Wednesday, May 31, 2017

documentary films

The Genre Discussion Group will not be meeting in June so I’ll see you in July for our first Salon Discussion of the year!  This week we met to discuss documentary films.

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A colorful character who was not only ahead of her time but helped to define it, Peggy Guggenheim was an heiress to her family fortune who became a central figure in the modern art movement. As she moved through the cultural upheaval of the 20th century, she collected not only art, but artists. Her colorful personal history included such figures as Samuel Beckett, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp as well as countless others. While fighting through personal tragedy, she maintained her vision to build one of the most important collections of modern art, now enshrined in her Venetian palazzo.

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Recovering addict and amputee John Wood finds himself in a stranger-than-fiction battle to reclaim his mummified leg from Southern entrepreneur Shannon Whisnant, who found it in a grill he bought at an auction and believes it to therefore be his rightful property.

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This Sundance Festival sensation has attracted attention because of its jarring images of Amish kids immersed in debauchery: plain-dressed girls in white bonnets slugging back beers and flicking ashes from their cigarettes, boys passing out in the back of pickups after all-night parties, even Amish teens in bed together. But like a good drama, it's the characters themselves and their heartbreaking dilemma that linger in the mind. In the Amish vernacular, "Devil's Playground" refers to the "English" or outside world. The protected teens are suddenly thrust into this world upon their 16th birthday as they begin "Rumspringa," a period during which they decide whether to join the church as adults. Crystallizing this predicament is the 73-minute documentary's most compelling figure, 18-year-old Faron, a preacher's son fighting drug addiction. His earnest intent to return to the church and astonishing articulateness makes his misadventures in the drug underworld and penal system undeniably poignant. --Kimberly Heinrichs

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What if our last act could be a gift to the planet? Musician and psychiatrist Clark Wang prepares for his own green burial in this immersive documentary.  While battling lymphoma, Clark has discovered a burgeoning movement that uses burial to conserve and restore natural areas, forgoing typical funeral practices that stress the ecosystem. Boldly facing his mortality, Clark and his partner Jane have become passionate about green burial, compelled by both the environmental benefits and the idea that one can remain within the cycle of life, rather than being cut off from it. The spirited pair have inspired a compassionate local cemetarian, and together they aim to use green burial to save North Carolina woods from being clear-cut.

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In the early 1960s, Herb & Dorothy Vogel a postal worker and librarian began purchasing the works of unknown Minimalist and Conceptual artists, guided by two rules: the piece had to be affordable, and it had to be small enough to fit in their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment. They proved themselves curatorial visionaries; most of those they supported and befriended went on to become world-renowned artists. HERB & DOROTHY provides a unique chronicle of the world of contemporary art from two unlikely collectors, whose shared passion and discipline defies stereotypes and redefines what it means to be a patron of the arts.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:

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A PASSION SHARED: WORKS FROM THE DOROTHY AND HERBERT VOGEL COLLECTION MARCH 14, 2010 - JUNE 06, 2010 // JEMISON GALLERIES
In 1992, the Vogels pledged more than 2,000 works to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Staff at the National Gallery then worked with them to make plans for the further dissemination of their collection. In 2008, the Fifty Works for Fifty States initiative was announced, giving 50 works of art to one institution in each of the 50 states. The Birmingham Museum of Art received the gift for Alabama, owing to its “importance as an educational and cultural institution in our region.” This exhibition featured all 50 of the donated works by an international roster of well- and lesser-known artists. It was a great opportunity to see the work of a number of contemporary artists whose work has never before been exhibited in the Southeast.

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The Walter Anderson Museum opened in 1991 and is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the works of Walter Inglis Anderson (1903-1965). Anderson is celebrated as an American master, whose depictions of the plants, animals, and people of the Gulf Coast have placed him among the foremost of American painters of the Twentieth Century. A visit to the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA) is an enchanting and unique experience. During a visit to the museum, visitors are offered insight into the artistic vision of Walter as well as his process and the natural environment that inspired him. The museum also strives to preserve and educate the public on the work of Walter's brothers: Peter Anderson (1901-1984), master potter and founder of Shearwater Pottery; and James McConnell Anderson (1907-1998), noted painter and ceramist.

