Tag Archives: comedy

I Am … Suggesting That You Check Out These Two Documentaries

4 Nov

Recently I watched two documentaries that included “I Am” in the titles. These simple titles belied the complex subjects of the films.

I Am Chris Farley

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“See that building?” [Points] “That’s where Chris Farley died.”

“Oh.”

That was a conversation between me and the Go Airport Express shuttle driver/de facto tour guide en route to O’Hare on a cold, winter’s morning in Chicago. OK, calling that a conversation might be a stretch. I had been up since 4:30 AM and was neither awake nor caffeinated enough for small talk.

But sadly it is true that Chris Farley left this world too soon in 1997. The documentary I Am Chris Farley starts with his siblings discussing growing up with Chris. Next is his rise as a comedian at Chicago’s famed Second City Theatre, his joining Saturday Night Live in New York City, and making name for himself in Hollywood with movies like Black Sheep and Tommy Boy.

There are lots of fun facts in this film. One of Chris’s most famous characters, Motivational Speaker Matt Foley whose catchphrase was “You’ll be livin’ in a VAN, down by the RIVER!”, was named after Chris’s college rugby teammate. The real Matt Foley is now a priest and makes an appearance in the film. My favorite Chris Farley sketch is his awkward interview with Paul McCartney, because who wouldn’t be absolutely starstruck in Sir Paul’s presence?

What is most profound about the documentary is that through the interviews with Chris’s family, friends, and SNL castmates (such as David Spade, Mike Meyers, Chris Rock, and Jon Lovitz) you can see how deeply loved he was by those around him.

If you loved Chris Farley, too, then this documentary is a must-watch.

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

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Like most kids growing up in the 1980s, Jim Henson’s creations entertained me. Although Fraggle Rock was my favorite of the Henson canon back then, I found this documentary, I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, about the man who plays Big Bird, fascinating.

Sidebar: Is there anyone else out there who, as a kid, thought Big Bird was a girl? I did when I was young, for some reason, until learning that Big Bird is a boy. But I did know this fact well before seeing the film!

Caroll developed an interest in puppeteering as a child, creating and performing with his own puppets. Jim Henson and Caroll started collaborating when Caroll joined Sesame Street in 1969. He has been playing Big Bird since then, among other characters like Oscar the Grouch. Jim and Caroll had a close relationship, and Caroll recounted in the film his grief after Jim died suddenly in 1990.

I learned after watching this documentary that Big Bird was scheduled to join the ill-fated Challenger mission in 1986. Since it would have been difficult to operate the Big Bird puppet without gravity, Caroll’s spot was ultimately given to teacher Christa McAuliffe.

Anyone that grew up watching Sesame Street will enjoy this film. You will also learn that Caroll Spinney is an accomplished artist and musician, in addition to his talents as a puppeteer. He has certainly brought many children around the world joy as Big Bird.

I like to end my blog posts with connections between the materials I suggest. Does anyone remember when Big Bird appeared on Saturday Night Live in 2012 after Mitt Romney mentioned him in the presidential debate? Click here for the video.

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

Pack Up Your Native Soil: Traveling the World with Vampires

28 Oct

In Dracula, a vampire must bring boxes of his or her native soil from where they were born to be buried in to protect them from the sun during the day.  He would certainly be lugging it around a lot, if he went all of the places the vampire myth has traveled.  Here are a few films to checkout this Halloween to see how vampires have translated across the world.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

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I had been hearing a lot of buzz online about A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night from fans of horror as being one of the most original and interesting vampire movies in years.  Technically this is an American film, however, it is set in a spooky Iranian ghost town called Bad City and the film is in Farsi with English subtitles.  A sweet love story emerges between a young Iranian man, who is overwhelmed by taking care of his drug addicted father, and a mysterious young woman who glides about town in something that resembles at times a chador and other’s Dracula’s cape.  The black and white film is visually stunning.  A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is available from several BCCLS libraries and online from Hoopla.  I’m interested to check out other things by writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour in the future.

Let the Right One In

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Let the Right One In is a Swedish vampire film that centers around two children who form a strong bond over their outsider status: Oskar, a boy who is bullied at school, and Eli, who needs to drink blood to survive.  Vampire children are always extra creepy.  In Anne Rice’s and Stephenie Meyer’s vampire mythologies the creation of vampire children is forbidden.  In Poppy Z. Brite’s world of born vampires they literally absorb the life from their mothers.  Yet there is something vulnerable and touching about Eli. This is another film for those looking for something a bit more unusual than the typical Dracula retread.  An English version of the film was released in 2010 with the title Let Me In and moved the setting of the film from Sweden to New Mexico.  The book by John Ajvide Lindqvist that the films are based on is available from the Hoboken Public Library (the first English translation was published under the title Let Me In, subsequent editions are titled Let the Right One In).  Both film versions, Let Me In and Let the Right One In, are available from the Hoboken Public Library and Hoopla.

Vampire Party

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Vampire Party is a funny light French film for those looking for a bit of slap stick absurd comedy with their horror.  It is available online from Hoopla.  Three best friends Sam, Alice, and Prune think they are incredibly lucky when they manage to get invites to Medici Night a legendary party at a remote castle, but it turns out that they haven’t just been added to the guest list, they are on the menu for an elite group of vampires.  The French title for the film is Les Dents de la Nuit, which translates to teeth of the night, which alludes not only to vampires, but also to one of the silly running gags of the film that a VIP at the event is a dentist.  If you thought films like Bridesmaids and The Hangover would have been better with vampires than you should find Vampire Party a bloody good treat.

Vampire Hunter D

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Vampire Hunter D was one of the first animes (Japanese animation) I encountered.  As someone that was used to animation that was either only aimed at children or comedic like The Simpsons for adult audiences, I was surprised and intrigued by the complex and dramatic story line.  The 1985 film was based on a series of Manga (Japanese graphic novels). D is a half vampire/half human who fights vampires in a post-apocalyptic future.  Some unique details include D’s cybernetic horse and a symbiotic hand whose wise cracks add some levity to the story.  Although I’ve seen a great deal of anime since then, this remains one of my favorite with its cool blend of gothic horror with science fiction.  A second film Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust was released in 2000.  Check the films and manga out from BCCLS libraries.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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