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Archive for January, 2008

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Thursday Thirteen #4

For this week’s Thursday Thirteen we’re taking a look at children’s books that were turned into academy award winning and/or nominated films. I tried to pick a variety of them, from older films to newer ones, and from live action to animated films. And no, they’re not all Disney films either.

I’ve linked the titles of the films to the record in our catalog (with the exception of the 1938 Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which we don’t own.) There are links to the book records as well.

1. The Yearling 1946

From the book by Marjorie Kinna Rawlings

Won:
Best Art Direction
Best Cinematography

Nominated:
Best Actor, Gregory Peck
Best Actress, Jane Wyman
Best Director
Best Editing
Best Picture

Believe it or not, this novel one the Pulitzer Prize in 1938. Shooting on the film began in 1941 with Spencer Tracy playing Pa Baxter. There were nothing but problems with the production from the start and eventually, the picture was shelved. When the project was picked up again in 1944, Gregory Peck was in the part Tracy had started. Not only that, but the boy who had been cast to play Jody Baxter was by this time too old to play the part (too bad for him) and so they had to find someone else. That someone was Claude Jarman, Jr., who won an honorary Oscar that year for the outstanding child actor of 1946.

2. Little Women 1949

From the book by Louisa May Alcott

Won:
Best Art Direction

Nominated:
Best Cinematography

This is the technicolor version of the story, very bright, very vivid. I think the color really gives this one a dimension and special atmosphere that the black and white version with Katherine Hepburn didn’t have. I must say that I like the movie versions of this much better than the book, which I think is a bit slow moving. This 1949 version has June Allyson as the tomboyish March sister; to me, June is really the qunitessential Jo. They changed Amy and Beth around in this one to suit the actresses they cast in the roles. Beth, played by Margaret O’Brien, is the baby and Amy is played by a young and very beautiful Elizabeth Taylor (as a blond) who sleeps with a clothespin on her nose.

3. Mary Poppins 1964

From the book by P.L. Travers

Won:
Best Actress, Julie Andrews
Best Editing
Best Original Score
Best Song
Best Visual Effects, Peter Ellenshaw
Best Visual Effects, Eustace Lycett

Nominated:
Best Art Direction
Best Cinematography
Best Costume Design
Best Director
Best Picture
Best Sound
Best Writing, Screenplay

Yes, Julie Andrews really did win the Oscar for this one. This movie came out the same year as My Fair Lady, which, of course, had Audrey Hepburn in the title role, the role that Julie Andrews had created on the stage. Now, when they were casting the movie, they felt like they needed some real star power in the lead part, so they passed up Julie Andrews, despite her amazing singing voice, and cast Hepburn because of her box office appeal. Hepburn, of course, didn’t have the greatest singing voice (although in 1957 she had sung in the movie musical Funny Face and of course did a nice job on Moon River in Breakfast at Tiffany’s), and apparently, there were some hard feelings all around about the casting of Hepburn in My Fair Lady; it’s odd anyways that she didn’t even get nominated for her work in the film.

4. Pollyanna 1960

From the book by Eleanor H. Porter

Won:
Honorary Award To Hayley Mills for ‘Pollyanna,’ the most outstanding juvenile performance during 1960

I remember watching this movie over and over again, to my little brother’s extreme annoyance, one summer when I was nine or ten years old, because I had the hugest little girl crush on Richard Egan. Looking back it’s amazing how many classic film stars are in this movie: Jane Wyman, Nancy Olson, Agnes Moorehead, Adolph Menjou, Donald Crisp. I mean, it’s a kids’ film, yes, but with all these really great actors and actresses who really do give marvelous performances.

5. Polar Express 2004

From the book by Chris Van Allsburg

Nominated:
Best Sound Mixing
Best Sound Editing
Best Music (Original Song)

The amazing thing about this book is, of course, the illustrations; I mean, it won the Caldecott Medal for crying out loud. If you want to learn more about Van Allsburg, check out his website. Peruse, peruse; I’m sure you’ll find something neat.

6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2005

From the book by Roald Dahl

Nominated:
Best Costume Design

Okay, so this is a classic children’s book, but does anyone else find it a little creepy? I mean all this bizarre stuff happening to these children; it’s almost surreal. I get the same sort of feeling reading Cat in the Hat. The really amazing thing to me about this movie is who was apparently considered for the Grandpa Joe role: Richard Attenborough, Kirk Douglas, Albert Finney, Paul Newman, Anthony Hopkins, Richard Griffiths, Max von Sydow, Armin Muella-Stahl, and David Warner. That’s some group of rejected thespians.

