Thursday, December 19, 2013

Watch This: The Ref

A bi-weekly series featuring a recommendation of a movie available in the Reeves Memorial Library DVD collection

The Ref (1994)
Directed by Ted Demme

There are Christmas movies that reaffirm the importance of family and friends, revealing that the true gift is time spent together in joy and harmony with the ones you love.  There are Christmas movies that show us how important it is to be kind to others, not just during the holidays, but all year round.  There are Christmas movies that remind us we should be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, not focusing on the materialistic desire for presents.

Then, there is The Ref.

Starring actor/comedian Denis Leary in his first lead role, The Ref follows hapless cat burglar Gus (Leary) after a botched Christmas Eve robbery in a small Connecticut town.  Having triggered an alarm, and looking to hide from the police, Gus jumps into the car of Lloyd and Caroline Chasseur (portrayed by Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis), a married couple on their way home from a counseling session.  Gus orders them to drive him to their house, where he hopes to lay low while he plans his escape.  He quickly realizes that he kidnapped the wrong couple, as Lloyd and Caroline's incessant bickering offers him no respite or time to think.  Exasperated, Gus tries to force an end to their arguments: "From now on, the only person who gets to yell is me. Why? Because I have a gun."  However, even under the threat of violence, they remain at each other's throats.

Gus's problems grow with the arrival of teenage son Jesse Chasseur, home from military school, and the later arrival of more relatives for Christmas Eve dinner.  Gus gradually begins to soften, learning that his only way out of the situation is to act as mediator between Lloyd and Caroline until he can escape.

The premise begins to wear a bit thin in the third act, and there are no big surprises in the concluding scenes; the film ends pretty much how most viewers would expect.  However, it remains engaging because of a funny, fast-paced script and strong performances from the talented cast.  Spacey and Davis are particular standouts, bringing an articulate ferocity to their characters' barbed exchanges.  It's also fun watching Glynis Johns, best known for playing the kindhearted Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins (1964), in the role of Lloyd's domineering, mean-spirited mother (Gus aptly sums up her character: "I know loan sharks who are more forgiving than you").  Director Ted Demme proves very adept at handling a talented ensemble, a skill he would put to good use in his next film, the woefully underrated Beautiful Girls (1996).

The Ref is by no means a great film.  However, like the masterful Bad Santa (2003), it's a profane, darkly funny alternative to standard Christmas entertainment.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Break Hours

Christmas Break
December 15: Closed
December 16 - December 20: 8:00 a.m. - 4:50 p.m.
December 21 & 22: Closed
December 23: 8:00 a.m. - 4:50 p.m.
December 24 - January 1: Closed

Have a wonderful break! Happy holidays.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A busy week at Reeves

Take a deep breath… finals are over!

Hopefully the Christmas break finds you triumphant and ready to relax and enjoy the people and activities that you love for a few weeks.

Speaking of activities, the library had several in the last week of the semester. On the evening of Friday, December 6th, we welcomed 10 children and their families to our annual Christmas story time event, and a good time was had by all!

Dr. Stanley regaled us with a spirited reading of The Grinch that Stole Christmas:

Kelly Clever got some giggles when sharing A Pirate's Night Before Christmas:

And some of our guests took to the rocking chair to share their favorites:

Two nights later, the library began staying open for an extra hour for the next three nights. As students prepared for their final exams and projects, we provided our usual spread of cookies and coffee:

On Monday and Tuesday evenings, the librarians on duty even brought their dogs in to encourage the students and provide a little break from the tension! 

Find more photos from our finals-week fun on the library's Flickr page!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Finals Week, Night #2

Bree will be happy to help you eat cookies… which go out (along with the coffee, etc.) at 7:00.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Watch This: Sullivan's Travels

A bi-weekly series featuring a recommendation of a movie available in the Reeves Memorial Library DVD collection

Sullivan's Travels (1941)
Written and directed by Preston Sturges

Sullivan's Travels is one of the great movies about movies.  There have been numerous other films in which Hollywood has attempted to hold a mirror up to itself, revealing the various stages of the filmmaking process and the inflated egos of studio bosses, directors, and on-screen talent.  Some have approached their subject with reverence, while others have made the industry the target of vicious criticism.  Sullivan's Travels aims for a target somewhere in the middle, lampooning Hollywood producers focused solely on box office revenues, while simultaneously underscoring the value of popular entertainment.

Hollywood director John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is tired of making lightweight comedies, films with titles like Hey Hey in the Hayloft and Ants in Your Pants of 1939 (easily two of the best fictional film titles of all time).  He has decided that his next film will be a serious, socially-conscious film about human suffering and misery, an adaptation of a novel entitled O Brother, Where Art Thou? (another wonderful fictional title that was borrowed by the Coen brothers for their 2000 comedy film).  The studio executives point out that Sullivan has lived a privileged life, and knows nothing about hard luck and misery.  He realizes that they are right, and sets out in a hobo costume with only ten cents in his pocket, hoping to learn firsthand what trouble is.

Sullivan's plans are constantly undermined.  The studio has him followed on the road by a luxury tour bus and a team of journalists, whose newspaper stories they hope will generate publicity for his film.  He hitches a ride in the back of a truck, only to find himself back in Hollywood when the truck stops the next morning.  He meets a young woman (Veronica Lake, credited only as The Girl), and she talks him into letting her accompany him on his travels (she knows about trouble, and can help him with his experiment).  Not surprisingly, they fall for each other over the course of their journey.

The story takes some unexpected turns, and Sullivan gets a bigger dose of trouble and hard luck than he originally intended.  At one point, he is imprisoned in a labor camp, and the film's best scene comes when the inmates journey to a local church for a Sunday evening picture show.  An animated Mickey Mouse comedy short puts everyone in the church, parishioners and prisoners alike, in stitches.  Sullivan is at first surprised, then delighted, to find himself joining in the laughter, temporarily forgetting about his woeful circumstances.

The film is brimming over with incredibly funny dialogue.  In the opening scene, as Sullivan describes his serious film to the studio execs ("a commentary on modern conditions, stark realism, the problems that confront the average man"), one of them repeatedly insists that it should have "a little sex in it."  Later in the film, a police officer asks Sullivan why he's wearing such ratty clothes if he's a successful film director.  Sullivan responds, "I just paid my income tax."

Sullivan's Travels is about the importance of film as a means of escapism, uplifting us and lightening our burdens, if only for a couple of hours.  More than anything, the film is a tribute to the power of humor.  Writer/director Preston Sturges was one of the most successful comedy directors of his era, and in a way Sullivan's Travels can be seen as an apologia of sorts, a justification for a career built on laughs.  As if that needed any justification.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Transitions photos

Check out the latest photos added to our "Transitions" album on Flickr. Judith Koveleskie has been busy weeding bound periodicals. It's going to look completely different down there!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Story Time

If you have children, you should bring them to our annual Christmas story time this Friday evening! A good time is always had by all.

Hope to see you there!