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Birmingham Art Crawl (coming up tomorrow!!!)
Join the Crawl every first Thursday of the month from 5-9 p.m., rain or shine, along 2nd Avenue North surrounding The Pizitz building. Art Crawl is a great way to meet local artists and performers, buy and appreciate their work, and be part of the rapidly growing art scene in Birmingham. An estimated 3,000 art enthusiasts attend each month to support over 75local artists, musicians, and performers.

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One of the most popular albums of all times, Fleetwood Mac's 1977 album "RUMOURS" spent 130 weeks on the U.S. Billboard album chart and won the Album of the Year award at the 1978 Grammy Awards. It has been certified for sales of 19 million albums by the RIAA.  The record almost wasn't made. John and Christine McVie were in the process of seperating, the relationship of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks was on the fritz, and the turmoil between the five members was high. These emotions were channeled into the songwriting process in Sausalito, California that became "RUMOURS". Featuring interviews with Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, and Stevie Nicks, along with the studio engineers and producers, "Rumours" tells the story of the making of this smash album. 

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Rock group U2 travels across the U.S. during their sell-out Joshua Tree tour.

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From BAFTA award--winning director Asif Kapadia (SENNA), AMY is the incredible story of six--time Grammy(R) award winner Amy Winehouse - in her own words. Featuring extensive never-before-seen archival footage and previously unheard tracks, this strikingly modern, moving, and vital film shines a light on the world we live in, in a way that very few can.

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I Am Heath Ledger is a feature length documentary celebrating the life of Heath Ledger: actor, artist and icon. The documentary provides an intimate look at Heath Ledger through the lens of his own camera as he films and often performs in his own personal journey - extravagant in gesture and in action. It was his creative energy and unshakable willingness to take risks that instilled such an extraordinarily deep love and affection in the people that entered his life. Heath's artistic nature and expression set him apart from the Hollywood mainstream, vaulted him to stardom and endeared him to the world.

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In 1942 soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a secret military program was launched to recruit female mathematicians who would become human computers for the US military. Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of WWII shares a story of the women and technology that helped win a war and usher in the modern computer age.

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See the gripping rise of the first all-girl hard rock band, its hopes and dreams, and its eventual disintegration as the result of media belittling, in-fighting and drug use amidst rumors of verbal and emotional abuse by the band's management.

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The Red Pill (not in the PLJC system)
The Red Pill chronicles filmmaker Cassie Jaye's journey following the mysterious and polarizing Men's Rights Movement. The Red Pill explores today's gender war and asks the question "what is the future of gender equality?" Cassie Jaye’s journey exploring an alternate perspective on gender equality, power and privilege forces her and others to question their own beliefs.

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This show takes the viewers across the country and celebrates the funky-looking buildings :from Clam Box in Ipswich, Massachusetts, to Bondurants' Pharmacy in Lexington, Kentucky, to a drug store in the shape of a giant mortar and pestle; and the hot-dog-shaped Tail o' the Pup in West Hollywood, California, and everywhere in between. We'll also visit the Mother Goose house in Kentucky and visit with Bill Griffith, the man behind Zippy the Pinhead cartoon strip.

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It pulls, stretches, bubbles, hardens, crunches, and melts! We eat about 7-billion tons of it yearly. We're talking about Candy--loved by kids and savored by adults. Candy-making evolved from a handmade operation to high-tech mass production. Nowhere is that more apparent than at Hershey's. On a tour of their newest production facility, we learn how they process the cocoa bean. At See's Candy, we see how they make their famous boxed chocolates--on a slightly smaller scale than Hershey's. We get a sweet history lesson at Schimpff's Confectionery, where they still use small kettles, natural flavors, and hand-operated equipment. Then, we visit Jelly Belly, purveyors of the original gourmet jellybean. Saltwater-taffy pullers hypnotize us on our sweet-tooth tour, we gaze at extruders making miles of licorice rope, and watch as nostalgia candy bars Abba-Zaba and Big Hunk get packaged. And in this sugary hour, we digest the latest sensations--gourmet chocolates and scorpion on a stick!

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Toyland takes you inside the high stakes world of the 22 billion dollar toy industry, where fun and fortune awaits those who know how to get inside the mind of a child. Meet the people behind the biggest playthings in history.

