The lucky library crew who get to select the big books on the important things in life like clothes and  jewellery have been excelling themselves lately. Some true beauties have come through and I have been having a good guzzle of their gorgeousness. I hope there will always be books like this; books that you are excited to see, to hold  in your hands and feel their satisfying heft, to turn their pages looking at them really, really closely.

So you didn’t get to see the show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute – Schiaparelli and Prada: Imposssible Conversations is almost as good as being there.  Judith Thurman’s introductory essay is everything we expect after reading her in The New Yorker; really good writing about clothes, the people who make them and the people who wear them.  Then there are the photographs and the cunning little postcard-sized inserts of the imaginary conversations between these two Italian designers.

The New Jewelers has 800 illustrations of  “desirable, collectable, contemporary”  jewelery – enough to set off tragic dreams of winning Lotto or giving up coffee for the next twenty years to afford one of these pieces.

Coming into fashion: A Century of Photography at Conde Nast is a book of photographs of some of the most beautiful clothes from the last hundred years worn by some of the most beautiful women in some of the most preposterous poses. My standout is a model in a maillot standing on a beach holding a kangaroo by the paw.

Vogue:The editor’s eye gives an insight into the women who came up with these mad ideas. The women who said “let’s take Richard Avedon   and a bunch of models to Japan for five weeks for one photo shoot”.

The budgets may have shrunk since 1947 but the creativity hasn’t – just look at the Grace Coddington chapter.

Hollywood Costume is a celebration of 100 years of clothes in film and how they help create the identity of the characters who wear them. All the familiar images are here; Audrey Hepburn wearing Givenchy in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Vivien Leigh swathed in “Miz Ellen’s poteers” in Gone With the Wind and Elizabeth Taylor spectacularly historically incorrect in Cleopatra. Sometimes the words in books like this seem to be merely space fillers between the photographs but the essays here are really interesting – Meryl Streep describes herself as “a real pain in the ass for every costume designer” because she took her degree in costume design and wrote her thesis on it.

What’s your favourite big beautiful book?

Best. Film. Ever.

  1. Excalibur.
  2. My Brilliant Career.
  3. Persuasion.
  4. Romeo and Juliet (the Zeffirelli version).
  5. The Tin Drum.


Hit me with your top five all-time favourite movies!

Singular books about singular movies

CoverYes there are heaps of books about movies. But a less common is A book about A movie.

Or, as Zona is subtitled – A Book about a film about a journey to a room.

Zona is all about Stalker, a film by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. Author Geoff Dyer (a brilliantly droll Brit who graced the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival this year) talks us through what is happening on the screen and his reactions to it.  I shudder at the thought of having the commentary turned on a DVD, but in a way this is just a booky version of that – but with way more room for digressions. Geoff goes on a bit about his childhood, and how his wife is a dead ringer for Natasha McElhone. We get to that via Tarkovsky made the original Solaris, and Natasha starred in the more recent adaptation of Solaris with George Clooney as lead).

This could/should be a literary subgenre. The film and your reaction to it, and digressions. It probably is only going to work when you are in the hands of a expert writer like Dyer.

It’s very odd that someone talking about a movie you’ve never seen is a brilliant read. I wonder what it’s like for someone who has seen the movie?

A review of Zona by Sukhdev Sandhu in The Guardian sums up with:

Beyond the book’s bravura formalism and in spite of the suspicion that it could be viewed as a highbrow take on live-blogging, it’s Dyer’s ability at moments like this to make pilgrims of his readers and to lead them on a journey in search of truths about love and about the nature of happiness that make Zona such an exhilarating achievement.

We have Stalker on DVD and other Tarkovsky stuff.

coverAnother good little volume about a movie is Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. It is all about director Todd Haynes’ underground classic in which the tragic demise of Karen Carpenter is reenacted with dolls.

Freaky (and yet utterly compelling) stuff.

Are there any other books about a movies you reck0n are worth reading?

And if you were to write about a movie, which one would you deconstruct and report on? I’d do my alltime favourite movie Excalibur or the fantabulous TV movie version of Ivanhoe starring Anthony Andrews and Sam Neill!

Read the book; see the film; which is best?

This year I have become a devotee of the Song of Fire and Ice series of books and watched the TV series Game of Thrones. While I’ve admired much of the acting in the film I find  I still prefer the books and I am looking forward excitedly to when the God of the Reserve List pops up the next title I have requested.

