations were Glee, Mad Men, The Pacific, The Good Wife, 30 Rock, Dexter, and hilarious newcomer Modern Family. Midwest Tape offers a large selection of TV on DVD products that are easy to find on our website, By SmartBrowsing television series, you can find a list of these titles broken down by subcategory.

The Latest Craze
However, perhaps the biggest trend of 2010 was the popularity of 3D entertainment. Throughout the year, over 20 films were released in 3D, including some of the year’s best. Topping the charts this summer were in-your-face-flicks Toy Story 3 ($415million), Alice in Wonderland ($334 million), and Shrek Forever After ($238.4million) 4. These animated pictures, along with Despicable Me and How to Train your Dragon, dominated the box office.

Bye-Bye Harry, Hello Bella
Concluding on a bittersweet note, 2010 was the beginning of the end for Harry Potter and his clan. They became one-step closer to ending their 10-year-reign with the cinematic release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Still in theaters, it has grossed $244.2 million so far. Another book-based movie, Eclipse, from the Twilight Saga, set a record for the biggest midnight opening in the United States and Canada, grossing over $30 million.5

Did I miss any of your favorites? What titles were popular at your library in 2010? Share your thoughts here as comments and look for News & Views’ upcoming post about what to watch for in 2011.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Win a Blu-ray Player at ALA Midwinter

Are you attending ALA Midwinter? If so, visit us at Booth #1311 to learn about our workflow solutions—cataloging, processing, opening day collections, and customized standing orders for CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, and Playaways.

While you’re there, draw a pack of M&Ms from our prize box. (Only one drawing per person per day.) If you draw a pack of all gold M&Ms, you win a Blu-ray player! Pretty sweet, eh?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Join Midwest Tape and Helen Thorpe at ALA Midwinter

Between Arizona’s immigration crackdown earlier this year, the defeat of the DREAM Act in the Senate this month, and an impending challenge to U.S. birthright citizenship expected in 2011, immigration and the status of the children of immigrants is one of the most intensely debated topics in U.S. politics. The issues involved transcend party lines and raise the fundamental question of what it truly means to be American. These issues are central to Helen Thorpe’s debut, Just Like Us. In this true story, Helen—an immigrant herself—chronicles the lives of four Mexican girls coming of age and striving for the American dream in West Denver.

Focused on four best friends—two U.S. citizens (Clara and Elissa) and two living in the country illegally (Marisela and Yadira)—the book details how citizenship, immigration reform, and inequality influence their identities, friendships, and futures. Named one of the best books of 2009 by The Washington Post, Just Like Us has received praise for its fast-paced narrative and in-depth journalism as well as for taking readers beyond the political rhetoric and humanizing an argument that often lacks middle ground.

Join Helen at ALA Midwinter, January 10th at 10:30 AM for a reading and discussion of Just Like Us. No matter your stance on immigration, this event will offer fascinating insight into one of the most complicated social issues today and challenge the audience with such probing questions as who is an American? Who gets to live in America? And what happens when we don’t agree?

The Human Face of Immigration
A Reading and Discussion of Just Like Us with Author Helen Thorpe

January 10, 2011 • 10:30 AM–11:30 AM
Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Room Indigo D

Following the presentation, join Helen at Booth #1311 at 1:30 PM for signing of free copies of Just Like Us on MP3. And be sure to stay tuned to News & Views after ALA as we’ll post the recording of the presentation here.

About Helen Thorpe & Just Like Us
Helen Thorpe was born in London, England, and grew up in Medford, New Jersey. A freelance journalist, Helen’s stories have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, New York, and George. Her radio stories have aired on This American Life and Soundprint. She now lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper, and their son.
Just Like Us is Helen’s first book. It releases on audiobook from Dreamscape on January 11, 2011 and is available for purchase through Midwest Tape. Learn more about Helen Thorpe and her book.

Praise for Just Like Us
“An excellent, in-depth study of immigration policies gone amok.” —Library Journal

“Helen Thorpe has taken policy and turned it into literature.” —Malcom Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hot This Week

The DVD list sees a major shakeup; the book charts hold steady; and Michael makes his debut.