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This documentary follows the ups-and-downs of a flock of urban parrots in San Francisco and the aging bohemian who befriends, feeds and names them. Along the way, we meet many unforgettable characters and learn just how wondrously similar the human and animal worlds really are.

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Marjoe Gortner, today known primarily for his acting roles in B-movies, was at one time a boy faith healer and evangelist. Wildly popular in the American South, he could fill huge tent revival meetings with his promises of eternal salvation and healing. What the people who came to his meetings didn't know, and what this documentary shows, is that he was a fake who was used by others to make money.

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The bearded-face of Burt's Bees, a pioneering company in all-natural personal care, is not an imagined icon slapped onto distinctive yellow packaging, but the likeness of founder Burt Shavitz. Documentarian Jody Shapiro (How to Start Your Own Country) draws an intimate portrait of the lesser-known man behind the brand in Burt s Buzz. The project, suggested and produced by Isabella Rossellini, never exoticizes the 76-year old recluse, but thoughtfully approaches his contradictory public and private life. Hardly resting on the unaided appeal of his strangely charming subject, Shapiro frames emotion and wry humor with subtlety to create a layered, lively documentary.

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During an adventure spanning two years and two countries, two mega-fans of “A Christmas Story” set out to discover all the film’s shooting locations. Along the way they uncover forgotten facts, discover little-known locations and recover long-lost movie memorabilia.

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Page One deftly gains unprecedented access to The New York Times newsroom and the inner workings of the Media Desk. With the Internet surpassing print as the main news source and newspapers all over the country going bankrupt, PAGE ONE chronicles the transformation of the media industry at its time of greatest turmoil. It gives us an up-close look at the vibrant cross-cubicle debates and collaborations, tenacious jockeying for on-the-record quotes, and skillful page-one pitching that produce the daily miracle of a great news organization. What emerges is a nuanced portrait of journalists continuing to produce extraordinary work under increasingly difficult circumstances. At the heart of the film is the burning question on the minds of everyone who cares about a rigorous American press, Times lover or not: what will happen if the fast-moving future of media leaves behind the fact-based, original reporting that helps to define our society?

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The meaning of art itself comes into question in this documentary about Shelby Lee Adams' controversial photos of families in Appalachia.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

the work of John LeCarré

Upcoming programs:

Thursday, May 11 @ 6:30pm – Neuroscience Café presents: the latest in Alzheimer’s research

Saturday, May 13 @ 2pm – Community Conversation on Aging sponsored by Choice Home Care

Sunday, May 21 @ 3pm – Summer Reading Program kickoff, all ages

Wednesday, May 24 @ 6:30pm – Foreign Film Series presents: A Woman is a Woman

Saturday-Monday, May 27-29 – The Library is closed in observance of Memorial Day

Tuesday, May 30 @ 6:30pm – Genre Reading Group: Documentary Films

This week, GRG met for a discussion of the work of famed espionage author John LeCarré.  LeCarré, the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell, was born on October 19, 1931 in Dorset, England.  An agent during the Cold War in both MI5 and MI6, he abandoned spycraft after his third novel, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, to focus on his writing full-time and he is still working!

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Hailed everywhere as a masterpiece of suspense, John le Carre's return to Africa is the story of Bruno Salvador (aka Salvo), the 25-year-old orphaned love child of an Irish missionary and a Congolese woman. Quickly rising to the top of his profession as an interpreter, Salvo is dispatched by British Intelligence to a top-secret meeting between Western financiers and East Congolese warlords, where he hears things not intended for his ears--and is forced to interpret matters never intended for his reawakened African conscience. By turns thriller, love story, and comic allegory of our times, The Mission Song recounts Salvo's heroically naive journey out of the dark of Western hypocrisy and into the heart of lightness.

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On holiday in Mykonos, Charlie wants only sunny days and a brief escape from England’s bourgeois dreariness. Then a handsome stranger lures the aspiring actress away from her pals—but his intentions are far from romantic. Joseph is an Israeli intelligence officer, and Charlie has been wooed to flush out the leader of a Palestinian terrorist group responsible for a string of deadly bombings. Still uncertain of her own allegiances, she debuts in the role of a lifetime as a double agent in the “theatre of the real.” Haunting and deeply atmospheric, John le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl is a virtuoso performance and a powerful examination of morality and justice.