I’m not usually a fantasy fan but the standard of writing and characterisation has me hooked. Even the vast number of characters and settings which make me regularly check the maps and the “House” information at the back of the book seems a reasonable part of the experience. The film on the other hand focuses on some key events and characters and skips over the detail of why and who and when that I find satisfying in the book.

Has anyone else had this experience with Song of Fire and Ice/Game of Thrones? In the wider scheme of book reading and movie adaptation I don’t have any set opinion. Sometimes the book is the thing and the film disappointing, sometimes the film really brings the book to a new life and sometimes they seem to be perfectly partnered – enhancing each other, especially when the film respects the characterisation and dialogue of the book.

For those of you who like the whole book into film thing – you can keep up with what is due to be released via our excellent Read the book then see the film . If you want to find out if anyone has ever made a film of a book you are reading try our Books into film.

Song of Fire and Ice has generated a considerable fan following. Geekandsundry have an interview with George R.R. Martin (if you want to skip directly to the interview it is 6 minutes in) in which he comments on the television programme and how it visualised his story.

Do you still have cinemaphobia?

If you’re anything like me the idea of being in a cinema post-quake leaves you shaking in your boots. It took me more than a year to attend a cinema and even then the thunderous sounds of the movie playing next door and the cars driving around the attached carpark makes me jump. Still, I have persevered and really enjoyed some great films of late.

Not ready to brave the cinema yet? Try our DVD collection including NZ films and see our new DVDs, read the book that was made into a film, or borrow a magazine about movies.

Did you know the project Gap Filler held cycle powered outdoor movies?

Going to the pictures

Regent Cafe

Remember the days of Saturday matinees and rolling jaffas? Part of the joy of the movies is the otherness of being in a cinema. For years, picture theatres have been like a big community lounge – where kids romp, couples court and friends meet up.

Most of us have a databank of movie memories. I can remember the first movie I saw at the cinema (The Towering Inferno) – and the movie that was playing at the Gore picture theatre in the floods of 1978 (Can’t stop the music … or was it Thank God it’s Friday? Either way it was disco).

We’ve brought together some photos of Christchurch movie theatres from our collection. George Arliss was appearing in The Millionaire at The Plaza in 1932.

Papers Past, the essential resource of digitised New Zealand newspapers, has lots of great information on movies and picture theatres. How about what was on at The Colosseum in 1908:

The new programme of pictures presented at the Colosseum last night by the Royal Pictures Company comprises a large variety of interesting and amusing films, and the large building was again packed in all parts. The films shown covered a diversity of subjects, and included some of the best motion pictures yet shown in Christchurch. “The Enchanted Guitar”,” The Pumpkin Race”,” Timid Lovers”, “Baffled Boobies” and the other humorous pictures raised unbounded merriment, while such films as “Rodents and their ways”, and “Dumb Sagacity”, afforded valuable object lessons on the matters with which they dealt.

Plaza Theatre

If you want to go further down the rabbit hole, the Canterbury Film Society has excellent information on the history of Christchurch cinemas. It includes a chronological list of cinemaswith photos.

Digital NZ has a set of images related to Going to the movies (there are some rather lovely shots of a Wellington audience watching Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights).

An earlier blog post here The ghosts of cinemas past has lots of Christchurch movie theatre memories in the comments. The Tivoli, The Barclay, Cinerama …

Win tickets for My Week With Marilyn

We’ve got another hot movie ticket competition courtesy of Roadshow Film Distribut0rs – 5 double passes to the movie My Week With Marilyn. The movie is released in New Zealand on March 8, 2012.
coverEarly in the summer of 1956, American film star Marilyn Monroe  set foot on British soil for the first time.  On honeymoon with her husband, the celebrated playwright Arthur Miller, Monroe came to England to shoot The Prince and the Showgirl – the film that famously united her with Sir Laurence Olivier, the British theatre and film legend who directed and co-starred in the film.
That same summer, 23-year-old Colin Clark set foot on a film set for the first time in his life.  Newly graduated from Oxford, Clark aspired to be a filmmaker and found a job as a lowly production hand on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl.  Forty years later, he recounted his experiences of the six-month shoot in a memoir entitled, ‘The Prince, the Showgirl and Me.’ But one week in Clark’s account was missing.

You can read that account as  My Week with Marilyn from our library catalogue. To find more recommendations  check out our Read the book then see the film.