1. Disney's A Christmas Carol
2. Shrek Forever After
3. Toy Story 3
4. Inception
5. The Last Airbender
6. Sex and the City 2
7. The Twilight Saga - Eclipse
8. Grown Ups
9. Despicable Me
10. Salt


1. Taylor Swift, Speak Now
2. Susan Boyle, The Gift
3. Michael Jackson, Michael
4. Jackie Evancho, O Holy Night
5. Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album
6. R. Kelly, Love Letter
7. Diddy-Dirty Money, Last Train To Paris
8. Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday
9. Kid Rock, Born Free
10. Glee: The Music, Volume 4

Fiction Books
1. Dead or Alive, Tom Clancy
2. The Confession, John Grisham
3. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson
4. Cross Fire, James Patterson
5. Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
6. Full Dark, No Stars, Stephen King
7. Port Mortuary, Patricia Cornwell
8. Fall of Giants, Ken Follett
9. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, David Sedaris
10. The Help, Kathryn Stockett

Non-Fiction Books
1. Decision Points, George W. Bush
2. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
3. Autobiography Of Mark Twain, Volume 1, Mark Twain
4. Life, Keith Richards with James Fox
5. Daily Show With Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Book), Jon Stewart
6. Cleopatra, Stacy Schiff
7. Broke, Glenn Beck
8. Decoded, Jay-Z (currently unavailable on audiobook)
9. Sh*t My Dad Says, Justin Halpern
10. America By Heart, Sarah Palin

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gatz, Dragon Tats, and the Please-Don’t-Make-It-a-Movie Debate

In response to Variety’s recent report that Mandalay Pictures has snatched up the film rights for author Sophie Jordan’s new young adult trilogy, Firelight, even though she’s only just released the series’ first book, Entertainment Weekly started a debate on which YA read should hit the big screen next.

But what about books that shouldn’t be made into movies? 

There are plenty of folks up in arms right now about Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming attempt at F. Scott Fitzgerald’s modernist classic The Great Gatsby—and it isn’t just because some worry that Carey Mulligan won’t be able to fill the shoes of femme fatale Daisy Buchanan. In an article with The Atlantic, Hampton Stevens explains that most are worrying that “Luhrmann's film will inevitably fail to capture the majesty of Fitzgerald's work, just as have the half-dozen screen adaptations before it.”  As many articles profess, Fitzgerald’s work isn’t incredible because of its plotline, but because of its introspection and immense level of emotion—two things that are rather difficult to replicate on film. Do you want to see Luhrmann’s Gatsby? What’s your take on another adaptation of this novel?

Another film ruffling feathers: David Fincher’s U.S. adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. Besides being an international bestselling series, the books are also already movies. The Swedish version of the film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, performed decently in the U.S., hitting theaters through distribution by Music Box Films and grossing a respectable $10.1 million. The series’ third film isn’t even available on DVD yet and The Social Network director is already filming the first installment of the U.S. remake. 

Niels Arden Oplev, director of the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, has expressed anger over the remake. In a Word & Film Website interview, Oplev discusses his outrage: “Even in Hollywood there seems to be a kind of anger about the remake; like, ‘Why would they remake something when they can just go see the original?’” Of course, what can he expect? As Andrew Pullver of the Guardian explains “recycling already-proven material has always been the film industry's way: whether reconfiguring already-successful books, plays and—latterly—video games, or simply freshening up its own product.”

In addition to those taking issue with Hollywood’s eagerness to overshadow the original film series, like the Daisy Buchanan situation, many wonder how Rooney Mara (Nightmare on Elm Street; The Social Network) will compare to Swedish actress Noomi Rapace at playing feminist heroine Lisbeth Salander. As John Kass of the Chicago Tribune explains: “Like many fans, I live in dread of what Hollywood will do to [main character] Lisbeth… We don't want Lisbeth Salander played by some Hollywood cutie with perfect teeth and skin like peaches… The perfect Salander is already on film.” What’s your take on Hollywood’s remake of the Millennium Trilogy?

