Caroline the Future Librarian

Caroline Davis | LIBR 265-10 | SJSU | Wrenn-Estes

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Title: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Studio: Sony Pictures
Date: October 2008
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 89 minutes
UPC: 043396253032

Plot Summary: Nick, who is heartbroken after being dumped by his girlfriend, Tris, is convinced by his friends to go out to their concert in the city.  Norah, who goes to school with Tris, has never met him but admires Nick’s taste in music from the mix tapes he made that Tris discarded.  When they all end up in the same club, Norah grabs Nick and asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend, not realizing that he is Tris’s ex-boyfriend.  Nick’s friends are desperate for him to get over being dumped and encourage him to go out with Norah while they promise to take Norah’s drunk friend, Caroline, back home.  Nick and Norah head out on a search for their favorite band, Where’s Fluffy, which is rumored to be playing somewhere in the city.  Complications arise when Caroline goes missing, Tris decides she is still interested in Nick, and the secret concert proves difficult to find.

Critical Evaluation: I was initially reluctant to watch this film, put off by the pretentious sounding title (which it shares with the young adult novel that it is based on, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan), and I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet love story that it tells.  While they are clearly high school students (we see Norah at her locker wearing her private school uniform), they live an enviable life without adults or curfews and are allowed the luxury of spending an entire night out in New York City, in pursuit of music and love.  Actor Michael Cera, who always seems to play the same slightly goofy and awkward character in all of his projects, portrays an endearing Nick, and we are rooting for him to end up with the right girl at the end of the night.  And although I definitely don’t condone underage drinking, the scenes with a drunken Caroline wandering around the city were laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Annotation: Norah wants to prove to her classmate Tris that she has a boyfriend, so she grabs Nick at a concert and kisses him, not realizing that he is Tris’s ex.  An all-night adventure through New York City ensues.

About the Director: Peter Sollett was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a newspaper photographer.  After studying film at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, he wrote the screenplay and directed the semi-autobiographical film Raising Victor Vargas about characters from the Italian-Jewish neighborhood where he grew up, originally seen in his short film Five Feet High and Rising.  Sollett currently is a faculty member of Columbia University School of the Arts.

Speaking about how he relates to the plot of Nick & Norah, Sollett says, “When I was 20, I met a girl in Manhattan — I was going to NYU at the time. I was living in Staten Island; she was living in Manhattan. I would commute in every night to spend the evening with her but didn’t have a place to stay. So I would sort of stay until 2, 3, 4, 5 and then go home and go to work the next day. So I just really identified with what these characters were experiencing.” (Source)

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Relationships

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Discussion Ideas:
1) Is their search for the band Where’s Fluffy symbolic of anything?  What are they really searching for?
2) Compare Nick’s feelings for Tris and Norah as the movie progresses.
3) Does New York City serve as a character in the film?  How would it be different if it was set in Chicago or London?
4) Is music a good indicator of whether people are compatible?

Interest Age: 14 and older

Challenge Issues: underage drinking, profanity, sexual content, reckless driving

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the film and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the film from teens who have viewed it.

Selection: I picked this movie for the collection because it was a recent film about high school kids.  Although I was initially reluctant to watch it, I had heard some positive reviews from friends and decided to try it.  I especially think it would be good for a library collection because it is based on a novel.

Extras:

Official Movie Website

Nick & Norah at IMDB.com

Trailer for Nick & Norah:

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May 7, 2010 Posted by | Movies | , | Leave a comment

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Title: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Studio: Fox 2000 Pictures
Date: February 2010
Rating: PG
Runtime: 118 minutes

Plot Summary: Percy Jackson doesn’t consider himself to be particularly extraordinary – he struggles at school because his dyslexia and ADHD make it hard to focus and learn, and his home life isn’t much better because of his rude and boorish stepfather.  His life completely changes when he discovers that he is the son of a Greek god – Poseidon – and that Percy is accused of having stolen Zeus’ lightning bolt.  His life in danger, Percy escapes to Camp Half-Blood, a training ground for demigods like him, but not before his mother is taken by a raging minotaur.  After learning that Hades is keeping his mother as a prisoner, Percy and his friends Grover and Annabeth – a satyr and a daughter of Athena – take off on a cross-country adventure looking for Persephone’s pearls, which they need in order to safely escape the Underworld.  Can Percy save his mother, prove his innocence, and help return the lightning bolt?