7. The Wizard of Oz 1939

From the book by Frank L. Baum

Won:
Best Score
Best Song

Nominated:
Best Art Direction
Best Cinematography (1940)
Best Picture
Best Special Effects (1940)

In 1977 the American Film Institute placed this movie tenth on the list of the Greatest American Films of All Time. Not bad for a movie that started out with all the problems this one did. Apparently, the film went through three directors and had a grand total of sixteen people contribute to the script, thirteen of whom went uncredited. Then there were all those troubles with the “munchkins” and what about Margaret Hamilton (a.k.a the Wicked Witch of the West) almost being burned up for real in her fiery exit from Munchkin Land. Still, this is one of those movies that hooks me every time it’s on; no matter how much I swear I don’t want to watch it again, I always do-

8. The Jungle Book 1967

From the book by Rudyard Kipling

Nominated:
Best Song

Although Kipling is probably best remembered now for the stories about Mowgli, he was really a prolific writer of short stories, poems and other novels, winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907 (he was the first English0language recipient to win since the prize had been established in 1901). His poem If- probably contains some of his most well-known verses. You’ve doubtless heard it before: “If you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing their’s and blaming it on you…” Click here if you’d like to read the whole thing.

9. James and the Giant Peach 1996

From the book by Roald Dahl

Nominated:
Best Music (Original Musical or Comedy Score)

This is one of those books that I read as a child, but don’t remember liking all too well. Something a little creepy about all those giant bugs in that peach maybe. I guess I’m a bit squeamish about creepy crawlies. In Charlotte’s Web, I was kind of able to get past the whole spider thing and really love the book, but it just didn’t work with James.

10. Howl’s Moving Castle 2005

From the book by Diana Wynne Jones

Nominated:
Best Animated Feature Film

Jean Simmons is the voice of Grandma Sophie in the English version of this film, and by the way, today, January 31, is also her birthday. She is an absolutely wonderful actress, and very versatile. I love her in Guys and Dolls and The Big Country. She also has a small part, terribly miscast it seems to me, as a native girl in a somewhat neurotic and yet breathtaking Michael Powell film called Black Narcissus.

11. Doctor Dolittle 1967

From the book by Hugh Lofting

Won:
Best Song
Best Visual Effects

Nominated:
Best Art Direction
Best Cinematography
Best Editing
Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (1968)
Best Picture
Best Score
Best Sound

Interestingly, this film almost had Christopher Plummer in it. Rex Harrison had backed out of playing the title role, and the studio had hired Plummer as a replacement. They still paid him though, when Harrison changed his mind and agreed to play Dolittle. Probably not the wisest choice he’d ever made. Apparently the filming of this movie was fraught with all kinds of problems, mostly of the animal variety. After all, the majority of the cast were animals, and it’s pretty hard to direct a bunch of squirrels and goats and sheep and pigs and ducks and on and on and on…you get the idea.

12. Adventures of Tom Sawyer 1938

From the book by Mark Twain

Nominated:
Best Art Direction

One of my absolutely favorite books from growing up; I read this book every summer for years. I didn’t mind that I remembered what happened; it was the mood it put me in and how it made me feel like I was coming back to some old friends. Max Steiner, one of my favorite film composers, did the score for this film, and none other than James Wong Howe did the cinematography. Howe was just amazing; he worked on so many films (black and white, color, and technicolor) and had ten Oscar nominations, of which he won two, for The Rose Tattoo (1955) and Hud (1963).

