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I heart New York

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If you are looking for a series to take your mind off the recession or put it in historical context, this is it: the PBS dvd series by Rick Burns, entitled New York(dvd 974.7 New).

Televised pre-911, the series provides great historical views of New York as well as the skyline to 2000. It begins in the 1600s when the city is a Dutch trading colony and follows New York's British, then post-revolutionary American history. The series offers academic commentary and also quotes letters, memoirs, and poetry.

Did you know that the wall from which Wall Street takes its name was built by slaves? Did you know that the Empire State building had barely enough tenants to keep it going when it first opened? Did you know that two big market crashes occurred in the 1800s, in part brought about by wild real estate speculation (hmmm...)

New York, the documentary, is candid about the city's historical troubles, such as the displacement of native peoples, tenement housing, and slave labour conditions leading to events like the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire. Nevertheless, the city emerges as a unique entity enriched by its multi-ethnic history and community.

Much of the documentary focuses on the facscinating workings of New York's early civic politics and the role of developers. This series is a must see for travellers, architecture and history buffs.

You may also enjoy...

Gangs of New York (dvd fic gan) This intense film featuring Leonardo di Caprio, Cameron Diaz and Daniel Day Lewis as an unforgettable villian focuses on the squallor and crime in the Five Points district of New York at the turn of the last century (strong content). Read the non-fiction title Gangs of New York, which inspired the movie.

The Historical Atlas of New York Cityis an intriguing map-based look at the city.

We have many travel guides available, but you may not know that the 4th floor of the Castell Central Library also has city maps and travel brochures, some of which may be signed out?

Guaranteed Embarrassment Free 5

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It has been two months since I have added any titles to this particular group of posts, so grab the popcorn, corral the kids and sit down to watch something with the whole family. The first 5 titles are for an older group (8-15 or so) as they can be a little intense and scary in spots, but having said that, they are still embarrassment free.

Jumanji 1995

Starring the ever versatile Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt and Kirsten Dunst of the Spiderman triology. This movie is loads of fun, and even though the CGI are almost 15 years old, they still stand up well.

Holes 2003

With a strong cast featuring Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight and Shia Lebeouf and based on the very popular story by Louis Sachar. Wrongfully convicted, a young boy is sent to a detention camp, where for some unexplicable reason he and the other detainees are set the task of digging holes all day long. Why? Watch and see the reason unfold.

Rabbit Proof Fence

Now that the poster has caught your attention, settle in with this true story of courage, defiance and unbelievable determination. From 2003 this tells the story of three Australian aboriginal girls taken by the governement (circa 1931) to be trained as domestic servants. Parents- the next time you think that your kids are standing on your last nerve, or kids, when you can't believe how annoying your parents are, remember this movie. What they go through to be reunited is the stuff that love is made of.

Oliver 1968

This musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic story was a multi nominated, multi winner in its day---winning Oscars, BAFTAS and Golden Globes, to name a few. It has wonderful music and lyrics, great sets and Dicken's trademark panoply of characters, including a very evil and menacing Bill Sykes as portrayed by Oliver Reed.

Stardust 2007

Somewhere in a little English town there is a wall---that no one in the town has ever crossed. Until one night when a young man sees a star fall and vows to the town beauty that he will retrieve it for her. And thus he enters the magical kindgom of Stormhold.

Now for the the younger crowd (but maybe you can entice the older kids as well), consider:

Chicken Run2000 - this claymation story is about a barnyard full of chickens who begin to realize that when the farmer comes to take them away they aren't necessarily going to a better place. They devise a plot to escape their fate.

Honey I shrunk the kids and Honey I Blew up the Kid- lots of fun from Disney and Rick Moranis. The titles pretty much say it all.

Shrek 1-2-3 is there anyone out there who hasn't seen this marvelous series? If it somehow escaped your movie radar, pick up any of the three (although the first two are the better) and be prepared to be royally entertained.

Acting Under Orders

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I've chosen 5 movies to look at this week that examine the sometimes disastrous, even murderous orders given in war. Whether done for the right reason and things just go terribly wrong, or done for the wrong reasons, like blind ambition, these films tell the stories of the men who pay the ultimate price for acting or failing to act under orders. These movies have an impressive 40 plus nominations from the Oscars, BAFTAS, Golden Globes, and Cannes Film Festival---and many wins.

Glory 1981

Matthew Broderick heads an all star cast including Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, Andre Braugher and Denzel Washington (in an Academy Award winning performance for best supporting actor). Colonel Robert Shaw (Broderick) commands the first all black volunteer company to fight in the civil war. Not just up against the prejudices of the south, they must also overcome difficulties amongst themselves and the men in charge of training and leading them. I watch this movie regularly--- excellent story, solid performances, wonderful cinematography and a haunting sound track.

Das boot 1989

This Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Film tells the story of a U boat crew in 1942. The filming is so close and tight you almost experience claustrophobia. The result is a tense, mesmerizing portrayal of what it must have been like in these submerged death traps. The tag line for the movie was "Hitler sent out 40,000 men aboard German U-Boats during World War 2. Less than 10,000 returned." This movie has sub-titles.

Gallipoli 1981

Starring a very young Mel Gibson early in his career. Two young Aussies join the ANZAC forces in WW 1 and are eventually sent to fight the Turkish army at Gallipoli. What ensues is one of the bloodiest battles of WW 1- with losses (Australian, New Zealand, British, French and Turkish) estimated to be anywhere from 500,000 to 800,000-- just to secure a beach head of a few kilometers. One of my fellow bloggers finds this movie 'ham-fisted' but I have seen it more than once and find it worth the two hours.

Paths of Glory 1957

Stanley Kubrick directs Kirk Douglas in this gripping WW 1 story about a French unit commander (Douglas), an egotistical, self righteous general and the enlisted men who must suffer the consequences of their failure to follow orders.

Breaker Morant 1980

This Australian film tells the story of 3 Aussie lieutenants on trial by a British Military Court. They are charged with shooting prisoners during the Boer War (1901) in the Transvaal Republic. At court they attempt to prove that they had not done so willingly but rather had been ordered to do so by their superiors.

Answers to the post from February 21st. Scroll down to see the questions, and another twenty from an earlier post.

  1. Jaws
  2. Field of Dreams
  3. Streetcar Named Desire
  4. Apollo 13
  5. Annie Hall
  6. Psycho
  7. Godfather
  8. Dracula
  9. Almost every James Bond
  10. Star Trek-Wrath of Khan
  11. Dead Poets Society
  12. Rocky
  13. Citizen Kane
  14. Marathon Man
  15. On the Waterfront
  16. Godfather
  17. Wall Street
  18. When Harry Met Sally
  19. Grand Hotel
  20. Sunset Boulevard