So Gatsby and a U.S. Dragon Tattoo are already realities. Are there any other books-to-films that you think are bad ideas? What books do you feel should definitely not be made into films? Share your thoughts below as comments.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hot This Week

Susan Boyle, George W. Bush, and Inception maintain their grips on the top spots, while T.I. and Tom Clancy see big debuts.

1. Inception
2. Despicable Me
3. Toy Story 3
4. The Twilight Saga - Eclipse
5. The Pacific
6. The Town
7. Avatar
8. Glee Complete 1st Season
9. The Blind Side
10. Salt


1. Susan Boyle, The Gift
2. Taylor Swift, Speak Now
3. Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album
4. T.I., No Mercy
5. Jackie Evancho, O Holy Night
6. Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday
7. Josh Groban, Illuminations
8. Glee: The Music, Volume 4
9. Rihanna, Loud
10. Tron Legacy Soundtrack

Fiction Books
1. Dead or Alive, Tom Clancy
2. The Confession, John Grisham
3. Cross Fire, James Patterson
4. Port Mortuary, Patricia Cornwell
5. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson
6. Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
7. Full Dark, No Stars, Stephen King
8. Hell’s Corner, David Baldacci
9. Fall of Giants, Ken Follett
10. The Help, Kathryn Stockett

Non-Fiction Books
1. Decision Points, George W. Bush
2. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
3. Autobiography Of Mark Twain, Volume 1, Mark Twain
4. Life, Keith Richards with James Fox
5. Daily Show With Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Book), Jon Stewart
6. Cleopatra, Stacy Schiff
7. Broke, Glenn Beck
8. America By Heart, Sarah Palin
9. Decoded, Jay-Z (currently unavailable on audiobook)
10. I Remember Nothing, Nora Ephron

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Patrons Continue to Depend on Libraries to Stay Connected

According to the 2010 State of the Internet report, approximately 1.8 billion people use the internet every day.1 And with the economy still staggering, more people are canceling their internet subscriptions and turning to libraries to stay connected. One man in South Florida reports saving over $700 a year by canceling his home internet subscription, utilizing his local library to access the web.2

Even patrons who have internet access at home continue to use wireless networks provided by local libraries. “Over the past year, 45% of the 169 million visitors to public libraries connected to the internet using a library computer or wireless network during their visit, even though more than three quarters of these people had internet access at home, work, or elsewhere.”3 Because more and more individuals are turning to libraries for more than just physical materials, it is important to be able to provide a dependable network.

Optimizing Bandwidth
Internet slowdowns occur when the total amount of bandwidth demanded exceeds the amount actually available. For example, patrons using mobile devices and laptops can bog down the speed of the internet as well as those viewing streaming media. Even as libraries increase their bandwidth—51.8% of libraries report offering speeds greater than 1.5mbps, up from 44.5% from last year—it still may not be enough for optimal browsing.4

Currently, nearly 60% of public libraries report inadequate internet connection speeds to meet patron demand.5 And as complex internet applications and services continue to grow, in addition to the rampant rise of Smartphones there is a good chance that percentage will increase as well.

Instead of fighting congested bandwidth with more bandwidth, libraries can implement a network traffic shaper. Network traffic shaping or packet shaping is a way to ensure that every user receives the same priority. If one computer is using the network heavily, its packets are delayed so that others are given equal access.6 Additionally, web caching software can help improve page load times. These programs save copies of recently accessed web pages on the hard drive. The next time someone accesses the same page it will load more quickly because it is not being pulled down from a remote server.7

Web Services
Over the next two years, the internet will see the biggest programming overhaul the web has ever seen: HTML5. It will have higher security features and faster load times. However, some browsers will not be able to handle the new web format. Therefore, libraries will have to upgrade their browsers. Test how compatible your browsers will be in the future here.

