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A Hitchcock blonde and the rise of the Vietnamese nail salons

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Depending on your age you may or may not know who Tippi Hedren is. I used to think she was famous for two things- one, for being the mother of Melanie Griffith (which would have meant more back in the early 90's when Mel was the blonde du jour), but mostly for being the star of one of Alfred Hitchcock's best thrillers ---The Birds.

Turns out she is famous for a third thing. Back in the 70's Miss Hedren made a visit to a tent city in California that housed Vietnamese refugees. She was eager to see if she could improve their lives in anyway. She went decked out in full Hollywood couture, including scarlet fingernails. As the story goes, the women had never seen anything like this and were quite captivated, so the star brought in her own manicurist to give them the full treatment. Turns out though that they didn't want the manicure, they wanted to learn the technique.

What started out as a group of 20 women trained by Hedren's personal manicurist ended up a full-on going concern. These women were soon joined by another wave- the Vietnamese 'boat people' who risked life and limb fleeing in boats after the fall of Saigon in 1975. They trained more women who trained their relatives, who trained their relatives and so on and so on. No other group of immigrants have transformed a single industry as radically as the Vietnamese boat people did with nail salons. Thirty years after the start of Vietnamese-run parlours, the pioneering wave of boat people have all but dried up. More often new recruits are no longer Vietnamese---they are now Eastern Euorpean refugees fleeing their own impoverished countries. So if it seems like there is a Vietnamese nail salon on nearly every corner, you are not far from wrong, and it all started with Tippi Hedren.

Now, back to Hitchcock and his cadre of blondes, of which he was very fond. It is rumored that he was in love with the beautiful Grace Kelly, but as we know, she married a real life prince. So check out Grace Kelly (Rear Window and Dial M for Murder), Janet Leigh (Pyscho), Ingrid Bergman (Suspicion and Spellbound), Doris Day (The Man Who Knew too much) and Joan Fontaine (Rebecca). CPL has all of these titles and they all rank high as movies worth seeing. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that I have seen Rear Window and Dial M at least 20 times---each. I LOVE these two movies.

by MOE

IIFA

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The Indian International Film Academy Awards just took place this past weekend in Toronto. Now in its 12th year, the festival is famous for promoting Indian movies, culture and fashion and Toronto marks the North American debut. This is truly a global event with previous venues being London, Sun City, Malaysia, Jo'burg, Singapore, Amsterdam, Dubai, Yorshire, Thailand, Macao and Colombo. The expected global audience is estimated in excess of 900 million and the event will draw huge crowds into Toronto for the four day event.

If you are a fan of Bollywood films you know they are anything but boring. They are exuberant, flamboyant, full of song, dance, drama, action and just plain entertaining. Bollywood turns out thousands of movies a year, nearly 3 times as many as Hollywood and their actors are as famous or more throughout the world. And very prolific. The next time you are playing trivia and someone (like us) tries to tell you that Gene Hackman seems to be in a heck of a lot of movies, you can smile knowingly and say 'well Adoor Bhasi has been in over 600!

To get a glimpse of what Hindi movies CPL has to offer, use dvd fiction Hindi as your search term in our on-line public catalogue to see some of the more that 400 titles we carry.

by Moe

Funky 70s films I: The Conversation

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Sign out this 1974 Francis Ford Coppola gem if you stumble across it, or place a hold on The Conversation, by clicking on the title. The Conversation stars Gene Hackman as a private surveillance expert with a haunted past. He's hired by a corporate executive, or probably the exec's sinister administrative assistant played by a young Harrison Ford (!), to wire tap his wife (Cindy Williams of Laverne and Shirley!) and her lover in a public plaza. Hackman's hypervigilant Harry Caul starts to unravel as the assignment progresses. There's a great long opening shot and other great film techniques as well as strong acting from the leads and excellent Scott Joplin-esque piano solos by David Shire in the background. Requisite 70s funkiness includes wide ties, the rapid bongo music during the fight scene and the first words heard in the film referring to "getting it on." Be sure to watch the original trailer (love the hammy voice-over) and the short documentary about Coppola's process of filming. For more Gene-Hackmania, check out our earlier blog post "Whose Afraid of Gene Hackman?"

by Mel

Foyle Fans Take Note

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If you enjoy actor Michael Kitchen of Foyle's War, we have a new dvd set called The Guilty filmed in the early 90s. Kitchen plays a troubled lawyer, and the extent of the crime he commits is uncertain. The two-dvd drama follows his victim and a seemingly unconnected young man who befriends her.

If you enjoyed the Foyle's War series themes, you might enjoy a new dvd in our non- fiction collection: World War II Crimes on the British Home Front. This documentary chronicles the illegal activities taking place while most of the country was focused on the war effort. Much of the Foyle's War series deals with this subject, so the dvd should provide interesting factual background.

Don McKellar Jubilee

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Don't miss our dvds featuring Canada's own writer/actor Don McKeller, co-creator of the Broadway hit and Tony award winning play, The Drowsy Chaperone, which played in Calgary recently. McKellar has worked with Canada's most prominent directors, so his body of work is a partial crash-course in Canadian film history. Place your holds now for the titles on order.