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Little Drummer Girl (film) (NOT AVAILABLE IN THE PLJC SYSTEM)
Based on John Le Carré's novel by the same name, this story about Charlie (Diane Keaton) a female double agent working between the Palestinians and Israelis, loses some of the excitement and in-depth characterization engendered by the long novel -- mainly because the novel is hard to capture in a two-hour filmed format. But the action itself carries viewers along as Charlie ends up leaving England and her job as an actress in a Brit repertory company to meet Kurtz (Klaus Kinski) in Greece who recruits her as a spy. Charlie later has to handle her own emotions when she gets romantically involved with her Israeli contact (Yorgo Voyagis), though events move her quickly along to a Palestinian military camp near Beirut. Once she has passed herself off as a reliable Palestinian agent and completed her military training at the camp, she goes to Germany to hunt down a Palestinian terrorist (Sami Frey). Filled with a multitude of characters and locations, not to mention camera shots, the intensity of this story is dissipated somewhat by literally and figuratively covering a lot of territory, though the thread of the story itself is never lost.
Rating: R
Directed By: George Roy Hill
In Theaters: Oct 19, 1984
Runtime: 123 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

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In the shadow of the newly erected Berlin Wall, Alec Leamas watches as his last agent is shot dead by East German sentries. For Leamas, the head of Berlin Station, the Cold War is over. As he faces the prospect of retirement or worse—a desk job—Control offers him a unique opportunity for revenge. Assuming the guise of an embittered and dissolute ex-agent, Leamas is set up to trap Mundt, the deputy director of the East German Intelligence Service—with himself as the bait. In the background is George Smiley, ready to make the game play out just as Control wants. Setting a standard that has never been surpassed, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a devastating tale of duplicity and espionage.

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Based on the novel by John Le Carre, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold stars Richard Burton as a dispirited, end-of-tether British secret agent. He comes in from "the cold" (meaning he is pulled out of field operations) to act as a undercover man behind the Iron Curtain. To make his staged defection seem genuine, Burton goes on an alcoholic toot and is imprisoned and publicly humiliated. Once he has been accepted into East German espionage circles, Burton discovers that what he thought was his mission was a mere subterfuge--and that he's been set up as a pawn for an entirely different operation. Though Ireland and England "stand in" for East Berlin, Spy Who Came In From the Cold has the air of authenticity throughout, thanks in great part to the bleak black and white photography by Oswald Morris. The film was condemned as incomprehensible by those filmgoers accustomed to the simplistic melodramatics of James Bond; seen today, the double-crosses and double-double crosses seem all too clear and credible.
Rating: NR
Directed By: Martin Ritt
In Theaters:  Jan 1, 1965
Runtime:  112 minutes
Studio:  Paramount Pictures

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John le Carré, the legendary author of sophisticated spy thrillers, is at the top of his game in this classic novel of a world in chaos. With the Cold War over, a new era of espionage has begun. In the power vacuum left by the Soviet Union, arms dealers and drug smugglers have risen to immense influence and wealth. The sinister master of them all is Richard Onslow Roper, the charming, ruthless Englishman whose operation seems untouchable. Slipping into this maze of peril is Jonathan Pine, a former British soldier who’s currently the night manager of a posh hotel in Zurich. Having learned to hate and fear Roper more than any man on earth, Pine is willing to do whatever it takes to help the agents at Whitehall bring him down—and personal vengeance is only part of the reason why.

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Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), a former British soldier turned night manager in a luxury hotel in Cairo, ends up in possession of confidential documents about illegal weapon trades, and turns them into the International Enforcement Agency in London. A few years later, while working in Switzerland, he is recruited by Angela Burr (Olivia Colman), an intelligence officer who's investigating Richard Onslow Roper (Hugh Laurie), a corrupt businessman with ties to the secret arms trade. While trying to infiltrate Roper's organization, Pine has to deal with his attraction for Roper's girlfriend Jed (Elizabeth Debicki), his constant disagreement with Roper's associate Corkoran (Tom Hollander), and the fact that the whole operation is being kept secret from parts of the intelligence agency for fear of being shut down. The spy drama is based on the novel of the same name by John le Carré.
Network: AMC
Premiere Date: Apr 19, 2016

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Tessa Quayle has been horribly murdered on the shores of Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya, the birthplace of mankind. Her putative African lover, a doctor with one of the aid agencies, has disappeared. Her husband, Justin, a career diplomat and amateur gardener at the British High Commission in Nairobi, sets out on a personal odyssey in pursuit of the killers and their motive. His quest takes him to the Foreign Office in London, across Europe and Canada and back to Africa, to the depths of South Sudan, and finally to the very spot where Tessa died. On his way Justin meets terror, violence, laughter, conspiracy and knowledge. But his greatest discovery is the woman he barely had time to love.