Mobile technologies have made it easier to access the web anywhere and at anytime. Global mobile data traffic is projected to double every year through 2013.8 Currently, the technology exists for users with a simple 3G connection to access eBooks and multimedia content via local libraries. Therefore, libraries will be able to reach more patrons in the future by incorporating mobile technologies into their library services. Visit our previous blog post, Mobile Technologies to Push Library Limits, to read more about ways to incorporate mobile technologies into your library.

Cloud Computing
According to OCLC’s Matt Goldner, cloud computing is vital to the success of libraries. By not working in the cloud, Goldner believes, “Librarians will risk losing patrons.” He continues to say that, “The cloud is to IT what Google is to libraries—motivation to maintain relevance.”9

Cloud computing is a web-based process where information is stored on outside servers, instead of in-house. Subscribing to multiple clouds provides a cost effective way for libraries to run/complement their IT systems. In the cloud, outside companies rent out their servers, software, and infrastructures. This eliminates the need for costly maintenance updates.

Additionally, there is a low risk for downtime or data loss. Hosts like Amazon EC2 have tested security measures and are able to implement new software releases in a timely manner. Google is useful to track statistics, maintain calendars, and collect responses from web forms. And OCLC’s Web Management Service keeps a universal, up-to-date central vendor database so that staff members can spend more time helping patrons and less time updating vendor lists. Even discussions during a “Designing Library Services for the Cloud” session at last year’s LITA Forum alluded that eventually, through cloud computing, library cards may be standardized so that they can be used at any library, like debit cards.9

Before outsourcing though, libraries should consider the reliability of working in a cloud. For example, if an outsourced system goes down, so do all of the websites, data, and potentially business-critical applications they are hosting. In addition, clouds are more vulnerable to hacking, which could expose sensitive patron information. But because computing clouds are flexible, libraries can chose to host their own systems while using the cloud for less sensitive processes like library websites, backing up media collections, and storing and accessing bibliographic data.

It is important to stay up-to-date on the latest network enhancers, whether applying a network traffic shaper, embracing mobile technology, moving responsibilities into the cloud, or simply updating browsers. Falling behind will cause faithful patrons to turn elsewhere to access employment opportunities, health-care information, government resources, and the latest news and to connect with distant family and friends. Every library is different, so implementing a combination of these techniques based on your needs may be your best resort.

How has your library approached network reliability? Does your library use network shapers or cloud computing? Share your experiences here as comments.

Further Reading:


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Speeches, Gleeks, and Globes: Golden Globe Nominees Announced

Ah, the three famous gifts of the season: frankincense, myrrh, and Golden Globes—er, gold.

The Christmas season traditionally brings the Golden Globe nominations with it, and this year’s Globe hopefuls were announced early Tuesday morning by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Unsurprisingly, The King’s Speech (seven nominations), The Social Network (six nominations), and The Fighter (six nominations) ruled the motion picture side of the ballot while Glee’s unfathomable popularity put it on top of the television side.

The Best Dramatic Motion Picture category, the closest thing to “top prize” for the Golden Globes, is a crowded field this year. Based on the amount of love that surfaced for Inception upon its arrival, I would have to consider it to be the favorite—but don’t count out any of the other candidates. The King’s Speech’s multiple nominations, Black Swan’s immense buzz, The Social Network’s timely subject matter, and The Fighter’s freshness in voters’ minds could all tip the scales one way or another.

While critics and bloggers alike expected these films to nab nominations, the Best Musical or Comedy Motion Picture category was far more unpredictable and caused some significant head scratching.

It’s not the happenstance of a children’s film (Alice in Wonderland) finding itself in the same category as a movie about burlesque dancers (Burlesque, which didn’t exactly receive award-worthy reviews) that’s boggling, It’s how The Tourist, a thriller about a couple on the lam in Italy, winds up nominated for this award. This film was clearly neither a comedy nor a musical, yet it finds itself nominated as such. Were the Globes really that much in need of more Johnny Depp?

