Kanopy for Captive Audiences

by Tom Warner, Best & Next Department

In these days of pandemic anxiety, when social distancing has most of us holed-up at home with cabin fever and too much time on our hands, it’s a great time to take advantage of your library card to use Kanopy, Pratt’s free streaming resource for cinema lovers, to borrow digital movies, television shows, documentaries and foreign films. Digital streaming enables all of us to safely watch movies from the comfort of our home; and, best of all, these “viral videos” don’t require us to touch or wipe off a Redbox or store-bought DVD.

Kanopy takes its name from “canopy,” which in ecology is a layer of something that spreads out and covers an area, like the thousands of branches and leaves that spread out at the top of trees in a forest. Likewise, Kanopy’s catalog is so vast (over 30,000 titles!), that it is easy to “miss the forest for the trees.” So, we’ve put together this guide to help you discover some of the best content in the collection.

Unlike most streaming platforms that stockpile popular mainstream fare, Kanopy offers a diverse and carefully curated selection of important classic and contemporary cinema from around the world, including 50 titles from the esteemed Criterion Collection – from Fellini’s 8 ½ to Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries. (Personal fave: Michaelangelo Antonioni’s 1950 debut, Story of a Love Affair, starring the luminous Lucia Bose in the director’s most narrative-structured film.) What makes Criterion “art house” movies so special? Criterion pioneered the correct aspect ratio letterboxing presentation of movies, as well as commentary soundtracks, multi-disc sets, special editions, and remastered versions. Watching these films is like taking a class in the history of film itself.

And speaking of film history, Kanopy offers The Story of Film: An Odyssey, a 15-episode journey through the history of world cinema, from the invention of motion pictures at the end of the 19th century up through the multi-billion dollar globalized digital industry of the 21st. Narrated by film historian Mark Cousins (based on his book of the same title), this acclaimed series is filled with vintage clips from some of the greatest movies ever made and features interviews with legendary filmmakers and actors, including Stanley Donen, Wim Wenders, Lars von Trier and Abbas Kiarostami.

Long before Spike Lee, John Singleton, Jordan Peele, and Ava DuVernay took mainstream Hollywood by storm, African-American cinema had its humble roots in the “race films” that flourished from the 1920s-1940s. These films not only starred African-Americans but were funded, written, produced, directed, distributed, and often exhibited by people of color. Entrepreneurial filmmakers like Oscar Micheaux (Within Our Gates, Body and Soul) not only built an industry apart from the Hollywood establishment, they cultivated visual and narrative styles that were uniquely their own. The 17 films represented in the Pioneers of African-American Cinema collection highlight the legacy, innovation and artistry of Micheaux, Spencer Williams, Paul Robeson and countless others in newly restored versions of these historically important films.

If you like objective documentaries, Kanopy has 42 titles by renowned documentarian Frederick Wiseman, from his controversial debut, Titicut Follies (1967), to his latest,Monrovia, Indiana(2018); librarians and library-lovers will no doubt be drawn to 2017’s 3 1/4-hour opus Ex Libris: New York Public Library. As a filmmaker, Wiseman is an “observational” fly-on-the-wall purist who avoids voiceovers, soundtrack music or any hint of subjective editing; his films are chiefly studies of American social institutions, such as hospitals, high schools, prisons – and libraries! Wiseman formerly only sold his films directly to institutions on video and DVD, making them hard to find by consumers and prohibitively expensive to add to public library collections. World-wide digital access to his films makes this one the best deals imaginable for library patrons!

Named after the business center of the British film industry during the silent film era, distributor Flicker Alley specializes in rare early U.S. and foreign silent films, as well as classic, experimental and independent cinema. Kanopy has over 180 Flicker Alley titles, ranging from Georges Melies’ A Trip To the Moon (1902) and Robert Flaherty’s documentary-pioneering Nanook of the North (1922) to lost Film Noirs like No Time for Tears (1949). Of particular interest are silent classics like Dziga Vertov’s Man With a Move Camera (1929, with musical accompaniment by The Alloy Orchestra) and the newly restored The Lost World (1925), a story of living dinosaurs from the Jurassic Age written by the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, that laid the groundwork for future films like King Kong, Jurassic Park, and Godzilla.