Last Night

Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy) hit the big-time after her quirky role in this humourous last-day-on-earth themed movie also starring Genevieve Bujold and Sarah Polley.

The Red Violin

This beautiful film follows a violin from its creation through the various hands it passes through and dramas it witnesses until it ends in the hands of Samuel L. Jackson's character.

Cooking with Stella

Co-starring Deepa Mehta's lead Lisa Ray (Bollywood Hollywood and Water). McKellar plays an unemployed chef living in India who learns cooking secrets from the head of the household staff.

Highway 61 and Roadkill (dir.Bruce Macdonald)

In the first, Don Mckellar's character is waylayed by a tough gal and driven down to the Southern states...with a body in the car. Roadkill follows a punk band across Northern Ontario.

eXistenZ (sic) (dir. David Cronenberg) Check out the graphic novel as well as the dvd starring Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Willem Dafoe. Imagine a world where you can enter the world of a computer game...Hey, wait a minute!

Not yet at CPL but worth watching:

Way Downtown

Calgary's +15 system of raised walkways is the real star. A group of friends have a contest to see how long they can stay indoors in their workplaces.

Thirty-two short films about Glenn Gould

You don't have to be a concert pianist to figure what this one's all about but the structure is unique and follows the Goldberg Variations. Carlo Rota appears (Little Mosque on the Prairie) and Colm Feore (Bon Cop, Bad Cop) stars as Glenn Gould.

Exotica and The Adjuster (dir. Atom Egoyan)

McKellar does a fine job in his roles but some viewers find Egoyan's work troubling. Exotica features a missing girl, and her babysitter-obsessed father. The Adjuster is brilliantly set in the surburban wasteland of a new home surrounded by undeveloped land and focuses on a woman working for the censor board. Caution: adult themes and disturbing content.

Witty and insightful- Neil Simon

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A Pulitzer prize, Tony's, Emmy's, Oscars, Honorary degrees from numerous Universities, Golden Globes, a Mark Twain Prize, Kennedy Centre Honoree---Simon has a list of awards that would be the envy of anyone. And with good reason-the man tells a great story. His observations on human nature are insightful, his take on human folly is good natured and his movies are always a lot of fun to watch.

The Odd Couple---what can you say about Oscar and Felix---probably two of the funniest room mates ever. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are hilarious. At the moment we have Odd Couple 2, and the complete series which was also very good. This starred Tony Randall and Jack Klugman.

Prisoner of Second Avenue---Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft in a wonderful story of an everyday man pushed to the edge by everyday events.

Biloxi Blues---semi autobiographical story of life in a Mississippi WWII boot camp. Matthew Broderick and Christopher Walken are excellent as the protagonists.

Brighton Beach Memoirs- life in a New York community in the 1940's. This is a real charmer.

Goodbye Girl- this turns up on tv regularly, but watch it from us commercial free. Stars Richard Dreyfuss in his well-deserved best actor win, and Marsha Mason, Simon's then wife.

Murder By Death--- a send up of crime solving detectives---big cast.

Spotlight on Donald Sutherland

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As often as not, Donald Sutherland appears in supporting roles, tv commercial voice-overs, or narrating book cds, so he may seem an unlikely lead, but Fellini saw enough to cast him in his film, Casanova. Lanky but loaded with charisma, Canadian Donald Sutherland continues to deliver great performances. He is one of those actors who's been in everything ever made (well, anything that doesn't star Gene Hackman already) and he's as convincing in space as he is in thrillers, or family drama. For a Sutherland mini-bio, read Pioneer Canadian Actors by Stone Wallace (791.43028 WAL) and enjoy the following selection of his starring roles from the library's collection:

The Assignment co-stars Ben Kingsly and Aidan Quinn. The government hires a naval officer to impersonate a terrorist.

The relatively recent Instinct starring Cuba Gooding Junior as an athropologist is coming soon to CPL. Anthony Hopkins stars as the man who has gone wild.

Smaller Sutherland roles include: The Bedford Incident (see our Life of the Sea review), Animal House, Backdraft, and Cold Mountain, A Time to Kill, and The Dirty Dozen--all available at CPL

M*A*S*H (the movie) Sutherland plays the iconic inconoclast and Korean War army surgeon, Hawkeye Pierce.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the first remake, 1978). The title says it all.

Eye of the Needle Fans of Ken Follett (Pillars of the Earth, the tv adaptation of which is currently showing on CBC and stars you guessed it-Donald Sutherland) will enjoy this adaptation of his novel. Sutherland stars as a German spy hiding with a family in England during World War II.

Murder by Decree See Moe's earlier review of this suspense film centered around the Jack the Ripper-Royalty conspiracy theory.

Great Train Robbery An early Michael Crichton film with the classic gold delivery train scenario.

Italian JobAnother heist movie, this time set in contemporary LA costarring Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron

Ordinary People When this film came out, audiences were shocked by the candid portrayal of family strife--a taboo before that.

Space Cowboys Old aerospace buddies reunite to save the earth from a rogue satellite

Six degrees of Separation see the Numbers review for this one. Sutherland plays the husband resistant to his wife's involvement with a young man (Will Smith) from the streets.

