Friday, September 11, 2009

New movies!

I'm feeling a little bit jittery today. Just a little bit.

Why? Coffee. Before you scoff, you should know that caffeine is probably one of the most interesting psychoactive drugs in the world, if not the most interesting. To find out more, you'll just have to check out The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug. Honestly, it's kind of mind-blowing, covering all the major sources of caffeine in modern society, including tea and chocolate as well as coffee. You'll learn about how mysterious coffee really is, why tea seems to have easily lent itself to an elaborate ceremonial structure, and just what it is about chocolate that makes it so irresistible (at least to me; I have an incorrigible sweet tooth). The only downside is that it's such a large read -- almost letter-size pages (same size that comes out of your printer) and fairly dense text that seeks to cover virtually everything it's possible to discuss about caffeine, up to and including the specifics of its molecular structure and interactions with human neurochemistry. Nevertheless, it's a wonderful ride through art, science, and the good times of 18th-century poets.

Pick it up sometime soon, once you're willing to commit to such a weighty tome; it's worth it!

So, this week, we're going to take a little detour from the usual academic stuff and take a look at some of the new-ish popular movies that have recently arrived.

You should bear in mind: Most of those movies aren't exactly new releases. They've all been pre-loved, which is a cutesy way of saying "donated" -- we've gotten quite the wave of donations in the past few months, and are super happy to have them here! Don't be shy about cleaning out your DVD collections and bringing them by if you think we don't have them. In fact, if you want to maybe save yourself a trip, check ALADIN Discovery before schlepping your load of movies over here.

Anyway, here's a sampling of what we've gotten recently:

One of those classically silly '90s movies where all the high-school students look 30 (even the 15-year-olds), Jawbreaker is the story of one girl and her guilt after the accidental murder of the most popular member of her clique (a jawbreaker is, of course, involved). No Lawrence of Arabia but still a fun way to kill a couple hours!

Night Watch
A crazy sort of Russian fantasy flick with awesome special effects. It's about these two opposing armies of supernatural beings (including witches, vampires, werewolves, psychics, and pretty much anything else you can think of) who suddenly clash over a young boy who may wind up being the savior of either side. Beautiful and stylishly-done, it's one of the best supernatural movies you'll see all year.

Animal House
C'mon, who doesn't love this movie? John Belushi made a name for himself as gently-psychotic Bluto, Tim Matheson got a whole generation of girls to fall in love with him, and an entire genre of college movies was birthed. It all culminates in a hilarious raid on a town parade that can't be missed. I was hoping this movie would turn up in our collection eventually, and all my hopes were confirmed.

Nine 1/2 Weeks
Quite possibly one of the most erotic popular films to make it into theatres, Mickey Rourke (before his face fell off) and Kim Basinger embark on an increasingly sinister odyssey of sexual exploration set against the backdrop of a gritty 1980s-vintage Manhattan. Controversial in its time, it seems quite tame now (very little actual nudity), but is still a tense, absorbing watch.

Marley & Me
Okay, this one is pretty new. Still, if you're a dog-lover, this film is sort of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it's a funny dog movie about a puppy with an unusual talent for wreaking extraordinary havoc. On the other hand, the ending is pretty sad. Think Old Yeller. If you've never read it or seen the movie, go with God.

Adventures in Babysitting
One of my fellow librarians donated this one and got me all excited! It's a terrific '80s classic that's one of the more obscure films in Chris Columbus' oeuvre (he did two Harry Potter movies, plus Rent, which is also awesome; we have all three). A senior in high school has her heart broken on the same night she gets called to babysit a particularly rambunctious pair of siblings -- and on the same night her best friend decides to run away, only to end up stranded at a bus station in downtown Chicago. This leads our intrepid babysitter, her charges, and an extra teenager on a wild adventure through a 1980s Chicago whose grittiness rivals that of Nine 1/2 Weeks' New York. It's also hilarious and nostalgic! In a weird way, it also makes me think about how different our big cities are now compared to the 1980s ... but mostly it's just funny.

A League of their Own
The story of the All-American Girl's Professional Baseball League of the 1940s, based on a true story. When all the men were off fighting the Nazis and Nipponese in World War II, national baseball was in danger of collapse -- until the club owners stepped in and started a women's league. This movie follows the Rockford Peaches through their first season, told through the eyes of a pair of young women from Oregon, and how they -- and all the women they played with -- saved baseball and changed the role of women in society. It's both funny and poignant, and both qualities are especially encapsulated in Tom Hanks' character, a famous ballplayer in the mold of Babe Ruth who is pulled out of a spiral into alcoholism by the demands of managing a professional women's sports team. His reaction when one of his players bursts into tears after she messes up a play is a classic.

Based on Carl Sagan's novel, this is the story of a brilliant astronomer who suddenly discovers a signal from an alien civilization and must persuade her country to explore the message it brings, with knock-on impacts on every part of society, including politics and religion. This movie offers a realistic look at how we currently search for extraterrestrials, although the hard science breaks down once the alien message is decoded. Still, it's a good and thought-provoking watch with some beautiful special-effects.

Definitely a chick flick. I felt the estrogen surging while watching this one. Still, it's pretty funny to watch Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez go to ridiculous extremes to one-up each other in the race to get Jennifer married to Jane's son. From fake nervous breakdowns to poisoning, things get pretty far-out, but a last-minute deus ex machina in the form of Jane's former mother-in-law resolves everything in an eruption of tears and hugs.

As you can see, we're cultivating quite the wide variety of films in our collection, and as more donations come in, that will continue. Drop by our DVD shelves sometime soon and check it out!

You've talked about donating books and movies to the Library in the past. How do you deal with donations? What if the Library already has a copy of what I bring in?
Here's our process for checking over donated books and movies:
  1. The librarian that's responsible for the part of the collection where the donated item would belong has to check the item over with the following questions in mind:
    1. Do we already have a copy?
      1. If so, is the donated item in better or worse condition?
      2. Is our copy checked out often enough that an extra copy would be a good idea?
    2. If we don't have a copy, will the donated item contribute to the collection?
      1. How old is it?
      2. Does it cover a specific topic that doesn't have much coverage yet?
      3. Does it present a different argument on the same topic?
      4. (In my case, for popular stuff) Is it a fun read?
      5. (In my case) Is there a demand for it?
  2. The librarian then decides whether or not to add it to the collection.
    1. If the item is added, it goes to Technical Services so they can work their magic.
    2. If the item isn't added, we move on to the next step.
  3. Put the item on the Book Sale shelf by the women's restroom.
We put donated items that don't make it into the collection on the Book Sale shelf mostly because even though we may not have a pressing need for it, someone else might. We also hate to let go of perfectly good books or movies without ensuring that they have a chance at going to a good home. Payment is mostly by the honor code: We have a little collection box with suggested prices posted above it, and we do appreciate any money that appears in the box, but we don't police it. As long as it all goes home with someone, we're happy.

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