Local Documentaries

Kanopy enables you to create your own Maryland Film Festival at home by watching these “locally-sourced” films by or about Maryland people or institutions.

  • Jeffrey Schwartz’s I Am Divine (2013) chronicles the career of John Waters’s most famous underground star, Glenn Milstead (better known as “Divine”), who was on the brink of mainstream success before tragically passing away in 1988. 
  • Theo Anthony’s Rat Film (2017) uses rats as a passageway into the dark, complicated history of Baltimore. 
  • Maryland Institute College of Art grad Lofty Nathan’s 12 O’clock Boys (2013) follows the exploits of a notorious West Baltimore dirt bike pack as they pop wheelies, weave at excessive speeds through traffic, and outrun the police, as seen through the eyes of an impressional adolescent. 
  • Baltimore native Richard Chisolm’s Cafeteria Man ( 2011) takes a behind-the-scenes look at Tony Geraci’s sweeping, tenacious efforts to kick start school lunch reform in Baltimore’s schools, a large urban district that serves 83,000 students, and later in Memphis schools, with 200,000 kids. 
  • Lynne Sachs’ Investigation of a Flame (2001) is an intimate portrait of the Catonsville Nine, a band of activists led by priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan,who in May 1968 burned selective service records in a defiant protest against the Vietnam War.

Cult Movies

If you’re looking for something off the beaten track, Kanopy also has a surprising number of cult and exploitation movies in its collection. Before you see Eddie Murphy’s remake, you may want to see Rudy Ray Moore in the original Dolemite (1975). Or how about Oscar-winner Francis Ford Coppola showing signs of the directing promise to come in his 1963 horror film Dementia 13 (1963). Before he made Easy Rider, a young Dennis Hopper was falling in love with an alluring but dangerous mermaid in Curtis Harrington’s hauntingly stylish Night Tide (1961). We’re also big fans of Jess Franco’s gothic mad scientist tale The Awful Dr. Orlac (1962), Herk Harvey’s Twilight Zone-eerie Carnival of Souls (1962) and the madcap martial arts mayhem of The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993) and Kung Fu Zombie (1981). These are but a few of the low-budget sci-fi, horror, fantasy and drive-in gems waiting to be discovered here.

And, of course, Kanopy caters to more mainstream tastes with extensive lists of Independent,Classic, LBGTQ and World Cinema, as well as Sundance Film Festival Favorites, here, Short Films and Staff Picks. Libraries and movie theaters may be closed at the moment, but Kanopy enables you to bring their content home to enjoy for free on your computer, television or mobile device. Time to grab your library card and start watching!

Tips: Writing, Memoirs, Journalism

by Naomi Hafter, Librarian, Humanities Department

In a memoir, even in an essay or an article, your focus is on an event or time period. A time period smaller than a biography. A memoir is a chance to be the hero of your story — here are some tips how.

This is a perfect time to begin writing and describing your experiences and thoughts as we go through this period of quarantine and watching our world change due to the COVID-19. Or, maybe there’s another story or memory you’d like to write about.

Whether you’d like to be a blogger, journalist, write memory or experience now is a great time to begin. Here some tips to get started.

  • Before you start writing you’ll want to choose a topic or theme.
  • What are your interests or what do you want to describe?
  • Describe your surroundings, include details to grab people’s interests.
  • Who are the other people, your characters?
  • Tell us, your reader, how they fit into your story, memory. 
  • Think about your audience. This will help you with your ‘voice.’ This means how you describe or talk about what you’re telling people.  
  • What is your story and what you’d like to reflect on.
  • What’s unique to your story?
  • What caught your attention in the first place?

Once you’ve written your experience or thoughts consider looking it over again or showing it to a friend before you send it out publicly. This will help you make sure your writing is clear.

Interested in more?Our database Gale Courses Gale Courses offers classes on writing.

Also, Maryland’s Digital Library Maryland’s Digital eLibrary Consortium has books on writing, essays, and biographies.

Imagine Your Story, Part 5: Reviews from Adult Summer Challenge Participants

Krista R. on Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: It isn’t often that I care about every single character and what they’re doing/thinking/feeling/breathing on. This is such an enjoyable read. There are so many new love vibes jumping off of the page that it’s contagious. I love that Casey McQuiston can somehow make politics enjoyable and hilarious in a very different way than I’ve ever experienced. I completely appreciate the way she doesn’t hold back.

