Matthew’s Top 10 Movies

1. Dr. Strangelove (1964) Featuring George C. Scott, Peter Sellers and a very young James Earl Jones, Stanley Kubrick’s classic film tackles the absurdity of the Cold War and the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction in the only sane way  – dark humor. Peter Sellers especially shines in this movie playing three of the major roles – President Mervin Muff (loosely based on Adlai Stevenson), Dr. Strangelove (a not-so-reformed ex-Nazi rocket scientist) and Royal Air Force Group Captain Lionel Mandrake whose interaction with the paranoid, insane American Air Force General Jack Ripper (played perfectly by Sterling Hayden) is, to my mind, the funniest conversation on film. You’ll never think about the fluoridation of water the same way. 

2. 1776 (1971) I like musicals. There. I said it. I like the idea of a world where it is totally normal for people to spontaneously break into song and dance. What if those people were our country’s Founding Fathers? Such is the amazing premise of this Tony-award winning musical dramatizing the debate and drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Featuring William Daniels as John Adams, Ken Howard as Thomas Jefferson and Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom (the lovely Blythe Danner) as Martha Jefferson. Also, before I read David McCoullugh’s biography of John Adams, everything I knew about our 2nd president came from the following song.

3. Top Hat (1935)  Music is an important part of almost every movie and the old RKO pictures featuring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are full of classic songs and impressive (to put it mildly) dance numbers. Astaire and Rogers made several films for the now defunct RKO studio but Top Hat remains my favorite if only for the “Dancing Cheek to Cheek”bit.

4. Anchorman (2003) – If you don’t think this 2003 film about a local news team is the funniest movie ever, I will fight you!

5. O Brother Where Art Thou (2000) There are so many things to admire in this Coen brothers film. The plot – a clever take on Homer’s Odyssey, the music – a delightful romp through Southern blues, bluegrass and folk, the acting – stellar performances from George Clooney, John Goodman, Charles Durning, and even the fascinating back story for the title “O Brother Where Art Thou” – it was taken from the film Sullivan’s Travels (1941) about a film director trying to make a film a about the Depression-era South.

6. The Trip (2010)  Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon star as former colleagues who set out on a foodie road trip across the UK. Their hilarious conversations and constant games of one-upmanship (all largely improvised) are riveting, as are the delicious glimpses into the kitchens of the various restaurants at which they dine and the sweeping views northern England and Scotland landscapes. 

 7.Topsy-Turvy (1999) Since this has become a confessional post of sorts, I’ll also just come right out and also admit: I really like Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. HMS Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, Yeoman of the Guard – it’s all good.  This movie follows the British duo as they struggle to write The Mikado. Jim Broadbent as W.S. Gilbert is especially delightful.

8. Casino Royale (2006) I’m a big fan of the James Bond series, even the cheesy ones, which of course, is most of them. But the restart of the legendary spy series with Daniel Craig as Agent 007 in 2006 marked a notable improvement in the quality of the films. If you haven’t read Sir Ian Fleming’s source novels, you really should. The Bond of the novels is considerably more interesting (if less dependent on silly gadgets) than the Bond of the most of the movies. Casino Royale moves the film series back toward Fleming’s more interesting spy.

9. Star Wars (1977) The first CD I purchased with my own money was John Williams’ score to Star Wars. I still hum “The Imperial March” whenever I find myself walking down a long (ideally dim) hallway. George Lucas incurred the wrath of many fans with the – let’s say less than stellar – relaunch of the saga in with 1998’s The Phantom Menace. And though the prequels certainly don’t have the same panache as the original, there is a fun way to watch the series. So, try this sometime: watch the movies in this order by episode: 4, 5, 2, 3, 6. There is no need to ever watch Episode 1. I like this alternative order because it preserves the dramatic reveal involving Luke’s paternity in Episode 5. It also makes good thematic sense to introduce the Vader/Anakin back story after that dramatic moment in Episode 5, so that the entire saga can be viewed as a father/son redemption story.

10. Babette’s Feast (1987)  The final scene in this understated film is probably the most enjoyable presentation a foodie could ask for. If you like the film, why not try some of the recipes from the great feast?


Hail to the Chief

Five living US presidents.

In just a few days, Barack Obama will be inaugurated for a second term as President of the United States. All politics aside, the peaceful and orderly investing of power (or in this case, the re-investing of power) that happens every four years is a big deal and worthy of celebration by conservatives, liberals and anything in between. Why not celebrate with a good movie or book?

The American President

The West Wing

My Fellow Americans

The president’s photographer: 50 years inside the Oval Office by John B. Bredar

The president’s house: a first daughter shares the history and secrets of the world’s most famous home by Margaret Truman

A White House garden cookbook: healthy ideas from the first family to your family by Cara Silverstein


‘Tis the Season for Awesome Holiday Movies

‘Tis the season for awesome movies! I am a big fan of movies in general but I have a special place for holiday movies. Cold weather, hot cocoa and a good Christmas movie can be just the ticket to get in the holiday spirit this time of year.