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When a British diplomat's wife -- a socially-conscious lawyer -- turns up dead in Kenya, he sets out to find the truth surrounding her murder. In the process, he finds out that his wife had been compiling data against a multinational drug company that uses helpless Africans as guinea pigs to test a tuberculosis remedy with unfortunately fatal side effects. Therefore, those who may have had the most reason to silence her are closer to home than he ever imagined.
Rating: R (for language, some violent images and sexual content/nudity)
Directed By: Fernando Meirelles
In Theaters: Aug 31, 2005
Runtime: 128 minutes
Studio: Focus Features

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From his years serving in British Intelligence during the Cold War, to a career as a writer that took him from war-torn Cambodia to Beirut on the cusp of the 1982 Israeli invasion to Russia before and after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, le Carré has always written from the heart of modern times. 

In this, his first memoir, le Carré is as funny as he is incisive, reading into the events he witnesses the same moral ambiguity with which he imbues his novels. Whether he's writing about the parrot at a Beirut hotel that could perfectly mimic machine gun fire or the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth; visiting Rwanda’s museums of the unburied dead in the aftermath of the genocide; celebrating New Year’s Eve 1982 with Yasser Arafat and his high command; interviewing a German woman terrorist in her desert prison in the Negev; listening to the wisdoms of the great physicist, dissident, and Nobel Prize winner Andrei Sakharov; meeting with two former heads of the KGB; watching Alec Guinness prepare for his role as George Smiley in the legendary BBC TV adaptations of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People; or describing the female aid worker who inspired the main character in The Constant Gardener, le Carré endows each happening with vividness and humor, now making us laugh out loud, now inviting us to think anew about events and people we believed we understood. Best of all, le Carré gives us a glimpse of a writer’s journey over more than six decades, and his own hunt for the human spark that has given so much life and heart to his fictional characters.

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The man he knew as "Control" is dead, and the young Turks who forced him out now run the Circus. But George Smiley isn't quite ready for retirement—especially when a pretty, would-be defector surfaces with a shocking accusation: a Soviet mole has penetrated the highest level of British Intelligence. Relying only on his wits and a small, loyal cadre, Smiley recognizes the hand of Karla—his Moscow Centre nemesis—and sets a trap to catch the traitor.

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Based on the classic novel of the same name, the international thriller is set at the height of the Cold War years of the mid-20th Century. George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a disgraced British spy, is rehired in secret by his government - which fears that the British Secret Intelligence Service, a.k.a. MI-6, has been compromised by a double agent working for the Soviets. -- (C) Focus Features
Rating: R (for violence, some sexuality/nudity and language)
Directed By: Tomas Alfredson
In Theaters: Dec 9, 2011
Runtime: 128 minutes
Studio: Focus Features

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He is Harry Pendel: Exclusive tailor to Panama’s most powerful men. Informant to British Intelligence. The perfect spy in a country rife with corruption and revolution. What his “handlers” don’t realize is that Harry has a hidden agenda of his own. Deceiving his friends, his wife, and practically himself, he’ll weave a plot so fabulous it exceeds his own vivid imagination. But when events start to spin out of control, Harry is suddenly in over his head—thrown into a lethal maze of politics and espionage, with unthinkable consequences. . . 

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The Tailor of Panama (film) (NOT AVAILABLE IN PLJC SYSTEM)
Harry Pendel, a Cockney ex-con who has reinvented himself as a popular tailor to the rich and powerful of Panama, is famous for his storytelling as well as his suits-but this time, his tales carry lethal repercussions. Preyed upon by ruthless, seductive British spy Osnard, Harry spins a yarn that inadvertently sets off a series of events to destroy everything he values most in his life.
Rating: R (for strong sexuality, language and some violence)
Directed By: John Boorman
In Theaters: Mar 30, 2001
Runtime: 110 minutes
Studio:  Columbia Pictures

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An omnibus edition of le Carré's first two novels Call for the Dead (1961) and A Murder of Quality (1962). The omnibus, about George Smiley, was released after his third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963).