Red, White & Royal Blue
by Casey McQuiston

Laura B. on Lost Restaurants of Baltimore by Suzanne Loudermilk: You can’t read this book without craving a meal in one of Baltimore’s old restaurants! What a walk down memory lane. Of course we all remember the meals but what about the history? The author covers that completely. Just wish the book included recipes!

Lost Restaurants of Baltimore
by Suzanne Loudermilk

Dana R. on The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat: Absolutely fantastic book about members of the British Navy protecting convoys during WWII. Great character development and absorbing plot. It is a wonderful diversion from the difficulties of the present.

The Cruel Sea
by Nicholas Monsarrat

Meredith T. on A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles: Loved this book! The writing was beautiful! Even though the setting was largely confined to the interior of a hotel, it became an entire world.

A Gentleman in Moscow
by Amor Towels

Matthew K. on Cane by Jean Toomer: I have a 1920s project I’ve been working on, which is just to read books from the 1920s as they are turning 100 this decade. I picked Cane as my next choice for this project due to the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s a Harlem renaissance classic I never read before. It has amazing form and structure with powerful language. Very lyrical and poetic, but also haunting and difficult. Excellent, amazing book. Totally recommend if you like a challenging read.

by Jean Toomer

Join the fun! For a chance to win fabulous prizes in the Adult Summer Challenge, create a free Beanstack account and log each book you finish between June 17 and August 31.

In Memory of Civil Rights Legends

We lost  two Civil Rights icons on Friday, July 17, 2020 with the passing of Rev. Cordy Tindell Vivian and Congressman John Lewis. Both men were known for getting into “good trouble, necessary trouble”, one of John Lewis’s most notable quotes. 

Rev. Cordy “C.T.” Tindell Vivian

John Lewis

Both men leave behind such a strong legacy. C.T. Vivian was a major force during the Civil Rights movement. He worked alongside Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the fight for racial equality. He was also a part of the Freedom Riders, challenging segregated buses. 

Like C.T. Vivan, John Lewis was a part of the Freedom Riders. He started his work at a young age, he was a keynote speaker, at the age of 23, at the historic 1963 March on Washington. He continued his work for equality in Congress where he served for over three decades representing Georgia. 

Here’s a list of books, ebooks, and other materials to not only learn about both men but also to get inspired by them.

Black Power and the American Myth By C.T. Vivian

Finding Your Roots Episode featuring John Lewis
John Lewis and Desegregation
by Gerry Boehme
Across That Bridge
by John Lewis
John Lewis Get in the Way

National Poetry Month for Kids on Hoopla

by Cornelia Beckett, Program Specialist, Programs and Outreach Dept.

Hoopla has a rich collection of poetry, either for kids or edited for them. If you’re looking for a foundation in the classics, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman have lovingly illustrated collections selected just for kids. The odes to nature in these classic collections are perfect to tie in with a walk in nature to draw what you see, take photographs or just be.

Have a budding (or reluctant) poet at home? Children’s poet laureate and fan favorite Jack Prelutsky wrote Pizza, Pigs and Poetry to inspire kids to put their own pencils to paper. Plenty of prompts! (And alliteration)

“Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me” by Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Ehsan Abdollahi, is a lighthearted and beautifully illustrated book for dog lovers, and a perfect intro to poetry that doesn’t feel like a stuffy poetry primer. Bright collages accentuate this story of a boy and his dog who turn their world to poetry, and can’t wait to share their creations at school. 

Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me
by Coretta Scott King, Eloise Greenfield, Ehsan Abdollahi

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. The all-time great Silverstein collection, with its irreverent rhymes and simple, weird and unforgettable line drawings, is a perfect collection of short poems for the kid who hates poetry, or prefers storytelling. Perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket or Roald Dahl. Parents might remember these classics from their own childhood, and there’s no better time to introduce Silverstein to the next generation.

Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Shel Silverstein

“Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship” dives right into the bold and sometimes difficult subject matter of talking to kids about race. This honest and fearless book is full of poetry about friendship that serves as thought-provoking conversation starters about a tough subjects including prejudice, racism, and personal boundaries.

Can I Touch Your Hair?
by Charles Waters, Irene Latham, Sean Qualls, Selina Alko
eBook, Audiobook