Happy Birthday Akira Kurosawa!

While Akira Kurosawa’s status as the greatest director of all time is debatable, we’re all agreed that Seven Samurai is the best movie ever made, right? Good, I’m glad we got that all squared away.

Ran--film in the Seattle Public Library catalogAkira Kurosawa was born 103 years ago today. A few short months later, in August of 1910, the University Branch of the Seattle Public Library opened in its current location. These two events alone are why 1910 is universally recognized as the greatest year in history. To celebrate Kurosawa, the branch is displaying films from the artist’s oeuvre, so come on by and pick up a copy of Ran or High and Low. Continue reading “Happy Birthday Akira Kurosawa!”

What we were watching in 1962

On the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair, we look back at that year’s popular books, music, movies and TV shows. This week’s list in our catalog: what we were watching in 1962.

Lawrence of Arabia was the top-grossing film that year (winning seven Oscars), with the star-studded D-Day epic The Longest Day hot on its heels. Westerns were still doing well, both as Find Lonely are the Brave in the Seattle Public Library catalogtraditional shoot-em-ups like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but also as the moving modern Western Lonely Are the Brave, adapted from Edward Abbey’s The Brave Cowboy, which was one of Kirk Douglas’ personal favorites, and one of ours too. Another scarily good dramatic performance that year was Jack Lemmon’s portrayal of alcoholic Joe Clay in Days of Wine and Roses; mostly known as a comic actor, this film gave us his tragic side. On a lighter note, as with the billboard charts Elvis Presley also dominated at the box office, and that year as he was here in Seattle filming It Happened at the World’s Fair, fans had three movies to choose from: Girls! Girls! Girls!, Follow that Dream and Kid Galahad.

Among the arty set, French New Wave cinema was at its height, Find Vivre Sa Vie in the Seattle Public Library catalogwith Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre sa Vie (My Life to Live) and François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim. The most cosmopolitan film buffs might have noticed director Roman Polanski’s taut debut thriller Knife in the Water, or thrilled to Toshiro Mifune’s return as the wandering ronin of Yojimbo in Akira Kurasawa’s Sanjuro. But you didn’t have to be a finger-popping beatnik to enjoy Euro-cinema, as middle America followed sexily forthright librarian Prudence (played by “bright young star” Suzanne Pleshette) as she fled her hidebound profession on a Rome Adventure with Troy Donahue. (That’s your cue to swoon, ladies.)

1962 was also a great year for some great schlocky Drive-In fare, being the year that bellied forth Herk Harvey’s unforgettably Find Eegah in the Seattle Public Library catalogwierd organ-haunted cult classic, Carnival of Souls (the film’s trailer portends: “Carnival of Souls arouses such emotion that the management has been forced to state, positively no refunds!”), as well as Eegah! (trailer), a truly baffling Surf Rock Horror Movie starring Richard Kiel (best known as Bond villain “Jaws”) as a caveman gone berserk. Campy shockers were not just for drive-ins; Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford was the fourth highest grossing picture of 1962, spawning a spate of imitators, and helping explain what lured Olivia de Havilland into being a Lady in a Cage a couple of years later. Check out the rest of our list in the library catalog, where you’ll find many of the films’ original trailers: just select the “Videos” tab.

A Different Beauty: Sharing Film with Children

The Red Balloon, a film by Albert LamorisseI vividly remember the first time I saw The Red Balloon as a child. I’ve never forgotten the haunting, stark beauty of 1950s Paris, the unapologetic taking of the child’s perspective, and the power of images with minimal dialogue.

As much as I loved, and love, the work of Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Mel Blanc, and Friz Freling, seeing The Red Balloon made me see film in a new way.

Once I became a children’s librarian I The Secret of Kells, a film from Cartoon Saloonwanted the children I served to have similar opportunities to experience the extraordinary beauty and power of films like The Red Balloon, Spirited Away, The Man Who Planted Trees or The Secret of Kells.

Unfortunately children’s films that are not commercially successful can be hard to find.

Continue reading “A Different Beauty: Sharing Film with Children”