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Call For the Dead: George Smiley is no one's idea of a spy—which is perhaps why he's such a natural. But Smiley apparently made a mistake. After a routine security interview, he concluded that the affable Samuel Fennan had nothing to hide. Why, then, did the man from the Foreign Office shoot himself in the head only hours later? Or did he? The heart-stopping tale of intrigue that launched both novelist and spy, Call for the Dead is an essential introduction to le Carré's chillingly amoral universe.

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A Murder of Quality: John le Carré's second novel offers an exquisite, satirical look at an elite private school as it chronicles the early development of George Smiley. Miss Ailsa Brimley is in a quandary. She's received a peculiar letter from Mrs. Stella Rode, saying that she fears her husband—an assistant master at Carne School—is trying to kill her. Reluctant to go to the police, Miss Brimley calls upon her old wartime colleague, George Smiley. Unfortunately, it's too late. Mrs. Rode has just been murdered. As Smiley takes up the investigation, he realizes that in life—as in espionage—nothing is quite what it appears.

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A murder investigation at a cloistered boy's school is the subject of this British made-for-television adaptation of John Le Carre's novel. Le Carre's famous detective-hero George Smiley (Denholm Elliott) returns from retirement to look for answers in a mysterious murder at a boarding school, where secret societies, rituals and abuse are the norm.
Rating: NR
Directed By: Gavin Millar
In Theaters: Jan 1, 1991
Runtime: 103 minutes

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The mole has been eliminated, but the damage wrought has brought the British Secret Service to its knees. Given the charge of the gravely compromised Circus, George Smiley embarks on a campaign to uncover what Moscow Centre most wants to hide. When the trail goes cold at a Hong Kong gold seam, Smiley dispatches Gerald Westerby to shake the money tree. A part-time operative with cover as a philandering journalist, Westerby insinuates himself into a war-torn world where allegiances—and lives—are bought and sold. Brilliantly plotted and morally complex, The Honourable Schoolboy is the second installment of John le Carré's renowned Karla triology and a riveting portrayal of postcolonial espionage.

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A very junior agent answers Vladimir’s call, but it could have been the Chief of the Circus himself. No one at the British Secret Service considers the old spy to be anything except a senile has-been who can’t give up the game—until he’s shot in the face at point-blank range. Although George Smiley (code name: Max) is officially retired, he’s summoned to identify the body now bearing Moscow Centre’s bloody imprimatur. As he works to unearth his friend’s fatal secrets, Smiley heads inexorably toward one final reckoning with Karla—his dark “grail.” In Smiley’s People, master storyteller and New York Times bestselling author of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Our Kind of Traitor John le Carré brings his acclaimed Karla Trilogy, to its unforgettable, spellbinding conclusion.

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Over the course of his seemingly irreproachable life, Magnus Pym has been all things to all people: a devoted family man, a trusted colleague, a loyal friend—and the perfect spy. But in the wake of his estranged father’s death, Magnus vanishes, and the British Secret Service is up in arms. Is it grief, or is the reason for his disappearance more sinister? And who is the mysterious man with the sad moustache who also seems to be looking for Magnus? In A Perfect Spy, John le Carré has crafted one of his crowning masterpieces, interweaving a moving and unusual coming-of-age story with a morally tangled chronicle of modern espionage.

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This spy outing hones in on secret agent Magnus Pym (Peter Egan). Having impersonated so many different people during his career as a British spy, Pym eventually lost track of who he really was -- a confusion compounded by the fact that he knew nothing of his actual past. Ultimately feeling that he could trust no one -- not even his so-called friends -- Pym turned his back on the British and began trading secrets with the Enemy. Filmed on location in England, Europe, and the U.S., the seven-episode A Perfect Spy originally aired in the U.K. in 1988. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Rating: NR
On DVD: Sep 25, 2000
Runtime: 390 minutes