So how can you win? Just email and tell us who is your favourite Marilyn Monroe image or movie is –  email us at including your name, phone number, library card number and address. We’ll get in touch with the winners and hook you up with the tickets.

  • The competition is open to Christchurch City Libraries members.
  • Staff of Christchurch City Libraries and their immediate families are not able to enter.
  • Competition closes on Tuesday 6 March. Winners announced on 7 March.

See the film, then read the book

 "War Horse" book coverPrior to the quakes of recent months, my social life included an occasional visit to the cinema. With the demise of the Arts Centre cinema, which was my frequent haunt, and a reluctance to enter cinemas in shopping malls without sussing out where ALL the escape routes are (a particular behavioural trait which previously I had displayed only when flying …),  I found I was watching a good deal of films in DVD format at home. Nothing wrong with this except my perceived lack of  ‘a sense of occasion’ which cinema visits had previously inspired in me.

However, this all changed when the trailer for War Horse appeared on my small screen. Suddenly the TV and my lounge were too small for such an epic story… And what a story! Imagine  a combination of Gone with the wind for wonderful technicolour processes; a plethora of  Lassie films for pathos; and a similar storytelling format to  Black Beauty, whereby a succession of characters are introduced through the short snatches of time they spend with Joey, aka ‘War Horse’, in a truly unsettling period of history.

My background knowledge of the use of horses in war, and especially during the 1st World War, was admittedly sketchy, but for all the graphic and mental horrors of this period in history, I felt the film’s editing was first rate – the futility and carnage of battle was left to the viewer’s imagination (my runaway ‘fertile’ imagination notwithstanding). Now I am going to read the book. As a general rule of thumb books come first followed by film adaptations, but not this time…

Anyone else admit to being influenced by the film first before embarking on the novel?

If so, check out our listings of Books that have been made into films and television. (For those movies that are yet to be released try Read the book – then see the film.)

Win tickets for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

movie posterExtremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Rating:PG – Contains Coarse Language) is coming to cinemas on February 23, and Warner Bros. Pictures and Christchurch City Libraries are giving you the chance to WIN 1 of 5 double passes to see this film.

Based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer, the film tells the story of one young boy’s journey from heartbreaking loss to self-discovery, set against the backdrop of the tragic events of September 11.

Eleven-year-old Oskar Schell is an exceptional child: amateur inventor, Francophile, pacifist.  And after finding a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11, he embarks on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York.  As Oskar roams the city, he encounters a variety of individuals, all survivors in their own way.  Ultimately, Oskar’s journey ends where it began, but with the solace of that most human experience: community.

The film stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. Other big names appearing include James Gandolfini, Max Von Sydow, John Goodman and Viola Davis (who just scored the Screen Actors Guild best actress for her role as Aibileen in The Help). Thomas Horn is Oscar.

So how can you win? Just email and tell us who is your favourite child film star  –  email us at including your name, phone number, library card number and address. We’ll get in touch with the winners and hook you up with the tickets.

  • The competition is open to Christchurch City Libraries members.
  • Staff of Christchurch City Libraries and their immediate families are not able to enter.
  • Competition closes on 23 February. Winners announced on 24 February.

Tis the Oscar season

coverI’m a big movie fan and the Oscar season is exciting because it often means some of the top contenders get released in February and March. The other thing a good film often prompts me to do is to go back to the library to read a bit more – the book it was based on, the life of the character, the historical events portrayed in the film.

Some new releases this February look particularly tempting. First up is J.Edgar starring Leonardo Di Caprio. What a monster (Hoover that is not Leo). The grip he held on American public life for so many years and his hidden private life have sparked an energetic publishing boom. The library has an interesting selection – you can even hear Hoover’s voice on the Kronos Quartet recording and we also have a few meaty tomes on the F.B.I .

The one that really intrigues me is The Artist. French actors winning awards! Has Hollywood lost its mind? A silent movie, in black and white! Well the dog is cute.  Books about and DVDs of the silent film era are available in our catalogue. As well there are a raft of biographies of some of the great stars – Chaplin, Valentino, Louise Brookes and so on.

Marilyn Monroe is one of the great movie icons. Colin Clark’s revelation that as a 23 year old working on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl he had a brief fling with Marilyn has been turned into a movie My Week with Marilyn. Colin Clark is overshadowed by his brother Alan in the tell all publishing stakes. As for Marilyn – well writers and photographers were drawn to her train wreck life like bees to honey.