13. National Velvet 1944

From the book by Enid Bagnold

Won:
Best Editing
Best Supporting Actress, Anne Revere

Nominated:
Best Art Direction
Best Cinematography
Best Director

I remember really liking this movie when I was a child. Elizabeth Taylor was so beautiful, even at such a young age, and there is something just sort of timeless in the plot and the way things do and don’t work out for everyone. Favorite quote: Mrs. Brown says,”That’ll be a dispute till the end of time, Mr. Brown: whether it’s better to do the right thing for the wrong reason or the wrong thing for the right reason.” Apparently, Elizabeth Taylor was in the running for a special Oscar for 1944 for best juvenile performance, but ultimately lost out to Peggy Ann Garner who won for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

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Howard Hawks

Howard HawksOkay, so at the outset I’m going to admit my own personal bias about Howard Hawks: he has to be one of the most amazingingly versatile directors ever. I mean he did everything from screwball comedies (Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday) to action/adventure (Only Angels Have Wings) to westerns (Red River, El Dorado) to film noir (The Big Sleep) to early sci-fi stuff (The Thing) to musicals (Gentleman Prefer Blondes) to gangster films (Scarface) and on and on and on… Where do you start with someone like that? By the by, you can watch clips and original trailers for many of his films at my favorite movie site TCM.

Now, The Big Sleep (1946) with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall is one of those movies that is a classic I think more for the mood and style of the film than for anything very redeeming in the plot. Not that is doesn’t have one; it does. Actually, what it has is too much plot; to say it’s confusing is to do it an injustice. This is the Raymond Chandler book, remember, in which the Sternwood’s chauffer is killed in the beginning, but Chandler never reveals who did it. I mean you get to the end, and you realize that one of the murders hasn’t been solved, and there’s this really wierd moment where you wonder, well, what happened, did he just forget about it?

[By the by, if you want to see a great Raymond Chandler book filmed, check out Murder My Sweet with Dick Powell. You can actually follow the plot on this one; and I think Powell is a much better Philip Marlowe than Bogart. The Chandler book this one came from was actually called Farewell, My Lovely, but seeing as Dick Powell was a fabulous song and dance man in his former life, studio execs were afraid people might think the movie was a musical, so they changed the name to avoid any associations with Busby Berkeley.]

Anyways, this post is getting a mind of it’s own. Back to Howard Hawks. He actually did make some silent films back in the day, but for the most part they are pretty forgetable. Not so his “talkies.” His Girl Friday has to be one of the funniest movies ever, and it’s really a matter of Hawks’ direction and the pace he sets. Because of the speed with which the characters talk and because much of the dialogue overlaps, the 191 page script turned into only a 92 minute movie. But it’s 92 minutes of pure hilarity.

If you want to read more about Hawks or see some of his films, check out what we have here at the Alameda County Library.

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How To Tie a Windsor Knot

With February almost here, I thought that you all might be heading into the Dress Up to Go Out season. As such, I have hunted up a couple of Youtube Videos that will assist you in remembering how to tie your tie into a Windsor Knot.

This first video is without sound, and seeks to instruct you as though you were looking into a mirror.

Tie the ‘Windsor’ knot

This second video employs text intructions and music along with the visual intructions for tying the Windsor Knot. It is a little easier to follow than the previous one.

How to tie a Windsor knot

If you are not ready for the Windsor knot, why not try the Four in Hand knot?

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June 29, 1999 is another trip into the fantastical imagination of David Wiesner. This time we encounter a young scientist and her vegetable experiment. The results are unexpected…or is it just a coincidence that a huge piece of broccoli lands in Holly’s back yard? The last book that I encountered by Writer/Illustrator David Wiesner was the clever cloud-centric Sector 7. June 29, 1999 is equally unexpected and amusing. I love Holly’s experiment. An illustration of her science project appears on the cover of the book. On the subject of illustrations, I am rapidly becoming a huge fan of Mr. Wiesner’s artwork. It seems that he can draw a believable picture of anything. He can translate the most outlandish idea into a recognizable image. My favorite bit of this picture book is the hiker encountering turnips. It just tickled me. How can you go wrong with an entertaining story and images of floating veggies? I really enjoyed this one. I hope that you will, too.

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Will You Be My Valentine?

Vintage Valentine

Do you have a special someone you’d like to make a Valentine for? Yes? Great! Then you need to come to one of our Valentine Making Workshops.

The workshops will be here at the Fremont Main Library and are for school-aged children, although younger children are welcome if they have an older helper with them.

This fun program is sponsored by the Fremont Friends of the Library and does require registration.

Signups begin Monday January 28 at 1 p.m.

Workshops will be held Wednesday February 6. Choose to attend one of the following sessions:

Session 1 at 4 p.m.
Session 2 at 7 p.m.