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A corporate lawyer from the House of Single & Single is shot dead in cold blood on a Turkish hillside. A children's entertainer in Devon is hauled to his local bank late at night to explain a monumental influx of cash. A Russian freighter is arrested in the Black Sea. A celebrated London financier has disappeared into thin air. A British customs officer is on a trail of corruption and murder. The logical connection of these events is one of the many pleasures of this extraordinary new novel of love, deceit and the triumph of humanity. Single & Single is a thrilling journey of the human heart - intimate, magical and riotous, revealing le Carre at the height of his dramatic and creative powers.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Victorian Age

Upcoming events:

3/30 – Bib & Tucker Sew Op, 6:30pm

4/9 – Local Author Stephen Russell, 2pm

4/13 – Neuroscience Café: Autism, 6:30pm

4/14 & 28 – Ages 21+ only and registration is required, $10 for the 2 sessions, Standing Room Only: Weaving with The Ivory Hand, 6:30pm

4/25 – next GRG, John Le Carré Author Study, 6:30pm

4/29 – An appraisal even benefitting the Friends of the Library, Antiques Roadshow appraiser John Jones and other guest appraisers available to value up to 3 items per ticket holder, no jewelry.  Tickets are $25 and available at the 2nd floor reference desk.  Tickets are for 30 minute increments 10am-noon and 2pm-4pm and times are nontransferable.

For more information about any of these programs, give us a call at 205-445-1121!

The Genre Reading Group met this week to discuss the Victorian Age.  April’s topic will be a John Le Carré author study.  Read/listen to/watch any John Le Carré book/audiobook/movie and come tell us about it!

Image result for victorian fashion in america kristina harris
Compelling pictorial archive of 264 vintage photographs, selected from rare tintypes and other authentic materials (1850s–1910), depict little girls in their mothers' hats and clothes, sisters wearing identical plaid dresses and button boots, a young man in an everyday suit and bowler hat, a boy dressed in Little Lord Fauntleroy style, and scores of others.

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Over 150 years after her death, a widely-used scientific computer program was named “Ada,” after Ada Lovelace, the only legitimate daughter of the eighteenth century’s version of a rock star, Lord Byron. Why?

Because, after computer pioneers such as Alan Turing began to rediscover her, it slowly became apparent that she had been a key but overlooked figure in the invention of the computer.

In Ada Lovelace, James Essinger makes the case that the computer age could have started two centuries ago if Lovelace’s contemporaries had recognized her research and fully grasped its implications.

It’s a remarkable tale, starting with the outrageous behavior of her father, which made Ada instantly famous upon birth. Ada would go on to overcome numerous obstacles to obtain a level of education typically forbidden to women of her day. She would eventually join forces with Charles Babbage, generally credited with inventing the computer, although as Essinger makes clear, Babbage couldn’t have done it without Lovelace. Indeed, Lovelace wrote what is today considered the world’s first computer program—despite opposition that the principles of science were “beyond the strength of a woman’s physical power of application.”

Based on ten years of research and filled with fascinating characters and observations of the period, not to mention numerous illustrations, Essinger tells Ada’s fascinating story in unprecedented detail to absorbing and inspiring effect.

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Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend star in the lavish historical drama, The Young Victoria. Resolved to establish her authority over those who rule in her stead, a young and inexperienced Queen Victoria (Blunt) draws strength from the love of Albert (Friend), the handsome prince who’s stolen her heart. Based on the courtship and early reign of England’s longest-serving monarch, The Young Victoria, is a majestic tale of romance, intrigue and power.

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Nine recipes serve as entry points for detailing the history of food production, cooking, and diet throughout Queen Victoria's reign in England. More than that, however, Broomfield offers an introduction to the world of everyday dining, food preparation, and nutrition during one of the most interesting periods of English history. Food procurement, kitchen duties, and dining conventions were almost always dictated by one's socioeconomic status and one's gender, but questions still remain. Who was most likely to dine out? Who was most likely to be in charge of the family flatware and fine china? Who washed the dishes? Who could afford a fine piece of meat once a week, once a month, or never? How much did one's profession dictate which meal times were observed and when? All these questions and more are answered in this illuminating history of food and cooking in Victorian England.