Critical Evaluation: Based on the bestselling series by Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief brings Greek mythology into contemporary life by positing that the Greek gods and goddesses exist and are still having children with humans.  The movie bears a lot of resemblance to the first Harry Potter film, partly because the main trio consists of a protagonist with a revelation about his parentage and power, a strong female lead and a humorous sidekick, and in part because both movies were directed by Chris Columbus (not my favorite director, and some of the faults I had with Harry Potter were repeated in Percy Jackson).  I enjoyed the film overall, especially how cleverly Greek mythology was incorporated into a modern setting.  One of my favorite parts was the Lotus Casino in Las Vegas, meant to represent the Island of the Lotus Eaters from The Odyssey.  Although the books seem to be geared for a younger audience, the movie puts Percy in high school and would appeal to a broader age range, including older teens.

Annotation: Percy Jackson’s life is turned upside down when he learns that his father is the Greek god, Poseidon.  When he is accused of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolts, can he prove his innocence and save his mother, who is being held captive in Hades?

About the Director: Born in 1958 in Spangler, Pennsylvania, Chris Columbus studied film at the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.  He went on to work as a screenwriter on such projects as Gremlins, The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes before making his directorial debut in 1987 with the comedy Adventures in Babysitting.  Some of his most famous early films are Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire.

In 2001 and 2002, Columbus directed the first two installments of the Harry Potter films, then the 2005 musical film Rent, and the teen comedy I Love You, Beth Cooper in 2009.  Columbus is married and has four children, who occasionally appear as extras in his films.  He currently lives in Pacific Heights in San Francisco.

Genre: Action, Adventure

Curriculum Ties: Greek mythology

Discussion Ideas:
1) What kind of powers does Percy inherit from his father?  What kind of power would you want if you were the child of a god?
2) If you haven’t read the books, what do you think might happen next?
3) Would it be possible to have Egyptian or Norse mythology in a modern context?  What would that look like?

Interest Age: 12 and older

Challenge Issues: a drug-like substance, gambling

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the film and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the film from teens who have viewed it.

Selection: I went to see this film expecting (first of all, not to like it) that it would be geared for a young teen audience, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how it appealed to a broader age range than I anticipated.  I remember going to see Harry Potter in high school, I’m sure today’s students went to see this.

Extras:

Official Movie Website

The Lightning Thief at IMDB.com

Trailer for The Lightning Thief:

May 7, 2010 Posted by | Movies | , , | Leave a comment

Ghost World

Title: Ghost World
Studio: MGM
Date: February 2002
Rating: R
Runtime: 111 minutes
UPC: 027616867650

Plot Summary: After graduating from high school, social misfits and best friends Enid and Becky have plans to get jobs and move into an apartment together.  Forced to take a summer art class in order to complete all her graduation requirements, Enid’s sarcastic and apathetic attitude make it difficult for her to find (and keep) a job, while the more sociable Becky is determined to achieve her goal.  After they pull a prank on a local man named Seymour, Enid finds his social awkwardness appealing and befriends him, becoming interested in his hobby of record collecting.  She tries to help him build his confidence and find him a date, but her plan backfires when his new girlfriend disapproves of him hanging out with Enid.  Unstimulated in art class, increasingly distant from Becky, and avoided by Seymour, Enid realizes that she hates how her life is turning out and would just like to escape from it.

Critical Evaluation: Based on a graphic novel by Daniel Clowes (who adapted it into a screenplay), Ghost World is set in the early 90s in suburban Southern California.  I reviewed this film hoping that it would be a good fit for a current young adult materials collection in a library, but I have to say I think it would be a rare teen that would be interested in it.  While outcasts and misfits make compelling protagonists, Enid and Becky were unnaturally sophisticated and alienating, interesting yet unrelatable characters.  The tagline for the film is “Accentuate the negative” – exactly how the main characters behave, delivering biting commentary about their environment and the people around them.  I liked Enid for being unapologetically herself, and especially enjoyed the moments when her façade of maturity cracked (for example, her giggling behavior in a sex shop), but overall I can’t imagine myself enjoying this movie as a teen.  You know you’re watching an odd film when Steve Buscemi’s character is the most relatable.

Annotation: During the summer after her high school graduation, Enid becomes increasingly distant from her best friend, Becky, and strikes up a friendship with an awkward older man.

About the Director: Born in 1949 in Appleton, Wisconsin, Terry Zwigoff is an American director that specializes in small budget films, often based on alternative (not mainstream) comics.  He moved to San Francisco in the 1970s and met Robert Crumb, the founder of an underground comics movement, sparking his interest in the genre.  In addition to Ghost World, based on a graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, he directed a documentary about Crumb.  He also directed the dark comedy Bad Santa, starring Billy Bob Thornton.

Like the character Seymour, Zwigoff is an avid collector of 78 records, especially jazz and blues.  He plays the cello and mandolin (in fact, he once played in a string band with Robert Crumb) and is currently a member of The Excitement Boys, an instrumental trio based out of San Francisco.