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Thirteen Scottish Monarchs

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Thursday Thirteen #3

Welcome to this week’s Thursday Thirteen! This Friday is the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, the famed Scottish poet. On Saturday, the Fremont Main Library will be joining with the East Bay Scottish Association to host a Scottish cultural event. So, for today’s list I offer you a list of 13 Scottish Monarchs, complete with the date of their rule and a bit of trivia. Also, this gives me an excuse to talk about Scotland. On with the list!

13 Rulers of Scotland/Alba:

1. Kenneth MacAlpin (843-860) – Known as the first king of Scotland, he united the Picts and the Scots.

2. MacBeth (1040-1057) – Yes, that MacBeth. Contrary to Shakespeare’s famous Scottish play, however, it seems that he was quite the competent monarch. He even went on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1050.

3. Lulach (1057-1058) – Known as “The Fool” or “The Simple,” Lulach was MacBeth’s stepson. He fathered two children, and evidence suggests that he suffered from some sort of mental slowness. Perhaps it was just that he did not possess his Mother’s level of cunning, but the nickname remains.

4. Edgar (1097-1107) – Known as “The Peaceable,” Edgar was by all accounts a sweet-tempered, peaceful man. He once sent King Murcertach of Ireland the gift of a Camel.

5. Alexander I (1107-1124) – Known as “The Fierce” to his contemporaries for his ruthlessness in dealing with a rebellion in Moray, Edgar spent much of his reign working to regulate the church in Scotland. The chronicler Fordun said of him: “A lettered and godly man, very humble and amiable towards the clerics and regulars, but terrible beyond measure to the rest of his subjects.”

6. Malcolm IV (1153-1165) – Known as “The Maiden” for either a vow of celibacy that he is said to have taken, his reputation of being a virgin, or some implied effeminacy. There is some evidence that he may have fathered a bastard son, though, as his Mother was not best pleased by all of this celibacy business. Malcolm is also known to have been an active knight and able diplomat. He never married.

7. William (1165-1214) – Known as “The Lion” for the lion rampant on his coat of arms, William is also known to have been quite the brawny gentleman. He ruled for 49 years, and his wife finally bore him a son when he was 56.

8. Margaret (1286-1290) – Known as the “Maid of Norway,” Margaret was the daughter of Norway’s young King. She was only three when she came into the title, but she never actually set foot on Scottish soil. She died at the age of seven on board the ship during the crossing from Norway to Scotland. (She had a very delicate constitution.)

9. Robert I (1306-1329) – Known more commonly as “Robert the Bruce,” this is the Monarch that you will be familiar with if you have seen the film “Braveheart.” He once killed a man on holy ground, right in front of the alter. He died of leprosy in June of 1329. In between those two events, Robert the Bruce freed Scotland from English control.

10. Robert III (1390-1406) – Actually, Robert’s real name was John, Earl of Carrick. He chose his kingly name in a hope that it would be a good omen to his rule. It wasn’t. At one point, he asked to be buried in a dunghill.

11. James I (1406-1437) – James was a prisoner in England until 1424. While he was there he fell in love with Lady Joan Beaufort, and wrote a major poetical work in her honor. When the King and his bride finally arrived in Scotland, they found his kingdom in disorder. He set out to set Scotland to rights in a very bloody and effective manner. Many folks held grudges about his methods. He was eventually murdered.

12. Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1567) – Mary was only six days old when she became Queen of Scotland. She was married to the heir to the French throne when she was sixteen, but it only lasted two years. The rest of her life was quite a roller coaster, and she ended up being executed by Elizabeth I of England for her part in a plot to assassinate the English Queen.

13. James VI (1567-1625) – In 1603, Mary’s son James VI of Scotland became James I of England and thenceforth the kingdoms were united. (I sometimes feel like maybe Mary got the last laugh here. Too bad she wasn’t around to see it.)

Sources:
* VisitScotland.com
* The History Resource Center: World (a Database available to Library Card Holders from the Alameda County Library)
* Monarchs of Scotland by Stewart Ross

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Understanding Islam: Your Neighbor’s Faith

Hear a moderated panel discussion of the basic tenets of Islam, one of the fastest growing religions in the United States today. There will also be time for Q&A from the audience.

We seek to:
• Promote an understanding of the world’s religions through education and dialogue as a bridge for positive change.
• Build more peaceful communities where people of diverse backgrounds come to know and respect each other.

Fremont Main Library, (Fukaya Room)
2400 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont
Sat., Feb. 9th, 2 – 4 p.m.

Please Join Us!

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