While the Globes can’t seem to get enough Depp, television viewers’ bizarre need for more Glee led to its five nominations (don’t get me wrong, I like the show—but let’s be honest, if someone would have told you two years ago that a musical show about the exploits of a high school glee club set in Lima, Ohio would be the top show of 2010, you probably would have thrown a slushie in their face), including Best Comedy or Musical Television Series. It faces some stiff competition in this category though, as 30 Rock, The Big C, Modern Family, Nurse Jackie, and my personal favorite, The Big Bang Theory, are all in the running.

To view the complete list of nominations, click here, and to shop this year’s nominees, click the collection panel below:

Did the Globes get it right? Who was snubbed? What was nominated that shouldn’t have been? Is The Tourist really a comedy or musical? Let us know your thoughts below!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hot This Week

Patricia Cornwell moves to the top of the fiction list; the Black Eyed Peas and Glee hit the music charts.

1. Inception
2. The Twilight Saga - Eclipse
3. Toy Story 3
4. The Pacific
5. Despicable Me
6. How to Train Your Dragon
7. The Blind Side
8. Avatar
9. Beauty & The Beast (Special Edition)
10. Shrek Forever After

1. Susan Boyle, The Gift
2. Taylor Swift, Speak Now
3. Jackie Evancho, O Holy Night
4. Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album
5. Glee: The Music, Volume 4
6. Black Eyed Peas, The Beginning
7. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
8. Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday
9. Josh Groban, Illuminations
10. Rihanna, Loud

Fiction Books
1. Patricia Cornwell, Port Mortuary
2. John Grisham, The Confession
3. James Patterson, Cross Fire
4. Stephen King, Full Dark, No Stars
5. Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest
6. David Baldacci, Hell’s Corner
7. Ken Follett, Fall of Giants
8. Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler, Crescent Dawn
9. David Sedaris, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk
10. Brad Thor, The Athena Project

Non-Fiction Books
1. George W. Bush, Decision Points
2. Mark Twain, Autobiography Of Mark Twain, Volume 1
3. Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken
4. Keith Richards with James Fox, Life
5. Sarah Palin, America By Heart
6. Jay-Z, Decoded (currently unavailable on audiobook)
7. Jon Stewart and others, Earth (The Book) (currently unavailable on audiobook)
8. Glenn Beck, Broke
9. Nora Ephron, I Remember Nothing
10. Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Black Swan Headed for a Wide Release

Disappointed that Black Swan wasn’t playing in your area this past weekend? Me too, but hold onto your tutu—the ultra-buzzworthy film will soon see a wide release.

The talk of the film world for the past several months, Swan will hit a theater near you on December 22. While the film is not exactly your typical let’s take the kids to see a movie on Christmas-type fare, this news is sure to bring some holiday cheer to moviegoers who were forced to miss out on last weekend’s limited release.

A limited release, by the way, that scored a remarkable $80k per venue average. Apply that to the 1000 theaters that the film is headed for later this month, and you’ve got an $80 million weekend. Not too shabby, but not surprising either. Swan has received a herd of media attention since its debut at the Venice International Film Festival in September.

Despite much of Swan’s buzz centering on the already-famous love scenes between Natalie Portman (Cold Mountain, Garden State) and co-star Mila Kunis (That 70s Show, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), the film itself is receiving rave critical reviews.

Turning his attention to the unforgiving world of ballet, director Darren Aronofsky tells the story of two up-and-coming dancers as they compete for the lead role in a production of Swan Lake. Aronofsky takes a dark look at the lifestyle, including what dancers go through to advance their careers and how it consumes them—not unlike his examination of the world of professional wrestling (another underappreciated art form—and yes, it is an art form) in his previous film, The Wrestler.

Just as Mickey Rourke did in that film, Portman and Kunis underwent a rigorous training regiment in preparation for their roles. According to USA Today, the actresses each dropped around 20 pounds, and learned proper ballet techniques for their roles. Additionally, Portman suffered a collection of injuries throughout filming.

The result—according to trailer that I saw a few weeks ago (see below) and those who have actually seen the film—is nothing short of spectacular. While I don’t always latch onto psychological thrillers, this one has my attention—and it has nothing to do with the love scene. I will at least be making an attempt to break away from all of the holiday celebrations to give Swan a view later this month.