Klute Sutherland stars as a police officer who falls for a prostitute threatened by a serial killer. The chemistry between him and Jane Fonda is electric and the plots seems fresh even with all the tv crime shows focused on this type of criminal.

Charlie Chaplin

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Considered one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of American cinema, his numerous movies have remained hugely popular and even reached cult status worldwide for close to 100 years.

His personal life was subject to as much scrutiny as his films---he fathered 11 children with 4 different wives (his last a 17 year old to his 54); he was investigated in the 1940's by FBI chief J Edgar Hoover and the House Un-American Activities Council; his identification with the left ultimately forced him to resettle in Europe during the McCarthy era in the early 1950s.

He was ranked #10 Greatest Male screen legend in 1999 by The American Film Institute. He received a knigthhood and won three Academy Awards. He directed and starred in four of the American Film Institute's 100 Funniest Movies: The Gold Rush (1925) at #25, Modern Times (1936) at #33, The Great Dictator (1940) at #37 and City Lights (1931) at #38. The Great Dictator was both critisized and heralded for its humorous caricature of Hitler. His 'little tramp' is one of most widely recognized and beloved characters of all time. It has even been suggested that Adolph Hitler was well aware of how loved Charlie was throughout the world at that time, and this was the reason he grew the Chaplin moustache: he thought it would endear him to the people (Source: The Tramp and the Dictator).

In 1919, he and fellow director D.W. Griffith, and the silent screen legends Doulgas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford founded United Artist studio(UA), the better to control their own destinies during the emerging studio system. He served on the board of UA until the early 1950s. Regardless of the ups and downs of his personal life there is no denying his genius as director, actor, composer, song writer, coreographer and producer.

The four listed above are all excellent---also consider The Kid, a 10/10 on the sob-o-meter; The Essential Charlie Chaplin featuring 4 shorts; Charlies Essanay Comedies, volume1,2,3 (The Essanay Film Manufacturing Company was an American motion picture studio best known for its series of Charlie Chaplin comedies of 1915); Unknown Chaplin. We also have numerous books on the man and his films. Use Charlie Chaplin as your search term in our on-line catalogue to bring up everything CC, or follow this link.

Leslie Nielsen

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Canadian funny man Leslie Nielsen has just died at the age of 84. His career spanned nearly 60 years and although he started as a serious actor and leading man he will forever be known for his lighter comedic rolls and his dead-pan serious delivery of absurd one liners. He appeared in many movies and during the 60's, 70's, and 80's there was hardly a television series that he did not guest on, including but not limited to: Wild Wild West, Hawaii Five-o (1970's), The Love Boat, Murder She wrote, Highway to Heaven and Due South ( all television series which CPL carries, although you will have to spend some time searching for the Leslie episode!). Interestingly, he started his career as an announcer at a Calgary radio station--- hired on the spot for his mellifluous voice.

Check out Forbidden Planet for a look at the serious actor; also Men with Brooms; The Naked Gun, The Naked Gun 33 1/3; Airplane. We have no circulating copies of Naked Gun 2 1/2.

Opie-All Grown Up

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Who would have thought that adorable little Opie from the Andy Griffith show would grow up to be one of the most respected and successful directors of his time? Well Ron Howard did just that and he has an impressive number of hits in his c.v. Try any or all of the following- he is almost without fail a good bet.

Ransom -1996- now I know Mel Gibson isn't on a lot of peoples must see list at the moment, but that aside this is still a good movie. Gary Sinise co-stars.

Backdraft- 1991- Kurt Russell, Scott Glen, Robert deNiro, Donald Sutherland and some really well done pyrotechnics.

da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons---Howards' go-to guy, Tom Hanks stars in both of these movies, which are based on the incredibly popular Dan Brown books. I prefer the second title---suspend disbelief and just go along for the ride.

Apollo 13- 1995--- again with Hanks, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris and a very unhappy Kevin Bacon. Why, you ask? In order to get the amazing shots of weightlessness they filmed in something called the 'vomit comet'. This is the nickname for an aricraft that briefly provides a weightless environment and is used to train astronauts, conduct research and film motion pictures. For about 25 seconds out of a 65 second loop, you become nearly weightless. Kevin Bacon had a particularly hard time with the shoot as the loops can produce extreme nausea. You can see in most of the shots that he is pretty close to loosing his lunch---and it works great because it just looks like extreme anxiety, fitting the situation in which the astrounauts find themselves.

A Beautiful Mind---this won Howard an Oscar for best director and the movie received best picture that year (2002). Starring Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, and Paul Bettany. Biopic of the famed mathematician John Nash and his lifelong struggles with his mental health.

Splash-largely responsible for launching Hanks movie career, this 1984 film is still good for quite a few laughs. Mermaids and a very funny John Candy.

And of course we have all 8 seasons of the Andy Griffith Show, which is just wholesome fun at its best and a real trip down memory lane for lots of people. Or join Richie Cunningham, Potsie, Ralph Malph and The Fonz in the hugely successful Happy Days, which ran for 11 seasons---which was several more than it should have. But we have the first 4 and they were very good.

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