Sights and Sounds

Movie and music reviews by Library Staff

Music Review: First Aid Kit

The first time I heard First Aid Kit, composed of doe-eyed Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg, I had stumbled across their melancholic ballad "Ghost Town" on an episode of NPR’s Echoes. From the very first, when I heard them croon, “Maybe I should just turn around and walk away / For no matter how much I want to stay / You know I can’t / It’s just too late”, I was hooked. How could two people so young tap so ably into the defeated resignation that comes with the death of dreams? I explored more of their music, and with the 2014 breakout album Stay Gold, I was hooked on the Söderbergs' angelic harmonies, piercing lyrics, and ability to render even cover songs into something distinctly theirs.
 

Take the 'A' Train to the Library to Learn about Jazz!

April is Jazz Appreciation Month—a great time to learn more about America’s original art form through the Library.

Originating in the 1910s, jazz has roots in African traditions, blues, ragtime, and European classical music. Gary Giddins’ and Scott DeVeaux’s book Jazz traces the genre's evolution from the early twentieth century to the fusion sounds of more recent times, and describes the major influences in its development. In the Emmy-nominated documentary miniseries of the same name, Ken Burns' Jazz traces the music's history from its beginnings in the African-American community of New Orleans.

Dropkick Murphys: Kiss Them, They’re Irish

Well, maybe not quite.

Listening to the Dropkick Murphys, I’m swept into their Irish-Catholic South Boston neighborhood. The sense of place in their rough-and-tumble songs is simply that strong—and not just on account of the accent coming through in the vocals.

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The Murphys are a curious blend of genres: they’re described as both hardcore punk and Celtic folk, and you can definitely hear both in their music. I’d add unapologetically, jubilantly brash. And raucous. Irreverent. Throbbing with life, vitality, emotion, even a little death. Not above making fun of themselves.

And prolific. This year’s 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory, peaking at number eight on the U.S. Billboard charts, follows a dozen releases by the Murphys since 1998. You may

Gene Wilder (1933 – 2016)

Gene WilderI can still remember the first time I saw Gene Wilder in a film.  He was playing a mousey accountant by the name of Leo Bloom who, while going over the books of once-famous Broadway Producer Max Bialystock makes the casual observation that it would be possible, though dishonest, to make more money with a Broadway flop than a successful production.  The film was “The Producers,” and the rest they say is history and Gene Wilder screamed his way into being one of my favorite comedic actors as Zero Mostel stood over him while he lay on the floor in a panic screaming, “Don’t Jump on me. Don’t Jump on me.”

Gene went on to star in many well-known comedies: Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Stir Crazy, Silver Streak and many others.  His role as candy maker Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory will likely never be forgotten. The library owns a number of Gene Wilder’s Films and books. You did know he was also a writer, didn't you?  The link below will create a list of items to choose from.   He will be missed.

 

The Films and Book of Gene Wilder

The Invisible Man (1933)

Claude Rains was perhaps one of the most recognizable character actors from the classic era of film.  He was able to play almost any part. Among his best known roles were Captain Louis Renault in Casablanca and Prince John in The Adventures of Robin Hood.  The Invisible Man was his first major film role.  Prior to this film he had only appeared on screen in one silent film short.  The rest of his early acting life had been spent on the hardwood stages.  In The Invisible Man, Mr. Rains stars as Dr. Jack Griffin, who disappears one day while working in the lab of his friend and mentor Dr. Cranley   His mysterious disappearance from the lab has Flora, Dr. Cranley’s daughter and Jack’s girlfriend, worried regarding his whereabouts.  Unbeknownst to the two of them Jack Griffin has done more than simply walked away from the lab and them.  He has literally disappeared, becoming completely invisible.  Wrapped in bandages to hide his invisibility he sets up a lab in a local Inn to work on a way to bring himself back to normalcy.  Sadly the formula which made him invisible is also affecting his mind and he is becoming more unbalanced and violent as time passes.

Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane tells the fictional story of rich newspaper publisher Charles Foster Kane, his rise to power and eventual decline as he shifts from an idealistic publisher/editor into egotist whose power has gone to his head.  It was based loosely on the life of William Randolph Hurst, but not loosely enough to suit Hurst.  The film pulled few punches and Hurst was not amused at being the subject, even if indirectly of such a movie. Citizen Kane almost completely failed at the box office when it was released and even before the production was finished the film was wrapped in controversy. Director and writer Orson Wells was accused by Hurst of the being a communist, and a homosexual, both of which were considered major issues in 1941.  Interestingly he also accused Wells of being a womanizer and Socialist as well. As you can see the accusations leveled at Wells were often contradictory and usually untrue.  The major newspapers, owned by Hurst refused to review the film or allow it to be advertised in their pages.  In fact, no review of Citizen Kane appeared in any paper owned by Hurst until the mid- seventies over 30 years after its release. 

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