Here is a list of my top 5 favorite holiday movies.

Frosty the Snowman
Frosty appears and helps a little girl escape from the greedy magician. This animated film is a favorite of mine due to the fact that a snowman comes to life and dances around the town.  Who wouldn’t love that?!

This movie came out in 1989 but I didn’t see it until the mid-90s because I wasn’t old enough until then to see it. A young girl discovers a hurt reindeer and nurses him back to health with the help of the town veterinarian. Over time the girl becomes convinced that the reindeer is actually one of Santa’s reindeer, Prancer to be exact. I won’t give away the ending but it is heartwarming for sure.

A child named Buddy finds his way in Santa’s sack back to the North Pole where he grows up and becomes one of Santa’s elves. When Buddy discovers that he is actually human and not and elf he sets off on an adventure to New York City to find his father. The humor in this movie is beyond fabulous in my opinion – Will Ferrell (who plays Buddy) is a 10.

Home Alone
Home Alone is my generation’s classic Christmas movie as it came out in 1990 when I was about 6 years old. Kevin is a young boy accidentally left at home alone when his family takes a vacation to France for the holidays. Two robbers, the Wet Bandits, are on the prowl to burgle Kevin’s home while the family is away. Once Kevin figures out what they are up to he comes up with a plan and chaos ensues.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
I didn’t see this movie until last year, but I must say I really enjoyed it when I finally did! The Griswald’s are a kooky American family just enjoying the festivities of the season. There are a lot of quirky moments (driving under a semi trailer, speed-sledding through town, and a totally toasted turkey) that make this movie an awesome addition to your holiday movie line-up.

Grumpy Old Men
I am not sure there is anything funnier than watching a couple of self-proclaimed “old farts” fooling around ice fishing on a frozen lake. When an attractive single woman moves into the neighborhood the two men chase after her and do ridiculous things to gain her favor. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau have the bickering banter down to a T as this dynamic duo starred together in the 1968 film classic The Odd Couple.

It’s too hard to narrow down my favorite holiday movies so I’ll add in a few more of my favorites for good measure!

  • Christmas in Connecticut
  • Love Actually
  • It’s A Wonderful Life
  • A Christmas Carol
  • Charlie Brown Christmas
  • The Holiday

Happy Holidays to all!


Follow us on Pinterest

Pinterest! It’s all the rage lately, and we’re happy to finally be joining in the fun!

If you haven’t already  stumbled into the Pinterest craze, let me fill you in: Pinterest is basically an online set of your own, personalized and organized bulletin boards. Think of it this way: do you tend to clip pictures and articles out of magazines, or recipes, or newspaper articles then save them to be lost forever in a drawer? Pinterest is a way to organize these things for yourself and to browse what others are clipping, or pinning.

The vast array of ideas people are finding are evident everywhere! Just this week someone asked me about some garlic monkey bread I brought to a potluck dinner. When asked where I found the recipe, I responded simply, “Pinterest.”

Now your favorite library (that’s us!) is on Pinterest, too! Find us at We’ve got pin boards for movies, music, and books we love, as well as boards for money saving, John Green stuff, tech tips & tricks… the list goes on, and just keeps growing! We invite you to follow us and enjoy our pins, and we’ll follow you back so we can enjoy your favorite things, too 🙂

Check out a few of our pinteresting Pinterest boards…

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

I finally got around to reading the classic science fiction novel Ender’s Game. In the book, young Ender Wiggin is taken off-planet to a military training school for highly gifted children. At the school he participates in mock battles in the zero gravity Battle Room. He also plays strange and difficult strategy games on his ‘desk,’ something like a tablet computer.

When Ender’s Game first came out in 1985 it won a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award. Ender’s Game became the first in a long series of books with sequels, prequels, short stories, Ender comic books published by Marvel, even an Authorized Ender Companion book.  

Ender’s Game is now being made into a movie with a cast including Ben Kingsley and Harrison Ford. Production has wrapped, and the movie is scheduled to be released on Nov. 1, 2013. You can learn more about the movie from the on-set blog. Or in movie news from Cinema Blend. They’re full of spoilers, though, so if you’re going to read the book, do that first! (Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell.) Ender’s Game is kept in the teen fiction and also the regular fiction section. Of course, feel free to ask us to show you where it is.

Do you suppose the Harry Potter phenomenon helped set a film making climate to make Ender’s Game a movie – a movie many kids will see – now, decades after the book came out? As a big fan of Harry Potter, I see similarities between Ender’s Game and the Harry Potter series. Tough situations, kids being bullied by kids who are relatives, being whisked away to a training school, manipulative adults, bonding with fellow students to overcome great odds, life-and-death battles…

The first Harry Potter book came out in 1997. Do you think Jo Rowling may have read Ender’s Game and added it to the swirl of influences that created Harry’s magical world? She was 20 when it came out. You can ponder those questions if you like, and leave your opinion in the comments below.