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Myers's discovery of a packet of letters in a rare books shop in London planted the seeds for this fascinating biography, which reconstructs the remarkable life of Sarah Forbes Bonetta. In 1850, orphaned and held as a captive by the Dahomans in West Africa, an Egbado princess faces imminent death as part of a Dahomian sacrificial rite. When Frederick E. Forbes, captain of the British ship Bonetta and a strong opponent to the slave trade, begs that she be spared, Dahomian King Gezo offers her as a gift to Queen Victoria. Under Forbes's protection, the princess is baptized Sarah Forbes Bonetta and escorted to England; Forbes presents her to the queen, who takes an avid interest in her and provides for her education and upbringing. From the princess's life in an England far from her native shores, filled with frequent visits to the queen and royal family, to her education as a young woman of privilege at a missionary school in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to her eventual arranged marriage and early death from consumption, Myers portrays a young woman who never truly belongs. Despite her celebrity, education and proximity to royalty, Sarah remains subject to the prescribed roles for women in her day and to the queen's will--even concerning her marriage--because she possesses no independent financial means; thus the title takes on a somber double entendre. Myers sets Sarah's story within the context of daily life and culture in England, Britain's attitudes toward Africa and slavery and the growing unrest across the Atlantic that would result in the Civil War. Period etchings and photographs, many from the author's own collection, contribute to this moving and very human portrait of a princess. Ages 9-12.

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A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert by Gertrude Bell, edited by Georgina Howell
A portrait in her own words of the female Lawrence of Arabia, the subject of the major motion picture Queen of the Desert, starring Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Damian Lewis, and Robert Pattinson and directed by Werner Herzog, and of the documentary Letters from Baghdad, voiced by Tilda Swinton

Gertrude Bell was leaning in 100 years before Sheryl Sandberg. One of the great woman adventurers of the twentieth century, she turned her back on Victorian society to study at Oxford and travel the world, and became the chief architect of British policy in the Middle East after World War I. Mountaineer, archaeologist, Arabist, writer, poet, linguist, and spy, she dedicated her life to championing the Arab cause and was instrumental in drawing the borders that define today’s Middle East.

As she wrote in one of her letters, “It’s a bore being a woman when you are in Arabia.” Forthright and spirited, opinionated and playful, and deeply instructive about the Arab world, this volume brings together Bell’s letters, military dispatches, diary entries, and travel writings to offer an intimate look at a woman who shaped nations.

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Short and oddly built, with a head too big for his body, extremely nearsighted, unable to stay still, dressed in colorful clothes, Wilkie Collins looked distinctly strange. But he was nonetheless a charmer, befriended by the great, loved by children, irresistibly attractive to women—and avidly read by generations of readers. Peter Ackroyd follows his hero, "the sweetest-tempered of all the Victorian novelists," from Collins' childhood as the son of a well-known artist to his struggling beginnings as a writer, his years of fame, and his lifelong friendship with that other great London chronicler, Charles Dickens. In addition to his enduring masterpieces, The Moonstone—often called the first true detective novel—and the sensational The Woman in White, he produced an intriguing array of lesser known works. Told with Ackroyd's inimitable verve, this is a ravishingly entertaining life of a great storyteller, full of surprises, rich in humor and sympathetic understanding.

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Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright's eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter is drawn into the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his "charming" friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons and poison.

Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.

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The Duchess of York (Prince Andrew's wife, ``Fergie'') writes about England's 19th-century rulers not as historical figures but as a loving couple and caring parents. Aided by Stoney, a professional researcher, the author gleaned quotes from journals kept by Victoria during her long reign (1837-1901). Such excerpts strengthen this account of how the queen and her beloved consort created a vibrant family life for their nine children despite the pressures of their public roles. As in other vital areas, Albert took the lead here, finding Osborne House on the Isle of Wight which became the family home. There the royals spent as much time as possible, away from the strains of court, enjoying close companionship in the bracing bucolic air. This virtually ideal life was cut short in 1861 by Albert's death at age 41. Although devastated by her loss, Victoria continued to rule until her death 40 years later. This well-written book, telling us much more than has heretofore been known about Prince Albert and his many accomplishments, will have great appeal to a wide audience. 

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Learn the extraordinary story of how, against all odds, the famous literary trio had their genius for writing romantic novels recognized in a male-dominated 19th-century world.

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The Victorian Undertaker by Trevor May (not available in the PLJC system)

The Victorians were, were relatively at ease with death and there is much in this book to interest social historians, those interested in historical costume and transport enthusiasts, as there is a section on the development of the horse-drawn hearse.