Were you lucky enough to catch Black Swan over the weekend? If so, what did you think? Does it live up to the hype? If you haven’t seen it yet, will you—like me—be heading to the theater on the 22nd? Be sure to share your thoughts as comments below.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Twilight Saga Continues with the DVD Release of Eclipse

Millions of people anxiously watched the clock on December 4, awaiting the stroke of midnight. No, they weren’t practicing for New Years. Instead, they were gathering with fellow Twilighters and Twihards at local retail stores for the DVD release of the third installment of the Twilight Saga, Eclipse.

Originating as a paranormal romance novel for young adults, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga has become a pop culture phenomenon, gaining popularity in multiple realms of entertainment—books, film, and music.

Twilight, the first novel in the saga, debuted on bookshelves in 2005, followed by New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. The saga, based loosely on the literary classics Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights,and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, has been on the New York Times Best Selling Children’s Series List for the past 172 weeks.1 In June, Meyer followed up the series with the release of her novella, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, and in just one month, the book sold over one million copies.2

Due to the increased popularity of the series, the Twilight Saga has since been adapted into five films. The last book, Breaking Dawn, will be split into two films tentatively scheduled for release in theaters on November 18, 2011 and November 16, 2012. And as gross sales for the first three films have steadily increased with each release (Twilight, $192 million; New Moon, $296 million; Eclipse, $300 million), the final two films are expected to do even better.3 Released in November 2009, New Moon set a Guinness World Record for highest opening day sales by grossing $72.7 million.4

Twilight and New Moon have gained popularity among young adults, earning accolades at both the MTV Movie Awards and the Teen Choice Awards. Meanwhile, the most recent release, Eclipse, has been nominated for eight People’s Choice Awards including Favorite Movie, Favorite Drama Movie, and Favorite Movie Actor and Actress, among others.

Released on DVD and Blu-ray on December 4, Eclipse sold three million copies in just two days. Over the next four weeks, Steve Nickerson, president of Summit Entertainment, expects sales to increase dramatically for both original and special edition releases. Summit is committing three times as much on marketing in the post-street window compared to Twilight and New Moon, which both sold around four million units in their first two days in stores and over nine million units since.5

Chart-topping soundtracks accompany the successful movies. Debuting at number one on the Billboard 200, the Twilight Motion Picture Soundtrack sold 165,000 copies in its first week before reaching certified double platinum.6 Additionally, the New Moon Motion Picture Soundtrack was named certified platinum. Together, these CDs made history for being the first soundtrack and sequel to both reach the number one spot on the Billboard chart.7 The Twilight Saga – Eclipse Soundtrack debuted at number two on the chart. And accompanying the soundtracks are their respective scores—the Twilight Score, New Moon Motion Picture Score, and Twilight Saga – Eclipse the Score. A collection of music videos and live performances from these soundtracks is also available on DVD, Music from the Twilight Saga Soundtracks.

The overall booming popularity of Twilight has turned the city of Forks, Washington into a major tourist attraction. Every month, an average of 8,000 tourists flock to the tiny Seattle town to eat from Twilight-inspired menus at local restaurants and venture on local tours.8 Even those not able to make the trek can see the town and its splendor by watching the documentaries, Twilight in Forks and Destination Forks – Real World of Twilight.

However, despite the unparalleled popularity of the Twilight Saga, parents and educators often dispute the novels, labeling them unsuitable for young adults due to subtle religious and sexual notions. In 2009, the series ranked number five on the American Library Association’s Top Ten List of the Most Frequently Challenged Books.9 But that hasn’t stopped readers from catching Twilight fever. As of March 2010, the print series sold over 100 million copies worldwide.8 And Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse have grossed over $1.7 billion in theaters worldwide.3

Midwest Tape is Here to Re-Vamp Your Collection
Midwest Tape has created a collection of audiobooks, CDs, and DVDs from the Twilight Saga. To view our collection, click on the Twilight panel on the Midwest Tape homepage.

Has your library seen a large demand for Twilight materials? What other popular culture materials are in high demand at your library?