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Discussion Ideas:
1) At which point does Enid start viewing Seymour as her hero instead of someone to be mocked?
2) What did you think about Enid’s controversial contribution to her art class?
3) Did you relate to Enid and Becky?  In what ways?
4) Was the ending optimistic or not?

Interest Age: 16 and older

Challenge Issues: alcohol, profanity, sexual content

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the film and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the film from teens who have viewed it.

Selection: I was familiar with the graphic novel and had wanted to see the film for some time.  I knew that it had become something of a cult film and thought it might appeal to certain teens.

Extras:

Official Movie Website

Ghost World at IMDB.com

Trailer for Ghost World:

May 6, 2010 Posted by | Movies | | Leave a comment

Speak

Title: Speak
Studio: Showtime Entertainment
Date: September 2005
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 93 minutes
UPC: 758445115925

Plot Summary: Melinda Sordino enters her freshmen year of high school shunned by her classmates who label her a “squealer” for calling the police to a house party over the summer.  The truth, which she can’t come to terms with, and hasn’t told anyone, is that she was raped at the party by a popular upperclassman.  Melinda spends the year as a selective mute, unable to share the truth about what happened, and unable to connect with her old friends or her parents, who are occupied with work (and her father’s unemployment) and are clueless about reaching out to their daughter.

Melinda finds refuge in her art class, where she is assigned to study the subject of trees in her projects through the year.  Although she doesn’t confide in her teacher, she uses her assignment as a form of expression, an outlet she desperately needs.  She also converts an unused janitor’s closet into a safe haven where she can retreat during breaks.  As the school year comes to an end, she finally finds the courage to speak out about her experience.

Critical Evaluation: This 2004 film, based on Laurie Halse Anderson’s 1999 novel of the same name, features a very young, pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart as the lead, who has such a remarkable performance that it’s hard to believe that she was only 13-years-old when she filmed this role.  The message of the film is very clear – both that it is important to speak out about these kinds of experiences (in addition to rape, the message can extend to abusive relationships and bullying), and also that it is difficult for victims to do so.  The film, directed by Jessica Sharzer, handles the heavy topic with care, revealing the truth about Melinda’s experience in an effective series of flashbacks, and also providing lighter moments (for instance, the Sordino family’s attempt at hastily defrosting their Thanksgiving turkey leads to her father absurdly trying to break it into pieces with an ax).  The original novel is considered an important contribution to the YA canon (it was named the School Library Journal’s Best Book of the Year in 1999), and the film does it justice.

Annotation: Melinda Sordino’s enters her freshmen year of high school shunned by her classmates, who don’t understand that she called the cops on a house party over the summer because she was raped.

About the Director: Jessica Sharzer made her directorial feature debut with Speak, based on the acclaimed best-selling novel by Laurie Halse Anderson. The film premiered at Sundance in 2004 and was later simulcast on Lifetime and Showtime in an unprecedented network event. Speak was nominated for both a Writers Guild Award and a Directors Guild Award in 2005. Sharzer has written screenplays for Universal, Showtime, HBO Films, and Endgame Entertainment. In television, she wrote a one-hour drama pilot for FOX with Ashton Kutcher’s company Katalyst and a Nashville-set drama pilot for CBS. She has also directed Showtime’s acclaimed drama The L Word.

Currently, Ms. Sharzer is completing Timber, based on the true story of activists Darryl Cherney and Judi Bari, for director Michael Apted. She is also attached to direct Cruddy, based on Lynda Barry’s cult novel, with Betty Thomas producing and Thomas Haden Church to star. Sharzer holds an MA in Russian Literature from Berkeley and an MFA in Film & Television from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Her thesis film The Wormhole won various grants and awards including the Student Academy Award in 2002.

Jessica Sharzer was awarded a Production grant at NYU in 2001 for The Wormhole. (Source)

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Issues

Curriculum Ties: Could be viewed in any course that has discussions about depression, rape, bullying, etc. (examples include health and psychology classes).

Discussion Ideas:
1) What made it so hard for Melinda to talk about what happened?
2) Did her family and friends have a responsibility to find out what was wrong?
3) If you were in a similar situation, would you talk about it?  What might be some reasons that you wouldn’t?
4) Think of examples of people that it would be safe to tell (for example – parents, teacher, guidance counselor, etc.)

Interest Age: 12 and older

Challenge Issues: rape, depression, bullying, alcohol

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the film and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the film from teens who have viewed it.

Selection: I read and loved the novel years ago, and was interested in viewing the movie version.

Extras:

Speak at IMDB.com.

“Speaking Out” – Laurie Halse Anderson on writing Speak (The ALAN Review)

Trailer for “Speak”:

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Movies | , | 1 Comment